Part 4 of 50: Good Morning Todos Santos & Samantha Grace at Casa Dracula

This is part four in a series of blogs on my recent artistic adventures in Mexico.

Waking up at Todos Santos Inn my first morning was a lovely experience. I managed to sleep in until about 8:30am. I threw on some clothes and stepped outside into the glorious daylight. We Chicagoans have a special appreciation for glorious daylight. It’s not that we don’t have beautiful sunny days in Chicago, it’s just that we only get about three months of them, four if we haven’t angered the sun gods that particular year. Chicago, as the old saying goes, has two seasons: Winter and Construction. And Winter can be a cruel mistress, with weeks and weeks without seeing a patch of blue sky, or sun for that matter.

In Todos Santos, there was nothing but blue sky. Walking down my little garden path with the sun on my face, the giant palm leaves politely grabbed at me like autograph seekers on a red carpet walk. Delightful.

I walked up to the shady veranda where coffee and tea was set out on a beautiful antique table. I would grow to love that table every morning.

Mmmm. Delicious coffee.

But coffee would only become one of my favorite morning rituals during my stay. There was also Mel and Scott.

Mel Brackstone is an incredible photographer. Looking at her work, you’d never know she hasn’t been shooting for decades. Mel, like many late blooming artists, decided she needed to stretch her creative frontiers and began to photograph male nudes. She had joined the ZoeFest community a few years back and in a short time had a stunning array of work with female models as well.

She and her husband Scott were two of about a half a dozen Australians who were attending ZoeFest. They were always up early and having coffee under the veranda. They became my quick catch-up guides to all things ZoeFest. Mel raised one eyebrow when I started to tell her about my ambitious shooting schedule, sometimes three shoots in one day. Days later, I would have to admit, she was correct in her assessment of my over-ambitiousness.

After a leisurely breakfast at Landi’s, the restaurant attached to Todos Santos Inn, I had decided to start my first day by continuing something I like to do in Chicago when I feel the need for a little creative inspiration. I decided to take a visit to one of the local galleries, a brief walk up the road from the inn. Michael Cope was one of the local artists that had been part of the welcoming celebration at Casa Dracula the night before and invited me to come by his gallery.

I walked through the doors at Galeria de Todos Santos and there was Michael, seated with local painter Erick Ochoa, who both greeted me with big welcoming smiles. Michael took me on a tour, showing me Erick’s beautiful work, and I was taken by his use of light in his painting. It really spoke to me. We continued through the various rooms looking at other artists he was showing and I could feel my breathing slow to the pace of my new temporary Todos Santos home. I was finally beginning to relax as I took in the work around me. Exactly what I needed.

After the tour Michael asked to see some of my work and I brought out my iPad portfolio and let he and Erick swipe through it. I love sharing work with other artists. Even when we work in different mediums, there is something about the language of art that we all understand and appreciate. It’s a very familiar and joyful language.

A bit more discussion, including an invitation from Michael to visit his new restaurant which was opening that Friday in the rear of the gallery, which sadly I could not attend due to other ZoeFest commitments, and we said our goodbyes and I headed back to the inn to get my gear for my shoot with Samantha Grace.

Samantha was staying at the Hotelito, where many of the models were staying. It was another of the beautiful boutique hotels we had taken over. No sugarcane history here. Just a beautiful compound of little buildings with bursts of vibrant color on the walls. A completely different shooting environment I would take advantage of in the coming days.

Samantha at Casa Dracula

I picked up Samantha and we headed up the road back to Casa Dracula. Samantha and I spent hours exploring the compound grounds finding interesting areas to make photographs. She was great to work with and it didn’t take long for either of us to get into a good groove in the hot Mexican sun. Samantha has wonderful curves. All woman, lovely, creative and great fun to collaborate with. She has a happy spirit and her enthusiasm was inspiring.

As we explored outside we found ourselves discussing what we were seeing as potential places to shoot. Our mantra was to try to not shoot the obvious. Yes, that was a beautiful window in the stone wall of the fire pit, but putting her in it would have been the easy choice. We decided to use the window as a compositional element instead and have her pose off to the side of it. Better.

We continued to shoot for about two hours before we agreed to head inside into Casa Dracula to explore for a bit longer with more great results out of the heat and sun. At one point I noticed a sliver of light coming from the main front doors into the main entrance hall. I had Samantha pose near it for a few minutes before we figured we’d better stop before a local passerby got an eyeful.

Samantha had great ideas and like all of the models I’d be working with the next 10 days, she had great eye for light and composition. All the women were excellent models who had been in front of the cameras of some very world class photographers from all over the globe. From the first release of the shutter, you could tell something wonderful was about to happen.

Samantha at Casa Dracula

That evening, we all were invited to a delicious dinner at Hotel California (yes, that Hotel California, and yes, we had pink champagne on ice with lots of pretty, pretty girls, that we call friends). It was there I had a chance to continue getting to know everyone over a great meal. I booked more shoots for the next few days with St. Merrique, Meghan Claire and Tara. No rest for the wicked as they say.

Much more to come!

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2 thoughts

  1. Hey Billy,

    I love the textures of Samantha at Casa Dracula. The window image is amazing. Her hair and body lines seems to be a part of the “water fall” texture of the wall behind her. There is so much movement overall, yet the window feels like it grounds the entire shot. So beautiful!

    I love the door image as well. I love the walls in the foreground. And her hair again seems to be apart of the light and electricity.

    Billy, are you shooting digitally in black and white?
    Or do you color correct afterward?

    I am loving your series and stories!


  2. Alana! Thanks so much. I love what you’re seeing in the images. I do love composing with those extra objects: foreground walls, light switches, windows.

    I’m going to write more about the issue of shooting color images that I intend to later process to B&W. When I used to shoot more film than I do now, I had to make the choice before I loaded the camera. B&W or color.

    Now with digital, it would seem like it’s better to not have to decide before shooting because in digital, the camera really only shoots color. But I find that if I’m composing for B&W, I’m weighing the frame more with shapes and the weight of dark and light. In color, a very intense color in the frame would make me want to compose differently than in B&W because the weight of the composition might shift. In other words, I have to make the B&W or color decision when I click the shutter, rather than deciding later in post, more often than not.

    Sometimes I make my digital camera display B&W in the viewfinder even though it’s initially recording a color image file. It keeps me in a B&W frame of mind. But in the past year or two I find I’ve gotten pretty good at imagining what I’m looking at in B&W. I know that shade of red or blue is going to end up being darker or whatever.

    So the simple answer to your question is that I shoot in RAW, in color, which allows me the most flexibility during the conversion to B&W in post. I can do the same thing in Lightroom and Photoshop that I used to do in the darkroom when I would slide contrast filters into the negative carrier of my enlarger to make something pop a bit more. The only difference is, I’m not spending hours in a completely dark room and my hands no longer smell like chemicals!

    Thanks for writing. Happy to have you along for the ride!

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