We took four models into the desert to create dramatic portraits in the landscape

Nov 28, 2017

Jay Philbrick

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We took four models into the desert to create dramatic portraits in the landscape

Nov 28, 2017

Jay Philbrick

We love it when our readers get in touch with us to share their stories. This article was contributed to DIYP by a member of our community. If you would like to contribute an article, please contact us here.

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My wife, Vicki, and I are full-time portrait and wedding photographers. When we aren’t shooting these things, we like creating dramatic images of people in fantastic surroundings. One of our favorite locations to photograph is the desert Southwest of the United States. We have made many trips there in the past and always have a great time photographing models in some of the unique locations to be found there.

We just recently returned from a trip photographing four models in and around Moab, Utah. The area is covered with fantastic shooting locations both within and outside of the nearby national parks. The area is well known to any landscape photographer and there are many famous and well-publicized locations that are well worth visiting.

Much like our trip to Iceland and our cliff side work, the goal of the trip was to photograph models in unique, dramatic, and sometimes austere locations. Some of these were quite an adventure getting to, involving delicate climbing with heavy packs (I really must learn how to travel light at some point!). Our guide and model on one day, Jade, did a great job getting us all in and out of one crazy place! But most, including many of the most famous, were very easy approaches.

We traveled again with Sarah Maillet, a favorite model and friend who we have worked with often in the past and also met up with three talented models from the Moab area; Suzie, Morgan, and Jade. All four models are extremely eager and made our jobs almost easy, as they were all willing to endure the long hours, early starts, and sometimes heavy packs and hikes that were required for us to accomplish some of the concepts we had envisioned. Like landscape photographers, we concentrated our session times around sunrises and sunsets and we were heavily dependent upon weather conditions for the success of some of our images.

We shot a lot in Canyonlands National Park as well as Arches National Park. Both places have stunning scenery and often short approaches to fabulous locations for sunrises and sunsets. Deadhorse Point State Park was another convenient and awesome location. We were fortunate to have a large wardrobe with us due to the generous donations of a dress shop and designer who we have worked with in the past. The models also had a large amount of items to choose from.

At each location, our goal was to get images of the models in beautiful gowns (except for one prehistoric look!) with stunning backgrounds and interesting light. We would shoot both with and against the light to get different looks. As always, we had a number of strobes with us (up to 500 Ws and capable of HSS) to both compliment the natural light and to sometimes create our own light, depending upon which way we were shooting and where the sun was. Though unusual for the area, we had several overcast days which made for great color and portrait light and we also had a day of rain which created some dramatic backgrounds. We worked with a number of Nikon DSLR cameras and head lenses ranging from 17 to 750 mm equivalent.

We spent 10 days, shooting and working in the area and could have easily used another 10. The area has just so much to offer. We were there mid-November and the start of each day was fairly cold (usually mid 30s to lower 40s) but quickly warmed up and evenings were a perfect temperature to be working outside. I believe fall and spring are perfect times to visit the area, depending on what you want to shoot, but I would probably shy away from the crowds and serious heat of the summer. The town of Moab has ample lodging and plenty of great places to eat, shop, and some fabulous galleries.

We will be returning again before too long for sure!

About the Author

Jay Philbrick is a portrait and wedding photographer. Together with his wife, Vicki, they run their photography business in North Conway, New Hampshire. If you would like to see more of their work, visit their website and like their Facebook page.

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7 responses to “We took four models into the desert to create dramatic portraits in the landscape”

  1. aleroe Avatar
    aleroe

    This reminds me of all the movies where the women are not dressed appropriately for the situation. Like running away from a T-Rex in high heels.

    1. Tori Mele Avatar
      Tori Mele

      Haha, I suppose the view is different if you live in an area like these.

  2. Leo Falcon Avatar
    Leo Falcon

    Half of them look nice (actually two those look awesome), the other half look out of a bad green screen. This reminds me of my first attempts at photoshopping people on different places.

    1. Tori Mele Avatar
      Tori Mele

      There actually are better photos than these (I know the girls) but I’d like to see some of your attempts that are better if you don’t mind

      1. Leo Falcon Avatar
        Leo Falcon

        Ah! ye olde “I want to se you do it better” I don’t have any attempts at it. I’m a hobbyist at street photography and I don’t have the interest or resources to do a photoshoot like this one. Like I said, some photos remind me of my first attempts at photoshoping.

        1. Tori Mele Avatar
          Tori Mele

          Okay. You made it sound like you could do better. So I asked to see. Thank you for clarifying.

          1. Leo Falcon Avatar
            Leo Falcon

            Nah, the photos are nice and I’m sure some people like them all I’m just not into the contrast the photographer made with the dresses but I have no idea if that’s an accident or on purpose. So I only made my opinion from what I know and see.