A Twelve-Mile Hike for Competition Prints [NSFW]

A Twelve-Mile Hike for Competition Prints [NSFW]

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Working with clients on a day-to-day basis, it can be very easy to fall into a creative rut, using the same go-to posing, styling, and scenery for the simple reason we know what will sell during a client viewing appointment. For the business aspect, this is very efficient when selling images. For the artist, many feel the need for something more by pushing the creative limits. A little adventure is all it may take to get geared back up and into the creative mindset. 

Cate Scaglione of Life as Fine Art has a serious passion for travel: 

It is how I experience freedom and kindle my fascination with nature. I find it a very natural correlation between the naked outdoors and our naked selves. I am inspired by natural settings to shoot powerful, intimate fine art portraits. It's boudoir, but out in the raw elements of earth.

A few years back when she was in the middle of a creative slump, she began to schedule environmental excursions for herself. It was designed to take her out of her everyday setting in order to push herself to shoot and think outside the studio box. She traveled over the years up the New England coast, to the Caribbean tropical landscapes, over to ancient landmarks, and so much more. These excursions help bring new ideas for posing and composition to her everyday studio sessions. 

This year, her friend, Em, an avid hiker, invited her to team up for an environmental shoot in the southern Utah desert. Scaglione's goal was to create fine art prints for competition. They chose nudes to work with the curves of the body against the landscape of the area. They hiked 12 miles to the designated spot and back. In this trek, they learned some valuable information and now solid advice for any photographer. 

Research the Area

For many state and national parks, it is not a simple park and hike. This particular journey required a permit lottery, of which only 20 hikers are selected per hike day. A small fee was involved, but it was strictly enforced and a check-in required. Doing research first will save a lot of hassle later on. Taking along a seasoned guide is extremely important, as these areas are so vast that there are no rangers or rescuers in a lot of parts. Scaglione suggests marking your trails with landmarks as they were warned about deaths of people who fell off course. Mobile GPS access is not likely to happen, so bring out your compass and maps. Food, water, sunscreen, and of course the proper wardrobe that prepares one for hot and cold (as it changes quickly during the day) are essential as well. 

Packing Light

She emphasizes how critical it is to pack light for this trip. These treks are strenuous and often uphill. In her Canon backpack, she brought her Canon 5D Mark III body and chose her lenses. 

  1. Sigma 14-24mm f/2.8 Art for getting as many vast landscapes as possible. "I felt like this lens choice would give me that range without terrible distortion for faraway shots," she wrote. 
  2. Sigma Art 50mm f/1.4 Art for the intimate nature portraits and closeups. The face would not be distorted by this lens, but it was also far enough away that she could capture some scenery or go up close for a beautiful portrait. She wrote that is is a versatile lens and not as heavy as her 24-70mm or 70-200mm lenses, which she chose not to bring due to weight limitations. 
Packing light in order to have your hands free for stability is important in terrain that changes.

Concept and Composition

On a journey this physical, you can lose some of your luster. I embarked on the trip with an artistic idea of rebirth. My subject had recently lost 100 pounds and underwent some major life changes. So, I thought this was entirely appropriate. I wanted to use the landscape as a womb metaphor, which would then dictate my composition and posing. 

Working in an area where the trek there and back will take up the majority of your day, timing is crucial for getting the perfect shot. While there is plenty of daylight in the desert, timing and positioning of the sun is an important factor when shooting in the peaks and canyons. They chose a shallow canyon to have softer light in the late afternoon. They advise to plan properly, as within their 12-mile hike, there was only 90 minutes of shooting time. 

Posing in this area can be difficult as the terrain is not even. If you are going to be shooting nudes, have your model move around first with wardrobe prior in order to learn how to position and find her balance. "At one point, in my own nude self portrait, I began sliding down the steep, sandy, low-grip slope. Consider how you can balance and grip before you are in wardrobe. I quickly learned that the grip of a shoe was entirely necessary on some terrain," she advised. 

Bringing the Creative Flow Back to the Studio

Knowing someone’s story (in this case weight loss and self-transformation) is an important part of the artistic process. Scaglione realized through this shoot that understanding her subject’s emotions and drive could help her be a stronger artist when it came to idea conception. 

Here, it was about rebirth, and I could accomplish that regardless of the setting. This kind of enlightenment is something i can bring with me back to the studio and incorporate more into how I deal with clients. It can help me feel more creative as an artist and offer them something way more poignant than just intimate lingerie photos.

Cate Scaglione behind the scenes

Scaglione is seen here taking in the massive landscape this area offers. On a trek for amazing images for competition prints, she also was on a journey for a new look in her sessions. Textures, landscapes, posing, and the time to reflect gave her the fresh outlook every artist needs in order to consistently make an impact in the photography industry. 

It was clearly a pretty amazing experience for both the photographer and subject.

All images are with permission and courtesy of Cate Scaglione. 

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2 Comments

Jim Wells's picture

Love the area !! Looks like what they call the Wave -- if so it's a $100.00 fine if you don't have a permit for the area. I know because I was busted there a couple years back. You actually cross the border into Arizona on the hike.

Timothy Daniel's picture

Sounds like a normal day for a landscape photographer :p (minus the nudity ... Probably?)