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Naked In Baja eBook

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.

Naked In Baja eBook @ Blurb

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Naked In… Baja Mexico

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 –

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.



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Part 16 of 50: Color or Black and White? A Photographers Dilemma

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

I’ve been writing a lot about how I decide whether the photographs I create are going to end up being in black & white or color. Perhaps it’s time to share my opinions on that further after the last entry about collaborating at ZoeFest with the lovely Keira Grant and the images of her in both B&W and color.

Keria - Color and B&W
Keria – Color and B&W

It used to be that decision had to be made when choosing what film I was going to load into my film cameras. I used to travel with two camera bodies, one loaded with B&W film and the other with color. It allowed me the flexibility to instantly decide whether the subject matter I was standing in front of would be more pleasing to me if photographed with or without color.

If I happened to be traveling with only one camera body, it was more complicated. If I had color film in the camera and wanted to make a B&W photograph, I would note the frame number on the roll of film that I was currently shooting, carefully rewind the film until I heard it release from the take up reel, but not before the film edge wound back completely into the film canister. Then I would remove the color roll from the camera and load a fresh roll of B&W film.

When I wanted to switch back to color, I would do the same with the partially exposed B&W roll, carefully winding it back, removing it and then loading the previously exposed roll of color film back into the camera. Then, with the lens cap on, I would fire off the number of frames I had previously exposed, plus a couple more to make sure I was past any exposed images, and continue shooting on that film roll.

Yes, it was painful and time consuming. Sometimes the scene I wanted to photograph might be gone before the film swap could be completed. And sure, I could have just shot color all the time and put the color negatives in my darkroom enlarger and made B&W prints from those, and I did on a few occasions. But the results were never pleasing. There was something muddy about the B&W prints from color negative.

This was long before Photoshop and film scanners were readily available to me. Everything was chemical based and analog.

When I began to shoot with early digital cameras, I had to wrap my head around the idea that everything I would shoot would now be acquired in color, no matter whether I was planning to end up with a B&W image or not. In some ways it was freeing to not have to make that decision until I was sitting in front of my computer, but I found myself a bit confused when composing my images in a digital camera format.

Let me explain. As I began learning about composition with my first film cameras, being self taught, I wasn’t even aware of the concept of composition. I just knew if a photograph felt right to me. In my head, I thought of it as balancing the various objects in the frame, so the resulting image didn’t feel too heavy on one side or the other or top or bottom. Almost like the elements in the frame had physical weight to them and once in a frame on the wall, the picture frame would tend to rotate clockwise on the wall if there where too many “heavy” objects on the right side of the photograph.

It sounds a little crazy, but that’s how I looked at composition back in those early days. If there was something “heavy” in the image, it would have to be balanced by what I would later learn was negative space in the rest of the photograph. An area of elements that felt lighter in weight (not necessarily lighter or darker in luminance). A heavy element could be something dark in tone or large or something your eye naturally gravitated to when viewing. A heavy object had, what I liked to call, visual gravity.

So what does all of this have to do with the question of B&W or color?

Everything, it turns out.

B&W is shades of gray and color is… well.. color. When I look at a B&W image, it’s all about shapes and how they balance with each other from a brightness point of view. With color, in addition to the shapes, you have the visual volume of color. Some colors are just louder than others. They are heavier. They have more visual gravity.

Carlotta Champagne, color and B&W comparison
Carlotta Champagne, color and B&W comparison

I don’t usually let thousands of people into my digital darkroom at once, but let’s take a look at what I see when I’m deciding B&W or color.

The image on the left is the color version with a little post processing for color temperature, contrast and vibrance. It’s a perfectly fine image. But when I was shooting it, I knew I was going to process it in B&W and so I left a lot of negative space at the bottom, the blue water, that I knew I would filter towards black in post.

In color however, it’s not really negative space. It’s a very loud color. So loud in fact that as lovely as Carlotta is, her loveliness is fighting with the blue for your eye’s attention.

