I’m a bit… sorry, a LOT slow. I wish I’d had Lightroom back in 2011. Soz… Samantha Grace at Casa Dracula.
After a very successful exhibition and book launch for my Naked In Baja limited edition printed book last month, I’ve been working hard to create an eBook version which represents the same high standard as the printed book. Of course you can never replace the tactile beauty of a high quality printed book but the images in this eBook do look quite stunning on an iPad.
Containing all the images of Samantha Grace, Carlotta Champagne, Ella Rose, Anne Duffy, Stephanie Anne, Anoush Anou, St Merrique, Sara Liz, Brooke Lynne and Meghan Claire that appear in the printed book, the eBook (iBook) version also contains an extra bonus of two small, behind-the-scenes videos from my shoot at Playa Las Cachora with Carlotta and Sara.
The book contains an introduction by Zoe Wiseman along with 8 chapters of artistic nude photography totalling over 110 pages. The eBook is now available through Blurb for immediate purchase and download.
I can’t believe it’s been just over a year since we were all basking in the Mexican sun, eating tacos, drinking margaritas an oh, taking lots of beautiful art nude photographs of course! It took my reminiscing about Mexico and missing everyone at Fest XI in Palm Springs while I was stuck at work back here in Brisbane to prompt me to finally do something serious with all of my art nude images.
So the Naked In… projects were born and I decided the first in the series should be Naked In… Baja Mexico. Each project will consist of a fine-art limited edition book, an eBook, a limited set of postcards and a series of signed prints. To help raise funds for the design and production of the limited edition book from this first project, I have started a community funding campaign which, much to my amazement, managed to raise the initial funds needed to cover the basic costs in only 3 days. There is also a website / blog to support this and the future Naked In… projects so make sure you check it out and keep visiting to see the latest updates – www.naked-in.com
Of course it would be great to see the support for this project continue so if you are interested in supporting it, click on the photo and head to the Pozible campaign and have a look at what’s on offer.
ZoeFest 10 in Baja this past October was my first ZoeFest. ZoeFest is something I always have been meaning to attend. In the past I always contacted Zoe a little to late and missed the sign up boat. But in 2011, I finally jumped on the boat at the right time. After all, 90% of fine art nude modeling is timing.
It’s been hard for me to actually put in words what the experience of ZoeFest is like. It’s a pretty amazing experience. The most talented models and photographers in one place, making amazing friendship and creating even more amazing art. It’s purely the best modeling experience I may have had. I also, think the setting in Baja couldn’t have been better. ZoeFest and the laid back vibe of Baja just go hand and hand.
The best photo’s I have model in, in my career come from ZoeFest. I mean, these are memories I will cherish for life. I also, cannot believe the friendships I have made. Zoe really has a talent for bringing people together. People that mesh well. Maybe it’s because she is cat like in nature and reads people pretty well?
I’ve been able to recover some of my Baja images. Most of them are candid moments of fun. The photographers I have worked with have shown off the amazing art we created. But my job as the subject is to report the emotional and the experience. The photographer captures the emotion as a wizard in technology. A model, is the vessel of emotion. So, as a vessel, here are some of my fun moments when I wasn’t being a fancy pants art model. 🙂
I took a lot of shots of the sights. I tend to do that. Also, the picture of the trucks on the dirt road. That was the highway under-construction to get to Todos Santos. It was let’s say, not as safe as we are use to in the USA. Baja, is neat because it is kind of a like an island and I find it even to be different then the other parts of Mexico. This was the first highway in Mexican that was under-construction, I have driven on. Or road, because I was a passenger.
We did a lot of fun things, such as group dinners. Zoe brought in a fancy chef to cook us some of the best Mexican food I have had. That’s saying a lot since, I live in Los Angeles. The Mexican food is endless here. We celebrated Halloween and dressed up. I referred Halloween as, confusing the Australians since, they do not have Halloween there. I did the sea turtle rescue twice. Just because I loved the sea turtles so much and found them so cute.
On my last day in Baja Mark and I took a tour of the local cemeteries. Probably a highlight for me. Just because I enjoyed seeing the locals prepare the graves and make repairs for the dead. The fact we visited so close to the day of the dead made it interesting. I love the respect and love the Mexicans show for their ancestry. It’s nice that as a culture they take time to take care of family plots and think about those who have passed. I took many photo’s of the graves and some photo’s of the families cleaning up and repairing them.
