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Behind the Scenes: Beyond the Camera

A month after the 2019 Canadian Indoor Classic and we are going behind the camera to find out a little more about everyone’s beloved sports photographer: Yan Huckendubler.

Pictures are a way of keeping memories. At most tournaments nowadays there is a photographer on hand, capturing these memories for us and making sure that we remember the best, and the worst, of times. The goal celebrations, the crushing defeats, everything that makes sport what it is. When we see these pictures online, we save it to our phone and will always be able to look back on these memories and share them with family and friends. We don’t give much thought to the person behind the camera taking these pictures that we will hold and cherish forever. Yan has been involved in field hockey in Canada for a very long time, and never fails to give back to this sport. We all wave and say “hi” when we see him at tournaments but he is often too buys taking, editing, or uploading pictures for us to stop and have a proper conversation with him. So, we took the time to ask Yan a few questions about his continued dedication to this sport and its athletes.

Do you have a favourite picture that you have taken? What is it?

My favourite picture dates from the 2011 Pan American Games in Guadalajara. It depicts Hannah Haughn after she scored against Barbados, her first international goal I believe. It looks like she is about to take off with joy! Krissy Wishart, in the background, is running towards her equally happy.

It made me realize that the feelings expressed by players (whether joy or despair) are as much a part of the “coverage” of a sporting event as the action shots showing skill, speed or strength.

The screen saver on my computer is a slide-show of goal celebrations collected over the years, and just looking at it from time to time is enough to boost my mood :)

How did you get involved in photographing field hockey?

Back in 1998, I started a website for Field Hockey Canada (FHC), then a few years later I started one for the Pan American Hockey Federation (PAHF). Quickly, it was obvious that pictures (we were not even thinking of videos in those days) were quite popular, but it was difficult to get any, let alone good ones. Our personal cameras were not good enough to capture action shots, so we had to beg professional photographers on-site for a handful of pictures.

So, I decided to try shooting pictures myself and purchased a half-decent camera for the 2007 Pan Am Games in Rio. I managed to shoot a good number of…half decent…pictures for the PAHF web-site. It showed me, however, that there was a lot of room for improvement and I started to progressively upgrade my equipment, selling a camera or lens to partly finance the next one.

I also took a number of photography workshops and, most importantly, asked a lot of questions of the pros to get some guidance and hints, not only on taking pictures but also processing them.

What is your favourite thing about photographing field hockey?

Well, the best thing is that you have a prime seat on the side of the pitch to watch the action! As a former player, I am always in awe when I see the skills of players in the heat of the action, just a few meters away. I sometimes have to remind myself that I should be taking pictures instead of just enjoying the game :)

Also, since I know the game and many of the players, I don’t always need to follow the ball. I can sometimes anticipate what will happen and focus on a specific player to be ready when he/she receives the ball, or on the goal-keeper about to block a shot.

If you could photograph a different sport or subject what would you choose and why?

I was a photographer at the last two Commonwealth Games (2014 in Glasgow and 2018 in Gold Coast) and that gave me the chance to shoot many different sports, some of them new to me even as a spectator: badminton, basket-ball, boxing, cycling (track), rugby 7s, table-tennis, weight-lifting, wrestling, even lawn-bowling.

Each sport presents its own challenges, where to stand to catch the most interesting shots, different pace to the action, different light whether it is indoor or outdoors, etc…If you are not specialized in a sport, you have to adapt and learn very quickly!

What is common to all sports however, is the feelings expressed by the athletes, whether they score or miss a goal, lift a heavy bar or focus before an important action.

Outside of photography, what other hobbies do you have?

I am still involved in Communications for PAHF, maintaining their web-site. But my main “non-hockey” activities are the many outdoor activities that I can do literally from the door of our house in the Gatineau Hills (in Quebec, near Ottawa): hiking and running in the summer, cross-country skiing in winter.

Plus of course a life-long interest in following various sports (football/soccer, rugby, athletics) and enjoying good food and good wine :)

I think I speak for a lot of people when I say, we can’t thank Yan enough for all the amazing pictures he has taken over the years and for his dedication to this sport. The countless hours he puts in behind the camera have left a lot of us with memories we will hold on to forever.

Check out Yan’s pictures from this year’s tournament on our Facebook page and our website. And head over to Yan’s Facebook and Instagram accounts to see more of his amazing pictures.

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