Friday, August 15, 2014

Perils of outdoors shooting

Photographed by JCP Photogray
Boone, NC

Last night I reviewed the photos on the back of my collaborating photographer’s camera and saw a red line slashed across the back of my right ankle. I had not seen this mark before and when I inspected my ankle, there bumpy and red was the sure sign of poison ivy. I knew I had about 9 horsefly bites decorating my body with colorful round welts, which came about during several hours of submerging myself partially in river water, twisting around model Blue River Dream and holding gracefully as Steven Billups carefully waited for the water ripples to calm and photographed us with film, but this rash was new.

When spring approaches and until the last signs of warm fall, I encourage photographers to take advantage of the warm weather to photograph me outside. The chance of an unusual chilly day, or rogue summer storm is always a possibility, but generally a less than optimal weather day during the summer will trump a typical winter day in regards to outdoors shooting conditions.  The natural environment allows for a distinct backdrop, complete with original “props,” or rocks, trees, plants and other surprising elements, which lay there awaiting your artistic sightings.  Nature can provide a complete playground for photography, but a little consideration to the potential problems should be applied.

Unless you have permission to use a site for nude photography, unappreciative onlookers who may notify the authorities, or even the police themselves need to be looked out for. All of my shoots on a location are artistic in nature, but my idea of art is absolute blasphemy to some people. In some states, a bare bottom, a bit of fuzzy bush, or a little nipple may be enough to put you in jail or on the sex offenders’ list, or on the less extreme, result in an unwanted fine. In my 5 years as a professional model, I have had two worrisome encounters with police, one with a security guard, and countless onlooker sightings. After 20 minutes being separated from my photographer conspirator, and questioned by the police, I learned early on that once spotted by a disapproving person at a location, you best leave before the cops can arrive. I also learned my first summer of modeling that even if a location has never had onlookers, there will always be a first time when there is someone sharing the space and they may not always share your views on nudity as art.

Rob Randall
Boone, NC

A bit of prudence will help with outdoors nudes.  Open ears, eyes and awareness is indispensable. Always having a dress that easily goes on and off in the case of warning signs of a person approaching is essential. If shooting outdoors on public land, you will be glad your dress went on in less than 30 seconds when a person shows up soundlessly around the bend in the path.  Some people may spot you and be unperturbed, but in the case of being seen, you can feel out the vibe of the person. Some will find enjoyment in a beautiful sighting, but others will be deeply offended and on occasion, an onlooker will smile and seem happy, but still pick up their phone to call the police once they are out of your sight. Many professional models are willing to push the boundaries of where they can shoot, but ultimately a model’s comfort is the most important. A photographer is a partner in a shoot, but in reality the model is the nude party and the one who faces any legal problems, in the event of a worst case scenario.

The great thing about the outdoors are the plants and animals which live there, but these things can be the worst elements as well. Insects are expected to be found outdoors and to seek their meals where they reside, and when we come into their paths, we may become their dinner. Dousing yourself in bug repellent may not smell beautiful, but the welts of insect bites ultimately look and feel much worse than a day of chemical smell in your nostrils.  There will always be some sites which are more insect ridden than others, and sometimes amazing nooks are where the most mosquitos hide and may make for incredible photos but the cost of week long mosquito bite marks may not be a good enough win to warrant shooting in such a location. The model’s discretion must be heeded as she may show up to other shoots with a handful of marks from the elements, but there is a limit to how many marks is seen as professionally acceptable. There is always another location to shoot in, so if that dark, bug ridden cave is ruled out, continue with your scouting and use a bit of creativity to find the angle with another area.

I learned about poison ivy the hard way, stupidly twisting within the beautiful plant for some photos.  As nice as they are, I cannot look at the photos from the poison ivy afternoon. I am now cautiously watchful of poison ivy or other poison plants when outdoors.  My newfound poison ivy rash proves that even prudence is not enough when outdoors in the woods every handful of days, and hopping around to avoid poison plants is helpful but will not fully prevent exposure. A cool shower, then washing off with soap with cool water will help remove the oils, but will not completely help those prone to reaction. I have heard alcohol wipes help, and that there are specific products which are helpful but need to look further into this. I have prescribed myself antihistamines and daily cortisone cream to help with my horsefly bites and poison ivy rash, and a bit of faith that the systemic rash will not spread too far.  As of this morning, my rash is well contained and not something which will affect any of my upcoming shoots.

Outdoors shoots often include walking and waiting time – a model will likely not be nude the entire time. For slightly more public places, waiting for other people in the area to come and go, will always be part of a shoot, but this time can be used to figure out light and scout out the best angles and possibilities. For photographers who will not be satisfied unless are snapping photos of a nude model the entire duration of a shoot, I do not recommend outdoors shoots in most locations; but for photographers who understand photography as a creative, artistic process, outdoors can be an ideal setting.

As I scamper on rocks and climb trees, I am always careful to not hurt myself, but a few marks are often inevitable. I am little and nimble, but sometimes choose to move slowly to avoid dragging my skin on abrasive surfaces, more for the sake of my following shoots than my current one. I look at the environment as a puzzle to fit myself within and sometimes that involves exploration rather than immediate posing.  There are a handful of factors with outdoors modeling which I must be heedful to, but the chance to be in nature creating art makes me an extremely happy model. And models who are happy and inspired are the best muses.

Tree climbing
David Nonetknowles photography
Berkeley, CA

Eric Lowenburg
Bay Area, CA

Beauty Outdoors Photography
Baltimore, MD

  These two images from a nudist camp
Dave Lewis
Seattle, WA


  1. I have been shooting nudes outdoors for so many years that I do not remember when I first did it. Something that I found a long time ago and is confirmed here in this blog is about getting permission to work on private property. Today it is easy to find the owners of property due to the services of the internet that are readily available.

    To get permission is relative easy if you.....carry liability insurance and can have your insurer send to the land owner a certificate of insurance naming the owner as additional insured. On top of that, have a hold harmless agreement that protects the owner from all that you, as the photographer and model might cause and that you will not hold land owner liable for anything.

    The reason is attorneys sue over anything at all. They do not want their land or property vandalized, nothing stolen, and if either the model or photographer should get hurt that the owner is not in any kind of way liable for that either.

    I have been refused access over the years less than 2% of the time by using this method. And it makes sense.

    1. Any chance you'd be willing to share those documents?

  2. Why do I know so much about this subject?! Thanks for an interesting article!

  3. Thank you for all of your feedback. I just found out about a product, technu, which is used with poison ivy. I thought I would share this here for my further reference and yours. :)