Meluxine – Dress Handfuls
Meluxine – Dress Handfuls
“Aw, we lost the sun,” Meluxine said, as she noticed the gorgeous shafts of sunlight that until very recently had been beautifully falling on her through the window, had faded away. I pulled the camera away from my eye and walked over to the window. I had noticed it too, but I was wondering if the sun had dipped behind the clouds for a few seconds or whether it was going to be gone for a bit longer.
That’s the thing about Kauai. It can be sunny one minute, cloudy the next, and then rainy-sunny somehow, or any combination in a period of 20 minutes. But even the cloudiness or the rain is quite lovely. By the end of our 10 days on our island paradise, even we were starting to say, “Look. Another rainbow,” more matter of factly and with a slightly lower amount of surprised enthusiasm than when we first arrived. Funny how you can begin to take even double rainbows for granted on this island. There are just so many! Every day!
Anyway, it was Meluxine who suggested maybe we head out to the beach and just see what we could make in the overcast for a bit. “Just until the sun comes back.”
But as I mentioned in yesterday’s post, even the, this probably won’t work but let’s try it anyway, setups, were turning into magic. And we hadn’t been down there on the beach shooting for more than a few minutes when we both started to feel like the overcast was working like crazy. Beautiful non-directional light. The sky was a giant softbox above.
I had turned the color off on the display of my camera, so we were looking at B&W images when we stopped to review. And what we were seeing was reminding me of images you might see in those great British mod fashion shoots from the 60s. I don’t know if it was the light or what. More likely Meluxine channeling something wonderful in that lovely striped dress we had been shooting inside with a few minutes earlier. She was so on.
And as it always did, after about 20 minutes, the sun began to peek out from the clouds again. But since the clouds were moving in a direction from over my head towards Meluxine, we started to get some great light on her, but with the still brooding clouds behind her along the beach.
And so we had a dilemma. A good dilemma. As we began to review the photos weeks later remotely, me back on the mainland in Los Angeles and she in Sydney, Australia, I had processed this particular image two ways. First in b&w as we had originally intended, but also in color. And there were good qualities about both of them. We really couldn’t decide.
But for me, even though I’m really an artist who loves b&w, I think the color one edges out the b&w in this case. But only very slightly. I think the photos from a few minutes earlier than this one will still look best in b&w. But this particular image, with the sun juuuuuuust starting to peek out, color wins.
What do you think, Gentle Readers? Color or b&w? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Meluxine – Looking Inside
You know when you’re having one of those days when everything you touch turns to gold? They don’t happen often, but when they do, the feeling is extraordinary. Meluxine and I were definitely having one of those days the first time we ever shot together. Even the, this probably won’t work but let’s try it anyway, setups turned out to be magical. Which leads me to the distinct possibility.
Meluxine might well indeed be magic.
I mean, I don’t know that for certain. Just throwing the possibility out there.
Meluxine was one of my beautiful housemates on the island of Kauai. I met her and Anne, who was also staying with me, at the Lihue airport, when I arrived from Los Angeles and they from Australia, to drive us to our lovely resort suite. So even before photographing her, I had a lot of time to get to know her.
I find that always helps when photographing someone for the first time. Because I’m not only learning the physical characteristics of any new model I’m collaborating with, but also learning her point of view. What’s on her mind. What she’s about. Having a head start on knowing those latter things, always makes for better photographs. Because then I’m not just photographing what she looks like, I’m really photographing her.
But whatever the reason, as Meluxine and I have discussed since then, what we did that day was some of the best most personally satisfying work either of had done in a while. We’ve really enjoyed going over the images since then. Picking out favorites. And there are a lot!
And I’ve queued up another beautiful photo of her for tomorrow. So stay tuned, Gentle Readers!
Anne Duffy – Crown of Shadows
Anne has one of the most beautiful faces I have ever come to know. I’ve felt that way since before I actually got to work with her years ago. Her portfolio is full of some of the most striking images I’ve ever seen.
All week we’d been talking about shooting her in a specific lingerie set she had brought to Kauai with her. The mood of the shoot. Where it would be. How it would look. And sadly we just ran out of time to do it the way we imagined. But I did have a lighting setup in place for the equally lovely Meluxine who I had just finished shooting, when Anne and I realized we both had a free hour. I made a few adjustments and Anne and I decided to use the small time we had. Better something than not, you know?
But the glorious part of it is, we created some beautiful images, regardless of our original idea. Anne knows light so well that without even looking she was able to create wonderful shadows with her body and limbs. She always looks so effortless with her poses, even though there’s nothing effortless about them.
