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And Now For Something Completely Different….

Jun 8

In Uncategorized at 12:09pm


I don’t use a ring flash too often, perhaps because  I don’t get calls from the downtown “scene” magazines like Dirt, Slide, Raw and Did You Get Yours’ Today? too often. I have to face facts here. I’m in bed well before a whole bunch of people I wouldn’t recognize anyway start the nightly publicity prowl on the streets of New York.

(Always knew I wasn’t made for the celebrity grab shot scene.  I was on assignment for People magazine to photograph entrepreneur Christopher Whittle at his home by Georgica Pond, which is just about the fanciest address in the Hamptons. We were gliding along in a small sailboat, when I heard a voice with a decidedly familiar English accent call “hullo” from a passing craft. I turned just as Paul McCartney eased on by. My jaw was down where my camera was, i.e., my lap.)

As a fill, the ring-a-ding works real well. Love it, and use it all the time around minus two. Used like this, it’s just a wink, a muted little alarm clock of a light, back there at the lens. It wakes the portrait up, gently.  Use it as the only light, best give your subject a bomb suit. This isn’t the Brahms of light sources. More like Twisted Sister at full volume.

But, I’ve been doing a few Kelby tour stops of late, so at the one in Sacramento not too long ago, we changed things up a bit, and for subjects, invited the Battle Born Derby Demons of Reno, Nevada to join us. These ladies are not the type for a window lit portrait in the reading room, the one with the chintz curtains, and the Lladro figurines on every shelf. Time for a ring light!

Some background is perhaps in order. A few years ago, at the Santa Fe Photographic Workshops, I had a great, and memorable class. In the class were none other than Syl Arena of blogspot, and MD Welch, the Reno Kid, a photographer absolutely suited to photographing, well, roller derby ladies.


Meet Pistol Whip, Eden Brains, and Vanastee. They will kick your ass and be happy to leave roller wheel skid marks on your face. Thing is, behind the camera, you have a ton of fun while they are doing it.


Here they are with their beloved team photog, MD. He’s the one with the helmet, which, given the run of his general behavior, is appropriate attire. The ladies are, uh, having their way with him, I believe.


My thanks go out to the BBDD’s for making the trek from Reno to Sacramento, and livening up our tour stop there. Had some fun trying out a couple lighting configurations (like the above, which is a low light with a green rim….yikes) while the gracious and patient crowd had a laugh or two. The ladies even let me live……

Which is a good thing….writing this as I fly to Europe. We’ve been over the top of late with back to back to back commercial jobs. Heading off for another, with a great group of folks, and a super art director, whose patience and vision over a few location jobs together has made me a better shooter. Good work with good people. There is a God….even for photogs….more tk….

Todd Holbrook says:

on June 8, 2010 at 12:42 pm

I shoot roller derby bouts for TCRG (Vancouver, BC) and have to say – roller derby girls make great subjects! It’s a combination of spectacle and sport, and is really fun and challenging to shoot. I’ve been using an SB800 and SB600 off camera for the last couple of bouts to great effect. Many thanks to you and David for the techniques and inspiration!

M.D. Welch says:

on June 8, 2010 at 1:06 pm

I guess I do need a helmet at all times.

Thank you Joe, and Drew. The team and I thank you so much for letting us in the show.

Now all I need is a rocket to be launched from.

Alfredo says:

on June 8, 2010 at 1:26 pm

Great Kelby class in Sacramento where you shot the women above. I learned a lot little things that have helped me out. I also learned that I’m on the right track with my photography. Thanks for sharing so much of your techniqees.

Ray says:

on June 8, 2010 at 1:27 pm

Hey Joe, I see in your equipment list you use Lumiquest boxes. Ever tried any of the Gary Fong products? What would you suggest as a diffuser for candid wedding photos in lower light?



Joey Miller says:

on June 8, 2010 at 2:46 pm

I’ve been shooting derby here in Memphis this year, and I also have to thank you and Hobby for all the flash lessons. Sometimes I even feel like you out there, with my three SB-600s and a 900. You should shoot a bout some time! I’d love to see what you do with it! And really, derby girls are the best.

