Interview with Dave McAleavy, TS Team Photographer

Dave McAleavy?  Who is he?  Well he has his own page on the Team Scotland website, and you have probably seen him at Team Scotland or Glasgow Roller Girls bouts…  he is the official Team Scotland photographer and you will see him with us in Toronto!!  We get up close and personal with Mr McAleavy, Roller Derby Photographer extraordinaire!


Lenzilla in action!

TS: How did you get involved with Team Scotland?

DMc: A couple of my friends (Oates and Sykes from the Glasgow Roller Girls) got me involved with shooting bouts for GRG. After about a year doing that I was invited to shoot the Team Scotland final selection scrimmage, and began shooting their bouts and headshots. Shortly afterwards I offered to travel with the team to Toronto for the World Cup and was appointed as team photographer.

TS: What challenges do you face each time you photograph a bout?

DMc:  As with houses there are three main problems. The lighting, the lighting and the lighting. It’s almost always too dark, quite often the lights are a funny colour and sometimes they flicker at odd frequencies that play havoc with exposure readings and colour balance.

Unfortunately the only solution to lighting problems is to spend more money on equipment.

If there isn’t enough light you either need to use a more sensitive camera, use flash or get a fast lens (one that lets more light through). I used flash for a while but was never really happy with the results, so eventually I bought a fast lens.

Compensating for funny coloured lighting is a bit more involved, but basically is done by calibrating the camera against a known colour reference target. The sodium lighting in older halls is particularly troublesome – I’m still experimenting with that. Flickering lights (like those in the Glasgow Caledonian ARC) are unfixable – you just have to live with inconsistent exposures and varying colour temperatures.

TS: Your favourite kit?

DMc:  For roller derby that would be my fast lens, the rather natty Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8 L IS USM II – otherwise known as Lenszilla. It’s rather specialised and somewhat expensive piece of glass, but it’s pretty much the perfect thing for shooting roller derby.

My X-Rite colour calibration target is also helping speed up post-bout editing by reducing the amount of tweaking required.

TS: Dream piece of kit for Toronto?

DMc: That would have to be Canon’s latest top-of-the-pile camera, the EOS 1Dx – an 18 megapixel, 12 frames per second, full-frame monster. I’m not going to be able to get my hands on one of those anytime soon though. Partly because it’s not actually available yet but mostly because it’s going to be hideously expensive.

TS: How do you feel about the opportunity to go to Toronto with TS?

DMc:  I’m incredibly excited about it – there’s only one photographer place on each team, so I’m honoured to have it. I also get to see my friends skate for Scotland in the first ever Roller Derby World Cup and photograph them doing it. It doesn’t get much better than that.

TS: Favourite kind of photograph to capture?

DMc:  I love pivot line posing. There’s a whole lot of Charlie’s Angels stuff goes on as the pivots try to give unsuspecting opposing blockers a false start penalty by sticking their hips out. I’m always disappointed if I’m lined up to shoot that and they decide to take a knee.

Catching air is always good too, either as a player falls or sometimes as the jammers push forwards off the line and leave the ground completely.

TS: Any near misses???

DMc: A couple of times I’ve felt the wind in my hair as a player knocked off the track shot past me, and I’ve had a couple of “hugs” when I didn’t get out of the way in time, but I’ve not yet been knocked over or hit seriously.

But if you mean photographs then yes, literally thousands. At the last count I’ve posted just over 4000 images on and Facebook, and I’d estimate in the last year I’ve shot about 12000 frames – so there are about 8000 on the cutting room floor.

TS:  Favourite Roller Girl to photograph?

DMc: No, not really. Roller derby photography, for me anyway, isn’t really about shooting individuals, it’s about shooting teams. As I get to know the players there are certain moves I watch out for, but that’s a constantly changing thing. I have my friends and favourite players like anyone else, but as a photographer I try to set that aside and just shoot the game.

There’s also a lot of things to shoot – the zebras, bench managers, NSOs, announcers and the people who sell the cakes. I really like the people who sell the cakes.


TS: Advice for anyone starting out (photographing RD)?

  • Get the basics, like exposure and colour balance, right.
  • Keep your shutter speed high to freeze the action – if you can’t get up to at least 160th of a second by boosting the ISO and opening up the aperture then consider using flash.
  • You probably won’t be able to follow the game if you’re concentrating on shooting, but watch what individual players are doing and you should be able to predict where the action is going to happen.
  • If you have the privilege of trackside access, remember that you’re the least important person there. Keep out of the way of the players, bench managers, zebras and NSOs. They’re more likely to cut you some slack when you need it if they know you’re not going to get in their way.

You can see more of Dave’s Roller Derby photographs over at or for permissions to use images contact

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