Elite Goalies 2014 Pro Camp

It was July 1, 2014. I was sitting on my couch watching the USA play Belgium in the World Cup Round of 16. Shortly after the game went into extra time, my phone buzzed with a text message from Mike Valley (Goalie Coach, Dallas Stars). It said “Watch this then call me please!” followed by a link to a video.

LaBahn Arena (© www.aepoc.com)

LaBahn Arena (© http://www.aepoc.com)

After Team USA lost in dramatic fashion, I watched the video, which was a compilation of a number of NHL goalies making great saves in front of some high-energy music, and some text mentioning a goalie camp in Madison (Wisconsin) in August. I called Mike and we talked for fifteen minutes about what he was looking to put on. He told me all the high-profile names that were going to be there, and how awesome of an experience it was going to be. Mike mentioned that the Directors of Goaltending for both Sweden and Finland were going to be there too, flown in especially for his camp. Valley then added “And I was thinking ‘I gotta get Jason involved in this’, so we’d love for you to photograph a couple of days for us if you’re available”.

I about dropped the phone.

David Alexander, Mike Valley, Hannu Nykvist, Thomas Magnusson (© www.aepoc.com)

David Alexander, Mike Valley, Hannu Nykvist, Thomas Magnusson (© http://www.aepoc.com)

Of course I accepted without hesitation. After getting the details, all I had to do then was wait until the end of August, which (I guess) came soon enough.

Upon arriving at the LaBahn Arena in Madison for my first day of shooting, I couldn’t find Valley, so I asked one of the workers at the arena, who then asked Brian Elliott (St Louis Blues), and Mr Elliott escorted me to where Valley was already talking with the rest of his coaches. Mike introduced me to David Alexander (Goalie & Video Coach, Syracuse Crunch), Thomas Magnusson (Team Sweden), and Hannu Nykvist (Team Finland) as “… the guy who takes the best hockey photographs I’ve seen”. I’m not rendered speechless very often, but I absolutely was at that moment. I also met Chuck and Dan from Double Blue Sports Analytics, whom I’ve been in contact with for over a year regarding photographing for them.

Michael Hutchinson (© www.aepoc.com)

Michael Hutchinson (© http://www.aepoc.com)

I head to the locker room to get my gear ready, and lace up my skates. Just a few steps away is the ice, which is as beautiful of a surface as I’ve ever seen in my life. LaBahn Arena truly is a world-class facility. A swift skate to the bench to make sure my cameras are set exactly how I need them to be, and I’m ready to go. It was pretty cool to then turn around and see a herd of (very large) goaltenders skating towards me. First up was the obligatory group shot of all coaches and players involved. They lined up in a half circle at center ice and I snapped a quick burst of three, and we were ready to begin. I do quick bursts of three shots on every group photo to ensure that if anyone’s blinking I have a backup where they likely aren’t.

Brian Elliott (© www.aepoc.com)

Brian Elliott (© http://www.aepoc.com)

Being on the ice with all these high-profile guys was surreal. A friend of mine, Justin Goldman (Goalie Scout for USA Hockey, and Owner of The Goalie Guild) was out there as well doing his thing. I skated up to him during one of the drills and said, “You know, sometimes you just have to set the camera down for a second and watch these guys”. He replied, “I know right, this is unreal”.

Ben Bishop (© www.aepoc.com)

Ben Bishop (© http://www.aepoc.com)

Photographing with two cameras while being out on the ice in skates isn’t exactly the safest way to go about getting images of goaltenders (especially for someone whose skating skills are a bit rusty), but it is the BEST way. Moreover, it yields the highest reward for your work. There were a number of times where, after paying attention to the drill, I could position myself out of harm’s way and get outstanding angles and images that wouldn’t be possible from behind the glass, or even from the bench area. Regardless of where I’m shooting from, I photograph hockey with both eyes open to help ensure that I don’t get cracked with a stray puck. That doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened though, as I recall a mammoth bruise on the side of my right knee after taking a puck off the post at a camp a few summers ago. In my defense though, I was photographing the opposite direction and couldn’t have seen it coming. That one hurt.

Kari Lehtonen (© www.aepoc.com)

Kari Lehtonen (© http://www.aepoc.com)

One of my cameras had my trusty 70-200mm f/2.8 lens which is my workhorse. The other sporting a 35mm f/1.4 for outstanding closer shots, along with a wider view. Those times when I could position myself in just the right spot were perfect for being able to fill the frame with these world-class athletes. And at 35mm, I was incredibly close to the action. It’s very important that while I’m out on the ice during these camps to not get in the way or cause any disturbances, and sometimes it’s difficult to find the right mix of spots to shoot from and not be in the way.

Joe Pavelski (© www.aepoc.com)

Joe Pavelski (© http://www.aepoc.com)

After the first day, I went home to download all 650 images, organize, and go through them one by one. This was essential to figuring out what worked, what didn’t, and gave me ideas on how to make the final day of shooting even better than the first.

Jake Allen (© www.aepoc.com)

Jake Allen (© http://www.aepoc.com)

The second day of camp was the most interesting for sure. Maybe it was the different drills, or maybe it was me just being that much more comfortable with everything. I was able to get different angles, and actually get even closer than the previous day. Mike had even invited a local hockey camp out to watch the practice, and a number of people showed up, which I thought was really cool.

