challenge me this

In December, I covered some of Skate Canada's Challenges for ice-dance.com, which are Canada's version of U.S. Figure Skating's sectionals, which I covered two entries before this one. Like the USFS sectionals, Challenge is the qualifying event for the national championships in Canada. There are all kinds of complicated formulas to decide who gets to go to nationals, so I won't bore you with that. The point is that I took some sweet photos, and at this event, I finally embraced the manual setting mode on my Canon 20D. I also figured out how to use it, which led to the embrace of it. Since Canada holds all of its Challenge events for the entire country in one place, over five days, the younger kids generally get tossed into these really tragically-lit rinks, and since I was covering all of the dance events that I could for IDC, I had to deal with some really tragic lighting. Some experiments worked out better than others.

I've got ten photos I want to share from this event, so grab a snack if you think you might need one and get comfortable. You know how I get when I start talking about skating.

Karam & O'Keefe

I had a presentation at school in the afternoon in Michigan, so I left right from school for Mississauga, ON, where the event was being held. The goal: get to the arena in time for Siobhan & Kevin's original dance. This photo: Siobhan Karam & Kevin O'Keefe's original dance. Success! Their Irish folk dance to music from "Lord of the Dance" has been one of my favourite ODs of the season. This dress is also magical. Trust me. It's amazing. Siobhan & Kevin ended up winning the senior dance event, which obviously qualified them for the Canadian Championships. Oh, and this was when I was having serious issues with the settings on my camera and before I learned how to put it in manual mode, so...I almost don't want to write the numbers, but I will, with the disclaimer that this is not how you take good skating photos! 1/400, f/5.6, ISO 1600.

Paul & Cheperdak

Alexandra Paul & Jason Cheperdak finished 1st in novice dance at Western Challenge, sending them to nationals. Their free dance was one of the big surprises of the weekend for me - I wasn't expecting a novice team to be that good! This photo, however, is from their Starlight Waltz compulsory dance. When shooting a bunch of compulsory dances in a row, when every team does the same steps, I like to challenge myself to get a specific shot that might happen quickly or be at an odd angle. For the Starlight Waltz, I kept trying to get this shot. Alexandra & Jason's turned out the best, despite being in a tragically-lit rink. 1/320, f/2.8, ISO 1600.

Duhamel & Buntin

Pairs are difficult for me to shoot, since they're often not as close together as dancers, and since I have the most practice with dance. The only pairs event I caught at Challenge was the senior free program, and this is Meagan Duhamel & Craig Buntin, who finished first. They'd already been given a bye to nationals, but they chose to compete here as a test-run for nationals. Their strategy paid off - they finished 3rd at nationals and were named to the team heading to the World Championships this month. This photo is of their spiral sequence. Craig probably has the best spiral position of all the male pairs skaters in the world. 1/500, f/2.8, ISO 800.


I love playing around with close-ups when shooting skating. The traditional skating photo has all hands and all skates in it, but since I'm usually working with a fixed 200mm lens, this is not always possible, so I've learned to love my close-ups. This is from Myriane Samson's free program to Memoirs from a Geisha. I just love the fanning. Myriane finished sixth here, which gave her a chance to compete at nationals. 1/400, f/2.8, ISO 800. MANUAL MODE yessss!


Dylan Moscovitch's free program is a hoot and kind of brilliant. It spoofs a lot of well-known skaters, and he keeps the crowd laughing while managing to hit some triple jumps. He narrowly missed qualifying for nationals in singles, but he did get to go in the pairs event, where he skates with his younger sister. The standing ovation for this "Robin Hood" program began about 20 seconds before it was even over. 1/320, f/2.8, ISO 800.


Fedor Andreev is a national medalist, but he retired from competitive skating in 2005 to concentrate on things like modeling and racing fast cars in Hong Kong, or something. When it was announced that he was making a comeback this year, very few took him seriously - we'd heard similar rumours before. But when he showed up at Challenge with clean triple Axels and passion in his performance, I was glad that the rumours turned out to be true. He won this event by 15 points. 1/320, f/2.8, ISO 800.


Since I was covering this for IDC, I did a lot of running between rinks at the Hershey Centre. In fact, I only watched half of Fedor's program, and then I sprinted back to the smaller rinks at the opposite end of the building to continue photographing the pre-novice free dance. Pilar & Leonardo Maekawa skated pretty well, but the important thing is that she gets this fabulous swirl effect with her skirt when they hit their final pose. 1/320, f/2.8, ISO 800. Heavily photoshopped, because I forgot to change the ISO for the small, tragically-lit rink when I sprinted back from the main arena.


Okay, this was the #1 surprise of the weekend. Michaela & Scott Botsford are a pre-novice dance team, and pre-novice free dances are not supposed to be this creative, or interesting, or set to music like "Ramalama" by Roisin Murphy. This was awesome. 1/320, f/2.8, ISO 1600.


And one more photo from the pre-novice free dance! Sarah Aghai & Peter Ahluwalia jumped from fifth to second with this modern tango free dance. I just love their smiles here - it was obvious that they knew that they were skating their best. 1/320, f/2.8, ISO 1600.


The last event that I watched was the senior free dance, which was a lot of fun. Lauren Senft & Augie Hill's free dance to music from Chicago was fun and sassy, and it secured third place for them. I just really wanted to post a photo of them, because Lauren is always so sweet when we see her at events. 1/400, f/2.8, ISO 800.

And if you are dying for more photos or would like to read more technical analyses of the events, they're here.

Next time: cute kids!

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