Rocco Ceselin: American Ninja Warrior

Jun 14, 2017
Photographer Spotlight

In addition to his thriving freelance photography business, Los Angeles-based Rocco Ceselin is a staff photographer for Emmy Magazine, a publication that showcases news in the television industry. Typically, Rocco shoots showrunners, producers, writers and directors involved with TV productions.

Recently, Richard Bleiweiss, the photo editor at Emmy Magazine gave Rocco a different sort of assignment — one that involved photographing American Ninja Warrior contestants on-set.

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Before the shoot began, Rocco received the TV show filming schedule and location. Taped at the Universal Studios backlot, he was extremely impressed by the sheer scale of the production. 

The organization and production of the show was absolutely incredible. The lights, the stunts, the crowd. So much passion and energy!

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Beforehand, Rocco sat down with his long-time assistant, Matt Dunstan to discuss how they would tackle the shoot. This involved strategizing ways to be as mobile as possible without interfering with the production or action.

The rhythm of the show is fast paced and intense, so Rocco surmised he needed to be quick and even a little sneaky to get the images he needed. 

We ended up shooting with speedlights and using some reflectors for the portraits, while the stage lights worked nicely as a backdrop. This method worked best for constantly running from one end of the stage to the other to get our shots. 

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There were strict rules on-set and the show's production assistants only permitted Rocco and Matt to approach the Ninja Warrior contestants during specific moments. Despite this, Rocco tried to engage with the athletes beforehand. 

I tried to get to know them a little before photographing and find out their story. We had only few minutes with each Ninja Warrior to capture the perfect shot, but they were very helpful!

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Rocco also credited the success of the shoot to Ninja Warrior's own production team. 

All of the assistants and team members helped me to capture the best shots from many unique locations. I was even able to discover the insides of few buildings in the Univeral Sudios backlot, which was interesting because so much Hollywood history had been created there.

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Rocco enjoyed the fact that this shoot allowed him to admire the incredible athleticism of the contestants, or "ninjas" and the spectacular stage/obstacle course the production crew had built.

The Ninja Warriors are absolutely super human. They're incredibly talented and professional. In person, they're the nicest human beings you could hope to meet, each with a great personal story. I'm grateful I was able to spend time with them. 

The amount of athleticism Rocco witnessed onset was not even limited to the contestants themselves. 

I saw one of the ninja's moms training, doing push ups and pull-ups...she was super fit. She was in her mid-sixties, but didn't look a day over forty. Very impressive!

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Rocco Ceselin, Los Angeles, American Ninja Warrior, Ninja Warrior, Reportage Photography, Portraiture, Emmy Magazine, The Emmys, photographer, photography, wonderful machine, athletes

Emmy magazine was very pleased with Rocco's pictures, to say the least.

I only expected few photos published in the magazine, they eneded up running a 12 pages spread. I was very excited!

See more of Rocco at roccoceselin.com.

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