My first day of roller derby photography was on 4/1/12, because the day before while working at my day job a group of derby girls volunteered to answer phones during our spring pledge drive.
They were trying to recruit people to help them the next morning setup their banked track inside Comcast Arena in Everett, WA. I told them I had the day off so I was willing to come help. It was really interesting to go home and learn more about the sport I had not even thought of as something I would even enjoy watching. The amount of time and effort it takes to put a derby banked track together is immense. All the bolts, wood panels, padding and so much more. Plus, almost every time I asked where they found something we were putting together their answer seemed to be, “Oh we had to build those.”
After we all put the track together, the woman who ran the league (who also is a roller in it) asked me if I wanted to come shoot photos at the bouts in a couple of hours. I was hesitant since I owned a Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ20 (5MP) and I would feel inadequate shooting with that. So I told her I would come back and I went out and bought a Sony a65. I shot in “sports mode”, fully automatic the whole time. My shots weren’t the best but here is a link to some of them I took, https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.125473574243236.2762.125459737577953&type=3.
And I was hooked…
I kept showing up to each bout they had at home and I even drove 5 hours from Seattle to Kelowna, BC to shoot their All-Star team play the first ever banked track bout between a US team and a Canadian team! While there I met some amazing ladies up there in Canada. I was still shooting in full automatic mode and I didn’t understand the manual settings yet. Therefore, the photos came out very blurry but since I was the only US photog up there I was lucky enough to have my photos published on one of the largest derby websites. I was going to include a link to the story but it looks like it was replaced with a newer story on the site.
Now I shoot as much derby as I can and currently I shoot for Rainier Roller Girls here in Seattle. I have been very fortunate to have shot next to amazing derby photogs like TJ Chase (https://www.facebook.com/#!/TJChasePhotography), Danny Danny Ngan (https://www.facebook.com/#!/dannynganphotography), Russ Desaulniers, Axle Adams (https://www.facebook.com/#!/AxleAdams) and so many more! The tips I’ve gotten has now managed to move my photography into a much better place, yet I feel I have so much more I can do with more practice. So much so that I was recently contacted by a photographer who I respect very much who said to me, “Having used this this body (Sony a77)for the last 2 hours….And knowing you have a similar. I am humbled in the presence of greatness. If you ever got a (Sony) A99 or Nikon D800 you would completely blow people away. I am very impressed with what you have done with your current setup.” While I am a Sony supporter and hope that they keep improving their products, it was very nice to hear someone who noticed the difficulties that the Sony cameras pose for sports photographers right now. It is comments like this one that keeps my hunger for shooting sports like roller derby and continuing my pursuit of better images.
Here is an example of what my work has progressed to now, http://500px.com/photo/47100044.
I continue to shoot derby and to travel to places like Vancouver, BC and I’ve even been told I might get to shoot a bout for Rat City, which is the Seattle roller derby team. They are reported to have the largest derby fanbase in all of the world and it is reflected with the largest crowds in all roller derby. I hope to travel to more cities and states to get more experience and exposure. The girls are amazing ladies who pay to play this sport and have to do fundraisers as well. It is going through some potential moves to professional status where the girls would be paid to roll, but they do not want to lose their identity to corporate interests. this means they continue to pay to play and have such a huge passion for their sport which they feel a deep ownership because of it. They are also some of the nicest people as well. My advice is to look into shooting this sport for a local team near you. While you will be doing it for free, it will be one of the most rewarding experiences you’ll have. Plus, talk about exposure! These ladies love to see themselves rolling and sharing your photos with everyone they know! Derby is also the fastest growing sport in the world right now so getting your work in front of more people will help you grow your network. 🙂
Camera: Sony a65
Lenses: Sony G-Series 70-200mm f/2.8
Sony 16-50mm f/2.8
Sony 50mm f/1.8
Tamron 70-300mm f/4-5.6
I am mainly a sports photographer who also does some landscapes and lots of long exposure night photography. While I am just starting to shoot more professionally, I have had lots of fun opportunities to shoot cool events.
I hope to continue to learn and share my experiences with others as well as teach the next generation of photographers.
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