In the B&W version, the blue water becomes dark negative space and now Carlotta really pops! Your eye goes right to her and perhaps the palm leaves to her right which have been filtered to be brighter. It’s all getting your eyes to the top half of the photo, where I want them to be.

Of course, Carlotta has her own sense of visual gravity, so she really didn’t need much help from me!

Additionally, in the B&W version, her skin becomes very bright and in order to make a visually interesting composition, I like to add something in the frame that balances it out. The dark tone of the water does that perfectly. And the palm leaves give me a medium weight. Your eye goes to them, but only after you find Carlotta.

Ella - B&W and Color
Ella – B&W and Color

However, with all of that heavy or light, negative space, color loudness and other creative data swirling around in my head sometimes I really can’t decide whether I’m making a color or B&W image when I click the shutter. That was certainly the case while photographing Ella Rose.

That, and I was very focused on keeping my camera from getting hit by a sneaky wave and ever so slightly less on the composition at hand.

Which is better? The color or the B&W process? To me, they’re both beautiful images (thank you Ella!). But again, the B&W is more about Ella and less about her environment, as incredible as it is. The color image is a little bit flatter to me. But that’s my subjective opinion. Some viewers will prefer the color and some will prefer the B&W. Which is fine. Ella is lovely with or without chrominance.

Most of the time with subject matter such as art nudes, I’m 90% sure I’m going to end up with a B&W image.

We can program our digital cameras to shoot in a sort of B&W mode, but it’s still acquiring the image in RGB color. But if you really care about your B&W conversions, you won’t have your camera doing them on the fly with it’s limited processing ability. Much better to do them in post later where you can control how the various colors in the image are converted to B&W.

If you’re shooting RAW images, it’s a moot point anyway. Even with your camera set to display the thumbnail image in your camera’s display in B&W (which I sometimes do to keep my head in B&W space when chimping* during a shoot), it’s still recording the data in color. It’s only when you shoot JPGs that the B&W version is what is permanently recorded to the camera file.

In my early forays into digital, my B&W conversions were pretty bland. I did what most digital newbies did and simply turned off the color information in Photoshop if I wanted a B&W image. Blech.

Just like learning my chemical darkroom, it took me years to learn to manipulate the individual RGB channels of color. Like putting a colored red or yellow lens filter on a camera when shooting B&W or using contrast filters in the chemical darkroom, I learned through trial and error that, just like in the film days, composing and properly exposing an image in camera was only half of the process. Dodging and burning while making prints, using different kinds of chemical developer and even the different types of film stock I was using in the camera as well as the photographic paper I was using in the darkroom all contributed to the final look of my images.

Now, I’m not going to get all, “Back in my day, you spent hours in the darkroom breathing toxic chemicals and your fingers always smelled like fixer,” on you here. There is a lot about the darkroom I don’t miss, but it did teach me a lot about processing my images, which after years of practice on my computer, I was able to duplicate in a way that reminded me of my film prints. And I do mean years of practice. I sucked at it for a long time. And I’m still learning.

And there’s another reason I usually prefer my fine art nude images to be in B&W. The human form is a wondrous shape. B&W tends to be more about the very basic shape and form of a subject. It does feel more artistic because it’s not really based in reality. Very few people see the world in B&W (I mean that literally, not figuratively!). Without color, the image does take on a more removed from the starkness of reality feel to it. To me, it’s removing everything but light and shape. And I really like to compose in that space. It’s a bit more timeless to me that way.

Additionally, removing the color skin tone from of a nude art image, and this is just my personal opinion, separates it from the millions of other more commercial color nude/semi nude images in the world, many less artistic than what we’re talking about here. Now, certainly there are some very ridiculously talented artists out there that do nude color work. Some of the photographers I was lucky enough to spend time with at ZoeFest, do amazing things with color nudes. And of course Michelangelo didn’t paint the Sistine Chapel in monochrome. Plenty of nude skin tones there, ironically.

