Photographer Spotlight Dave Wood by Joel Giltner

Published on February 17th, 2013 | by Moneyshot

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Dave Wood by Joel Giltner

Photographer Spotlight: Dave Wood: The Black and White Interview

An interview by Moneyshot, Castle Rock N’Rollers/Rocky Mountain Rollergirls

There is nothing black and white about the very colorful sport of roller derby, except for Dave Wood’s photos. The runner-up in last year’s DerbyLife photo contest defies the laws of gravity and color in his unique capture of motion and emotion. I knew of Dave’s work before I met him up in Denver to photograph my first Rocky Mountain Rollergirls bout. Here was a guy who did his own thing, against convention of traditional sports photography. He found art in the shades of gray (far more than 50, might I add). And he developed a following, not just because he took great photos, but because he’s a really nice guy. If you happen to be anywhere near Denver in March, Dave will have his favorite derby photos on display at Herman’s Hideaway.

Q: How did you learn about roller derby? Describe your experience at your first bout.

A: I honestly don’t recall how I heard about it, but I attended my first bout in June of 2007. At that time, Rocky Mountain played at a place that’s about five minutes away from my house. I took my twins (who were five at the time) and my camera and took pictures from the bleachers. They’re generally pretty bad, but I got a few where you can at least make out some skaters who still play for RMRG. The number one thing I remember from that bout was Angel City piling onto each other in what appeared to be some sort of celebration immediately after taking a pretty good beating from Rocky Mountain.

While I had a great time, I didn’t actually make it to another bout until December of 2009. At that time, my fiancee at the time (now my wife) was trying out for Rocky Mountain, so we bought VIP seats and sat in the front row. I’m pretty sure I fell in love with Whipity Pow, Psycho Babble, and DeRanged that night and I’ve been shooting roller derby regularly ever since.

Q: You recently ended a Kickstarter campaign to help fund a photography show dedicated to your roller derbv photography. Why have a photography show? What do you personally plan to get out of it?

A: For the last few years, Denver has been doing something called the Month of Photography. Every March, dozens of art galleries focus their exhibits on photographic work. I thought it would be an awesome thing to be a part of. Honestly, it’s not really important to me that I personally get anything out of it. My hope is that the show will draw more attention to the sport that I love so much. If I sell a few prints and can dump that money into new camera gear, that’ll be a nice bonus. But I’m realistic — making money as an artist is really hard to do.

Q: You’ve received recognition from a variety of local to national media outlets, including being selected as a runner up in last year’s DerbyLife Photograph of the year. What is the award or recognition that means the most to you?

A: Winning the overall 2012 Roller Derby Photo Contest definitely means the most to me because of how that contest is run. Each month, a new panel of judges reviews the work of dozens of derby photographers from around the world. The judges are a mix of people from the derby community and professional sports photographers. And most importantly, they have no information about the photographers whose work they are judging, so there’s no chance of winning based on your popularity or your history. Being fairly consistently recognized in that contest and ending the year with the top score overall has been pretty mind-blowing. I’ll probably get shut out in 2013, so I’m going to enjoy it while I can! :-)

Q: You are obviously a multi-talented guy. For those unfamiliar with your work, what else do you photograph in addition to roller derby?

A: Just about anything involving people. I’ve dabbled in things like basic portraiture, body paint, maternity photos and fashion photography, but the two things I’ve shot the most are aerialists and artistic nudes.

Q: We know you’ve photographed two of the best teams in the country here in Colorado. What is your favorite derby team to photograph from outside of Colorado?

A: Team USA! But that feels like cheating, so I guess I’d have to say Angel City. I just feel like they’re the team that’s having all the fun. Their warmup routine is the absolute best. And let’s be honest — their uniforms are pretty nice to look at. Can I pick some runner’s up too? Bay Area, Rose City, Minnesota and Gotham all come to mind as teams I’ve really enjoyed shooting.

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Q: You are known for shooting your iconic photos in black and white. What do you think black and white does for roller derby, such a colorful sport?

A: I don’t know that black and white on its own does roller derby any favors. When I look at my earlier derby photos, the black & white was more about making up for low-end equipment than anything else. I knew that my photos weren’t anything special, so why be like everyone else but not nearly as good? But from there, it eventually grew into something that I love. Now that I have a better (still not GREAT) camera, better lenses, and studio lights, I shoot in using black & white with the intention of creating something that has an artistic feel to it. There’s usually someone else there to capture the action shots better than I could anyway!

Q: There are a lot of really great photographers in this community. Who are some other derby photographers you admire?

