Like many professional sports, the National Hockey League (NHL) is playing its playoff-only season in a containment bubble to minimize the risk of spreading COVID-19 amongst its ranks. In addition to the players, this bubble also requires all team personnel, photographers included, to quarantine and work inside empty arenas that would normally be filled with fans.

To highlight how this looks for the photographers and editors inside their respective bubbles, the NHL has published a behind-the-scenes video showing what goes on before, during and after a game.

Throughout the six-minute video, we hear from NHL Images Senior Manager, Kara Bradley, as well as NHL photographers Chase Agnello-Dean, Mark Blinch and Dave Sandford. Each of them share their experiences thus far, showing that while not much different than shooting a regular game from a capture standpoint, the sheer number of games played back-to-back makes it difficult to get images turned around and remote cameras set up.

Here are a few fun stats from the video:

  • Photographers usually operate five cameras at once: two handheld (typically one wide-angle and one telephoto) and three remote cameras (usually one at center ice and one at each net)
  • The photographers average 15,000 steps a day, many of which are up and down stairs and rafters to set up remote cameras and strobes
  • Around 3,000 images are taken in low-scoring games while high-scoring games can see upwards of 7,000 images captured
  • So far most of the photographers have shot around 46 games in just 21 days

Having shot plenty of hockey games myself, I know how challenging even a single game in a night can be. To be shooting two a day — in addition to auxiliary shots before and after the game — for nearly a month straight is absolutely absurd. In the words of Dave Sandford from the video, ‘it’s like groundhog day here.’