One of my favorite photo shoot locations used to be this fabulous old abandoned silver mine out in the desert — all weathered wood and beautiful rust patterns, with nothing but Joshua trees and cactus for miles around. It was the perfect complement to succulent naked flesh, and every photographer I brought there absolutely loved it.
But over the years, the place has been steadily declining, slowly and surely falling apart — the facade is sagging, gusty winds have blown off most of the roof panels, and one of the walls is completely gone. What was once charming dilapidation has now veered perilously close to total collapse; sooner or later, I was bound to drag some poor photographer all the way out there to find nothing but a pile of rubble.
Don’t think I don’t see the symbolism!
But you know me; I’m proactive as fuck. Between punishing sessions at the gym to stave off any personal dilapidation, I also took the initiative to scout the desert around Vegas for a replacement location to that old silver mine — which is how I discovered the abandoned cement plant. Screw the silver mine — this new site has proved to be something of a gold mine for me personally; everyone wants to shoot there!
When it comes to my favorite locations, I usually keep them pretty close to my chest, only sharing them with clients who have hired me for a shoot. The last thing I want is every half-assed bozo on Model Mayhem cluttering up my workplace; before you know it, some dumb nitwit will trip on her stripper heels, fall off a rock and break her neck…and my beautiful ruins will get torn down for being a hazard.
Thus, I’m pretty cagey about sharing these favorite locations — and can you really blame me? After all, I’m running a business here! Take a quick look at the Las Vegas Area Nude Photography Location Guide on this very website — I already give out a TON of free information; why should I give up all my hard-earned trade secrets?
Alas, however, I underestimated the craftiness of certain dogged motherfuckers in town.
One recent afternoon I was out at the cement plant with a really cool client who was shooting infrared film. Mid-shoot, I had just climbed up on top of a ginormous section of the old rotary kiln, when off in the distance I spotted another car approaching. Shit!
In my past experience, on the rare occasions other cars had stumbled onto the site, they had usually just been curious looky-Lous who drove around, gawked, snapped a pic or two and then continued on their way without really interrupting my shoot. Assuming this would once again hold true, I advised my client to just pretend he was taking photos of the industrial wreckage, and I would stay put, sort of molding my body to the top curve of the kiln, camouflaging myself like a chameleon.
Well, imagine my consternation when the car drove in, cruised around as expected…but then pulled right up and parked directly underneath where I was hiding! Holding my breath, I peeked over the jagged edge of the kiln and watched as a guy in a ball cap got out and started snapping photos with a small point-and-shoot. Come on, man!! I thought to myself. Get outta here and let me finish this damn shoot! I’m freezing my ass off up here!
Then, he looked up.
Peering over the edge, directly at him, I had to laugh. Not only was it someone I knew from town — it was a photographer I’ve shot with many times, and consider a friend.”Hiiiiiiii,” I drawled, dangling one leg over the edge. Well, at least I didn’t have to worry about being reported to the police for public nudity! “How the hell did you find this place?!”
It turns out this motherfucker was even more determined than I — he had taken what scant information I’d made public about the site, and had logged six solid hours on Google Maps, scanning the desert in all directions around Vegas until he’d found it. Now, that’s dedication! I had to hand it to him.
To his immense credit, after chatting for a few minutes, this classy gentleman got back in his Jeep (which I thought I’d recognized) and drove away, leaving me to finish my shoot in peace. But, dammit…..the cat’s out of the bag 🙁 Now it’s just a matter of time before every Tom, Dick and Harry starts bringing every Barbizon dropout on Instagram out there for edgy portfolio shots.
Anyway, I didn’t have much time to fret over it because soon afterward the weather grew too cold for outdoor shooting anyway, and the 2015 Outdoor Nude Modeling Season basically came to an end. I don’t usually shoot outdoors at all in December; not only is it too fucking cold, but most guys have more important things to spend their money on that time of year than photographing naked ninnies in the desert. So I generally end up taking most of December off.
This year, however, instead of just sitting around guzzling spiked eggnog and stuffing cookies in my face, one of the readers of this very blog alerted me to a competition in which I might be interested: the annual hunt for the $10,000 Jingle Bell Rock!! Apparently, every December for the last 13 years or so a local radio station has hidden a giant rock with their logo on it somewhere in the desert within the Clark County boundaries…and the first person to find it wins $10,000!!!! OMG — how have I never heard of this contest before?!?