But we see so much skin in the world these days. Clearly, I’m personally not against that in principle in viewing the photographic work that I create. Since the beginning of human artistic expression, I’m only #4,638,301 in a long line of artists who have decided that the human form is something especially inspiring and compelling. I’m not the first one to look at a body, devoid of any covering and be in awe. For me, women’s bodies are especially artistic.

Keira Grant, color and B&W comparison
Keira Grant, color and B&W comparison

Here’s another comparison of a color and B&W processed photograph of Keira. She is stunning in both instances, but I definitely prefer the B&W image in this case. It’s more subtle. In the color version the skin color is very prominent. There’s nothing wrong with that and it is still a very artistic image. Lovely and compelling.

The B&W version however, is definitely more about the shapes and movement. It takes the viewer a split second longer to figure out what the subject is without the skin tone instantly giving it away.

Now, that’s certainly an extreme example, but it illustrates what I feel when I’m deciding to go with color or B&W.

Even in my travel photography, I find that B&W does tend to take the sense of time out of the image. Was it taken last year or 60 years ago?

I also think B&W has a better chance of engaging the viewer’s mind. The viewer already has to consider the image without color, filling in the information that is missing and maybe that also puts them in the headspace of imagination a little more than a color image. Maybe they create a story about the subject matter in their head. A story that is unique to them and their own experience.

Oh hell, maybe they just think she’s pretty. I don’t know.

Much more to come!

*Chimping: After taking a photograph with a digital camera, the process of looking at that image in your camera’s digital display. Chimping after every single photograph is regarded negatively by some photographers, especially those who learned to shoot on film cameras and didn’t have the luxury of instantly seeing what an image was going to look like unless they were shooting a test polaroid. They had to know their craft well enough to know if the photograph was properly exposed and what it was going to look like before it came back from the lab.

Chimping can also disrupt the flow of a photo shoot as it can take both photographer and subject out of the creative moment during frequent stops to play back images. I have to remind myself of that on occasion. Make a test exposure and check it once. That’s your polaroid. Then focus exclusively on your subject.

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Carly and SaraLiz

These are some of the images from my shoot with Carlotta and SaraLiz. We started in the bar of the Todos Santos Inn, then moved to the spare bedroom, recently vacated by Robert.

I’ve put together a calendar of the images from this shoot, which is available here

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I started a new “tradition” last year in Australia. It seemed only fitting that I do it again.

There will be video soon…

Every model who was at the festival!

Claudine, Ella Rose, Anoush Anou, Meghan, Stephanie Anne, Kiera Grant, Rebecca Lawrence, St. Merrique, Candace Nirvana, Brooke Lynne, Carlotta Champagne, Samantha Grace, Anne Duffy, Tara Tree and Sara Liz. Thank you, Ladies! Stay tuned for the video!

15 © 2011 Zoe Wiseman
15 © 2011 Zoe Wiseman
15 © 2011 Zoe Wiseman
15 © 2011 Zoe Wiseman
15 © 2011 Zoe Wiseman
15 © 2011 Zoe Wiseman
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Hotelito Studio – Outtakes – Carly

Here are  the  first outtakes from the Hotelito Studio series, starting with the Carly session.

With only 24 frames to work with we managed to get close to half of them as contenders for the hero image.

It was quite a task to choose with a few of the following coming a very close second. The selected images is in the top left corner …

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The light

Don’t you just love the light through those windows?  SaraLiz and Carlotta Champagne…

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Part 8 of 50: The Photographers of ZoeFest

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

I thought I would take a moment from the BillyShow here to give some well deserved attention to my photographer colleagues at this year’s ZoeFest. As I mentioned before, Zoe Wiseman, the incredible photographer behind the Fest that bears her name, along with the world class list of international figure models, she also hand picks the group of talented international photographers who attend each year. I was lucky enough to get my first invitation this year.

To see the other photographers’ incredible work, there are links below to see some of their images.

So let’s start with Zoe herself.

