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My First Modeling Shoot


Ok, I have to confess, my title and featured image is a little misleading, on purpose of course. I did not have a model shoot per say, but I did get to photograph a real model. This all happened by chance.

Before I get into the story, I must tell you that the paragraph above and the paragraphs after these next two were written over a week ago. I chose to go ahead and write my blog post about this so called modeling shoot a day or two after my outing in Nashville. I figured I would retain more details of that day if I wrote about it sooner than if I waited over a week for my scans from the lab. The whole time I was writing I was praying that the images would turn out ok. Even before I saw the images, I was excited because of the feedback I received from the lab. Below is the email message letting me know my files were ready for download.



“Hi Travis! Your black and white scans from invoice #XXXXX are ready! Here’s some feedback on your roll! Overall these looked great! You had really good, consistent exposure throughout and I could tell that you knew what you were doing in the metering department so great job there! I have to say that Nashville is one of my favorite cities ever so I was living vicariously through you in these images. Your composition was great and I feel like I was walking around the city with you! But over all you bought out the best qualities in TX and you did an awesome job! Keep metering, keep shooting and keep making beautiful art! And if you ever have any questions/feedback or just want to talk about film, my inbox is always open to you-“



After reading that message, I could not wait to see the images. The FINDLab acknowledged the consistent exposures and the interesting compositions. This was exactly what I was trying to accomplish. When someone says that your pictures made them feel like they were there walking around with you, this lets me know that I am on the right track. That’s great to hear as a street photographer. Ok, without further ado, and in the words of the late Paul Harvey, here is “the rest of the story”. Oh, by the way, TX is not Texas. It’s Kodak TRI-X 400 black and white film, a go-to standard for years.

I went to bed late or I should say early Sunday morning knowing that I wanted to get up early on Sunday to do some photography. I set my alarm for 04:30. I usually get up before sunrise depending on my destination, so I can take advantage of the morning light. I ended up snoozing for another 2 hours. After I finally got up, I was undecided on exactly what I wanted to shoot.  Given that I was already late getting out of bed, I decided against doing any landscape work as I did not have a destination in mind and the sun was steadily getting higher. It had been a while since I’ve done some street photography so I chose to grab my OM1 with a fresh roll of TRI-X and hit the streets of Nashville. When it comes to the perfect light for street photography, there is no such thing. Yea, you could make some images look better with better light, but my point is that life is happening at all times of the day, so any light will do, even harsh light.

If you ask a number of street photographers to give you their definition of street photography, you would get different answers.  I bring this up because the selected images in this post are a result of me asking the person for their portrait. Personally, I don’t consider this street photography. It doesn’t fit the traditional definition of capturing candid moments. That’s just my opinion. I would call the images in this post “street portraits”. No matter how you go about getting images on the streets, it’s still all good, posed or not.

Ok, now how did this so called “modeling shoot” come about? I worked my way through part of downtown when I came upon a shot I wanted to take. I had my composition and was waiting for the human element to enter my frame when this man approached me and asked if I could help him.  As he started explaining what he needed, I noticed a couple walking our way. I told the man to give me a second while I take this shot. He said ok and backed out of the way. At the last second, I ended up not taking the shot. It just didn’t feel right. I then turned to the man to apologize for interrupting. He was very polite. He said “No Problem” and began to continue his story.

This gentleman was a street hustler. His current gig was selling water on the streets. He was low on funds and needed one case of water to get his day started. I was gearing up to turn him down, because I knew he was going to ask for money. To my surprise, he didn’t. He asked if I could go to a convenience store and buy him a case of water. He told me the location of the store. It was a store and area which I was familiar and it was not too far from where we were. I looked at him and said, “Let’s go”. He thanked me and we began I journey to the store. Under different circumstances, I would never follow any stranger to any location. That’s asking for trouble. However, this was different. I knew the store and we were out in the open on busy daytime streets, streets with police at every other corner.

I learned a few things about my new companion as we walked to the store. I asked him his name. He said they call him “Gifted”. I wish I could have seen the look on my own face when he said that. I did not ask for an explanation. I’ll let the readers ponder on that one. He then said his real name was Tony. I looked at Tony and said I would call him “G”. He was ok with that. G talked about how he has to be a man of his word as he is always asking local vendors to borrow money or asking them for other favors. If he did not do the things he promised, it would hurt his hustle. He told me that a man’s word is all he’s got. This is most definitely true for G because he doesn’t have much else. He is homeless. I asked if he ever goes to the Rescue Mission. With a stern look, he said, “I never go to that place!” That was all he said. I didn’t asked him to elaborate, but I had an idea. The rescue mission, of which I am a fan, asks you to go through their program if you stay there. This program involves getting to know God and staying clean off drugs. In other words, there is accountability. It’s a great place for those who are truly trying to bet back on their feet. The rescue mission is funded purely on donations. This is why they are able to do the things they do and it is also why they have a high rate of success. I can’t say G likes being on the streets, but he definitely has made the choice to go a different route. Continuing our way to the store, I asked if I could have his portrait. Without hesitation, he said, “Where do you want me?” I told him after we get the water, let’s head down to where he was going to start working today which turned out to be down on Broadway. This is when my modeling gig started.

