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Bodybuilding, Florida, life, and beyond


Category: Bodybuilding

lakelandbwShots from the 2015 Lakeland Classic are up on the site.

I love this little lakefront theater because of what’s outside; one of these days I’m going to get there really early and do a shoot.  Inside the lighting is a challenge, but I had some new tools with me to help.

In borderline lighting, it’s often quite easy to miss minor motion blur using the camera’s tiny viewer.  Using a rock hammock for the tripod to hold my laptop, this time I shot tethered using a Linux program called Entangle to grab and display each shot, including histogram and data, almost as soon as I took it.

Practical upshot, I was able to push the margin way further than I normally would, and get feedback right away as to whether I’d gone too far.  I still had a few misses, but far fewer than normal at this venue.  Someday maybe I’ll win the lottery and drop a couple grand on a really fast telephoto, but until then this helps me squeeze more out of what I have.

The show itself was well-run and the competition was good.  If I had one comment for the competitors, it would be this: Do all your homework.  The judges go to a lot of extra time and effort to put on a series of posing and judging seminars throughout the year.  The seminars are not expensive and what you learn is invaluable.  They’re put on for your benefit: use them.

Enjoy the shots.  Next up: Gainesville, one of my favorite shows (and no travel).

Img_1726aShots from the 2015 Ancient City show are up on the site.

Unusually, the lighting was a bit off for the prejudging; that led to a lot of shadows on the shots, especially on the left side of the stage.  I was shooting from near the sound booth which mitigated the lighting difference across the stage somewhat, but it was still noticeable.

(I wonder if portable equipment would be powerful enough to remedy such situations?  If so someone should definitely look into having such equipment on hand.  One never knows when lighting could go bad, even during the show.)

I was able to compensate for a lot of the issues, though I’d still love for someone to develop a wireless foot-pedal to replicate the main dial for fast-changing light levels.  The battery pack already presumes you’ll shoot at a 90 degree angle and so adds a second main dial, which implies that it should be straightforward to add a wireless control to that.

Enough rambling.  Enjoy the shots.

2015 Suncoast women's competitor Shots from the 2015 Suncoast are up on the site.

Due to unavoidable schedule conflicts, I won’t be able to make the Tampa Bay or Central District shows. So when my schedule unexpectedly freed up for the day of this show, I jumped at the chance– Jefferson High has some of the best lighting of all the venues I’ve been to.

There was an obstruction in the middle of my usual seat of choice, so I had to sit a little closer than I have been of late. This was both good and bad; being closer I got great color and a nice hint of bokeh on some of the closeups. On the minus side, the sharper angle revealed greater variations in contrast due to a competitor’s postition on the stage, I had to shoot around people in front of me, and with the signage on the stage I could forget about trying to hide the parallax in the composition. :)

The level of competition was excellent, though I had to discard most of the bikini rear shots because there was just– how do I say this gracefully?– too much southern exposure. That aspect of bikini class has gotten out of control and frankly the NPC should have stepped in to correct it two seasons ago. Other than that, though, I was very impressed.

This was the show’s second year and I think it will be around for years to come. Enjoy the shots.

Minor bug in my schedule-page code made the fancybox plugin crash and burn (it was the piece that greys out contests that have already taken place). Info was still there, but the presentation wasn’t. For what it’s worth it would have started working again after the first contest was over, so it’s a good thing I noticed and fixed it now.

I’ve gotten through July though details on some of the later shows are still rather sparse. More as time allows…

NPC Daytona 2014 competitor

Shots from the 2014 Daytona Classic are up on the site.

Well, almost up.* Probably under a hundred shots to go at this point. I thought I’d better at least get what is up announced before the 2015 season arrives.

It was an unexpectedly BIG show, over 160 competitors if I recall, so there was a LOT of raw material to sort through. I was expecting about half that number.

I also shot this show from further back, full manual, and that’s really helping to solve some of the consistency issues I’ve had from shooting closer to the stage. However the lighting in this venue was extremely dim around the edges, and some of the larger classes flowed past the center-stage area, so a considerable number of photos were not salavageable as color, and another smaller batch just couldn’t be saved.

