It was back in 2013 that I had the opportunity to first visually join photographer Gordon Nebeker on his artistic expeditions to Utah. (Earthly Embrace) Chronicling the annual shoot has become a highlight for me, and for FH. Since that first post, I have been fortunate to feature the work of Gordon, Mike Tossy,Studiomgphotography and in the first few years, Tom Clark, not to mention the close to 20 different who joined them on their photographic journey.
The visual grandeur of the landscape and location is just the beginning of why covering the trip has become so special The shoot has become in a way, a mission statement for why I continue to explore my passion for photography of the male form and the stories behind their creation. Gordon, Mark and Mike not only have shared their images, but behind the scenes shots and stories of the how the process of bringing the shoot, and each of the participants, together.
Every year, it is a challenge to figure out how best to present the images. I am always worried about posting too many shots at the same time, worried, the visual impact of each individual shot, will get lost with so many images for viewers to enjoy. In the end however, I usually end posting as many images as I can. In part, because it is difficult to exclude an image I love. Mostly however, because each image tells another piece, tells another story, and captures another extraordinary moment.
'Mark is very focused and I love that. Typically when I do my own photos, it’s just me and I’m operating my camera as well. I haven’t had the opportunity to work with a ton of photographers so I very much desired instruction. Mark was great at giving me that instruction, helping me know what parts of my body to adjust to make the image just right. I’m so grateful for that!'
'Located on the border of Arizona and Utah. Several factors insured that it would not be the same as the previous two years had been. First, we selected four models to accompany us and previously we had just had two or three models with us. The next factor was that it was essentially a different lake than the year before. Due to an ongoing drought in the Intermountain states, Lake Powell was about 36 feet lower than it had been the year before and, while a first time visitor might not notice the difference, it changes just about everything from what we knew before. Not for the worse, necessarily, but just different. So it truly was a new adventure for all of us!'
'This was the first year we did our model search via social media - Instagram specifically. We created "model search" casting call posts and were floored by the response. Over 50 guys contacted us, interested in more information or joining the shoot! Some were totally serious, and some were really just saying it would be fun and didn't think they would be considered, but we still needed to reply to everyone (and it's hard to say no!) It was a real challenge getting the number down, especially as we all had to turn down a few guys we'd worked with before and who hoped to join this traveling shoot now. In the end we found three amazing guys who all lived in Utah, plus another stellar guy that Gordon had worked with previously on the east coast.'
'Two of the four models had met before and I had previously done photo shoots with two of them (separately) as well so there was some familiarity which helped to smooth the way but it none-the-less surprised and pleased us how quickly the group of models bonded with each other! '
'I'm really pleased with the results of running our own casting call. Over 50 guys applied and it would have been hard to imagine four guys who would have gotten along better or been better traveling companions. Part of the reason that they all clicked was the shared excitement of being out on the lake. If you haven't been on Lake Powell, and none of the models had, it is hard to imagine what an amazing huge place it is'
'Having four models with us affected our photography in a positive way. Of course we did some shoots with all four models involved but it was easier to break up the group of four into smaller groups which meant we were not all photographing the same guys in the same settings as much as we had on previous trips. I think the result is a much broader variety in our work.'
'One trick of having 3 photographers creating work is finding ways to be different - to create something different from the other guys. Sometimes that's pretty hard to do, like if the models are on shore but we're shooting from the speedboat just off shore. My trick for getting something different is trying for a different perspective - I tend to be out there climbing rocks or such to get a higher vantage point than Mike or Gordon might see. I'm also more of a hiker so occasionally off on a longer hike with someone. With 4 guys modeling this year is was easier to enlist a model or two and go for a walk and see what backdrops or locations you find along the way - there was far less worry about monopolizing models when they outnumbered the photographers!'
