Ian Bailey has traveled with his lens from Macchu Picchu to Antarctica observing life, nature and fashion. His photos seem to give back to the subject rather than just take away their image. In this two-part series for , Ian shares photographic and life lessons he learned while shooting nudes in the Mojave Desert. To read Part One of this piece, follow this link.

“Mojave: Skin, Fabric, and Light.” I came up with the name of the gallery after we had shot in the Mojave desert that weekend. Mojave means “besides the water,” and the Mojave Desert is one of the driest places in the United States. It’s also home to Joshua Tree National Park. This is an arid, dry place that has an intense harshness of beauty that is unique. It has a certain energy and magic that can be seen at dawn and dusk, during those transition times.

I hadn’t expected to shoot that weekend but on the way to the Mojave Desert, my friend Chelsea texted me. She had been modeling since she was 14 years old, spending time in Europe working with major brands. It turned out she was going to be there and wanted to shoot.

[divider]Lesson 6[/divider]

Practice like you’re going to play. You do not rise to the occasion, you default to your level of training and experience. Pretending like you are shooting for a major art show, commission or brand will make you think and act differently, and your images will come out in a way that may be unexpectedly excellent.
shooting nudes in the mojave vanichi 2
What called out to me was the silhouette,  Sunny’s body was so lean and dynamic that I dialed my aperture down and placed the sun directly behind him, getting a little lower and finding how the light wanted to play. The most captivating moment was him in a yoga pose of both his hands shooting straight up into the air. With his long hair and lean body it had an androgynous feel that was very striking, but welcoming at the same time, with the colors radiating out around him. It almost had a divine energy, like it was his radiating aura. By this time I had told him to loose the boots and the belt, as they were a little much.

[divider]Lesson 7[/divider]

Light is alive, as is your model whether it be a person or place. Dance, move and play with each and see your image come alive.
The sun was going to drop in 10 minutes or so. A good rule of thumb to figure out how quickly the sun will go down is each finger between the sun and the ground is about 10 min. My girlfriend at the time was ready. Now she is beautiful, with a curvy figure but fit, full buttocks and bust with a narrow waist. She has light porcelain skin and light brown hair. We had chosen the pink fabric as it suited her energy the best. She took to it gracefully.
There was a sexual energy to it, her naked body wrapped in fabric, the sun dropping highlighting her body with the fabric creating a thin veil between us. As I shot she laughed and played, spun around and as I gave her direction there was an innocence that came out that I had not seen in her. This beautiful openness that allowed me to come in and capture a moment of vulnerability and beauty that was both divine and lustful. It is not easy in this world to be both the saint and the sinner, and often times woman are forced to be one or the other, in this case she did something that allowed for both, at least in what I feel I captured.
Perhaps it was the nudity veiled or the sunlight preventing you from seeing every detail, but it worked. It was sexy, and in my eyes, elegant.

[divider]Lesson 8[/divider]

The energy with which you shoot, both you and the model is everything. EVERYTHING. Your energy and the energy you’re creating will be infused in your image.
We finished that night by them insisting that I strip down and take some nude photos as well. So naturally hands went to the hips, chest out and did my best superman pose… it did not translate the same way I thought it would on camera. My girlfriend at the time and I took some photos together, wrapped in that pink sheer fabric by my friend Sunny, who was happy to take on the role of photographer. I on the other hand could be seen as visibly transitioning to going from behind the camera to in front of it. Naked.

[divider]Lesson 9[/divider]

Have fun, get naked.
The next evening I had grabbed Chelsea early in the day and checked in with her, she was on board. When the sun was starting to set I began too look for here again and had a bit of trouble. Chelsea was no where to be found. So I took a gamble and headed to her tent. I was a bit stressed as I wanted to have some time with her to shoot. The sun was setting and by the time I got to the tent we had about 15 minutes left of light, luckily she was there. We grabbed the black sheer silken fabric and headed up to a hill that she thought would be amazing. She was right.
shooting nudes in the mojave vanichi
As we headed up there a guy joined us, I don’t know why, but he did. I didn’t know him and Chelsea had met him the night before. As we approached the top of the hill I had asked Chelsea if she felt comfortable going topless for the shoot, with the black fabric, I felt she was open to it and she had said yes. When we arrived at the top of the hill, she glanced at the guy again, and said she would feel more comfortable with the top on.

[divider]Lesson 10[/divider]

If your not comfortable, or your subject is uncomfortable the potential of the shoot goes down. If someone is there that is not contributing, ask them to politely give you space. Your comfort to create in your space is very important, and so is the models.
Chelsea had very little sleep, hadn’t showered, and had no makeup on.  The photos sang, they were beautiful. They really did and they really are. She turned on some source of energy inside of her and made the photos work. As I shot her and the sun went down, I took half a dozen beautiful photos, she had a sports bra on underneath and it didn’t make the shot sing as much if she had been nude underneath, but this moved me in the direction of shooting differently. Hiding the top underneath by dropping my aperture so you couldn’t see through the fabric. The shots turned out amazing, and we only had about 10 minutes of actual creation time.
That weekend I created images that I am still very proud of to this day. It was unexpected, fun and spontaneous. That weekend I allowed myself to grow just a little bit as an artist, and I feel sparked my desire to create that I still have to this day.

[divider]Lesson 11[/divider]

Professional models and photographers are paid well for a reason. Because they can deliver when asked, regardless of circumstances. Pay your models and photographers, and hire ones that are good at what they do. It will make a difference, if even slight. I heard once that the difference between good and great is 1 percent. That 1 percent could and usually does make all the difference.

[divider]Lesson 12[/divider]

It does not take long to get an amazing shot. Don’t stress about time, pretend like the universe is working in your favor, it probably is. If you LET it.
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[divider]Lesson 13[/divider]

[column size=one_half position=first ]”Sunny’s body was so lean and dynamic that I dialed my aperture down and placed the sun directly behind him“[/column]

Work with what you have and be grateful for it. Don’t be pushy, you don’t know how the situation is setting you up for success. Instead of complaining, allow the space and circumstance to make you better.

[divider]Lesson 14[/divider]

Want to be a good or great photographer? Shoot every chance you get. Every day if you can.
I also found $700 dollars that day and returned it to a vendor, who said he would hire me to shoot his yoga school. He didn’t.

[divider]Lesson 15[/divider]

So what, keep your head up, keep going and have fun.