Hockey season is nearing the end for the kids but I promised some tips for shooting in an arena. Here goes. The most important factor is the white balance, and the best place to get a reference is right in front of you. The ice surface!
Another thing you need to understand is how the overhead lights are connected in small arenas. All the lights function at 60 (or 50) Hz and therefore have an up and down cycle to brightness and intensity. In small arenas, the lights are all connected to the same phase which means they all get brighter and darker together, although much faster than the human eye can see. Unfortunately, the camera can see it. Especially if you’re shooting in burst mode. If you take a series of shots with the same settings, some pictures will be lighter and some with be darker. For this reason, I usually overexpose by +0.7. As I wrote in an earlier blog post, sports requires aperture priority with the lens wide open. The shutter speed can vary quite a bit since the light metering is performed a moment before the shutter clicks. During the delay between metering and the shutter clicking, the light intensity may change. This explains the variation in exposure between the shots.
Pros use 70-200mm lenses, generally. Any more and you’ll get a small field of view. Arenas are smaller than you think! One of the best places to be is in the corners of the rink. You can catch players coming down the ice any maybe read a little of their emotions on their faces.
After the shoot, I use Lightroom to punch up the colours and even out the intensity of the images.
Good luck to all the parents who have kids in the upcoming playoffs, and happy shooting.