Category Archives: Ice Rinks

Reflecting on Ice Skating’s Greatest Scandal

by Katherine Ruch

I went to Canada after Christmas and it seems like I brought the weather back home with me! The weather here was awful on Monday and Tuesday! Considering that we rarely see the low teens or single digits, -4 felt a little bit surreal to be perfectly honest. I thought I had come home so that I wouldn’t freeze to death!

Since Hell didn’t freeze over, they still had Learn to Skate classes as usual on Monday! The school system was even closed both Monday and Tuesday so the fact that I left the house at all made me feel like we should probably all ‘be committed.’ The most shocking thing was how many people were there considering the extreme cold! Why were the kids out in full force? The Winter Olympics at coming!!

While 2014 has started out significantly better than my 2013 did what with having a broken foot and all last year, I found myself subconsciously guarding my knee caps on Monday.  Why? January 6th marked the 20th Anniversary of the infamous “whack heard around the world.” Whether you were involved in Figure Skating at the time or not, it was hard to miss the images of Nancy Kerrigan in what I think was a white dress holding her knee and crying; and the absolute media circus in the days that followed!

I know I was only 8 years old back in ’94 but I don’t really remember watching a lot of skating prior to that point. I just don’t think they showed it on the television. I know figures weren’t nearly as fun to watch as the high flying jumps or the fast moving spins but I don’t think it was doing away with those in competition that got the attention of the television stations. After all, the time period following figures and before Nancy vs. Tonya seemed rather stagnant in terms of Figure Skating coverage. The attention that was all of a sudden focused on Figure Skating really had to do with exposing the ugliness that can be hidden underneath all that can seem to only shimmer with perfection.  It wasn’t pretty.

While I hope that nothing quite that eventful happens at this week’s U.S. Nationals, I wonder what it would take to capture the media’s attention once more for something positive. I for one don’t want the soap operas that can go on behind the scenes to ever detract from the beauty of what happens on the ice!

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Filed under Ice Rinks, Ice Skating Articles, Ice Skating Blog, Katherine Ruch, Winter Olympics

Tips for Photographing Figure Skating

[Another oldie but goodie article]

In many ways, photographing figure skating is similar to photographing hockey because both sports are performed inside an arena on a rink.

But there’s one big difference. While hockey pictures usually concentrate on the brutal aspects of the sport, figure skating photos typically emphasize the grace and beauty. Having said this, however, we must admit that audiences (and judges) seem to be far more concerned with athletic prowess in the jumps than they are with the delicate balletic movements between jumps.

How can you best capture this athleticism as well as the beauty?
Where are you sitting? If you’re ringside with your camera, that’s one thing. If you’re sitting back in the stands, that’s another. Fortunately, sitting in the stands in a typical skating arena is not the same as sitting in the stands at a football stadium or Madison Square Garden. Usually, skating arenas are smaller and more intimate, with seating perhaps only ten rows deep. So being in the stands at most figure skating competitions or exhibitions is not as photographically challenging as being in the 50th row of a large football stadium.

In addition, skating audiences are usually more polite than their counterparts at more aggressive sports, which means that, when the skater leaps and gyrates, the spectator in front of you is less likely to stand up and block your view and knock over your camera.

copyright @NYIP

With these thoughts in mind, let’s turn to taking ice skating photos. While the “normal” lens on your point-and-shoot may give you a nice wide-angle picture of the arena, you will need a telephoto lens to get in close to the action – that is, to fill the frame with your subject. What if your point-and-shoot has a zoom lens, and you can zoom out to 105mm or even 180mm? Can you rely on it? Probably not…for another reason!

