Monday, November 1, 2010

Hotel Stories

The prospect of doing a photoshoot in a hotel could be a nightmare, or a photographer's dream.  For most photographers, the expense involved in any aspect of the work is a serious consideration.  Basically, that means that getting a "dream" location out of a hotel room (or building) will be very challenging for all but the most well-heeled (or financed).

There are a number of challenges faced with shooting in a hotel environment.  In most rooms, for example, there are only windows (actually, most of the time only ONE window) on one of the four walls.  So natural light is in short supply.  To make matters worse, we might have little say on the exposure (North, South, East, West) of that room, and in a city the lower floors are typically shadowed by towering buildings nearby.  Not an easy problem to be faced with.

Additionally, there is an aspect I'll call "photographer friendliness", which I'll just use as a category for all the things besides the hotel room itself.  That would include, for example, any common spaces - how accessible they are, if they could be realistically used, how much impairment is imposed by other hotel guests, and does the hotel staff look kindly on having their facility included in any photoshoots.

I knew these would be some of the obstacles I'd face as I pondered the whole notion of trying to set up any photoshoots in Bangkok.  Underscoring the importance of the hotel room/facility was my knowledge of Thai women and Thai culture in general.  That is, they tend to be quite modest in any kind of public space.  So shooting in, say a park, would be somewhat difficult and limiting.  On the other hand, Bangkok has many, many splendid hotels, and as Asian cities go, there are some decent hotels to be had at a modest price.  Overall, I figured I could come out on the winning end of the equation, and it's one reason I decided to pack all that gear and plan on some shoots.

My first hotel was one I'd stayed at in the past, so I knew pretty well what to expect.  I didn't have the freedom to make a personal visit before making the booking (remember, I was in San Francisco when I was making my travel plans).  This hotel (all of them will remain unnamed in this post) had pretty good sized rooms - in fact they are all suites of a sort.  So that part worked out to be within my expectations.  What I hadn't counted on was the construciton under way immediately outside the hotel, including the area adjacent to the pool.  Also somewhat disappointing was the dismantling of the fitness room, again due to the construciton.  I had in mind that that space might be usable for some shots, but alas - it simply didn't exist any longer.

I was able to do a few shots in the pool area.  Here's one:

Actually, we were able to get a few pretty good shots in, though it was very late in the afternoon and the light was fading quickly.  I had to discard a few of the shots, or simply not take any from many angles, as the backdrop would have been scaffolding covered with tarpaulins.  The pool of this hotel is located directly outside the lobby, so that meant that any hope for privacy was completely unwarranted.  During the poolside shots, I had to avoid a couple of guys floating in one area of the pool, who didn't particularly try to avoid being in the photo.  And we had an audience. 

I'd asked one of the hotel managers if it was going to be okay for me to shoot the model by the pool, to which they responded it wouldn't be a problem at all.  But during the shoot, I think just about every hotel staffer working on the first floor was clustered around the doorway, trying to get a peek of what was going on.  Add to that about a half dozen Japanese businessmen lounging around the pool, all with their eyes glued to Xanny.  Well, at least she wasn't a shy gal, and this had little effect on her.

I would leave Bangkok for a few days' journey into Isaan, but before I left for that trip I knew I had to do some intelligence work on where my next hotel would be when I returned.  More on that in my next post...

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