A Foraged Bath | Mountain Girl Soap

Life feels busy again. Spring rolled in with a bang, calling for garden beds to be built, dirt to be delivered and a thorough Spring clean to flush out the house. 

Spring used to bring me down. The endless rain, the feeling of being between seasons, the snow melting.... 

Seattle Photographer © Shannon Douglas

These days It bring me back to life. Tender, green shoots springing through pine needles, flowers appearing out of long-locked buds, and a general lushness filling the valley. Moving to our new property in a unique microclimate has strengthened my curiosity for small native plants, foraging, and the turning over of ground. Spring also means Volcano season for backcountry skiing and mountaineering- two of my favorite activites on the planet. When the snow has settled into stability and the wicked weather of winter has passed, the time for long skis down Mt. Rainier and treks up Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Adams under the sun's warm rays arrives.

© Shannon Douglas Commercial Photographer

The transition from winter to spring was the perfect time for this shoot, for the feeling of renewal and rejuvenation, but namely for the emphasis on foraging. 

Naomi, the owner of Mountain Girl Soap, reached out to me after reading this blog post I wrote last year about a trip Jake and I took to the San Juan Islands (where we often visit). A former Islander herself, she was struck by the appreciation of the area and it's wild roots. Her business produces handmade soaps with ingredients foraged from the Pacific Northwest- Evening Primrose, Desert Lavender, Juniper Mint and Mountain Rose.

As it says on the website, 

"We believe life in the Pacific Northwest is unlike anywhere else in the world. Its immensely diverse habitats define our landscape, offer us a sense of place, pride and belonging and provide the setting for our distinctive culture. From the Cascade Range to the Puget Sound to the Redwood Forests, we are proud to call the West Coast home. 

We are passionate about a world that celebrates wild places, a world with clean air, clean water, and clean energy. We choose to reuse, recycle, and promote environmental accountability.

We choose transparency and truth. We choose to create plant-based products with simple yet effective natural ingredients sourced from our region."

I was thrilled to hear from Naomi, it's always a great sign when a client contacts me because of a post on nature or foraging. I can feel our values and vision align. Her website so clearly articulates this and I love their mission and passion in the "About" section. 

"Every day is a celebration of what it means to be a Pacific North-Westerner. We’re more than just craft beer drinking, blackberry picking, clam digging, weather obsessing, coffee connoisseurs. We have tremendous pride in our way of life, respect for local tradition, and a strong desire to preserve the natural beauty of our environment."

 Juniper and mint body wash, oil and soap shown on a forest floor of hemlock, cedar, leaves, pine cones, moss and dirt. 

Juniper and mint body wash, oil and soap shown on a forest floor of hemlock, cedar, leaves, pine cones, moss and dirt. 

Naomi has a fantastic story. After relocating to the Mt. Shasta area of California, she and her family began homesteading. Through the butchering of a steer they raised, she used the excess fat to make soap. Impressive to say the least! 

 Juniper and mint soap bar sitting over a piece of cedar. 

Juniper and mint soap bar sitting over a piece of cedar. 

After many e-mails, learning about Naomi's brand and narrowing in on her goals for the photos, I set to work booking a studio and the styling services of my dear friend Renée Beaudoin

This job was a dream collaboration for the two of us. Both avid foragers, we love to get lost in the woods, loose track of time and discover new varieties. Both of us foraged for ingredients used in Naomi's products and props to make "forest floors" for set backgrounds and I spent hours drawing up shoot plans and gathering inspiration. 

 Mountain Girl Soap's line of body washes in evening primrose, desert lavender, juniper mint and mountain rose. 

Mountain Girl Soap's line of body washes in evening primrose, desert lavender, juniper mint and mountain rose. 

When the shoot day came, Renée and I started early in our usual stomping ground, the Spare Room natural light studio in the Bemis Building. She brought the chai and homemade yoghurt, I brought salads, butterbean hummus and salted chocolate chip cookies. 

 Stylist Renée tinkering. 

Stylist Renée tinkering. 

Renée is a dream to work with and I love watching her whittle away. The studio quickly became filled with stones from Orcas Island, Hemlock from my favorite tree and the sweet scent of Scented Geranium. Pine cones, maple leaves and shaggy moss scattered across every surface. 

 Desert Lavender bar shown on stones collected from Orcas Island, with lavendar leaf poking out. 

Desert Lavender bar shown on stones collected from Orcas Island, with lavendar leaf poking out. 

With a long shot list to work through we began shooting. Constructing surfaces of natural elements, we wove in hints of each product's ingredients. Juniper berries sprinkeled amoungst the pine branches, silver-toned lavender leaves tucked between stones, shoots of wild rosehips, and a hefty pine cone for good measure.  

 Juniper and mint soap bar shown in packaging on a forest floor consisting of dirt, hemlock, moss, lichen, pine cones, juniper berries, mint leaves, and lavender. 

Juniper and mint soap bar shown in packaging on a forest floor consisting of dirt, hemlock, moss, lichen, pine cones, juniper berries, mint leaves, and lavender. 

Between the body washes, body oils and soaps, Naomi's products feel more than luxurious- they feel healthful and nurturing in a natural, supportive way that connects you back to nature. Our health is based in nature, we are a part of nature, and using nature to care for yourself is both rewarding and effective. It's something I strongly believe in and, had Naomi not reached out to me, I would have been thrilled to come across her products on my own. Containing everything I hope for from well made with natural ingredients, to using sustainable practices and caring for the environment, to supporting a small business with a wonderful and genuine owner, I was an immediate fan. 

While fuzzy Leadbelly recordings wailed away in the background, we tallied up our shots, cleaned up the space and packed for home. After a brief hang up (ohh broken elevator, carts of equipment and a studio on the third floor), we wound up at our respective homes. I spent the following days tinkering away on the editing end to polish things up and handed it all over to Naomi with much mutual expression of what a delight it was to work together. 

In the time since Naomi first contacted me, her professional business sense has thoroughly impressed me. From her redesign, to her packaging, to launching her new website, she's done an immaculate job of creating a beautiful brand making a model product. 

Pay her a visit and see for yourself, and pick up a treat while you're there (evening primrose is my favorite!). 

 

Until next time, 

Shannon