Friday, September 4, 2015

Yes ma'am we've got nature: Houston Nature Parks

My sister imagined Texas to be a barren land of cactus, dirt and cowboys. She and my fellow Californians thought I was crazy, moving halfway across the country to a huge oil rich but nature deficient state, my car packed with a few of my favorite things and my reptile family who had no say in the decision.  Pulled by the strength of the graduate school reputation and their scholarship dollars, trees or not, I was moving to Texas. 

Besides the purported year round perfect temperatures, in many parts of California, a person only has to drive a couple of hours in any direction to experience a different environment, be it desert, mountains, hills, or even sea.  This is a little bit of magic. From most cities in Texas, one would be crazy to think they could make a day trip to both the sea and mountains. And many people living inside of Houston quickly forget there is even nature outside of the city. I will raise my hand and admit, I, too, was one of these people.

Photographed by Glimmermere
Louisville, KY

Few average Texans appear to care about tromping through the woods, and to those who look in on this state, Austin is where all of the natural and beautiful parts are. Austin may be surrounded by more options, and more nature-inclined people seem to gravitate there, but with a little bit of searching, interesting nature can be found all over what is truly a lush and green Eastern Texas. From the cities, you may have to drive a bit to be surrounded in a great park to enjoy the chirping of birds and rustle of trees, or smell the sweet decay of the woods, but these places do exist.

As I returned to Houston after a long road trip, my route took me from the lush nature state of Arkansas and through many areas of green as I approached home for the first time in months. Within a couple of hours of my apartment, I passed through the vast Davy Crockett National Forest, before driving through the Huntsville State Park. These parks are still a ways from Houston, but they can be reached easily as a day trip, and both are quite huge. The Davy Crockett National Forest is a bit farther, but contains a full 160,000 acres of recreation areas, wildlife habitats, woods and streams. That's worth a day trip or a camping trip in my book.

As a Texas resident, living in the northern suburbs of the city, knowing my options for a respite from the city is incredibly important. The Californian in me screams to know I can find a place to breathe in nature, and not hear cars driving by.

Yesterday I scouted the Lake Houston Wilderness Park which is northeast of Houston and well within an hour’s drive for many Houston residents. The place was a beautifully quiet place, and during my exploration shoot with Peter Janecke, we appeared to have the place to ourselves and a few maintenance people from 9 am until noon. We drove around, pulled the car to the side of the road, hopped out for photography, then got back in and continued onto the next place. While walking around, there were little cabins to sneak into, bridges to pose on and under, and of course, so many beautiful trees.

I aim to develop my list of places to shoot at, but consider this a solid start. Point proven – there is nature in Houston. They can keep me.

 Inexpensive A-frame cabin. And free if sneaking for a quick shoot

 If you take a photo while walking, it might turn out crooked like this

Look at that line of perspective! Awesome bridge

Friday, August 21, 2015

Lyra: modeling acrobatics

To astrologers, the word Lyraevokes a constellation in the sky; one often represented on star maps as a vulture or eagle carrying a lyre (which you may recall is a harp-like U-shaped instrument often used in ancient Greece).  To those with small children, they may know of a cartoon pony named Lyra Heartstrings aptly named because of a lyre on her flank. But those in the acrobatics and modeling world know a Lyra to be a metal hoop which is suspended to a ceiling by one or two attachment points.  The Aerial Hoopthat is visually reminiscent of a metal hula-hoop is also known as a “circeaux” or more commonly “lyra,” and is occasionally used as a prop in model shoots.

I had seen photos before, but my first opportunity to use the lyra was with wonderful Baltimore based photographer, Chip Bulgin a few years ago.  The session was less than an hour long of exhausting and acrobatic moves.  Unfamiliar with the motions of the lyra, as I moved into positions, the lyra circled endlessly, carrying me along in its orbit. The process involved finding a pose and holding as the lyra turned and revealed different angles for the camera.  I focused on dynamic poses, inspired by the acrobatic nature of the history of this prop. The timing of the shutter was everything, as at one moment I would be in an ideal position and at the next moment the angles would change for better or worse.  By the end of the session, I was in need of ginger ale to calm my queasy stomach and my muscles had tired from pulling myself up and down and around on the ring, and that was the sensation of success. 

Photographed by Chip Bulgin

Since that shoot, the occasion to use a lyra again has arisen only a few times.  My session this past year was part of a longer shoot with Jeff Bevis of Long Island with only about fifteen minutes to play before stopping for dinner (from past experience I deemed necessity a lyra then food order of operations).  This time, I was able to get up and down on the lyra with minimal spinning, and no nausea was experienced.  This could be due to the manner in which the lyra was connected, or my increased familiarity with the hoop. My background was much more restrictive to elongated poses, so I focused on poses which kept my limbs fairly compact and mood calm.

