One of my biggest projects lately, has been to build a portfolio to promote my portrait photography. The most recent part of this project has been a group of roller derby inspired portraits. This turned out to be far more exciting than I could have expected, so I wanted to tell you the story.
I was planning the various shoots to build my portfolio when my mother suggested doing these roller derby portraits. A friend of mine that I originally met through photography, has recently gotten into roller derby and we felt she would probably be interested in helping out with this.
I planned on primarily working on the surreal composite portraits, so I wanted to find some backgrounds that would lend themselves to the “tough” look and I wanted one with the actual track as a background. I set out for a search for appropriate backgrounds in downtown Salem. Eventually, I settled on an empty part of a parking garage. I made three exposure HDR shots of the garage and processed them in Nik Software’s HDR Efex Pro to have that surreal gritty look.
Then came the day of shooting the portraits. The basic setup we went with was an Elinchrom BxRi 500 on one side in a strip bank and a Canon 550EX on the other in a softbox. I manipulated these lights to match the look coming out of the two of them as closely as I could. Then there was another BxRi 500 in a beauty dish with a diffusion sock above and in front of the model.
We also decided that we should do a more conventional portrait as well, since this was done TFP, perhaps a conventional portrait would be better payment? This was done with clamshell lighting.
Then came time to get the track as a background. The plan for this was for me to go to a bout and get there right when the doors open so that I could get the track with less activity. I would then stick around and watch and photograph the bout from a vantage point my friend recommended for dramatic images.
The bout is where the surprise came. Roller derby is way cool. I felt it would be entertaining but was surprised how exciting it truly was. The track is fairly short, forcing tight turns on the skaters. Watching them maneuver against each other at high speed while negotiating the tight turn is very impressive and when coupled with the strategies that are apparent, even if I don’t entirely understand them, is absolutely fascinating. My overall impression of the sport is that it is exciting, sexy, tough, fast, fun, and quirky.
The other great thing about the sport is the women. I haven’t had the opportunity to get to know them well, other than my initial friend, but there does seem to be a great sense of community among this very diverse and seemingly very friendly group. Furthermore, I’ve been very flattered with their involvement in this body of work.
Click here to see my portrait portfolio.