Archive for the ‘Shoots in California’ Category

A couple of years ago I started an e-mail correspondence with a new potential model, a Vietnamese guy from Vancouver named Rob. We got connected via the Bay Area photographer Steven Underhill. Rob wanted to model for me, and I wanted him to model for me, but he was in Canada and I was in Hawaii.



I knew sooner or later we’d get together. Then last year he moved to Los Angeles. I’d been thinking about where to do my next photo shoot, and Palm Springs kept coming up. I’d never been there and had wanted to go for a long time. Adding interest to the idea was my connection with a place there called the Santiago Resort.

A few years ago the Santiago’s owner had purchased several pieces of my art for the place, which meant there was a Simonson in almost every room. I’d never been there, but I’d seen photographs of the Santiago Resort online, and it looked beautiful. And a nude photo shoot would not be out of place since the resort is clothing-optional.


The Santiago Resort in Palm Springs

So I called the owner and told him my idea of bringing a model there and doing a photo shoot. In return I’d be happy to gift him a piece of my art he didn’t already have. He was very open to the idea.

With that piece of the puzzle in place, I called Rob and told him my idea: I would fly up to LA, and he and I would drive to Palm Springs for a weekend at the Santiago Resort, where I would photograph him in that beautiful setting.

Rob loved the idea and he was available when I needed him to be. Great! Everything was falling into place and I was getting excited. Now that I had a location and dates, it occurred to me that I could have an even more fun-filled weekend with TWO models instead of just one–and there was one I had in mind.



As you know if you’ve visited my website, I not only sell my own photographs, I offer the work of Kurt R. Brown as well. A model I’d seen in his photographs, a guy named Jonny, really appealed to me and I wanted to work with him. So with Kurt’s help, I contacted Jonny (he lives in LA) and told him about the Palm Springs adventure I was planning, and asked him if he would be interested in being part of it.

He was. And he was available for that weekend. Again, things were falling into place.

I didn’t know where I was going to stay in LA until my friend Gina told me she was going to be in town and I could stay with her! (Gina is not only a long-time close friend, she has found many models for me and has traveled with me to Brazil many times to assist with photo shoots.) This was great news. Now I had a place to stay in LA before heading for Palm Springs. Another piece of the puzzle in place. This trip was obviously meant to happen.


Jonny and Gina at Gina's apartment

So at the end of February 2011 I found myself in Brentwood, staying at Gina’s beautiful new apartment. The day after I arrived, Jonny took the bus to our part of LA so I could interview him in person. We picked him up and took him to the apartment, where he and Gina bonded over wine and I shot test photos.


Jonny was much quieter than I expected (well, I don’t really know what I expected) and had a nice easy-going personality. I’m not real easy-going myself so this was good news. Anyway, he passed the interview with flying colors, so I had my second model.

NEXT: Palm Springs Road Trip Part 2 — On the Road

(For more info on “Simonson On Location” see the previous blog entries, Creating Simonson On Location, Parts 1, 2 and 3)

After 3 months of preparation and work, Simonson On Location is finally online!

I finally got to send out the e-mail announcing Simonson On Location’s debut on June 1st. It was exciting to watch the subscriptions start coming in. You may already have subscribed. If you haven’t yet, you can do so by clicking here: Simonson On Location

Or keep reading to get more information on what you’ll find once you do subscribe!


We added a white 'storybox' to make it easier to read the story of each photo shoot.

One of the things that changed in the final days before we went online is the way I present my storyline for each photo shoot. I wasn’t happy with how hard it was to read the stories: the type was too small, plus it was black type on a dark blue background—way too hard to read. So I worked with Mitch to create a vertical white “story box” running along the left side of the first page of each gallery. As you can see from the screen shot above, it’s now an inviting, easy-to-read design.

We made a lot of other small changes too, but the version of Simonson On Location that’s now online is pretty close to the screen shots I showed you in Parts 1, 2 and 3 of the “Creating Simonson On Location” blog entries.

Pricing is $14.95 per month to become a regular subscriber, or $24.95 if you’d like to subscribe for just one month with no automatic renewal.


