The Story Behind the Alena the Bad Girl Shoot

All images and text are Copyright © 2015 James Wang

28 February 2015

I’ve had the idea for a “bad girl” shoot festering in the back of my mind for quite a while. The idea was to portray a strong attractive woman with a lot of character. But I didn’t have the right model or the right venue fixed yet. But everything came together in February, almost without warning or conscious effort.

This entry is the story of how a sequence of serendipitous events made it happen. What’s “it”? This photo story published by

I met Alena at the Dark Cupid shoot on the first weekend in February. She was a foxy lady with undeniable attraction:

The Red Teddy

The Red Teddy

She was excellent at posing, and I took a whole series of her with silver jewelry.

The Silver Chain Necklace

The Silver Chain Necklace

I friended her on Facebook, and showed her some of her photos. had also just come out with their Model Mayhem casting call, asking for photo essays of 4-8 images. So on a whim I sent her the call
and asked if she’d like to try to shoot one. She said yes, 100 percent!

She asked about hair and makeup … I told her about my connection with Detour Salon, and about how we could find a MUA. But more important was the story. I sent her a note with this concept:

I’m thinking a persona we can send is that Alena is a sexy rebellious brat who knows what she wants. She probably gave her parents and teachers fits but that’s why she ran away from home. So she’s not a fashion whore but a wild child who dresses the way she likes … which happens to be a little grungy but incredibly sexy at the same time. She’s a heartbreaker to any guy who gets to know her but she’s untameable. How’s that?

and she replied:

Aha hahahaha how do u know me so well

We talked about hairstyle; she had a photo of a wild-child style hairstyle, really kind of punkish. Perfect for the idea I had in mind.

I asked her about her wardrobe and suggested that if she didn’t have any rebellious clothes, we could go to the CRC surplus store and see what they have. We agreed to meet there the next morning.

We found the perfect pair of stylish but kickass boots. And a pair of short jean shorts, appropriately faced and not too flowery. Later at the Hospice resale store I found a leather belt that had a tough riveted look to it, but it was also brand-new and fashionable. That was the message I wanted the Bad
Girl to send: rebellious and as she doesn’t care about fashion, but she’s really stylish and fashionable anyway because she sets the trend.

After getting the boots, we walked around Encinitas a little to check out sites to shoot. I had scoped out a few places, such as this one near La Paloma theatre:

Alena outside La Paloma

Alena outside La Paloma

Alena was wearing her Los Olas T-shirt since she was scheduled to work there at 11 AM.

With hair and wardrobe, we only needed a MUA. Alena happens to know a MUA in Solana Beach, so she contacted Nicole to see when she was available. We wanted to shoot on Friday, and she indeed had an opening then!

I scheduled a “styleout” for Alena Friday morning. I asked Alena to come by my house first so I could take a “Before” photo:

Before Hair and Makeup

Before Hair and Makeup

Then we went down to Detour. While Alena was getting her hair done by Skye, I walked around the neighborhood to see where else we could shoot. I thought I knew the area, but I usually see it from my bike, and not with the context of the Bad Girl shoot pending. I was looking for old, run-down places with character; Encinitas is too new to have many of those. But the abandoned Pacific View School was a treasure: not only was it old, it had boarded up windows and weathered paint. And best of all was a structure I don’t even know the purpose of: it looked like a free-standing doorway, except that it
was pretty low: the opening was about 6 feet high by 4 feet wide. There was no door or hinges; the structure was made of stucco beams about 6 inches square. It was perfect for posing since it could frame Alena.

So that was a productive walk while Alena got her hair done. Next we went to Solana Beach for her makeup. I suggested Cat Eyes: sharp and clean but stylish too. I also took this opportunity to search for photo sites. And again, a little travel on foot was fruitful. Just across the street from Nicole’s place was an shaded alleyway where the light would not be too strong. We’d start there.

Crossing over the Coast Highway revealed another ideal location: an abandoned and repurposed gas station that was painted bold yellow and green. It was an 60-s style building with bright colors. There were some old fences and timbers. Perfect.

After Alena was done with makeup, I took an After photo:

After Hair and Makeup

After Hair and Makeup

Then we went across the street to the alleyway. Alena wore her kickass boots, short shorts, and tank top. With her brat hair and Cat Eye makeup, she was styling.

We also crossed the highway to the gas station. Again, a perfect backdrop for Bad Girl poses. I asked her to adopt a very un-ladylike pose, with legs akimbo:

Alena, Un-Ladylike

Alena, Un-Ladylike

Even the weather was cooperative today: weak sunlight filtered by thin clouds. Much better than full too-bright sunlight, and better than full clouds.

It was about 1 PM when we were done at the gas station. I wanted to get a photo of Alena at the train station in a pose that I imagined even longer than the Bad Girl idea: hitchhiking for the train. The train I wanted passed through (but did not stop) Encinitas at 2:33, and I knew the Solace restaurant was a mere 2 blocks from the train station.

So we stopped for lunch. Then I checked the time: oh no it’s 2:20 already! They couldn’t find our check at the register downstairs, so I ran back up, then down again, and paid it. We grabbed the old suitcase I had brought along (it was also convenient for carrying our props) and ran to the train station. We had to get to the far end of the platform. Made it! I said, “don’t worry, the crossing bell starts ringing before the train gets here.”

And just then, it started ringing. No time to rehearse of check out positioning. I just told Alena to take the suitcase down the platform and to stick out her thumb, while I headed up platform since I was using a mild telephoto (135mm at f/2); I wanted her to be in focus, but not the train. And given the hurry and lack of preparation, the photo worked out amazingly well:

Gotta Get Outta Town

Gotta Get Outta Town

She had the perfect pose; I managed to get the correct camera settings, and the light was not too strong so I could shoot at f/2.0 no problem.

That was definitely the climactic shot of the day because of the close timing. We continued on, shooting a La Paloma, at Pacific View, at the beach. While walking to Pacific View, we saw a perfectly-restored T-Bird convertible that Alena just loved. The owner was just in the office next to it. He was an insurance agent or a real-estate agent. We asked if Alena could sit in his beautiful car, and he readily agreed:


In the T-Bird

We finally go done shooting around 5 PM. This process took essentially the whole day, from 10 AM to 5 PM. Preparation took quite a few hours to dream up the story line, to shop for the wardrobe, to arrange times that were compatible with me, Alena, Detour Salon, and Nicole. And post-production
takes even more time – after all the photos have been reviewed and culled. I figure at least ten minutes per image for post-processing. I took nearly 800 images on this day). But the shooting time is only the lesser fraction of the time required.

Finally, since these were prepared for a magazine, 4 to 8 images had to be selected and formatted in their desired manner. I had to write a credit list with my and Alena’s names, plus Skye/Detour and Nicole.

But most fortunately, approved our story and published it in a few days.!