Friday, May 28, 2010

Sand, Sun & Sauvie Island

Summers in Oregon are glorious. I do the vast majority of my glamour photography in the period of June - October using various locations throughout the state to suit the theme of the shoot. While I love shooting in forested locations, two of my favorite elements are water and sand. I know most of you immediately think "beaches" but that's not always the case, but Sauvie Island does make a great location for combining the two elements.

Sauvie Island is located along the Willamette River west of Portland, about 10 miles from downtown. Farms abound on the island, and it boasts a wildlife reserve and and an extensive beach along the river. Most of the beach front is your typical river beach - wild grasses, sand dunes, and lots of people. You'll find the typical summer activities here - wind surfers, sun bathers, and families playing in the water. In the summer months, this area is quite crowded with parking at a premium.

Further west, though, after the pavement ends along the beach access road, the beach becomes clothing optional with a narrow strip of wooded area separating the beach from the road. It's less crowded here, and the trees give additional opportunity for some interesting glamour photography. The beach is more interesting here as well, and not just because of the naked sunbathers. This area has more driftwood, more natural architecture such as fallen logs, sand berms, and stands of small trees. This, for me, makes the area much better for photography of any sort, glamour nude or not. Small and large vessels often transit through the waters north of the beach and can provide and interesting backdrop for photography if your timing and angles are right.  I haven't managed to capture such a shot yet, but I'm hoping to be in the right place at the right time with the right model for a future shoot.

Mount St. Helens can be seen from most of the beach front areas on a clear day, and the snowcapped mountain provides another interesting backdrop for shooting with beautiful models.  In the image to the right, for example, Mount St. Helens can be seen in the backdrop. With a longer lens, I could have pulled the mountain seemingly closer to the model by compressing the perspective. Alas, on the day of this shoot, my longest lens was a mere 200mm focal length. In one of my future shoots, I intend to replicate the shot using a 400mm focal length to provide to bring out the mountain as a contrasting element to the model on the beach in the foreground.

The model here, Gabriell, and I had a great shoot on Sauvie Island in April of last year. It was her first nude shoot and she pulled it off quite well, despite the occasional sunbather watching the shoot. We started in the mid-morning, not the best time of day for shooting, but we had to let the morning clouds clear and the temperatures warm a bit before beginning our shoot. We shot for about 2 1/2 hours, the typical length of one of my shoots, on the beach and in the wooded areas adjacent to the beach using a variety of costumes and backdrops. The images help to show the versatility of the island as a place to shoot. Had we been shooting fashion or another non-nude genré, we would have had even more choices for shooting, including vast areas of farmlands, wetlands, and other scenic areas.

Here are some other images from the beach:

Gabriell in a red, silk sarong. 

Here she is with a great, big smile. 

We moved to a wooded area of the island for the second part of our shoot and managed to get the following images:

Gabriell in the woods at Sauvie - note how different the feel of this image is from the above photos.

The image below combines the natural architecture along the beach (logs, trees, grass) with a view of water and sand to create another look. I used the Canon 135mm f/2.8 Lens with Soft Focus to create a more dreamy effect here.

Gabriell at Sauvie - Soft-focus Nude

Of course, Gabriell isn't the only model that I've shot here. My first glamour shoot on Sauvie Island featured Sierra as my River Fairy. I've shot with Sierra multiple times in both indoor and outdoor settings, and I was one of the first photographers to begin shooting with her when she started modeling in 2007.  We did several shoots that year, took break over the winter, and the Sauvie Island shoot was our 2nd outdoor glamour shoot in 2008. 

Sierra has a quite different look from Gabriell. All models have different expressions, body types, and poses and that's what creates the challenge and fun for the photographer. Capturing great images of Sierra is a different task from shooting with Gabriell or any other model, and her skin tones call for a more subdued and softer light than some other models. For our River Fairy, and subsequent glamour shoot, we chose a mostly cloudy day (in fact it rained on us a bit during the first part of the shoot) to provide us with softer light. We used a variety of different wings and locations in the water to pull off this effect and once the rain passed we had a great time shooting on the island.

After we completed the River Fairy portion of the shoot, we went up on the beach to shoot in the sand and on some of the driftwood and logs that line either side of the beach area, and then went back down into the water to wrap up our shoot with some fun images in the water without the wings.

We used all the elements of the beach front to our advantage during the shoot and even shot a few infrared images as well.  Here are some of the images from our shoot:

After shooting in the water, Sierra wanted to try some images in the wooded area near the edge of the beach.

We then did some shots with sand and driftwood.

One of our infrared shots

Back into the water for the end of our shoot.

Sauvie Island is a beautiful place to shoot but be aware that portions of the island are wildlife refuges and access to those areas are restricted. It's also a farming community with lots of private property, so don't trespass or ignore the access restrictions signs. Also, Sauvie is a popular place in the late spring, summer and fall and bicyclist and pedestrians abound. Bicyclist will be all over the island and with heavy traffic and narrow roads, long lines of cars are inevitable. My suggestion is to relax and enjoy the beautiful scenery of the island rather than attempting to pass the cyclist when it's not safe to do so.  Also note that parking passes are required for many areas of the island including the beaches, do don't forget to pick one up at one of the small stores on the island. If you plan to visit there several times, an annual pass is available for about $20.

Sauvie Wetlands in early Spring.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Bright Colors

Sometimes you just go with the flow. My most recent model, a lovely young lady with theater experience, is also fond of flamboyant hair colors. In fact, she dyed her hair specifically for this shoot and let me know ahead of time that it would be bright. Since I make a point of encouraging models to show their personality and inner beauty, this was fine with me.

Since we were shooting in the studio, I deliberately chose to shoot with a black background so the models colors would pop and not blend into the background. Except for the simple nude you see below, the chains and weapons were also chosen to be complement the bright, bold look and I dug up a prop to use which went well with the entire look.

I used a standard three light set-up - key was a large octobox, fill as a large softbox set 1 stop below key, and the rim/hair light was a small softbox set to equal key.  We also worked with some more subdued and moody lighting, but I actually prefer the brighter shots.

Megan, the model, enjoyed shooting and so far has liked the way the images have been processed. She's already looking forward to her next shoot with me and has made me promise to shoot again with her in the very near future. She really wants to be part of my Fae in Us All series and I'm more than willing to accomodate that request. So, I'm sure you'll be seeing more of her here in the future. In the meantime, here's a simpler shot of this lovely model.