'I did the page above for family detailing Mike's and my driving adventures of getting to Utah. These days the journey is a large part of the fun. Don't get me wrong - the real highlight is the collaboration is the wild places of Utah with the stunning guys, but the process of getting there is great fun too... 9 Days, 2400 miles, Moab, exploring Capital Reef, Arches and Great Basin National Parks, Dead Horse Point State Park, BLM lands at Fisher Towers, Sand Flats and Moonflower, Vegas lights, changing aspens, a Lunar Eclipse, sunsets, the Colorado River, Lehman Caves, 3200 year old Bristlecone Pine Trees, Utah Scenic Route 12, SR50; the loneliest Road in America, offroad 4wd adventures, Taco Time, Pride in Moab, old friends, new friends, chance encounters, and so much more...'
When photographer Gordon Nebeker first broached my featuring Muscles & Mountains, I was, as crazy as it sounds... a little hesitant. It wasn't that I didn't want to, I have featured Gordon's, and fellow artists, and road trip cohorts, Mike Tossy and Mark from StudioMG Photography before. I have always found it challenge however, to find the best way to feature so many incredible images. I am always striving for a way to present the work, so that the beauty of both man and mountain, is not lost in the presentation or by sharing too many photos, and too much info at the same time. Ultimately, as soon as Gordon, Mike and Mark began sending on their images, the work and the story proved so powerful, I was unable, nor could I even imagine, resisting.
Each time that I have visually and virtually joined Gordon, Mike and Mark on their Utah adventures, I have been blown away by the grandeur of the location. I am also always struck by the sharpness and pureness of the blues and oranges captured above, below and behind each the models. This year however, thanks to the skill of the artists, and the three models who joined them on the journey, the images have taken on a more pronounced erotic edge. One stronger than I observed in the past, and one which beautifully balances the dramatic beauty which surrounds them. Will, Joel and Rob work so well together and their poses and ways in which they move and weave their bodies together is extraordinary. There is deeper feeling of erotic intimacy, even within the slightest of touch between the models. This takes this years images from the Utah trek to new heights and a new plateau by erotically weaving skin with sun, flesh with rock and muscles with those magnificent mountains.
'One thing that made working with these particular models joyful, was that they contributed many of the poses. Some of the best ideas came from the models who could be like enthusiastic puppies with a new toy.'
'The guys came from 3 different states, and didn't meet until Utah. Rob, Will and Joel were all great fun. All had come to us highly recommended by my friend Jeff at ShutterClickPhx. He had worked with all 3 guys previously and knew they would all be perfect for us; not only working together harmoniously, but also getting along well, and giving us whatever we requested. He couldn't have been more right! They also represented three different age groups, early 20's, early 30's, and early 40's. They got along wonderfully, egging each other on and teasing each other. There were many back country adventures but I'm not sure Gordon wants me to go there...!'
The Orange Party
'That first night when we all met in Utah I sent Jeff a text with a photo of everyone together saying we were together and all looking forward to the shoot the next day. He was the 7th person with us, even though he was physically several states away, as we all talked about him during the shoot. The last night at dinner, before going to the Moab gay pride Orange Party, we took a last group photo to show him what a great time we'd all had together. We never could have had the same amazing experience without his guidance in selecting models. We hope to reunite next year, and have him along as the 4th photographer.'
'On the afternoon of the first day, the tire on one of our cars completely shredded as we were heading to a remote shoot location on an unpaved road. Not just flat; completely shredded! It was a group effort to replace it with the spare since no one had ever encountered this kind of situation before (where is AAA when you need them?!) but thanks to everyone’s help, the job got done. A couple of the models even got a chance to work on their tans by shedding their clothes while we worked on the tire which made for an interesting sight, had anyone been traveling that remote road.'
'When shooting all three models we typically have all three photographers shooting at the same time. Given the same models in the same poses in the same settings, originally I was concerned there’d be many look-a-like photos emerging from the three cameras. But, it just doesn't happen often. As photographers we seem to naturally position ourselves above, below, and around the models so that the backgrounds and angles are different.'
Below: Gordon shooting Mike shooting....
'If for example, Gordon is directing and shooting the models at eye level, then Mark seem to be down on the ground shooting up at them (or climbing some rock to shoot down at them), and I’m pulled far over to the left (or right) to shoot them almost 90 degrees off the directed pose. That, combined with tightness of the zoom, depth of field, and different post processing styles, results in a huge variety of shots. When reviewing our work together, the comment “I have almost the same shot” is rare enough to elicit amused chuckles.'
'We all loved the town of Moab, from the funky restaurants to the art galleries, to the annual Gay Pride celebration (okay, I wasn't actually that enamored of the fact that you can't buy a bottle of wine in the super market... that has to be done at the state liquor store). We had chance encounters with old friends, made new friends, and generally had a great time! And, we created like crazy!'
'It always amazes me how much more complicated a group shoot becomes, given the various ideas and schedules of all those involved but it all seems to work out in the end. The logistics were interesting: we had come to Moab from five different states and none of the models had met each other before they arrived nor had any of the photographers worked with any of the models before. And yet we all blended together well and friendships and working relationships were formed and I think we were all a bit sad to say goodbye when the shoot was over.'
'Over the two days of the shoot, Rob, Will and Joel bonded as friends and worked well together, each one giving us their best. And, yes, since EVERY rock band tour worth its salt has to have its own T-shirt, our band of rock climbers wore their T-shirts for this photo. '
I have been featuring the work of Santa Cruz photographer Mike Tossy since 2009. Although I have featured Mike's work many times on it's own, Mike has also been apart of many pieces which weave and contrast his images with the work of another. I did a series a posts several years ago comparing Mike's work with Mark from StudioMGPhotography and most recently featuring his work along side Gordon Nebeker, and on last year's Utah adventure with Tom Clark.
