Stranger in a Stranger Land – an etiquette for a visiting photographer


This is part 2 of a continuing story of our first venture into America to see Derby in the United States. To be more specific, the home opener of the Queen City Roller Girls of Buffalo, NY on January 7, 2012. What a way to start the year.


It was while on the road for the first time to America for Derby and reflecting on the entire experience, a light bulb flashed and a whole slate of words crystallized before our eyes. It was not the proverbial Ten Commandments, but it was a way to conduct oneself, the etiquette of being a visiting photographer.


We had just gone through customs at Fort Erie and landed at the Greyhound bus station in downtown Buffalo. What had preceded this was a myriad of details and a boatload of questions that had filled the mind for weeks and had to be settled: how to get across the border (both of them preferably), how to get to Buffalo, how much was the busfare to Buffalo, what to pack, how to carry what had to be packed, how to get to the Rainbow Roller Rink to see my favourite league down under—those crazy Queen City Roller Girls.


The teams for the night event would be a reprise of the 2011 championship final as the 2012 season opener: the pink of defending champions Devil Dollies vs. the blue Nickel City Knockouts. What better way than to Kick Out The Jams?


It was a marvel to watch Queen City set up for the evening from scratch to finish in what would be a sold-out bout; QCRG officials and volunteers everywhere, laying down the track, ticket sellers, ticket takers, crew installing lights overhead into the ceiling, putting out the bleachers, handle a session for the entire league photo, photo mediator B-17 dealing with press, the ongoing Queen’s Court chitchat, zebras and roster boards, a bake sale setup for the Ice Ice Babies who are the Queen City Roller Girls junior team, a live band setup and stage for half time intermission, merchandise table, concession and food, stats table, scoreboard table, wires and power bars everywhere, putting up sponsors banners including Mighty Taco, setting out the players benches and penalty bin, the video crew in the form of Mr. Fit, Mama Chops [den mother to the league] out to handle the after-party setup for her derby ladies, players and teams rolling in to get changed and warming up on the track, it was indeed the universal experience of game day. All thanks to the biggest fan of the league who would be the owner of Rainbow Roller Rink.

While all this unfolded around me, what had accrued from the experience of travelling on the road or even being at home amongst the leagues in and around Toronto and the grand experience of Blood and Thunder World Cup,  enabled me in knowing how to deal and what questions to ask. Where to shoot. How to shoot. In other words: How to fit in.


In no particular order and by no means all-inclusive:

        1. Smile.
        2. Ask your hosts as far in advance as possible if you can tentatively shoot their next bout. Find out how much lighting and gear you can bring along. Leagues may have an off-camera flash policy. Some leagues may set aside a room to stow gear or bags. Others, you may be lucky to get floorspace.
        3. You are a visitor. You are their guest. Act accordingly, and try to get along. Thank your hosts. Blend in. Wear a neutral league shirt. [Amendment since: Or if you do wear a league shirt – just be careful which team you bear when talking to a derby lady.]
        4. There is no such thing as the absolute gold standard. Every league does its best. Every league has its own way of doing things. Every league has its own personality. Respect them if they deserve respect. Otherwise, just leave. It’s your time.
        5. Never assume anything. No attitude.
        6. Always be ready. Life’s biggest lesson taught to me by Boris Spremo [Toronto Star photographer supreme].
        7. Listen to your media liaison or photo wrangler. Abide by whatever agreement you choose to sign. If you do not like the agreement, just walk away. Or discuss it with someone in the know. Know your rights.
        8. Take the best shots you can. That’s what the league expects and what you should expect of yourself. Every picture tells a story. You are not there as a spectator on their dime. You never know when to expect the unexpected. There is always something going on, but know you cannot capture it all. Do your best. Deal with it. There may be team rituals and introductions you have never seen before. React to it. [Can you say bagpipes Tri-City Thunder?] If you are having a bad day, deal with it, don’t show it. If your lighting or flash has died, be creative. Or go back to basics. Never surrender. The teams on the track never do.
        9. Know the rules of Derby. Know the lines. Know the lines you cannot cross. The ones on the floor or not. And for all those tyros out there, don’t shoot and skateboard around the track at the same time.
        10. Know or get to know the NSOs and volunteers. Know the referees. Listen to the announcers. They always can tell you where all the best action is.
        11. Until the bout is over, skaters are skaters on game day. Coaches are coaches. They will still talk to you but their focus should be the bout ahead. Try not to intrude on their space. Shoot the stretch at your own peril.
        12. God is in the details. Sweat the small stuff. Plan as best you can. Put your experience to use. Learn as much as you can about the venue if you can. Look at game videos to see their lighting and where photographers set up. Some leagues already know what photographers require, but be prepared to ask questions to find a friendly solution.
        13. Capture the atmosphere. Shoot a bit of everybody and introduce yourself. You never know who will tag themselves or what photo will be an unanticipated favourite by some player.


