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Upstairs or Downstairs, what to do at the Toronto Maple Leafs

Steve Russell - Staff Photographer

To go upstairs or downstairs is always a question we ask ourselves when going to cover the Toronto Maple Leafs. 

What is the difference?

Well upstairs is considered the safe angle, you can see a lot of the ice, the pictures end up somewhat clean and the game doesn't seem to move as quickly.

Downstairs, the action always seems to look better, we can use depth of field to isolate players a little better. But, it does have its challenges, the game is much quicker, you have to juggle two lenses, there is a greater chance of getting blocked and you have to shoot through a hole that is just wide enough to get a 300 mm f/2.8 through (and the hole is big enough for a puck to get through).

I had planned to shoot from upstairs, it was the Leafs 33rd home game so I wouldn't get the deep hole (The Star and the Sun alternate use of the deep hole, they get odds we get evens, the deep hole allows you to shoot up the ice with a 300). I was also getting there late from another shoot so I wouldn't be able to try to get another hole that was equally deep.

I didn't really want to go upstairs because the last few games we covered our photographers had covered it from upstairs and I wanted to switch things up for the paper.

Thankfully the Sun photographer had decided to shoot from upstairs and freed up the deep hole.

The photo Gods were shining on me because within a few seconds I had a pretty good picture in the bag from down low too. That never happens!

Good luck right off the get go, my first picture of the night, Toronto Maple Leafs right winger Nikolai Kulemin (41) tries to get around Pittsburgh Penguins defense man Kris Letang (58) in first period action.

More good luck, Toronto Maple Leafs' Nikolai Kulemin manages to get a shot on Marc-Andre Fleury and draw a penalty on Kris Letang.

 Shot with the 300 up ice, Toronto Maple Leafs defense man Mike Komisarek (8) takes out teammate Fredrik Sjostrom in first period action.

Being ice level allows us to look for different moments, Toronto Maple Leafs centre Tyler Bozak waits for the puck to drop in first period action.

Pittsburgh Penguins center Tyler Kennedy (48) cannot knock Toronto Maple Leafs defense man Luke Schenn (2) off the puck.

Pittsburgh Penguins right winger Chris Conner slips the puck through the five hole on James Reimer in second period action.

Toronto Maple Leafs goalie James Reimer reacts after giving up the second Pittsburgh Penguins' goal.

Pittsburgh Penguins defense man Matt Niskanen (2) takes Mike Brown into the end boards creating a blizzard in third period action.

Joffrey Lupul celebrates Phil Kessel's game tying goal in the third period.

Toronto Maple Leafs' fans cheer the team but miss Sydney Crosby who was out with a concussion.

The danger of shooting ice level,  Mikhail Grabovski gets the puck by Marc-Andre Fleury but all I see is  referee Kelly Sutherland as the Toronto Maple Leafs beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-2 in overtime.

Toronto Maple Leafs centre Mikhail Grabovski reacts after scoring the game winning goal in overtime.

As I follow Mikhail Grabovski you can see vignetting from the edge of the hole on his right arm as celebrates re-scoring the game winning goal in overtime.

Mikhail Grabovski ends up blocking me as his teammates Dion Phaneuf and Carl Gunnarsson react to his game winning goal.




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Steve Russell is why I want to become a photographer!

But you didn't get hit...again...by a puck, did you Steve?

Great photos! I love the shot of Bozak at the faceoff.

What shutter speed and ISO setting do you use?

Steve Russell, you got some amazing shots there!

@Thom, I usually shoot Leafs at 1600 ISO and a shutter speed of 1/1600 f/2.8 (close) and 1/1000 f/4 (long)

can you post pics after every game??

Great photos and great concept for a blog!

Hey Steve, great work with the pics from last night’s game. I was wondering if you have a personal site of work not related to the work you do for the star. If so would it be possible for you to post the link? Anyway keep up the great work. Go Leafs Go.

Great shots Steve - I especially like the Kulemin/Letang and Bozak shots. You mentioned that you're shooting with a 300mm lens and one more - what's the second lens? Presumably you have a much more moderate telephoto for the near-side action?

This is a great little article. Very cool.

What kind of camera do you use, if I might ask?

Awesome shots Steve. just a quick question do you use arena strobes for your shots? and yeah I'm also curious as to what kind of post processing (if any) do you do?

I started shooting hockey as a "pro" in 1969 at the Gardens, and have never shot at the Air Canada Center. The lighting seems to be incredibly good at the ACC Steve, and I guess being digital doesn't hurt these days, as opposed to film.

Wow - please keep posting pictures like these. WOW!!

@Paul Paroutis - The second lens is a 70-200, although sometimes, usually in the first period I'll drop the 300 for a 16-35 or 14 to try to get some corner action.

@HockeyBroad - I use a pair of Canon Mark IV's

@Ben P - No we don't use strobes, they are available but for a price. There are four sets that the team photographers usually use and sometimes a set are rented out to a magazine or a card company.

@Bill Sandford - The lighting is better at the ACC than the old Gardens, but it could be that the cameras are also getting very good in poor light. Of course the cameras also enable us to get better white balances that greatly help with exposure!

love the blizzard shot,tom

the shots from the game are amazing, makes the leafs actually look good.

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