Photography dream sessions become a reality! While I was in Las Vegas recently for a recent Model Network Vogue styled Hollywood glam shoot (which you’ll see in an upcoming post) I had the opportunity to team up with Gretchen Leigh Photography who is based out of Nevada. Her and I have worked together several times through styled shoots in both Lake Tahoe and New York City with the class of 2019 senior Model Network National team. Through our time working together, I’ve really come to adore her and her work.
We took off in Gretchens’ car with her model Erica a few hours before sunset to a small town about an hour away from Las Vegas strip. We were clued in by a fellow Model Network National photographer who is a Las Vegas native about a desolate location with a few Joshua Trees that would be an ideal place for our shoot. (This is where knowing the right people can be so super helpful!~ Thanks Rey if you’re reading this!!)
We found the spot, just as described, geared ourselves up and hiked out into the desert. I kept imagining all of the snakes that would be basking in the sunlight, and felt rather grateful that we were there during their cold season. Just the week before this very spot was covered in a light blanket of snow, the first snow Las Vegas had seen since 1937! The sun was going down a bit quicker than we anticipated over the horizon, so we began shooting right away. My partner Remanu was on board to help with holding my light, and Gretchen’s reflector. (he’s always so helpful!)
I got my settings sorted out and started snapping away, the first shot out of the camera was this one~ My jaw dropped. The colors, the desert, the styling, and her smile. OMGODDESS, I was in for some amazing photographs!!! Erica’s laughter was coming from my screaming…AHHHH ITS SOOOOO GOOD!!!! (and it was)
“See she does the same thing as I do Erica….”, Gretchen laughed along. Apparently this is a common thing to do amongst photographers who really love their work; we scream out loud in absolute joy when we get the shot that we’ve always dreamed of creating. Gretchen took her turn snapping away, and we piggy backed, back and forth into the sunset shouting, “so good” “ahhh, I LOVE THIS!”, and “You’re amazzzzing!!” (and it was)
The sun was dropping fast, and we were clicking away with the last rays of daylight. My favorite way to shoot during golden hour has always been with the models back to the sun for the hairlight and using either a reflector or my strobe to fill in the foreground and light the subject. (as seen below) In the above images, they were lit with the sun shining on her face and my strobe filling in some of the shadow detail on the pants and hair to prevent the fall off from the sunsetting.
Its never an easy task to shoot directly into the sun. Your auto focus freaks out, sun spots can show up in unwanted places, and it takes a level of precision to really nail the shot. My lens hood wasn’t cutting it, and so in this situation, I had to actually use my hands to block the light coming into the lens from throwing my focus out of wack, so the images below were shot one handed, pointer finger on the shutter, thumbs franticly trying to back button focus. Asking her to twirl, while maintaining my BBF points was interesting to say the least, but I did manage to capture some great expressions sans sun flare.
As the sunset dropped lower, I asked Erica to as well so I could capture more of the grass and sky all together. One of her favorite poses is this power pose below. She nailed the shot, and is such an emotive expressive model. We hiked back towards where the Joshua trees were and gathered a few more shots with them in the background. Our grand finale.
That’s a wrap! This is a cell phone pic of me throwing my hands up to salute the sun, and the epicness of our journey. I feel so blessed and grateful to Gretchen, Erica, and Remanu; all of which played a role in contributing to a successful shoot for the memory books.
If you or someone you know is/has a high school senior who is looking to travel with me for destination shoots and participate in group styled portrait shoots like these, send them my way and tell them about the Senior Empowerment Collective. I offer destination shoots exclusively to seniors who are enrolled in the Collective. I’ll be heading back to Las Vegas next February and ready to create more magic like this…whose coming with me?!