Hockey Depth of Field

by Manny Brizuela

(Manny Brizuela photo/graphic of Mark Mauno 11/29/18) 

Mark Mauno Flickr:

If you were to ask Mark Mauno about photography, he would tell you that he’s a terrible home team photographer because he shoots the visiting team almost as much as the home team.

But, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

League wide photographers are rather scarce in the WSHL. If you ever wonder how the league, based in California, managed to pull a picture of your son who plays in Wyoming, chances are Mark was behind the lens in Las Vegas, of all places.

The WSHL Showcase, or Western States Shootout, is not only go-time for every team, it’s also Mark’s opportunity to capture compelling images of as many teams and their players as possible. Mark works on a volunteer basis. A former software developer, now retired, his love for the game and the craft of photography keeps him going.

“I’ve never charged for a single photo in my entire life,” Mark said. “In a technical sense, I’m not a professional photographer because I’ve never made any money off it, but, I try to shoot as well as a professional might.”

Mark has shot over 300 WSHL games, going back to when he first started shooting the league with the SoCal Bombers—now Long Beach Bombers—in 2007. Whether he’s shooting at the Showcase or at a team’s home rink, there is a particular style that Mark has worked to shape for his photography. The recognizable style consists of isolated, close-up shots of the players that result from shooting with a telephoto lens.  

(Mark Mauno Photo of Andrew Blair 2007)  

“There’s no wrong photo, every person has their own style,” Mark said. “My style is trying to get individual players highlighted in the photos because a telephoto lens lets me do close-ups. It’s just easier than telling someone ‘here’s a picture of ten guys, your son is No. 4.’”

Mark primarily shoots with a 300mm f/2.8 telephoto lens to achieve his look. However, he often changes his setup to a 70-200mm f/2.8 telephoto zoom lens during the third period to capture more action. He’s been loyal to Nikon for many decades.

“Since the 1970’s I’ve been with Nikon,” Mark said. “When the first automated cameras showed up by Nikon and Canon, Canon was all shutter priority and Nikon was aperture priority. I liked aperture priority so I bought a Nikon. Eventually you buy another Nikon lens and another Nikon body and pretty soon you’re locked into one brand.”

Shutter priority essentially entails that the user sets the shutter speed and the camera automatically sets the proper aperture. On the other hand, aperture priority requires the user to set the aperture and the camera controls the shutter speed. In other words, he prefers to manually control the iris of the lens instead of the speed at which the shutter closes.  This allows for the fastest possible shutter speed for the lens.


Aperture = The variable opening, or iris, by which light enters a camera lens. 

Shutter = The device that controls the amount of time that light can pass through the aperture. The faster shutter speeds are essential for shooting sports to freeze action. Slower shutter speeds are ideal for shooting things in nature like a flowing stream.

The old saying is true, “it’s not the camera, it’s the photographer.” Mark has grown to be quite the master of his equipment and there are almost two-dozen buttons on the camera body and lens. Each setting has its intended purpose but it’s up to the photographer to know when and how to use them.

“It’s all about how well you can use that equipment. For example, if I were to have somebody else use my camera and lens setup, they would have to understand a half dozen settings on the lens alone; the camera has over a dozen buttons on the outside and a menu of over 100 settings, they just wouldn’t know how to use the camera. You have to learn how to use the equipment and that doesn’t come right away - it takes a long time.”

(Mark Mauno photo of Matts Thielemann 2017)

There are obstacles that come with shooting various sports. There’s even varying obstacles within the same sport, but at different levels, that present themselves. In junior hockey, photographers often face the troubles of shooting behind an all-encompassing net that surrounds the entire rink. The lack of camera openings on the glass poses another issue when the glass is profusely scratched or marked.

“The netting changes the color of the picture,” Mark said. “Here, [The RINKS-Lakewood ICE] if I shoot in one direction, the netting adds a brown hue to the image. I have to color-correct the photo to get rid of the brownness from the netting. Through the glass, it comes out sort of green-blue so this is where the post-processing comes into play.”

Mark does adjust on the fly to cope with the troubles of shooting through netting. Some photographers settle and just take their pictures with the netting visible in the image. Like previously mentioned, if the user is capable of handling the camera and its settings, the likely decision is to shoot with a narrow depth of field and get right up against the trellis pattern and practically eliminate the netting entirely (though color correction might still be necessary).          

Lighting in junior hockey arenas is almost always a problem as rinks tend to have uneven lighting fixtures or just poor lighting in general. Visible light is an emitted electromagnetic wave that fluctuates through space. The frequency of the waves typically determine what color the emission is and this can be detrimental to a photo opportunity depending on where the photographer is standing and the direction of their lens. Yet again, another reason why post-production is crucial for photography or digital media in general.

 Much like the physical nature of the game, shooting hockey comes with its hazards.

“I got hit with a puck once through the net,” Mark said. “But the worst injury I’ve had was a supporting bar—on one of boards that opens—which fell when some players hit the glass. The bar came down, hit me on the face and caused a lot of bleeding. I went to the bathroom and the team trainer put a temporary bandage on me. Ten minutes later I went back out there and shot the rest of the game.”

Mark has earned himself recognition throughout the WSHL as people from all allegiances become aware of his Flickr account and the hundreds of photos that are available for free and without a copyright. This includes players who are eager to see their likeness in high resolution. But Mark has a strategy for capturing his shots and staying true to his style.

“Part of what happens when I take photos, I’m not always following the game action. I’m looking for photo opportunities. A lot of it is getting comfortable with the rhythm of the game, trying to anticipate a shot if you can, like in a power play, knowing who might get the puck. If a goalie is about to stop a shot you’ll see their knees buckle and that’s how you know the shot is coming.”

There are advantages when shooting with one team consistently. One of them is getting used to every player’s style. This comes in handy when trying to shoot goal celebrations because you can anticipate if an exuberant celebration is coming up.

Mark has kept all of his initial WSHL pictures on Flickr, from when he first started shooting the league. People can see his natural progression and those with a photographers eye can see the attention to detail that Mark puts into every single image. It doesn’t matter if you’re viewing the original shot or a reproduced graphic using his image, you can always tell Mark was behind the lens.