Tuesday, 18 October 2016

What the butler saw

I wasn’t there. I don’t know the circumstances, but I’ve seen the film footage and seen the commentators faces, and their look says it all, ‘what the f**k’ is going on?’

I can’t comment on the day in question, you know, the one everyone is talking about at present, however I’ve seen fists fly at other bouts, spectators/team members shouting obscene things and the booing of refs.

As a photographer I am an outsider. I don’t skate, ref or NSO and have no affiliation to any team. The circumstances I have mentioned above are thankfully few and it’s shocking to audiences as it is so rare. Rarer as it isn’t documented. On occasion I have tried to intervene, a few words have checked someone’s behaviour, but more often if try the indirect route to avoid confrontation and discuss the issue with a fellow team member of the perpetrator, I am brushed off with, ‘oh well, they are an arse, they always behave that way’.

On the odd occasion (and they are ‘odd’) when I have caught issues on camera I have often been approached and asked to not publish the images. I say, asked, it’s more of ‘told’ and I am uncomfortable with that. I am uncomfortable with censorship in general.

I am guessing the reason why this incident is causing such a furore is that it was captured, before the feed was cut, and it’s good that it’s opening up discussions. But there are other incidents that aren’t discussed further afield than the teams involved or not discussed at all. Derby tries to maintain its positive image but in doing so censors, censors issues it could learn from.

There are many positive things in Roller Derby, but it is the censorship that I struggle with. Perhaps if you are involved deeper with the sport you don’t see it, or don’t see the issues. But as an observer I struggle with it.

While this incident does not reflect too well on Derby, perhaps opening up the discussion and the realisation that these events happen will have a positive effect.  

I take pictures. On rare occasions those images aren’t pretty. But I’m guessing, that’s life.

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Rule 56: Summit at the Ramps

There’s more to Derby than just skating. Rule 56 is bringing you a two day conference to support Roller Derby coaches and coach development. But enough if my wittering, it’s best said in their own words.

Rule 56 is hosting a full two day conference to support roller derby coaches and coach development, bringing the latest in roller derby coaching philosophy, tips, and support to our community.

Not only will there be presentations and discussions about the practicalities of coaching but this is also our opportunity to discuss the future of UK roller derby coaching, certifications, and how we build a better coaching community.

On the Saturday evening Rule 56, Roller Girl Gang, and The Works Skatepark are joining forces to bring together skates and ramps and derby all under one roof! 

Bring your skates and have a go on the ramps. Whether you're experienced, a novice, or somewhere in between, coaches will be on hand to help you develop skills or teach you something new, including lending you a BMX to try.

If you just fancy a night off wheels, just chill in the cafe space with us.  Have a nosh and a natter and a tipple. 

We're opening this event to local leagues, so this is a proper good opportunity to see those faces you've not caught up with in a while.

In addition to all the coaching brain food, we've also got our Summit at the Ramps (Saturday night) and Rocket Yoga (Sunday morning).

See their website for a full list of activities and speaker for the weekend: http://www.rulefiftysix.com/derbystance-1/

Ignore me, I just take the photos … www.roller-derby-on-film.co.uk

Monday, 5 September 2016

How many megapixels!?

My first digital camera, it was great, image resolution was less than 1/2 a megapixel.

Shooting Derby at the Thunderdome is always a challenge. The lighting pushes even the latest cameras to their limits. It is amazing how far camera technology has come in a relatively short period of time.

I got my hands on a digital camera way back in 1997. A Casio QV10. It was a revelation. You could take and view an image instantaneously, well, as instantaneous as technology was back in 1997. No longer did you have to wait to use up a film and either take it down to the local lab to get it processed, or roll your sleeves up and do it yourself to see your images. The resolution wasn't up to much, just 320x240 pixels. But apart from its shortcomings it was magical. After a weekend of wonderment it was returned to its rightful owner and I went back to film.

It was a few years later until I purchased my first digital camera, a Yashica KC600 a massive step up from the Casio, 800x600 pixels. At last images would cover a complete monitor screen. It also came with a 1MB Compact Flash card. Film still ruled and it was only when affordable DSLRs became available did the balance begin to shift in favour of digital. Since then I have owned many different brands of digital camera, Pentax, Nikon, Fuji and Canon, settling on my latest system due to the fact that I could borrow lenses off mates.

Technology has made capturing images, which a decade ago would have been impossible, possible. If it wasn’t for technology, I’d just be a spectator.


Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Keep fit, get lost.

My fitness regime consists of over confidence and wild optimism. For me it works well and I would encourage people to give it a go. Think about what you want to achieve, double it, get drunk and then hit the road.

Working at a university in the UK affords me a few extra holidays, namely Tuesdays after a Bank holiday. My institution doesn’t give this luxury for every Bank holiday but the few we do get are special. That extra day off, when everyone, after enjoying a long weekend has to return to work. It’s a bit of a guilty secret. I used to spend it in coffee houses, watching the world go by but as I signed up to the Global Corporate Challenge (GCC) to monitor my exercise this year I thought I’d get out of the city, get some exercise and do some landscape photography.

