Jeneration Apparel Mansion Shoot

When I heard from a Facebook group about a fashion “shoot out” in a mansion, I jumped at the chance! I didn’t let a tiring and hot day of photographing soccer kids the morning before stop me from taking advantage of this event.

The location is in a quiet neighborhood near the Lone Mountain area of Las Vegas. It’s a spacious property that sits on about half an acre of land. There was a pool in the backyard, as well as a mini-tavern and gorgeous gates and doors with intricate designs. The biggest plus of the house was the clawfoot tub in one of the bathrooms, which is rare in many homes.

All the models wore dresses by Jeneration Apparel, a clothing company based out of Denver.

Staysi Lee Bridal Boutique – Designer Spotlight

Staysi Lee is a very talented designer, whose designs embrace vintage and pin-up flare. She started off designing and selling her ever-popular infinity convertible dress, where you can wrap and twist the dress to create many designs. Taking inspiration from her own personal style, especially from her wedding, she expanded into creating customized wedding dresses.

Her wedding dress designs takes elements of both couture and vintage, with a nod to old Hollywood glamour. Want a dash of color to spice up your wedding dress? It’s customized, so why not?

She took notes from clients that would only like certain aspects of a dress, but not the whole thing. To solve that problem, she designed 2-piece wedding dresses where you can mix and match the top and the bottom. The greatest thing is that you can use an overlay or sash to make it look like one dress.

Staysi is also a collector of vintage dresses, where she buys many of them from an “undisclosed” location, fixes them up, and sells them again. If you truly want a vintage wedding with styles from the 1940’s through 1990’s, Staysi is your girl!

Visit Staysi’s online shops:

Custom couture wedding gowns –
Infinity convertible dresses –
Vintage dresses –

Published in Vegas Runway Magazine’s “Golden Eras” Edition

After about a year of “schmoozing” and networking with her, I finally got to collaborate with IShinensparkle founder, Elena, and photograph her GORGEOUS statement jewelry pieces. She was setting up series of shoots with other photographers to fill the pages for the second issue of Vegas Runway Magazine’s “Golden Eras” edition, where she is the editor-in-chief.

Model: Gissell (Instagram)
Hair Stylist and Makeup Artist: Janeth (Facebook)
Jewelry Designer and Stylist: Elena (Website)

Janeth has been a licensed makeup artist for a few years, but to help take her skills to the next level, she attended a special hair-styling and makeup school in California not too long before the shoot. She did an amazing job applying the skills she learned on this shoot!

We took inspiration from the 1910’s and 1920’s and gave them a modern 21st century look!

View full magazine online.

The Dry Lake Bed Chronicles

I’m not sure if “chronicles” is a good word, but I wanted a more flashier title to highlight the locations I frequently go to for photo shoots.

There are many wonderful places for photo shoots in the Las Vegas area, but they are also limiting. Some areas, like Red Rock Canyon, are owned by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) which requires an exorbitant permit fee. The various hotels on The Strip, which are privately owned, absolutely prohibits professional photography onsite.

Because of this, I have six locations I frequently shoot at. In this blog post, I’m highlighting or “chronicling” a very versatile location – the dry lake beds.

There are two dry lake beds in town – one in Jean, NV and the other one just outside of Boulder City. Out of the two lake beds, I prefer the Boulder City lake bed for these various reasons: easy to access, not too far from Nelson, no hassles from the “permit police” (as far as I know), and to reiterate, EASY TO ACCESS! It’s right along US-95, which is the same highway you use to go to Searchlight and Laughlin.

I don’t go to the dry lake in Jean very often mainly because it’s land owned by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Because it’s BLM land, I’ve heard stories from other people that there are rangers who approach photographers and check for permits. However, of all the times I’ve visited, I have not seen anyone, but I always proceed with caution when planning to do a shoot. Just with like any Vegas location, I keep my equipment minimal and discreet as much as possible.

Here is the map of the Jean dry lake bed with directions coming from The M Resort. These directions are the easiest way to get down there. Drive about 11 miles south on Las Vegas Blvd. Although the map said to make a left on Ranch Rd. after 11 miles, it is not marked. I always remind myself that Ranch Rd. is the “second white sign that is less obvious”. If you make a left on the “first white sign”, you will find yourself driving away from the dry lake bed. After a few miles down Ranch Rd., make a left on the unpaved path into the dry lake bed. There is a pretty tall clearance between the paved road and the unpaved road as you enter, so I advise you all to drive with a high-clearance vehicle. If you have a lowered car, I suggest not taking your car there.

Here’s a collection of photos from the dry lake bed dated back from 2013 to present:

Helmut Newton-Style Film Project with Sarah

One of my favorite photographers is the iconic Helmut Newton. His amazing black and white photos, especially of the female form, was a staple for fashion magazines like Vogue.

Sarah is a local pin-up model. With her classic looks, she was perfect for this shoot. We both found doing a shoot with film challenging. Because we were limited to only 36 shots, the flow wasn’t as smooth as shooting in digital. I made her change every 5-10 shots.