This was a great experience for sure. I cannot wait for the next Zoefest!
This is part twenty-one in a series of blogs on my photographic adventures in Todos Santos, Mexico.
It was almost exactly a year ago as I write this that my ZoeFest X adventure began. You’ll recall I received several emails from the incredibly talented photographer, Zoe Wiseman, about her annual artists retreat that would be taking place in Todos Santos, Mexico in the Fall.. After agreeing to her invitation, I clicked over to one of Zoe’s websites, ARTnudes network and began to investigate the portfolios of some of the international models who were also invited. I had some research to do and names to learn.
One of the first portfolios that jumped out at me was the work of Australian model Anne Duffy. It’s not exactly that I have a type of model I prefer to work with, but one look at my own portfolio reveals that I do have a penchant for photographing brunettes. Something about the contrast of hair and skin that rings my bells. And Anne is the brunette-iest of brunettes. With lovely porcelain skin. She immediately went to the top of my wish list months before I would arrive at ZoeFest.
When we all arrived in Baja six months later, I’ve mentioned that we all got a chance to meet and re-meet for those ZoeFest veterans, but the Aussies were delayed a bit coming from the other side of the planet. So late in fact that I was walking out of the party, just as they were all walking in. But a flood of mental snapshots flooded to the front of my brain as soon as I picked Anne out from within her group. Every bit as lovely as I imagined. Even for being jet-lagged.
A few days later, we caught up under less noisy circumstances and firmed up our plans to shoot together. Anne and Anoush, who I had photographed a few days earlier, were staying at Casa Bentley, another of the boutique hotels in Todos Santos that our group had taken over for the duration of ZoeFest. It was a lovely paradise, just down the road from where I was staying at Todos Santos Inn.
Driving to meet Anne at her hotel, I realized I had lingered a bit longer than I probably should have with Brooke after our tremendous shoot earlier in the day and arrived a few minutes late for my shoot with Anne. Luckily, she was also running a bit behind and I had a few minutes to catch my breath and collect my thoughts before we would begin. We were all of us, slowly melting into Baja-time. Always a few minutes late, but arriving in a delirious state of peace and relaxation.
Anne invited me into her beautiful little room snuggled under a huge shady tree. When I walked through the door, I had to laugh. After shooting with nude models all week, I was surprised to see what looked like a collision between two wardrobe trucks spread out from wall to wall. Anne caught my amusement and reminded me that she and many of the other models had arrived at ZoeFest, mid-world-tour, and they basically had to bring everything they owned to be ready for anything that might transpire at their gigs before and after ZoeFest.
Ah yes. I stood corrected.
And since I was standing ankle deep in some lovely couture, it seemed like a good idea to deviate from the literal meaning of an art nude shoot and consider accessorizing for a something different. So Anne and I started hunting through everything, looking for things that I thought might be interesting to work with. It was difficult only in that Anne has excellent taste and my sorted “good pile” was quickly becoming more of a mountain than we could possibly shoot in one afternoon.
Eventually we narrowed it down to a more reasonable collection. Now, what to start with?
I had planned to take Anne back to Casa Dracula to photograph her there, but since I had barely scratched the surface of Casa Bentley as a location during my shoots, I wanted to find something there before we moved up the road to Casa Dracula.
I started to focus in on a vintage black lingerie set that we had put aside. Then I noticed a period lounge sofa near one of her windows. Anne was reading my thoughts as she pulled a string of pearls out of one of her cases. And there it was. Our first set up.
I took a few meter readings and adjusted the blinds a bit to even out the light. I switched to a shorter lens that had been giving me some trouble a few days earlier on the trip, but was the right focal length for the size of the room. I decided to fight through it’s ill-tempered nature and try to make the best of it.
Anne reclined on the lounge and suddenly I was in 1940. She was stunning. I framed up a composition of her looking up and back over her shoulder… and… click…
A quick review of the first frame was perfect except for the fact that it was completely out of focus. I was shooting wide open with a small depth of field, but literally nothing was in focus in the entire frame. Another frame was the same. Hmmmm. It was going to be a battle I could tell. Perhaps it was the sand or the heat from a week of shooting Mexico, but this lens was not cooperating.
However, sometimes you can take a bad situation and turn it into a good one. I flipped off the autofocus, which clearly wasn’t communicating with the focus point I was selecting in the viewfinder and switched to manual.
