Category Archives: Working with Models

All aspects of models and working with models

Something Unexpected!

I had an unexpected surprise yesterday morning.  A kid stopped by that I was interviewing for a model.  He is from Montana but works in the oil fields down in Colorado and was taking off to head back there today for work.  We jumped right into shooting, or testing,  to see how he would photograph.  The natural winter light was beautiful in the studio so we continued to shoot for an hour or so.  Wow, he was just sensational to work with.  Totally a natural!  I am jacked to resume shooting on this project again.  Now I really need to get myself in gear and begin actively looking for some new subjects.  I spent the morning working through his images and began texting some of them to him as I worked.  They looked very good naturally without much adjusting.   He will be back to Montana in a couple of weeks so we can begin working again.  If there is anyone out there that would like to work with me or knows of someone that would become a good subject let me know.  It seems quite difficult to find people here in Missoula.


I was a bit premature in my longing for spring and the garden because yesterday we had a terrible storm blow through Missoula and about shut the city down.  We ended up pulling all our UPS drivers in early because it was so bad, something I have never seen us do in all the time I have worked there.

Writing the blog this year, somehow, seems easier.  It flows easier as I feel I am better able to connect with my thoughts.  Those first blogs were a labor and often took hours to write and edit.  But I did not have much writing experience so I mostly just wrote what came into my head.  I am beginning to systematically rework this site.  I’ve been shutting down galleries that have broken links.  A while back I reorganized the structure of it and so if you find a link that goes nowhere, not to worry it should be fixed soon.  I am also going through my catalogs of images, cleaning up and reorganizing some of them to create new galleries.  I have a bunch of new models and many images that have never been shown and will try to add new ones each week.

Yesterday I added Seth; these are some of the latest images I have worked on.  Seth had a very hard angular body and expression and I designed the light to reflect his personality.  I particular love the lighting on this series.  The light sources are very narrow and sharp, with a tight focus.  In fact it was so tight I had a hard time keeping him in the channel of light I created.  In many ways I think these are some of the most exciting images because they have a very commercial feel to them.  Seth had a great deal of modeling experience and was easy to direct.  The lighting concept was to use one very strong key light coming in from a higher angle from the left.  I did add a little bit of fill light and slight sculpting from the right, but it is so subtle that it’s barely perceptible.  You will see it more so in some of the later images then the first.  The black and white images in this series where from a 2nd shoot several months later.  I know these would be black and white and lit Seth more bringing softer lights in from both sides to accentuate more the textures of his skin and torso.  I also envisioned these images would undergo some processing in the conversion to black and white or desaturation.  I tend to not do a lot of processing with my images, but I also knew these would look a little better if I flattened the tonal curves just a bit.  I see my subjects as lighting test and experiments and constantly and tweaking and adjusting the lighting and the subject during the shoot.

The Moment Of Vision

I often see a vision that becomes quite sensual to me, a beautiful man, standing naked, in the shadows of the room. I watch the light play on his skin in the darkness as only the shape of his figure is outlined by the highlights across his sensuous skin as he moves about in that darkness, lit only by a streetlight, faint, dim, dappled with emotion, spilling through the window. He subtly moves to expose the youthful shape of his abs, not well defined, but in the darkness I have felt their tightness, another shift and I recognize the powerful contour of his arms filled with tension. As he turns toward the window I recognize the flatness of his chest muscles as they ripple from the darkness yet the highlights expose a supple softness of his skin that I want to reach out, touch, caress. It transports me to a timeless place when I was young and suddenly the vitality of my own youth comes flooding back. He is unaware I am watching him so intently as I am inspired by this remarkable moment as if suspended in time. How do I bring this into the studio? How do I reveal my own thoughts, feelings and the emotions that overwhelm me? I am utterly entranced by the sensation of this remarkable beauty and merely desire to bask in it for an eternity, but know this moment is fleeting, and soon he will dress and go home. The essence of that moment lingers on however fleeting it may have been, savoring it, reliving it, playing it over in my head as it dances through my thoughts for days to come.

