At the end of every hockey season, I get to play with strobes on the ice at my local ice rink in Western New York. This year I had the opportunity to play with the SIGMA 24-35mm F2 DG HSM | Art along with the SIGMA 10mm F2.8 EX DC HSM Diagonal Fisheye. Shooting with wide angle lenses for sports action allows for a unique look compared to the typical telephoto compression on most sports images.
Having shot with both the SIGMA 24mm F1.4 DG HSM | Art and the SIGMA 35mm F1.4 DG HSM | Art lenses, I had high hopes and high expectations for the 24-35mm. It didn’t disappoint delivering the same outstanding sharpness as its Global Vision counterparts.
Doing “action portraits” on ice allows me to create images in action that I can’t do during a regular game with creative lighting and posing along with shooting from perspective not normally available.
For my lighting set up I used two Interfit Strobies 180ws parabolic flashes along with a Sunpak 120J. I set up my main light at a 45 degree angle from my shooting position modified with a shoot through white umbrella. The other two strobes were set up at 45 degree angles behind my subject on either side using direct light without modification, creating crisp rim lighting. The two rear strobes also serve to backlight any snow that sprays up from the skates. The ice rink lights are turned off at the end of the rink behind the subject.
If you’ve ever rented the ice at a rink you already know how costly that can get. Our business model to cover the ice time is to book 5 minute sessions for $25 which includes a 5×7 print. We then post the photos to our Shootproof Gallery for any post session sales. With 12 available sessions per hour we’re on a tight schedule to keep it profitable. Donating a print to the rink is also a good way to keep them happy.
5 minutes is not a lot of time with each skater, be it a hockey player or a figure skater, so we have a set skating sequence we go through with each skater to maximize the variety of shots we can accomplish. We shoot a combination of posed photos and action shots to ensure we get a bunch that will make mom happy. We do the posed shots since we can’t always control the facial expressions of an athlete in action. Also doing a hard snow stop can have noticeable effect on someone’s face with gravity and centrifugal force playing with their cheeks and lips.
With this set up there is a sweet spot of light at center ice where we want the skaters to execute their action. Using the SIGMA 24-35mm F2 DG HSM | Art allowed me to zoom in or out to compensate for the variety of different action. Some of the action was fairly compact while other poses required a little more width at the edges to fit within the frame. The five minute session doesn’t have to just be for a single skater either. We can do siblings as well which usually requires the wider side of the 24-35mm.
Many times we will use the same concepts to photograph an entire team of individuals and blend them together to create an action collage. For these we use one of the many ice rink digital backgrounds from photosolutionsmarket.com. You can get a 20% discount on the photosolutionsmarket.com website by entering code “Chesler”.
As an ice hockey goalie myself, my passion is fueled when the goalies come out for their sessions. We keep the lighting set up the same, but for goalies we set the camera on a tripod inside the goal with an electronic cable release tethered through the back of the net. I switch to the SIGMA 10mm F2.8 EX DC HSM Diagonal Fisheye to create that NHL in-goal cam look. I have a skater come in and do a snow stop toward the goalie with both the skater and the goalie visually locking on to a predetermined point. I add the puck later in Photoshop since the fisheye is both unprotected and close to the action. The best part is that in my creations the goalie always makes the save.