  • Don’t get in the way of the crowd. They paid for their ticket and deserve to be there. Above all, lesson learned: officials first. Don’t get in the way of the stats keepers or sit where the whiteboard needs to be. You definitely do not want to be part of a referee takeout.
  • Treat your fellow photographers well. They are there to make everyone on the track look their best in the best way they can. They often impart to you where or how they shoot. Keep on learning and learn from the best.
  • A T-shirt is always a nice souvenir, however leagues manage to sell the darndest things. (Can you say Anya Face lippybalm?)
  • At the end of the night, thank your tired hosts again. Sincerely. Queen City love their Blue, Molson or otherwise. Bloo!
  • Pay it forward. That was my biggest take from World Cup. You will have mutual respect, and even gained new friends by the end of the night if everything goes right. It’s the Golden Rule. (You never know when you may have to ask someone for a quote or one of their photos for a wordpress article!)

Of course saying it and doing it can diverge, but do your best. If you believe it, you’ll do it. And if you succeed, not only do you have the photos of a lifetime or a moment in life, you have new friends who will let you come back.

So, thank you Derby and leagues and all us hard-working photographers everywhere. Thank you Queen City for your generosity and hospitality and the Cherry Coke.


And once I write the rest of part one, there will be undeniable evidence there is a Derby God-dess.

Team Scotland rising at World Cup with Blazin’ Phoenix

Introductory remarks: If you were one of the lucky ones who had the opportunity to attend the after-party of Blood and Thunder World Cup, you would have seen a lot of sweaty dancing and hijinx from Derby players from all over the Derbysphere. One of the teams who were definitely out to do their best to win the night were the audacious Team Scotland. First off to give us the story on Derby in Scotland was Andy Clockwise associated as a referee with Auld Reekie Roller Girls. Now comes the tale of Team Scotland at Blood and Thunder World Cup in Toronto through the eyes of Blazin’ Phoenix. Many thanks to Hale Yeah / Sean Hale and Dave McAleavy / for the generous use of their photos of Team Scotland and World Cup.

World Cup was such a dream. For Scotland to be able to field a team, let alone go, was a miracle. We are such a small nation and have a very small pool in which to draw talent from. It’s a new sport here too, so the odds were stacked against us but we made it.

For me, the greatest thing was the learning experience. I got to see the world leaders of roller derby skate and I learned so much. I have only been skating for a year and a half…that includes learning *how* to skate. I had a stroke at 17 too, so it’s insane to think of me as a member of Team Scotland. The World Cup was an eye opener and something to work toward for the future. It gave me something more to fight for. I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to go until a few days before I was due to leave as my dad had had a cardiac arrest on the living room floor and I had to do CPR and bring him back. He was in a bad way for a while. Still is, but I’m hoping he’s gonna be okay. He asked me to go, so I did. I booked my flights two days before I was due to go. I was way off my game when I was in Toronto, so next time I come to the World Cup I’m gonna be focused and ready for it. I’m gonna bring it. Did I just say that? You know what I mean though.

Blazin’ Phoenix against Team Brasil – photo credit: Dave McAleavy /

We  had to pay for the trip ourselves and fundraise as a team. That was stressful. Some girls had to pull out and couldn’t go. Because of this which was sad we lost some good players. We were kindly sponsored by Derby Skins, Anti-Stank and we got our helmets from a local skate company too, Kick Flip Boards, which was cool. The people who helped us get to Toronto and helped while we were there, who had nothing to do with derby, are amazing! I just have to get that out. They put in SO much work!! Without them, we would never have made it.

Blazin’ Phoenix at World Cup – photo credit: Sean Hale / Hale Yeah

The whole thing was a whirlwind, a blur, but the best bits if I had to pick them: I do remember not being able to look at Suzy Hotrod when she put her arm round my shoulder and said “hey” during the photo with Team Scotland and Team USA. That’s the first time I realized “Wow, we are actually here standing with Team USA”! Plus I, like every other girl in the derby world, have a crush on Suzy Hotrod so I went a bit goofy and shy.

S inging the National Anthem to the world…how embarrassing! Haha! But so good at the same time. The comraderie of all of the teams there was great. What else? The skating of course. Skating with so many talented girls from other countries was wicked. And the community feeling worldwide that we have in derby is mind blowing.

Against Team Brasil – photo credit: Dave McAleavy /
My worst bits you ask? I can think of only one major thing. I had corneal abrasions in my right eye from the dust and shit on the floor that was floating around in the air when I was skating. Some sharp bits went in my eye and made tiny cuts on my cornea. I had to sit on a six hour flight with no vision and *very* sore eyes. It wasn’t fun. I really don’t want to have that ever happen again. Thinking about it now is making my eyes water. The poor volunteers were constantly sweeping the floor too, but it was just inevitable I think.
T eam Scotland provided entertainment, singing songs such as “ye canny shove yer granny off the bus” whilst we were on the bus full of derby girls from every other country. That was funny. Oh, and by the way, Scotland totally won the after party! [;)]Now I have reached the end of this epic rant. I can’t remember half of what I’ve written, so please forgive me.

xxx  xxx

Team Scotland after Team Argentina bout – photo credit: Dave McAleavy /

Crazy about Queen City DSC_1287-2

DSC_1287-2, originally uploaded by Midnight Matinee 24.

