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I Bought 1,500 Pounds of Sand for a ‘Beach’ Photo Shoot, Got One Shot

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beach_1

I recently bought a stack of foreign Vogue magazines for inspiration, and inside of Vogue Italia I saw an amazing photo of Alessandra Ambrosio on a beach at night. I tucked it away in a manila envelope labeled “Possible Shoots”.

For a year and a half, every time I would create a new mood board, I would see this gorgeous photo. Slowly over time an idea grew that I could manage to put on a similar shoot… without having to leave my studio.

Living in the midwest of the USA, we have lakes, but there weren’t any nice beaches that fit the concept near me. So I went to Home Depot and bought 300 pounds of sand bags. I poured them on my studio floor, and was shocked to see that they didn’t amount to much. Several trips trips to Home Depot later, I ended up buying a total of thirty of these 50-pound bags of sand. Spread across my studio’s floor, it ended up being just barely enough for shooting.

I then spent a solid week preparing for my shoot by having a stand-in help me test different lighting schemes and trying out different techniques for taking a photo with a model and a fire going next to her at the same time.

Eventually the day came, and while the studio quickly filled up with smoke from my little camp fire (causing us to stop and start several times) I ended up being really happy with the single photo I got.

Getting the right amount of falloff for the lighting was tough since there wasn't that much space so the backdrop kept being visible. Cleaning up the sand took a couple days.
Getting the right amount of falloff for the lighting was tough since there wasn’t that much space so the backdrop kept being visible. Cleaning up the sand took a couple days.

A few months after the shoot I moved to the desert, and now sand isn’t far away and I can shoot on massive sand dunes to my heart’s content… although I’ll need to get my garden hose out if I want to shoot in the rain.

If you feel like you’re limited by your circumstances, maybe you need to reconsider. If anyone has any stories of how they didn’t let their circumstances limit their photography, I’d love to hear!


About the author: John Coates is a Las Vegas-based fashion photographer. You can find more of his work on his website, Facebook, and Instagram. This article was also published here.

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