Fitness photograph of African American boxer outdoors

I’ve often wondered about advertising or editorial images that show no connection — it’s often like the model is simply there to wear the clothes, or the subject is meant to be a cold statue. Sure a shoot may start off distant between the photographer and the subject, but when looking at images, I want to see a connection, a link, some expression or moment. I want to feel something about the person pictured, ideally something unexpected.

For me shoots progress and change as I spend time with my subject. Just yesterday we were shooting a model in the studio for a project where we had her jumping in the air, hair flying. Looking at the images on the camera, I told her we had it, it was great, but I wanted something more. There was a tension in the way she held her ankles and the outer three fingers on each hand. I turned up the music and asked her to relax, stop thinking about what she was being asked to do, and just jump — “feel it.”

Recently I did images of a boxer with whom I sat down first before the shoot. I asked him where he was from and what he’d done for the summer, where he lived and how long he’d been boxing — I wanted to find some connection, some points to discuss — a way in.  Yes, I wanted tough shadow boxing images, but I wanted to find more — something unexpected to make the image stand out.

After the studio work, we headed to a park setting for the chain link background.  I had to bring him outside into the late sun – the soft focus and flare on the chain link was a great contrast to him going through his exercises. As we neared the end we had progressed through stages that I often see in my shoots — stand-offish/cold, moving toward focusing on the task, until finally something genuine emerges, something unexpected.

There is something great about seeing this ripped tough boxer just crack up with sincere laughter.

outdoor advertising African American listing to music on headphones

outdoor portrait

fitness boxing prep

Studio photograph of a boxer

African American man boxing

African American man boxing

black and white fitness photograph

African American athlete resting after boxing

African American man boxing

Boxer laughing

Fitness photograph of African American boxer

new gear

My new Canon

Canon just released the new 5D mark IV and I’ve already played with it.  The new bodies are supposed to start shipping today, so I’m waiting for my pre-order to get here.  With the focusing engine of the Canon 1Dx mark II, it should keep up with that camera except not at 14 frames per second.  While the 1Dx 2 comes in at just over 20 megapixels, the 5D mark IV shoots at 30.  In all, this is the camera that I’ve been waiting for all summer.  I loved the 1Dx2 when I shot with it this spring — the focus was so accurate and fast in sports and lifestyle work, but I wanted the larger files.  Do I get rid of a 5D mark III?  I don’t think so.  Though the new mark IV shoots 4k video, I’ll keep both mark 3’s on hand for backup and BTS video shooting for now.

Canon 5D mark IV

Canon 5D mark IV


Thank Tank Photo – new cases

Also announced today are new airport camera cases from ThinkTank – my new goto supplier for camera bags.  I want to get my hands on one of these Airport Security V3.0 cases.  The Airport International version is slightly smaller to accommodate international security requirements, but the 3.0 is as big as you can get on a domestic flight.  Check them out with the links below.

[Airport Security V3.0]

[Airport International]



New Think Tank Airport cases. courtesy: Think Tank Photo


I started making this animated gif by assembling these shots as layers in Photoshop, and then I preferred the image with all the layers turned on.


Yoga headstand composite

Fitness photographer Robert Houser shoots an animated gif of a yoga headstand.

Animated gif of a yoga headstand

Behind the Scenes on a Title Nine shoot

We put together a couple videos this week from some BTS moments on some recent Title Nine sports bra shoots

Behind the Scenes with Title Nine at Oakland's CrossFit Uptown



Facing Chemo exhibit in Switzerland this summer

A selection of images from the Facing Chemo Before & After exhibit will be on display at a gallery in Switzerland this summer as part of a larger exhibit on the human condition.  WER BIN ICH?  WHO AM I?



Was kann ich wissen, was soll ich tun, was darf ich hoffen?

What can I know what should I do, what I should hope?

Trying to understand our Identity has preoccupied mankind since time immemorial. Each and every one of us grapples with the issue throughout our lifetime. Nevertheless, none of us can clearly or definitively answer the question: What makes us the person we are today? What impact does our environment have on our sense of self and what is predetermined by our genetic makeup? The Exhibition invites you to delve into the complexity of your Identity, to engage with your own unique personality, to question its assumptions and educate it further. Thoughts and insights of the curators are illustrated through artworks, new media and exhibits from every day life and assist the visitor to playfully explore who they are, what motivates them and what they still may want to become.

Vögele Kultur Zentrum
Wissenschaftliche Mitarbeiterin
Gwattstrasse 14
CH – 8808 Pfäffikon SZ

For more information [in German]

Camera test – Canon 1dx Mkii and Sony A7rii

Not the most obvious comparison, but I had the opportunity (thanks to Sony for the A7rii) to play with both on a couple shoots and tests last month.  FWIW, I thought I’d share my un-biased-ish thoughts.  I shot both alongside my Canon 5d3’s for comparison.

