Behind the Lens With John Saraya
Ever see an amazing photo on our website or social media channels and wonder how we got it? The answer is John Saraya.
John is our photographer here for the Cleveland Monsters and has been doing so for three years. In this feature, we go "behind the lens" with him to find out what it's like to be a photographer at a hockey game.
What are some of the difficulties in photographing hockey games?
At the Q, it is a well-oiled machine. The staff and crew are always helpful. The fans are wonderful and most recognize me. We have 4 ports in the glass to put a lens through to get clear images. The “difficulty” there is the limited range; the goal by the Zamboni gate is easy to work, but as the team goes towards the other end, the angle of view starts to shorten. A media photographer uses one port for the whole game, and the last two ports are pretty much out of play. One because of the new seats, the other because it interferes with QTV. In 2016, during the Calder Cup run, working with the arenas in Grand Rapids and Hershey were different. But they were welcoming to me.
The image to the right displays the dangers of the game. When the players hit that puck, it is moving. Every so often, I catch a puck. Luckily, the damage is to a protective filter and not a very expensive front element. I have broken three filters in three years.
What’s your favorite type of hockey photograph to take?
That’s tough. I try to capture expressions on player’s faces. I think that it tells the story. When our goalies make a block and the puck is in the image, or the Goal Cam gets the puck behind the other team’s goalie, I get excited. Fights make it fun, but depending on where they are, sometimes an image can’t be made.
What’s the most enjoyable part of your job?
Wow. I have enjoyed talking to the players and seeing their excitement at an image I captured. I have had fans stop and thank me for pictures of them/their family on the Zamboni, or doing a promo. The atmosphere at the Q, while everyone has their job to do, everyone recognizes and talks to each other and helps each other out.
Any favorite photos from recent seasons? What went into getting that shot?
I have had fans ask me this question. During this season (16-17), I had people ask about pictures from the Calder Cup season. From headshots to the Monster Gateway celebration, there are 63,301 images! Trying to choose one image is difficult. The photo to the right is from Calder Cup Game 3 and is one of my favorites. I had to get to The Q early to get up into the catwalks and hang a remote camera up there. If you’re afraid of heights, the catwalks are 150 feet above the ice. Once all the settings are made on the camera, it gets taped to make sure nothing moves. There are a lot of safety cables secured in case one of the brackets were to fail. The area of view, what the camera sees, I have an idea about, but remotes are still blind shooting. After the game I get to see what I captured. I like this because it makes me think of the calm before the storm.
To view some of John's best shots of the 2016-17 season, click here.