I’ve had people walk-up on photoshoots twice.
The first time was with Leah Ashley, early on a very foggy Tuesday morning, during a river shoot. She had just slipped off her swimsuit bottoms and had climbed up on a large flat rock, when she just froze, staring over my shoulder. I turned around, and on the far bank was a woman walking her dogs.
“Sorry, we’ll leave, right now. We didn’t think we’d bother anyone, this early,” I called to her, already starting to wade back to the shore. “Don’t worry about it — it’s art and she’s beautiful,” and with that, the woman continued with her dogs. We made probably 5-10 more photos and took off. (In fairness, it was cold and I had to get to my day job.)
The other time was during my most recent photoshoot with Keira Grant — we’d gone out to one of my favorite locations, and found a set of keys sitting atop the giant rock that features in so many of the photos from that shoot. I assumed that someone had dropped them and that another hiker had found them and placed them in a highly visible location.
We had been shooting, at sunset for about 10-15 minutes when Keira says, “there’s someone running towards us.” I suggested she step back into the tall grass, since there wasn’t time to get to her clothes. “Nah.”
The runner jogs up, Keira steps out, nude, and says, “does it bother you if we keep photographing?” He kind of does a double-take and says, “not at all. I’m cool with it,” and keeps running down the path (though his next lap was much faster).
I’ve had other close-calls — yesterday’s photoshoot was spent largely dodging fishermen (canoes are quiet) — but those are the only times I’ve actually been spotted. For the most part, at least in this area, people are fairly open-minded, so long as the intent is clearly artistic.
When shooting a POV self portrait, it’s much easier to hold an iPhone in your teeth, than a 1D Mark III.
It may even look less embarrassing when the doctor walks in and catches you doing it.
I like getting out of the studio — which can feel very limiting and boring, after a while.
Some of the locations are private property, where I’ve sought and received the expressed permission (and property releases), from the owners, to shoot there.
Some of the locations are public lands, which I have scouted extensively, both to ensure that there are interesting settings and that there is relatively little chance of being stumbled upon. (That said, I’ve had someone walk into a shoot on two separate occasions, but given that the intent is definitely art and not titillation, they’ve been cool about it.)
Some of the locations are public and a bit more exposed than I’d like, but being efficient and collaborating with models with whom I know can work quickly and carefully have kept us out of trouble.
Another key is going when you know there isn’t going to be a crowd — early on weekday mornings, in the rain (waterproof gear bags are a must for location shoots), or the dead of winter. It isn’t glamorous, it isn’t usually comfortable, but you’ve got to do what it takes, if you want to make something that stands out.
The fact that I grew up in Durham and have spent all but 10 years of my life in this area has definitely helped me figure out where to start looking, but every location I use still represents 3-4 hours, at least, of time spent scouting, not to mention gas money and time away from my 9-5 job and family. (Then, there’s the locations that either didn’t pan out, or the owners would not allow nudes to be shot on their property.)
For the most part, I’m usually happy to show another photographer where some of my locations are — but they have to be willing to hoof it out there, with me (or assist me on a location shoot) and they have to understand the degree of discretion and care they need to use when shooting at these places — I know a few photogs and models who have been cited for trespassing and/or indecent exposure; the latter would permanently end my career in higher education.