As always, charged all my batteries in more ways than one. Fed and ready to go. I never expected this night to turn out the way it did.....ever. This seems to be the story of my life. Never a plan, and never a dull moment.
No problem getting backstage. Met by Joel Parker, who walked me, Patrick Sweeney and Brian Moss to the pump up room, dressing room, and backstage floors. All the rooms were tight and stacked. You could easily get lost and wind up onstage yourself if you made the wrong turn. Something I feared greatly. Walked into the dressing room, about 120 degrees there, bright lights, all the female bodybuilders preparing for their final onstage performances. There they were, the "oil women", the helpers who spray Pam on your muscles and make sure you are tanned evenly. I felt like I was in an oil pit. People were quite uncomfortable without much room to move and danger of burning on exposed light bulbs. The women were exhausted already, dehydrated, tired and hungry. I was worried I was annoying them taking their photos, and at first I was a little hesitant. I stood there for a few minutes with my little but powerful digital. I did not want to seem too obtrusive, so I like to bring the tiniest camera possible. I went up to the women who looked the most relaxed and who were my friends.
The shooting began. I try to take candid photos rather than posed. I really want people viewing my photos to feel like they were there. For such a cramped little space I did get a ton of very interesting photos, which are up on the site now. We were quickly herded by IFBB officials to get our asses down to the pump up room. No time to waste. We all scurried like a bunch of scared little rabbits. One flight down, Marja Lehtonen decided to do pull ups on a random bar. I stopped, had to take photos of that. 2,3,4 photos then ushered quickly down the stairs. The show began.
Tension in the air, bodybuilders getting their last pump with the dumbbells randomly scattered on the floor, ready to be tripped over at any time. From backstage, you really cannot see what is going on as can the seated audience. It is an entirely different feel. Sometimes I do not know where I would rather be. I always choose backstage. Female bodybuilders were doing pushups and getting ready for their possible last chance on stage. I could feel the excitement. Women were called one by one. "No numbers please", which meant pull your number off your suit. Soon after, something I have never seen before, the male bodybuilders were brought into the same backstage pump up room as the women. It had to be one of the most amazing things I have ever seen. Top competitors, male and female, together. I was actually able to shoot male and female bodybuilders in the same photos. I was not the only one who was amazed. Toward the middle of the show, competitors seemed to be losing energy and began lying down wherever there was space. We all know that women do not fart, so I have to assume that the stink that I cannot describe was coming from the male bodybuilders. I told one of my friends that the place smelled like someone had thrown a stink bomb. He quickly screamed out, in a half joking way, "Can you please quit stinking up this place with your farts." One of the bodybuilders screamed back, "Sorry, I just can;t help it." After a while I got so used to the smell, I could not smell it anymore.
Heather Foster's routine was just out of this world. She can dance, she can move, and she knows how to pose better than any female bodybuilder I have ever seen in my life. The place went wild, front and backstage, people screaming her name. Begging for more. How does she come up with these routines. Melvin Anthony's routine was also one of the best I had ever seen, especially when we bent his entire body backwards and ended the routine in a complete split. And they say bodybuilders are not flexible! There were many great routines. These were 2 that I was lucky enough to view when I moved the curtain taking a break from shooting.
Of course we know how it all ended. A negative uproar when Yaxeni beat Velma Caez. People screaming "Robbed, robbed", that's how the bodybuilding crowd usually is, it is not a golf tournament crowd. You see, people really voice their opinion. Sometimes it is sad to hear people booing, even though they have a different opinion than the judges. Melvin Anthony took first place, which was a close call with Darrem Charles. I fought my way against the crowd to the front stage to meet with my photographer and friends, to see how the night would develop. Everyone seemed hungry. The night was just getting started!