Carlotta Champagne in the Pool
Carlotta Champagne in the Pool

Zoe is a busy human. In addition to being a brilliant Los Angeles based photographer, she runs the ARTnudes Network site that focuses exclusively on fine art nude photography. Its roots go back to 1997. It is a place for fine art models and photographers to find each other for symbiotic creative relationships and share their work. It also features articles and blogs, just like this one, discussing the work and various workshops related to Figure Photography. Check out the official ZoeFext X blog to see more work and the stories of the other photographers and models who were part of our incredible artist retreat in Mexico this year.

Out of that also sprang Community Zoe, another Fine Art Nude Photography site, launched in 2002. Community Zoe, allows members to upload their photographs for critiques by the rest of the community. It’s also a resource for sellers and buyers of  photography prints, books and articles about the genre.

So clearly, she knows what she’s doing on the computer machine.

Oh, and she puts together this world class international Fine Art Nude Photography artist retreat in some far flung corner of the world. ZoeFest. Every. Damn. Year.

Zoe has mad super powers. And she’s a very generous and nice person. And she shot on film. It’s been lovely to see what she has managed to process so far.

I will admit that myself being a ZoeFest newbie this year, my first task was to meet and coordinate shooting schedules with all of the models, so it took me a few days to really meet and learn the names of all the photographers at ZoeFest. I would hear back from the models about the great shoots they had been having with Ron, Cam, Carlos, Malcolm, Gerry and many others. I had some catching up to do!

First a little blog note: If you’re reading this at, you may have to join the ARTnudes network to see some of the photographers’ links. Worth it if you’ve been following along on the adventure. If you’re reading this at the ZoeFest X Baja Sur Blog, well then, you’re already here and in! A gold star for you!

First, the Aussies! Why the Aussies first? Well, because they were incredibly fun to meet and second, because… well… A comes first.

Cam Attree hails from Brisbane in Queensland, Australia. For those Yanks who always tend to be geographically challenged, yes, Australia has states like we do in the U.S.. Australia is also not to be confused with Austria. If you call an Australian an Austrian, you’ll be lucky if all they do is roll their eyes at you and slap their own forehead. Completely different continents. Completely different in many, many critical ways.

End of World Geography lesson.

But back to Cam. Cam is a genius photographer. He’s been shooting for 20 years and has an incredible body of work to show for it. He also has a great blog where you can hear the voice behind the photos.

Malcolm Grant joined us from Sydney in New South Wales, Australia. Yes, the one with the Opera House. Malcolm originally came from a music background (music and photography never seem to be too far apart, it seems) and discovered his love for photography while at university. A familiar tale, not unlike my own. To me, his brilliant work does have a lyrical quality about it. Must be that music thing. Mal’s blog has more incredible images.

Both Malcolm and Cam could often be seen under the veranda at Todos Santos Inn, editing their photos almost as soon as their shoots were completed. I would glance at their computer screens as I was running off to one of my shoots, stopping only to let my jaw hang there for a bit. Both incredibly disciplined by day, and then off to equally disciplined (although that may not be quite the correct word) nights of serious social enjoyment. Gotta love the Aussies.

Michael Marlborough joined us from Melbourne in Victoria, Australia. Michael, in addition to being an extremely talented Fine Art photographer, was also one of the behind the scenes heros at ZoeFest. Michael rounded up the photographs that would be part of the nightly evening slideshows of work, past and present. And when I say rounded up, I really truly mean that it was like he was a cowboy on a horse with a lasso, reining in a group of well meaning but incredibly late and disorganized artist types (myself, fully included in that list), so that we wouldn’t all be staring at a blank white wall come slideshow time. I’ve been that guy in the past. It’s not a pretty job.

I’m really at a loss to imagine how he found time to put everything together by the time the projector was fired up each night. A special tip of my hat to Michael. Well done, my friend.

And then there was Mel Brackstone. I’ve mentioned her in earlier blogs, but she deserves to be repeated. Mel is also from Brisbane in Queensland, Australia. Mel and her husband Scott and I spent hours talking about photography, life and our adventures. Mel is a brilliant storyteller with her photography. She really is telling stories with her work. Unlike some of the photography crew, she hasn’t been shooting for decades, but her fresh approach to her nude work, both male and female nudes is an experience in joyfulness that often comes when an artist blooms after living a bit doing other things.