We went online with about just under 3,000 photographs in 53 galleries, spread over 14 different models. Here’s the lineup, in case you’d like to know the details before you make the leap and subscribe to the site:

BAIANO: 2 galleries, total 88 photos. Baiano Gallery 3 will go online June 15 with another 42 photos. This is the story of how I found and photographed Baiano in a little Brazilian surf town.

BRUNO: 5 galleries, total 278 photos. How I took Bruno to a nude beach south of Rio de Janeiro for a photo shoot, and found out I had to get naked too!

EDUARDO: 3 galleries, total 153 photos. Eduardo Gallery 4 will go online June 15 with another 122 photos. All about how I met Eduardo at a little cafe in Rio, then photographed him in the nude on the veranda of my 12th-floor Rio apartment.

ISRAEL-WELLINGTON: 5 galleries, total 251 photos. The story of how I found two models in Salvador, Brazil, and our trek to a deserted beach 3 hours north of the city.


Since I shoot at least 1000 photos on most of my photo shoots, each photoshoot on the website will end up with between 10 and 20 galleries when I've finished telling the story. I'll be putting up additional galleries every 2 weeks.

JEFF: 4 galleries, total 226 photos. How I met and photographed mischievous Asian boy Jeff at my Waikiki apartment in late 2009.

JORGE: 3 galleries, total 134 photos. How Dominican-Nicaraguan hunk Jorge and I dodged a storm and wound up having a wonderful photo shoot at Diamond Head Beach at dawn.

KAIMANA: 3 galleries, total 171 photos. How I took Kaimana to a secluded Oahu beach and had him go surfing naked.

KAINOA: 3 galleries, total 197 photos. All about my backyard-pool photo shoot with gorgeous Hawaii local boy Kainoa.

MARCELINO: 4 galleries, total 189 photos. The story of my California photo shoot with cute Mexican boy Marcelino.


Keep in mind this is just the beginning of the story; over the next several months there will be an additional 10 to 15 more galleries added for each model, to tell the story of the whole photo shoot.

MARCUS: 4 galleries, total 185 photos. Marcus Gallery 5 goes online June 15 with another 75 photos. The story of my very first photo shoot with Marcus on a deserted beach in Angra dos Reis, Brazil.

MARCUS-SANDRO: 4 galleries, total 202 photos. All about our wild weekend with the Brazilian Boat Boys, Marcus and Sandro, among the many islands of Brazil’s beautiful Costa Verde.

NOHEA: 4 galleries, total 217 photos. How I took a beautiful jewel (Hawaiian boy Nohea) and placed him in a beautiful setting (a backyard jungle with pool).

TOMMY: 3 galleries, total 144 photos. How I met tall, beautiful, dark-skinned Tommy and took him to Diamond Head Beach at dawn to capture a series of stunning images.

VICTOR: 3 galleries, total 216 photos. How I met Nigerian-born Marine Victor and photographed him in two gorgeous Hawaiian settings in one day.

So that’s the lineup as of the first week of Simonson On Location’s debut. As I said above, there are now nearly 3,000 photos, and more will be added every 2 weeks from now on. Join now and watch the stories as they unfold! Here’s the link: Simonson On Location

(For more info on “Simonson On Location” see the previous blog entries, Creating Simonson On Location, Parts 1 and 2)

Things are heating up! We’re just a few days from going live with Simonson On Location. Mitch (my webmaster) and I have been meeting almost every day as we get closer to the release date. There’s still so much to do.

I built my first website years ago (1995, actually) but these days I’m really glad to have a webmaster, especially one like Mitch who knows his stuff—and thinks about all those little details that you have to think about. I’m talking about the kind of details that guarantee that when you click on that link, the website WILL charge your credit card and let you in! AND that it’s an absolutely secure encoded transaction! There’s a whole lot of work that goes into setting something like that up.

So I’m glad he’s doing that, and I can focus on what I’m good at. Which right now consists of going through thousands of male-nude photographs and putting them together so they’re not only fun to look at, but they tell a story, too.

