A Day in the Woods

The Remains of the Day

A couple of weeks ago, I shot with a nude model for the first time in an out-of-doors location. Actually, the shoot was a bunching of firsts: in addition to it being the first time for me working with a nude model in a public space, it was also the model’s very first photo session, and it was the first time I’d shot a nude with longer focal-length lenses.

My biggest concern about shooting a nude in public was the presence other people. The area where we were working is a National Wildlife Refuge and as refuges go, it’s fairly small and is crisscrossed with paved and dirt roads, as well as numerous hiking trails. It’s served multiple purposes in the past, beginning as the site of Bethany Plantation, a rice plantation in the early 1700’s and later, a cotton plantation in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s. More recently, in the middle 20th century, a small airfield was built on the site to serve as an emergency landing field for commercial airlines and for military pilot training during World War II. Locally known as Harris-Neck, nearly 3,000 acres of the former plantation and airfields became a part of the National Wildlife Refuge system in the early 1960’s. Access to the refuge is well-marked and easy.

Fortunately, my concerns for curiosity seekers were quickly allayed. The only other people we saw – no more than two or three – were sticking to the main roads and heading in the general direction of the exits as we arrived. But what I hadn’t counted on were the thick entanglements of overgrown brush and saplings which were everywhere and crowded nearly every single frame; hence, the use of the long focal length lenses for selective focusing and shooting with wide apertures to keep depth of field as shallow as possible.

Our best work was done near what little remains of the Lorillard-Livingston Estate. Pierre Lorillard was a tobacco magnate who purchased 30 acres of the original Bethany Plantation sometime during the late 1880’s. Supposedly, Miss Lilly Allien (reputed to be Lorillard’s mistress; she later became known locally as Mrs. Livingston) built a large and luxurious estate, complete with swimming and wading pools and a single large fountain.

The home has long since vanished and all that remain of its former grandeur are the wading pool and the fountain. Fortunately, the weather was reasonably warm and we definitely had the place to ourselves. It was so quiet in fact, that we could hear the rhythmically beating wings of turkey vultures surfing on the breeze just over the treetops.

I’m hopeful to return Harris-Neck with SueEllen in the spring. Perhaps by then, some of the brush will have died off. There are also a great many large oak trees which would be even more beautiful with a lovely nude model gracing their branches and limbs.

More outdoor work will follow.

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Griffin, Georgia is a small town in west-central Georgia. It’s a mill town and a railroad town, and it’s also the town where I was born and raised. The trains I once rode between Griffin and Atlanta, Griffin and Macon, and Griffin and Savannah, which is now my home, have vanished. The mills, where so many of my childhood friends had their first jobs out of high-school are closed and abandoned. Much of the downtown struggles to re-invent itself in the face of big-box stores and franchise restaurants. Still, the old buildings remain and they do so proudly.

It’s perfect for the photographer.

I’m in the planning stages of a project which I hope to start early next year to photograph my home town; to photograph some of the people there, and of course capture some of the majesty of the old brick structures now crumbling and fading. This is, of course, fertile ground for another nude project or two, and I’m very excited by the possibilities.

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I’m going to try to squeeze in one more update before the Christmas holiday strikes. In the event I don’t, I want to wish each and everyone a happy and safe holiday season.

This entry was posted in Black & White, Entries, Fine Art, Nature, Nude Figure and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to A Day in the Woods

  1. Looks beautiful, Bill. Great job for your first outdoor nude shoot, especially with a model doing her first shoot.

    It’s looking like I’ll be back down your way around the first week of March. Maybe we can plan an outdoor shoot together.

    Merry Christmas!

  2. Angie Simpson says:

    Am looking forward to the Griffin series. Lots of photogenic locations. Photo with the fountain is great.

  3. Bill Ballard says:

    Merry Christmas to you as well! Thank you for the kind words on the image. I am quite happy with it. Please keep me informed of your travel plans.

  4. Bill Ballard says:

    Thank you Angie! I appreciate your comments. I’m very much looking forward to doing some work in and around Griffin.

  5. Tina LoTufo says:

    I agree with Angie. Take lots of picture of old Griffin before it’s all gone! (That way us old Griffinites will have something to remember it by.) Great job, Bill.

  6. Bill Ballard says:

    Thank you Tina. I’m looking forward to taking this project on and seeing where it goes, especially with the incorporation of nudes into some of the images. Perhaps a show in one of the downtown storefronts? Now that would be interesting!

  7. Dave Hunt says:

    Lovely work Bill, and great that you are now a liberated outdoor worker, am sure you will find much inspiration now that any fears are put to one side.
    Looking forward to your future work, thanks again for sharing.
    Dave

  8. Bill Ballard says:

    Thank you Dave. As I’ve often heard, and even said to myself, “anticipation is more worrisome than action.”

  9. Turned out wonderful, Bill. Looking forward to spring and more outdoor work.

  10. Bill Ballard says:

    Thank you David. There are a few more to follow.

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