G and I rounded a corner and as we walked passed this alley, we saw a man with a woman pinned to a brick wall. Without being too graphic, they were doing things that normal couples would do lying horizontally if you catch my drift. They were all over each other. At one moment, I thought the ladies dress was going to come off. I did not have to tell G to hold up on this one, LoL. Before I could get in positon for a shot, the couple stopped. It turns out they were shooting a movie. The camera guys were kneeling down in the foreground filming the scene. G immediately said, “Can I be next?” This sparked laughter between us and the film crew. I immediately went in to grab a shot of the actor and actress. When she saw my camera she naturally went into modeling mode. She took to the camera like a duck to water. She commented on how she loved my camera. Her companion also commented and inquired about my camera. It turns out that he is a photographer, too.



Downtown Nashville, Tennessee – Olympus OM1 / 50mm f1.8 / Kodak TRI-X 400 / FINDLab



After the shot above, I moved in for a head shot. I stepped up to her with my light meter and took a light reading to the left side of her face. You could tell the she was used to this. The guy standing next to her was surprised to see me pull out a light meter. I then stepped back, adjusted my aperture and shutter speed and focused on her eyes. She immediately started posing. The way she gazed into the camera and how she positioned her head was fluid.



Downtown Nashville, Tennessee – Olympus OM1 / 50mm f1.8 / Kodak TRI-X 400 / FINDLab



After the shot, her companion gave me his business card. As luck would have it, I lost it. I also asked the actress for her name. The young ladies name is Alex Van Zeelandt. You can check out her IMDB profile as well as her InstagramFacebook and Website. Warning! Don’t have the kids around if you start looking through her personal website and Instagram. I plan to tag her when I make this post. Maybe she will tell me her companion’s name who’s business card I lost. I would also like to find out about the movie they were filming. I will keep you posted. The movie crew then left and G and I continued on to the store.

After we got the case of water, we headed down to Broadway. On the way, G shared a couple of interesting facts about Nashville. He told me that Nashville was the most visited city in the country, even more than New York City. He also said that Nashville’s Fourth of July fireworks display is the largest in the country. I already knew about the fireworks, but I’m not sure that I believe the one about the visitors. I could not find anything concrete on the net about this. Regardless, whether it’s true or not, it was cool watching him go into tour guide mode. When we finally made it to his spot, I grabbed the shot below.



Downtown Nashville, Tennessee – Olympus OM1 / 50mm f1.8 / Kodak TRI-X 400 / FINDLab



After my adventures with G, I had another interesting encounter. I was walking up 2nd avenue after taking a couple of shots when I walked by a woman standing by a table of books. As I walked by she asked me to take a stress test. Before I could say no, she had convinced me to give it a try. I thought why not. I was in no hurry and interacting with new people is one of the things I love about shooting on the streets.

I had to hold two rods, one in each hand. Each rod had wires that ran to a machine. She made some adjustments to some dials and explained the readout display. Basically the readout had a needle that moved from left to right within a 180 degree angle. The stress level also increased from left to right. She started asking me questions to see how the needle would react. My first thought is that this thing is rigged and she is going to tell me that I need to buy her book to get my stress under control. Well it didn’t exactly go that way, but it appeared I did have some stress issues.

She asked me questions pertaining to my job, health, relationships and life in general. It appeared each time she asked me a question the needle went to the right. Each time the needle moved right, she would ask more probing questions to see if she could find the root cause of my stress. She was very engaging. It was almost as if she was a therapist. For a moment, I was looking for a sofa so I could lay back. Kidding aside, we never got to the bottom of my stress, but it got me thinking about my life and if I was truly stressed.

At the end of my test, she talked a little about herself. This brings me to the product she was selling. The table next to her was filled with L. Ron Hubbard’s book, Dianetics. She talked about how Dianetics helped her. She made it clear to me that it did not fix everything, but it did make a difference in her life. She did not try to push the book on me other than telling me about how it helped her. She simply gave me some information to take with me. I thanked her for the test and conversation and then asked if I could have her portrait. She said sure and then said, “Do your thing”. I wanted to get a shot of her with the table of books in the background so I positioned myself accordingly. Oddly she did not look into the camera. She looked into the distance for the profile shot below. Her name is Elisabeth, by the way.