One of the groups of photographs I’ve been working on is the series of photo shoots I did in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil in April 2007. This is a particularly interesting group of photographs because there are lots of stories to tell. We had many adventures during that trip, from spending days and days looking for models with no luck and then having two models just fall into our laps in one afternoon, to getting lost in the wilds of Bahia looking for a very hard-to-find location, to my two new models doing naked capoeira on the beach!


Here's a preview of one of the Israel-Wellington galleries. This is the part where they were doing naked capoeira on the beach.

There are lots of other stories I’m reliving, too, including my photo shoot with Hawaiian boy Nohea; Dominican-Nicaraguan Antonio, whom I photographed at Diamond Head Beach one morning as a huge storm approached; Kaimana playing the nude surfer on a Hawaiian beach; Marcus and Sandro on a deserted island south of Rio de Janeiro…and many more!


This is a small part of the Nohea galleries you'll soon be enjoying on Simonson On Location.

Each model has several galleries, or photosets, to tell the story of his photo shoot. When Simonson On Location first goes online, there’ll be 12-14 models, and each model will have 3 to 5 galleries, which usually amounts to 150-250 individual photographs. Then every couple of weeks or so, I’ll add more galleries until each model’s entire photo shoot is online.


Here's a sample page from my photo shoot with nude surfer Kaimana.

And of course as I work with new models, or do additional photo shoots with existing models, those new photosets will appear on Simonson On Location as well.

Mitch told me today that there are just a few more issues he needs to resolve on the website before we can go live, and that we are in the final week of preparation. I’m probably more impatient to get this site online than my collectors are to see it! I can’t wait to send that e-mail out to my collectors saying, “Come on over, Simonson On Location is ready for you!” But I can’t do it yet. Soon!!

I shot Antonio at Diamond Head Beach at sunrise. This is one section of his galleries.

(For more info on “Simonson On Location” see the previous blog entry, “Creating Simonson On Location, Part 2”)

When Mitch and I began talking about the look, feel and structure of Simonson On Location, we decided to keep it very similar to the current art website. For one thing, we have a good, stable, user-friendly web design, so why change it? On top of that, it makes life easier for my current collectors if the new website has the same easy-to-use design as the fine-art website they’ve been visiting for years.


This is our design for the main directory page of Simonson On Location.

But of course at the same time, we wanted to make it clear that this was a different website with a slightly different focus, so we gave it its own distinctive look. We changed the background to black, and changed the theme colors a bit. I chose a blue-green theme because it reminds me of the color of the ocean in the tropics.

I Start Choosing the Photographs

When I actually got started putting the Simonson On Location galleries together, the very first set of photographs I worked on were from my first photo shoot with Marcus.


These are some of the photographs from my first Marcus photo shoot.

The first part of this photo shoot showed the progression from getting on the boat in Angra dos Reis, sailing around with Marcus getting naked on the boat, then arriving at a deserted island, where Marcus dove into the water and we followed him to the beach in a rowboat.

Structure of the Site

As I worked with this first set of photos, I started to get clearer on the structure I wanted for the new website.

In a situation like this it would be easy to take an entire photo shoot of 900 or 1000 photographs and just upload the whole mass of them to the website, and call it “Marcus Photo Shoot” or whatever. But it seems to me that would be a bit like writing a novel without any chapters, paragraphs, or punctuation! You could read it, after a fashion, but it wouldn’t be much fun.

I certainly didn’t want to do that. In a way, I’m presenting my own story here, and I want it told properly. I also want it to be fun and entertaining for the reader/viewer.

Each Photo Shoot is a Story

So I decided to look at each photo shoot as an entire story. I would divide each shoot into several galleries, so that I could tell a bit of the story with each gallery. The number of images in each gallery would depend on what was going on in the photos. Sometimes I might shoot dozens of photographs of the model with just minor alterations in his pose or expression. Not much story going on there so that would be kept in a single gallery.

But if there was a lot of action, changes of scenery, etc., then I would divide it into smaller galleries, because there would be more story to tell. It’s a bit like dividing a story into chapters. You want each chapter to have a basic subject or theme, and to move things along in a logical yet entertaining way.

