Archive for February, 2016
Abandoned Homesteads: Fascinating and Sad
I’d heard of Wonder Valley for many years but never got the opportunity to photograph the area. It’s east of Twentynine Palms, CA in an area dotted with abandoned homesteads interspersed with currently inhabited homes of varying conditions. Many are very nice, well maintained homes while others are decrepit to the point of being trashy.
The Small Tract Act of 1938 was passed to encourage people to buy up to 5 acres of land the US wanted to sell off. A history of this area can be found HERE. The Act took off after returning WWII GIs wanted a place to call their own to escape the hub-bub of SoCal. Plank by plank, brick by brick, stone by stone, they hauled, cut, shaped, fitted and built their own weekend cabins. Some were simple prefab designs bought from Sears, Roebuck and Co. Others were beautifully designed, carefully planned and skillfully executed structures that reflected their owners’ hopes, dreams and aspirations. Today, many lie crumbling and vandalized among the desert sands.
(Hover cursor over thumbnails for a short description.)
Mary and I spent a few hours exploring the area but quickly concluded one day wasn’t enough time to do the area justice. We barely explored 2 square miles of Wonder Valley and there’s probably 150-200 square miles of abandoned homesteads.
We plan to return in the future when we can spend more time. We feel it’s important to treat the homes with dignity. Too often, we discard and dismiss our heritage without regard for future generations. It’s hard to connect with the distant past but Wonder Valley is less than 50 to 75 years ago. The people who built these homes shared many of the same aspirations as today’s population. The big difference is that those who built in Wonder Valley were willing to work to attain their goals. They didn’t sit around, waiting for someone else to build it for them. Wonder Valley resonated deep within me.
It Was a Blast! Literally!
The Rockabilly Reunion and Car Show was at Lake Havasu City, AZ on Feb 12, 13 & 14. Due to bad planning, I was only able to take in the extravaganza on Sat morning, 2/13. The car show appeared to be twice as large as last year but that may be because I was there on Sunday last year and some people may have left early. In any case, it was a lot of fun. Here are some photos to prove it!
The first photo is of a contestant in the 12 & Under Pin-Up Contest. I got Mom’s verbal permission to take lots more photos including many after she had her hair and makeup applied but I’m hesitant to post them until I have Mom’s written permission via e-mail. So, Mom, if you see this, send me an e-mail with your full name and your daughter’s name giving me permission to post her photos. I have about another half dozen of your cute daughter. If not, I’ll look for you next year with a Minor Release in hand.
The long, tall drink in blue is Shawna who checks in at 6ft so, with 5 inch heels, you do the math. She’s posed with her hubby’s rat rod but I was in love with her red stilettos. LOL I photographed the nurse and her daughter last year. They were fun but before I got a chance to make more photos, they were mobbed by GWCs (guys with cameras) who simply wanted to copy my poses so I bagged it. The last pair were friends who were opposites. The one in green was shy and didn’t want to pose but her buddy in black & red convinced her.
The photos are in no particular order. I have lots more but there are only so many photos of hot rod engines I can process before I gag. Next year, I plan to spend the weekend at LHC and photograph the entire pin-up contest. All photos were made with a Canon 5D Mark II, a 17-40/4L and Canon 580-EXII. I don’t often use the 17-40 but it was the perfect lens for this situation. All post-processing was done in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom.
This was a blast but I’ve concluded that there are only so many fireworks photos I can make. Here are the last three I ever intend to post on this blog unless it’s something historic like the end of the zombie apocalypse.
We parked our motorhome about 1.5 miles away to avoid stressing out our cat. Unfortunately, from there, I couldn’t hear the mortars fire so it was difficult to judge when the charge would burst. Also, because we were behind a small hill, we could only see the high bursts. The low to medium altitude bursts weren’t visible. The ATV on the hill had great visibility but I wasn’t about to drive the Tracker up an unmarked, unlit, unfamiliar trail in the dark. Mrs Otsubo did not raise any fools. I thought the ATV added a nice touch to the few photos I made.
A Warrior Model
While the other models were bold, A is fearless. The words “fear” or “timidity” do not exist in her vocabulary. A is what I imagine when I think “Amazon” or “gladiator.” Yet, as these images prove, she has a soft, beautiful feminine side that complements her tomboy, kick-your-ass exterior.
