One of my favorite modern day photographers is named Dave Black. His website isn’t spectacular, but his imagery is. He first got big in t he photography world in the 90’s when he spent an exceptionally large amount of money to personally buy himself arena strobe units so that he could light sporting venues as it created much higher quality images, and at the time the only people doing this was Sports Illustrated. I’ve never met the man, but I have read his book and he has a saying. That saying is that you can “Live or Die by the Strobe.” Even though Dave now uses a Nikon D3s Camera body capable of an incredibly clean 12,800ISO, he still uses his sport strobes (or now his 8 SB-900 Speedlights) To light his arena’s to continue to provide the highest quality imagery. He was what inspired me to want to light Roller Derby originally back in 2007, when nobody was doing such a thing. The lights make a difference. He was right though about the strobes, and I realized it last weekend at the last Naptown Roller Girls bout here in Indianapolis.
This bout was different than any of the others as we weren’t inside the Pepsi Coliseum. In September we are hosting the North Central Regional tournament here in Indianapolis, and it’s going to be held at the Indianapolis Convention Center. We needed a practice run to see if we could make it all work, so we decided to hold “Cupid Strikes Back” in association with the 501st Storm Trooper division to see if we could do it. Things went very well, except for one or two. Unfortunately one of those things happened to be in relation to……my lights. (Or lack there of).
Living or dieing by the strobes means almost exactly as it sounds. While using lights you only get one shot every other second or so. While your quality is GREATLY increased, you sacrifice the number of shots that you can take in any given time. Sometimes you fire early, or late and you in essence “Die by the Strobe”. Unfortunately the Indianapolis Convention Center was missing a few very important things in it. Those things included vertical I beams for me to superclamp lights to. It also included unobstructed catwalks, for lights to be hung from. Not to mention the bleachers were far enough back that lights superclamped to their railings would be ineffective. In other words; I was S.O.L.
While my D3s provided me with very clean and usable files from the night, and while not once “Dieing by the Strobe” was nice; I’d choose to be on lights any day. I almost cringed every time I fired a frame knowing that most were at 6400ISO. While the camera can handle that kind of punishment, my brain can not. I greatly enjoy creating the highest quality of media possible (Hense why I spent the money on my D3s). It was nice to be able to blast a few frames at a time not having to worry about missing shots because I didn’t have enough light, but at the end of the night I had almost 2,000 photos to look through; and most of them weren’t as sharp as I’m accustomed to having them.
Strangely enough though, the crowd seems pleased. Despite the fact that I had felt like I’d never shot derby before in my life. The photos themselves have actually received a little over 19,000 hits in the first 24 hours despite the trouble that I (and my cohorts) were having with the lighting. You can check out the rest of my photos here. Ironically though, out of all the photos. Out of everything I’ve shot out of the derby this entire season in fact. This next photo seems to be one of my most clicked photos in derby of all time……Funny how stuff like that works huh? More Soon.
(Nikon D3s, 6400ISO, Nikon 70-200F2.8VR2@185mm. 1/400th@F2.8)