Jane Kanyinda’s sunrise photo session at Virginia Beach.

The bikini fitness competitor proves that women can be fit and feminine.

Jane Kanyinda reached out to me for some images recently. She’s a Norfolk-based bikini fitness contestant and wanted images that shows where she is now in her fitness journey. Naturally I said yes and we made plans to meet up for a sunrise session in Virginia Beach.

When I started covering the field of fitness photography last October I was pretty much alone in the Hampton Roads community. I was the only one doing it locally and regionally. Now, a year later, you can throw a rock in just about any direction and hit someone advertising fitness photography. That’s fine by me. Competition is healthy.

My desire for working in this field stems from my own journey. You see, I’m no stranger to fitness. When I was in college I was an assistant manager of the college gyms. Not only was I a certified trainer but I was working out six days a week. I know what is involved – the sacrifices, the struggles, the lows, and the highs.

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Jane Kanyinda silhouetted against a Virginia Beach sunrise

Then I was in an accident and injured my back. Long story short, a series of events meant that I eventually made my way to 385 pounds and facing major, major medical issues. Sleep apnea, knees that wouldn’t stop hurting but, worst of all, at one point, doctors were talking of cutting me open and fusing my spine.

Believe it or not, one of the deciding factors for me that it was time to take charge wasn’t any of that. It was when I had my portrait shot for work. Seeing that picture was a real eye opener. Go figure.

I was in a bad place and had to make changes. So I did. I started walking daily, started monitoring food intake, joined a gym, and just generally doing more. I started losing weight. Last time I looked I was at 305 pounds. I still have a ways to go to reach my goal but I’m happy with the way things are looking.

So what all this means is that I know what it’s like and understand what they are going through. I want to be an encouragement and a reward. I want to be there to document their journey – to show them where they are and where they are heading. I celebrate with them when they reach a goal. I get excited with them when they see that their growth is evident to everyone and not just to them.

The images we create are evidence that cannot be refuted or denied. My unique photographic perspective and artistic eye shows them off in the best possible way. My use of available light and strobes shows off the sweat, the restraint, the sheer will. I show the power but also the grace. I bring out the strength but also the human aspect.

That’s what makes my images different from everyone else’s.

Jane embodies this. There is no doubt that she is fit but she is also, most certainly, a lady. She just got done with a competition and wanted to show the hard work off but she also wanted to embrace her femininity. That’s why you won’t see images of her in her posing suit. That wasn’t the point of the session. The point, as shown here, was that she can be hard bodied but still a woman. Enjoy.

Mark Knopp is a Virginia Beach-based portrait photographer covering the Hampton Roads community. Contact him today at mknopp1@cox.net for your fitness, senior portraits, couples, model portfolio, model experience, engagement, corporate, headshot, et cetera, needs or to drop him a line or suggestion for a blog topic.

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