The lingerie she’s wearing is actually Victoria’s Secret, which came as a surprise to me, because I haven’t been wowed by anything from that brand in over ten years. But this piece was beautiful. Something I’d expect to see from La Perla or Agent Provocateur, honestly. And it worked so well with Anne’s porcelain skin and dark brunette hair.
Sometimes an hour with Anne is all you need to make something incredible.
Claudine – Isolation
Claudine – Isolation
Claudine is simply wonderful to work with. Beautiful, with complete excitement and joyful enthusiasm. Claudine is 100-percent all in when it comes to creating something interesting. I’ve never seen her in a bad mood. I mean, I’m sure she has them. We all do. But I’ve never witnessed her in one. Claudine is positivity.
She arrived in Hawaii at Zoefest XIII a few days after most of us, and even though we had all been filling up our schedules with shoots all over Kauai, I knew I had to sneak in at least a little time with her. I had two other bookings the day I photographed Claudine, so I proposed something simple for her. And I couldn’t be more happy with the results.
As I’ve mentioned before, Gentle Readers, I’ve been looking to create art that’s a little different from the work I’m most known for. It’s not that I’ve grown bored with what I’ve been creating, but I’ve been finding I’ve been wanting to inject my work with something a little more personal as of late. Something a little more about my humanity, warts and all. And having the opportunity to channel that through a beautiful collaborator like Claudine, is very special to me.
And of course, Claudine was up for going on my little adventure. As she always is.
In one part of our suite in Kauai, was a little room with sliding slatted doors. And I found when I temporarily removed the tourist room art from the walls, it created a nice empty space. It had two lounges that could be turned into beds, and I removed all the bedding from one except for the simple white sheets. This would be a starting point.
I began by having Claudine sit on the edge of the bed. I explained the feeling I wanted to express with her that day.
“I’m looking for something that tells a bit of a story. And this story is more about being alone than anything else. Isolation. I want to use you in this very empty simple space to create something that makes you seem very small in this environment.”
It wasn’t that I wanted her to represent her feeling isolated or alone. I wanted her to express something I had been feeling from time to time recently. I wanted her to be my stand-in for that feeling.
She immediately got it. Because she’s just that good that way.
Claudine is a beautiful woman. A real, beautiful, woman. And the reason I wanted to work with her on this idea, is that in the past she’s been able to create characters that wonderfully express an idea or concept I have. A few years ago, back in Chicago, I shot a short film with her called, “Hello??” It involved a situation that I’m afraid far too many women are familiar with, and if you haven’t seen it yet, go ahead and click on it now and come back so I don’t ruin the ending for you. I’ll wait.
Okay. You’re back.
Yeah, every time I show it to a woman friend of mine, they always say the same thing.
“Auuugh. No. No! I hate that!”
Claudine, without saying a word, spoke volumes with her face and body language. The hurt. The resolve to just move forward.
And I knew, here in our little resort room, she’d be able to help me express another very common feeling. That feeling of being alone. Being isolated.
I made dozens of photos of her sitting on the edge of the bed. Then sitting back against the wall. And then I suggested something new.
“There’s no earthly practical reason why you would stand in the corner in the space between the bed and the wall, but let’s try something with that,” I suggested.
I had been careful up until that point with my framing, not to include much of anything else in the room besides the bed and the wall behind it, keeping it a very clean and simple composition. But this time I composed the shot to include the bathroom door and some of the interior. Suddenly I had some extra context for the story.
The photo above is the last frame I shot during our session. I felt that we didn’t need to go any further. That was it. Perfect.
Thanks Claudine for helping me express something a little unexpected on our island paradise. Because even with the beautiful ocean lapping up to the front of our little home, with incredibly unimaginable scenery all around us, I needed this that day. Something, not the usual.
You can find Claudine in many places online…
On Twitter and Instagram, and elsewhere on the web, YouTube, IMDb, and her fine art modeling site, ClaudineArtNude.
Carlotta Rocky Point
Carlotta has the most infectious enthusiasm. About whatever she happens to be doing at the moment. She’s good energy.
Carlotta was tagging along the morning Anne and I were discovering the magical tree overlook. Every once in a while, when Anne needed a short breather from climbing all over that tree, I’d turn my camera to Carlotta, who was already mid-pose by the time I got my camera up to my eye. She was in the mood to play, which honestly, is her natural demeanor.
I first met her at the previous Zoefest I was invited to in Todos Santos, Mexico about five years ago. And I photographed her in my old studio in Chicago, before moving to LA. So yeah, we’ve had lots of fun over the years.