Queen City Rollergirls home season debut with a rematch between last year’s teams in the finals of the QCRG Championships: Devil Dollies and Nickel City Knockouts.Featured here is Crazy Legs from the NCKO donning face guard after having her nose broken at Blood and Thunder World Cup while bouting as captain of Team Argentina.

all content copyright © midnight matinee

Happy Birthday! Scottish Derby with Andy Clockwise

Introductory remarks: If you were one of the lucky ones who had the opportunity to attend the after-party of Blood and Thunder World Cup, you would have seen a lot of sweaty dancing and hijinx from Derby players from all over the Derbysphere. One of the teams who were definitely out to do their best to keep on winning were the audacious Team Scotland.

First off to give us the story on Derby in Scotland is Andy Clockwise [who may also be known as Iain Elstone in another world] associated as a referee with Auld Reekie Rollergirls out of the royal city of Edinburgh. Following soon will come the tale of Team Scotland at World Cup in Toronto through the eyes of Blazin’ Phoenix. Thanks as well to Thomas Mathieson for the photograph of Andy Clockwise, and to Andrew Leatherbarrow and Dave McAleavy for the firsthand look of Scottish Roller Derby in action.

photo credit: Thomas Mathieson

Andy Clockwise starts the tale.

Roller Derby in Scotland is ever increasing in popularity. Every major city has a team now and some of the larger towns do, too. Glasgow Roller Girls was formed back in 2007, followed in 2008 by Auld Reekie Roller Girls in Edinburgh. Six other leagues have formed since then, two of which came just this year and will hopefully be bout ready soon!

The leagues have close links, forged stronger by the World Cup. We had practices in different cities over the summer and autumn. It’s wonderful to be a part of the Scottish Roller Derby Scene. It’s like a community of its own. We’re not a big country and so it’s never too far for any of us to travel to bouts.

I’m very proud to be a Referee with the Auld Reekie Roller Girls. I started as fresh meat, barely able to stand on skates in May 2010 and reffed my first bout in August that year. I’m currently out of action due to a non-derby related injury but hope to throw myself back into reffing in the spring.

[Furthermore, ARRG played the New Skids on the Block back in April. We played well, actually. They thrashed us but what a game! We played Montreal in a closed bout. They kindly came up to Edinburgh and I had the pleasure of driving them all back down in a minibus. They are amazing ladies! Everyone, an athlete!]

2011 saw ARRG became the second European league to become WFTDA members, the first in Scotland. Glasgow are currently WFTDA Apprentices along with quite a few other leagues in the UK and Europe. 2012 is going to be very exciting for Scottish, and indeed European Roller Derby.

A good blog to get more information on Scottish Roller Derby is linked below:

From here you’ll find some great articles and also links to all the Scottish leagues.

I’m gutted I wasn’t able to come over and spectate. I had to settle for the internet feeds. I saw the Scotland vs. USA game, of course! Our guys are usually cleaner than that, but there was such a lot of pressure on them… heroes, every one of ’em.  USA are such a formidable force. Every team that played them will go home, lick their wounds and come back better for it.

[Post World Cup there was a rash of flu spreading all over the world of Derby, seemingly emanating from all those who bouted at the venue.]

So that’s where the damn Flu came from! Practically the whole league has gone down with it. In fact, other Scottish leagues, too! My wife Faerie Nuff and I both had the sniffles but our main complaints are a little more serious. I completely tore my right distal biceps tendon at forearm at the start of November.  Faerie Nuff who also refs for ARRG is recovering well from partially torn ligaments and cartilage damage in her knee from 2010. We’re a a right pair just now! Ha ha! I can’t wait to get back on 8 wheels and get my right arm doing what it does best! Leeeeeeead Jammer!

Team Scotland - photo credit: Dave McAleavy /


Some media coverage of Derby in Edinburgh from Edinburgh Reporter

Derby photos around Scotland

Yuuuuuppppp ! NCKO knockout DDD in home opener at Queen City

Part 1

As Audrey would say: quel night!

The clock on the vcr is winking 1: 45 in the morning as we are surrounded by Twilight. It is the after of the after-party and Audrey Hepburn is dancing in the dark. In the morning we will have breakfast at Tiffany’s but for now. We close our eyes and we are asleep in Buffalo.

Can you believe it ?

DerbyLife 2011 Photo Of The Year Contest nominations are up for the 1st round.

DerbyLife Photo Of The Year Contest

Our jaw just dropped – never thought that was possible – looking at all of the nominations and just knowing all of the photographs that are out there.

Most Derby

So many great photographers out there – many of whom we consider friends and allies and sources of great advice.

Thank you DerbyLife! and to everyone in Derby !

Vote as you wish!