Steamboat Lilly, BBDD PR Demon says:

on June 8, 2010 at 3:57 pm

Thank you for much for the amazing opportunity to work with you!! Pistol, VaNastee and Eden all had an amazing time…apparently so did MD!!
I am SO glad they let you live! Enjoy your travels, take care.

Rick Joy says:

on June 8, 2010 at 4:02 pm

I shoot derby bouts for the Mid Michigan Derby Girls (Mt. Morris, MI). The girls are great and they have made me a part of their family. I have tried to use flash in the action shots and I get mixed results. I have resorted to using fast glass and a higher ISO. Any tips on using flash without wrecking my shots?

Mike Noble says:

on June 8, 2010 at 4:21 pm

It’s always good to do something completely different. Looking forward to seeing you in NY in July in Dobbs Ferry.

stephen says:

on June 8, 2010 at 5:51 pm

interesting timing… iStockphoto just ran an article on ring flash with a quote from you.

Lou says:

on June 8, 2010 at 9:13 pm

I knew I’d kick myself for not going to your stop here in Sacramento. And here I am doing it. Ow.

Looks like it was a blast, I just wish I could’ve swung the session.

That being said, why not invite Sacramento’s derby team, the Sacred City Derby Girls? Eh, either way, good times. :)

Richard Hales says:

on June 9, 2010 at 4:32 am

Great shots, hope we have such entertaining subjects in London

Tom says:

on June 9, 2010 at 7:20 am

Hi Joe,

Did I see you on London Bridge this morning? How do you like our weather!

Bob says:

on June 9, 2010 at 9:57 am

What is the motiviation of so many women who open their mouths as wide as possible when having a picture taken of them? Even my grand daughter did this when I was taking pictures at her 11th birthday party. This is Hollywood or MTV at it’s best (or worst) and I see nothing photogenic or pleasing about it. What am I missing?

As for flash I was taking wedding pictures last fall and half way thru the photo shoot at the church I decided to turn the flash off and up the ISO speed to 3200. The results were so much more pleasing and without the typical totally black background that you get when flash is involved. In the slide show of the wedding you can’t tell the difference (graininess) and unless if you really enlarge the pix for print or editing the graininess is more than acceptable.

Usually only photographers care or worry about grain, shaddows, back lighting, etc. as the client isn’t aware of most of this unless you make them aware of these items. So I say experiment and use all of the capabilities of your camera even if the end result is not perfect. I’ve become an high ISO man and love it. When I do use a flash it is with a lightsphere which adds warmth to the photo and elminates the harshness of the flash. I’m not a pro but this setup works for me.

jakob says:

on June 9, 2010 at 12:28 pm

Joe when do you update yr video sction in yr blog/website?

Cheers jakob, from sitzerland.

JF Machado says:

on June 9, 2010 at 1:07 pm

The green rim really gives ’em a toxic/poisonous cool look.

Where in Europe are you going to be?

Matt Hunt says:

on June 9, 2010 at 1:32 pm

Over in Europe? Saw you balanced on a step ladder under the world’s biggest brolly this morning. Almost waved until I realised the FedEx Execs by the van might not be impressed….hope you’re enjoying London.

Stephen Johnson says:

on June 9, 2010 at 2:33 pm

I would love for you to cover how to shoot rollerderby.Ive been hit and miss with it for a while now . I just would like to see how it “should be ” shot propperly.derby girls are the best.

Eric Muetterties says:

on June 10, 2010 at 2:20 am

Sacto was so much fun! Learned a lot.

Those girls were great. The blond’s laugh was so awesome ☺

Ken Toney says:

on June 10, 2010 at 10:04 am

Joe, Your like a box of chocolates…….

Rick Lewis says:

on June 10, 2010 at 7:33 pm

WoW! You made quite an impression on those ladies Joe!….LOL…and you’re lucky to be alive!

Greg says:

on June 11, 2010 at 10:36 am

Just to say that the 1st phooto is brilliant!
Thanks for your posts.

Austin Movers says:

on June 13, 2010 at 10:38 am

I need to see more of those tatts. How about some close ups?

Steve says:

on June 16, 2010 at 6:10 pm

I like the first photo. It is a great, with just enough quirkiness.

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