Canon 1dx mk2
Holy crap this thing can shoot fast.  It makes you jump the first time you release the trigger on continuous.  I’ve been shooting a mixture of portraiture and action and I’ve been wanting something that can pull focus better, faster, more consistently than my 5d3’s.  This can do it.  Shooting a runner on a track running straight at me full speed on the straightaway, I missed 1 frame out of 20.  I’ve also been looking for something that will miss focus less often when the background is blown out.  My 5d3’s back-focus in this situation most of the time (sharp ears at f4).  The 1dx mk2 was better, not perfect, but better.  File size – a few hundred pixels smaller than the 5d3 files, but not enough to be concerned about.  I tested ISO up to 1600 and noticed it looking a little better than the 5d3s.  This camera is supposed to have better shadow detail as you get up there because of it’s low light greatness.  Personally I never get up over 2500.
Will I buy it?  Yes.  I’m going to wait a few weeks until the next job I have calls for fast action, but the consistency of this is well worth it.  I’ll normally have a running model run a stretch of trail 20 times, but with this camera, I feel I have the shot after 5 or 6 passes.  You are definitely shooting more frames per second, and so I thought the edit would be a nightmare, but because I didn’t have to shoot as many passes, I had a similar number of frames to review as normal.  Price $6K.  I’m planning to unload my Canon 5dsr which was never a smart purchase on my end.  Nice large files, but I’m not convinced they are any better than a 5d3 file up-res’d.  Every time I use the 5dsr it feels like I’ve hit the max on the ability of the lenses to remain sharp.  Or, perhaps it’s the 50 megapixels showing the slightest bit of lens movement during the exposure.  This and the fact that it’s slower to focus and operate makes it really not worth it’s space in my case.  If I shot landscapes, or architecture, maybe, but even the ads I did with it could probably have been better shot of the 1dx2.  Now, a 35 mega pixel 1dx2 would be the perfect thing.
Canon 1dxmkii

Canon 1dxmkii

Sony A7r2
Granted using this camera as a sports camera was pushing it outside it’s comfort zone.  My first impression was that the lenses were sharp.  I thought it focused well, but it’s not going to work for action.  Great files and lots of resolution.  I could see this working well in a static portrait, architecture or landscape setting.  It has the same tendency as the 5d3s to back-focus when the background is hot.  But, when it nails it, you have a better file with great resolution than the Canons – event he 5dsr in my opinion.  However, you have to get past one Major problem – it does not shoot like a professional camera like you’re used to.  It feels like you are using a point and shoot.  When you want to change the ISO on the fly, you need to hit a button on the back and use the menu screens – same with f-stops.  Yes, there are wheels you can rotate, but the screen-based-non-real-viewfinder-situation of the whole camera would take me a lot of getting used to.  I think you would have to switch completely and adapt to the new system.  I’m sure you could do this, and learn to milk what has the guts of a great camera.  But, I cannot get past the ergonomics.
Things that bugged me:
  • It displays the image you just shot in the viewfinder – not just the screen in the back but up in your eye.  I’m done with that shot, I want to see my subject not what I just shot.  I’m sure you can turn this off, but again – back to non-intuitive menus to do so.
  • Changing ISO while shooting – I do this a lot, and people were standing around while I struggled to remember how.
  • Quick change of f-stop – again, it just feels like it’s not where it should be.
  • Batteries – don’t expect to go out for a day of shooting.  You’ll get about an hour of heavy use before needing to switch.
  • Little SD cards – yes, they are small and I can stick them in the side of my laptop, but they just don’t feel fast.
  • Burst speed – you need to sit and wait for the camera to catch up with you.
  • Follow focus – not it’s strong suit.
Things that are crazy amazing:
  • If you want it will make no noise whatsoever.  You could put this next to a sleeping baby’s ear and it wouldn’t wake up – even a cranky-holy-crap-would-you-just-stay-asleep kind of sleeping baby.
  • Lenses – sharp, they get it right and look great.
  • The 70-200 f4 is great at f4 – like using a Canon 70-200 f2.8 and shooting at f4 cause you know if you shoot wide open you’ll miss focus.
  • Files – Nice, though Lightroom would take some tweaking to get a good color starting point.
  • It’s compact, light and small.
Will I buy it?  No, not for what I shoot.  I could see renting it for a very specific purpose.  If I was shooting on a set and needed to be quiet – hands down, yes.  If I was shooting landscapes and needed great files but didn’t have a medium format budget, yes.  Carrying this in a pack where weight is a concern – maybe a good choice, but you need to remember the battery won’t last long.
Sony a7rii

Sony a7rii

annual trip to Louisiana

The theme for Rare Disease Day a few days ago (feb 29) was: Join us in making the voice of rare diseases heard.

In honor of that I wanted to post a few images from a project I started years ago.  The story is of my friend Nick, and inspiring man with Morquio Syndrome who I first met while taking pictures for a pharmaceutical company.  Every year I return to the small town in rural Louisiana to spend the day with his family.  This year I’ve pulled the first few years of images together on my site.

The full story will be a decade in the making.  <the gallery>


Portrait of a man with morquio syndrome Man with Morquio Syndrome takes a selfie with his daughterMan with Morquio bikes with his son



Dailey Method studio images

These just cropped onto the Dailey Method website and I was reminded how cool and clean this studio looked as a location to shoot fitness images.


fitness photography by advertising photographer Robert Houser

Dailey Method Studio owners

Advertising photography by San Francisco fitness photographer Robert Houser

Dailey Method founder, Jill Dailey

Recent fitness work

Recently we had the opportunity to do a fun project with fitness model Natasha Ward for women’s sportswear company, Title Nine.  We photographed on location in Marin County and at the boathouse in Greenbrae.  Rowing machines, boats, running, pull ups – she was working hard.  You may have seen some of these in the mail in the recent T9 catalogs or on banner ads.


Fitness model photography female running female running Title Nine - Spring 2016 Fitness photograph of a female model doing pull-ups. woman doing pull-ups at an outdoor fitness club female athlete using a rowing machine