Heck Yeah! Photo Camp 2016

Meeting Strangers in the Desert

2nd September, 2016

A couple of weeks ago I flew to California for a photography workshop put on my a photographer I admire deeply — Ben Sasso. The first thing I did when I got to California was sit in my rental car and sweat my ass off for ten minutes, having turned on only the accessory power but not the engine. Once I figured that out, I headed through the foothills from Palm Springs toward Joshua Tree.

Having never been so far south in California I soaked up the sun and geology around me. The brown hills covered in dry scrub had some oddly intriguing quality. Cacti and tumbleweeds littered across sandy flats were novel and delightful.

Portrait of Montana Dennis, photographer, in Joshua Tree National Park

Over the course of a few days we heard from so many wonderful photographers about their experiences. The topics ranged from directing to philosophy to business. I learned a lot from these speakers that I'm slowly incorporating into my shooting and my processing. One of the most pure, unadulteratedly honest moments was when Ryan Muirhead got up to speak.

To be perfectly honest, I had always viewed Ryan's work as somewhat pornographic. Nudity is a common sight in his work, and I hadn't made a connection between the visuals and his message or art. After meeting the man and hearing what he has to say and what he's lived, I see his work in a brand new light. He's extremely connected to his work and his subjects. He strips away the standard set of emotions and gets to the things we as humans are afraid to express. He's a stand up guy and an absolute virtuoso.

By the third day, we were itching to get some shooting in. We drove into Joshua Tree National Park at the crack of dawn to catch the sunrise.

Portrait of Lindsey Boluyt, photographer, in Joshua Tree National Park
Photographer Lindsey Boluyt sits admit the rock formations in Joshua Tree National Park

At the end of a full day of talks, we were recharged and ready to shoot again. The organizers brought in five models and several couples situated throughout the grounds. We had a couple of hours to just practice what we'd learned, shoot, and have some fun! The sunset light in the desert was unlike anything I've experienced before. So golden and so soft. Here are a few of my favorite frames.

A styled shoot with Brianna Barnes on an old couch in the desert.
Model Maura McNamara models a flowing gown in Joshua Tree National Park
Brianna Olenslager models a smoky makeup and silk romper look in Joshua Tree National Park
Staci and Michael Giroux in the setting sun in Joshua Tree National Park

I encourage you all to step outside your comfort zone and go on small adventures in life. Even the smallest deviations from ordinary can lead to unexpected boosts in creativity, energy, and optimism. Inspiration is everywhere!