In the Roller Derby Photography Group on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/rollerderbyphoto) I put together, the most debated subject so far seems to be the use of flash at roller derby games. Whether or not you choose to use a flash will depend on your vision and your gear available. In general, most serious photographers find flash photography one of the more difficult concepts to master and I think many photographers are reluctant to use it because of their limited experience and understanding of it.
Flash photography need neither be scary or intimidating. Most flashes these days in TTL mode are some of the smartest pieces of camera gear ever put out. That is great news for derby photogaphy because many of them handle fast action really well. Getting your flash and camera to work together given the derby venue you shoot in will be part of the challenge of becoming a good derby photographer.
All that being said, I would like to briefly state why I shoot using a flash.
It is great for freezing action. Next to a fast shutter speed, flash is one of the best ways to freeze action.
I can shoot at a lower ISO. Shooting at a lower ISO allows me to reduce the amount of noise in my photographs. If you happen to own a high end DSLR, this may not be a problem for you but my DSLR has a lot of noise at 3200 ISO.
It helps with white balance. Many derby venues have mixed lighting of various colour tempteratures. Shooting with a flash allows me to make sure all the important stuff in the photo are being lit with the same light source which helps in keeping the colours true.
It enhances the colour saturation. Most derby uniforms and even the players themselves are dominated by strong colours such as Reds, Blues and Greens. A flash helps to capture these colours, saturate them and give them some life. Of course saturation can always be adjusted post-production but in camera adjustments are always superior to their Photoshop counterparts.
Flash flatters the players. One of the best part about using a flash is it helps to the flatter the skin of subjects. A lot of minor defects in skin can be blown out creating smoother skin. As well, because flash can increase the contrast and saturate colours it can really help to bring out many of the tattoos the players have.
Flash fills in the shadows. The overhead industrial type of lighting in derby venues can cast strange shadows on players and the game itself. Using a flash fills in the shadows and help to preserve a lot more shadow details.
I would like to emphasize that these are my reasons for using a flash and should not be taken as the final word on flash photography. Until derby venues are lit using stadium lighting we as photographers will either have to make due with the light provided or provide our own. I know that use of flash photography has caused some conflict between photographers and leagues but I think if we properly explain why we use flashes most leagues will be more accomodating towards the use of flashes.
If you have been reluctant to use a flash at games because of your limited understanding of the subject or experience with it then I suggest you try it. It will take a bit of experimenting but eventually you will find you can take some really great flash photography photos. The more you understand flash photography the more you will use it for all your photography.
As a derby photographer I wish you the best of luck in your shooting.