Thomas Magnusson, Dan Kerluke,  Ben Bishop, Anders Lindback (© www.aepoc.com)

Thomas Magnusson, Dan Kerluke, Ben Bishop, Anders Lindback (© http://www.aepoc.com)

After the ice time on day two, Mike and I were talking about his plans for the same type of camp next year, and he asked if I could attend. Once again I accepted, also stating that next time I would love to photograph all of the off-ice activities as well, workouts, video review, etc. to help him promote his camps even better. I’m excited to say that not only is he totally on board with that, but he said if I wanted to I could go photograph the video/classroom session with Thomas Magnusson and a few of the goalies right then, which I did. I can’t wait for the camp next year, which promises to be even bigger and better than the one this year.

Jake Allen (© www.aepoc.com)

Jake Allen (© http://www.aepoc.com)

The Coaching Staff (© www.aepoc.com)

The Coaching Staff (© http://www.aepoc.com)

Kari Lehtonen snagging a puck (© www.aepoc.com)

Kari Lehtonen snagging a puck (© http://www.aepoc.com)

Mike Valley (© www.aepoc.com)

Mike Valley (© http://www.aepoc.com)

Laughs all around (Mike Valley, far left) (© www.aepoc.com)

Laughs all around (Mike Valley, far left) (© http://www.aepoc.com)

Ben Bishop laughing (© www.aepoc.com)

Ben Bishop laughing (© http://www.aepoc.com)

David Alexander coaching  Anders Lindback (© www.aepoc.com)

David Alexander coaching Anders Lindback (© http://www.aepoc.com)

Thomas Magnusson  (© www.aepoc.com)

Thomas Magnusson (© http://www.aepoc.com)

Jake Allen  (© www.aepoc.com)

Jake Allen (© http://www.aepoc.com)

Michael Hutchinson  (© www.aepoc.com)

Michael Hutchinson (© http://www.aepoc.com)

Hannu Nykvist  (© www.aepoc.com)

Hannu Nykvist (© http://www.aepoc.com)

Video/teaching session by Thomas Magnusson (© www.aepoc.com)

Video/teaching session by Thomas Magnusson (© http://www.aepoc.com)

Kari Lehtonen during the video/teaching session (© www.aepoc.com)

Dan Ellis (lower left), Jake Allen (middle) and Kari Lehtonen during the video/teaching session (© http://www.aepoc.com)

Marty’s Ritual

During my time in South Carolina photographing the Greenville Road Warriors, I was able to check something off my bucket-list (be around and photograph a pro hockey team for a week and travel on the road with them), and met many great people.  Ryan Martin (Marty) was one of those people.

Ryan Martin

Ryan Martin’s playing some sewer ball with the boys

This is Ryan’s fourth year of managing the Road Warriors’ equipment, but his ritual of firing pucks at the net prior to practices has been around longer than that.  “It’s just something I started doing when I was in Houston (Working for the Aeros).  It’s fun for me and my shot keeps getting better.  If I don’t have time to do it its because I haven’t managed my time well that day“.   When I asked Ryan if there’s a goal for his shots (no pun intended), he answered “No goal really; although I do focus on going bar-down EVERYTIME“.

Ryan Martin

Ryan Martin firing his pucks prior to a practice at The Pavilion.

I was setting up the benches for practice one day (in Houston) and I grabbed a puck and stick and started shooting“, Marty went on to mention that one of the goalies came out while he was doing his shooting and said that Ryan had a harder shot that most of the players on the team.

Ryan Martin

Ryan Martin (facing) talking with team trainer Shay McGlynn.

Martin says regarding the players, “No one gives me shit; they have no clue I even play until they see me shoot.  Occasionally I’ll stay out there while a few guys skate around and feed them some passes and what not until (Coach) Dean comes out.  Then its time to get off“.

Here’s a short video I took with my GoPro of Marty’s Ritual.

My Dream Job

It’s no secret that I love photographing hockey.  And this past March (2014), I was able to do that for a week straight, covering the Greenville Road Warriors.  Read about it here on expOsure.so

Where was that Windows XP photo taken?

winXPwp

winXPwp

We’ve all seen the above image.  It’s the default desktop wallpaper for Microsoft‘s Windows XP operating system, but where was it taken?  Well, this video explains it all.  And it may surprise you to learn that the image is not Photoshopped at all.

GoPro hockey net-cam hilarity

So I was recently testing out my GoPro net-cam box in Greenville, South Carolina while photographing the ECHL‘s Greenville Road Warriors, and my camera caught this gem, courtesy of goaltender Mark Guggenberger of the Gwinnett Gladiators.

Being Martin St Louis

Here is an outstanding video series on the journey Martin St Louis has endured in his career.  Amazing worth by the Tampa Bay Lightning.  If you’re a fan of hockey, you need to watch this.

With all the trade rumors surrounding St Louis, I needed to see something like this.  I can’t imagine the Lightning letting him go.. but perhaps there’s animosity I’m unaware of.  Either way, these videos are incredible.  Have a look:

http://video.lightning.nhl.com/videocenter/console?catid=1324

John Tavares’ #1 fan.

Found this on Next Impulse Sports.  After sustaining a bad injury (torn medial collateral ligament and meniscus in his left knee) in the Sochi games, the New York Islanders Captain John Tavares received a gold medal, but he also got this letter from 8 year-old Ashley Diffendale.

Letter to John Tavares

Letter to John Tavares