I decided to head out to Edale and walk up Mam Tor. It’s a walk I haven’t done in a while. As it was a Tuesday after a Bank holiday I was guessing that it would be quiet. The plan was to leave early, get the 6.20am train and ascend Mam Tor around sunrise to take some photographs. The alarm was set to 5am. At 5am the siren woke me. I managed to flail an arm in the general direction of the alarm clock and eventually silence it, but getting up was much more difficult. My whole body, apart from the flailing arm, appeared to be in some sort of temporary paralysis. There was only one thing for it. Go back to sleep.

Three hours later I mustered enough effort to leave the house.

Arriving in Edale I resorted to the mental image I had created the day before of the route I was to take. It was wrong. Two hours later I made it to the summit of Mam Tor. A walk that shouldn’t have taken me more than half an hour. I had also forgotten that the path along the top of ridge was paved with stone and I was not alone as I had hoped. The ridge was thronged with ramblers, neatly dressed admiring the view. As my head dropped, dejected, I also wondered why they all looked so clean when my legs, from the knees down, were caked in mud. I set up the camera, took a few shots and then ambled back down via route no one else seemed interested in taking for reasons I was to discover later.

On returning home, I looked at the few photographs I had taken which reminded me why I am not a landscape photographer. I don’t have the patience and de-spotting images due to a filthy sensor is tedious. Roller Derby photography is so much easier. Shooting wide open, one doesn’t have to worry about all the crap that gets stuck to the camera’s sensor and unless one has to travel long distances, getting up at the crack of dawn isn’t an issue.

On the plus side I did walk a lot further than I expected, proving my theory, that getting lost is good exercise. However on reflection, sometimes you are better of just sitting in a coffee shop watching the world go by.


Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Let's do this thing again.

The World Cup journey starts again. Both England Roller Derby and Team USA have commenced their first round of try-outs and momentum is gathering for the next World Cup.

In 2014 I had the privilege to shoot for England Roller Derby. Following the team out to Dallas and recording them take the silver medal, one place higher than the 2011 campaign in Toronto. In Dallas, England defeated the Canadian team in the semi-finals to reach the last two, a turn-around from 2011 when Canada relegated England to the 3rd/4th playoff against Australia. The final game against the mighty USA was a tall order. A victory was unlikely, however England scored more points against the USA than any other team had managed in the past, and breaking the 100 point barrier, throwing down a maker, the rest of the world is coming.

As 2016 wanes and 2017 beckons, so does the next World Cup. Once again I have been asked to support England Roller Derby in a photographic role, a request I was delighted to accept.
Working with like-minded people, striving to be the best is both exhilarating and humbling. The highs and lows, the dedication and hard work required to put together a squad to take on the best skaters in the world. It's a long journey, but one that is worthwhile.

As for the actual World Cup, the adrenalin rush carries one through the competition. Four days of unrelenting hard work, little sleep and a massive party at the end, that makes all the effort worthwhile.

There's only a year and four months (approximately) 'till the final of the 2017 World Cup. 

Let's do this thing again. 

Saturday, 13 August 2016

So long…

I’m not proud of what I did, but it had to be done.

Inanimate objects feel no pain but I feel guilty. After providing sterling service over the past six years it was time to retire the trusty 1d mkiv. It accompanied me to three World Cups, been lugged all around the country and in all that time it never let me down.  Trading it in was hard, partly for sentimental reasons, partly because the camera shop had given me a ball-park figure for a ‘mint’ copy and when I pulled it out the bag I knew it didn’t merit that moniker.  You could see me wince as they checked the shutter count.

However I hope it goes to a good home and someone can make use of its capabilities. It may be getting old and the technology several generations behind the current crop of cameras but it is still capable of stunning images. Maybe it’ll be bought by an aspiring Derby photographer. Who knows.

Monday, 8 August 2016

Olympic dreams

With the Olympics upon us we can settle down to watch the best in the world compete on the world stage. Magnificent facilities set in gorgeous scenery in a city which many of us would love to visit. Meanwhile in the UK, Roller Derby continues apace in sports centres that are past their best, in locations which due to their familiarity hardly seem exotic. The Olympics seem to be in a very different league.

A few weeks ago I was chatting to a guy at my local life drawing class. He’s a keen sailor, having circumnavigated the world in the past. I enquired to see if he had any new sailing trips planned. Alas no, he was heading off to the Olympics as his wife, also a keen sailor, was heading out there as a medic for the Team GB sailing team. Wow, I thought, what an experience, I assumed that it was all funded. But no, apart from the top athletes in the glamour sports, sponsored by large multi-national companies, those in minority sports struggle to find funding and many in support roles have to clear out the penny jar to get themselves there.

Over the past few years I have forked out on several occasions for London Rollergirls t-shirts to help get them to the Championships. This year there is another UK team heading out to the States to compete at the highest level, Rainy City Roller Derby. Roller Derby like all minority sports, even those at the Olympics, struggle with funding as there bugger all money in the game, so lend them a fiver.