Because I had all this time off, I decided to devote my energy to finding this fucking rock. It’s been a while since I won any big money — my last windfall was at the end of 2012, when I won $10,000 in that Downy fabric softener scavenger hunt. I teamed up with my friend Shutterbug Studio — what with all the remote outdoor shooting we do, the two of us know the desert around these parts better than most. In fact, it was with Shutterbug that I discovered that damn cement plant!
I just knew we were gonna find this fuckin’ rock — I could already hear the voice of the radio DJ announcing it: “A nude model and photographer with a long shared history of exploring the desert are this year’s winners of the $10,000 prize!” What a great story it would make! And what a great blog!!!
The way the contest worked was, every day for three weeks they would read clues on the radio at certain times, plus post additional written clues at various sponsor locations around town. Shutterbug and I listened religiously, writing down every clue and driving ourselves crazy trying to figure out what they meant. The clues were intentionally very vague, but at first we thought we had it narrowed down to somewhere in North Las Vegas (which is a separate city from Las Vegas). One of the clues was “in friendly surroundings,” and Shutterbug had seen an Internet meme where a sign reading “Welcome to Friendly North Las Vegas” was juxtaposed against a photo of the North Vegas police beating the shit out of some guy — aha!! Another clue was “circle gets the square,” which we figured referred to the old Hollywood Squares TV show; Hollywood Blvd. is a street that lays partly in North Vegas…so we just knew it had to be around there somewhere. Especially when another one of the clues was “let’s spoon,” and we found a place called Spoon Exhibit Services up in that same area.
Shutterbug works a full-time job, so most of the actual searching fell to me — I spent my days running, walking and biking every damn trail and park in North Vegas; any public area where a rock was likely to blend into the surroundings. But aside from gaining a newfound appreciation for the astonishingly nice and sorely underused trail system in northtown, I came up with nothing. Another clue showed a bowling alley in an Elks Lodge, so I spent quite a bit of time searching around the northtown Elks Lodge, too…probably freaking out the old people. But after awhile, I gave up looking….aside from sitting on my ass at home poring over Google Earth (I should have called my other photographer friend, haha).
As the contest wore on, the clues now seemed to start pointing south, toward the Hoover Dam: there were clues like “row, row, row your boulder” (Boulder City is the town by Hoover Dam — and it has its own Elks Lodge) and “power to the people” (the Dam, of course, generates a shit ton of electricity). Many of the clues also referred to writing and ink — so I started focusing in on Hemenway Wash, an area of open desert down by Lake Mead just west of the Dam.
I thought for sure I was on the right track when I went down there one morning and saw several other idiots out hunting around the same area; my heartrate skyrocketed and my blood pressure went through the roof as my insane competitive instincts kicked in. I had to find that fucking rock!!!! Then it got even worse — as I was casually bumbling around the desert pretending to be “jogging” (have to throw those other fuckers off the trail, ya know) I saw a metal spoon stuck in the ground!! And it was right next to a broken section of chain-link fence — other clues had been “the weakest link” and “back on the chain gang.” HOLY SHIT! The $10,000 was so close, I could taste it!!!
Alas, though I searched around for hours that day, I came up with nothing. When Shutterbug got off work that evening, even though it was pitch black and freezing fucking cold outside, he insisted we go back down there with flashlights, and search some more!! We were stumbling around in the darkness like idiots when a security guard came up to us: “Can I help you??” Apparently, we were near some kinda storage facility for Hemenway Harbor, and he thought we were trying to rob the joint. “No, we’re just looking for the Jingle Bell Rock,” we assured him.
“Oh, was that you guys down here last night, too?”
So others were onto this area!!!! Now we knew for certain we were on the right path, and our efforts became even more frenzied. I actually got up the next morning at 6am (!!!) in order to get down there by daybreak, and beat any other fuckers to the prize. I had to find that rock!!!!!!!
But curiously, when I got down there the following morning, I spent all day searching around…and didn’t see another single person looking. Hmmm! Had someone already found it? Or…was I looking in the wrong area, after all??
