Today I’m flying to the Arnold Sports Festival in America, which is one of the biggest events of the year for a fitness photographer.

Everyone who is anyone is at the Arnold, from Arnold Schwarzenegger himself to many of the world’s leading bodybuilders and fitness models. Former UFC champ Ronda Rousey and ex-UFC heavyweight champ Bas Rutten are due to be inducted into the International Sports Hall of Fame during the festival.

The Arnold began as a standalone bodybuilding contest in 1989, won by Rich Gaspari and Jackie Paisley. Last year Cedric McMillan won the pro bodybuilding contest, beating the late Dallas McCarver. Ryan Terry took first place for the UK in men’s physique – to see a guy I’d shot many times win on such a big stage was a great feeling.

Elsewhere, Kuwait’s Ahmad Ashkanani made a major breakthrough by winning the 212s, beating established names like David Henry and Jose Raymond. In the women’s classes, the unstoppable Oksana Grishina won the Fitness International, Candice Lewis Carter prevailed in figure, Daniley Castilho took women’s physique and Angelica Teixeira was first in bikini.

These days the Arnold is about so much more than bodybuilding. It is now a multi-sport festival that involves 20,000 athletes in 78 sports, ranging from strongman and weightlifting to axe throwing and pickleball (I don’t know either!). Brian Shaw won the strongman. But as a physique photographer, my main focus is shooting competitors in peak condition on stage or on location.

I’m due to do some gym shoots while I’m out there although setting up shoots for the US Arnold is not easy. Firstly, it’s always cold in Columbus, Ohio, in February and March. And I mean cold. Once my connecting flight was cancelled due to snow so I ended up driving with fellow photographer Gary Phillips for 9 hours from New York just to get there. So there is no prospect of outdoor shoots like there is in Las Vegas at the Olympia, and no backdrop like the desert.

Secondly, Columbus is not particularly big and the main downtown gym, Powerhouse, is absolutely rammed throughout the festival, which makes shoots virtually impossible.

So it takes a bit of planning but all adds to the fun. One of the great things about the Arnold is that most attractions, beside the bodybuilding shows, take place at the convention centre so it’s easy to get around and you always bump into familiar faces. I hope to see some of you out there.

2017 Results


1 Cedric McMillan

2 Dallas McCarver

3 Maxx Charles

4 Lionel Beyeke

5 Juan Morel

6 Fouad Abiad


1 Ahmad Ashkanani

2 David Henry

3 Jose Raymond

4 Guy Cisternino

5 Zane Watson

6 Hidetada Yamagishi

Men’s Physique

1 Ryan Terry

2 Andre Ferguson

3 Brandon Hendrickson

4 George Brown

5 Jeremy Potvin

6 Raymont Edmonds

Women’s Physique

1 Daniley Castilho

2 Sheronica Henton

3 Heather Grace

4 Brooke Walker

5 Autumn Swansen

6 Rosela Joseph

Fitness International

1 Oksana Grishina

2 Regiane Da Silva

3 Whitney Jones

4 Bethany Wagner

5 Fiona Harris

6 Ariel Khadr

Figure International

1 Candice Lewis Carter

2 Cydney Gillon

3 Latorya Watts

4 Camala Rodriguez

5 Gennifer Strobo

6 Heather Dees


1 Angelica Teixeira

2 Courtney King

3 Jennifer Ronzitti

4 Janet Layug

5 India Paulino

6 Justine Munro

Pro Wheelchair

1 Harold Kelley

2 Gabrielle Andriulli

3 Danielle Minster