You may be saying, “But Billy, why don’t you shoot in manual focus all the time? Isn’t that a more professional thing to do?”
Well, yes, I guess. But there are a lot of things to delegate in my head when I’m shooting. I’m looking for lines and angles and how they flow together in the composition. I’m watching my model’s face, getting into a rhythm with her as she poses and adjusts and gives me another. I’m absorbing the feeling she is emoting, making sure the photograph I’m making is capturing that essence.
I’m watching to see if the light is changing if I’m relying on the sun for illumination. Has it just gone behind a cloud? Do I need to slow my shutter speed to compensate? In fact, with the exception of focus, my camera is already set for completely manual operation. The ƒstop, shutter speed, ISO, color temperature and other camera settings are all set by me manually before I click the shutter.
Even the exact focus point in my viewfinder is something I’m choosing. When everything is working properly, I usually let the camera and lens do the math and make sure that exact point is in focus for me, so I can concentrate on everything else. Except when it doesn’t.
Years ago, when I was learning how to be a photographer, none of my cameras or lenses had autofocus. Some of those old film friends that I still occasionally use to this day are completely manual cameras. Shooting with them requires a slightly different rhythm. An extra beat to rotate the lens focus ring back and forth between each shot to confirm focus. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, it’s just a different pace.
So, since I was already standing in the 1940s world that Anne and I had created, I took a breath and slowed down. Anne adjusted to my extra beat and slowed her movement down as well. We were settling in at last. And the images were in focus.
About a dozen shots into the set, I was sure I had the photograph I was imagining and I shot another dozen or so, just to see if I had missed anything, but they really weren’t necessary. Anne was perfect and we had nailed it.
We packed up the rest of the couture pile and headed off up the hill to Casa Dracula. I had spent so much time there in the last week that I had already picked out a few places where I wanted to work with Anne. We headed upstairs to the survey the large and small bedrooms. The afternoon light was coming in the windows in a very inspiring way. Bright, but not direct, so the shadows would be subtle.
One of the pieces Anne had brought along was a vintage jacket with beautiful decorative fringe. It had a decidedly Mexican feel. Staying with the accessorizing theme, we decided to have her wear that instead of being completely nude. I could tell she really liked the jacket and I did as well. It just added a little something.
I had her sit on one of the beds in the large room, close to one of the open windows. I really love the flavor of light coming from a window like that. Directional, without being too harsh.
While setting up, I had misjudged my light reading and made a test exposure two ƒstops darker than I had originally wanted. Anne was almost invisible in the frame as I reviewed it, just a suggestion of light here and there to fill in her outline. A happy accident and I decided to keep the underexposed look for this setup, knowing I could most likely open it up a bit later in post if I changed my mind.
After the less than stellar performance of my uncooperative 50mm lens back at Casa Bently, I switched to my go-to lens for making beautiful portraits, a 100mm lens. I had much more space to work with now and could use something longer. Zoom with your feet, is one of my mottoes, and it was quite easy to find just the right composition by simply changing my distance from Anne in the large room.
After only about ten photographs, I once again felt we had the shot, but decided to continue a bit longer, making a dozen or so more photographs to give Anne a little time to explore before abruptly moving on. Always good to leave a little room for creative discovery when collaborating.
For the next set up, we continued with the jacket as Anne moved into one of the balcony doorways that overlooked the rear grounds. Still using my longer 100mm lens, I stepped into one of the adjacent bedrooms and photographed Anne through another doorway to give my compositions a little extra natural framing, which I like to do from time to time. I find it can give an image depth and it creates an interesting perspective for the viewer.
Anne continued to be wonderful. She gave me a series of natural poses that enhanced her smoldering beauty. I was having a difficult time deciding whether I preferred her looking directly at the camera or averting her gaze to something outside of the frame. Both options were gorgeous. Looking directly is always a more intimate relationship with the viewer, sometimes more than what I’m looking for, but her stare is so arresting that it just pulls you into the image in a very powerful way. I decided to shoot both and decide later.
We moved to another of the bedrooms where I had mentally reserved a smallish round chair near one of Casa Dracula’s front arched balcony doorways near a very plain wall. Beautiful soft light was entering the room once again and I told Anne I wanted her to try coming up with something acrobatic on this particular chair.
