This past week I had a special opportunity to photograph the best college hockey players in the nation at the 2011 Frozen Four NCAA national championships. Wow.
I got to shoot the event because I was credentialed by Southcreek Global Media, a company where you have to be referred by a fellow photographer to get reviewed and if you get approved you have the opportunity to shoot events under their name. (Many thanks you to my referring photographer who wishes to remain anonymous.) The shots get uploaded to their distribution system. If they get purchased by national or international clients, such as media outlets and companies, I get paid. If nothing sells, I don‘t get anything. So it‘s speculative, but a pretty good risk factor for someone like me who needs to have a means of access to big time events and distribution network to get the shots into the marketplace. As a result of this relationship, I don‘t sell the images directly. I can show my photos but only with the Southcreek watermark (except for the some that I will not submit to SCG because they are not interested in non-standard sized images or personal shots.)
So the night before the event, I shot some photos of the exterior of the Xcel Energy Center, the venue for this pinacle of college hockey sport. It‘s a great venue in that it‘s where each year in Minnesota, “The State of Hockey“ it‘s where the state high school hockey championships are held. Lots of hockey dreams are associated with this place.
Because of the gravitas and romantic nature of “the X“ I used two newly learned techniques to shoot it: Pano and High Dynamic Range (HDR). The first shot above i used both. The panoramic technique was surprisingly simple. Just use a tripod. Line it up and shoot the series. The HDR technique was way easy too. The camera and software does all the work. All I had to do was to get my light settings right, and set the camera to shoot a bracketed range of exposures. I went +2 and -2 on both of the building shots above, so it was capturing 5 shots , +2, +1, 0, -1 and -2 and then collapsing them into a single image. I did some addition tweaks to make it pop just how I liked it. I was pretty pleased that it reached the affect I was after.
Thursday it was game time. I got the X parking lot about three hours before the first of two games. As strapped my gear onto my back, I saw a fellow photographer loading up too. We took the walk into the X together and he told me his name was Eric Miller and had been shooting for Reuters for 27+ years. What a great guy. He made a point of waiting for me as we got our credentials. He was familiar with the place and wanted to be sure I knew where to go. Only later did I figure out that this was my first of many encounters with “the best.” Fast forward to after the championship game on Saturday: I was doing some quick research to caption a photo and landed on the New York Times page, with an image by Eric, as he sat right behind me!
Another great guy I met was Pat Green. Pat noticed my credentials after I sat down in the workspace next to him, plugging in my laptop and unloading some of my equipment with hardly the faintest idea of what I needed to do next. He told me that he too shot for Southcreek, and that he‘d come up from Dallas to shoot this event. Pat was a heaven sent, showing me the ropes, giving some great advice on how to do my best for Southcreek. Pat‘s been doing this work for several years too and loves it. Can you tell?
This start and this space helped me realize that I was surrounded by men and women photographers, maybe two dozen or more, who were here because they loved shooting sports. They were the best at what they do from all around the country as well as locals who really know their sport in this State of Hockey. Not to mention I was amongst the ESPN team, bumped sholders (almost literally as I entered an elevator, with ESPN analyst Barry Melrose).
Geez, did I feel pretty okay about all of that.