The Destination & The Journey
Destination photo shoot
The honest truth is that I passionately love being in front of the camera. I love challenging myself to reach new heights and cross barriers, to continue stepping past where I've been and accomplishing higher quality work- every single time. So, while I love it- I also need a realistic balance of work and life. I'm a mom, and my marriage is a partnership where my husband and I both support each other in work and in hobbies. I love and accept opportunities to travel for my work, as our life allows. I recently had the opportunity to model swimwear in the Caribbean. An adventure I'll treasure indefinitely!
So a few months ago Danielle and I were talking and she proposed that we do a destination shoot for LIBERTE. She considered Mexico, Miami, and a few other places. Every time she came up with another place that inspired her I nodded my head and told her that sounded great- I'll go wherever she wants me to! I promised I wouldn't say no and told her that I'm sure she'd choose somewhere completely fabulous. LIBERTE is luxury, so any destination we considered had to have that high end feel. It had to have plenty of different locations within locations to shoot enough looks to make it worth the trip. We talked about international destinations but neither of us love the whole customs thing or spending an entire day for travel, but she just couldn't get excited about anywhere domestic. So, one day she said, "would you like to go to St Maarten with me??" I told her OF COURSE.
I know it sounded like a crazy idea, for us to just pack up and go somewhere like that to take photos, but here's the thing... you must be careful when telling a woman that she can't do something because, before you know it, she'll have it done. So, just like that the resort was selected, dates were chosen, accommodations booked, flights booked. Done deal. Then came the hard part. Let me explain. We have brought in swimwear to carry in the store this year, so that was the focus of the shoot, and pairing it with our denim, our basics and bringing other pieces that could fit into a vacation getaway theme.
Do I consider myself a swimwear model? No. I have enough body flaws to fill a 5 piece luggage set. Can I pull it off? Pretty confident I can - WITH Danielle as my crutch. If anyone knows my body, it's her. If anyone is as picky about my body and my angles, it's her. If anyone can bring out in me what it's going to take, it's her. Knowing I have two months to be prepared to shoot swimwear I try so hard to put the hammer down on my nutrition and workouts. The problem is, I'm my own worst enemy. I have experience that proves to me I still look pretty good even when I think I'm not 100% prepared. I've done fitness photo shoots after making a few bad choices the day before and after seeing the photos I say, "wow! I guess that wine/cake/burger/cookie/brownie/pizza/tequila/you get the picture/ - didn't affect me as bad as I thought it would!" So my two months of prep was really rocky. I'd go off course and I'd correct. I'd go off course again and I'd correct it, again. Turns out, I can still make it from point A to point B when I spend a lot of time off course. It's the correcting that's important. It's the getting back on course. Falling off the wagon doesn't mean you give up. I heard an example once, it was- if you get a flat tire on your car do you take a knife and slash all three of the other tires? No, you fix the flat and start driving again. So that's what I did each time, but I never felt the pressure really ease up. The closer the shoot got, the more anxious I became and would regret all those off course shenanigans asking myself, was it really worth it??I don't eat very much packaged food. I mostly eat fresh real foods. I don't have very much sodium in my diet and I don't usually cook with any oils. I steam, broil, or grill most of my food and season with herbs or Mrs. Dash. One of my favorite lines from Jillian Michaels is, if it didn't come from the ground or the ocean or have a mother - Don't Eat It! Think about it. Twinkies and Cheetos. What the hell are these? There's no Twinkie tree! I'm pretty sure nothing ever gave birth to a Cheeto.
At 14 days out, I put a hammer down... maybe like a rubber mallet. At 7 days out, I put another hammer down- this time a solid steel hammer. This is like- no sugar, no alcohol, whole grains, protein, fiber & veggies- just no extra stuff that my body doesn't need. The day I left for St Maarten I knew one thing- I'm either ready or I'm not, OH & thank goodness for Photoshop.
In preparation for the trip, created a shot list, matching up pieces that we would shoot together so I knew what clothing to bring from the store and give us a list to work off so we knew we weren't going to miss anything we needed. We also brought in salmples- this is typical for a shoot so that we can photograph pieces that aren't produced yet, but we can be ahead of the game. We had 20 looks to shoot.