Most point-and-shoot cameras have a delay of up to a second between the time you press the shutter-button and the time they snap the picture. During this momentary delay, the camera has to automatically set the focus, automatically set the shutter speed and aperture to produce the “right” exposure, and automatically “decide” if you need flash. While a second is not long in a lifetime, it is far too long when it comes to snapping the shutter and getting a picture of the “decisive moment” – in this case, the high point of a jump or other maneuver. Unfortunately, you’re likely to end up with a picture of the skater back down on terra firma – or, at least, down on the ice…if the skater is even in the field of view at all!

This problem of delay can also afflict some SLR’s when they are set for autofocus and autoexposure. So our advice is to use an SLR, but set it to Manual Mode if possible. This way, you’re in charge of focusing and exposure, and you should set them in advance so there won’t be even a millisecond delay when you snap the shutter.

How do you set focus and exposure in advance?
Pre-focus on an area of the rink near you. You won’t be focused for the fireworks that occur farther away, but skating routines bring the performer to your side on each oval, and you’re prepared to shoot whenever the performer is in your pre-focused zone.

Set your exposure in advance too. Remember, you are aiming for correct exposure of the performer in the glare of the spotlights – not for correct exposure of the ice or the spectators in the stands. Even if your seat is not ringside, we advise that you walk up to ringside before the festivities begin. Take your reading at ringside. Perhaps, you can get a reading of your own skin in the glare of the rink lights. Or you can get a graycard reading in that light. Use this reading as your exposure.

Now return to your seat, and set up. You will be using a long lens. How long? This depends on the size of the arena and the location of your seats. Probably 180mm or longer.

Of course, when you use a long lens, you cannot safely handhold. You want to avoid camera-shake. Our suggestion is that you set your camera on a monopod to steady it. If the spectator in front of you jumps up, you’ll end up with a great picture of his back…but, as we’ve mentioned, this is far less likely at staid figure skating events than at raucous hockey or football games.

Since you are using a long lens and you will often want to freeze the action with a fast shutter-speed. That means you may need to set a higher ISO on your digital camera. If you’re using a film camera, ISO 800 film from either Kodak or Fuji is extremely good.

copyright @NYIP

Now, what about shutter-speed? As we just said, you will often want to freeze the action with a fast shutter-speed. But not always. We suggest that you also try to capture the feeling of speed and action in your picture by using a slow shutter speed to blur the skater and the action. To do this, bracket different shutter speeds – starting at 1/15th and getting slower – 1/8… 1/4… 1/2… etc.

Also, try panning some shots by following the movement of the skater as you press the shutter-button. A good pan will produce a sharp image of the skater against the blurred background of the spectators. During panning, use a slow shutter speed – 1/15th…1/8…or 1/4 – and keep the skater in your viewfinder as you press the shutter. A monopod or tripod is essential for good panning, otherwise the skater will be blurry as well as the background. There’s an example of a well panned picture taken during a speed-skating race.

What about flash? Many arenas don’t allow it. Even when they do, be aware of the limitation of your flash. The typical built-in flash has a range of just 10 to 15 feet. Will this be enough to light the skater subject from your seat? If you use a separate flash — rather than a built-in — know its maximum range. Can it reach out 20 feet‚ 30 feet‚ 40 feet‚ or even farther? The answer depends upon the particular unit, so read your unit’s specs and know its limitations in advance.

So much for figure skating. One final point about these winter sports: When it comes to early-morning hockey practice, we think your best shots may be of those sleepy-eyed moms and pops!


Reprinted with permission of the New York Institute of Photography


Filed under Figure Skating Parents, Ice Rinks,

Gratitude from an Ice Skating Fanatic

Support the Tornado victims at

by Katherine Ruch

In terms of being dedicated to the cause, I have thought about whether or not I’m just really dedicated, slightly nuts, or a happy mix of both? The month of March has held snow, heavy showers and tornadoes around the state of Kentucky. On the day of the Tornado watch while most were running errands and preparing to hunker down, I decided to head to the ice rink like any dedicated crazy person! With an ice rink that is below ground, you can’t be any safer in your basement than at the locker room at the rink! It was a great day to figure skate because there was almost no one there and at it reminded me of what is really important. My friends and family were all safe and I get the gift of doing what I love pretty much every day. Crazy or not, I sure did feel lucky that day.

