Monday, July 21, 2014

Underwater Modeling

I love waking up to the sounds a farm. Chirping birds, crowing roosters, an occasional moo, and the soft sound of water being heated for coffee.  This morning I have the pitter patter of small babies accompanying the collection of animal life, and as daybreak turns to day, the sounds amplify with each waking friend and housemate. I am in Marshall, North Carolina, in the home of a couple of friends, and a place currently occupied by several of their friends and their children. Being here has reminded me how incredibly much I enjoy a simple lifestyle with family, young children and friends around, and at the same time, how beautiful my own personal freedom is.

When working, I love the momentum of a busy schedule, driving or taking the train from one great shoot to another, but also sometimes enjoy the relaxed pace of one or two shoots a day. A schedule where I can slowly get prepared for my day of work, or use a long break in the middle of shoots to spend time doing the much needed networking aspect of my job, or have a bit of time at the end of the day where my brain still functions at a capacity to work on my schedule. This bit of the trip has been a relaxed one, with more time to visit some friends I have not seen in several years. After a four hour drive from Atlanta, I ended up north of Asheville, with my friend I met through Couchsurfing on my first road trip through Arkansas many years ago. When I first started traveling as a model, I sometimes used the online community of  Couchsurfing to meet hosts around the US to stay with, while doing my tours in slightly less work-centric parts of the country. I stayed with my friend Tasha and ended up with a place to stay right outside of Asheville when she suggested I might like to hang out on bit of countryside where her father was living. Now Tasha has been living in the area for several years and I can visit both while in town.

I just came from Atlanta, where I spent one full day of shooting. A morning shoot appeared to be on the brink of cancellation, but with the photographer's enthusiasm about working with me, and my hard headedness in regards to letting a little bit of rain deprive me of work, windshield wipers vigorously swishing, I was driving to an outdoors shoot location at 7:30 in the morning. At a local park I met up with a group of four men speaking Chinese, and we hurried along a path to a barn. For a while we were able to work under the protective roof of the barn, but wanting a bit more variety for our photos, I swirled around in the wet, and increasingly wet, grass, water spilling down my face, arms, and every bit of body exposed. Apparently we had set off an alarm when sneaking under the gate before open park hours, and we were told we were not supposed to have come in before 10 am, but at that point, the 10 AM mark had already passed. When I jumped outside to the rain the first time, one man joked that I had learned Chinese, as moments before he had suggested in Chinese to a fellow photographer that I go outside in the rain and grass.

I had a short break between the closure of this shoot and my next, and used the time to find a bit of food, as is quite necessary for an energetic model, and some makeup foundation that I was about to run out of. That required going to the mall, which is one of my least favorite activities. I was able to use a Macy's gift card I received about a year and a half ago and had somehow never used until then (perhaps because I hardly ever go shopping anywhere besides at thrift stores and tend to buy my makeup from other places).

My afternoon shoot was amazing. I have long been fearful about my competency in regards to modeling under water, as my contact lenses and water do not mix well, but I am now completely over that concern. As a model, I never want to commit to a shoot that I am not confident I can do, and do well, so I have always been hesitant about doing underwater shoots. I am always interested in learning new skills and having new experiences with my modeling, but when it comes to someone hiring me for a shoot, I want to be certain we can achieve the goals of the shoot. I had tried underwater photos with a tiny black backdrop floated into the water about 4 years ago at a festival, and with a photographer who was new to underwater photography as well. That shoot lasted about fifteen minutes and gave me the impression I needed much practice before being able to market myself for this kind of shoot. But the other day I showed up at a shoot and was surprised with the pool idea, and I was going to jump headfirst into this project and show I could do this. By jump headfirst, I mean walk gradually into the water then submerge myself by bending my feet and thus lowering myself into the water. I had taken out my contact lenses beforehand, because contact lenses shrivel up like the wicked witch of the west when on my eyes and exposed to water. The day was a bit overcast, and the water certainly not warm, but my momentum with breathing, pushing myself under water, and swimming and posing with my eyes generally open, then returning to the surface for a breath of air once I was able to free my mouth from my hair, kept me going for a long time. The photographer, Perry Julien, used a GoPro with a waterproof casing, and a small weight belt to help keep him from floating to the surface. There was another model with us who joked about her inability to submerge herself and I countered that I could not float unless moving, and proved this to be true when the two of us did back-floats and she floated easily and I had to periodically kick my feet to keep from slipping under the surface. When I was much younger I loved swimming, but grew up and became pool adverse. Perhaps just the need for bikinis or swim suits was the real deterrent.

There was a learning curve with working underwater, but after I figured out some details which do not seem as thought they should be so complicated, but somehow suddenly are when you are used to using one skill set on water, and now have to submerged in water, devoid of oxygen, with chlorine in your eyes, and maintain a pleasant look, there is a switched to be turned in your brain. I spent at least an hour and a half in the pool, with alternating ups and downs to breathe and do photos, and was thoroughly invigorated.

One more skill added to my repertoire - underwater modeling.

Photographed by Perry Julien
Instagram @freespiritsphotography
Models: Keira Grant and Michelle Honeywell