801Fitnessfreak is natural leader and, as one of the older models in the group, he often led the way but not in a bossy manner. I think he is socially fearless and not afraid to do most anything which give others confidence when he is around. Always willing to do what it takes to get the photograph, he was easy to work with and always pleasant.
peaks_and_cheeks02 was always pleasant and always helpful. If something needed doing, he was usually the first to raise his hand. He has done quite a bit of photography of himself nude in nature so the concept was certainly familiar to him and he had many good ideas for poses and definitely felt in his element. Quin Quire admitted proudly to me that he was “a nerd” when we first met. A devotee of comic con activities might make him think so but I found him to be keen observer of everything going on around him and a man of many projects. When there was spare time, he was always working on some social media related project or practicing his circus skills. Quite focused and I admired his energy! Benjamin is the youngest in the model group yet amazingly sophisticated for his age and worldly-wise. He fit in well with everyone and was a real team player. Another one who would do all within reason to "get the shot”. He was an excellent model. He has a great sense of fun and kept us all in good spirits with his charm and wit.
'Gordon was great and probably the biggest challenge for me because his style of photography is so completely different than mine. I find his images to be very soft and calming. When he would direct me on how to pose I would stand there and think to myself ‘there’s absolutely no way this can look cute from ANY angle...’ but I trusted him and naturally the photo turned out great! It definitely took me out if my comfort zone but I loved that.'
I guess the first surprise was (and it shouldn't have been) was how committed to getting content for social media (especially Instagram and OnlyFans) all four guys were. When not the subject of our cameras, they were frequently subjects for each other.
'A sign of the times perhaps but all the models were very involved with social media and even though internet coverage was sparse to nonexistent on the lake, the models were busy taking photos and films of themselves or each other (when they were not working with the photographers) to create content for their social media platforms. And they are mighty fine photographers too!'
Despite the presence all of the models have on social media, for about 95% of the time, there was no cellular connection while out on the lake! Although that didn't keep the four models and entrepreneurs from taking photos and videos, most couldn't be posted until they returned home. Gordon shares however, that while enjoying dinner on the lake, no one was checking their phones or messages, a refreshing change from what usually occurs when out with friends for meal. Being 'off the grid' may be a pain, but all agree it contributed greatly to the bonding process while on the lake.
As incredible as the images are, as FH readers know, I also love a story. Now, with three photographers and four hot, naked models on a houseboat, you can only imagine the stories a erotic feature writer could come up with. The actual Lake Powell stories may be a little tamer than that writer might imagine, but the models and artist impressions of their adventure are just as compelling as the images which accompany them.
'I wasn’t sure what to expect but we were all very comfortable together. We had dinner together every night and it was a nice time to talk about our day or idea we would have for the next day. I appreciate having the opportunity to make art with such fine people.'
'Being in the motor boat and looking out for creative and elegant shoot locations was so stunning and spectaculars. The 4 of us models were naked for the entirety of the 5 days we were on the shoot. Having the company of 6 other people who were all within the wonderment was a really special gift'.
'There was a beautiful afternoon in the speed boat after a long day of shooting that all four of us cuddled at the bow as we headed back to the house boat for dinner. Everyone was satisfied with the day and it was a nice moment of silent reflection with a beautiful sunset and warm skin all around. It was an amazing way to officially end the Summer.'
A few of my favorite memories from this year include: The first afternoon we'd still essentially only just met. We all went ashore to explore. Passing a small sand dune I asked 801 to lay in the sand. His response was "yay - I'm the first one naked!"
One evening Ben offered to make guacamole for us. We had our own naked chef, with his three naked model tasters! The swimsuit fashion shoot to keep 801's sponsors happy... I can't shoot fashion for long though so soon they were naked and having a water fight instead! The laughter and camaraderie of the 4 guys
The glorious clouds on the first and last day (we had solid blue skies the 3 days in the middle) 5 days with the speedboat and for once we didn't bend the prop!
'My favorite moment for the shoot was our day excursion into the first slot canyon we visited. This was the moment that I get all of us models came together and bonded as friends. We danced on the front of the boat to the music and connected with each other. We were genuinely having a blast together! We took some fun photos that day as well but the real highlight was the friendships we all formed that day, we didn’t feel like strangers anymore.'
'Aside from some mostly minor cuts to hands and feet from the sharp rocks hiding in the water, we all stayed healthy and well and not too badly sunburned. Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize! Whenever you put together a major shoot like this lasting several days, you always hope the models will get along with each other and enjoy the experience as well as bringing excellent modeling talent to the task. In my experience, we were fortunate to have an all star team this year.'