Simone Biles for Spieth America

Three-time world champion and Olympic hopeful Simone Biles photographed by portrait photographer Nathan Lindstrom in Houston, TX.

Three-time world champion and Olympic hopeful Simone Biles photographed by portrait photographer Nathan Lindstrom in Houston, TX.

In January of this year I was given the opportunity to photograph Simone Biles for one of the largest manufacturers of gymnastics equipment in the world. Simone has won the last three world championships in the all-around completion and just won the US Women’s Gymnastics trials to lead the women’s team to the Rio Olympics. This shoot with Simone fit perfectly with my work as a portrait and lifestyle photographer. The client needed mostly portraits of Simone but also wanted a couple of action shots as well. The client had just signed her to endorse their product and asked her dad to recommended a local photographer. I had recently photographed Simone and her family for an editorial shoot and based on that experience, he was happy to pass my name on for the job.

Spieth America 2016 catalog cover of three-time world champion and Olympic hopeful Simone Biles during a photo shoot with portrait photographer Nathan Lindstrom in Houston, TX.

Spieth America 2016 catalog cover of three-time world champion and Olympic hopeful Simone Biles during a photo shoot with portrait photographer Nathan Lindstrom in Houston, TX.

During our first phone conversation, the client knew we would need three shots of Simone for their product catalog. There was a possibility that three more shots would be needed depending on an additional product line endorsement agreement that was in the works with her. I covered the laundry list of questions needed for production. We determined there wasn’t room in the budget for a producer or a digi tech. I had worked as a tech for a number of years and was very comfortable shooting tethered on my own, as long as the client understood that it would inhibit our ability to go over the shots during the shoot. Catering wasn’t needed we only had the morning to shoot and would have to wrap before lunch anyway. Simone and the client would handle wardrobe and props. Given the size of the production I had no problem producing this one on my own. We worked out two estimates to cover both shot lists and licensing contingencies then proceeded with creative planning.

A few days before the shoot, the product line deal came through which meant that our shot list had now doubled. Awesome. The client then announced that we had the same hour and a half with the talent. So instead of 30 minutes per shot we now had an average of 15 minutes per shot. I asked if more time would be an option but with her training schedule and numerous other commitments, Simone had no more time. No problem, that’s the way our industry works and I’m used to solving problems to make everything work, no matter what is thrown our way. The client understood that we were under tight time constraints and we worked well together to plan how best to use the time we had with Simone.

Spieth America 2016 Simone Biles Signature Products catalog cover of three-time world champion and Olympic hopeful Simone Biles during a photo shoot with portrait photographer Nathan Lindstrom in Houston, TX.

Spieth America 2016 Simone Biles Signature Products catalog cover of three-time world champion and Olympic hopeful Simone Biles during a photo shoot with portrait photographer Nathan Lindstrom in Houston, TX.

During our preproduction conversations I worked with the client to finalize our shot list. We worked together to create a mood board for the creative direction then we worked to prioritize the shot list. Given the tight time constraints on this production, having clear priorities on the shots was extremely important. The client and I were on the same page going into the shoot on which shots we could cut if needed.

The evening before the shoot the client, my first assistant for this job, Michael Klein, and I did a walk through of Simone’s gym. This gave us time to work out any kinks and miscommunications in our plans. We were also able to rearrange a lot of the gym equipment so that we could easily move our gear in for the very early call time the next morning. Having that prepro day was essential for the smooth operation of the shoot.

Even with all the prep from the night before the day of the shoot was on of those fast paced, barely-any-time-to-think kind of days I thrive on. Klien and Brandon Chessher, my two assistants, were amazing. They worked hard to get multiple sets up and ready while Devon Harvey of VCI Artists did a stellar job with Simone’s hair and makeup. We all worked fast to move through the shot list. When it came to the action shot of Simone performing a back handspring on the balance beam, I nailed the timing on the third frame, the client saw it on the computer, signed off on it and we moved on to the next shot. Being able to move quickly through shots like that gave us extra time to concentrate on other shots.

Screen shot from www.spiethamerica.com of three-time world champion and Olympic hopeful Simone Biles performing a back handspring during a shoot with lifestyle photographer Nathan Lindstrom in Houston, TX.

Screen shot from www.spiethamerica.com of three-time world champion and Olympic hopeful Simone Biles performing a back handspring during a shoot with lifestyle photographer Nathan Lindstrom in Houston, TX.

Simone was a total pro through all of it. I know she had a crazy schedule leading up to the US Olympic team’s February media cutoff for all of the athletes competing to go to Rio this summer. Given all of her endorsement deals and training schedule I’m not sure how she managed everything. Even so, she was one of the sweetest individuals with whom I have had the pleasure of photographing. With her ever ready winning smile and ability to hit any mark on command, we cruised through all six shots on the list with enough time to spare that we pulled off an extra shot for the client at the end of the shoot. When we wrapped we covered seven shots in an hour and a half and had Simone out right on time.

Seventh shot of three-time world champion and Olympic hopeful Simone Biles photographed by portrait photographer Nathan Lindstrom in Houston, TX.

Seventh shot of three-time world champion and Olympic hopeful Simone Biles photographed by portrait photographer Nathan Lindstrom in Houston, TX.

After every shoot I ask my crew and, if possible the client, these three questions: What went well? What went poorly? And what could we do better next time?