The month of March holds not just a Competition for me but also a Moves in the Field Test! The competition is going to be interesting simply because I have been putting so much of my effort into this test! It can’t possibly be a good sign that I can count the number of times I have done my program during the last two weeks on both hands! The competition happens to be the weekend after the test so maybe after a breathe a very short sigh of relief I can put all my focus into that!

I know that regardless of how the test pans out, I will be able to say that I put all the preparation into it that I possibly could. I have literally gone through each of the moves countless times, especially those darn Brackets! I’m even thinking about the test while I’m trying to sleep! With a little less than a week before the test, I have devised some goals of my own!
1. Regardless of how the test goes, I will keep skating and giving it my all!

2. Keep smiling regardless. Maybe the judges will be so disturbed they won’t notice what my feet are doing!

3. Remember to Breathe. It wouldn’t be so very funny to pass out in the middle of the test!

Above all, I think I need to remember why I love this sport so very much and reflect on how lucky I am that I get to be a part of it! Already crossing my fingers though!

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Filed under Figure Skating Education, Ice Rinks, Ice Skating Events, Katherine Ruch

Ice Skating Prodigy? You Be the Judge

Click the YouTube video link below to see Natalie, a 23 1/2 month old, skating at the Tampa Bay Skating Academy on June 23, 2011

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Filed under Figure Skating Parents, Ice Rinks, Learn to Skate

Summer and the Closing of an Ice Rink

By Katherine Ruch

I would be the first to admit that I have a love hate relationship with ice skating. It really seems to depend on the time of year. Summer means a bunch of different things to different people. Most associate the summer with the kids being out of school, family vacations and rising temperatures. Lots of people enjoy the slower pace of summer while others are counting down the days till the kids go back to school so that things can go back to life as “usual.” I hate to admit it, but I am one of those people. It’s not that I have anything against summer, it really just says more about the fact that my life pretty much revolves around ice skating.


The concept of summer has changed a great deal for me since I was a kid. I used to long for the day when I could have a couple months off without having to worry about school. I could do all the things I dreamed of doing and had what seemed like endless stretches of time to fit it all in. Ever since I became involved with ice skating, I have begun to associate the climbing temperatures with the annual season closing of the rink.


Everyone knows that you always want what you can’t have. I find that a great majority of my time during the summer is taken up by skating and yes I know that sounds hypocritical since I just mentioned the fact that the rink is closed. While I’m not spending hours on the ice each day during the summer months, that doesn’t stop me from thinking about skating almost all of the time, even while I’m asleep.


While I am working at that pesky part time job, I can also be found figuring out the logistics of what it looks like to keep skating during the summer. The questions that often swirl in my head involve: “where to go skating next and when? Who can I talk into taking a few lessons during the summer? Are there any conferences, seminars and competitions that I want to go to either for my own skating or to help with my coaching endeavors?” The most looming question of all has been “what possessed me to want to enter a competition during the off season and how am I ever going to get in enough practice time?”


For those of you whose rinks don’t close during the summer, consider yourself very lucky. It is quite common when the pools open for ice rinks to just close up shop for awhile. Most don’t want to go skating when they can go to the pool. If your rink is open, try to get in as much practice time as you can this summer. If your rink is not open, don’t let that discourage you. If you are a skater, talk to the other skaters or your coach about carpooling somewhere to get some ice time in. If you are a coach, round up those students and take trips to other rinks. As somebody who has skated at lots of other rinks over a number of years, it is not nearly as scary as it may seem to go skate somewhere else for a couple of hours. While each rink has its own set of unwritten rules, one thing holds true and that is that there are people everywhere who love skating. That is something that will hopefully never change!



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Filed under Ice Rinks, Ice Skating Competitions