On the evening of May 10th, Scoot and Shoot visited the Roller Derby at Cincinnati Gardens. This was a particularly challenging photographing venue. There was low light and high action. I used a high ISO from 1600 to 3200, and had my lens wide open at an f-stop of 5.4. In some cases I tried to pan with the jammer. Mostly, I wanted to share with you the excitement of the Cincinnati Roller Girls.
The names alone will make you wonder—Cherry Choke, Cincy Psycho, Candy Kickass, or Hannah Barbaric. Rough and tough names for a rough and tough sport.
I’d never been to a roller derby before. I always thought of it as a rough race. But now I know more. The woman above is a jammer for the Cincinnati JV or Varsity “B” team, the Violent Lambs. The jammer for each team is the only person who can score points, and she does it by passing opposing team members.
The jammers start each jam behind the pack. The first jammer to get through the blockers is awarded the lead jammer. The lead jammer can decide to end the jam before the 2 minutes are up if it is to her team’s advantage to do so.Once the jammers have made it through the pack, they skate quickly around the rink and then they each begin to score a point for every opposing skater they pass in a lap, including the opposing jammer and penalized skaters who are sitting on the bench. (I’m not sure what actions result in penalties, or time-outs, but they happen quite regularly.) The refs skate around in the middle of the rink, call out penalties, and keep track of the points each jammer earns.The jammer’s teammates not only try to block the opposing jammer from passing, but also set up blocking to help their own jammer get through.
Blockers often try to push the jammer out of bounds. When that happens the jammer has to go to the back of the group and try again. Unlike my previous, uneducated impression, roller derbies are not just rough free-for-alls. The young women care about the game and how their team is doing.
This jammer has decided to end the jam. Her signal to the refs is raising her bent arms up and down. The ref blows the whistle; the skaters stop. And a new jam begins. Usually, (perhaps always) a new team of skaters takes over each time the jam ends.
This jammer has broken through the blockers who turn to try to help their own jammer through.Often the jammers are the smallest skaters. If they can’t push their way through, they can sometimes squeeze through small openings and at times jump over obstructions. Maneuverability is important in a jammer.
Players get hurt.