Thursday, April 12, 2012

Reflections from Recent Trip - Second Installment

I left Bangkok after having completed a shoot with Nardia and Nattimus, bound for Hong Kong. I didn''t have any shoots lined up in Hong Kong, nor in any cities in China for that matter. I'd had a few email exchanges with some models discovered through Model Mayhem, as well as a couple referrals from another photographer in Hong Kong, and an (unsuccessful) attempt to connect through a Chinese language MM equivalent. However, none of these resulted in a clear agreement to shoot, or were in some indeterminate state before I'd actually arrived in Hong Kong.

It would have been quite easy to arrange for shoots in Hong Kong proper, but I had avoided plans to shoot there. Hotels in Hong Kong are just incredibly expensive and/or small, so I didn't want to fork out the huge cash outlay just to shoot in a decent place in Hong Kong, especially because I'd been to HKG so many times already. Also, since I'm able to speak some Chinese (Mandarin), and always trying to learn more, I really wanted to go into China where I would be more compelled to use my Chinese. I also had plans to visit a friend who is currently living in Zhongshan (a small city not far from Hong Kong, but in China), so I figured I'd go up to Guangzhou after visiting my friend.

After staying in Zhongshan a few days (really cold compared to Bangkok!), I boarded a bus bound for Guangzhou. I didn't have any friends or prior acquaintances in Guangzhou, but did have the phone number of one model I'd exchanged a few emails with. I ended up not shooting with her, because she's primarily a nude model. It's not that I object to shooting nude, but I have found that I'm more creative when the question of wardrobe, as well as that element of mystery, is more in play with non-nude subjects. Plus she wanted to charge me substantially more than I'm accustomed to paying, which I interpret as some indifference on the model's part in working with me.

It was uncomfortably cold in Guangzhou my first evening there, and I found myself grateful for having brought gloves with me. I wandered around a bit (actually a lot – almost two hours of walking) to get a feel the part of the city I was staying in. I took dinner in a small an inexpensive restaurant serving local fare, then afterward wandered into a small Japanese restaurant and bar. It wasn't very crowded, and as I sat at the bar and exchanged a few words in Chinese with the barmaid, I learned that she also spoke some English. We chatted quite a lot, and since I had my laptop with me, I was able to show her some of my photography work. She'd never modeled, but indicated she would possibly be interested to shoot with me. She didn't have any traditional Chinese dresses, but I noticed a place nearby where I could buy a cheongsam quite inexpensively. I told her I'd buy her one if she'd shoot with me. So we both agreed to meet the next day and go shopping for the dress. We were both pretty thrilled to have discovered one another.

Sometime late in the evening, my mobile phone chimed with the notice of incoming text messages. It was from a model, commenting on my photography style (she asked if I had a stocking fetish – I hadn't been asked that before!). I wasn't sure which model this was at the time, since I'd sent a few emails out that pretty much went unanswered. She sent me the link to her profile, which I checked upon my return to my hotel, and I was quite pleased to discover it was Milly. We'd agreed to shoot the very next day (Milly's link below).

So I went to bed feeling quite good that having arrived in town half a day earlier and no shooting prospects, I had lined up what looked like two shoots already. I especially like it when I make a connection with someone who's not modeled before. I'm not sure why that is – maybe it's something like discovering a new talent, or helping a woman to discover that she likes to model and also realize how beautiful she can be represented if photographed well.

The next day I was a little bit surprised that the gal from the Japanese restaurant actually did call me (Sasa). I thought she might have second thoughts, but she did call me and we met up at the hotel and walked over to the shop where I spotted reasonably priced Chinese dresses. She seemed pretty happy to find one she liked, and we also bought a couple small accessories (earrings, hair pin). We finished up our shopping trip, had a cup of coffee, then went our separate ways as I had to start a shoot with Milly, and she had to go to work.

I arrived back at my hotel just in time to put a few things in order, get my flash units set up, etc., before getting a message that Milly had arrived. I found her to be even more charming in person that her portfolio would have me believe, and we worked very well together. In fact, after the shoot and taking time to review the shots, we agreed we both wanted to shoot one more time while I was in town.

The third day in Guangzhou became delightfully warm and springlike, so Sasa and I decided to take some shots in a local park. It was a bit non-ideal, since we started around mid-day, and she'd have to start work in mid-afternoon. So we had the mid-day sun to deal with which, as expected, made managing highlights and shadows quite challenging. We also did a few shots in my hotel room, which came out pretty nicely. She was very pleased, and passed the word onto one of her coworkers who I also ended up doing a shoot with (Sasa also talked with one of her friends who wanted to shoot, but she wasn't available until after I'd be leaving Guangzhou).

Overall, it was a really great trip. I arrived in Guangzhou with no definitive plans to do any model shoots, but still managed to have four separate shoots. I had one “off” day where I strolled around and took in some local color, as well as snapping a few pictures of street life there (I welcome you see some works in my “other” Flickr site:

I often reflect on how much of a thrill it is for me to be involved in photography, and especially being fortunate enough to create images with the lovely women I meed along the way. This pursuit leads me on many interesting adventures and provides a pathway of meeting many good friends along the way. I know I'm a lucky man.

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