In late-June, The Goalie Guild founder Justin Goldman attended the Elite Goalies Mentorship Camp in Madison, Wisconsin. While scouting the four elite prospects attending the camp, which was run by Dallas Stars goalie coach Mike Valley, Goldman crossed paths with a professional hockey photographer named Jason Kessenich.
Kessenich is the owner of AEPOC Photography and has recently developed a passion for shooting high-level goaltenders. The Elite Goalies camp was an opportunity for Jason to not only gain more experience shooting goalies up close and on the ice, but he also had a chance to work on his top-secret goalie mask project.
Below, Goldman discussed both topics with Jason, and got to know a little more about his unique style of goalie photography.
PT: What led you to begin shooting goaltenders and how did you get involved in the sport?
JK: “Shooting goalies really started when I had the idea for my masks project. I took photos for a local team, the Oregon Outlaws, and their goalie, Larry Clemens knows Mike Valley, the Dallas Stars goalie coach and owner of Elite Goalies. Larry then got me in contact with Valley because he had some goalie camps coming up in Madison, Wisconsin. Mike and I worked out a deal where I’d shoot some camps and then get a chance to shoot some goalie masks for my project. As far as getting into photographing hockey, my brother-in-law, Adam Augustine, worked for the University of Wisconsin Badgers Women’s hockey team with Mark Johnson, and he got me a press pass for their 2008-09 season. I shot a good portion of the home games, got a decent hockey portfolio going, submitted for and got the job for the team photographer of the Madison Ice Muskies, and met some great folks there as well. Been shooting hockey ever since.”
PT: What was it like shooting Mike Valley’s Elite Goalies camps?
JK: “In a word, awesome. I don’t know Mike well, but he’s so easy to get along with, and really polite off the ice. On the ice, he’s gonna make you work your ass off, but he’s able to get the most out of you, and that’s the idea of his camps in the first place. I shot three of Mike’s camps this past summer, they were all different, and I met some great people. I have a lot more respect for goalies now too, that’s for sure. It takes a special kind of person to voluntarily get in the way of frozen pucks fired at high speed. As far as the camps themselves, man I tell ya, there’s nothing I enjoy more than showing up at a rink and photographing; absolutely nothing. Being on the ice and being able to go wherever I needed to be in order to get the shot was a thrill. I even managed to not get hit by stray pucks! I love meeting the players, and being so close to the best sport in the world.”
PT: Like a goalie, every photographer has their own unique style. What makes you unique from other hockey photographers?
JK: “Oh I have no idea if I’m unique from other hockey photographers or not, but hockey has always been there for me. It’s either hockey season, or it’s almost hockey season, ya know? I played hockey as a kid after teaching myself how to skate, mostly through pick-up games on the ice at the local park when they’d flood and freeze it in the winter, and then a few years of roller hockey. I attended a hockey camp that Brian Rafalski put on when he was with the Badgers. Then throughout the last six or eight years, I’ve played open hockey at the rinks when I can, outside when I can, hockey on the Xbox, etc. When I started getting into hockey photography, I already knew what to look for. I mean, it’s not like I’m some still-life photographer that’s trying out his skills at a hockey rink — I’ve played it. Having played a lot of hockey, I know what to look for, what to watch for, and when the big moments will happen, all very important. They’re instinct by now for me, but it can take some people a while to learn them.”
PT: On that note, what are one or two tips you have for amateur photographers that want to take better goalie actions shots?
JK: “You have to think ahead — you don’t have the luxury or controlling the environment you’re shooting in. If you don’t know what’s about to happen, you’ll miss the moment, you’ll miss the shot, and then you’ll be thinking, ‘oh man, that would have been great to get a photograph if…’ and by the time you’re done thinking that, you’ve missed two more moments. I know what’s going to happen before it happens, and I try to always have the camera up to my eye so I’m ready. It’s said that if you see it happen through your viewfinder, you missed the shot, and I have found that to be very true. When I shot for the Madison Ice Muskies, I was at every home game, but I never got to watch a game; I photographed them all. You have to be that committed to it, you have to snap and snap and snap — you can’t just stand there and watch. Try to access a place to shoot where others can’t get. I like to shoot from the bench, if I’m allowed to. I want to be up in the rafters (has yet to happen though). I like the in-between moments too, like the guys (or girls) smiling on the bench, the high fives after a goal or a win; the collisions on the ice, etc. Oh, and always focus on the eyes, but that should go without saying. Also, you need fast glass. Hockey rinks are notorious for terrible lighting for photographers. Get a fast (f/2.8 or faster) lens and you’ll be happy. A decent camera body will help as well. I shoot hockey with a Canon 7D and a Canon 70-200 f/2.8L lens. Pretty basic, as far as shooting hockey goes.”
PT: Talk a little about your “secret” goalie mask project.
JK: “Well, there’s not TOO much I want to reveal just yet, but when I took photos for the Oregon Outlaws this past season, their goalie, Larry Clemens, had a really awesome USA lid with a 9/11 theme. I thought it’d be sweet to shoot that alone, like as a product shot. As is normal for my ideas, I didn’t get started on it right away. And then when the NHL playoffs started, I was obviously looking more into goalie masks, and noticed Mike Smith’s ‘Wiley Coyote’ lid. That pretty much sparked my interest in goalies and the artwork on their masks. I contacted Larry and told him about the project. Not only was he very receptive to it, he let me come out and photograph a few of his lids to get started. So I did that, and the samples looked, well, they looked okay. He then let me know he got some other masks that I could shoot, and those were of a few University of Wisconsin goalies, past and present, so that was awesome. I’m getting better on the production of the shots, and the post-processing (which is quite extensive). The idea is to get as many goalie masks to shoot as I can. I want to do hundreds of them; no joke. Doesn’t matter what level the goalies are at, though I am looking at high school, College, Minors and NHL. Overall, I want to be the team photographer for an NHL hockey franchise, that would be most ideal job for me in the world. Hopefully this project will help out with that.”
PT: Where can goalies find more of your work, and what projects do you have coming up?
JK: “Well, my work can be viewed on my website, www.aepoc.com and on my flickr website, http://flickr.com/aepoc. I have a lot of stuff from both Mike’s camps and Larry’s camps that I haven’t put on my sites because I feel like those should be used by those guys first, before I use them how I want. But I do have a contact form on my site for any goalies that would like shots of themselves doing their thing, or some wicked shots of their lids. I’m game for all of it!”