Photographer Spotlight Sharkey by LevarHurtin

Published on March 6th, 2013 | by Moneyshot

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Sharkey by LevarHurtin

Photographer Spotlight: Moment of Zen with Masonite Burn

After he won this year’s Derbylife Photo Contest, we got up close and personal with Masonite Burn (aka Sharkey) to find out more about the man behind the incredible work.

Roller Derby? Wha???

An ad on a local radio station caught my attention. My partner (River Tamtrum) and I have always liked trying new things – taiko drumming, odd concerts, improv, etc. So this stuck in my head. When I brought it up – she had already heard about it from 2 co-workers who were actually in the training program for the Rose City Rollers. So we went. It was early in the life of RCR (2006); it was held in an expo center that held a couple thousand people. They had a professional light system, announcers that sounded like carnival ringmasters and showmanship that just sucked you in. Then the floor was swarmed by all the teams – all of these amazing women skating tall, strong, and daring to be different. Like most folks the sport was hard to follow the first time but when 2 bouts and 3 hours felt more like 15 minutes, we both were hooked. Having friends in the pipeline didn’t hurt either because we had friends to cheer for.

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Demanda Riot’s moment of Zen wins Accolades!

There is not much of a story but there is a confession. River Tamtrum was sitting next to me and gave me a nudge to look at Demanda Riot doing her warm ups. I’ve shot Demanda for at least 3 years now and everything with her is fierce. This was different, a subdued intensity that felt like the quiet before the storm. It took two passes to get her at the right point in her stretching. I think the image initially was lost to me because it was taken at 2012 Westerns; I shot every bout and had somewhere over 12000 pictures to process from the weekend. When I worked it in post processing, I saw the detail, the look on her face and I felt the moment all over again; the quiet before the storm. I think it was a bit lost in the stream of bouts I released on first pass – some of her fans “liked” it when I first published it but I think Derbylife allowed it to stand apart from the rest of the shots that weekend. So to me it is a shared success.

It’s not about the awards, it’s the “moments”

Actually I’ve had only a few recognitions in the 4 years I have been shooting. Before derby I had never picked up a camera so my “career” is shorter than many of the derby photographers I look up to. I think past any recognition or award though, are the few times when family members approach me in gratitude for capturing these special moments of these women. I ran into one father in Boise while shooting Spudtown who stopped me to tell me he was thankful for the pictures – he did not live in Portland where his junior girl played and the pictures allowed him to share in her life. My parents split up when I was three so knowing I could give him this really struck home.

Rollin’ with Rose City!

When I approached the Rose City Rollers to shoot, I had the opportunity to shoot alongside Steve Price, aka Skippy Steve. He’s an amazing person and really tolerated my enthusiasm and questions with a lot of patience. After a year of shooting alongside Skippy, he asked me to take over the role of Photography Coordinator. Around this same time, my employer committed to deliver 1 million hours of community service. The Rose City Rollers are a 501(c)3 which meant that I could volunteer for them in support of my employer’s goal. Travelling, taking and processing pictures, acting as coordinator, helping with league projects – all qualify as time. It’s actually pretty cool – if I need to take off early to travel or come in late on a Monday after a long weekend, my bosses are completely cool with it. My job also allows me to extend fieldwork as long as I pay for the differences in travel so a few of my adventures happen around security conferences (Rollercon coincides with Defcon) or speaking engagements.

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Scandal in the derby photog community! Unauthorized photos make the rounds…

I’m going to assume the best of the community. I think the majority of the unauthorized use cases are the result of either poor communication or a lack of understanding. I don’t fault them – I think the majority of amateur derby shooters still do not understand usage rights. My advice to players is be really clear about your desires to use pictures – if you are getting them for someone else communicate that to the photographer. I would say players should assume permission to use pictures is non-transferable unless the photog says you can give them to others for specific uses. To the vendors who are engaged in the community, you are a professional company and the days of ignorance (feigned or otherwise) are coming to an end; using pictures is marketing, plain and simple; generate a marketing budget and pay for images. If you are a small operation you should not expect things for free just because you are starting out. Other individuals and groups in the community who use pictures in tumblr sites or websites – ask. If you make a mistake don’t go on the defensive and don’t try to devalue the images you are using without permission as a negotiation position. I think 99% of the shooters I know will work with you if you approach them with an honest desire to make things right. Last, but not least, we photographers need to be patient with people who make this mistake and give them a chance to resolve the issue before going on the offensive. One last piece of advice… do not offer attribution/exposure as compensation; it isn’t.

He started the elusive Facebook group for derby photographers!

