Ice Cold in Alex

The final bout, Southern Discomfort Roller Derby versus Tyne and Fear, hour 23 trackside.

I work a day job, nothing exciting, your bog standard 5 days a week, 37 hours. This weekend 28 hours. Okay it wasn’t exactly work, but sitting trackside does take it out of you. The first shift, 9 ‘till 7pm on the Saturday (I skipped the first and last bouts) and then 8 ‘till gone 9 on the Sunday at the Men’s European Cup. Unlike skaters, who, once their games are finished are able to retire and relax for the day, as a photographer the next step begins. Like NSOs and helpers there is more work to do after a day has finished. Backing up files, clearing cards and charging batteries to make sure the gear is good to go for another day. Last weekend at the MEC I was trackside for 23 hours, shooting around 200gb of files, plus several more on the admin side. A lot will be blurred or dross, but it all needs to be backed up so that I can go through the final edit when I get back home. An edit that will take another 8 or so hours.

I understand that organisers of such events want to maximise the use of the venues they hire and costs aren’t cheap, coupled with the fact that many people, especially those teams flying in from overseas will need to take several days off, but by compressing so much in such a short space of time does take its toll on those involved.

No-one want to miss the action, but sometimes we need to take a break.

Photographers can be their own worst enemy, not wishing to take a break between games in case they miss a great piece of action or an event that ‘makes’ the competition, but I feel organisers could help manage their workload, much like those of announcers, refs and NSOs whose crews work specific games. Allocating specific bouts, sharing the work load and allowing all to shoot whatever they want if they so choose would bring more structure, coupled with freedom. At the World Cup in 2014 my priority, as their photographer, was shooting England, however while I was there to cover their bouts I was also free to dip in and out of others if I so wished. This allowed me to cover the rest of the event as I saw fit without feeling as though I should cover everything. Three tracks also helped as one couldn’t be everywhere. This meant I could organise my time to reduce burn-out over the four days, even then it was still gruelling and I spent most of the day after the competition in bed, although that could have been more down to the amount of alcohol consumed at the after-party.

So for organisers I would say, think about why you want photographers there, what do you want covered and why, and try and structure the days so everyone gets an opportunity and a break.

For photographers, here’s my advice for covering tournaments.

  1. Get to the event early, a day before if possible to check out the venue if it’s unfamiliar and have a relaxing night before the start.
  2. Have enough memory cards to last the day.
  3. Have enough batteries to last as well.
  4. If you are staying in a hotel, don’t skimp on costs, book a breakfast and eat hearty to help get you through most of the day.
  5. Know when to take a break, grab a coffee and some food.
  6. Try and get back to your hotel/abode as early as possible to back up files (possibly over a beer to relax) and get the gear ready for the following day.
  7. On the final day just have a blast, you can sleep the day after and those cards and batteries can wait to be dealt with. 

Tournaments can be gruelling but they are also great fun, just be focussed on what needs to be done and the beer waiting for you at the end. Ice cold in Alex.


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