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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.

2014 Florida State bodybuilding competitor Shots from the 2014 Florida State Championships are up on the site.

I’m quite pleased with the shots overall, as well as how I pushed myself out of my comfort zone– this is the first show I’ve ever shot with fully manual exposure, start to finish. And if the exposures aren’t quite perfect, they’re a lot more consistent than automatic settings can achieve, which helps the post-processing considerably (and it’s still been a fortnight since the show and I’m just finishing).

The venue is a strange setup, where you’re either too low or too far away, but the lighting wasn’t too bad. The show moved at a rather frenetic pace at times, which meant I had to do shots of some entire classes instead of individuals (which I prefer), but with a show this size you have to keep things moving.

Now I’m starting on the Lakeland show shots; I have the next couple of weekends free before the Gainesville, and for that the travel time is negligible (well, usually– the Gators host Alabama that weekend and game time hasn’t been set yet).

2014 Ancient City bodybuilding competitor

Doh!



I’ve actually neglected to make the announcements for most of the year so far. Careless!


Shots from the are up on the site. All the shows ran well.

2014 Gateway Classic women's competitor Shots from the 2014 Gateway Classic are up on the site, which judging by the page counters some of the more impatient people must already know. :)

I like this show. I like the promoter, the venue, the short trip to Gainesville’s nearby northern neighbor. I like the historic downtown of Lake City and the relaxing scenic drive.

I had one issue with the camera: I don’t think it was really designed to shoot vertically, and somehow I thumbed the autofocus selector to the “bottom” position. Not knowing that, it appeared that the camera just started to randomly focus all the way in and all the way out and never trigger the shutter– I thought it had lost its computer brain or had low batteries or something. Anyway I missed some shots and had to manually focus some others (didn’t do too badly there).

I’m also still fighting the fluorescent-jams issue from the men’s physique competitors– the camera thinks there is WAY more visible light coming in than there really is, and compensates unless I override it– which I do, but usually not strongly enough; the shots come unusuably dark for the most part.

However I had an inspiration on the drive home– what if I were to double-up on UV filters? Theoretically it should have only marginal impact on the other spectra but might filter out the UV screaming out of the day-glo jams. I’ll report back on that.

Missed the Galaxy in St Augustine last week due to having some crud that’s been going around– figured I’d keep the germs to myself (you’re welcome) but sorry to have missed the show.

Next up would normally be the Seminole Classic but I have a schedule conflict and will have to miss that one as well. So unless I get a wild urge to shoot one of the South district shows on May 17, more likely I’ll be headed for the Natural Suncoast Classic in Tampa on May 24. After that the NPC schedule gets hectic!

Enjoy the shots.

I’ve finished entering all the available information from the official NPC schedule and the promoters’ show sites into my online schedule. Even with my handy “class typewriter” it was a big job. :)

I also added a couple of features, including adding the venue names to the addresses, making the address info a little smaller, new host hotel information and the ability to click on a promoter’s name to email them. (If an email bounces, please let me know and I’ll validate it.)

In addition I added a couple of “behind the scenes” features for my own use, such as driving notes and whether I plan on going or not and why (usually distance or schedule conflict).

For what it’s worth, I also try to keep a consistent hierarchy in the order of the show classes. Don’t read any implications into the orders.

Class order:
Bodybuilding
Physique
Fitness
Figure
Bikini

Subclass order:
Open
Novice
Teen
Masters
Special categories (First Time Novice, e.g.)

Other patterns:
Men’s classes before equivalent women’s classes (again, don’t read any implications into the orders.)

I think that helps organize a LOT of free-form information into something a little more readable.