Downtown Nashville, Tennessee – Olympus OM1 / 50mm f1.8 / Kodak TRI-X 400 / FINDLab



I mentioned her pose was odd. I don’t mean it was an odd pose, I meant that it was odd that she chose that pose. Most people look into the camera. It was if she knew exactly how she wanted to be portrayed in the photograph or maybe she misunderstood me and thought I wanted her to pose this way. Either way, she looked like a natural. Well it turns out she was a natural. I did some googling and discovered that Elisabeth is also an actress. She has an IMDB profile and she can be found on Facebook and Instagram. I viewed her Instagram and watch some Youtube videos featuring her and even watched a short movie clip. She appears to be a very genuine person. She did not seem any different on screen than she did from our face to face conversation. You just never know who you might run into on the streets, especially in Nashville. I guess you could call this was my second “real” modeling shoot of the day.

After my stress test, I continued shooting on the streets. When I finally made it down to my last frame, I searched for my final victim. As I was walking up Broadway, I noticed a woman setting on some steps. This woman was covered with some really cool tattoos. I knew this was going to be my last shot of the day. I could have just taken the shot, but to get the shot I wanted, my presence would have been easily known. Thus, I chose to ask for her portrait. My main attraction was her ink, so I asked If I could get a shot of her tattoos. She agreed and I made the shot below.



Downtown Nashville, Tennessee – Olympus OM1 / 50mm f1.8 / Kodak TRI-X 400 / FINDLab



I was so focused on her tattoos that I did not notice the Fuji camera around her neck. It turns out she was also a street photographer. She and her young daughter who was sitting behind her were out shooting. They were taking a break on the steps. She introduced herself as Delane. She told me that street photography is her main love. She also told me that she used to shoot Canon, but sold all her gear for a Fujifilm system. She did not only have a Fujifilm X100s on her person, but she also had a Fujifilm Instax Mini 90 Neo Classic. My face lit up because this little jewel is an instant film camera. You don’t see many of these floating around. We talked about photography for a while, mainly street photography. It felt cool expressing my passion for street photography to someone who gets it. She even carried around a photo album of the instant pictures from the Instax. What happened next was a first for me.

Well, the tables were turned. Delane asked if she could have my portrait. I couldn’t say no, right? Of course, I said yes. I was already kneeling down talking to her on the steps, so I kept my pose while she knelt down in front of me and took my picture. She not only took a picture with her digital camera, she also took a snap with her Instax. After a few minutes, she showed me my picture. Wow! The last time I seen myself on instant film, I was in my twenties. I really liked my capture on film. She added my portrait to her album. After my portrait session, we exchange business cards. Since my encounter with Delane, we have become contacts on Flickr and Facebook. Check out her work on Flickr and her website.

This was a great outing. It was one of the best times I had working the streets. My boldness, technique and subject matter gets a little better after each roll. I was a bit more selective during this run. I worked on utilizing more interesting backgrounds while composing scenes with more consistent light. You will see more of the interesting settings in my upcoming posts. Thanks for reading!



Images Best Viewed in Lightbox Below!


2 thoughts on “My First Modeling Shoot

  1. Avatar
    Paula says:

    Thank you Travis! You story is … wonderful! (I am lacking the right words to express how it touched me) And those IMDB-Links, wow!
    The story around/behind/about the model is cute. 🙂

    I had no idea, how much is going on in the streets in Nashville. Vienna is a remote city, almost deserted on a Sunday afternoon, compared to your streets.

    We have one (more) thing in common: instead of shooting scenic spots and famous monuments, we love to take photos of poeple who are taking photos of those scening spots. 🙂
    And street photographers taking photos of each other – like!

    I don’t know if you ever noticed that many people shoot in the streets but they keep their distance. In my eyes those “portrait photos” are meaningless. You can tell from those photos that they are not bold enough.

    Bravo to your growing boldness!
    And asking is a good point to start from.


    1. Travis
      Travis says:

      Thank you Paula! I’m glad you liked the story. There is something happening in Nashville every day. Sometimes I dread going to Nashville because of all the traffic, but it is a fun city to walk around with your camera.

      For me street photography has almost become an addiction. I can’t stop! In my opinion, getting close and capturing candid moments shows the best of what street photography has to offer. I’m still working on getting better and it is fun practicing.

      Vienna is a BEAUTIFUL city. The architecture is just AMAZING! There is so much history there. I was in Italy many years ago. I wished I had more time to visit some of the neighboring countries, like Austria. Maybe one day I will be able to travel back to Europe.

      Thank you for taking the time to read my blog and leaving a comment. Your insight is much appreciated.


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