A told me after the shoot, she found the experience “exhilarating.” The only time she had been photographed nude was at Burning Man but, as she said, “Everyone’s nude there!” When she told me about getting branded at BM with a branding iron and blow torch, my mind screamed, “TILT!” She also told me that, since she was hitchhiking to BM, she walked the last 20 miles pushing a cart filled with all the supplies she would need for the duration. A is one tough chick!
A was the last model I worked with so I was tired and mentally worn out by then. I made a number of dumb mistakes that caused my keeper rate to plummet. Plus, my brain was having difficulty keeping up with A’s ideas. She wanted to stand on her head and do splits. My mind, once again, cried, “TILT!” I couldn’t begin to comprehend how to frame that shot. At the same time, her enthusiasm and energy was infectious. She is the epitome of a free spirit.
Again, the first three are my favorites. The first is one of A’s contemplative moments. Since the shoot, I’ve learned that A is quite insightful and intelligent. She’s not the “crazy wild hippie” that she portrayed in the studio. The second shows her toned body and fearless pose. In the third, I carefully thought about the crop. I don’t generally focus on a model’s “lady bits” but, in this case, I felt the artistic merits outweighed potential for prurient interests.
The last two are different orientations of the same pose, one is portrait mode and the other is landscape. In all the photos, I tried to emphasize A’s lean, toned muscles while also focusing on bodyscapes. I hope we can work together again in the future when I’m sharper and not so tired and error prone.
An Irrepressible Soul
When Z was first proposed as a model, I was asked if an “older” model would be of interest. My first question was, “Is she photogenic?” followed by, “How old is old?” When I saw Z’s photos, I immediately knew she was perfect for the shoot. I won’t divulge her age but let’s just say she’s closer to me in age than she is to the other 20-something models but Z proves that age is just a number and her attitude is that of a young woman, ready to try anything.
If anything, I had to work to tone down Z’s big, wide grin as she wholeheartedly tried anything I proposed. I haven’t had that much fun working with a model in ages. Z is an irrepressible free spirit who knows who she is and doesn’t try to pretend otherwise.
The first three are my favorites. In the first, the viewer needs to look carefully to tell if Z is facing left or right. The second and third are classic.
The fourth and last two are examples of Z’s constant grin. I often say of an experience, “It’s the most fun you can have with your clothes on.” In this case, Z was having a lot of fun with her clothes off! I appreciated how she completely trusted me and, without hesitation, threw herself into every idea I presented.
Other than a few age spots, I didn’t edit Z’s photos in any way except what I would have done in a chemical dark room. I Cropped, adjusted Levels & Contrast, softened focus, and sharpened selective areas. I could tell Z was comfortable in her skin and wouldn’t want me to make her look like a 20-something with Barbie skin.
I hope I captured the true essence of “an older model” whose mind, attitude and outlook are as young as any 20 year old. I’m looking forward for the opportunity to work with Z again in the future.
A Wonderful New Model
In an earlier post, I embedded photos of M, a young lady with a great talent for modeling. I finally finished post-processing her photos and ended up with 13 final images. That’s 28% of the 46 photos I made during our shoot, much more than I generally get from new models. In fact, most of the culls were due to errors on my part. I should have used a second light on her beautiful hair and, possibly, even a third light for her deep, expressive eyes. I hesitate to label her an amateur and hope I can shoot with her again in the future to rectify some of my mistakes. BTW, I have permission to use her name but I avoid doing so with new models until she’s sure she wants to be known as a nude model. That’s why I only use initial.
The first three are my favorites. I love the way her hand languidly caresses her hip. The second is a classic study in lines, curves, angles, light, shadows and textures. In the third one, I really thought hard about clipping her elbow. In the end, I decided I wanted that stark separation between the left and right sides.
Number 6 is the only one I retouched in Photoshop. I forgot to ask her to pull back her shoulders and lift her chin to tighten her tummy. So, a little bit of Liquify magic and M has her taut tummy restored.
Numbers 5 & 7 are where I should have used a kicker for better catchlights. The only excuse I have is that I was entranced, mesmerized and flustered at the opportunity to photograph such a beautiful model.
Number 11 is an example of where I should have used a hair light to add a glow to her beautiful hair.
Over the next few weeks I’ll post finals for models A and Z. All comments, both pro and con, are always appreciated.