Now let’s follow the sun over to India.

The story of Sukumar is one of my favorites. He’s a scientist! Yeah, I know! Super cool. Born and raised in India and now living in New York, he has been making photographs since his teenaged years, but science was his training and eventually his profession before embarking on his journey as a Fine Art Nude photographer in the late 1990s. I have two distinct memories of Sukumar from ZoeFest. The first being when I nearly tripped over his shoot one of my first early mornings at Todos Santos Inn while sleepily moving through the veranda with my first cup of coffee.

“Oh, hello. Pardon me.”

Carlotta Champagne in the Pool
Carlotta Champagne in the Pool

The second when was I was picking up one of the models on another early morning from Hotelito and there was Sukumar, lying on the steps of the main house with a sombrero over his face, waiting for another model. I was getting better at not tripping over Sukumar by this point. His work is beautiful, abstract, blurred, spinning, twisting in very compelling ways.

Carlos David, an impressive photographer born in Portugal, now living in Canada in the city of Kirkland in Quebec, just outside of Montreal. Carlos made me jealous every time I saw his camera pack. Unlike me, he did not leave his beautiful Hasselblad camera at home. He also brought lights and lighting accessories. And of course, film! Ah, film. And with those things, he made stunning photographs. Until he manages to find a moment to process his glorious film, we’ll all have to enjoy his past work.

Zvaal is another amazing photographer originally from Belgium, now working in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in the United States. Zvaal was my car mate up from the airport at Cabo to Todos Santos and was very helpful in locating Ella Rose on foot at the terminal while I drove in circles around the airport trying not to get a parking ticket from the Federales. He was also a Zoefest rookie, so by the time we arrived at Todos Santos and headed off to one of the many parties of the adventure, it was good to see a face I knew.

Well that’s the first half of the photographers group, so many more in the next entry.

Today’s photos are two I made of the lovely Carlotta in the pool at Todos Santos Inn. I love working with models and water. Carlotta stretched and floated and danced on the surface of the water. So beautiful!

More to come!

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Part 6 of 50: Carlotta and the Pool

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

I dropped Ella Rose back at the Hotelito and returned to Todos Santos Inn where I had arranged to meet the lovely Carlotta for our mid-day photo shoot that was scheduled to begin in just a few minutes. I was happily exhausted from Ella’s shoot and I only had time to quickly shower the sand off of me and grab some fresh clothes so I wouldn’t be quite so beach-y for Carlotta.

We had decided to stay close to home, so to speak, for this shoot. For a few days, I had been thinking about how to use the grounds of the Todos Santos Inn for interesting shooting ideas. I have to admit it was a bit of a challenge to wrap my head around. It was a beautiful place, but you know how sometimes you walk into a room and it just hits you? You know instantly how it’s all going to come together? Well, for some reason, the Inn and I instead seemed to be dancing around a few ideas, but the Inn was waltzing and I was doing some kind of Hammer-Time thing.

Carlotta Champagne in Pool
Carlotta Champagne in Pool

It’s actually an interesting creative challenge to find myself in. You know there is something there, but for some reason you can’t quite put your finger on it. I knew Carlotta would be incredible. We had been table mates at the Hotel California dinner and talked quite a bit at the welcoming party at Casa Dracula on our first night in Mexico. I knew the work we created would be excellent, I just needed to figure it out.

Sometimes when you have a block, it’s best to just start shooting and not over think it. If you let the, “Oh no… I have this amazing model and the ideas aren’t coming,” voice get the better of you, it actually is going to be less than you had hoped.

I’ve learned to respect the block. Don’t panic.

Carlotta Champagne in Pool
Carlotta Champagne in Pool

We found a nice leafy area off of one of the garden paths and we began to work. She was beautiful and working the most lovely curvy poses. Carlotta has one of those strikingly gorgeous hour glass silhouettes. I still hadn’t quite found it on my end yet, but after a few minutes, I could feel the block beginning to give way. She was very good as I knew she would be.