A: The most obvious answer is still the most valid: Jules Doyle. What I love about Jules is that not only does he take top-class action photos that look like something you’d find in Sports Illustrated, but he also gets those amazing off-track shots that just make you think “umm, I was there too. Why didn’t I get that shot? Damn him!” I’m a big Joe Rollerfan as well. Those two are sort of the icons in this sport, I think. But a recent favorite of mine is a guy from Phoenix by the name of Richard Kimbrough. He does some really beautiful work with colored lights and his roller derby portraiture is stunning.

Q: What piece of advice or words of wisdom would you tell a new derby photographer going to his/her first bout?

A: Experiment. Move around the track. Try different lenses. Try different lighting. Try different everything. But most importantly, when you get home to your computer, throw out most of the shots and crop the rest of them tight!

Q: For the photo geeks out there – what is your favorite lens and why?

A: I got a new lens right before the championship tournament in Atlanta last year. It’s a Tamron 24-70mm and it quickly became my go-to lens for shooting derby. On my camera, 24-70mm is a great range for shooting from the side of the track or for shooting from the center. I’m sure it’ll be too wide if I eventually graduate to a big-boy camera, but for now it’s perfect.

Q: What is next in Dave Wood’s photography life? Where would you like to go with this after your photo show? Do you have any other goals? Books? Calendars?

A: I honestly don’t know. I’ve definitely toyed with a couple different book ideas, but there’s nothing in the works. Who knows, maybe I try this whole color photography thing someday.

Q: We’ve recently seen our photos pulled into derby butt collections on various sites such as Tumblr. Where do you stand on the derby butts debate? In poor taste or the girls’ got it so flaunt it?

A: It’s important to be respectful, but at the same time I’ve personally found that most women who play roller derby are pretty proud of their backsides. So yeah, if you’re wearing shorts that only cover half of your derby butt, I’m going to guess that you’re probably OK with that butt being photographed. If I’m wrong (hasn’t happened yet to my knowledge), I’ll take the photo offline in a heartbeat if a skater asks me to. At the end of the day, athletes are sexy. As long as we remember the line between sexy and sex, I think photographers don’t have a lot to worry about — just shoot what you see.

Now when it comes to sites like the “derby butts” blog, I guess I’m somewhere on the fence. If skaters want to contribute photos to sites like that, I don’t really have a problem with it as long as they get permission from the photographer. I think a lot of people don’t really understand that photographs are copyrighted — you can’t just take them and put them anywhere you want without asking permission.

Q: You were with the Rocky Mountain Rollergirls in 2010 when they won the National Championship. That was an emotional, memorable moment for all involved. Describe one of your most memorable moments in derby.

A: That would definitely have to be it, right there. I started following Rocky Mountain at the beginning of that season (in December of 2009, actually). My wife and I even followed them up to the Pacific Northwest that season to see them play Rose City, Rat City, and Oly. By the time championships rolled around, I was a huge fan. I was still new to roller derby photography at that point, so I wasn’t granted much access for that tournament in Chicago. I had my camera, but I wasn’t able to bring my lights and I was supposed to be shooting from the seats. As a result, I was really much more of a fan than I was a photographer. The championship game against Oly was absolutely incredible. By the end of the game, both Psycho Babble and Urrk’n Jerk’n had fouled out. Those are some pretty impressive names to be playing without, but RMRG hung in there. The game kept going back and forth and I remember thinking that they had lost it for sure with a few minutes left. Then on the second to last jam, RMRG managed to draw a back-block call against the Oly jammer which set up a final jam power jam for Frida Beater. I still remember screaming my head off next to my friend Jason (Megatron from Derby Deeds) and having him have to remind me to stop cheering and go take some pictures of the team celebrating.

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Q: All photographers have favorites we like to photograph. Who is your favorite athlete to photograph? Not to get you in trouble with your lovely wife, but do you have a derby crush? Or maybe I should ask if your camera has a derby crush?

A: It’s such a lame answer because everyone (well, everyone that doesn’t hate her) has a derby crush on her, but it’s gotta be Psycho Babble. She always has a smile on her face (with or without the face paint) and she’s always been really sweet to me. I’m lucky to call her a friend. Let’s see…who else? Hockey Honey, Joy Collision, Scald Eagle, Lulu Lockjaw, Demanda Riot, Disco, Suzy Hotrod, Rachel Rotton, Juke Boxx. OK, I should probably stop now. Oh, and also every member of Rocky Mountain, of course!

Q: What is your libation of choice, you know, in case someone wants to thank you for all the fantastic work you do for roller derby?

A: Margarita. Rocks & salt. Ideally not made with HFCS sweet & sour mix, but I’m not TOO picky. :-)

For more information about Dave Wood, his upcoming show, or to view more of his photographs, visit his web site.

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