I recently attended a sports photography class sponsored by National Camera Exchange. We were given access to the U.S. Figure Skating Championship at the Xcel Energy Center. The evening started with classroom instruction by Carlos Gonzalez, a sports photographer for the Star Tribune. He showed many of his best sports images (many of which are found here on his website gallery) and he shared some of his techniques.
Later, we ventured into the arena. Only credentialed photographers were permitted to shoot, so it was a privilege to have this opportunity to shoot a national sporting event. We had two designated shooting positions. One was at ice level, right behind the official photographers and next to the skating judges.
The lighting in the Xcel Energy Center is excellent, but in order to freeze the action with at least 1/640th shutter, I needed a 2.8 aperture and ISO around 800 to 1000. I also custom set the white balance, using the ice as my grey card.
The athletes move quickly. I put the camera in servo mode and activated a group of 5 focal points. Despite the great technology, I still found it hard to keep the focus points on the skaters’ faces. The pro sitting in front of me appeared to nail the focus every time!
Later in the evening, we moved to a higher vantage point to capture a different perspective.
I didn’t want 500 images of frozen action, so I decided to experiment. I tried some slow shutter speeds to capture some intentional blur. This was at 1/5th second.
This was one of my favorites from the night. There is nothing particularly special about it, but I like it because it gives a sense of place and the skater’s solitude at center ice.
I learned a lot, but more importantly, I had a fun evening with other sports photographers. Thanks to Carlos for sharing his inspiration and thanks to the National Camera team who organized the event.