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Part 10 of 50: 2,500 Miles to Chicago

This is part ten in a series of blogs on my recent artistic adventures in Mexico.

People have been asking me:

“So, Billy. How do you know this blog is going to be 50 parts?”


“So, Billy. Are you really going to write 50 entries about your trip?”

Claudine at the Hotelito
Claudine at the Hotelito

Both fair questions. I originally figured the blog about ZoeFest was going to be one or two entries. After I drove to the Cabo San Lucas Airport for my flight back to Chicago, I had plenty of time to kill both at the airport and on the flight and I wrote what turned out to be the the first half dozen or so entries before I landed. It was then I realized I had way more than a blog entry or two.

About how I came up with the 50 number? I really just pulled it out of the air. In my very brief editing sessions while still in Todos Santos, I quickly found 50 photographs that seemed to have promise. And that was only after a very quick glance. I will most certainly find images I like better than those first 50 that caught my eye once I have a chance to sit down for an extended period of time and really get critical. I thought I could write one entry for each of the 50 first-round-of-editing photographs. That was how I came up with the number.

Of course, it also became impossible to talk about each shoot without showing several images to illustrate what I’m talking about. It’s only fair to you lovely readers.

Claudine at the Hotelito
Claudine at the Hotelito

As for the second question, I really have no idea if I’ll hit 50 different entries that all pertain to the wonderfully artistic ZoeFest Mexican Adventure. I would do neither I, nor you, kind readers, any favors by stretching this out with filler, just to reach a number.

And now since this is starting to feel a bit like the filler I want to avoid, let’s continue with the adventure, shall we?

I woke up on day three, had the usual early morning coffee chat with Mel and Scott and headed off to Hotelito for my first of three shoots that day. By the end of the third day, I would complete no less than seven shoots. Thankfully, for the remainder of the adventure, I would book a maximum of two shoots per day.

I was starting the day with Claudine, who was based out of Chicago like I was, although amazingly, we had never worked together before. Instead, we would fly 2,500 miles to get to our first shoot.

Claudine at the Hotelito
Claudine at the Hotelito

Claudine is a very happy person. A deep infectious laugh that I had been hearing for days whenever I was in her proximity. Maybe it’s a Chicago thing. We both laugh big.

I was anxious to shoot at Hotelito. A very different shooting environment than anywhere I had shot up until then. It was modern, colorful, geometric. Claudine was curvy and it seemed to be a good juxtaposition to photograph her there among the straight lines and geometry.

Since it was morning, the heat of the day was still a few hours off, so we headed outside to look for interesting places to begin. There were many interesting chairs and lounges around the grounds. One made up of white circular padded cylindars caught my eye, but I wasn’t quite sure the light was quite right where it was sitting on one of the porches. I’d have to think about that one for a bit.

The first thing I saw as we approached the pool area was a wall with rows of square cutouts in it. The sun was still low enough in the sky that the wall threw a perfect pattern of squares on the ground. Claudine stretched out and I walked around her, looking for the best angles of her within the shadows and how they passed over her. Sometimes you have to look at something from multiple vantage points to find the best one.

Claudine at the Hotelito
Claudine at the Hotelito

Then we headed off to the pool to play with reflections and shadows she could cast on the wall. By then the sun was getting close to being 45 degrees up from the horizon, probably about the maximum height I consider to be good light before the shadows start to become unflattering on faces. We worked, reviewed a bit and continued to work around the pool looking for the best angles from a reflection standpoint.

We moved to one of the short ends of the long pool and Claudine posed against a wooden wall at one end. The reflections were good. What I was curious about was how the tone of the wood and her skin tone seemed to be very similar. I usually prefer there to be more contrast between my  subject and the background. It was one of those times when I wasn’t exactly sure if my B&W conversion would work the way I was imagining in my head. Hopefully the knots in the wood would be enough of a difference. I wouldn’t know until I could process the images.

After the pool we decided to explore some of the geometry of the Hotelito. There was a beautiful staircase leading up to the one of the rooftops and we found ourselves being pulled toward it. I had her move up the stairs, experimenting with various positions, some sitting, some standing. There were so many intersecting squares and rectangles to compose with. Many textures and varying tones with slices of sunlight cutting through them. Quite amazing really and we laughed as we reviewed a couple of the images. Those bigs laughs again.

Claudine at the Hotelito
Claudine at the Hotelito

Finally we headed back to one of the porch areas and the tubular lounge. We had initially discussed moving it to another location, but when we returned the light had changed and the shade of the porch became a bit of a frame. I just hoped the lounge was not 120 degrees as it baked in the sun. Happily not.

Claudine once again gave me many great poses as we tried to find interesting ways to oppose the square shapes and straight lines with her form and the arc of the lounge. Perfect!

The sun was starting to get high in the sky as noon approached and we decided to stop for the morning. Claudine had great energy and was a valued collaborator, helping me to explore this new location.

It was a great way to end the first shoot of the day. Two Chicagoans playing thousands of miles from home.

Time to take a break and get ready for my second shoot with the lovely St. Merrique.

As always, more to come.

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