Also, being an athlete, I have lots of lovely tan lines ...the one on my wrist from my Garmin is one of Danielle's favorites. So, she booked me a spray tan a couple days before the trip. I'd never had a professional spray tan, so I read all the pre and post instructions - twice. Plus, Danielle was giving me tips as well. Thursday evening after work, I met Teresa at Soleil and stripped down to my birthday suit so she could airbrush me brown all over. As she is getting her tools ready, I stand behind her, naked, kind of awkward and not knowing what to do with myself. I notice two black foot shapes on the floor in front of the trifold tanning section of the tiny closet sized room. I looked at the foot shapes and thought, those look nice. They looked like they could be made from yoga mats, or maybe like those anti fatigue mats they stand on at the airport. They also had a sheen to them and, to be honest they were quite appealing. They had me at "yoga mat". So, as Teresa is busy at her counter, I reach one foot over and tap the closest foot shape with my toe to see how cushy it is. It sticks to my foot. Why is it sticking to my foot?? Why did I have to touch it with my toe? Why couldn't I just stand there and behave until I was told what to do next!! I'm now frantically thrashing my foot, while pretending I'm doing nothing, trying to get the foot shape to shake loose and detach from my toe. If only it would shake loose before Teresa turns around, but because I have no friends in the heavenly world, she of course turns around to witness me naked, with one leg sticking straight out and flutter kicking a little black sticky yoga mat foot thing. She bends over and pulls it free an then instructs me to stand with both feet in the middle of them, now. I decide there's no sense in being embarrased. We've only just begun and still have the whole process to get through, and that can't be the last thing that goes wrong. Not with me.
I was wrong, the rest of the process went smoothly. As smoothly as one could imagine in that situation.
Part of the instructions is that the tan needs to develop, so I couldn't rinse it off until the next morning and while it was on my skin I couldn't have any skin on skin contact or wear any tight clothes. Dressed in Mike's pajamas, I explained to the boys that they couldn't touch me on my skin. They were baffled by this and wanted all the details. Lot's of why's and what's and how's. The looks on their faces were priceless. Oh the things girls do...
Besides the tan, we also decided I needed hair. Hair makes a girl feel so glamorous but I just don't feel that extensions fit my lifestyle. The amount of time I spend working out, sweating, swimming etc. The solution is a very clever design of hair extensions called a Halo. Danielle's hair dresser told her about them and after we looked it up we were both just mystified. The extensions are designed on a band with a fishing line that goes around the front and the halo fits on your head like a crown, after you pull your hair over the top of it, the extensions are invisible and it looks completely natural, is comfortable to wear, and the best part - temporary. Take them in and out in a matter of one minute. Sounded too good to be true to us but we trusted Tim who recommended we get them. Further research showed that our Classen Curve neighbor blo. is a dealer so I contacted the owner and she and her girls helped us with the color match and expidited shipping so I could have my perfect extensions in time for the shoot! I was nervous about the color match, but when I went to pick up the hair, the girls showed me how to put it on the first time and trimmed and curled my hair for me. We were all amazed at how dead on the color was and I just couldn't believe how natural it looked. I felt utterly glamorous!
My trip was two full days with two half days on each end (the travel days). We considered flying Mike to meet when we finished shooting so I could extend my stay and add on with a romantic vacation as well, but we just couldn't swing it. That, I do regret. I think we should have just done it! It would have been so wonderful to share such a beautiful resort with him AND go back to the very first Caribbean island we've ever traveled to together. So, it had some sentiment to it as well. My travel to the island was perfect - everything went as planned and I arrived easily and smoothly. I got to the resort within minutes, since it is right near the airport (& the beach) and Danielle met me with a giant hug.
She showed me around and then to the room and everything was amazing. I settled in -meaning we started laying out the styles we needed to shoot and I changed clothes, freshened my makeup and we went out to shoot the first look. And so began the spectacle of us. Everywhere we went people started with confusion, observed with interest, watched for entertainment, and judged with envy. Here we are very deliberately choosing poses, locations and angles to take photos and getting ourselves sometimes into pretty precarious situations- standing on cliffs, climbing rocks, going out on ledges etc. Danielle got a lot of questions about her camera, her lenses, and of course the big one - WHO is that girl! What are the photos for?? People started assuming I was a Victoria's Secret model, which is hilarious and insanely flattering - to BOTH of us! WOW, these people are obviously not very familiar with Victoria Secret ads! Am I going to argue with them about all the reasons why it's impossible for me to be a Victoria's Secret model? Nah.
