A Derby Photographer Notes

(Updated May 16, 2017)

I became an accidental derby photographer starting, I think November 8, 2013 – shortly after the Peninsula Roller Girls followed me on Twitter. Three years later, I’ve upgraded my camera body once, and added a second Canon 7D Mark II, Peak Design straps, a monopod, and a new camera bag but the same main lens – I learned a few things.

I often to forget some of these, so reviewing them before the shoot, may be helpful. (In theory – I’m gonna update this post from time to time.)

I have two lenses:
Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM
Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM II

The ideal focal lengths will depend on how close you get to the ring. Standing basically the 10ft line, the 70-200mm (APS-C is effectively an 1.6x zoom, so this is 112mm – 320mm ) – is almost too long. The ideal, based on some histograms of actual shots, 50-200mm (or 80 – 320mm ). This is important to note, if one is going to upgrade from a crop-body to a full-frame. A full-frame camera will likely means a different set of lenses. Overlap between Body A and B is recommended.

The 17-40mm is useless for action. I use this for portraits and candidates walking around. I’ve rented Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM II Lens and a Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM Lens. I’m gonna try and rent the Sigma 50-100mm f/1.8 DC HSM Art Lens for Canon next time. I’m going to look at the histogram of focal lengths of actual used/accepted images.

(May 16, 2017, Update) -I rented the Sigma 50-100mm f/1.8 and used it to shoot a May 13th Monterey vs Nor Cal. About half the set was shot with it. And the f/1.8 is just as amazing as it sounds – and without IS, it kept pace with the staple Canon EF 70-200 IS II f/2.8. HOWEVER, when using dual bodies, Sigma’s zoom is the inverse of the Canon lens. This was actually quite annoying, because of my finger memory – I kept zooming the Sigma in the wrong direction. So, this alone may rule out mixing Sigma and Canon lenses while shoot, and my rule out this lens all together.

Technical Settings

  • Focal Lengths: ~50-200mm (80-320mm effective)
    • Maybe a little wider than 50mm, if sitting on the 10ft line, in the corner. If down the straightaway a little of another 6-10ft off the line, 50mm would be ok.
  • Aperture: f/2.8 or better. Be careful for Depth of Field, Bokeh
  • Shutter Speed: With IS, minimum is 1/Focal Length, so 1/250, 1/320 or 1/400
  • ISO: on the 7Dmk2, I do auto, limited to 6400. Do be afraid of High ISO on newer bodies. Can go 1 stop higher, but gets grainy
  • AI Servo, AF Case 3, 1/1/0; adjust focal points as needed.
  • Metering: Center Weighted average
  • Exposure Comp: -1EV to -2EV. underexposed for lower ISO and higher shutter. +2-2.5EV (-100 highlights, +70-100 shadows) in post makes acceptable results.

Framing the Shot

  • This is Roller Derby. Get the stakes in the shots.
  • however, close up of faces in action is important to mix in.
  • Candidate, non-action shots are ok!
  • Abstract object shots good too, skate wheels, helmets, pads, other gear
  • Get NSO/SO photos too