She looked at the chair, thought for a moment and figured it out in short order. As she inverted herself, carefully balancing on the none to stable chair, she beautifully arranged her limbs in a complementary direction that only a model of Anne’s caliber can do without looking, and upside down to boot. Making it all feel effortless.
After a few minutes of the blood rushing to her head, I had her return to vertical again and she found more lovely subtle poses as I made another dozen or so photographs. Another success.
We moved into yet another of the second floor bedrooms near where I had photographed Keira in the red mosquito netting. One of the beds in that room was against a slightly distressed wall painted in a very dark green. I thought Anne’s beautiful pale skin would be a strong contrast for the dark wall and she continued to find exquisite positions to stand and lean as I balanced my compositions with her inspiring movement.
I was feeling very satisfied with what we had done and asked Anne if she was ready to call it a day. It was a hot afternoon as usual and I try to avoid melting the models whenever possible.
“Really?”, she asked, surprised that I was considering stopping. “I have this other piece you might find interesting.”
She pulled out what I can only describe as a inventively knitted spiderweb and held it up in front of her. No, we were suddenly definitely not done shooting for the day.
“Ooh. Let’s head back outside for this one,” I suggested.
We returned to a location I had now photographed several times already on the grounds of Casa Dracula, but as is the case in Todos Santos at these magnificent locations, the light at different times of day reveal entirely different looks depending on where the sun is in the sky. Now nearing late afternoon, the wall was completely in the shade and where Anne was beginning to get set up, a sublime soft overhead light was doing wonders for the glow of her skin. Splendid soft illumination.
Anne against the gray wall was almost already monochromatic in its look even with my own eyes. Where some of the photographs of Anne in the bedroom I definitely knew would be color images, these I knew would be B&W.
Anne continued to find lovely poses in the empty environment. Sometimes balancing on one leg in the same effortless way I had grown used to seeing. We continued to work as I changed my distance from her a few times, experimenting by adding some natural elements into the composition besides the wall. But it was clear Anne needed nothing else to create a compelling image. Once more, beauty in simplicity.
Finally, we did call it a day and I was thrilled that I finally had a chance to collaborate with the first model whose portfolio had jumped out at me six months earlier. Anne was incredible to work with. A captivating beauty with a strong sense of who she is. I was very pleased we had decided to explore her traveling wardrobe. Something different for one of my final shoots at ZoeFest.
Thank you Anne for dragging so many suitcases so many miles. It was worth it.
Next, a slight detour from shooting as I accidentally damage the rental car.
Some shots of international super model Paco, accompanied by Candace Nirvana.
I had a very entertaining and creative afternoon with Emma exchanging photo and modeling time at the Dracula during the festival. I am also adding a couple photos of her I took poolside at the Hotelito. Here are the resulting images.
Thank you Emma!
Once again I decided to get out of the confines of the Hotelito and experience the rustic glory that is the Casa Dracula. Such a great space full of character and spirit. I could have spent much more time there.
Claudine and I took advantage to work there. Prior to shooting Claudine showed me some things she brought and one of them was a roll of cheesecloth. Immediately I had a vision to capture with it, so was very excited to execute this.
Along with the majority of the shoot at ZfestX, the visions will eventually end up in series but for now I am displaying individual posts.
The first series explores void and a time past. When life seems empty, we move on.
The second series I set the camera up to view straight through a bunch of rooms. The camera stayed on one spot throughout and shot in the various locations.
The third series was utilizing the cheesecloth. Its properties and uses were endless. ‘Cocoon’ was a vision I had when seeing the material and I was extremely happy with what was created. Claudine, as most know, is awesome and she worked wonders with all the themes.
In addition to the shooting around Todos Santos, their were the wonderful moments meeting many new people. One afternoon I went to the pool at the Casa Bently to appreciate the experience while contemplating the cold and snow I was reading about back home. There at the pool, I meet world citizen Tara Tree and had a most splendid chat with her. Later my wife Dee Dee told me of her experience at the turtle release and how much more enriching it was because of Tara’s translations. Thank you Tara! Upon my departure from Todos Santos I was taking Brooke Lynne to the Aeropuerto and Samantha Grace rode along as she had a flight later in the day. To kill some time Samantha and I explored a couple old cemeteries where the locals were preparing loved ones’ grave sites for the day of the dead festival, then a formal catus garden and ending in the downtown of San Jose del Cabo for lunch where she expanded my vocabulary. Muchas gracias Samantha and loco tacos!!!