Monthly Archives: January 2013

Milwaukee Admirals

The 2012-13 hockey tour is still going strong, and on January 6th (2013) I was photographing for the Milwaukee Admirals taking on the Grand Rapids Griffins.  In case you missed the previous entries in my hockey tour posts, you can find them here by team (Greenville Road Warriors, Cincinnati Cyclones, Dubuque Fighting Saints).  Anyhow, prior to the game starting, I had the opportunity to walk freely around the arena to scope it all out, meet some of the Admirals staff, and they even invited us to head down to the media room for a catered lunch, which was unexpected, and quite good.  Back to the hockey… this was actually the first time in a long time that I was able to shoot through a photographer window in the glass, and believe me, I took the opportunity.

The view from the photographer window at the BMO Harris Bradley Center.

The view from the photographer window at the BMO Harris Bradley Center.

In the past eight months or so, I have become a bit “goalie-centric”, you could say.  Photographing a number of hockey camps, including one for Dallas Stars goalie coach Mike Valley, but also for Goalies Inc. Hockey School, and High Performance Goaltending.  Being that the window in the glass was in the corner, and BEHIND the goal line (see image above), I figured it might be tough to get some good shots of the goalies, but I was determined.  I stayed in the (very cramped) area with the window for two periods, which was pretty uncomfortable, but worth it.

Milwaukee Admirals right winger Juuso Puustinen.

Milwaukee Admirals right winger Juuso Puustinen.

Prior to the game, I was shooting warm-ups from the penalty box.  I was told I was able to have the door open to allow me an unobstructed view of the ice, but one of the penalty box attendants highly suggested I keep it shut, as the players love to whip pucks at the boards to warm up.  Not two minutes after he said that did a puck come hurling towards us and smack into the glass, leaving my ears ringing for a few minutes.  Turns out  –  Good advice!  Shortly after that, I snapped this image of Griffins defenseman, and alternate captain, Nathan Paetsch.

Grand Rapids Griffins Nathan Paetsch being funny during pre-game warmups.

Grand Rapids Griffins Nathan Paetsch being funny during pre-game warmups.

During the first period, I was able to get a few great shots of the Griffins goalie Petr Mrazek.  The best of the lot is shown below:

Grand Rapids Griffins goaltender Petr Mrazek.

Grand Rapids Griffins goaltender Petr Mrazek making an outstanding save.

The second period yielded some good images of Ads goalie Jeremy Smith too; pictured below:

Milwaukee Admirals goaltender Jeremy Smith.

Milwaukee Admirals goaltender Jeremy Smith following the play in the corner.

Milwaukee Admirals goaltender Jeremy Smith.

Milwaukee Admirals goaltender Jeremy Smith.

As much as I love shooting goaltenders, it’s not all I shot in Milwaukee … I concentrated on tight player shots as well.  Using the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L (non IS, if you’re keeping track) is paramount in getting those shots.  Here are a few:

Milwaukee Admirals defenseman Scott Valentine.

Milwaukee Admirals defenseman Scott Valentine just before a faceoff.

Admirals defenseman Ryan Ellis chasing after a puck, with Michael Latta in the background.

Admirals defenseman Ryan Ellis chasing after a puck, with Michael Latta in the background.

The game went into a shootout, which I decided to capture from a little higher up (first row of the second deck).

Admirals goaltender Jeremy Smith poke-checking Gustav Nyquist on his shootout attempt.

Admirals goaltender Jeremy Smith poke-checking Gustav Nyquist on his shootout attempt.

Admirals Ryan Ellis skating in on Petr Mrazek.

Admirals Ryan Ellis skating in on Petr Mrazek.  Ellis ended up scoring on his shootout attempt.

Another great time photographing hockey, and my first experience doing so in the AHL.  One thing I really grabbed from this was that shooting hockey without glass between you and the action is damn near essential.  If you can do it, DO IT.  If not, you’ll just have to position yourself in a good enough position that the action comes directly at you.

Greenville Road Warriors

Road Warriors skater

Road Warriors skater

Photographing this hockey season so far has taken me to a number of different places, but namely Dubuque and Cincinnati.  On December 29th of 2012, the travel was to Greenville, South Carolina to photograph the Greenville Road Warriors … which happens to be over a thousand miles away; You call it crazy, I call it dedication to my craft.  To each their own :)

Greenville Road Warriors' Bretton Stamler races in the zone after the puck.

Greenville Road Warriors’ Bretton Stamler races in the zone after the puck.

Upon arrival, we were greeted by the Warriors staff members, given a schedule of the night’s festivities (down to a per-tv-timeout basis) and talked about that briefly.  Next up was a tour of the arena, shown where I’m allowed to photograph from, and all of my questions were answered.  After that we had some time to kill before the game started, so I went over a plan in my head of where I wanted to shoot and during which periods.  It is essential to make a plan like this ahead of time.  You don’t want to be on your way back from the game and think “Aw crap I completely forgot to shoot from the Zamboni entrance during the 3rd!”.  It’s happened to me, so don’t let it happen to you.  It’s also helpful to maybe have a list of what you want to try to shoot from each spot.

Watching the drills during pre-game warmups.

Watching the drills during pre-game warmups.

Photographed from the player entrance (to the ice) for warm-ups, and that was pretty sweet.  Seeing the players come out of the locker room, standing there, ready to take the ice, getting psyched up to play was awesome.  I love photographing that!  I always try to shoot warm-ups if I’m able to, and the reason is because it’s not quite as fast-moving as the game is, and you can get good close-ups that look like they’re taken in game situations.

