I’ll never forget my first time.
It was September 16, 2010 at the Botanical Gardens in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Her name was Mandi. And we spent three amazing hours together that completely changed my world.
Until this day, I had never really photographed a person before. At that point my experience behind the camera was mostly limited to travel photography, landscapes, and wildlife. In fact, even using a DSLR was a relatively new experience, having made the move from digital point-and-shoots less than two years before. For this shoot I was using my new Nikon D90 with the 18-55mm kit lens.
Mandi and I originally connected through ModelMayhem.com, a networking website that I stumbled upon when I started exploring the world of professional photography. Looking back, I’m still kind of amazed that she agreed to work with me considering my portfolio was non-existent. Fortunately for me, I think Mandi was relatively new to modeling at the time and was willing to take a chance on a new photographer.
I really had no game plan for this shoot. I had only been to the Botanical Gardens once before, but was immediately impressed with the wide variety of locations that could be used. We met in the parking lot around 10am and proceeded to spend the next few hours simply walking around looking for scenes to photograph. No props. No outfit changes. Just a pretty girl in the park. I would find a location that I liked – a rock, a bench, a tree – and place Mandi in the scene. The rest was all her. Mandi was one of those rare girls who transformed once she gets in front of the camera, instantly becoming a character that needed to be photographed. I have worked with dozens and dozens of models over the years and I always consider it a rare gift when I have the opportunity to photograph a model with this inborn ability.
I don’t know what would have happened if someone other Mandi had been my first model. If my first shoot with a model had been a disaster, I might have simply walked away from photographing people and gone back to landscapes and wildlife. Fortunately, I was so inspired by working with Mandi that to this day I continue searching for new models and new shoots. There have been other great muses in my photography career, and hopefully more still to come, but Mandi will always be my first.
Unfortunately, I never had the opportunity to work with Mandi again. We talked once or twice about setting up another shoot, but it just never happened. In hindsight, it’s probably better for me that it didn’t. At least this way I will always have the unspoiled memory of my very first photo shoot with the perfect model.
Photography by Brian T. Wolf.