I think the idea for f/2.8 came from meeting some pretty talented shooters at tournaments who I wanted to stay in touch with who were not in the Pacific Northwest. People like Gil Leora, Dave Wood, Levar Hurtin and Phil Peterson. I wanted a way to keep our conversations going and I was honestly doing a bit of a personal security evaluation of Facebook groups at the time so I landed f/2.8, populated it with good people like those mentioned and Joe Rollerfan and Axle Adams, and left it to grow organically. The group is an amazing resource for derby shooters – troubleshooting problems, gear reviews, best practices, and constructive feedback on your body of work. I love that the group is now almost 400 strong and are still growing every week.

The miles and events…

For derby, I’ve traveled 1000 miles by car to Rollercon and Battle for the Coast. I have shot derby across the US as far as Florida (Gold Coast) when I was speaking at a security conference in Miami – I brought my gear and shot Gold Coast vs Atlanta when they played a rain delayed game outside at a country club. Picking a favorite event is a tough call. The Emerald City Roller Girls have been the best hosts at their tournament, the Big O. They treat the shooters extremely well and the teams participating are among my favorites. Seriously… Wasatch, Terminal City and VRDL all in one tournament this year? That is a huge dose of awesome sauce. I love the Dust Devil in AZ because around April I am sick of the weather in the Pacific Northwest.

Photos of four-legged non-skating whippets!

Ah yes, the other reason I chose photography as a hobby – my monsters (Oberon and Icarus). River Tamtrum and I have 2 whippets (you don’t know what a Whippet is? hit the search engine!) and one of them is a show dog and both participate in a cross field competition called lure coursing. For the record, dog show people are CRAZY. Ever see Best in Breed? It’s a documentary, not a comedy. :) If I was River’s bucket bitch, people would talk to me; when I brought my camera, they left me alone. So while Masonite Burn covers my derby addiction, Whippet Madness encompasses my work on sight hounds.

Think you wanna try this?

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“You want to capture Scald Eagle throwing her wings into the air for the fans after an amazing jam you need to know when Eagle will act and you need to know that the jam that just happened was amazing “

I think some of the best shooters in this community have one thing in common – they are also extreme fans. We know the game, we know the players, and that helps us in the moments we capture. You want to capture Scald Eagle throwing her wings into the air for the fans after an amazing jam you need to know when Eagle will act and you need to know that the jam that just happened was amazing. So my advice is the first time you go, leave your camera equipment at home. Watch the game, embrace the atmosphere, learn the flow of the game, scope out the patterns of the game and where are good places to shoot. if you can move around do so; find different angles. Learn about the lighting challenges you will face. And when you finally shoot, don’t be intimidated by the gear others are carrying. Know your limitations and shoot the game with what you have. There are so many perspectives to this sport that you don’t need the standard 5k gear set ups to make something meaningful. Take a look at the work of Mark Nockleby and you will see what I mean.

His derby crush!

Oh man, another loaded question that will get me in trouble. But honestly, hands down, it is one of my biggest derby crushes, Psycho Babble. I have had the pleasure of getting to know her off the track and it only validates why I love to shoot her. Once you get past the warpaint that often conceals her gorgeous smile you will discover a tremendous athlete and fierce player. She plays as part of a team so you want a shot of teamwork, she provides. Jammer? Yup. Pivot? Yup. Blocker? Hell yes! You want a serious moment of intensity, yup got that. You need a reminder that people playing this game should be having fun out there, I have caught that too. How about a truly silly display during a timeout or while cooling her heels in the penalty box, she delivers. But what sets her apart for me is she also gets the importance of the fans and does what she can to make them part of the experience. Those moments when she can play to the audience are pure derby porn. Whether directed at cheering fans or haters, she takes it all in good stride which makes her a first class act in my book.

Goin’ with the traditional, all-purpose, best lens ever, baby!

I enjoy the reach of my 70-200 f/2.8 lens. I believe as a shooter we should not intrude on the events we capture so shooting center track I can nail the track, the benches, and the audience without having to get in anyone’s face (except the poor refs I share the center track with). It’s only a problem when someone pulls up next to me with a “Sharkey take our picture” and I have to start backing away…

Now what?

In 2013, I am going to keep dedicating a slice of my time to junior derby. I am looking forward to the Junior tournaments at Wild West Showdown and the Big O. These young athletes are the future of this sport and in a few years the landscape of this sport will look nothing like it does today. They are already making their mark. There are current travel team players in leagues now who I shot as juniors who will define the future of this sport. On my derby bucket list is also shooting Banked Track. Right now the Tilted Thunder Rail Birds are the closest team (3 hours away) and I am looking forward to some open weekend to shoot them; there might be a trip to LA in my future as well if I can find the cash to cover it.

Be nice, buy him a drink!

I am a hard cider fan. Surprise me with one I have never had and it’s even better. Local stuff is even better. Unless we are in Vegas – then I fall back to the Redbull & Vodka to compensate for the lack of sleep that is sure to follow…

You can find Masonite Burn on Facebook and on Flickr.

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