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2016 NPC Gainesville Classic

Shots from the 2016 Gainesville Classic, both prejudging and finals, are up on the LP site.

As usual Tony Curtis put on a wonderful show, and if you didn’t know the special thing about the Gainesville Classic, it’s that all the proceeds are donated to cancer research. Thanks to the extraordinary skill of the crew in the lighting booth (that’s tongue-in-cheek, it was me), I was able to get excellent shots of both events.

I saw some old friends, met a couple of nice people, and I think everyone had a wonderful time. Gainesville is kind of remote to the rest of the state, but if you get a chance to come out next year, you should do it.

Unless one of the three (!) shows on August 27 needs coverage, the next show I’m shooting is the Lakeland Classic on September 3. That’s moved to the Lakeland Center, incidentally, which is a really nice and well-lit venue, though I’ll miss the funky deco charm of the Lakeland Community Theater.

Long before that, though, I’ll have some new shots of Sherry Bubeck up. I think you’ll like.

Enjoy the shots!

demoShots from the 2016 Monsta Classic, held waaaaay back on April 23, are finally up on the LP site.

I was coming down with some internal crud or other and the early shots reflect that; I apologize.

Moving slowly all morning, I got there far later than planned, and had little chance to pick a good spot or get everything set up before the show started.

Throw in the dark spot on the left side of the stage that required extra love and attention all morning, and I think I missed as many shots as I got in the first two classes.

(For what it’s worth, it was almost three weeks before I got over whatever that crud was.)

Arno was shooting the official shots, you can purchase them from his site.

I’ve been doing fewer shows each year; gas is still expensive, and the shows themselves are charging more.

Expenses aside, though, the main reason I’m shooting less is simply that I don’t have nearly the available time I used to have to dedicate to this.

That said, here’s the list of shows I’m planning to shoot the remainder this year:

 
  • Central District, Lakeland, June 11 (Pre)
  • Ancient City, St. Augustine, July 16 (Pre)
  • Gainesville Classic, July 30 (Pre, finals if needed)
  • There are three shows on August 27.   Though it’s a bit far, I can cover either Immokalee or Port St Lucie if needed.
  • Lakeland, Sept 3 (Pre)
  • Ocala Cup Classic, Oct 22 (Pre, finals if needed.  Hopefully we can avoid the pumpkin curtain this time.)
  • All South, St Augustine, Nov 5 (Pre)
Of course if anyone needs me for a show, just let me know.  The most important thing to me is that each show gets at least some coverage, and I’ll work with anyone to ensure that happens.

2015 Ocala Cup female bodybuilding competitor Shots from the 2015 Ocala Cup Classic are up on the site.

Ocala was the site of the last show I competed in, so I was very pleased that Sandy Rivera chose to bring bodybuilding back to this under-represented area of the state.

Despite being an inaugural show, things ran very smoothly, everyone seemed to enjoy the presentation, and as a bonus a nice gift was made to the Special Olympics.

The venue did present some challenges, however. When I first saw the backdrop I was intrigued to see how the background color would work (as a nice change from the customary neutron-star black).

By the end of the evening, though, I had sworn off all things orange, including cheddar cheese, pumpkin pie, sunsets, and Tang.

The venue lighting also needs some attention before next year. Lighting is probably the single most overlooked aspect of any show. For most dramatic productions, having bright oases on the stage is an acceptable, even desirable, condition; but for a competition prejudging it’s vital to have consistent, bright light across the width of the stage. You can see what I’m talking about in some of the prejudging shots.

I also had an issue with a slightly blurry portion of the visual field that I haven’t been able to track down yet. That area of Ocala is supposed to be haunted, so that’s one possibility, but it’s more likely that my UV filter had some fog on it, though I wasn’t able to locate it then and I can’t replicate it now. I’ve tossed that filter in any case, just to be sure.

Normally the shots don’t take nearly this long to bring up on the site, of course; the delay was partly due to not wanting to conflict with sales of the full-size shots (being handled by Sandy), partly because I normally only shoot the prejudging (between the morning and evening shows I took over 3,400 shots (!)), partly because the shots needed more post-processing than usual, and partly because it’s a very busy time right now– the new job’s a hassle and the kids have the flu, you get the idea.

jenniferStilson2015After the morning show I also did a quick shoot with Jennifer Stilson. She was a real trooper despite being almost ready to pass out from the hunger and stress of competition (I wasn’t in much better shape by then, but that’s beside the point). Her husband was a godsend, handling the reflectors when the off-camera flash started going balky, she looked great, and the location is a hidden gem (Adrienne Smith showed it to me when we shot there), so we were able to turn out a nice batch of attractive and interesting photos.

All in all, Ocala was a lot of work, but it’s what I enjoy. I hope you do as well.

2015 Gainesville womens physique competitorShots from the 2015 Gainesville Classic show are up on the site.

This one took a while as I was very unhappy with my settings on the white balance. Usually I just set the warmth to “tungsten” and forget it, but I have a sneaking suspicion that there were a number of LED cans or spots added to the stage, and the white lettering on the logo behind all the competitors was just, well, purple. My fault for not looking for it in the preview shots, and for assuming nothing had changed since last year; I should have looked around up there to check it out. Anyway, I had to adjust the histogram on pretty much every shot, so that’s why they’re running a little late.

I shot tethered using Entangle on Linux again and it worked a treat; just need a better way to stand the laptop on its side since the shots are sideways. Since this show, I’ve also installed a lighter-weight distro and swapped the drive for an SSD, so the next shoot should absolutely fly– I can go from power-off to login screen in twelve seconds, and the proprietary video driver makes it even faster.

As usual Tony put on a wonderful show, and this one had the added bonus that the proceeds go to cancer research at the University of Florida, so I was happy to help out in a small way. There are still lots of other great shows this year; next up for me will be the Ocala Cup Classic on October 24.

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).

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.