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heart of a champion





It takes a lot of sacrifice and tenacity to enter a bodybuilding contest and allow yourself to be vulnerable.  It’s not easy to take the stage after grueling preparation and put your physique at the mercy of seven judges.

Training and nutrition is a bitch.  Being evaluated, in front of your family and friends, strangers and onlookers, is no cupcake either.

As an Ontario Physique Association judge for many years now, I often gaze in wonder at the champions that stand before me, and there is no doubt about it, they are all champions.

Judging physiques is hard. 

Painful even. 

Every comparison, of one body part against another, lifts one soul higher, but ultimately condemns another.  It can’t be helped.  It’s the nature of the beast.  It’s the DNA of a bodybuilding contest.

Catherine has a heart of a champion. 

She is driven.  A professional and no nonsense woman.  A wife and a mother. 

She is dedicated, gentle, and somewhat crazy

She seems very obsessed about picking up heavy objects and putting them down.  She repeats this madness at nauseam.  One week turns into the next.  One year blends into another.

I have met many Catharines in my time as a regional judge.

I call them ‘road kill’, or more accurately, ‘stage kill’.  I have tried over the years to come up with a more suitable name, but the fruits of my labour continue to elude me.

Stage Kill’ will have to do for now.

On this particular night, Catherine came in dead last.

Before you throw your first stone in my direction, please note that after careful consideration, I stand by my decision that based on careful analysis, hers was the weakest physique on stage. 

Yes.  I killed her.  There is no doubt about it.

Being ‘stage kill’ is not easy.  Being the executioner not much easier either.

Sometimes I think that coming up with the name of the winner is easy.  It isn’t difficult when you’re awe struck by the beautiful symmetry of the human body; male or female.  Especially when they exude great confidence and know how to pose with conviction.

I most often struggle with the last few spots.  Their place in the bodybuilding lore, is no less important in my mind, because the difference of one athlete to another is so minimal.  This is where I face the most difficult decision.  Ultimately, the stage floor must be littered with bleeding, bleating corpses, of competitive physiques.

There can only be one winner.  A runner up.  A third.  Fourth.  And a fifth.

All five competitors advance to the Provincial Championships where the game will begin anew.  One athlete is crowned with the glory of a champion.  Everyone else… is ‘roadkill’.

Catherine looked beautiful.

She presented her physique brilliantly.  Her hair and make-up was beautiful.  Her suit was magnificent.  Her tan was perfect.  Her movements were graceful.

She smiled. 


She continued to smile, even when it was evident that she would be passed over, and the knives were out.

She wasn’t in the first call out, and just like that she knew that it was over.

She continued to smile.  She continued to shine. 

She has the true heart of a champion. 

She knows that in the final analysis, although losing is never easy, the most important challenge is the one you have with yourself. 

It’s when your mind and body decide to fight each other for supremacy.  When celebrations and birthday parties come at you in waves.  When your coworkers suddenly start bringing boxes and boxes of Timbits and home baked goods.  When you feel that you have made very little progress or none at all, or worse, you actually think you have regressed. 

You become tired of eating food out of a Tupperware container.  You wish to become to normal and not have to deny yourself everything.  Most of all, you’re tired of beginning every invitation and conversation with the phrase, “I’m in the middle of a contest prep”.

You’re tired of yelling for no reason.  Crying with the changing of the seasons. 

Not knowing how it happened that you found yourself at the drive through window, five minutes to midnight, ordering a double Big Mac combo.  Not for yourself, of course, but because a dollar from your purchase is going to help families living at the Ronald McDonald house.  Yes.  You always think about the children. 

The fight is real.  It takes a champion to do battle when the country is at peace.

Everyone who takes the physique stage has the heart of a champion, although sadly, some don’t believe it. They will look at the score card, and take their broken limbs, and festering wounds, home.  They will carry the needless shame of defeat with them.

There is no reason for that.

All competitors are superheroes.

Catherine is a champion.

This is why, when I saw her on stage, armed with a warm smile, I wanted to give her something.  A few days after the show, I extended her an invitation to do a photo session with me, at no cost.  She graciously accepted, and what follows are a few samples.

I present to you Catherine the Great. 

The Lioness.

A woman, with the heart of a Champion.








a little Summer at the dawn of spring


Meet Summer.


