OhMyBikram recently caught up with yogi and photographer Ron Sombilon who has been taking photos of yogis in Vancouver for the last few years. Here he shares his favorite photos and fills us in on his inspiration and techniques. Check out Ron’s great web page here and become his fan on Facebook here.
OMB: When did you start taking yoga photos?
RS: I started yoga photography three years ago after watching the BC Yoga Championships.
OMB: What is different about capturing yogis than other photography subjects you have worked with in the past?
RS: The biggest difference is you have to have to actually practice yoga to effectively photograph them.
I have the utmost respect for these athletes. When you understand the mechanics and effort in going into postures, that’s when you start to have a keen eye for yoga photography.
Myself and my team of photographers practice yoga on a regular basis. It is important to be very conscious of the determination, effort, feelings and passion that each yogi goes through while entering into these postures. Having knowledge of both beginner and advance postures will empower your photography. You will see the small nuiances that make a fantastic posture.
OMB: How do you get the perfect shot, what tips can you share?
RS: Capturing the perfect shot again is based on your knowledge and experience with yoga.
Here are some tips:
- Practice Yoga. you can’t capture great shots of yogis if you don’t practice. Your attention to detail is key. Yoga postures are beautiful and take years to perfect. The better you understand a posture, the better your photos will be because you know what to look for.
- Be prepared. When photographing yogis especially during competitions, show respect for your subject by having your position, shutter speed, lighting, tripod, etc.. all setup before you start photographing away. Hearing the shutter of the camera going off because your still fiddling with your settings is disrespectful not only to the yogis but the judges and audience.
- Find a new angle. Photograph the typical shots, full body, 3/4, etc… but challenge yourself and try to find interesting closeup shots of contorted limbs, ripped muscles and faces showing strong emotions. I find this keeps your yoga photography exciting because you start seeing it as fantastic blend of photography and artistic expression.
- Strong silhouettes equal powerful and elegant photos. Every yoga posture has a strong silhouette. Compose your shots in such away that even if you shrink your photo to a thumbnail size. You will still be able to see the strong silhouette.
- Create strong contrasts between Yogis and the background. When photographing your yogi subject; Do your best to setup a backdrop, wall or stage that clearly pops them out from the back ground. Simple black or bright white backdrops I find work really well.
- Ask Yogis to critique your photos. Show your photos to yoga teachers. A good teacher friend of mine Roxy of Bikrams Metrotown has been instrumental in our development. Roxy like many instructors has years of experience and a passion for healing people. Having her critique our photos is exactly like having her correct our own postures in actual yoga class. The small adjustments in any posture make a huge difference.
OMB: Why yoga photography, what inspires or compels you?
RS: What inspires me is the fact that Bikram has changed the lives of many of my friends and loved ones for the better. It’s inspirational meeting people on a daily basis that have there own personal success story. Many of whom have overcome depression, back problems, knee injuries, cancer, etc… through this wonderful practice.
Bikram Yoga has personally healed me mentally and physically. To share my passion for health and self development through yoga photography gives my life purpose.
Knowing that millions around the world are looking at my photos is very rewarding. But what is really important to me is the fact that people who normally would never in their lives consider yoga are now practicing it because of seeing my photography and Bikram art. It takes only one fantastic photo to spark an interest in discovering what Bikram yoga is all about.
On a weekly basis I receive emails and facebook messages from beginner yogis thanking my team and I for introducing yoga into their lives. I am not an advanced yogi by any means. Just a humble student who is grateful and privileged to be part of a fantastic community.
As an artist/photographer, I am naturally compelled to utilize my talents to tell the stories of people who are positive and uplifting such as Bikram and Rajashree Choudhury. They have changed the lives of millions world wide for the better. It is a photographers dream to capture the beauty, grace, flexibility and power of the Bikram community.
OMB: Has taking these photos changed your practice? If so, how?
Yoga photography has made a huge change in my practice.
Taking great yoga photos isn’t just photographing. It’s a practice in observation and feeling. Having photographed the top yogis in the world, I have been privileged to see hundreds of beginner and advance postures performed to perfection. To see these athletes gracefully move from pose to pose is very humbling.
For myself, standing head to knee is the most challenging pose. So when I photograph yogis perfecting this pose with a completley locked knee always motivates me to do better. And the fact that many of these yogis are twice my age and in unbelievable shape is inspiring.
Yoga has no age limit and these athletes deserve my very best photography. Simply put, yoga photography gives me motivation to strive to be as good as the yogis I photograph.
OMB: Can you tell us a little about your history practicing?
RS: I was first introduced to Bikram’s Yoga 5 years ago and I haven’t stop since.
I badly tore my knee practicing a front flip in gymnastics class and the doctors said I would need surgery. The recovery time I was told would take a year of rigourous rehabilitation before I could play sports again. An active lifestyle is part of who I am and knowing I could be out for that long was depressing.
After knee surgery my body was completey out of alignnment. The muscles in my leg atrophied causing my hips to be completely unbalanced. Instead of following my doctors orders to go to rehab, I decided to find an alternative way to strengthen my body.
My good friend Katrina suggested that I take a Bikram class with her. The first class was one of the most physically and mentally challenging things I ever experienced. I realized how unbalanced all the muscles were in my body, even before my accident. My hips were out of alignment, my lower back ached and I had tight hamstrings and shoulders. I knew I needed help.
After the class I felt fantastic. I continued to go 2 to 3 times a week. Every class I could feel and see my body getting stronger. In one month I was back playing sports and stronger than ever. I credit Bikram for a healthier body and happier life. This is why I am so passionate about Yoga!!!!