Since the island of Kauai was formed by volcanic activity about a thousand years ago, the beaches there are covered with large black lava rocks. A beautiful contrast to Carlotta’s skin. And even though I had rubbery flexible deck shoes on while I was photographing her, I could still feel the sharp edges of the rocks pushing through my soles. I try to always keep sensations like that in mind while I’m shooting models who are experiencing the same sharp edges, except on their bare skin, and often very sensitive areas of bare skin.
Don’t injure the models. A good practice to live by.
Carlotta and I continued to shoot around the beach area, which you Gentle Readers will see more of in the future. But we also had scheduled some additional shoot time the next day and I returned to the same cave with her that I photographed Tara in a few days earlier. Those have a different look, but equally beautiful.
Stay tuned! And thank you as always for your wonderful support!
I’d love to take credit for it, but Anne Duffy is the one who spotted the tree first. A beautiful tree. And like so many trees on the island of Kauai, the erosion from years of the ocean doing what oceans do, left a stunning series of twisted roots in a way that made any onlooker feel they had x-ray vision and could see through the ground. Quite a place to make a photograph of the equally stunning Anne.
Anne and I spent several hours there one morning, and I made so many photographs of her, climbing, posing, arching, contorting, along those roots. It sparked a very interesting conversation.
Anne asked the question, why did I make so many photographs, while other photographers such as Zoe Wiseman, made far fewer exposures of her when they would shoot. Zoe is a brilliant photographer and the reason we were all here in this Hawaiian island paradise to begin with, as part of her nearly annual Zoefest.
I thought about Anne’s question for a moment. Many reasons came to mind. First, the ocean is loud. Communication can be a little difficult trying to shout over the sound of waves. I’m fairly sure my only direction to Anne that morning was the occasional, “Beautiful!”, or, “Yes, that’s perfect! Hold there!”
But as I thought more about it, even without the ocean roar, I do tend to make a lot of photographs during a shoot. So the environment being too loud to direct Anne, wasn’t quite the correct answer, I concluded.
I thought a little more and said, “I don’t know. Maybe Zoe is simply a better photographer than I am.” A little self-deprecating certainly, but I’ve always admired photographers who shoot a very limited number of frames during a shoot. I’ve never been that kind of photographer, even back in the days of shooting film. Even then, I shot many many rolls of film during a shoot.
Anne graciously countered, “I don’t think she’s a better photographer than you because she shoots fewer frames. You just have different styles of shooting.”
Which was true. But I still wanted to come up with a better answer to her question. It was one I had thought about for decades, actually. Why so many images?
I even sat down with Zoe a day later to talk more about it. Zoe likes to work the model’s pose for a while until it’s just what she has in mind before clicking her camera shutter. And Zoe has something else that I don’t have, which is that Zoe used to model herself. So she has a perspective on posing that I’ll very likely never have.
Myself, when I’m photographing a model of the caliber that Anne is, I first like to leave a little room for discovery. Because I trust her to be thinking as much about what the photograph is going to look like as much as I am. And she knows what she’s doing. All of the models at Zoefest do. They know light. They know angles. They know composition. They are equal collaborators during any shoot, and I’ve come to believe that if I’ve chosen to work with them, I’d be silly to over-direct them. Let them do their thing.
Which explains why my direction during a shoot is fairly basic. Give them a place to start, tell them what my angle of view is, so they can picture where they are in the frame or how much of them I’m photographing, and just begin exploring what happens. I do like to tell them what I’m seeing or if I really like something that’s happening so they are getting feedback throughout the shoot. They always appreciate that and it helps to build the connection and collaborative nature of the shoot. I may have them adjust an arm or a leg if I see a line that needs just a little tweaking, but like I said, when working with models like Anne, she doesn’t need much direction from me to make a beautiful image.
But that’s still not really an answer to Anne’s original question. It wasn’t until I returned to California, that I had an epiphany and finally the answer to my question.
Why do I shoot so many images during a shoot?
For example, on the shoot with Anne pictured above, I made over 1,500 photographs of her up in, below and around that tree. I’m just looking for maybe five or ten really. The few that really stand out. And if any of them look too much like another I’ve picked as a final, then I usually send them into a sort of photographic cage match. Two photos enter. One photo leaves. Gotta pick one of the two.
But the reason, I’ve come to conclude, of why I make so many photographs in a shoot, is because not only am I a photographer and director, but I’m also a film editor. I’ve spent over 25 years in dark little editing suites, pouring over raw footage from too many directors to remember. Looking for moments. The one take that really hits home. The performance that works best in serving the story. The best of the best. Making order from chaos.
