Carmen Marie Knights

15th Jul 2010


It's hot, damn hot!

I'm stood in a car park in 30 degree heat surrounded by a multitude of expensive camera equipment and pimped up cars, watching while a young lady strips down to her underwear for the 3rd time this afternoon and I'm sweating!

The day began like pretty much any other Sunday morning when I'm at home. A leisurely read of the Observer, coffee, croissants and juice. A slight chill in the early morning air of my garden made sitting outside bearable, i love the peace early mornings bring. A honk on a horn soon snaps me out of my near meditive state and signifies the arrival of Rob, my assistant for the day who leaps out of the shiny Black T5 and helps me pile cameras, lenses, laptops, powerpacks, lighting stands, tripods, mobile backgrounds and just about anything else we can think of into the van. Having a chauffeur could be deemed as a bit of a luxury, but for me it's more about relaxing and mentally preparing for the days events. It also gives me the flexibility of being able to conduct business and liase with the model on the way down to the venue.

I said it was a Sunday like any other Sunday, I guess that's not quite true. Today is Sunday the 11th of July, a very special date if you're either a motor racing or Football fan. Today we have both the British Grande Prix at Silverstone and the final of the world cup in South Africa. I would class myself as neither, or merely an occasional fan of both, that's why I'm not particularly bothered at the prospect of missing them in favour of work. Not just any old job mind, something a little different to my usual "outdoors" stuff - hence the model in her underwear, in a very public carpark!

Let me introduce you to Carmen

 Miss Carmen Marie Knights pro bodybuilder and the reason we've driven South for 3 hours this morning. We're going to shoot a "Torso only" shot for what will eventually become an advert (after tweaking, burning, dodging, applying a vignette and desaturating - thankfully, not by me)


Today's venue isn't an NCP but the Monster Gym in a little place called Waltham Cross just outside London. I'm guessing it's called "The Monster Gym" because it's huge. Free weights and machines downstairs, Cardio suite and a Dojo upstairs and despite air-conditioning and some huge fans the place is boiling!    
I've never met Carmen before, we've spoken on the phone a couple of times, exchanged emails and had the almost obligatory txt conversations while trying to arrange a day for this shoot. I'd seen her photos on her and a few other websites, but it's not difficult to recognise her when we eventually meet.

Today I need a torso in a swim suit, not just any old torso. I need a densely muscular/vascular torso and it's got to be Female - Carmen's in training for a show in less than a weeks time so her condition is perfect.

I've never really been much of a fan of using models to illustrate something their obviously not, a skinny twenty something, however pretty isn't going to give me or the client the look we're after. The photo needs to be edgy (hence chopping the head off) a kind of heroin chic meets Red Sonja and that's why given the option I'd always prefer to work with real athletes in real settings.

The original plan was to shoot against a plain Black cloth background which we'd brought along. I also quite liked the idea of finding something with a bit of texture to it, perhaps an old brick wall i'd spotted round the back of the building or a wooden door next to it - always try and be flexible there's often a better idea just round the corner and if you're operating "blinkers on' you're going to miss out!

We set the background up in the Dojo. I wanted to start using just a Ring flash and take it from there. I worked quickly trying a few angles but it wasn't happening so we switched to a Profoto 7b, shot through a 3x2 softbox set up directly in front of Carmen and about 3ft away. I opted to use just one layer of diffusion material on the front, this would give me a "hotspot" across her chest. We then angled the softbox across her so it slightly misses and create's a bit of shadow down one side. A small Rim light was used to put a little light back into this darkened area. We tried a few scenarios with this set up, jeans and a really nice white, short sleeved shirt as well as a purple Bikini before the heat got the better of me and I passed out - only joking, but it was bloody humid!

lighting-diagram 1

Right from the off Carmen was the consumate professional. Before the shoot we'd discussed the color of the Bikini and whether her nails should match or contrast. She'd even been shopping for the shirt. Working with someone who understands not only how they look, but how you want them to look makes life a whole lot easier and quicker when they're in front of the camera, it also means less direction from you and more "keepers" in the bag.

After several bottles of ice cold water to wash down the three Cappuccino's i'd consumed on the drive down, thats a running total of 5 for the day and its only 2 O'clock, we moved into the previously mentioned carpark where I'd seen a nice brick wall, only as brick walls go this one turns out to be circe 70's modern and too uniform, not quite "distressed" enough for what i was looking for. I wanted textures and colour to match Carmen - ah yes my door, perfect.

Right next to the Gym was an old factory with a large wooden door. Its dry paint peeling from hot summers and harsh winters, i couldn't have paid someone to create a door better than this one. The set up was pretty simple, the Profoto 7b through the 2x3 softbox which this time was slightly higher, angled down and about the same 3ft away. Just above and behind this we used a small Elinchrom Quadra with a spot grid to put a beam of light straight onto her upper chest and a couple of reflectors to bounce some light back onto the arms - a gold one on the left and a silver on the right.

lighting-diagram N0 2

 To keep the required sync speed i also needed to use 0.9 Lee ND filter outdoors.

As usual i can't show you the photos we're actually going to use, but i think you'll agree the "reject" shown above looks pretty cool. The colors and textures all work really well together and Carmen in the role of Red Sonja looks just fabulous.

A big thank you to everyone involved - Carmen Knights ( and The Monster Gym ( Pro Bodybuilder Eddie Abbew ( for Chaperoning Carmen - Hey, i could have been a serial killer and Rob Elliot for putting up with all my little idiosyncrasies, cheers mate.

O yeh, those other events that were happening, Lewis Hamilton got a 2nd in the GP and the footie was pretty rubbish for about 90mins with Spain scoring the only goal during extra time - didn't miss much really!