'Shots of a single model are most frequently done one-on-one with a single photographer. One of the great things about shooting in the Utah canyon lands is how quickly the backgrounds change. Thirty feet away is a whole new background you might spend 20 minutes photographically exploring.'
'Bright sun light is frequently too harsh for flattering pictures, and Utah has lots of bright sun! Of course, the golden hours around sunrise and sunset are a great time for good images. But Utah’s canyons and rock out cropping cast huge pools of shade, which make flattering photos possible even at noon. Plus, the cool shade is welcome during the heat of the day!'
Despite his work often being involved with pieces that compare and contrast, I can always tell, or maybe more specifically, feel, which images come from Mike Tossy. In the post just above this one, Mike talked about when a model or pose is shot by three different photographers, it is rare to have images that come out looking alike. Mike attributes some of this to the tightness of the zoom, depth of field, and different post processing styles. While all of this is of course true, there is also something more.
I think one of the reasons I can usually feel which images are from Mike, has more to do with what he see's, than he how he shoots. Whereas some photographers shoot a moment in it's entirety, Mike always seems to beautifully focus in on smaller, intimate moments within the larger image. Mike gets and captures the body positions, the incredible blue sky and rocks and mountains, but he also gets and captures those tiny seconds with the moment. The slight brushes of skin on skin and those finishing physical touches that you don't just see, but feel when spending time with one of his images.
In this series of images from Mark of studio MG Photography, Triaxial might better be described as having or involving three asses, three incredible asses, but you get the picture. The title of my first pieces featuring Mark's work was The Beauty of Lines. Mark creates such amazing lines, and deliciously captivating curves.
'I approach each shoot with an eye for creating art... for creating something unique... for making the model shine... for grabbing the attention of the viewer... for creating a bit of mystery or wonder... Each of us is unique, so why create the same image over and over? '
Themes of design and architecture are core to the visual impact of Mark's imagery, no more so than his construction and design of the three bodies of Rob, Will and Joel. Mark just began a new tumblr to display his work, thus far focusing on his time in Utah the past few years. Be sure to check it out HERE:
'The weather in Utah was less brutal this year. The past 2 years the temps have probably been in the 90's. This year I think we were blessed with 80's. That was warm enough to provide a sheen to the models' skin, but not make any of us melt into the desert. We still were drawn to working in the shade when possible, but that allows the details to show better anyway!'
'We met rangers and medics and the occasional tourist - everyone was remarkable friendly and enjoying life. Even the 2 couples who surprised us before the call of "pineapple" (our word to yell if anyone was coming) could go out for the models to cover up were chill about what we were doing.'
'We mostly worked in and around the Moab, Utah area and visited approximately three or four different sites each day. The weather was terrific but hot so everyone was well sunscreen slathered and well hydrated.'
When Gordon mentioned his trip to Utah, he titled it The Moab Project. It conjured up thoughts and visions of Roswell, aliens and mystery's from a galaxy far far away. Although Moab is of course a city located on our home planet, it certainly has other worldly qualities that define both time and space. It is that timeless, untouched feel and the almost cosmic colors that make the location such a spectacular setting for photographing the male form.
The first image from the Moab shoot that I saw was the image I used for Pic of the Day from photographer Gordon Nebeker. Gordon was still in Utah and had just finished his two days of shooting. He sent me along a little teaser with the heading on the e-mail, 'A Taste Of Things To Come'. That header really sums up so much about what FH is about, and would also I think be the perfect title of my autobiography if I ever decided to write one.
The shot was more than a teaser, to me, the image was the pièce de ré·sis·tance of Gordon's work in Moab. It perfectly captured the spirit of the shoot, the location, the bodies, and joy and personalities of not just the shoot, but the three men in front of, and behind the cameras. Thanks to Gordon for acting as tour guide for the project, getting the ball rolling, and for supporting myself and FH to share and visually spread the story of The Moab Project!
'The models (Joel, Will, and Rob) were terrific! They came ready to give their full effort to realize the photographs we wanted to take. Each of them very different in many ways and yet they got along very well together. I would not hesitate to work with any or all of them again and can recommend them highly.'
'We often get asked if we ever get unexpected visitors coming upon our shoots when the models are not wearing clothes. And the answer is “yes”. Usually it is not a complete surprise; one can hear someone coming up the path before they actually see us. We have a code word that we shout out if someone sees or hears someone coming and the models, who keep some clothing close at hand, can usually put something on before the visitors arrive. But seldom are the visitors fooled!'
'When we were photographing at the rock pond, two young couples came along and even though the models got something on before they arrived, the girls quickly figured out what was going on. They asked if they could watch us photograph and we said, “only if your boyfriends join in the photographs”. The boyfriends quickly started back down the trail in the opposite direction and the girls reluctantly, and slowly, left since their boyfriends were having nothing to do with that! Too bad; their handsome boyfriends would have been a welcome addition to our shoot!'
'As the immediacy of the shoot begins to fade with time, there are still touchstones that one remembers as part of the experience. Things like tubes and tubes of sunscreen, carrying enough cold water to satisfy the thrust of all involved in ninety degree weather, getting a good night’s sleep, bopping to dance music in the car, taking the right lens with you on the short hike, can anyone ever have too many fully charged batteries at the ready?, and did I mention sleep?'
'I also remember lots of laughter, some great meals, attending the Moab Gay Pride Parade that happened to take place the day after our shoot was over (the whole town gets involved) and people. Lots of people everywhere. It was a challenge to find quiet and private spaces to do our photography but we just watched the people; if they went left, we went right and we found our private spaces.'
There were so many great shots from The Moab Project that I have saved some of my favorite individual shots of Rob, Will & Joel. Look for separate pieces spotlighting each of three models over the next week.