Rich Vossler has been documenting the Denver roller skate scene only since 2020. His images and the depth of sharpness are amazing. With many years of experience from shooting rock climbing, mountain biking, BMX, kayaking and paragliding, movement seems to be his element. With his teenage-daughter Elsa getting more and more involved with roller skating, he started to spend some time on the sidelines as a watchful parent – and eventually began to document her journey. With an ongoing series we want to spotlight photographers that showcase the growing roller skate scene around the world and learn a bit more about the humans behind the lens.
When and how did you come in touch with the roller skate scene?
Within the last two years, my daughter Elsa has become very involved with roller skating. First it was Roller Derby and then since COVID more of a park skater. I spent some time on the sidelines as a watchful parent and then decided if we were going to be doing this so often, I would document the journey and the prolific scene here in Denver. I have a lot of experience shooting action sports so roller skating fit well.
Is it more motivating and rewarding to capture your daughter and document her progress?
It has been great to see her develop, not just as a skater, but also as an athlete. Watching her realize and understand the process has been fantastic and the wonderful people and mentors she has met and skated with are really phenomenal. I feel really lucky that I have photography to get me into this group and become part of it. To be able to share this time with my daughter and all whom I have met has been a real honor.
It seems like many skaters travel to Denver to skate. What makes the Denver skate scene in the area so special?
The Denver skate scene has been a really pleasant surprise, both in Derby and Park. It is super-strong and there are so many great skaters here that are very inclusive, creative and supportive. We have so many days of sunshine throughout the year and so many great parks. I hope it continues to draw more skaters more often! Skating with great skaters is the best way to really get good.
Do you always have a concept when you are shooting?
I sometimes have concepts or trick ideas when we shoot. Recently, we have also had different products that need to be photographed and those might guide a concept. For the most part though, I document. I watch where the skaters are doing their coolest stuff and move around and try my best to capture it. I really enjoy working with the skaters and providing them with images of their skills that they can see and share. Both video and still images are great learning tools to see where a trick is either going in the right direction or if adjustments need to be made.
What are you looking for in a photo? What makes the perfect shot?
That really depends, sometimes it is a dialed jump and/or grab, sometimes it is movement, light or composition. I like some tricks more than others but my opinion is seldom the most important. I like to work with the athlete and get what they are after. If someone is really psyched with an image I capture, then that is a perfect shot.
Do you have a favorite shot you would have liked to see printed in a magazine?
I like this particular shot of Elsa, taken in one of our local indoor venues in Denver called Snöbahn. I really like that her face and right hand are in-frame under her skate. That ramp is pretty small so she has really popped to get this move this high.
Most fascinating thing about shooting roller skaters?
Roller skaters are super creative and have been from the early days of the sport. Having both the independence and dependence of wheels connected to both feet leads to pretty amazing adaptation of styles and tricks. The whole gamut is wonderful, whether competing on the derby track to technical footwork or tearing up big bowls. The individuality and styles that everyone has is just wonderful to shoot and there are so many stories to tell.
What is the most challenging thing about shooting skaters in motion? Do you have a photo that was the most difficult to capture so far?
Again, I think it is the individuality. Everyone tricks in different spots on different runs. My goal is to create images that each skater will enjoy. Trying to keep up with all of the action during a great session is a lot of work. Tricks get missed and I want to capture it all! My attitude as a photographer has always been: get what the client wants and then get creative. Often times the creativity leads to some great images. I like to experiment and am lucky that I have such a game group of subjects to work with. Inside is even harder. I prefer off-camera lighting so hitting all the spots is a challenge. I like working with skaters that have a trick they really want to capture. Sometimes this process can be challenging to first, get the trick, and then find the angle to make it look the best. Patience and determination from all parties it key! It is very rewarding when these collaborations work out.
Any plans ahead with roller skating photography?
We continue to improve every day. Elsa with her skating, me with the imaging. It is all a work in progress that I hope I am fortunate enough to be part of for a long time. I never expected to be shooting action sports again so it is really fun. Let’s see what happens next…..
(top image of @kid.quad)