Now that the shooting was underway, we began to discuss the large elephant leaves that were everywhere in the garden and pool area. I had her move to the edge of the rear of the pool and among the giant lush leaves.

There it was.

Her shape completely complimented the nature around her. Now we had something really good happening.

I had this idea to photographer her in the pool more or less from the water level. The mid-day heat was fairly intense and as Carlotta got into the water, I kicked off my shoes and much to her surprise, I walked down the steps into the pool with all my clothes on. I was in the zone by then and I didn’t want to waste any time.

That, and the cool water felt so good.

She posed and I bobbed, making sure to keep my camera as close to the waterline as possible without dunking it. It worked.

The water was refreshing for me, but a bit chilly for her, so after about 20 minutes, Carlotta got out of the water and I continued to photograph her perched on a nearby crumbling wall and then the pool’s edge, all while I continued to bob in the water.

Note to self: Shooting from in the water is incredibly relaxing.

Carlotta Champagne at Todos Santos Inn
Carlotta Champagne at Todos Santos Inn

Eventually we ran out of places for her to pose in close proximity to the pool and we both ventured back out into the sunlit garden.

Carlotta carefully made her way into the middle of a particularly leafy area, the palm leaves framing her wonderfully. She backed out to the other side and I followed her into the center using the leaves in front of my lens to diffuse the composition.

Absolutely beautiful.

Finally we were ready to wrap the shoot for the day. I was very happy with our journey from my early bit of a block, breaking through to make some truly lovely photographs of her. Sometimes when you’re a bit lost, the best thing to do is keep moving forward. More often than not, you eventually get there.

I would try to do it all over again in an hour with the exuberant Sara Liz.

More to come.

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Part 3 of 50: “Hi, I’m Billy”

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

My home base for ZoeFest X was a charming boutique hotel called, most appropriately, Todos Santos Inn. Like many historic buildings in town, it had once been the home of one of the local sugarcane barons in the 19th century. Now, it had been beautifully restored into a little paradise. I walked into the main airy foyer and then into the office to the left. It did almost feel like I was walking into 1850s Mexico. Beautiful, luxurious 1850s Mexico.

I was led back out through the foyer again, through a large beautiful brick arched patio area and down a few steps to a lush green garden with palms and huge elephant leaves reaching from the stone paths up to the blue sky. We walked past the curves of a beautiful little pool and down another path to my garden apartment.

I opened the door, stepped through and was stunned to see such a beautiful room. A roomy living room area and then three steps up to the bedroom with a beautifully appointed king-sized bed, with sheer white mosquito netting covering the large canopy above. Even if I never left this room, I could probably make some lovely photographs in here, I thought to myself.

I took a quick shower to wash two airports and the dusty drive off of me and headed back out to the patio where a few members of our group who had started to assemble there.

Carlotta Champagne in the Pool
Carlotta Champagne in the Pool

For our first night, Zoe had set up a welcome party at one of the other hotel locations, a huge 150-year-old house that was once the mansion of a wealthy sugarcane plantation owner in the 1800s. There was beginning to be a definite sugarcane theme here. The locals now called the mansion Casa Dracula. Rex, the proprietor, welcomed us all in and began to weave a tale about the origin of the mansion’s nickname having something to do with the plantation owner being bloodthirsty or the arches windows on the facade or something like that, I don’t really remember. Too much cerveza, vodka, tequila and meeting lovely people by then.

The party was a chance to officially meet each other and put names with faces. Over the course of the evening there were many, “Oh, you’re Billy!,” and other similar exclamations. Many in our group had worked together in the past either at previous ZoeFests or other shoots around the world, so it was a great reunion for them. And even though I was a ZoeFest rookie, we all knew each others’ work and I was welcomed in like family. Even though we had all been in contact with each other through email, it was great fun to meet all of these talented photographers and models whose work I had been studying since July.