From this production I would say that our planning went very well which was essential to the success of the shoot. I felt like there was clear communication with the client and my team. My biggest complaint about the shoot was that we had a messy set. Given the amount of work and time constraints I can’t fault my assistants for that one. To do it better next time I’d push harder for a PA or third assistant. By the end of the shoot I knew I was dragging. I’m not sure I had taken time to eat or even drink anything for 4-5 hours. Like I said, we moved fast. Having an extra set of hands to help tidy up the set and make sure everyone stayed hydrated and fed from the craft services table would have been ideal.

Simone, Brandon and Michael work with our client to style Simone's three World Championship gold medals.

Simone, Brandon and Michael work with our client to style Simone’s three World Championship gold medals.

All in all, I am pleased with how the project turned out. My crew was outstanding and Simone was a joy to work with again. The client was extremely happy with the shoot and the images we produced. That seventh shot we worked in at the end has gotten a lot of use in their marketing materials so I’m thankful everything went smoothly to get it for them. We’re all looking forward to working together again soon.

Check out my Instagram feed for more behind the scenes shots. Good luck to Simone and all of our Olympic hopefuls in Rio!

Three-time world champion and Olympic hopeful Simone Biles photographed by portrait photographer Nathan Lindstrom in Houston, TX.

Three-time world champion and Olympic hopeful Simone Biles photographed by portrait photographer Nathan Lindstrom in Houston, TX.

Champion Boxers

 

I recently had the opportunity to photograph Regis Prograis, a local welterweight on his way to the US Olympic trials this year held in Mobile, AL. A few years ago I had the pleasure to photograph Juan “Baby Bull” Diaz for the same editorial client at the same gym here in Houston. Just as the last time, everyone was incredibly nice at the Savannah Boxing Club. As a throwback to my first shoot there, I made the same lighting setup for Prograis. Prograis and his people were easy to get along with and we all had a great time.

MD Anderson Flashes of Hope

I recently had the honor of photographing patients in MD Anderson’s pediatric care for Flashes of Hope. We photographed 27 patients and families in one five hour session, a record for the MD Anderson chapter of Flashes of Hope (FOH).

In case you haven’t heard about it FOH is a “nonprofit organization that changes the way children with cancer and other life threatening illnesses see themselves through the gift of photography and raises money for pediatric cancer research.” The way I see it, I got to bring a bright spot and some entertainment (hopefully!) into the marathon of cancer treatment for these kids and their families. We saw a number of patients who hadn’t slept the night before because they had to go through tests or whatever else can happen in a hospital. I tried to create an environment for tired parents and children to enter into and cut loose for a few minutes and I think the images reflect it.

I even received this kind email from the local FOH chapter director, “We received your photos and were blown away by their beauty. You have been given an amazing gift; you captured the essence of those children’s souls in a truly profound way. I am certain that the MD Anderson families will be as appreciative as I am. Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

This was the second year I’ve had the opportunity to participate with FOH and again it was an amazing experience. I hope you enjoy the images. Check out the FOH website and think about supporting this amazing organization.

Houston Area High School Softball

Life has been crazy busy these last few months. Between a major personal project and trips to Cuba, Iowa and Arkansas, I have been running myself thin. Even for these tough times business has been good and life in general is good. Pictures and stories from projects and trips are soon to come.
As it has been far too long since my last post on here I thought I’d show a few images from the regional high school softball games I shot last month for my main local editorial client, The Houston Chronicle. The days were very hot. At least one of these teams of girls had to skip prom to play. High school kids fighting for trips to the state tournaments always make for great moments. I hope you enjoy seeing a bit of what I had the pleasure to witness.

Recent Editorial Work

I had a lot of work from the Houston Chronicle in the first few weeks I was back in town. Here are a couple of my favorite assignments. The first was covering a mentoring program at a local high school in a low income neighborhood. One of the students the writer and I were introduced to aspires to be a car designer. He had 50 or 60 different designs on his iPhone. The program seemed like it was working really well. I’m always impressed with teachers who go the extra mile to pour their lives into their students.

The second image is of a woman who lost her home to Hurricane Ike. Galveston is still recovering from last year’s hurricane and restoring low income housing is under debate. This lady has two daughters in college and a third who is a straight ‘A’ student still in grade school. Oh, and mom is working on her associates degree at Galveston College. She had such an amazing attitude and outlook on life. We chatted and told stories throughout the whole shoot. I decided the shot of her in front of the college with her backpack full of books looked far too much like a college brochure so we ended up a mile away at the empty lot where her apartment complex had been. The evening sun was ducking in and out of the clouds. I made images of her in front of the tree from where she hung Christmas lights outside her old unit. When the sun came back out with its amazing warm light I had her stand in the middle of the street and got down on my stomach to make her look like the hero she is.

High School Art

I made the road trip up to Iowa for a family visit and as part of an extended trip where I will be working on a few personal projects for the next month. Here are a few images from the last week. The first is from the drive up from Houston. I found this old pump at a gas station in Texas where I made a pit stop.

The next few are portraits I shot of my high school art teacher, Darvin. He taught my first photography class. I am fairly sure that everyone who has gone through his classes has made some sort of portrait of the poor man. He hates having his picture taken but is always amenable to his students. He was kind enough to humor me when I went back to pack up my show ‘Quiet Beauty’ that hung at the Iowa Mennonite School art gallery this past spring. Darvin was one of the best teachers I’ve ever had. He taught me what may be the most valuable and possibly hardest lesson I’ve ever learned – how to take criticism well. Thank you Darvin.