Hey sports fans!! Thanks for stopping by my blog! I am a self admitted “rink rat” so a lot of this blog will be about figure skating and hockey, however as an ex-figure skater, ex-varsity athlete and a sports fan in general, I usually have thoughts and opinions about alot of different sports I follow, so visit often!
I recently read a bunch of translated tweets on twitter that were quotes from sports photographers about their experiences photographing Yuzu. So, I thought I would write a quick blog entry about my thoughts and experience on photographing Yuzu from an amateurs perspective who is enjoying this newfound hobby!
My first time seeing Yuzu skate live was the 2015 Autumn Classic. I was so excited about this experience that I never even considered trying to take pictures, with the exception of a few with my cell phone. I didn’t take my eyes off Yuzu the entire time as you can read during my first account of seeing Yuzu here.
At that point I was so mesmerized that I could not possibly imagine how to concentrate on watching Yuzu and do anything else at the same time.
The next event that both Yuzu and I were at was 2015 Skate Canada in Lethbridge. For this event, I asked a family member to come along with me (with good camera gear) and take some quick shots if possible. Success. We got some cool photos while still being able to enjoy every moment Yuzu was on the ice.
I mean seriously, how often have you seen Yuzu trying to do a cantilever? Such a thrill!
After that, the sports photography bug bit me. I started doing some research on cameras and got a good friend of mine to start teaching me about speed, aperture and ISO! I decided to go for it, and bought a nice fancy camera. Armed with a few lessons from my friend, and some valuable pointers from a great photographer, Danielle Earl, I went to Worlds in Boston and starting taking pictures. Fortunately Yuzu was not in the first group on day 1, so I had a chance to test out the camera, lighting and speed conditions on some other skaters first. I quickly realized that getting a great shot was not going to be as easy as it looked!!
The first thing I learned was that taking pictures of skaters and taking pictures of Yuzu are 2 completely different animals. For any other skaters, I did not have the additional challenge of my heart beating double the pace it normally does and perhaps this is my bias, but Yuzu simply skates faster than the other skaters, even when he is just skating along the sidelines. For me, Yuzu is harder to capture. A point of clarification here, I am a perfectionist so a slightly blurry image only serves to frustrate me. I have to keep reminding myself that as a sports photographer I am still a work in progress.
Here is Yuzu cleaning Pooh’s ears and making sure that Pooh can hear the “shu” and “pa” of his quads!! Can you see why I am so suddenly hooked on taking pictures?
My friend warned me that I might have to take a thousand photos to get maybe a handful of amazing shots, and she was right. During my first time out I got some pretty decent shots for a rookie, but only a handful of what I would call amazing or fantastic shots. I am very picky and love crispy clear images. This is my favourite photo of 2016 Worlds.
During Worlds in Boston, I had to try learning the skill of slowing down my heart rate on demand, when Yuzu was on the ice. While I have not yet mastered this, I think I have a better handle on it. I think I am now ready to compete in the nordic combined event (where athletes have to slow their heart rate down after skiing, to lay down and shoot the targets). Ha ha, just kidding. How does one slow the heart rate down when you see a rare site like this in your viewfinder?
One of the key things I discovered while taking photos is that when you spend the entire practice session looking at Yuzu through the small viewfinder you lose a sense of the overall picture of practice. The effort and concentration it takes to track Yuzu’s movements for an entire practice session is very tiring but oh so rewarding.
While I remember some very specific details and facial expressions or cute things Yuzu does during each practice, I find that I no longer have a whole picture of the full practice burned in my memory like my first Autumn Classic when I was camera free and soaking every movement in. It’s a trade off but once I see the photos, it’s a tradeoff I am willing to make.
One thing that I love about taking pictures is that what I see through my viewfinder is a crisper image of Yuzu than what I see just looking at him without a camera. For whatever reason (probably my eyesight in general), Yuzu is sharper and more in focus, plus when you add a strong zoom, it’s pure happiness! I can see those tiny details of what Yuzu is doing across the ice from me. I love this little bonus.