Monday morning we were up before 5am, packed our necessary supplies and left the hotel to board a ferry for St Barth's. I never sleep well the. night before a big shoot. I just can't turn off my brain- so when something woke me up (a sound that I thought was Danielle in the shower) I sprung out of bed, flipped on the light and started the coffee machine. After the cup was brewed, I looked at the time and noticed it was 4am. About an hour too early so I turned out the light & slipped back into bed. Trying to pretend I didn't just cause a bunch of raucous.
Danielle had scouted out the whole island of St Maarten and found a few places that would be suitable to shoot BUT the available options on St Barth's were undeniably at a whole other level. She hired a guide, Yo An is his name, to drive us from location to location and help us make things go smoother since it was just the two if us for this shoot and we are used to having at least a couple other people around (the extra sets of hands are invaluable) Yo An turned out to be the best photo shoot assistant ever. He was ambitious and energetic, on the ball with handing me the next piece of clothing and packing the previous one, he hauled our bags up and down the beaches and knew all the most beautiful nooks of the island. We shot where Victoria's Secret has their photo shoots, and got incredible backdrops for our photos. We are so grateful for Yo An's help- the shoot would have taken hours longer and been triply exhaustive without him.
That day was just amazing, I couldn't get over how beautiful the atmosphere was. The second day we shot around the resort and got the rest of the planned looks we had. Dinner was off the resort at an Italian restaurant called Astro owned by a good friend of Yo An's, who is French. We invited him to join us, and enjoyed meeting his girlfriend and the fun conversation over drinks. Yo An's friend, Charlotte and her family own the restaurant. Being there with Yo An was great because we got special attention and service! Every morsel of food was devine and I savored each bite. The French are really good at Italian food :)
This trip being a business trip and all, there wasn't much "free" time. I was able to get one workout in- 4 miles on the treadmill in the fitness center- and one 13 minute snorkeling swim from the beach just outside our hotel that ended in disaster. We were shooting a lot. That's why we were there and I really was trying to eliminate the possibility of getting back to Oklahoma and saying, "oh man, I wish we had taken this photo or that photo..." It's just not easy to go back to get a pickup shot. Danielle and I made the very best of every opportunity. Even looks we hadn't planned to shoot (including my own clothes- which are from previous seasons, and years, at LIBERTE) We shot some fitness stuff and some casual looks. Things we can use because they're core collection from our designers.
Where we stayed was all inclusive so the food and drinks were never extra. Meaning you walk 50 feet and you're at a bar, you walk another 50 feet and you're at another bar. The cocktails were all really fun and colorful and dammed tempting. Impossible to resist! After the first full 24 hours, I really didn't resist. I started to allow myself a lot more slack in the leash. Danielle and I would walk around the property and spot someone with a cocktail and then walk in to the nearest bar and point saying, "Can we have two of those!?" There were Blue Moons, Bob Marleys, Kiss and Tells, and Emerald Jays.
One evening we walked along the quiet beach, cocktails in hand and watched the sunset while we talked and laughed. I loved this moment. I took a couple Snapchat videos and sent them back home ... But what Danielle and I got the next day in return was absolutely hilarious. Danielle's husband and assistant had recreated the videos we were sending them and the hilarity of it brought me to tears with laughter.
Leaving was difficult. It was too soon to go and painful to say goodbye to those majestic waters. We actually got so caught up with shooting some final looks and lost track of time so we went an hour past checkout time and got locked out of our room! We could only laugh at ourselves. Even after checkout and losing our wristbands, we loitered on the property, refusing to leave until it was absolutely necessary.
Coming black to reality is a little smoother when you have an insane amount of photos as momentos. I cannot wait to share the images with you all!
Lastly. I have to give a giant thank you to Danielle. She is a bottomless pit of encouragement and support. It was her passion and her vision that even made this trip possible. I am so lucky to have her in my life, on my side, and as a friend *hugs*