Creative Photographer Seeking Subjects

I have been working on finishing my final income generating projects for the season this weekend. Spent today working through the images of the last wedding of the year. Next week I am going to begin to organize myself, get the studio cleaned out, to begin shooting again on this Naked Man Project the following week. It’s been several weeks since I have had the opportunity to shoot something creative of this nature. Many of my subjects are students and most of them will be out for break that week. I have not paid a subject for shooting yet, the entire project so far has been done out of pure passion. It becomes an exchange thing where they get images in exchange for working with me. Though the images are for sell on the site, I make a standard agreement with my subjects that if anything of theirs sells they will get a third of the commission from the image or artwork. My standard agreement has always been: one third goes to the studio for supplies and equipment, I take a third, and a third goes to the subject; so it becomes a commission only basis. This is pretty standard for most photographers approaching this type of work. The images are still highly experimental and the whole process actually began as a way for me to test lighting designs or concepts for other paying gigs I was working on at the time. But it seems recently my focus has begun to shift more specifically to shooting this style of image and so I have actively begun seeking subjects. My subjects come from a variety of sources. In the beginning I mostly drew subjects from gay chat rooms or pick-up sites, because first of all most of them already exposed themselves on those sites and I often thought if they are willing to do it there they might be inclined to work with me on some my ideas. But my age becomes the biggest limitation as most of them are exposing themselves there to pick up other hot YOUNG guys and not really interested in the creation of art, silly me to think otherwise, right! So I have completely shifted away from looking there much anymore. Now they mostly become friends that I either meet or run into at social events in the community. Oddly enough, not many people in my community know about my work and what I am doing. Not even in the gay community. And oddly enough more of my subjects are actually straight and not gay at all. Occasionally I will see someone that I think has an alluring quality that draws my attention, an attitude, and a look in their eyes, but I am mostly drawn to personality and I will approach them. I am not really concerned about the physical shape of the person, as I am they will be open to honestly examine and explore their identity with me throughout the process. Most everyone is just an ordinary person you would meet off the street. It’s actually quite remarkable the transformation many of them go through during the process and the qualities they take on in my images, may not be what you would see in them passing them on the street. To me this is what makes the process so utterly fascinating because I believe everyone has something remarkable about themselves, if they are allowed to tap into it. It becomes a new way of seeing ourselves, in a new light, so to speak. But once someone has worked with me. It seems they always want to come back, and this is where the process really become interesting. People are rarely comfortable with the idea of seeing themselves naked the first time. The response is often startling for most everyone who comes in. Often is as startling for me. Each session is as unique as the subject. I do not have a standard formula and the beauty I seek becomes revealed in the moment. So far everyone has been from Montana, mostly drawing from the Missoula area. I am always looking for new subjects and ideas, so if you know of someone wanting to explore some images with me please send me an email. It’s a simple fun process and you do not have to expose it all, you only take it where you are comfortable. Fully clothed is optional after all it’s about you.

Looking for the Catch Light in Their Eyes

Yesterday I began a discussion about analyzing light in a photograph to use it to your advantage.  The discussion began with my looking at a book of rare vintage nudes from the 60’s.  And there was a prime example of what I wanted to talk about in one of the images but I can find a decent enough image of it online to show my examples so I am going to take this image of Travis.  It’s harder to do on an image that I already know and have created.  To me my own lighting techniques are so simplistic that they are hard to describe but here goes.  My concept for the image was to show a gritty dirty mechanic sort of guy who had been working in a shop possibly most of his life.  Growing up in small towns in Montana there are guys I know well and in high school I was particularly drawn to one kid who really exited me.  He was a smart kid from a poorer family and work to help supplement and support his family.  I watched him struggle most of the time and often worked instead of having fun with some of the rest of us his own age.  He had an alliance to duty and I felt he often felt trapped in that world longing to be out from under its burden.  He always seemed to live in a very fractured world.  Yet there was something sexy and sensual in his honesty and how humble his work in the garage became.  Every time I would visit he would just dirty in his coveralls, grime smeared across his face.  The smell of the grease and mechanic dirt somehow become intoxicating to me and I found a strong desire to somehow be closer to him and somehow ease his fractured world.

I used Travis as me subject for this study because he so much reminded me of the person I used to know.  So now that you know the history of the image I want you to begin looking that the image and analyze to see if I have indeed captured the properties of my intent tough the use of light.  Typically I do this with images I don’t know the story behind and try to discover the artist’s connection to the subject though their use of light and exposure.  The first thing I look at is the overall feel of the image.  What does it stir or evoke within myself?  There is a distance yet longing with in his eyes and a power and a strength in his hands that embrace the chain the bind him around his neck with a sort of comfort while he stands back, distant, yet there is a longing in his bloodshot eyes to connect to something different.  Once you have established the over all mood, you must search the image for what supports that feeling.  How does the light impact the psychology of the image?  How many lights did the photographer use and where were they placed.  The first place to begin to look for how a photographer uses light is to look at the catch light in the subject’s eyes.  If you can zoom in close it will give you a lot of detail what the shape of the light was and where it was placed.  On Travis you will see I used two lights in the front one a very long narrow light with a soft filter almost straight out in front, slightly to the right.  You will also see just a faint small secondary light to the left that fills in the shadows on the left side of his face.  This is what captures the longing in his eyes.  I then used two very strong lights one to the left, not very high to sculpt the right side and a secondary light with little filter over his left shoulder.  These are slightly behind him because I wanted there to be shadows on his face that represented and fractured light coming from different angels across his face, enhancing him being pulled in different directions accentuation his own fractured world.  To discover the placement of these lights you look at where the highlights hit and the shadows fall.  You see dappled patches of highlights across his face that mirrors the dappled grime on his face.  Look at how the shadows fall on the veins of his hands and try to visualize where the light would need to be outside of the image to create such an effect.  Then the image is slightly underexposed to give it a pervasive darkness that was really the mood I remember about this kid.

I can spend hours and hours looking at photographs trying to analyze the intensity of their felling.  I think many photographers once they learn the tools of their craft subliminally allow those powerful tools to work for them.  We don’t really have the time to necessarily analyze the image as we are taking them, but all we have ever learned just instinctively comes into play.

Though my thoughts of this boy go back to when we were both 16, nothing developed between us, just a remarkable friendship, but I still remember that longing to become a part of his world; to somehow linger beside him.  He ended up marring my best friend and entered a world of greater joy that I had never seen within him before.  He finally seemed content.  Years later I heard of his passing, probable suicide, and a sickness filled the pit of my stomach.  I know I have become a success with this image, when I gaze deep into Travis’ eyes and am haunted by the memory of our faded youth.