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Part 11 of 50: St. Merrique, Made in the Shade

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

Ever been to a party where you don’t know anyone? Many people find that to be an uncomfortable situation.

St. Merrique at the Hotelito
St. Merrique at the Hotelito

Me? I don’t really mind it. I guess it depends on the people at the party, but I can usually get a conversation going with someone without too much effort. And if I’m at a gathering of artists, well that’s a piece of cake!

That’s good, except with all the evening socializing, great conversation and mingling going on at ZoeFest, it was a challenge to make it across the room to speak with someone you were hoping to have a conversation with because there were always a handful of great conversations to be had in the space between. Kinda like trying to get from the hotel entrance to the elevators in Las Vegas. A maze of shiny, blinking things to distract you on the way.

St. Merrique at the Hotelito
St. Merrique at the Hotelito

During the first few days, St. Merrique and I had managed to only have a few sentence fragments of communication in passing. Enough that I knew, yes, we both wanted to work together in Todos Santos and also that she would be departing from ZoeFest a few days earlier than the rest of us.

Yet we always seemed to be on opposite sides of the room at whatever social function we were attending. She finally resorted to sending me an email to try to schedule some shoot time. It worked.

Merrique is from my favorite city in the world, Paris, although she currently calls Los Angeles her home base. She has a quiet graceful quality about her, but you can also tell there is a powerful strength behind those eyes of hers. Beauty not to be trifled with.

This was the second of three shoots on my third day of ZoeFest. Again it was at the Hotelito where I had just photographed Claudine. Since my shoot with St. Merrique was scheduled right as the mid-day heat was about to make its entrance, we decided that perhaps shade should be the theme of the day. I found an interesting vibrant pink wall that would keep her out of the direct sun. Definitely a background she would stand out from, even in the shade.

I took one test exposure frame of her casually standing at rest against the wall and satisfied with my camera settings, I told her I was ready as I raised the viewfinder back to my eye.

And bang!

Before even clicking the shutter, just looking through the viewfinder, whoever it was that was in my first test frame was suddenly replaced by… well… St. Merrique!

St. Merrique at the Hotelito
St. Merrique at the Hotelito

One of the great thing about working with models who exude a great deal of professionalism is that there is so little direction needed. Merrique knew her environment, the light she was standing in and where I was in relation to it all. All I had to do was find the composition that worked with what she was giving me. Just her against a textured wall. A doorway to the left of the frame and a shaft of sunlight from behind the little building, sweeping past her feet.

Maybe I would have her move a bit closer or away from the wall or maybe a half a step to the left or right, but to be honest, there was very little I could say to improve upon what she was doing. Really perfect.

It was also one of those times when I was having a color or B&W argument in the back of my head while we were shooting. I’ll talk about this more a bit later, but I usually know whether an image is going to be color or B&W as I’m composing it, because I do compose differently depending on that choice. The decision is usually not made in post processing, but at the time of the shoot.

The wall was so vivid behind Merrique. I finally let myself off the hook by agreeing that I could later choose how light or dark the wall would be behind her in my B&W conversions and balance the composition accordingly whether I decided to go with B&W or color. Regardless, I had to stop the mental argument because St. Merrique was really doing some amazing things with her shape!

St. Merrique at the Hotelito
St. Merrique at the Hotelito

We decided to head over to the pool. Even though I had shot in that location just a few hours earlier, the light was completely different now and one half of the pool was now completely in the shade. Perfect.

I had Merrique move to the middle of one of the long sides of the pool and this time I moved close to the wall instead of shooting across the pool. It created a lot of negative space which I love to work with. All I had to do was to not fall in the water as I balanced precariously close to the edge!

She continued with lovely poses and this time I ignored the color or B&W argument that had started up in my head again. It was a lovely blue wall, but I was thinking B&W as I shot.

St. Merrique was a joy to work with. Lovely, graceful, intelligent. A wonderful collaborator in the hot sun. Except that we were smart enough to remember to work in the shade.

We wrapped the shoot, very happy with what we had created.

Oh, and I should mention that not only is she a stunning model, Merrique is also a musician and audio engineer! Crazy talented! You can hear some of her music here.

My next shoot with the spectacular Rebecca Lawrence would begin in an hour!

More to come!

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