When you shoot 21,973 photographs at the final game of the Stanley Cup, selecting one image for the cover for our new Tampa Bay Times’ coffee table book is both easier and harder.
It’s easier because our principal Lightning photographer Dirk Shadd, one of America’s best sports photographers, gave us so many options.
It’s harder because he had to go through thousands of images in a single day to find a photo that could be ... the one.
And he found it. He always manages to find it.
So I thought it would be fun to walk readers through our decision-making process for the cover of Striking Twice, our book commemorating the back-to-back Stanley Cup champions of Champa Bay, FL.
As soon as the horn sounded, we started marketing the book on social media with a placeholder cover. It was this frame of stars Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point:
It’s a terrific photo Dirk took earlier in the playoffs. And it would have been a perfectly fine cover. But we knew that we were probably going to want the raw emotion that only could have been captured in the moments after the series concluded.
Boyzell Hosey, our deputy editor for photography, and assistant photo editor Chris Urso have worked with all our Lightning game photographers (Shadd, Douglas R. Clifford, Luis Santana, Ivy Ceballo and Arielle Bader) to identify photos for the newspaper, website, our newsletters, social posts and book possibilities.
Dirk has hockey photography down to a science. His primary location in Amalie Arena was in the northeast corner, where the Lightning attack twice. In that spot, he typically aims a camera through a small, open slot in the glass.
For Game 5, Dirk positioned three cameras in the catwalk for aerial shots. He had climbed a 12-foot painter’s ladder to mount two other remote cameras pointing through the glass.
Around his neck and shoulders, he maneuvered three more cameras, one with a longer lens for faraway action, one geared toward center ice and a fish-eye lens for up close.
“The fish eye is for when the guy eats the glass right in front of me,” Dirk says with a smile.
If you’re counting, that’s eight cameras controlled by one man.
The remote cameras are in zones connected to the camera he’s pointing at that very moment. When he presses the shutter, specific remote cameras fire. In the past, he’s relied on foot pedals to control his remote cameras. Dirk began rigging things differently this year.
When the game ended Wednesday, he had about 24 hours to sort through his images.
And Friday morning, Boyzell offered 14 cover options, identifying his three favorites. Here they are:
Traci Johnson, our deputy editor for sports, is overseeing our book project. We reviewed the images with Boyzell, who was fond of that first photo showing the exuberance of Lightning fans, given what an important part Bolts Nation has played in the team’s success.
Ultimately we decided to go with the image showing most of the Lightning’s best players reacting as the horn sounded and as the entire team raced to greet the series hero and MVP, goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy.
Stamkos is not the least bit self-conscious about his missing teeth. Sergachev looks like he’s contemplating a cartwheel. Kucherov is dreaming about that first Bud Light. You can’t look at the image and not smile. It’s a thing of beauty. And it was taken with one of Dirk’s remote cameras.
We’re going to make sure it runs full frame somewhere in the book. But for a cover, we wanted it to be a tighter crop that really zeroed in on the faces.
We also weighed a couple of options for the styling of the title text.
White or blue? Top or bottom? We landed on white lettering on top.
And just when we thought we were done, Dirk, who was still going through images, found more.
“Stop the presses for a quick minute,” Boyzell emailed us around noon Friday. “Dirk just sent me some really nice frames.”
Boyzell shared three more photographs, all variations of the moment when the game ended and the team converged on Vasilevskiy. One image was literally a mashup of humanity as players like Kucherov, Hedman, Stamkos and McDonagh merged into one life form with their goaltender. (Don’t worry, we’ll find room in the book for this photograph, too.)
But we kept going back to all those faces and expressions from the earlier frame. So different. So captivating. So electric.
And we ended up here, with a tighter crop to accentuate the reactions. Our final cover for Striking Twice:
You can preorder the book at www.Bolts.champsbook.com. For a limited time, it’s $10 off the retail price of $39.95.
We’ll finish producing Striking Twice in a few weeks, and it will ship directly to your home in September.
As for Dirk, he still hasn’t gone through every frame he shot Wednesday night. Some of those unseen images may land in our upcoming commemorative section on July 25 in the Tampa Bay Times or in the book.
Like the athletes, Dirk treated the season and the series like every game was the Stanley Cup clincher.
“I only have so many tricks, but I tried to do them all,” he said. “I wanted to feel like if I get hit by a Zamboni tomorrow, I was going to approach it like every game was the last game.”
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The Tampa Bay Times will commemorate the Lightning’s second consecutive Stanley Cup title with a new hardcover coffee table book, Striking Twice. Pre-order now.
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