A large part of my editing skill set happens after the shooting is done. After the production is completed. And then away from the mayhem and distractions that are part of any healthy shoot, I can take the time in a more chill environment to really look at what we have. Hopefully the director, if it’s not me, has given me lots of coverage. Lots of options to choose from. And then I can look at what we really have. I can forget how difficult it was to get a certain shot. Put away that the client really didn’t like the female actor. All of that on-set noise. Just look at what we have captured with fresh eyes.
What’s on the screen. Is it working. If not, why not. Let’s find something else.
And in combining these roles that I might have in any given project, I’ve learned to take the advantages of them all and sort of cross-pollinate them into my own Billy method of workflow.
And that means taking advantage of whatever role I happen to have. If I’m shooting or directing, it’s making sure I have lots of choices for the editor, whether it’s me or someone else. I’m not a spray-and-pray photographer, but there are times when nature is being random with wind-blown hair, waves and what not. And then yes, I’ll shoot rapid fire, hoping to catch the right combination of everything being in place. But mostly the reason that I shoot as many images as I do is because the editor in me craves coverage. Give me as much to work with as possible.
And when everything aligns in the most wonderful, inspiring, breathtaking way, such as with Anne, overlooking the edge of the world here, it’s a truly wonderful moment to realize.
Tara Tree Subterrane
“Is it too dark to shoot in here?”, asked Tara Tree, as we were exploring one of the Kauai caves during a location scout one afternoon.
“No, I think there’s enough light. If I bring a tripod and do longer exposures,” I said, as my eyes began to slowly adjust to the darkness.
I was looking to create something a little unusual. Actually that was my internal theme during the entire 10 days of shooting at Zoefest XIII this year. Come back with things not expected.
I had scheduled Tara for my first shoot on the island. Which was wonderful, because we’d be talking about wanting to make art together since the first time we collaborated nearly five years before. And finally, we were in the same place at the same time. In the middle of the Pacific Ocean, on an island created by volcanic eruptions about a thousand years ago. And here we were, inside one of those volcanic creations.
The entrance to the cave was a very wide shallow opening, probably 25 meters across and maybe 3 meters tall. There was a line of trees across the road from the entrance that limited the daylight coming into the cave for three-quarters of the entrance, leaving a slightly harder light source coming in from one end of the opening. This odd happenstance of light was really quite spectacular in that it was both hard and soft at the same time. It created fairly strong shadows, but there was a soft diffusion about it at the same time.
The only challenge was, that you couldn’t really see the shadows very well with only your eyes. It was just too dark. So occasionally, as long as I didn’t turn around and look at the brighter light coming in from the entrance, or look at the display on the back of my camera, my eyes would stay dilated enough that I could see my own shadow falling on Tara, or on some other unwanted place. Whoops. Stay off to the side, Billy. The light was better on Tara if I photographed her from a three-quarters angle anyway.
It was a fairly deep cave, the back wall of it maybe 100 meters from the entrance. And even though we were shooting shortly after first light, we still had to keep an eye out for the odd tourist out for a ridiculously early walk. The good thing was, we were far enough into the cave that we’d see them long before they would see us, and certainly it would take a minute or so for their would-be surprised eyes to adjust to the darkness anyway. It’s an occupational hazard we always face when creating fine art nude photography out in public. We’re all used to it.
Tara was brilliant. She immediately dialed into the vibe of this environment. Wonderful poses that were all at once feminine, animalistic, defiant, and the suddenly peaceful. We’d shoot a bit and then take a minute to review what we were getting on the back of my camera, since it truly was a challenge to actually see what we were doing with our eyes while shooting. We’d scroll through the images, see what was working and what needed a little adjustment, and then make those for the next series of images.
We even shot some motion footage once we felt we had what we needed as far as still images went. I knew we were pushing our luck a bit as far as being tourist free as the morning progressed, but it was too good of an opportunity not to roll the dice. I’m anxious to begin editing that footage together. It’s going to be strangely beautiful.
And as we packed up our gear and began to walk out of the cave after about an hour and a half shooting, we passed a couple of tourists wandering in through the cave entrance. Couldn’t have timed it better. Nothing like making photographs under the cover of darkness.
Editing shoot 2
Working on my second shoot of the fest that I had with @tara who I first worked with in 2006. I love to work with models more than one time. Once you figure out how each other works on the first shoot it’s over, the good stuff comes on shoot 2 and 3 and on and on. Here are a couple I just finished working on… more to come. We had a good shoot. For the first few days of the festival this location provided much tranquility and privacy and people who didn’t mind. If it had only lasted… but that is another story…
It was the perfect place to swim in calm water. A part of me is still there I think.
While we were in the water shooting the Frigate Birds kept diving and flying by giving us a great show. I wonder if they wondered about us. 😉