This meant that some galleries might have 100 images in them—while others might have as few as 25 or 30. My goal was to let the photographs tell their story, and to have the viewer see and “hear” the story of the photo shoot as it happened.

I Create the First Three Galleries

So the first 3 galleries of the first Marcus photo shoot went something like this:

Gallery 1: We’re on the boat in Angra dos Reis, sailing out into the islands to find a deserted beach. Marcus is wearing speedos, and I start shooting photos as he lounges around on the boat. At the very end of this gallery, he begins stripping off his speedos.


Here's an actual gallery page from the new website. You'll be able to click on each of these thumbnails to see the full-sized image.

Gallery 2: Marcus lounges around naked as we’re still sailing around the islands.

Gallery 3: We finally find our island and Marcus dives off the boat to swim to the beach.

These would be just the first 3 galleries. The entire photo shoot might end up having 20 or more galleries, with each one telling a bit more of the story.

As I put these segments together and wrote a narrative for each, I began to really enjoy myself. I liked the way this was unfolding, and it felt like it would be fun for my collectors to read and view these “stories.”

I put together the first three galleries from that Marcus photo shoot to get things rolling, then moved on to another photo shoot. I decided I’d tackle Eduardo in Rio next.

One of the most exciting projects I’ve undertaken in several years is finally becoming a reality.

It’s a an online gallery of uncensored photographs from my photo shoots all over the world. This subscribers-only website will be called “Simonson On Location.”


This project was jump-started by a comment my webmaster, Mitch, made to me a couple of months ago.

Mitch and I have worked together for several years now. Mitch isn’t just a great web guy, he’s also an invaluable sounding board and idea man. In one of our recent meetings, he said, “You know, Douglas, it might be time to take another look at doing that subscriptions site.”

This was an idea we had batted around for years: a subscriptions-only website which would allow my collectors to view the uncensored images from my photoshoots.

I’ve been doing male-nude photo shoots for over 30 years now. Most of those materials have never been seen by anyone but myself, and occasionally my assistants. (As a reader of this blog, you have probably seen a select few of these images—in censored form—in my “Step-by-Step in the Studio” entries. But 99.9% of them have never been shown.)


Here I am at a photo shoot in Rio de Janeiro. Unlike this image, photographs on the new website will be uncensored.

These images, as much as my drawings and paintings, are documents of my life as a photographer and artist. And for many reasons—not least the fact that I’ve just turned 60, and these days I have a broader perspective on a lot of things—the time seems right to share this part of my life.

So when Mitch brought up the subject of a subscriptions site, I got excited. It seemed like now, the time was finally right!

So I said YES, let’s do it. And we plunged in. Mitch started working on all the back-end stuff it takes to set up a subscription website (and there are a lot of details involved!). And I started the process of going through my photographs.

That’s when I really started to grasp the enormity of the task. We’re talking about thousands of photographs, each of which need to be vetted, sorted, tweaked for image quality, classified, numbered, and put in a database (because I wanted my collectors to be able to buy any of the images as a photographic print).

Plus I would need to write the story of each model and each photoshoot.

There was a lot to do. I tried not to think about how much work it was going to be to go into Photoshop and tweak and prepare each image for online presentation. But then, at exactly the right time, a friend of mine who runs a Hawaii stock-photography website told me about something that could cut my workload dramatically: Adobe Lightroom.

I got the software and began learning it and found that I really liked it. So as I started actually going through my photo archives, my excitement about the project was enhanced by my new streamlined work flow.


Here I am in my studio-office using Adobe Lightroom to review photos for the new website.

This is a lot of work, but it’s also a lot of fun. Going through photoshoots from years past is bringing back a lot of memories, and as I sift through the individual photographs I’m seeing them through new eyes as I think about how much fun it will be to share entire photo shoots with my collectors online.

Plus I’m realizing how many really beautiful images were buried in the photo vaults, so to speak. Now people are finally going to be able to see and enjoy them!

