Bridging Between Two Worlds

 Photo: Annie Montgomery

Photo: Annie Montgomery

Both long-distance cycling and freelance modeling are, by now, pretty well-established ventures.

However, I'm pretty sure no one's been foolhardy enough to try to combine the two in one trip until now. I typically assume I'm not the first to have done anything...but I think it's safe to say I'm probably the first to plan a trip quite like this.

While I have a propensity to dive right into things, I've put a lot of thought into this. I'm not completely naive: touring as a model and touring as a cyclist are, by default, pretty incompatible things. Each demands certain things that the other naturally complicates.

So, here are some problems, and the solutions I've slapped together [I'm sure I will discover more problems and come up with more solutions along the way].

Problem #1: Tan lines. Tan lines. TAN LINES. Cannot be showing up to shoots with gnarly tan lines.

This is one I've mulled over for quite a while, and I believe I've finally gotten it handled:

  • White pantyhose! I read about a pro cyclist who does this because he's prone to burning, and supposedly the white layer even kept him cooler during his rides. For my arms: white children's pantyhose with the feet cut off.
  • Obviously, sunscreen on all exposed areas. No-brainer.
  • Tan-through t-shirts [I didn't even know this was a thing until recently].
  • Scheduled, periodic jaunts along nude beaches [or in the private backyards of whichever of my hosts won't mind], particularly when first arriving in a new city where I've booked work. [I tan quickly and never burn, so in the past I've been able to eliminate tan lines in a day or so this way before my modeling trips.]
  • If needed/For touch-ups: slightly tinted/bronzing/shimmer lotions [i.e., not fake tan] that will help refract light and make lines disappear without making me look orange [this will also help minimize any other marks or blemishes].
  • Worst-case scenario: I want to avoid tanning booths [I have never visited one in my life], but in a pinch, it'd be better than disappointing a client. 

Problem #2: Modeling demands a certain amount of prerequisite girly-gear [makeup and wardrobe]; cycling demands that I pack light, and bring practical items.

Fortunately, I almost always model nude [and, when I am modeling with clothes on, it's often been provided for the shoot], I almost always have good skin and tend to pose completely bare-faced [except for shoots with an MUA]. However, for those occasional shoots where I am asked to do my own makeup or supply some clothing items, it's a mark of basic professionalism that I be able to deliver on these modest fronts.

Makeup: 

  • Nixed the bulky packaging on items like bronzer/highlighter/shadows in favor of a couple little replacement units that are meant to be part of a palette once you've used up that color. They have no packaging except for a disposable plastic cover.
  • Sample size items [like lipstick and eyeliner]: Not only are these either free or very cheap, but they're tiny and can easily be replaced if I use them up [though that's unlikely; I go through makeup very slowly since I don't wear it during my daily life, nor at most of my shoots].
  • One worthy splurge: got a Lorac Pro Palette! Super versatile [enough colors for any basic eye look], and the case is almost paper-thin! High quality makeup, and a good value compared to competing products by other brands.

Wardrobe: 

  • I can't reasonably pack heels or boots, but I'll be bringing some lingerie/underwear sets/swimwear. Smooshes down into nothing, and weighs nothing. If I have room, there are a couple of fun items I have in mind that I'd like to pack, too [diaphonous and ornate dresses/skirts, a crazy bodysuit...]. We'll see!
  • I've made sure that most of the clothes I'll be cycling in are photogenic enough to serve as casual wardrobe, too [basic T-shirts/tanks, sports bra, etc.], rather than bringing cycling-specific clothing that I can't model in.

Problem #3: Modeling requires regular Internet access and lots of online busy-work drudgery; cycling through remote areas sometimes precludes getting Internet.