Another thing I learned is that it is super fun to come home and try to go through thousands of shots and find that perfect shot! While the task to review all of the pictures taken during an entire event is certainly daunting, it is also very rewarding when you find a shot that you are super proud of.
When I came home from my first photography experience, my friend asked me if I was able to make any adjustments to my settings during practice. As an amateur, and a rookie, I don’t yet have the expertise and confidence to make on the fly adjustments. I told her that while shooting Yuzu, you don’t have time! If you take the time to look/review the images and scroll through photos while Yuzu is on the ice, and make adjustments, you may be missing out on that fabulous moment he will give you. So, my method until I get quicker and gain more experience, is to cross my fingers and pray. I will work on these small adjustments when taking photos of the other skaters.
After shooting photos at 5 events now, which is about 50,000 shots later (ballpark), I decided to upgrade my camera gear, and buy more memory for my computer! The results were super exciting for me. I have forgotten about the drawback of not seeing the bigger picture of the ice surface and overall practice and now look forward to capturing some special Yuzu moments! I didn’t expect to get this photo at 2017 Worlds during the short program because it was Yuzu just ad libbing it in, but I was at the right place at the right time, my trigger finger was ready, and it is one of my favourites!!
The predictable moments are easy. The unpredictable ones, like the hamming it up for the audience photo above, and the cool down spiral sequences that Yuzu does are the stuff I dream about. A simple spiral by Yuzu blows my mind. Yuzu doesn’t do it all the time, so if/when he does, it is SO special. It is such a dichotomy that Yuzu’s spirals are so graceful and elegant one moment and then suddenly Yuzu will show you the speed and power required to perform a quad jump. It’s brilliant, and this is what makes Yuzu so special for me.
During practices, I often hear me saying to myself “Ohmigod, I hope I got that shot!” when Yuzu does something amazing. I don’t dare to check until after he has left the ice though. For the Let’s Go Crazy shot above, I actually waited until Yuzu had left the Kiss and Cry area before I started searching for it on my camera. Because of this photo I have no idea who skated after Yuzu during the short. Haha.
I find the goal of taking great photos of Yuzu very mesmerizing. I get very focused and lost in the moment. Thats why a 45 minute practice seems like 10-15 minutes. You lose track of all time and space. The time flies by and I am always left wanting more. I’m sure Yuzu can hear the motor drives of all of the professional cameras shooting and he sees the hundreds of cameras pointed at him at all times. He is so poised and professional about it.
Yuzu puts a spell on me through the viewfinder, and heaven forbid if he actually looks at directly at me! Those are the “holy hell” moments where I thank God for the image stabilizer functionality on the lens. This is the fun of Yuzu photography!
For those of you looking for an excuse to watch Yuzu videos over and over again, it is a photographers tool! Knowing every step of his programs helps you know when to set up and get ready for a shot you want. I really wanted images of his high kick after his triple axel and knowing when and where he was going to do it in his short program certainly helped. The only disadvantage is I don’t usually have a choice of where I am seated so if I get his backside well, not a lot I can do about that but it still makes for an ok image too.
So I usually post some photos from each event after I get home, here on my blog, but have noticed that in uploading the images, I seem to lose quite a bit of the quality of the photo (due to size limitations). So, I have also starting posting more of my photos on my new twitter account @Realsportymags. I hope you will enjoy them as much as I do. I ask that if you post them elsewhere to please include a link to original source and above all, please do not crop out my watermark. These are the things that stop people from posting and sharing.
Anyways, so thats my photography experience so far. I cant wait until the new season starts! I hope to have some great photos from Autumn Classic to share with you soon!
PS: I am now using a Canon EOS 7D Mark II, and a 70-200mm lens.
Go Yuzu Go!!! Doki Doki!!