Last Friday, I was really looking forward to my first photo session with Lauren, who I connected with on a model networking sight.  I was super excited and nervous, as I usually am, because it feels like I'm starting all over again.  In a sense that is exactly what I am doing.  I am beginning to rediscover my talents that have been dormant for way too long.  I have also gaining a little more appreciation for the contribution I may just make to the beautiful fabric of human civilization. 

I’m definitely on a new path. 

A path, much less traveled, but a path fueled by my dreams and armed with a concrete plan, and laser focus.  I intend to fully execute this plan.  There is no more plan B.

The night before the session I found myself removing all the booster seats from the back off my trusted little Hyundai, and filled it up with what seemed like a mountain of gear.  All the equipment was carefully chosen of course.  I even made a list because I didn’t want to forget anything for my first pin-up session of the year. 

At one in the afternoon, I received a text from Lauren, and she informed me that she had been really sick all morning.  She was sorry, but there was no way she could make it.


What now?

Sweet waves of relief swept over me.  All my previous nervousness was suddenly gone.  I was happy.  Comfort returned because all that was left for me to do was to drive home and enjoy the coming of a beautiful weekend.

But I remembered reading about this exact moment, or one like it.  

Comfort is quicksand. 

It is a dangerous place where all artistic endeavors get trapped and eventually die.

It’s the resistance, as Steven Pressfield calls it.  That little voice.  The dragon that needs to be slayed, if any creative work is to be born.

The resistance wanted me to forget my dreams and return to my long life of complacency.  After all, how could I not?

What was I to do?  Take pictures of an empty room?

But there was a complication.

The lovely lady that I rented the studio from in Peterborough was on vacation.  She sent me the name and number of the gentleman who would take care of me that night, but as hard as I tried, I could not find his number.  I had no way of calling him or letting him know that I wanted to cancel.  I didn’t want my reputation to be tarnished by making such a terrible first impression.  There was no way I couldn’t showing up.

I decided that I had no choice.  I would have to drive to Peterborough and let Andrew know that unfortunately I would not be using the space that evening.

Suddenly, I had a thought.

Why not ask Lauren if she knew anyone that wanted to take her place?

I received a message almost immediately, informing me that she was going to do her best and would let me know as soon as she could.

I drove down to get a coffee, and if you are interested in piecing the whole story together, go back a few days and read the four dollars entry.  Money is definitely just a story, and this photo session was turning into one as well.

In a short while I received another text from Lauren telling me that her friend Summer would love to take her place.

I was super excited, but once the excitement faded and all the nervousness returned. 

No matter.  I am beginning to live with those feelings of uncertainty.  They are an indicator that I am doing the right thing.  It was time to dig some ditches.

I briefly spoke to Summer on the phone.  The conversation was short and a bit awkward for both of us, but what would you expect under the circumstances.  We were both anxious, but the important thing was that everything was back on track.

I headed to Peterborough for the our session and decided I needed to arrive a bit early since I had never used that studio space before.  I was lucky enough to find a parking space just across the street, after circling the block a few times, on a busy Friday afternoon.

The studio was on the second floor. 


There was no time to waste as I heaved and weaved all the light and camera equipment up and down the mountain of stairs.  I had no idea that those four-thirty am workouts were training me for this exact moment.

Summer arrived on time.  She is an amazing young lady.  Full of energy and excitement.  A great listener and more eager than me to create some amazing images.

She kept apologizing for not having much of a wardrobe, but I kept reassuring her that based on the circumstances, I was just happy and grateful that we had a chance to create something together in the first place.

Summer is stunning.

It was difficult to believe her at first that this was only her first photo session, and the first studio session at that.  She was so good.

No pressure or anything, but I absolutely love the work we created.

Isn’t it something?

The reason Summer was able to join me in the studio in the first place was because she had already agreed and planned a session with a different photographer.  The problem was, it was outside, and the rain made it somewhat difficult.  Her photographer cancelled the session. 

Thank God.

What are the odds of that happening? 

I bet you four dollars.

I can’t say enough about Summer.  I think the camera absolutely loves her.  We worked extremely well together and next thing we knew, our time was up.

I think I have said enough.  It is time for you to look at the work.

If you like our session, I hope you come back in a few weeks, because Summer and I are committed to work together again. 

This time, we have a plan!









The last two images happened at the end of our session.  It was the last ten minutes and we were just messing around.  I recently bought a tutorial from RGG EDU by the fantastic photographer Jake Hicks.  He uses colourful gels, like nobody's business, and I have a fever, and the only remedy is more gels.

It was a lot of fun incorporating colour into my work.  I plan on doing a lot more of it in the future.