Photographed by Jeff Bevis
Edited by model with permission

I have spent the past few months working out at the gym, and my arms and upper back muscles are more developed. Anyone have a lyra and a studio they can safely mount a lyra in? I believe the time to get back on a lyra has come.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Anyone can be photographed. To be a good model, more is needed.

Anyone can model. If you are willing to reveal yourself in front of a camera, be watched, documented visually, then you are modeling. To be a good model, you need to have a presence.

There is beauty in the honest unpolished vision of someone who first embarks in the journey as model.  For creating art, the authenticity of a model who is willing to be present and genuine will shine through. Not every style of photography will do justice to the person who is new and uncertain.  Artists have the most success with revealing the true beauty of a woman; they most often can see a person for who they are. Photographers who create a comfortable environment and are able to embolden their subject will bring out the best for their photographs. Photographers who look at a woman and want to see them as an idealized version of a woman will be less likely to create good images with a new model.

The artist's model
Photographed by Charlie Freeman
Summer 2008
One of my first nude shoots with the wonderfully kind man Charlie Freeman who told stories with his art and saw my potential. Regrettably, he has since passed.

The emotion and mental state of an unguarded model will always be revealed in a photo.  Looking through my earlier photos, my body looks good but my face looks uncertain. I had not yet learned I was beautiful and my questioning look became part of portraits. Or I was unsure what to do, and my lack of confidence showed. Occasionally, this flaw is the feature that makes a photo interesting and good.

The glamour images I was pushed into during my exploratory months as a model are farcical.  The photos reveal a girl without any confidence, attempting to look sexy with fear in her face. Glamour photography requires a model have a semblance of understanding of their beauty, even if only for the time during which they shoot. Fortunately, to be an artist and a model, one does not need to be traditionally beautiful to create wonderful photos, so those who wish to model but lack vanity can more easily enter the world of modeling through art.

Photographed by Marc H

As an artist, the pursuance of art is what led me down the path of modeling. I had confidence in my body, but did not understand I was at all beautiful. I did not know how to move in front of a camera and what was expected as a model.

With time, I learned what to do. I had confidence and put myself out there without a question mark. I practiced, received feedback, and became a good model. I was determined, relaxed and embracing what I did.

As models learn how to model, what they can bring to a shoot increases. They can project the persona needed for the kind of shoot they are doing.  As multifaceted individuals, models embrace certain sides of themselves, be it elegance, sex appeal/sex-kitten, experimentalist, fetishist, warrior, or really, anything when need be.

Anyone can be photographed. Anyone can learn how to model. Like all activities worth pursuing, you have to learn how to be a consistently good model.

Photographed by TLGEE

Photographed by Daniel Burnstein

Photographed by Robert Weissner

Photographed by Steve Lease

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Perfect outdoors shooting weather

Photographed by Linda Hollinger
Photographed at the Ivy Lee Philadelphia Workshop

The weather is perfect for outdoors shoots right now. Most traveling models time their road trips through certain areas to have ideal weather when in town, but this causes an unintentional caravan of sorts. One after another, parading through a region. When in population dense areas, that works out well, but some areas cannot support an influx of too many models. We understand photographers have a limited amount of budget and time for photography, so we relish in the shoots we get to do and often move fast through a region. Working with those who most want to work with us, and knowing our probability of returning is tied to how our trip goes. What makes a trip successful is not always counted in number of shoots, but experiences, but a balance of income and expenses is always necessary. Most experienced models will find work, but may have to drive farther and spend more hours networking to make their trip happen.

Five years ago I drove west from the east coast, and traveled through Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, and Indiana, before heading south back to Texas. The drive was long, but I was seeing parts of the country I had never seen before. This year I am taking a weeklong break in Texas to fully rest and reinvigorate my zest for travel. I’ve timed this break perfectly to lay around in sweltering heat, but I departed Texas in May and have been on the road since then and needed to see a week without travel in my schedule to continue.

I decided I wanted to see the Midwest again. This trip will take me to places I had not traveled to before. The time of year is perfect for travel in the Midwest and I look forward to many outdoors shoots. The region will be crowded, but little by little my schedule is filling. Feel free to pop an email my way if you want me to detour to you while on this exploratory jaunt.


MIDWEST (dates and locations are somewhat flexible at this point) 
Cleveland, Oh: July 31 
Michigan: August 1 - 5 
Chicago/Peoria: Aug 5 - 9
Indianapolis/Bloomington, IN: Aug 10
Cincinnati/Columbus: Aug 11 - 12 
Kentucky: Aug 13
St. Louis, Mo: Aug 14 - 16
Memphis, TN: Aug 17
Little Rock, AR: Aug 18

Photographed by Linda Hollinger