Nelson Ghost Town Photography Shootout with Work of Heart Photography
Mar 19, 2019 | By: Frank Michael Photography
This small town photographer from South Jersey had the privilege earlier this month to fly out to Las Vegas for the week and participate in a photography shootout at a ghost town in the middle of the desert. I have attended a few workshops in the past but this surpassed anything I have experienced before.
A shootout is where a photographer puts together a themed photoshoot, hires models, makeup artists, hairdressers, and clothing brands and invites other photographers in to help build their portfolios by taking pictures of the models. I arrived in Vegas a few days early because I never have been there and thought it would make for a nice mini vacation. I must say, Vegas did not live up to all the hype that I have heard about it. It may have been because I was there by myself but to me it was just a much cleaner Atlantic City.
I did have the opportunity while I was there to go and see Absinthe at Caesar's Palace which was AMAZING. I got moved to the front row of the theater and was inches away from the stage. It was definitely the highlight of my trip (minus the shootout). I also went and saw Love by Cirque du Soleil which was quite disappointing. I am a HUGE Cirque fan and have seen many productions. This one did not meet the expectations I had, especially being in Vegas. The show was visually appealing and something I focused on more than the actual acts. Watching all the moving parts, the lighting, and people flying in from all different areas of the theater was far more entertaining than the actual show. While every other Cirque show I have seen has numerous acts that have left me breathless, this show had 2 acts that were at best mediocre. There were 4 men that did some rollerskating on a ramp as well as a trampoline act. Neither of them were that exciting and definitely not worth the money I spent on my ticket.
While in Vegas, I also went to the Neon Museum which is something I have always wanted to do. I have seen it on so many different television shows and thought it would be fun to check out. I wound up meeting up with two other photographers that were also attending the shootout with me later that week. It was nice to hang out with them for a little bit. We all had our cameras and went around grabbing some interesting pictures of the old signs of Las Vegas. I must admit, the shows on TV made it seem much bigger and more elaborate than it actually was in person. Everything was roped off and it was just one big circle you walked around. Without my camera it would have taken maybe 10 minutes to see everything. I think it wound up taking me maybe less than a half an hour to see and photograph everything I wanted. As we were finishing up they offered us a free tour that they were trying out and the three of us took it. This made the trip out to the museum worth it because the guide explained a lot of the signs and gave some background as to why they were there. Overall, if you are in Vegas and need something to do, I would check it out.
On Wednesday night, I drove over to the hotel that Skye Hardwick was staying at for dinner. She is the owner of Work of Heart Photography and the genius behind the shootout I was attending. We drove over to the Venetian Hotel on the Vegas strip and had dinner at Black Tap Burgers and Craft Beer. It was awesome to get to hang out with Skye and a few other photographers from the shoot that I was going to be attending. The Venetian was a really cool casino and I took some time after dinner to go out and explore. I walked along the canal of gondoliers and made my way to St. Mark's Square where I had some gelato. It was not as good as the real gelato in Italy but it definitely hit the spot.
Now to the shootout! I woke up Thursday morning with butterflies in my stomach not knowing what to expect. I triple checked my camera bag and headed for my rental car in order to make the hour drive out to Nelson Ghost Town. Everything was going smoothly until I missed an exit which I initially thought was not a big deal. When I looked down at my GPS, however, it added an extra 35 minutes to my trip which would have made me arrive late for the shootout. Being the NJ driver I am, I did not panic and slyly made an illegal u-turn on the middle of the highway which quickly put me back on track. As I was driving, all I could think about was how lucky we are to have GPS because I would have never made it out there with some old Mapquest printed directions!
I finally arrived, parked my car, and saw Jennifer and Tina (the two women I went to the museum with) which made me feel less nervous. I checked in and could not wait to get started. Before we were allowed to begin shooting, however, we had a safety briefing on jumping cactus and rattlesnakes. Luckily, neither of these were an issue for me while we were there. We broke up into groups (Jennifer and Tina wound up in my group) and we were went to our designated spot to start shooting our models. I must admit I was really nervous at first and it showed in the first set of pictures I took. Once I settled in, realized I just needed to be myself, and pushed fear aside, everything else came naturally. I spent the next two hours photographing some amazing young women who were all so sweet. I wasn't sure how they were going to be towards me but they were all willing to try whatever pose and position I wanted to put them in. Those 2 hours were like a marathon. I didn't realize how exhausted I was until I sat down in the car and realized I was sweating. My whole body ached from the many positions I put myself in to get the perfect pose! My thighs were not used to the amount of squats I did that day. It showed in the effort it took me to get up and down the stairs the next several days.
I could not wait to get back to Jersey and upload my pictures to my computer and start the editing process. I locked myself in my office for three days straight and had so much fun with my images.
The best part is that I get to experience 2 more Work of Heart Photography shootouts over the two months. I will be in NYC at the Metropolitan Building next Wednesday and in Pittsburgh at a 1920's mansion on May 6th. I can't wait to add these images to the portfolio of work I have been growing over the last year. I hope to one day be able to style my own shootout and invite photographers from all over to attend. If you are interested in a session please reach out to me via my website and submit a request for a consultation. I would love to help capture some incredible images that you can cherish for years to come!
Below are just some of the images taken at the shootout. Visit my Styled Shoots under my Portfolio tab to see the rest of the images and follow me on Instagram @frankmichaelphotos to see my latest work.