Sports Photography at U.S. Figure Skating Championships

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. IMG_9337

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.IMG_1778

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! IMG_9292


Later in the evening, we moved to a higher vantage point to capture a different perspective.IMG_2404

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.IMG_2500


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.

This entry was posted in Just for fun and tagged , , , .


  1. Terry Butler January 24, 2016 at 6:44 pm #

    What an experience! And you took great advantage of the opportunity. Great shots, Mike.

  2. Marilyn Rau January 24, 2016 at 8:35 pm #

    Great opportunity to photograph this event, and I’m sure your skills for this have advanced by leaps and bounds by the course. I would have been just taken up in the moment, the movement is so beautiful and liquid… and then only come away with one shot.
    Yes that one at center ice…. really is nice.

  3. Sue Oberstar January 24, 2016 at 9:38 pm #

    Michael, I knew you’d nail some really good photos. So glad
    you were able to attend this after working on sports
    action all last year. Watched some of it on television, but bet
    it was wonderful to be there. Congrats on some great shots!!

  4. mj springett January 25, 2016 at 10:04 am #

    wonderful work michael, hopefully more in the future for you

  5. Michael Huber January 25, 2016 at 10:48 am #

    Very cool to shoot from designated areas! Will be interested to see what pointers you got from the class and experience!

  6. Connie Ryan-Oakes January 26, 2016 at 1:42 pm #

    Michael, thank you for sharing these photos! I especially liked the one of the woman in blue; dream-like. Lovely! Sounds like you had quite an experience ; fun and learning all in one event.

  7. Gracie October 24, 2017 at 1:17 pm #

    For your first time those were great shots ———— what lens size did you use?

    • Michael Waterman October 24, 2017 at 6:45 pm #

      Thank you for your compliment. I used a Canon 70-200 2.8 IS.

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