Weston Carmel Nude Photography Workshop 2009 Print

Those of you who follow my site know that I'm an amateur photographer, that I've been taking lessons from Mark Comon at Paul's Photo for years and that I've been on numerous photo adventures with Mark.  You would also know that I'm primarily a landscape guy who also photographs animals and, at social functions, people--as well as my grandchildren, of course--and dabbles in portraiture with my son-in-law with our small studio setup.  It was with some trepidation, therefore, that I signed up for Mark's nude photography workshop at the home of Kim and Gina Weston in Carmel.  Kim is the grandson of Edward Weston, arguably one of the most famous photographers in American history, and Kim is an excellent and well known photographer in his own right.  Yikes.


Mark held a pre-trip class a month before going to Carmel.  We had been researching nude photography sites (suggested by Mark and Kim) and each of us had selected some photos we wanted to replicate.  At the class, we got the news that not only did we have to print a small portfolio of prints of our work to share, we were supposed to take a self portrait to share in Carmel (I'm not fond of taking self portraits) and that this one was to be a nude self portrait.

Oh my.  Share our work in such company?  And a nude self portrait?  Mark told us it was a worthwhile exercise, so that we would get used to the idea of working with nude models, who model naked for a living and consider it second nature.  Consider, for example, that we're all naked in our clothes each day.  All this was to get us into the frame of mind necessary for the shoots.

Mark divided the photographers into two groups--experienced (those who had been on the trip at least once before) and newbies.  My friend Art Litman signed up for the trip too, and we drove up together.

Art and Ellen, and Sue and I, have been good friends for 30 years, and have traveled together extensively.  Art and I have taken numerous driving trips together, notably Art & John's Excellent Adventure, wherein we drove across the USA in four days after 9/11. We had a great time driving up to Carmel together, taking the coast route up to Ventura and joining the 101 there, and then taking the 154 from Santa Barbara up through Cachuma Lake and Los Olivos to rejoin the 101 north of Buellton.  Art asked whether I had ever been to McPhee's Grill in Templeton, and while I had not, I knew of Ian McPhee very well from many meals at his former restaurant Ian's in Cambria during the time my parents had a home there.  On to McPhee's!

It was an excellent choice.  The Kobe Beef Burger is beefy and perfectly cooked, with Point Reyes blue cheese, bread & butter pickles, lettuce and tomato (and I mean good, vine ripened tomatoes) and the Sweet Potato Fries in a cone are fabulous.   It was good enough that I took Sue there for lunch on our way to Cambria the following week for vacation, and again during that week.

But, I digress.  We joined up with Mark and the group at the Carmel Mission Inn on Thursday evening and had dinner, talking about the shoots the following two days, what to expect, timing, and so forth.  The shooting would take place in four locations on Wildcat Hill, the home Edward and Charis Weston built in Carmel, and the home today for Kim and Gina.  It is filled with photographic history, being Edward's home, with Edward's desk and camera in the living room, and with several of Edward's prints hanging on the walls.  It was literally stepping into museum history inside a historic landmark.

As we drove up the curving private driveway to Wildcat, we emerged into another world.



We congregated in the living room and spent an hour or so talking with Kim about the two days of photography we were going to experience, how we might approach things, our photographic backgrounds and what to expect with the models.  With Edward's desk and camera in the living room just a few feet from me, I realized that we had, in fact, stepped into a museum setting in a historic landmark.


 Art and I were in the newbie group and Mark divided the newbies into four groups, each of which shot with a different model for an hour in one location, and then moved to another location with another model for an hour.  We would then break for lunch and shoot another hour with a third model in a third location, followed by one more hour with the fourth model in the fourth location.  It was exhausting, exhiliterating and just plain incredible.

The models were very good at making us feel at ease as we tried to explain what it was we wanted to capture.  At times, they were almost blasé about being naked because it is, after all, a business for them.  Art took this photo of TJ and me while we were trying to set up some shots on a tree stump outside Bodie House.

john & tj 500.jpg

  We packed our own lunch both days and ate together in the patio outside Wildcat, allowing for relaxation and discussion of the day's shooting thus far.


We gathered in the office that Kim and Gina use to run their business so we could share the prints we had brought (and our nude self portraits...) and to let Kim comment on the photos we had taken on day one. 


We were also able to use the office as a locale, and two of the photos I captured of TJ come from the office.  The models, Jonathan, Kat, Rachael and TJ, were consummate professionals and made us feel as much at ease as was possible.  They are excellent photographers as well; Rachael is a professional photographer who exhibited prints at the closing dinner with Kim and his friends.  After sifting through the several hundred photos I captured, I narrowed my favorites down to these few. 

Note: Click the thumbnails JUST ONCE to open the series in full size.



After the second day of shooting, we came back to the hotel, showered and changed clothes, and went back up to Wildcat for a wonderful dinner with Kim, Gina and friends.  It was a lovely end to an incredible experience and I plan to return one of these years.




After dinner, we were treated to a show of prints from Kim and several of his friends that was wonderul to see, and quite humbling.

Art and I left early the next morning to drive back home, taking Highway 1 again, stopping here and there to enjoy the scenery.  A fitting end to a great trip.


  If you're interested in seeing the prints that I shared with the group (minus my nude self portrait), click the thumbnail below.