Steven Brokaw Photography

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I had a great time shooting at the Naptown Roller Girls’ 2011 annual end of season party here in Indianapolis.  The Roller Girls, members of the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association, are composed of the Tornado Sirens, the Warning Belles, and The Third Alarm play at the Pepsi Coliseum at the Indiana State Fairgrounds.  They regularly draw 5,000 or so fans.  Check them out at: 

Anyway, back to the shoot.  I was invited to be the photog at the Roller Girls’ because I am such an uber photographer, no actually; because I am cheap….this was a volunteer gig.  I did it last year as a second shooter, but this year was solo.  Since I shot the same location as last year I had a good idea what kit I needed to bring and how much light I would have to play with.  Also, I knew I was going to be able to pretty much do anything I wanted and shoot the Girls both in a portrait setting and photo journalism style.  What I learned from last year is that these gals are not uncomfortable around the camera and have no problems having their picture taken. 

I planned for the 2 types of shooting setups separately.  

For the Portraits

The theme for the party was prom night so the organizers had set up a balloon arch for me to use with the portrait shots.  For this I used a friend’s Elinchrom D-Lite 4 iT 400W strobe with a Portalite Softbox.  The nice thing about the Elinchrom lighting is they have an Elinchrom EL-Skyport Receiver built in so it worked great for my Elinchrom Skyport transmitter.  These are considered “starter” type lighting units, but they are perfect for most uses, especially this shoot because they are low weight, powerful, and easy to set up.  I had toyed with using 2 D-Lite units or possibly adding a couple of flash units for fill lighting or more dramatic shadowing, but that was going to be overkill for my purpose.  I simply wanted good, even lighting. 

For the even lighting I simply placed the D-Light at about 7 feet high 14 feet back from the arch, with the Softbox angled down slightly.  I simply stood right under the Softbox and shot away.  This was my standard setup all night.  I used a Nikon D300s with a Nikkor AF-S 24-70mm f/2.8 G ED lens for all the portrait work.  I shot in Manual mode, 1/250 shutter speed, f/6.3, ISO 500.   This setup worked great although the shots were a bit on the dark side, but I preferred that versus a bit too bright.

Another thing I had to work with was that the facility was very dark and VERY hot.  Although I didn’t have to worry at all about mixed lighting I did have to worry about blown out marks on the subject’s faces because everyone was pretty sweaty.  After a few practice shots working on the darker side of the histogram tended to eliminate most of the shine.

Walk Around Shots

For most of shots during the awards ceremony and throughout the event was either with my Nikon D300s with the 24-70mm f/2.8 lens or with my other Nikon body, but with a AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.4 G.  This is a VERY bright lens and gave me lots of flexibility.  As I mentioned earlier it was pretty dark, so I used a Nikon SB-600 flash on both cameras.  I used the camera body with the 50mm most in these situations as I could manually zoom by moving back and forth…get it, manually zoom!  Also and please don’t hate me, but I shot in P mode.  I know I don’t deserve to call myself a photographer, but I just didn’t want to mess with the settings, and I just wanted to shoot.

The entire evening was a photo rich environment with the gals and guys in there prom outfits and makeup.  I ended up taking about 800 shots and finished with about 350 that I post processed and uploaded for the Roller Girls.  Post processing consisted almost completely of simply cropping and slightly goosing the exposure by ¼ stop, and bring in a bit of fill light in a few.  Pretty quick processing.

Some take-aways from the night 

·         If at all possible scout your location in advance.  I was prepared for a dark, large space with industrial brick walls so I knew what I was going to work with.

·         If you are bringing studio lighting make sure you know where the outlets are in advance or bring several extension cords or a long lasting battery pack

·         Bring a towel.  I didn’t bring one and regretted it.  I was sweating like a pig a good portion of the night and dripped onto my equipment.  I went through tons of paper napkins.

·         Bring a small table or in my case a set of plastic sawhorses and a small board.  It was perfect for setting my kit up near the portrait set.  It would have been a pain to have to put everything on the concrete floor.

·         Bring a flashlight if you are unaware of the location.  Yes I should have brought one, and no I didn’t.  I could have used it.

·         Bring gaffers or duct tape.  I did, and I used it.  I used it to tape down the extension cord, repair the balloon arch, etc. 

·         I’ve said this in other posts, but plan your shoot.  Even though I planned out what kit I wanted to bring I ended up bringing a background stand and a few backgrounds that I didn’t need.  And the stupid thing is that I knew I wasn’t going to use them.

·         If you are going to shoot with flash, bring lots of batteries.  I have several sets of Sanyo eneloop rechargeable batteries.  I used them all.

·         Recharge everything in advance.  Recharge your camera and your flash batteries.  Also, I brought a spare battery for my Elinchrom EL-Skyport transmitter, and even charged my receivers although I didn’t need them

·         Agree in advance how the images can be used and how your client wants the images delivered. 

A great time shooting the Girls

AF-S DX Nikkor 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR II Uberness

B2 Bomber Flyover