…At One Time I Was a Swimwear Photographer

Valerie in Cabo

The photo that started my journey into swimwear photography

Back in 2001, I started on my journey to where I ended up in photography today. It was merely a trip to Cabo San Lucas in Mexico to visit my friend Valerie (See above) who was living there. I had my old Nikon FE film camera with me that I hadn’t shot in a few years. I think it was on the last day I was there, we were hanging out at the beach, and I shot a roll of 36 frames. After I arrived back home from the trip and had the photos developed, I thought to myself, why that was a lot of fun. I started researching swimwear photography, even though I live in rainy Seattle, to see if this might be a fit for me at least in the short term. During my research, I came upon a forum on the Garage Glamour Website and saw a mention of a photography competition called the Ujena Bikini Jam. It’s a competition where models compete against each other and photographers do the same for cash prizes and recognition.

Guys with cameras

Guys with cameras

My first trip was to Puerto Vallarta, and I had a great time. Back then we shot film, and we had to have the film developed, sort the images and pick our top twenty. That year I shot 40 rolls, so it was an expensive way to learn that I needed to up my game if I was to compete. But the one thing that I liked best about the competition was to watch others shoot and direct models. I think there is no better education than hanging out with other photographers to learn new styles and techniques and also what lenses make a difference in this kind of environment. I also discovered that I liked shooting in natural light and that is still my favorite to this day.

Bennet Productions

The film crew from Bennett Productions

Kato Kaelin

Kato Kaelin giving directions toa model.

Part of the fun with these events was there were film crews that were filming for aspects of the competition, and Kato Kaelin was with us for five days shooting “Oh no it’s Kato”. Now I haven’t been around comedians very much in an environment like that, but he was probably the funniest guy I have been around. He was quick-witted and was kept us all smiling with his antics during that whole time.

Eventually, I attended 7 of these competitions, and it was an event I looked forward to each year. The photographers I had come to know had become good friends, and many of the same models would attend as well, and it became one big family of sorts. I was happy when we started shooting digital because I learned the importance of shooting RAW, but not only that I could “hack” others EXIF info to learn how they were shooting. I learned that f/5.6 was ideal but not only that, shooting cloudy mode for white balance would give some beautiful skin tones. I also learned a lot about posing people, shooting in harsh light and being able to bring out the best in a model. This is key because most models had never done this before and they might be nervous or self-conscious, and when you get that shot that showcases them, you both feel good.

Swimwear Images Through The Years

Kani from Ujena Jam 2008 San Jose del Cabo

Valerie in a hat

I was able to convince my friend Valerie to compete as well.

On the Beach near Puerto Vallarta

On the Beach near PUerto Vallarta

Tatum Miranda

I always brought props with me. A large bag of jewelry and hats added more to the images.

This photo of Martha was used on Maxim Online

My only two magazine covers – both publications out of Mexico.

Kani was an excellent model to work with.

Jena in Cancun

Hola! I always tried to use props and colors to compliment suits

I really like this series of Edna and the middle shot is still a favorite

Pati could be serious one moment and then a fun loving in the next shot.

Stephanie was the first real pro I ever shot with

I learned using angles could work in a shot

Eventually, I started to looking for backgrounds to compliment suit colors

Ujena Jam 2008 San Jose del Cabo


…And then it all ended

I guess at some point one moves in another direction in life and as an artist and 2008 was the last time I picked up a camera to shoot swimwear. This year was my best year yet as far as how I progressed as a photographer. I was working with a lot of local model in Seattle on a little beach called Alki Beach, and I took one last trip to Mexico to compete in the Ujena Jam.


The series of photos below with the five models from Guadalajara was probably my funnest shoot ever and maybe it was a fitting end to where my photography was heading at the point in a whole new direction.

Read more about the shoot below at this link.

San Jose del Cabo 2008

Pati, Yamille and Kani





And that’s a wrap

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