After a few hours of discussions of art and life, we all began to pull out our calendars to start booking times and places to shoot for the ten days we would all be there. Some of the photographers had already planned shoots with a few of the models. I had planned to do the same, but my schedule right up to the trip was too full for me to do much more than make a few email introductions in advance.

Happily, it really didn’t seem to matter. I was not the only one whose goal was to just get to ZoeFest and sort out the details once I arrived.

I recognized a few of the faces from the photographs I had seen. I had actually known the work of some of the models for a few years, although this was my first time meeting them in person.

“Hi, I’m Billy.”

It was just that simple. There were fifteen incredibly smart, lovely and creative models that I could arrange to photograph during the course of ZoeFest. An embarrassment of riches, as I like to say. Many of them were familiar with my work as well, so it was great to discuss shooting with them. If I was going to make plans to shoot with all fifteen of them, it would mean multiple shoots on most of the days and location scouting to go with them all. I decided it would be best to just begin booking the time and sort out exactly where we would shoot a bit later. I had only been in Todos Santos for a few hours and not seen much of the town and other hotels yet. There would be time for that later.

Since Ella Rose and I had already gotten to know each other on the drive in, I decided it would be a good idea to book some time with her to start. I thought I would relax and maybe do a bit of exploring for my first full day there and start shooting on day two. We picked a time for early that second morning when the light would be lovely. Perfect. Now I could start thinking of some photographic ideas!

As the party progressed, I began to discuss photography with so many talented photographers and models. In short order I had shoots booked with Carlotta, Sara Liz and Rebecca.

If I may back up for a moment, there were actually three Chicagoans at Zoefest this year among the very international group. At one point during the flight to Cabo, the man sitting next to me got up to use the restroom and since I was in the window seat, it seemed like it would be a good time to do the same.

“Are you staying in Cabo?,” I asked him, as we waited in line.

“No, I’m actually headed up to a little town called Todos Santos,” was his reply.

I smiled. “Are you a photographer?”

He chuckled back, “Yes!”


“You too?!”

It was very funny. David had been sitting next to me for half of the flight. We had no idea we were on the same mission.

What we also didn’t know was that Claudine, another Chicagoan and one of the models we were now having tequila with at Casa Dracula, had also been on the same flight. The three of us had landed, got into three separate pre-arranged cars with other photographers and models and now found ourselves together once again. It’s a small world, but I wouldn’t want to paint it, as Steven Wright used to say.

Claudine was, of course, added to my shooting calendar in short order. I was inadvertently starting to create an ambitious shooting schedule for myself. But really. How could I not? Anything less would have been very un-Billy.

A few local artists were on hand at the party as well and they supplied us with ideas for potential places to shoot outside of town near the ocean and various nearby ruins. Perfect!

As I mentioned a few paragraphs back, I had originally planned on taking the day off on my first full day in Todos Santos. It had been an extremely busy summer into fall for me and I was still not fully unwound from a day of international travel. However, Samantha Grace, also a ZoeFest first timer, and I had started taking about what we each might be doing for our first full day. I told her I was planning to just take it easy. She said she was thinking the same thing.

However, as the words were coming out of my mouth, a little voice inside me gave me a good slap and told me in a sarcastic tone that only your inner voice can truly pull off, “Yeah, great plan Billy. Fifteen models and you’re going to waste a day when you could be making art? Brilliant.”

The voice had a point. Another few sips of tequila and Samantha and I both convinced ourselves that we would probably regret not shooting together the first day. We would officially begin ZoeFest tomorrow. On day one. But at noon. At least we could sleep in a bit.

A few toasts, more laughs and we all headed back to our respective homes for the night.

Today’s photograph features the lovely Carlotta, who I photographed in the beautiful pool at Todos Santos Inn. As I was beginning to discover as the days progressed, shooting at mid-day in the Todos Santos heat was grueling. It’s true that her eyes had inspired me to make some photographs of her from water level. And the practical side of me decided that it might be good to shoot from in the pool to cool off a bit. I carefully brought my camera to within an inch of the surface of water as I happily bobbed closer to get the right composition. It turned out to be a very relaxing way to shoot.

As always, more to come.