In my next entry I’ll share some images of what the new website will look like.


Kurt and Chadwick on our arrival in Simi Valley.

The third and final day of our LA photo shoots dawned bright and clear, thank goodness. Another beautiful clear day! Kurt showed up at 8 to pick me up and I met Chadwick, who was sitting in the back seat. We drove north to Simi Valley where Kurt had a spot in mind that he thought would work well with Chadwick’s look. On the way we all talked and Chadwick seemed very pleasant. But I was looking forward to getting a better look at him.


Chadwick getting oiled up by Kurt.

On our way to the location we stopped at a shopping center to pick up some supplies and when we got out of the car I saw just how big, beautiful and perfectly proportioned Chadwick was. He was wearing jeans and a tank top and as we walked through the store, he was literally stopping traffic. Heads were turning and people were actually saying “wow” as he walked by. Chadwick seemed to take it in stride. He seems to know how gorgeous he is, yet apparently has no attitude about it. Needless to say, I found this a very attractive quality and promising in terms of our working together.


One of the first of many incredible photographs.

We hiked into a beautiful area, full of huge rocks and dramatic settings. I could see why Kurt thought it would be a great setting for shooting Chadwick. We hiked for about 15 minutes and it was as if we were in the middle of the wilds, with no signs of civilization anywhere around. We stopped in the middle of an immense slab of rock next to a huge date palm, and while I got my photo equipment ready, Kurt applied oil to Chadwick. I’m glad Kurt was there to do that part. I think that might’ve been a little too intense for me. I was still a little stunned by Chadwick’s gorgeousness.


I haven't had a setting and model fit together this beautifully since my last time in Brazil...

Thus we began the actual photo shoot. I’m glad this was the third and final shoot because as much as I liked Marcelino and Anthony, Chadwick is pretty close to my personal dream of perfect male beauty. His amazing body gleaming in the hot California sun against those beautiful rocks was definitely a highlight of my career so far. The more I shot, the more I realized that Chadwick didn’t have a bad angle. It was almost too much beauty to be crammed into one human being.

My initial impression of Chadwick from watching him in the shopping center seemed to be accurate. Here was an amazingly gorgeous guy without a lot of attitude. Working with him was a total pleasure because he was a regular, down-to-earth guy, originally from a small town in Georgia, who was totally willing to do what it took to make sure both Kurt and I got the shots we wanted.


The three of us traipsed up and down huge hills, through cactus and scrub brush, climbed up and over huge rocks, and sweated in the hot desert sun, and it was all worth it. Every time I changed angle or we put Chadwick in another setting, it was another great shot. Both Kurt and I were getting some amazing shots.


We made Chadwick work hard but he seemed to love it! Look closely and you can see Kurt on the right here, getting the shot.

As we continued to work together smoothly, I realized something about Kurt’s and my chemistry: we were actually getting more and better shots working together than we usually get working alone. There was a nice dynamic happening. Usually a photo shoot wears me out because I’m carrying all the weight myself. It’s my job to manage everything, including thinking of what I want the model to do next while I’m also caught up in the intensity of trying to get the best shot possible in the moment. There’s just too much to think about, and it can be exhausting. I found when working with Kurt that when I ran out of ideas for the model, or just needed to rest for a moment, I could turn things over to him. He was able to do the same, which meant that we were using the model much more efficiently. And the fact that neither of us had to carry the whole load of responsibility made it that much easier to focus on getting the shot. By this third photo shoot it was becoming clear that we actually were more effective as a team than we were working alone! That doesn’t mean either of us really wants to stop working as a free agent—but it was a great thing to discover and something we may do again in the future.


A great model and a total sweetheart!

This was a great way to finish up the LA photo shoots, with one of the best models I’ve worked with in my career so far. And the other two photo shoots gave me a huge amount of wonderful new material as well. Working with Kurt was a pleasure and we both derived unexpected benefits from working together. (Thanks, Kurt, for waking me up to the advantages of Camera Raw!) Overall, a wonderful and profitable experience, and I’m very excited about beginning to produce art from all these beautiful new images!