Consider: If the subject is a dark-tanned physique guy wearing fluorescent jams and tucked away in the armpit section of the stage, that shot is next to impossible to pull off. I’m already walking a tightrope on the exposure levels, and the fluorescent colors make the light meter think there’s WAY more visible light coming in than there really is, so setting the levels is basically just a SWAG at that point.

We are going to have to have a conversation about competitor attire in the near term, though, especially in the bikini and men’s physique classes.

(Generally when a large group is on stage and the edge lighting is less than perfect, the head judge will rotate the competitors like an airplane propellor and they are judged a second time. Of course if the stage is dark on both sides, then the competitors on the ends are just moving from one dark spot to another. A better solution for extreme lighting discrepancies might be to do the rotation similar to the propellors on a twin-engine plane, which would give everyone at least one viewing in the best light. )

We are going to have to have a conversation about competitor attire in the near term, though, especially in the bikini and men’s physique classes. I’m not keen on having to vet every photo for “wardrobe malfunctions” and in way too many cases that situation seems about one hiccup away. So far I have tried very hard to simply cover the shows, not editorialize by omitting certain classes, but it seems things are heading in the wrong direction and there’s a limit to what I’m willing to put on a site with my name at the top.

Even with the large number of competitors it was another great show by Mike and Tony. The competition was first-rate and the show ran smoothly. Enjoy the shots.

*They are all up now.

2014 Gainesville women's competitor Shots from the night show at the 2014 Gainesville are up on the site.

As usual promoter Tony Curtis put on a first-class event. I did have a slightly rough time with the morning show shots; even though I had a great seat and an occasionally unblocked view of the stage, I was sitting too close to the stage and I found myself “sweeping” the view across it, meaning I was constantly tweaking the exposure triangle instead of composing shots.

On the way out I realized that I could use the venue’s smaller scale to my advantage; checking from the back of the room that my longest lens had all the range I needed plus some, I asked promoter Tony if I could shoot the night show from the sound booth. He thought I was nuts, but he needed someone to handle a few lighting chores anyway so he agreed.

I deployed on a tripod and, well, the results speak for themselves– some of the best show shots I’ve ever taken. The deep range meant that the “sweep” angle was just a few degrees; parallax was negligible, the lighting consistency across the view was outstanding, and I was shooting over the heads I usually have to shoot through.

On the down side, I did lose quite a few shots to motion blur, mostly in the fingertips– I really didn’t want to push the ISO past 1600, but looking more closely I think I left some light on the table; I probably could have shortened the exposure time enough to compensate had I known that blur was going to be an issue. (I really need to spend the time to figure out how to shoot tethered to a laptop, or get a monitor– there are details the camera screen just can’t show.) And shooting from the tripod meant I spent 95% of the show on my feet, which got a bit painful near the end.

But overall, a resounding success. I used the same concept at the Daytona show the next weekend and from first glance the results are also very good. It will be a little before that show is up– since I was experimenting, I took almost 4000 shots (!) — and it will be even longer before I get a chance to move Susan’s page from “mini-shoot” to full page status and then get the Gainesville prejudging shots up (if they’re even worth salvaging).

Due to unavoidable schedule conflicts, though, Daytona was likely my last show for this year, so there shouldn’t be any other distractions. Enjoy these shots; I certainly enjoyed the results.

Shots from the 2014 Lakeland Classic are up on the site.

I have a bit of a hot/cold thing going with this little theater. On one hand, the architecture and grounds are spectacular and I keep hoping for the opportunity to do some shots with someone outside. On the other hand, inside the venue it’s cramped and the stage is under-lit.

I shot the show full-manual again, and while the results are not spectacular, they’re as good as I expected to get and again they’re far more consistent than auto-exposure is likely to deliver. I shot at 6400, my camera’s max (though I understand there might exist a hack that allaws a faster ISO), so a little noise can be seen if you look; but the right answer might be to try a faster, fixed-length lens and handle rescaling in post-processing.

As an aside, Lakeland traffic control on a Saturday morning actually made me appreciate Gainesville at rush hour. Whatever the purpose of the DOT is down there, it can’t be getting you from point A to point B safely and efficiently.