True beauty is rare. Malana is a rare, true beauty that I met through a Craigslist ad that I had recently placed and while I am still hopeful to find a model that wants to be more of a muse than a one and done photo shoot model, I feel extremely fortunate to have built a nice foundation of trust with Malana. Enough for us to go on this short road trip for her first serious photo shoot. And we are planning more photo shoots for what appears to be shaping up as a short stay in El Paso for her, as she has other plans and will not be staying in the area.
We met at a local cafe for our first face to face meeting, and I was immediately taken back by her youthfulness and naturally beautiful appearance. She doesn't wear very much make-up, she doesn't have to. But what was more impressive than her good looks, was the substance and depth of her personality and interests. She's a talented writer and artist who has an awareness of the world that not many people her age can even comprehend. She was nice enough to let me read some of her poems and I knew right away that I wanted to create with her, be it photos or whatever.
Through our initial conversation she told me that she really loves to hike and explore, with that in mind, I thought that a short road trip up from El Paso to Elephant Butte Lake would make for a fun day of shooting, culminating with a sunset shoot by the lake, so that's what we agreed on. I had no idea what to expect, having never been to Elephant Butte. But it turned out to be an excellent location with lots of great spots for photos.
I really wanted to capture Malana's natural beauty in a way that would compliment her and to me that meant shooting with natural light only. I knew that would be a tall order when it came to capturing images at sunset, so I opted to bring one of my best low light lenses, the Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8, which, mounted on my 42 megapixel Sony A7RII, yields excellent results in low light. I wanted to travel light, since I was expecting to do some walking and hiking, so I only brought along that camera/lens combo and my compact, yet superb Sony RX1RII with the Zeiss 35mm f/2 fixed lens. Those two set ups are probably my very best, and I felt she not only deserved my best efforts but also to be captured with my very best gear, given the conditions. In the future, however, I also want to shoot her with some of my top end film cameras.
Our first location didn't really yield any usable images, for several reasons, not the least of which was the bland, brownish, dry landscape under the bright mid-day sunlight simply wasn't very flattering or eye catching. Still, we broke the ice and I felt that getting some snap shots under our belt would help relax her, and I think it did because our second location (see above) resulted in a number of stunning images, as did the rest of our locations.
Malana and I had discussed our mutual appreciation of the female form and beauty and I felt that she would be a perfect candidate for capturing some artistic, tasteful, sensual images, but captured in a natural way that was positive and artistic, and I really think we both did a great job of that. Especially when it came to the sunset photos in the water (more to come on that).
The marina also gave us some great results, then again, when working with a model as lovely as Malana, it's almost impossible not to get great images. There was a strong breeze blowing, which added a lot of nice motion and flow to her hair, but definitely made it impossible to get any reflections from the water.
Almost all the photos in this gallery are untouched, straight out of the camera, not edited. I did, however, as in the above photo, try out some "vintage" effects and in this particular case, it worked quite well. The black and whites all turned out amazing too! Some are converted to mid-tone and others to high contrast. The high contrast worked best with her white bikini, simply stunning!
We had to hike about a half mile or so to get to the East side of the lake (so that we could shoot towards the sunset) we really had no idea what we would find or where exactly we would shoot, but as it turned out, we found a nice, secluded spot along the water. It's still winter and the weather has been chilly, meaning the water in the lake was ice cold, but Malana wanted to GET IN THE WATER for some photos. I told her she didn't have to, I certainly would not have, but her beauty is second only to her desire and creative drive and I could tell she had her mind set on getting in the water for some photos.
We snapped a few shots in the water before sunset, she didn't go in very far at first, but when the pinks and purple hues started appearing in the Western skies, she didn't hesitate.
This was one of my most enjoyable photo shoots ever, it's safe to say Malana and I worked well together and as we spent more time, the trust in our model / photographer relationship grew stronger. I made sure she knew that she was ultimately in charge and I think that put her more at ease. She was a little hesitant when it came to topless images, but that's to be understood and I didn't press, she's still young and this was her first shoot after all. In the end, I think the way we captured all of her images were truly beautiful, artistic and complimentary to the female form.
This group of high contrast black and whites are my favorite images of the day. It just played so well with her white bikini and dark clouds in the background.
I think she's got lots of potential, not just as a model, but as a creative soul. I am trying to talk her into working on a project for her poetry in which we compliment each of her poems with a corresponding photo or piece of her art work. In the meantime, I am content in looking forward to our next adventure. We might head up to Albuquerque and make a video to tell the story of our road trip and show how we captured our images. So stay tuned!
I hope you enjoy the photo gallery.
A big thank you again to Malana for her time, trust in me and extraordinary efforts (getting in the freezing cold water!).