Tales From The Gym…

Arm Curls

Image of my friend Keith just after a body building competition.
Nikon D700; Nikon 24-70mm lens @ 58mm; 1/250 sec @ f/2.8; SB-800 through a 24″ Lastolite Softbox (overhead) mounted on a C Stand.

Okay…I’m going to admit it…I don’t care for shooting in gyms. I don’t know of many that actually care to…but I’m sure there are some photographers out there that enjoy a good challenge…or are a glutton for punishment. Recently a buddy of mine competed in a body building competition in San Diego and placed well in his class; naturally he wanted some images of himself ‘in-form’ so he asked me to take some images of him. I was totally on board even though I don’t really specialize in portraiture. How hard can this be…I mean a few quick images and a couple minutes on the computer tweaking a few things here and there and that would be that. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

The day prior to the shoot I went to the gym, excited to see what challenges I had to work through and how I could master this beast. Now, I frequent a gym on occasion (requirement for my day job) but for some reason I never really paid it that much attention as a potential place to do a photoshoot (yep, I just admidited that….rookie mistake). Well…now I have a whole new respect for those photographers that can do a photoshoot in a gym, and can do it well.

Here’s a quick list of the challenges that I noticed upon entering the gym: lighting (florecents (and not all the same temp and mixed with daylight), yellow and red walls, fairly limited space in and around the shiny workout equipment, many patrons and mirrors. Did I mention shiny equipment and mirrors? My God the place had a ton of equipment and mirrors!! Trying to hide myself and any of my photography equipment (especially the flashes) was going to be pretty tricky.


Keith performing a side knee-up.
Nikon D700; Nikon 24-70mm @ 36mm; 1/125 sec @ f/3.5; single SB-800 shot through a Lastolite ‘Hotrod’ Striplight.

So armed with the pertiant information I needed to plan the shoot I set about getting my mind wrapped around some of the more apparent obstacles. Needless to say I didn’t get much sleep the night before the shoot as my mind was racing trying to make sure I had all of the issues at bay (at least in my mind). The morning came…and within the first five minutes my plan for the shoot went out the window. Instead of setting up and shooting one area/pose at a time, my client wanted to knock out a formal portrait in a room on the opposite side of the gym. (…uh…formal portrait??) Okay…but can’t we just do it in here where I painstakingly setup for the first shot we discussed earlier? I knew better…the room I thought we would start in was going to be my biggest challenge of the day to pull off well. And so started my workout for the day…lugging all of my equipment all over the gym and quickly trying to get setup for the next shot. Did I mention I was a one-man-show that day?

Once I got the formal portrait done I was expecting to finally start into the nitty-gritty of why we were there…some poses/action images of my buddy doing what he does. Nope, not yet. Now we had to do some images for his sponsors…and a series of shots ensued of him in different shirts, products, locations, etc. Each of these sets required a recalibration of the camera due to the shift in lighting, not to mention a whole new lighting setup. At most I was anticipating 4-6 different poses/looks for the entire day…we surpassed that within the first two hours easy!

Product Shot

One of the many product shots we did during the shoot.
Nikon D700; Nikon 24-70mm @ 35mm; 1/60 sec @ f/4.0; SB-800 shot through a Lastolite ‘Hotrod’ Striplight

By the time we actually started the workout shots I was damn near dead on my feet…sweating my butt off trying to set up the equipment, calibrating the camera and lights and envisioning the best angles to take the shot without interfereing with the patrons (or worse, showing up in the mirrors)! I was beat, thirsty, hungry and not able to clearly focus on everything I needed to (and where a second person would’ve been a tremendous asset to have). In hindsight I should’ve put the brakes on and took 15 minutes between sets to clear my head…however I kept on pushing myself into the red zone.

After almost seven hours of non-stop shooting we walked away with about 6-8 images that I feel are going to help him, his personal training business and his sponsors. I learned a lot of lessons that day…mostly to expect the unexpected and that no matter how much you prepare for the shoot, things will change (or not go according to plan).

Until next time…


Enjoy Your Stay!

Photo Credit: Monte Cristo Bed and Breakfast

A few years ago my wife turned me on to something I had never considered when traveling…bed and breakfasts. I had heard of them but honestly I never gave them a second thought (or a chance) as an option. Now having had my eyes opened as to the wonders of B&B’s, I’m a huge fan.

Last year we spent 10 days touring England and Scotland and opted to spend our nights in B&Bs along the route. Andrée planned out the itinerary and set everything up for us (and she did an amazing job considering all of her limited research was off of the internet and not knowing what neighborhoods these places resided, etc…). With one or two exceptions, we had a fantastic time and got to know many different travelers and B&B owners along the way.

Recently we attended the Google Plus Photographers Conference (I know, you’ve seen a blog post or two regarding this event already…sorry). Anyway, when I heard of the event and got the blessing to go, I picked up the tickets without checking out the local hotels beforehand. Almost immediately I had buyers remorse…hotels in the downtown area of San Francisco were way out of our league financially, especially since were down to a single income while Andrée starts up her painting business. The thought immediately turned to selling the tickets…something I had to do earlier in the year due to a conflict with work and an event in Los Angeles and I wasn’t looking forward to missing out (again) on a great opportunity.

Bless my wife…she’s the best; before I knew it she had reached out to a few friends and came up with the perfect answer to our plight, a B&B. And not just any B&B mind you, this one has an incredibly rich history as it originally built as a bordello and a saloon in 1875 (oh if the walls could only talk!). In 1906 it notably served as a homeless shelter as the great fire swept the city and then in the day’s of Prohibition it served as a speakeasy! Whew! Today, it proudly serves again, but this time as one of the top ten urban B&Bs in the country. I’ll go out on a limb and bet that the local Motel 6 or Holiday Inn doesn’t have such a rich and exciting history.

The experience was pleasant and the room was cozy and nice; it had a great patina to it and fit the bill very well for the both of us. The breakfasts were ‘normal’ for B&B’s and included a great mix of cereals, fruits, juices, breads and some hot items cooked up by a very sweet and charming lady.

The moral of the story is: If you are ever looking for an alternative to the standard hotel experience, give B&B’s a try, you might be pleasantly surprised at what you’ve been missing.

Until next time…