Photo Shoot Weekend Divine

     belly dance photography             

 “The Dragon Fly Twirl, Click and Pose”

Not long ago  I went on a wonderful adventure with a group of gals. Well okay, there were three 16 year olds in the back seat talking a mile a minute on a volume that was stuck on “high.” It was the photo shoot weekend of a life time because unbeknownst to me, I was in the presence of a petite photographer prodigy.

Savanah (my daughter) and her friends Christina and photographer extraordinaire, Vivien along with Vivien’s Mom Michelle crammed into our jeep two weeks ago and we all headed up to Michelle’s family ranch in Stanley (Ojo de Cebolla) north of Moriarty, NM. Carlos, Michelle’s brother was at the ranch guiding us in and lending his assistance .It was amazing  to see such family support for Vivien and everyone helped out any way they could. I also thought it was wonderful that Michelle offered her family ranch as a photo shoot location and she was a delight to visit with.

I was dressed up in my gypsy outfit which included a corset, skirt and boots. The giggles were non stop in the jeep but once we arrived at the ranch, Vivien turned into a serious photographer and started telling me where she wanted me to stand, pose or move. The two of us worked together like we had worked with each other for years. The backdrop for this amazing photo shoot was old adobe walls, and believe it or not one of the first “bordellos” in New Mexico history! It felt a little spooky but some of the pics in that particular building really were not only hauntingly beautiful but timeless. All the buildings had personalities of their own and were on the family ranch within walking distance to each other. Vivien took black and white besides color photos and she had a timing that you just have to be born with to photograph dancers. She caught my veil as I twirled along with my skirt and in the background were old windows, doorways, wood floors and an eerie feeling of the old west. Plus there were lots of noises, bangs and stinky smells that reminded us that we were in the desert not to mention ghosts making themselves known. Our ghost radar was on “high” and there were a few times I almost felt like running out of the bordello house but I kept this a secret from the girls.

Photo shoots can be a lot of work but this particular photo shoot breezed by and by the time we were finished with the first location I was astonished we had been to various buildings for almost two hours. As we stepped into a wonderful old house that belonged to Michelle’s family I could feel the history of the family all around me. It’s was a warm feeling that touches your soul and makes you feel right at home. We previewed some of the photos and that is when my jaw literally fell open and I was like a kid in a candy store going, “I want that one and oh my God look at that one and no wait I think that one!”  In the almost two hours of working with Vivien, I probably had more photos to work with then at any given time with any other photographer. She blew me away because we had just begun our day and had more locations to go to. I was thinking to myself as we drove to Santa Fe, “Not only is this the photo shoot of a lifetime but I am one lucky dancer and model”.

The way Vivien worked was like an old pro and the best part of all was how easy she was to work with. She is an instinctive photographer which is a true find almost like a lost treasure because an instinctive photographer knows by intuition how the backdrop or lighting will work with the model. Some of the black and white photos were even more powerful then the color because Vivien knew to use the lighting to her advantage. Black and white photos also give off the “atmosphere” of a building while the color photos tend to show life and movement in present day. I loved the fact that I had two different versions to choose from besides the added surprise of Vivien giving me the options automatically. We didn’t talk about it; she just knew to take both versions. I wonder if Ansel Adams is somehow guiding her?!!

Photo shoots are a risky business because the outcome can hang in the balance of either fantastic photos or photos few and far between. For instance I went out to an old west town for a photo shoot a few years ago and I think there were 3 photos that I was able to use from the entire day. We spent a lot of our time walking the terrain and eventually working along a hillside or in town finding the right building but I found that I just didn’t feel insync with the photographer and it showed in just about every photo. Photographer and model relationships that work, are like finding pure gold and believe me when I say even the best of intentions don’t always work out. If a photo shoot flops, it can take the wind out of both photographer and model. I can remember one particular photo shoot where my group of students and I took a photographer out to lunch as a thank you and he ended up being grumpy with everyone. I think he knew the outcome of our photo shoot ahead of time because there wasn’t one photo I could use after the fact.

belly dance photography

The next location was a small town up the road from the ranch called Galisteo where a Catholic church resides in which Michelle’s parents Eva and (Deacon) Carlos Pacheco were married. The church still stands today and is a testament to the faithful maintaining its walls and history. As we were standing in the parking lot, I saw a dirt road almost directly across from the church that looked interesting. We ventured down the road and saw that it came to a bridge that looked like it had been around for many years. The bridge had the distinct feeling of going on forever and the opposite end gave off a magical feeling of entering into another time and place. Vivien and I looked at each other because we had the same thought at the exact same time. So we ventured on a short walk to the bridge and with Vivien’s first click of her camera she started the black and white photo shoot that was just enchanting. An old Chevy pick up truck made its way along  the bridge and with Vivien’s keen eye she knew it would add  ambiance to the back ground and design of the photos. She just has that intuition that a photographer is born with because you just can’t teach someone to follow their instincts especially with live on-site photo shoots. I twirled until I was dizzy and Vivien clicked away until she was satisfied she had achieved her shots.

Next we went to Santa Fe and had lunch at a cool restaurant called Cowgirls and enjoyed a surprise visit from Michelle’s Dad, Carlos Sr. who is full of New Mexico culture, history and philosophy. It was a wonderful afternoon and we were able to talk about many things including the success of the day’s adventures. Later after lunch we went to Michelle’s sister’s house; Diana’s house was not only beautiful but had a panoramic view of mountains and hills that definitely let you know you were in Santa Fe. Again the hospitality was wonderful and a reminder of how true native New Mexican’s live life.

After a relaxing break, Diana suggested a wonderful location for our late afternoon photo shoot. It was a trail that went along railroad tracks that was a hop, skip and a jump away from her house. With the cars it felt just like that as Michelle, Diana the girls and I all drove a short distance to the location and started our walk along the railroad tracks and into a magical sunset. It was I must admit my favorite location of the day because it was so unexpected and such a great idea. Diana was a great help and I loved her suggestions and ideas because in the end everyone made the photo shoots enjoyable and fun. It was truly a family affair and I feel so blessed to have experienced time with such a wonderful family!

Vivien was the consummate trooper and she started looking at the background and areas that would create a unique photo. She had me on top of  railroad ties or on the railroad tracks along a bridge. I was wearing my Bolero hat and with the sun setting, the images were just magnificent. New Mexico landscapes really add ambiance to any photo and no matter where you are there is always a mystery or magical feeling that is captured besides the unexpected lighting that cascades along the hills and valleys. The railroad tracks was an unexpected delight and a wonderful way to end an amazing day. All three photo shoot locations had something different to them and the best part of all was the petite prodigy that I had the pleasure and honor to work with. To date, Vivien is my favorite photographer of all time  and the photo shoot along with an amazing family’s generosity made it truly an experience of a life time!