This shoot was a true trade-for-print arrangement as in the sense that Sarah received physical prints from the shoot. This is very rare in the digital world. Below are a few scans from the printed pictures.

Eldorado Canyon Nelson Meetup

Photo by Ken Elsner

My Aspiring Photographers meetup group and I had a large meetup at the Eldorado Canyon Mines at Nelson. Because there is so much to photograph, I invited all photographers of every level to join. There were people from our group that did their own shoots, while others tagged along with me.

Izzie, Precious, and Ami were the models for the group. The models offered a variety looks for the photographers. Izzie was dressed bohemian style, while Precious utilized her high-fashion looks. Ami needed pictures for casting calls, so the group took pictures of her as a bartender and a cocktail server. All-in-all, it was a fun, but busy day!

Dana Point Photo Shoot

Whenever I visit my family in Southern California, I always try to set up shoots during my visits just to break away from the usual locations I shoot in Vegas.

I put up a couple posts in a Facebook group for Los Angeles area photographers, models, makeup artists, and anyone in the industry. Not only I found a great makeup artist, but a hair stylist as well. By coincidence, the hair stylist is originally from my hometown and graduated from my high school!

I found my model through Model Mayhem via a casting call I posted on my profile. She was the perfect fit!

Whenever you work with new people and ones you have never met before, it’s always a hit or miss, but my team was terrific! We worked very well together. It unfortunately rained in Dana Point, but my team stuck it out with me. I was grateful they were such team players!

Model: Ashley (Website)
Makeup Artist: Karla (Facebook)
Hair Stylist: Rilesha (Instagram)
Dress Provided By: Staysi Lee Bridal (Website)

Sunset Portraits With Off-Camera Flash Meetup

When I first started photography, taking pictures of the sunset AND the subject with the correct exposure was a huge struggle of mine. Because I started off as a landscape photographer, I always wanted a scenic background behind the subject.

The problem with using natural light is your backgrounds will be blown-out and white, especially if you’re trying to properly expose the subject. If you expose for the sky, your subject will be dark.

Whenever I see ads on Facebook that sell sky overlays for Photoshop, I always smirk because I know there is a way to achieve the same thing straight out of camera. The solution is learning off-camera flash.

My Aspiring Photographers meetup group and I spent a Wednesday afternoon at Wetlands Park. We did a short walk to a pond area where the backdrop is a beautiful sunset.

Photo by Ken Elsner

Photo by Ken Elsner

Photo by Ken Elsner

I did not take very many shots because I was helping others out. But when I had a chance to shoot, here were my results.

Fun With Film

Since catching the photography bug in 2012, I tried to start a collection of fully-functional vintage or unique cameras. The Nikon N65 was the first camera I bought for my collection. I bought it on eBay rarely used for only $18!

The nice thing about the Nikon N65 is that all my full-frame lenses work on this camera. This camera came out in 2001, just as digital cameras were still fairly new and expensive to obtain.

I bought film for the camera (Fujifilm Superia X-tra 800) shortly after I bought my N65, but the battery died pretty quickly before I took all 24 shots. For some reason (maybe because of things going on in my life), I didn’t bother buying new batteries, so the camera was sitting in my pantry for about 4 years.

In March 2016, I joined a local film photography group from When I attended the first meeting, it opened my eyes to new possibilities of photography. After the meeting, I bought replacement batteries and continued shooting to finish the roll, but because I opened the back of the camera prior to shooting, it exposed the undeveloped film. The camera only allowed me to shoot 15 out of 24 exposures.

Here are a few pictures from a body painting event. I was a bit bummed I couldn’t shoot more when I heard the film rewinding, but the rain started kicking in, so it wasn’t too bad.

My next film photography project was doing shoots with models. I had to face the challenge of not seeing your shots on the screen until the film is developed. I did a shoot in black and white film because in the past before digital, photography students would start off with this medium. I made sure the model was wearing outfits with contrast in colors, as it’s seen better in black and white.

My ultimate goal with film is to shoot in medium format. I would love to shoot in digital medium format, but the camera alone costs about the same as a lower-level Mercedes Benz.

Harsh Lighting Meetup

I love shooting in harsh lighting because it’s a challenge, and I’m always up for a challenge. I’m firm believer that a great photographer can tackle any lighting conditions given to them, and should not shy away from shooting in conditions other than “golden hour” (one hour after sunrise or one hour before sunset).

As a co-organizer of the group, Aspiring Photographers, I organized a “harsh lighting meetup” in the middle of the dry lake bed at a time where the sun is at its peak. I chose the dry lake bed because there is no shade to hide. It was a very windy day, so not only the meetup tested our skills in harsh lighting, but also in harsh conditions.

Below are behind-the-scenes photos taken by the members of the group that I grabbed from our Meetup page.

Photo by Niraj Bhatt

Photo by Ken Elsner

Photo by Ken Elsner

Photo by Donavon Lockett

Photo by Donavon Lockett

During this meetup, I demonstrated the difference between using natural light in harsh lighting versus off-camera flash or a strobe. Normally, the sky would be blown out in a natural light shot, but because the weather was partly cloudy, there were some blue skies.