Unfortunately for me, I couldn’t dedicate as much time and energy to this treasure hunt as I would have liked, since I kept getting interrupted by photographers wanting to shoot with me! In December! As previously mentioned, I don’t usually shoot much at all that time of year, let alone outdoors — but this fucking cement plant was proving to be so alluring that I ended up going out there what felt like every other day!
And boy, was it cold!! You might not realize it, but despite its being in the middle of the Mojave Desert, Vegas gets chilly in the winter — there’s no moisture in the air to hold in any warmth. Daytime temps get down into the 50s and 40s…which may not sound that cold, but when you’re standing or lying around naked, I’m here to tell you — it’s fucking freeeeeezing!!!!!
One guy hired me to wear a latex gimp hood while he shot me on some kind of weird, super-arty large-format film….so with the latex at least keeping my nose cozy, that wasn’t so bad. Then another guy hired me to wear a sort of slutty Russian scientist getup while he backlit the crumbling Chernobyl-esque scene with eerie red light — and again, the scraps of sexy clothing helped insulate me somewhat.
But then this other guy rolled in from Minnesota, with three other models in tow who were from Michigan, Wisconsin and Denver. Uh oh!!!! I thought I was totally fucked, hanging with this crew of ice-people from the frozen tundra…but fortunately for me, naked girls from Wisconsin get just as cold as naked girls from Nevada, so we were all equally miserable. And the photographer was very cool and very understanding, and didn’t torture us too much 🙂
Anyway, with all those lucrative interruptions in my hunting schedule, I didn’t have as much time as I wanted to search for the fuckin’ Jingle Bell Rock….and next thing you know it was the last day of the contest, December 21st. No one had turned in the rock yet; it was presumably still out there. And to make matters worse, they released a final clue: a photo of a bag of Blue Diamond almonds. Blue Diamond is a major highway on the southwest side of Vegas, and also the name of a small town on the outskirts of Red Rock Canyon– about as far away from Hemenway fucking Wash as you could get. Dammit!!!!!
But since I hadn’t been concentrating on that area, I had no clue where to even begin looking; worse, I was supposed to drive up north to my mom’s house that very day for Christmas — a ten-hour drive, so I really couldn’t leave too late, as we had planned to celebrate the Winter Solstice the following day. But how could I give up hunting now?!?!?! With my truck packed and ready to leave town, I wasted a few final hours tooling around Blue Diamond in a vain, last-ditch attempt to find that fuckin’ Jingle Bell Rock…before finally, über-reluctantly giving up. I hate giving up on stuff; I hate losing!! ARRRGHHHH!
As I made the long journey north, I kept checking the radio station’s website — and sure enough, a few hours out of town, it turned out that someone had found the rock — the previous day!! @#$#%#$#%!!!!!!! I knew I’d been wasting my time, dammit. To make matters worse, because I’d needlessly pissed away so much time hunting that morning, I was really late getting to my mom’s house, and almost fell asleep at the wheel.
Thankfully, once I got to my mom’s and started celebrating the holidays, all the wine, cider, eggnog and assorted other booze helped ease the sting of my miserable defeat. Still, for a while there I didn’t think I’d be able to even write about the whole mess, at all — I hate losing that much. If I’d won, it would have made an awesome blog — but who wants to read about some idiot losing a contest?! No one!!!
But when I finally sat down and looked back at the events of the past month, I realized something: the real treasure wasn’t the Jingle Bell Rock at all. Sure, it would have been nice to win half of that $10,000 — I could have bought a new camper for Burning Man, and paid for the $700 worth of fillings that my dentist claims need replacing. But I was trying to be all forward-thinking and Zen, and look at the journey as the reward in itself: I got a lot of fresh air, sunshine, and exercise, spent a lot of quality time with Shutterbug, and discovered a lot of fun new trails around town. That in itself is a reward…right?
Um, yeah….sure. Zen, I am not; I’m not talking about the fucking journey, I’m talking about the cement plant! That fucking location is the gift that keeps on giving; the goose that lays the golden egg. Every photographer wants to shoot there; if I can only keep all these other meddlesome motherfuckers out of the way, I should be able to milk that location at least until next summer….by which time I will have made more than my half of that paltry $10,000 prize. Fuck the Jingle Bell Rock; Shutterbug and I had found the real prize months ago!
As with many such greed-crazed harebrained adventures…the treasure had been under my nose, all along. And I’ll be happy to share it with you…..if you hire me 🙂