  • Well, this year I finally caved in and got a smartphone with a data plan [chose Verizon for optimal coverage in remote areas]. 
  • I also got one of those charge-storage devices, which I may or may not switch for a generator that charges my phone while I pedal.
  • I started promotion and booking very early for a change, to get a head start. Obviously I'll still be booking while I'm on my trip, since many clients can't commit months in advance—but I've gotten the time-consuming phases of cold calls and checking for genuine interest, compatibility [compensation and content], good model references, and other eliminative busy-work out of the way. So, once I'm on the road, I will only have to manage a small number of genuinely interested possible clients, and can focus directly on scheduling with them [rather than broad-beam promotion], so if I go a couple days at a time without access to my email I won't fall far behind.

Problem #4: Showing up exhausted to shoots. Or missing a shoot due to unforeseen emergencies [bad weather, technical difficulties beyond the scope of what I'm equipped to prepare...though I've been pretty neurotic about making a well-stocked tool kit, it could still happen]. I've been asked about this a lot. Cycling aside, I'm a professional. I need to show up fresh to my shoots, of course, and be able to make a 100% commitment that I will be there.

  • The overall answer is simple: I'm creating a clear buffer between my riding days and my shooting days, as well as between one shoot and the next, to account for tiredness and even unforeseen delays. 
  • For starters, I'm not booking nearly as prolifically as on other modeling tours. In several cases, I'm only reserving space for one photo shoot in a given city, since the logistics of getting to every shoot will be complicated. Usually I'm happy to do lots of 2-hour shoots, and to do traditional media sittings for artists, but this time around I have to be very selective about what jobs I can reasonably accept, since I am relying on far fewer jobs to carry me financially, and each one really needs to count. One hard thing has been turning down many jobs that I would otherwise love to accept, simply because they would thin my schedule out too much. I could risk booking more work, but I need ample cushioning between my jobs to make up for lost time in the event that something delays me—I couldn't have gotten this far as a model, nor convinced people I was capable of pulling this trip off, if not for the trust I've established and consequent reputation I've built...one of my challenges on this trip will be making sure that I protect and honor that reputation. Fortunately, I have a lot of amazing clients who have offered to host/feed me in addition to hiring me, or who want to hire me for two half days or a full day—or even two full days!—which helps offset the fact that my availability is 5-10% what it would be if I were driving or flying. And I've also been surprised by the number of photographers who are also cycling enthusiasts and who've given me invaluable advice! Thanks to each of you who have been flexible, resourceful, supportive, and generous through the planning stages; I wouldn't be able to do this trip without you!
  • I've considered the mileage and other factors [elevation gains, potential for wind, the fact that I'm not super fast and will be carrying a lot of weight] of my entire route. Every day, every mile of it. Multiple times. And I've set myself conservative goals of when I expect myself to be in each next city destination—conservative enough that I'll still be able to make them without a problem if I were held back by a day, or even a couple days [i.e., a projected mileage of no more than forty miles in a given day, although I could, and almost certainly will, technically ride quite a bit farther through most conditions]. 
  • Also, I am only shooting during overall rest periods/rest days. If we have a shoot booked, it means that I'm getting to your area at least the night before we're meant to shoot, with ample time to stretch, get cleaned up, and get a good night's sleep. During my shoot days, I will be reliant on public transit and carpooling, and will not be arriving to shoots on my bike [except in specific cases where photographers have asked me to ride/bring my bike because they want to incorporate it in the shoot—which is awesome, by the way]. I may be a bit bonkers for doing this trip, but I still value professionalism and integrity and have planned meticulously so that I show up to every job as a camera-ready model rather than a sweaty, depleted gremlin! 

So, those are some of the main conflicts I think I've resolved. We'll see what other challenges crop up that are unique to the wonky circumstances of my trip.

Update: Had to push my trip back a bit due to fantastically unusual [for this area] weather...the South Bay Area tends to be a benign and virtually weather less place, but we've had such "torrential" rains that there's been flooding on the roads and trails and lots of road work. I was on the fence for a bit, since wind and rain will be inevitabilities on my actual trip, and I've been cooped up doing indoor exercise for the last several days. However, tomorrow's meant to be sunny and, fingers crossed, I should be good to ride the 60-ish miles from here to my friend's house on the peninsula! 8]