Tuesday, September 22, 2015

First Day Of Fall: Wes by Daniel Allen

I think the world is divided between those who see fall as the end of summer and the beginning of dark days and winter, and those of us, like me, who see it as the best three months of the entire year. The first day of fall is one I always celebrate as a beginning. The leaves are still mostly green, but there are hints of the incredible colors to come. The days still fell like summer, but the nights, and especially the mornings are crisp, a taste of what is to come. Autumn gives me energy. I start all those projects too hot to do in August. I start running outside again now that the humidity is down. I start thinking about Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas and all that they have meant to me over the years.

I can't think of a better was to bring in Autumn than this set of images from Daniel Allen. The last time I featured Daniel's work, one of the themes I focused on was his ability to capture the aura and sense of the locations he shoots, thee luxury, feel and texture. In that piece, the location was Patrick's apartment, in this series, Daniel headed outside to shoot Wes at Triangle Recreation Campground.

Daniel first connected with Wes o-line and immediately thought that he'd look stunning in front of his camera lens. Given he worked two jobs, one as a bartender in a very popular and trendy Seattle nightclub, Daniel was a bit surprised Wes was open to the idea of a shoot. Given he was from the country, We said he would be most at home outside, in nature, and Daniel knew the perfect place. The location, and Daniel's images have Wes looking right at home with his surroundings. Wes has a great look, beautiful body, face and his gorgeous and expressive eyes. Given his knowledge of the location, the rest of the story, I will leave to Daniel.

'The story of Camp TRC (as I was told) is that it started way back in like the 70's or something like that...back when being a gay man was likely to get you killed in some places. So a group of gay men got together and created a campground out in the middle of nowhere that gay men could come to relax, get away, and just have fun being themselves. The camp and its location had to be kept secret so homophobic locals wouldn't find out about it.'

'Although still just as alive and flourishing as ever, Triangle Recreation Camp is far from a "secret" these days. I got lost my first time there and when I stopped to ask for directions (yes, some men will do that from time to time), the reply was "Oh, you mean that gay campground? It's about two miles up on the right." Before my first visit there, I fell victim to mountain of misinformation and rumors surrounding the facilities--mostly from acquaintances who'd never experienced the place for themselves but knew some who told them _____.'

I'd heard rumors ranging from:
"Oh that's where they have the group orgies!"
"Make sure you hang a handkerchief outside your tent or else they'll think you want sex and they'll help themselves into your tent!"
"Oh, that's the nudist colony, right?"
"Be careful there, that place is just full of drinking, drugs, and debauchery!"

'But, as I found out for myself: the speculation and rumors couldn't be further from the truth. Do those things actually happen there? ...probably--especially on the large event weekends that draw the party-goers from nearby cities. But it is definitely not what's at the core of Triangle Recreation Campground. Like most things in life: it's what you make of it. If you wanted to, there's probably more than just a few gay bars that have dark corners where things go "bump in the night", but if you're not looking for that, you might never know it. Same goes here. When campers arrive, they are greeted by a member of TRC who welcomes them, helps point them in the right direction, and asks you to sign a waiver certifying that you are a member of the LGBTQ community. Yup, if you're straight, you can't stay. Sorry.'

'The facilities are huge, with tons of hiking trails and a nearby river where visitors enjoy sunning nude and splashing around in the crisp glacial water. The campground is on one side of the highway, the members area is on the other (and they make it very clear that you must be clothed when crossing the highway.) On the camping side, you'll find everything that you'd expect at your typical campground: portable toilets, fire pits, trails, hiking, and tons and tons of beautiful nature.'

'The members side is where things definitely get a bit more interesting--if not altogether jaw dropping! Members pay an annual fee and are allowed to develop a section of the land. As a result, the members side has cabins, bars, dance floors, a sauna, and beautiful rustic landscaping. Most of the members areas have fun names that they go by, such as "Trader Dick's", so you can easily tell your friends where you'll be or to meet up at later on. The weekend I went they were having a foam party and we all danced around in shoulder-high foam while altogether nude or in our underwear. The cover-charge that we paid for the weekend event covered drinks, so we wandered from bar to bar drinking while mingling and dancing on the dance floors.'

'All-in-all, I had a fantastic time there that weekend. It was an experience that changed my view of the facilities and helped remind me that oftentimes it's best to judge for yourself instead of listening to rumor and gossip. I got in touch with Doug Smart, the VP of Marketing for TRC who very graciously gave us full-access to the campgrounds for the day and a few days later, Wes and I began the 2 hour drive north from Seattle up to the foot of the Cascade Mountain Range. During the course of the drive, we talked a lot, I found out that he has a great deal of respect and admiration for Ke$ha.

'Professionally, I find Wes to be remarkably stunning--and exceptionally photogenic. Although he's not a professional model, you'd never be able to tell it. He was in good humor and relaxed the entire time we were there--even when we began shooting the underwear and nudes. He's just one of those guys who's really comfortable and confident in his own skin. The sky was overcast that day, which made for fantastic soft shadows and glowing highlights--even without any kind of fill. Most of the time we kept near the stream and lagoon area--although we did hike through the trails a bit to see if there were any great locations waiting to be discovered. Although everywhere we turned was beautiful, not all of it translated well into the confines of a photograph and must be seen in person to truly appreciate it.'

'For one set of shots I asked Wes to walk through a still lagoon-like body of water while I took photos of him as he progressed to the mouth of a stream that fed it. When looking through the photos afterward I found I couldn't settle on only one or two of the images--they were all beautiful: Wes' smooth, masculine form seemingly at one with the stunning backdrop that he was (literally, at times) immersed in. So I opted instead to combine the images together and create a sort of "story" about his journey through the water.'

'Tired from a full day of hiking and shooting, we piled all our gear back into the car and headed home, Wes opting to doze on the way back. It was a fantastic shoot for me! It felt almost as if we were the only 2 people in the world and had stumbled on some kind of exotic paradise. Since you lose cell phone reception about 10 miles before you reach the campground, there were no electronic distractions: phone calls, text messages, email...it was as if the outside world didn't exist while we were there. And it was a fantastic break from the rat-race!'

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