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Bodybuilding, Florida, life, and beyond


Category: G’ville

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.

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).

2013 Gainesville Classic women's competitor Shots from the 2013 Gainesville Classic are up on the site.

I really love the lighting in this auditorium, despite it being a bit cramped. The secret of course is that the backdrop is not stark ebony, giving me a little room to work with.

The fluorescent colors in the physique guys’ shorts are still causing me grief, as they as reflecting a bunch of light that the camera can see but I can’t, causing massive underexposure; I may have found a workaround for that, in the meantime I converted the “problem children” to black-and-white so there would at least be something to show.

The show was another well-run Tony Curtis production, and as always it was a delight to not have to drive much to get to the show. :)


I’m still not 100% happy with the layout in the popup, but I can tweak that later if I get inspired. Meantime I think I’ve got the Florida contest schedule looking about how I’d like it to look:
  • The general style fits the rest of the site.
  • The number of clicks required to navigate has gone way down.
  • It’s easier to look at.
  • The ability to sort by column is at least as easy to use as running separate database queries.
  • The upcoming contests (now next three) are easier to find in the sidebar.
  • The contests that are already done are greyed out.
  • The page automatically scrolls so that the first upcoming contest is near the top.
  • The popups are attractive, fit in with the site style, and the maps work.

I’ve also made a minor update to the overall site style, which is working in current IE and Firefox, broken in Opera and untested in Chrome. One of these days I need to give the site a good checkup in Chrome…

Anyway. I learned a lot doing this little project, and the usual hat-tips to the creators and maintainers of code libraries everywhere– I could never have things running this quickly if I’d had to code and test it all piece by piece. Enjoy and let me know if you have comments or suggestions.

Sorry for the delay; I spent some time refactoring the maintenance interface to the database.

I cleaned up some of the SQL, scrapped some hard code for jQuery (hey, it’s an OLD interface now!), added some indeces– usual stuff. But it was worth it, I probably saved almost as much time in the entry process as it took to make the changes.

Just as a reminder, these entries are based on notes and are not to be considered ANYTHING like final yet. The only official source of Florida NPC contest information comes from their Web site.

As the NPC and show promoter’s sites get updated I’ll update the schedule, but remember that stuff haapens: venues have date conflicts, sanctions can be denied, and so forth and so on. Always confirm your participation plans with the show promoter.

So anyway, here is the unofficial 2013 NPC schedule. Enjoy.