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.

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.  Honestly, I get tired of talking about it in person because at least one party in the conversation is going to get bored or have their mind blown, depending on their relative photographic experience and skill levels (my mind is often the one blowing up, to be fair).

If I can help support just one person as they make a transition to that lovely letter “M” on their mode dial, or just get a camera that doesn’t even have one to begin with, this blog has served its purpose.  I am not a professional.  But I must be doing something right because they keep letting me back into bouts.

Top frequently answered answers (updated 4/2015):

  1. 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 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.
  2. Nikon D4, D800, D750, and D700 full-frame DSLRs.  Yes, I agree, they are very nice.  Yes, yours is very nice too.  No, I can’t reel off a list of perceived or real flaws or improvements between brands.  I like shiny new stuff but I really am clueless about anything other than Nikon pro bodies and the occasional Canon comparable models.  I don’t really carry the 700 around actively anymore and honestly don’t use anything but the D4 for 90% of my work.  There is just something very nice about the flagship bodies.  They do exactly what you tell them which means that if you tell them to do something stupid, they do that too.  There is rumored to be a Nikon F100 somewhere in my house and it comes out to play once in a while, 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.
  3. Because a friend had Nikon and I tried it and it fit my hand better than the Canon.  You should try both before you make a decision.  I do not recommend other brands due to the limited arsenal of system components that are available but many people like them and take lovely photos with those too.  Canon and Nikon also have superior resale value for used equipment so you will often be able to get 75-125% of an item’s original value when you want to upgrade or even switch systems entirely.
  4. Yes, I am sure it’s very nice, but next year Nikon will come out with something new, then the year after that Canon will, and they will leapfrog each other till Earth explodes.  If you are buying a new camera every year just because your old one is “old” you are probably wasting your money by not learning to use your tools properly.
  5. The most commonly used lens is a Zoom-Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 VR II.  I do recommend this model over the older VR1, but it has a significant price premium.  They both have quirks and qualities that the other one doesn’t have.  I liked the VR1 and in an ideal world I would have kept both but that was not economical.  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 24-70mm f/2.8G, 50mm f/1.8D, and 14-24mm f/2.8G, aka “the most expensive bag filler in town” – it’s lovely but not so practical for most things other than landscapes and maybe skate parks. All Nikon glass except for a lensbaby.  Putting cheap aftermarket glass on your Nikon or Canon is like trying to run a Ferrari on kerosene.  Usually a bad idea, although some of the new Sigma sports glass is interesting to me in theory.
  6. Your point and shoot camera is bad for derby bouts because it has considerable shutter lag, a small sensor, and few controls to modify its behavior.  But it will take great shots of still moments, your favorite players during autograph time, and after-party shenanigans.  Some of them do pretty nice video too these days.
  7. Yes it’s heavy.  But luckily I am a big boy!
  8. 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.  On the 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.
  9. Sure, random Internet/after party creep, of course I will give you (her) phone number!  (This answer is not true.)
  10. Yes, tournaments are generally worth the money if you are really a derby fan (as opposed to just going to try to score road rumpus).
  11. I don’t work in any official capacity for either league and thus can only give you some contacts for their media people.  Sorry I can’t be of more help in this respect, but tickets are not expensive and they have onsite media registration capabilities.  Maybe consider buying one instead of pursuing a comp entry if you are new?
  12. Four Paul C. Buff Einstein E640 each running on a dedicated Vagabond Mini AC inverter.  Also, Nikon speedlights sometimes when I travel:  Two SB-900, a SB-800, a SB-700, and a SB-600.  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.  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.  Yes, this is about four answers in one.
  13. Yes, you should just suck it up and 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.