About

This is my blog.  There are many like it but this blog is mine.

What gets posted here?

Links to photos from Arch Rival Roller Girls (WFTDA) and St. Louis GateKeepers (MRDA) roller derby leagues in St. Louis, along with a few other teams here and there, random weirdness, et cetera.  Advice from me to you on how to make your photos look more like mine, which will thrill some of you and make others of you laugh at how much that would degrade your work.

Not much anymore.  I am too lazy to shut the site down. :)

Why should I listen to you? You’re not a professional photographer.

Like I said, it’s just my philosophy on things.  Enough people ask me about stuff that I started writing it down, then putting it here.    I am not a professional.  But I must be doing something right because they keep letting me back into games and tournaments.

Top frequently answered answers (updated 8/2018):

MOST FREQUENTLY ANSWERED ANSWER:  I really don’t know what kind of camera you should buy for (you/your kid/your wife/your dog/etc).  I know what I use, as you can see below.  I don’t really know anything about cheap DSLRs or small cameras of any sort.  My walking around pocket camera is my iPhone X and to be honest I think most people would be just as happy with their smartphones these days.I barely know how to use low cost Nikon DSLR cameras because they take a ton of the useful features out and replace them with stupid gimmick modes – let alone point and shoot or other brands.  If you are a student, buy whatever your class tells you to get or get a used mid-grade DSLR which has a manual mode so that you are not stuck in all the gimmick modes and can actually learn to use a camera.  Photo/media students – don’t get the entry level DSLRs especially because they are often missing key features that you need to learn how to use OR those features are buried so deep in menus that you will hate having to use them.

Cameras

Nikon D5 and D850 full-frame DSLRs and Nikon Z 7 mirrorless. I use the D5 for 90% of my derby photo work.  Flagship bodies are the easiest to work with in my experience.  They have a lot of workflow features that are completely unrelated to photo quality (IPTC tagging, wired/wireless network sending to editors, huge buffers, good controls).  They do exactly what you tell them which means that if you tell them to do something stupid, they do that too.

The Z 7 has replaced a couple other cameras as the generic walking around and candids camera.  This is a great camera body and as the line improves I will be really interested to see how it matures into something that can handle action well – although to be honest I would say that right now, it is at least the equivalent of a D800 with respect to focusing and handling.  Just not quite to the D5 level yet.

I have a bunch of Nikon film bodies as well (F5, F100, F4, F), but the inconvenience of having film processed limits my enthusiasm to use it – I know how to develop my own film but maintaining a darkroom is not practical for me right now.

Lenses

The most commonly used lens is a Zoom-Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8E VR.  I do recommend this model over the older VR models, but it has a significant very significant price premium.  They all have quirks and qualities that the others don’t have.  I liked the VR1 and in an ideal world I would have kept it but that was not economical.  The VR2 was also very nice and an improvement over the VR1 image wise but with much less character.  If it’s what you can get you won’t be suffering but I liked it the least of the 3 versions that I have owned.My second most used lens these days is a 300mm f/2.8 VRII.  I love this lens for portraits.  It is expensive but it is amazing and learning to tame it has been almost a religious experience.

Also in the bag is a 200mm f/2G VR, 24-70mm f/2.8E VR, 50mm f/1.8D, 105mm f/2E and 14-24mm f/2.8G.  All Nikon glass, I have tried the new Sigma stuff, not for me but some of my friends like it a lot.

Lighting

The old answer about lights is below.  I had switched back to various Nikon speed lights on Pocket Wizard ControlTL triggers for portability, but am currently in the process of switching to Elinchrom ELB-500 battery pack/head systems with Skyport triggers.  They are still compact and fit on clamps (no light stands to haul around) but have a lot more power and utility than the speed lights.Pocket Wizard has fallen significantly behind the market with respect to functionality and usability and while I think they are probably still the most reliable triggers out there, the situations I shoot in don’t require some of their more exotic reliability features and the Skyport system works really well.  I also carry a PW MultiMax and two PW Plus III in the bag for remote camera triggering and random moments where they might be useful.    I do not care for the other trigger brands out there, although they have improved significantly over the years and many people use them and love them.

Nikon speedlights sometimes, Einsteins if I feel like dragging them out.  I use PocketWizard MiniTT1 and FlexTT5 wireless flash controllers.  If you can afford it, it is very nice.  ControlTL more or less works like the on-camera TTL that your camera already supports, and it works very well in most cases if you really understand how TTL works.  If you don’t, you might have expectations that are not in line with what it can deliver.  I used to use Paul Buff Cybersync triggers.  They are adequate as basic flash triggers and work much better than the ebay cheapies.  Their Cybersync Commander controller did not work that great for me at venues but is pretty reliable in a studio.  With the advent of cheap Pocket Wizard remotes I can’t see buying CyberSync unless you use the Paul Buff lights, in which case they are pretty rad.  I do have the full CyberSync setup for the Einsteins but rarely use it.

Other

Guitar strap and some random bits I bought at a hardware store to glom it all together.  I gave up on the BlackRapid fasteners.  They are a great idea but I was too rough on them and they tended to kind of fall apart for me.  I am back to a BlackRapid strap for now as they seem to be sturdier than their original.   I have switched to Hold Fast webbed straps.  I also have the Hold Fast leather straps but they are way too formal (and hot) for roller derby.  On the 200/2 and 300/2.8 I just use the really super nice strap Nikon included with it.  Seriously.. that is a nice strap.  Your mileage may vary, I am really hard on my gear.  The Z 7 has some fancy cloth and leather thing that I found because it was classy.

The huge monopod head is from Really Right Stuff, it has an Arca/Swiss groove and then the feet on my big glass have Arca/Swiss rails on them.  This makes changing things out faster although I keep the hoods on the lenses because I am notorious for dropping them while doing so (go on, ask me how much money I have spent replacing shattered carbon fiber lens hoods).  The RRS head is super massive yet super light and super sturdy.  It sits on a Manfrotto carbon fiber monopod.  Unless you are buying RRS, just don’t even bother with anything but Manfrotto.  You’ll regret it later.

Yes, you should just buy the Think Tank bag.  Yes, it is expensive.  But it will last forever and if it breaks they will probably fix it, unless you do something dumb like throw it under a dump truck.  Even then, they might fix it if you can tell an entertaining enough story.  Plus, one time they called me stylish on Twitter.