Ready to take the ice for warmups.

Ready to take the ice for warmups.

For the first period, I shot from the Zamboni entrance.  I dislike shooting through the plexi-glass, but there was no other option here.  Most places I’ve shot at do not have photographer windows in the glass… just something to deal with.  Apparently the players like to see if they can shoot pucks through the little holes, and end up shattering the glass.  Fun for them, I’m sure… just not for us photographers.  Shooting through the glass makes the auto-focus freak out, and slow down… which is a very bad thing when photographing professional hockey players, skating right at you at top-speed.  Was still able to get some good photos though, so now we’re on to the second period.

Road Warriors goaltender Scott Stajcer.

Road Warriors goaltender Scott Stajcer.

The second period was the crown-jewel of why I wanted to photograph in Greenville.  When I had contacted their front office back in September prior to the season starting, I had questions on where I was all allowed to photograph from, and they allowed me access to photograph from the rafters.  Getting up there was a little sketchy, but once up there, it was completely amazing.  A good deal above the scoreboard, and looking straight down on hockey is a view that not many people see, outside of a video game.  From this vantage point I really wanted two different kinds of photos… the goalies making saves, and faceoffs.  They took a while to get… sometimes you have to be patient in order to get the photos you’re looking for.  Read that again, and burn it into your brain.  Sometimes you have to be patient in order to get the photos you’re looking for.

Scott Stajcer makes the save.

Scott Stajcer makes the save.

Me shooting from the rafters.

Me shooting from the rafters.

Jeremy Gouchie and Casey Pierro-Zabotel battle for a faceoff.

Jeremy Gouchie (white) and Casey Pierro-Zabotel battle for a faceoff.

Photographed the third period from the first row of the second deck, just off-center from the red-line… which was what I like to call “standard“.  I call it that because that’s a view that any spectator can get, at any time.  I don’t necessarily like to shoot from spots like this, but I did for two reasons:  1.  It seemed like a good way to get shots that the organization can use.  And 2:  I was able to shoot above the glass, and not through the safety netting that protects the fans behind the net.  Got some good images from here as well, and then the game was done.  The Road Warriors fell to the Gwinnett Gladiators 6-2… but it was a great experience, and everyone on the Road Warriors staff was incredibly kind, respectful, and accommodating – including arena security, who technically don’t work for the team, just the arena (The Bi-Lo Center, in this case).

Me, shooting during the 3rd.

Me, shooting during the 3rd period.

Overall, it was a wonderful experience, and definitely worth the highway miles.  Less than a week after returning home from Greenville, it was off to Milwaukee.  Expect another post on that coming soon.

Photographing hockey is more than photographing hockey.

I’ve been shooting a lot of hockey lately, and the experience on Sunday in Milwaukee while shooting the Admirals was just fantastic … and eye opening … so I have to share it (the images I took with my SLR are available by clicking here: the ones in this post are from my cell phone).  There’s just something about getting to the rink a few hours before the puck drops that is incredibly relaxing to me.  It’s sort of the calm before the storm.  Sitting in the seats with a quiet, empty arena.  Watching the crew work on the ice, and getting the zamboni and nets ready.  Scoping out the locations I want to shoot from in the next few hours.  Finnagling my way down in to the corners to sit at the photo window in the glass.  Meeting the people working the penalty box, up in the media section, ushers, security, team staff, etc.  What a job it would be to be able to fulfill ALL the image needs of a hockey club.  To me, photographing hockey is more than just photographing hockey.  I don’t want to just take pictures of hockey games.  While that is certainly important, I’m thinking that is less than a quarter of what I want to capture for a club.

Bradley Center

Bradley Center, ice level, looking up. Home of the Milwaukee Admirals (AHL).

What else is there?  Well for starters, the dedication of the players.  For the vast majority of players (Juniors through Pro), they’ve been skating and playing hockey since just after they learned to walk.  The dedication it takes to reach a high level of any sport is astounding.  I never reached a high level of baseball, soccer, OR hockey… and I worked my ass off for years.  I want to photograph the determination and dedication of the players.  That comes down to work in the weight rooms, individual training, various camps, team practices, staying late, repeating drills, morning skates, pre-game warm ups, etc… all that painful hard work it takes just to be able to play their level of hockey and stay in the shape to do so.  And let’s not forget all the work it takes to come back from injuries.

Photo window

Photographer window in the glass.

Past those things, I want to be there to document the off-ice community work with hospitals, charities and other organizations, other sports teams in the area, fund-raising, etc.  Interviews with the press, travels to other cities for the games, all-star weekends, locker room antics, camaraderie and brotherhood between players, pre-game rituals, the general silliness and superstitions that hockey players are known for.  Interacting with the fans, signing autographs and giving back to everyone who cheers for them on a daily basis, and more or less allows them to receive a paycheck.

Camera and media area.

This is my camera sitting on a table in the media area, just before a shootout.

It’s no secret that I love hockey, and the news of the NHL lockout coming to an end, and starting a 48-game season on January 19th is great news… but minor league hockey is where I’ve spent the last few months, and it is thriving.  With any luck I’ll be able to photograph some NHL games in the truncated schedule, but I’m not holding my breath.  For now, I’m going to continue to do what I can for minor league clubs, and show the side of hockey that I need to show.  I firmly believe it’s just a matter of time before I’m doing this sort of thing for a hockey club.  At this point, it’s just up in the air as to which club wants me to show their club to the world.