It’s not very often that a small-town athlete get’s a shot at the big leagues, and it’s even less often that a small-town sports photographer gets that kind of opportunity. When you factor in the fact that the photographer is female, well, the odds are pretty slim. But that is just what happened to Castlegar photographer Jennifer Small recently when she was given the opportunity to photograph the Vancouver Canucks’ March 23 game against the San Jose Sharks.
Small’s photography skills are well known around the West Kootenay and her photos can be seen almost every week on the pages of the Castlegar News. She is also the official photographer for the Trail Smoke Eaters.
It was through the Smoke Eaters’ media director that Small got the opportunity. Geoff Fontes reached out to contacts he has in the Canucks organization and asked if Small could shoot a game.
“He said the chances where likely slim,” said Small. “But he went about and beyond and kept working with his connections to secure my accreditation.”
Small travelled to Vancouver and met Myles McCutcheon, the Canucks’ director of content, and started out with a tour of the arena.
Small says McCutcheon gave her some pointers and “went above and beyond” to help her.
She was assigned a corner photographer’s hole — a small cutout in the Plexiglass, just big enough to slip a lens through. Getting to shoot through a hole at NHL games is a privilege usually reserved for more established professional photographers connected to the teams or major agencies.
The puck dropped, the Canucks sent the Sharks swimming, and Small’s shutter kept clicking.
Small says it was an experience she will never forget.
“There are hardly any women photographers at the highest levels of hockey,” said Small. “That is part of why this experience was so amazing. It was awesome being at that level when there are not very many chances for women to be there.”
Small says she learned some lessons along the way.
“I learned you have to be extremely competitive, assertive and aggressive to succeed in this business. The higher you go — the more competitive and aggressive you need to be.”
Small says it was also a very positive experience because she learned about both the good and bad sides of being a photographer at the highest levels of sport.
“I feel like I could be good enough to be a photographer at that level,” said Small after looking at what other photographers shot that night with their superior equipment.
“My pictures were very similar to theirs, so it gave me confidence that I can do it.”
“I learned so much about the industry, about women in sports photography and about this level of an organization,” added Small.
The next thing Small hopes to tackle is getting to shoot more female sporting events. And she hopes one day, that it is not such an oddity to see a woman toting a big camera at an NHL game.
You can see Small’s photos from Castlegar’s Dam City Roller Derby on page 14 of this week’s Castlegar News.