Sunday, December 4, 2011

More Ice Hockey with Speedlights

I must tip my hat and acknowledge that Dave Black ( has been a large inspiration to my current foray into capturing the perfect ice hockey image.

Don't you dare click his link yet!

You see, when I first found Dave's site, I was blown away with the wealth of knowledge that he was sharing regarding arena strobes.  I was soon hooked on his monthly updates.

Don't you dare click his link yet!

My problem was I didn't have several thousand dollars worth of arena strobes.  Also, I didn't want to lug around the many pounds of gear that is several thousand dollars worth of arena strobes.  But, he did plant a seed in my head.  "Why not several speedlights"?

With the advent of digital and iTTL and eTTL technology there are a whole bunch of flashes out there that don't provide Auto exposure with today's cameras.  They still put out great light, you just need to be able to and want to deal with manual exposure.  Soon eBay became my friend.  I picked up 4 Nikon SB-26s for less than I payed for my single SB-900.  That is the fun part.

My early efforts were very low cost.  A pair of SB26s and a SB800 clamped in the rafters with plastic wood clamps.  Not enough light, back to eBay.  I now own four SB26s, a pair of SB800s and a SB900 and I still keep looking for that 8th flash.

Dave's site then got even more interesting to me when he went speedlight, when he started producing amazing images with these awesome little lights.  Dave is backed by some pretty major sponsors, so he has all the latest in technology.  My approach is slightly different.  But, it was nice to see that I wasn't crazy and that this is doable.  Or I am getting closer anyway.

Don't you dare click his link yet!

In my previous post regarding hockey you can see long shadows falling off the players and the background is slightly underexposed.  This is the result of trying to light from just one side of the rink.  Physics dictates that light intensity will diminish with distance.  The Inverse Square Law.  Also, as hard as I tried by getting the lights up high and separated from each other and the camera, I still ended up with that criss cross shadow.  There are no catwalks at our local rink.

So, I took my problem to the Flickr Strobist group.  Surely, somebody else has tried this and will help me out.  Welcome to the land of the Flickr Pro.  What a joke!  Anyway, after fending off a couple real jerks, plus a rather questionable forum moderator, a fine gentleman from Quebec joins into the dialogue and offers some of his experience with small rinks. Even goes so far as to send my a private email.  What  impressed me was this guy weighs into a somewhat hostile thread with limited English skills.  All hope in humanity has not been lost, there still are good people out there.

Anyway, after discussing my approach, he convinced me to try bouncing my flash off the silver insulation covering the ceiling.  Then, after taking another look around the rink with a different mindset, I found that this offered me a chance to do some cross lighting and hopefully get rid of those ugly shadows.  I may loose a bit of overall light intensity, but the quality of light should be better.

And here are the results of Week 1 of light bouncing...

Nikon D3, AF-S 70-200mm, ISO 400, 1/250th, f/6.3, WB 5250ºK

Nikon D3, AF-S 70-200mm, ISO 800, 1/250th, f/7.1, WB 5550ºK

Nikon D3, AF-S 70-200mm, ISO 400, 1/250th, f/6.3, WB 5600ºK

Nikon D3, AF-S 70-200mm, ISO 800, 1/250th, f/7.1, WB 5300ºK

Now, I am not going to pretend that all is perfect.  That last shot has some soft spots that I would attribute to ghosting.  

The quest continues...

Go take a look at Dave Black's website now.