Wow, what a workshop! We just arrived after finishing our 9th consecutively sold-out International Glamour, Beauty and the Nude Workshop in the Virgin Islands and not only am I exhausted, but I think we wore everyone out too—including the video and sound crew that captured the priceless moments.

Whether it was this month’s Kellie M. from the Women of Playboy’s current Hot Housewives issue running down the beach as the film crew rolled their cameras alongside the still cameras from the attendees, or the priceless shots of the bride in her white dress falling into the infinity pool, this was one of the best Virgin Islands workshop of all time.

Excitement was in the air as everyone had to put on their “acting” shoes, though the film production crew did their best not to interrupt the integrity of the workshop. Stero, our Bulgarian photographer was booted off the island in enactment while Playboy models Laura F. and Kellie M. staged a photographer’s critique with myself as the host of the conversation. Everyone worked longer and harder hours to facilitate the video production and it was amazing to see how everyone involved became a family that did not want to leave in the end.

Even the four new models that joined the veterans, Kellie and Laura, came in with great attitudes to succeed. This was the first workshop were we decided to change the original concept of my more veteran models with models who would arrive to the Virgin Islands for their first time—and it worked great! Rotating models prevents complacent attitudes while providing new talent and allows for each group of attendees to photograph new models so their images will not have the similar location and talent as the previous workshop.

As an example, Mark Thomason, whose photos are featured in my latest book, Rolando Gomez’s Glamour Photography and Techniques, now has three Virgin Islands workshops under his belt plus the upcoming Oct. 2007 workshop! This is becoming more common, many attendees have hit the “three” or “third” VI workshop mark and need new talent to build their portfolios.

We also tried a new concept, give the models more opportunities to make some extra income at these workshops, so I brought in a few of my favorite photographer friends to work and compensate the models before the attendees arrived. Keith, Paul and Stero arrived with my talent and I several days before the workshop attendees arrived, thus the models locked-in private shoots beforehand. On “airport day,” the day I personally pick up the attendees, my photographer friends departed happy with their images while the models were smiling too as they now had spending money for their trip into St. Thomas.

Keith, Paul and Stero all have paid and been “attendees” to previous workshops. Like all workshops, many friendships and bonds are created and it’s that creation that allowed these three to join us early on. It’s all about the models, or as I like to say, the “girls,” and unlike most workshops out there that pay their models with nothing but promised prints, my “girls” make money and this workshop was no different. Even our make-up artist, Stephanie, did great, though I credit that to the best make-up I’ve ever seen, as she not only used traditional make-up techniques, but she also used air-brush and other artistic techniques.

Stephanie, a former military police officer, carries a super-sweet voice along with a big stick. Our models share the same house together with Stephanie, and I made the 6-foot tall former U.S. Army, noncommissioned officer, second in charge and boy did she take charge. For the first time ever, the model’s residence was spotless as Stephanie assigned “duties” to the girls—they were given these rotating, daily chores, like sweeping, mopping, taking out the trash, cleaning the bathroom, etc., and not one girl complained, in fact they all were happy to be part of a team. I had never seen the model’s quarters so clean and when you have seven girls living in a small house, you never know what to expect, though this time was different, it was a well organized group led by a leader with leadership experience. As our veteran Playboy model Laura said to the group at dinner while eating lobster, “This workshop by far has been the best workshop with the best make-up ever.”

All the girls acknowledged this too, as it was definitely a tearful departure for everyone when it all came to an end. Some of it was evident days before, like on the “Honeymoon Beach” night were we all gather around linen draped tables and enjoy shrimp and rib-eye steaks on the moonlit beach or the night after that where Kevin, my number one driver in the Virgin Islands used his diving skills and brought us 25-freshly caught lobsters. That night, while Kevin grilled the 3-pound lobsters with “jerk” seasonings, we had many speeches from the group thanking everyone for their hard work. Even the camera crew was thanked as they too helped load 25-cases of water, 25-twelve packs of sodas, 15-dozen eggs, 7-gallons of milk, 300-strips of bacon, 25-bags of ice, 20-pounds of mesquite-smoked brisket and all the other groceries that it took to run this workshop.

And while obviously food and water are important, so is the equipment and this workshop had the best ever as we used brand-new Hensel lighting equipment, some fired for the first time. The reflectors and scrims from California Sunbounce just as amazing too. Even new C-stands from Samy’s Camera in Los Angeles were part of the mix along with three Hensel Beauty dishes and several Chimera Super Pro Plus softboxes. The Chimera softboxes are not only important when we show the attendees how to use them with special ¾-CTO fronts to change the sky deep-blue in camera, but also for our “bonus nighttime shoot” shoot where all the photographers get to photograph two beautiful models, Laura and our Canadian model Christina, in full-fine-art-nude poses.

While many photographers raved about the bonus shoot, others raved even more when we showed them how to change the color of the background, in this case the sky and the water, through the use of white-balance and colored gels. Igor, one of the attendees who brought his wife to assist him, was amazed how his sky turned magenta in color through this technique along with how we could also change the sky to red with the same technique. I even loaned out my Leica M-8 digital rangefinder camera—he loved it and put it on his wish list. Ultimately, it’s all about getting it done in the camera first without relying to heavily on Adobe Photoshop.

Heavy Photoshop is like heavy make-up, neither work great and while we had the best make-up ever, I’d have to say this was not only a great group of models and photographers, but the greatest atmosphere experience at these workshops in quite sometime—everyone got along. All the talent worked hard, but also had fun and with the bar fully stocked with over 50-bottles of liquor at one point, how could you miss when you throw in an exotic and private location along with an extra-large swimming pool and hot tub spa?

While no workshop is perfect, we take what we learn from all of them and try and make the future workshops better. It’s no perfect science, ultimately it’s a “live and learn” environment along with the opportunity to become a better photographer. The video crew enjoyed it so much so that they too would get involved, thus helping create the conditions of success. We’ll take the best from this workshop and the past, thus you can bet the upcoming Fall workshops this year in the Virgin Islands will be even better. Thanks to everyone for all their hard work, rg sends!

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