These are the results of using off-camera flash in harsh lighting.

Towards the end of the meetup as we were leaving, a dust storm started building. I was about to put my camera away, but when I saw a dust storm creating a cool backdrop, I quickly pulled out my camera and shot with natural light.

Heads Will Roll Pinup Shootout

It was a great opportunity to work with Dottie Vee’s Heads Will Roll Beauty Salon. I was honored when they selected me out of many photographers to participate in their shootout.

My style tends to lean towards high-fashion and avant-garde photography, so doing a shoot with these beautiful pinup models was a nice change of pace. What I love about the pinup style is that it’s so light-hearted and cheeky. I also love the fact that pinup embraces the beauty of women of all shapes and sizes.

There was an even mix of photographers and models, so we were able to have one-on-one time with each model. We did the shootout at Sunset Park on a breezy and chilly Spring day.

Published in Fisique Fashion Magazine’s June Issue

The yellow blooms in Death Valley is a very rare occurrence. The last time these blooms appeared was in 2005 and may not come again for a long time. To show there is beauty everywhere, even in a hot and arid environment, the dress and headpiece signifies royalty and beauty.

Model: Denise (Facebook)
Makeup Artist: Gina
Dress and Headpiece Designer: B. Darricks Design (Facebook)

Get your copy of this issue here!

Analisa Fashion Shoot

Analisa is a well-known fashion brand from Hungary. I had a wonderful time meeting Beáta (the designer), her husband, and friends. Beáta’s friend Charles, who is an American professional poker player, and his Hungarian wife Ilona were wonderful facilitators and translators.

Beáta chose to do the shoot at Eldorado Ghost Town in Nelson NV when she saw pictures I posted in a Facebook group. Nelson appears to be very American-looking and different from Hungary.

Models: Taylor (Facebook) and Erica
Designer: Analisa (Website)
Behind the Scenes Photo Credits: From Analisa’s Facebook Page

Here are the final images:

Published in Fisique Fashion Magazine’s Eras Issue

For Fisique Fashion Magazine’s Eras Issuse, I did an editorial based on androgyny from the 80’s, called “Androgynously Powerful 80’s.” The 80’s was a breakthrough period for gender-bending, with icons like Madonna, Annie Lennox, and Grace Jones embracing the look. Each model selected played their character very well.

Models: Edith, Skye, and Bernadette
Skye and Bernadette’s Makeup Artist: Stacy

Get your copy of this issue here!

Published in Pump Magazine’s Bridal Edition

“Two Become One Wedding Dress” features Staysi Lee’s unique design of two-piece wedding dresses. In her experience as a wedding dress designer, she would find that her clients only liked one part of the dress and not the whole thing. To give the illusion of one dress, usually a jeweled belt is added.

Models: Danielle and Morgan
Makeup Artist: Michelle (Facebook)
Designer: Staysi Lee Bridal (Website)

Pump Magazine Bridal Tearsheet

Staysi’s two-piece dresses are very versatile and can be worn at any other occasions as well.

Get your copy of this issue here!

Published in Fisique Fashion Magazine’s “Heat Wave” Summer/Swimwear Issue

With the help of two amazing and talented twins, I submitted to Fisique Fashion Magazine’s “Heat Wave” Summer/Swimwear Issue and it was accepted! The concept was pin-up

Models: Cambry and Carly (Facebook)
Hair and Makeup: Cambry

Fisique Heat Wave Tear Sheet

Here are the rest of the shots from this editorial that did not get picked up. This was the girls’ first time doing a swimsuit photo shoot and I’m glad I was the photographer!

Get your copy of this issue here!

Published and Featured in Fisique Fashion Magazine’s “The Raven” Feathers Issue

I submitted a very short autobiography to the editor-in-chief in order to become the featured photographer for the Big Hair issue. She didn’t use my autobiography for that issue, but instead, she offered me a featured spread in her next issue, Feathers. When I mentioned collaborating and camaraderie in my writing, it obviously resonated with her because she wanted to feature my creative team in that issue as well.

When I thought about feathers, I immediately thought about Cheryl and her Best Showgirls in Vegas (BSV) Models. We spent a few hours on hair and makeup at the official BSV house/headquarters, which was full of beautiful and elaborate feather costumes.

The theme was “Phoenix Rising”. I used 4 models – 2 to represent “dark angels” and the other 2 to represent the “phoenixes”.

Because the theme was a bit more darker, I had the models wear the feather “backpacks” with only a bra and laced panty. I was trying to emulate the Victoria Secret Angels.

Dark Angels: Cherish (Instagram) and Eunice (Instagram)
Makeup Artist: Michelle (Facebook)

Phoenixes: Esonica (Facebook) and Nicole (Instagram)
Makeup Artist: Constance (Website)

Hair Stylist, Wardrobe, and Models’ Manager: Cheryl of BSV Models (Website)

Feathers Tearsheet

Feathers Tearsheet

Feathers Tearsheet

Feathers Tearsheet

Feathers Tearsheet

It is always fun catching the makeup artists and models off-guard with candid behind-the-scenes shots! LOL

Get your copy of this issue here!