Over the course of a hockey season, team photographers take thousands upon thousands of photos. Some of them are never seen outside of the camera's viewfinder, but others become iconic.
We asked the team photographer for the San Jose Sharks, Brandon Magnus, to choose some of his favorite photos from last year and give a behind-the-scenes - er, behind-the-lens - perspective on how the photo was taken, why it was taken, and why it moreso than other photos is so great.
1. Quiet Moments
After being around the players in the locker room for most of the regular season, you start to notice certain habits that each of them have. Before the team would go out to the ice for warm ups, I noticed Jumbo [Joe Thornton] always took a few seconds to put his head down and have a quiet moment of reflection to himself. I always wondered what he would think about in those few seconds of peace.
It was the last game of the 2018-19 regular season and I felt like Jumbo was taking it all in so I wanted to capture that feeling. Fortunately, I had one of my longer lenses on me, so I snapped a few frames from across the room so the sound of my camera clicking wouldn't disrupt him. It's always fun to capture action shots of these elite players on the ice, but sometimes the best photos are the quiet moments before the game.
Shot with 80-400mm lens. Shutter Speed 1/250, f4.5, and ISO 3200
2. In the Net
This is definitely one of my favorite pictures from the season since it provides such a unique perspective of the game. In order to create this, I use a small plexiglass box (which we call a netcam) and clamp it to the middle post of the goal. You want to make sure that this netcam is securely clamped onto the post so it doesn't move around or get in anyones way. Even then sometimes the netcam will get hit or knocked by a player and will ruin the framing.
I was lucky with how this image came out because most of the time I'll have about 1,000 pictures of just the goalie's butt and no goal… So sometimes you just have to get lucky and be prepared for the right moment.
Shot with 16mm lens. Shutter Speed 1/1000, f5.6 and ISO 4000
3. Seeing Double (Or Triple or Quadruple...)
To help my creative side, I try to look for different angles and ways to shoot hockey from game-to-game. It can be tough to produce a clean image when you can really only shoot through a small hole in the glass and there are ads in the background on the dasher boards.
One day during one of the Sharks warmups I decided to go up to the catwalk and roam around. I enjoyed looking at our players from above, witnessing each guy take a shot at the goal, and seeing how each player skated and handled the puck in their own way. I wanted to capture the flow of these movements, so I decided to change the setting on my camera to a multiple exposure that would layer five images over each other. It took a few tries to get my timing to sync with the spacing, but I got a few that I liked - and this one of Logan was my favorite in the series. The clean white background against the black Stealth jersey was a nice contrast too.
Shot with 70-200mm lens. Shutter Speed 1/1250, f3.5, and ISO 1000
4. Finding the Light
It's a blessing and a curse when it comes to shooting in an arena. A blessing because the light will stay the same the whole game, so you don't need to change your settings, and a curse because… well, the light will stay the same the whole game. It's hard to get creative with photos when there is one giant consistent light source at all times, and sometimes I wish we had outdoor events so we could get different looks and find some nice light.
During the All-Star Weekend in San Jose nearly one year ago, the players arrived on an outdoor red carpet. Usually nothing too special comes from these in terms of photos; players sign autographs for fans and pose in front of a step and repeat which has multiple photographers capturing the same image.
I was standing in the back with Karlsson, Burnzie, and Pavs when I noticed a little ray of light scraping across the wall of the building. I thought it would be a nice look for a portrait, so I asked Burnzie if he could stand over by the wall. Luckily, he enjoys talking about photography and cameras, so he was up for taking a few photos. I popped off about four shots before our group was called to walk the red carpet. This wasn't your typical red carpet shot, but I liked the look of it and knew that none of the other photographers would have a shot like this one.
Shot with 70-200mm lens. Shutter Speed 1/400, f5, and ISO 160
5. Chomp Chomp
The Sharks are known for their iconic Shark Head that the players skate out of. If you haven't seen it in person I'm sure you've seen the photos. It is such a classic look and I had seen so many photos of it from the side, straight on, and from behind - all of which make for some pretty cool images.
That makes it hard to create a shot that hasn't been made already.
I decided to hop onto the ice and see if I could find a different angle that would showcase the Shark Head with its size and detail. By the way - I have no idea how to skate, so I have to attach these little metal cleats to my shoes so I don't slip on the ice, which is always a little nerve racking when you have a bunch of camera gear strapped to you.
Anyway, I went out onto the ice as the players started skating out and played with the framing. I ended up with this image, which I liked because it gives a good scale of the size of the player compared to the Shark Head. You get to view a little bit of the inside of the mouth, the teeth help frame the image, and the little ray of light highlights Sorensen's number (finding the light!). Plus, it reminded me a bit of the chomp that all of our fans do when the Sharks get a power play. For me, images of the Shark Head will never get old.
Shot with 14-24mm lens. Shutter Speed 1/640, f4, and ISO 4000
6. Game of the Year
Craziest. Game. Ever.
I've covered a range of sporting events but Round 1, Game 7 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Vegas Golden Knights topped them all. The Tank was the loudest I've ever heard it and the atmosphere was next level. It was an insane come back and the ending - an overtime thriller - was the cherry on top. This photo of the final goal is one that will always be seen throughout Sharks history.
For big games I usually arrive to the arena a few hours early to set up a remote camera in the catwalk. There are a few places to set this up, but the best shots are usually directly above the goal - and you hope that the goals happen on the end where you set up your remote camera. I had the remote camera set up above the other goal opposite from me, which meant I got zero overhead images of the four goals in four minutes that were scored in front of me.
At that moment I didn't care since the Sharks just took the lead and were looking like they were going to win. But then the Knights came back and scored to take it into OT, which actually played into my favor as it meant the Sharks would be attacking the goal my remote camera was over.
In those last few stressful minutes of not knowing what would happen, Barclay Goodrow broke away and was able to score the game-winning goal and I knew I got the shot. It takes a bit of luck to get an image like this, but as my old mentor used to tell me, remember the 6 Ps: "Proper Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance." In other words, have your cameras set up and prepared, ready to go in case something special happened.
Here is the same image but at ice level. The exact same moment is captured but the image isn't as strong. The angle from above provides a cleaner image and shows the exact moment Barclay Goodrow was able to slip the puck past Fleury. This is when a remote camera pays off; it can put me in two places at once and help make sure I capture a special moment like this.
Here is an iPhone photo of what a remote setup looks like up in the catwalk. I usually use two clamps and magic arms to connect the camera to a pole, use the camera strap to wrap around the pole as backup, and connect a bunch of safety cables to anything and everything attached to the camera.
Shot with 70-200mm lens. Shutter Speed 1/1000, f 5.6, and ISO 2000
It's always difficult to narrow down what your "favorite" or "best" photos of the year. There are so many great moments with these players from the locker room to the ice, and I try my best to capture them to share with all of you. As the great Eddie Adams said, "If it makes you laugh, if it makes you cry, if it rips out your heart, that's a good picture."
Here's to many more years of good pictures. GO SHARKS!