September 09, 2023

25 Years of Working with Ingrid (and perhaps our final session ever)!

This session was a special one on three levels; it was a celebration of working with Ingrid for more than 25 years, it was our last chance to work together for some time (or possibly ever) as Ingrid will be moving away shortly after the session, and finally, it was a victorious session that yielded some incredible water images that add to the already voluminous body of work we had made with water to date!
Digital infrared original
The plan for this session was wildly different from the results; wearrived at the beach stupid early (having got up at 5:30am), expecting to photograph in the pre-dawn and early morning light, only to arrive at a coast socked in with fog. Not wishing to waste our effort, we walked down the beach, and eventually found a location that resonated, and we made our first set of images of Ingrid on the edge of the beach, where a river flowed out to the sea. This created a sharper-than-usual slope to the beach, which made for an interesting space. As the light was soft and even, there was no sense of time-of-day, but the results were pleasing, none-the-less. There is something rather magical about the ocean disappearing into a wall of fog in the distance.
Digital infrared original

After we finished the images on the shoreline, Ingrid and I moved to working further inland with some long beach grass and dead trees. Combined with the mist this was a very evocative location to work in. Using my 85mm lens and the largest aperture (f/1.2), I was able to separate the tree Ingrid was standing against out from the background, and create a really moody composition. I often avoid using infrared on overcast/cloudy days as the skies just go featureless white, but in this case, it suited the composition.

Digital Original

The real focus of this session was a set of images of Ingrid in breaking waves. I made more than 2,800 of these, taking advantage of the camera's high frame rate to make the most of the fleeting moments presented by the setting. Ingrid and I have worked with water since our first session 25 years ago, and it has always been a theme that have flowed through the images we have made - but working in breaking ocean waves is something we have only attempted a couple of times. Of those sessions, this was by far both the safest, and the most successful. Unlike previous sessions, where Ingrid was once picked up and moved by a wave as it broke over the rock she was posing on, these were low, rolling waves that broke around her figure, as opposed to picked her up and moved her. Because of the persistent thin fog, and as we were located on a series of low sand bars out from the shore, Ingrid and I were able to work for close to an hour uninterrupted, as dog walkers and morning beach-explorers walked past hundreds of feet away, on the beach proper. If we'd had our initial hope, of a beautiful bright sunrise, the images this session yielded would not have been possible.

Digital original

For over 45 minutes, Ingrid and I explored the potential offered by the waves; time and again, we made image sets (at 20 frames/second) that didn't pan out, with waves that either failed to materialize, or were lackluster. However, for each handful of image sets that didn't work, one wave would shine through, and create images that were really pleasing, making the whole process worthwhile. In the end, I kept 27 images, literally meaning the keepers were 1 in a thousand...but the volume was worth it for the split moments that were available for selections. With the shutter speed at 1/3200 or faster, every motion is frozen, creating image that are a marked contrast to years of working with fluid, motion-blurred water!

July 31, 2023

A Second Session with L_

After our first session in the fall of 2022, it was more than 8 months later that the stars aligned, and Y_ and I could put together another session - time time outdoors. To make things as fair as possible, we agreed to meet 1/2 way between our respective homes, and work on the Fundy coast in the early evening, giving us both a 2 hour drive home, but also making it possible to do another photo session.

Digital infrared original

I'd previously worked in this location in 2004, but have not had a chance to visit it again since, so was quite enthusiastic to revisit it; this time however, I pushed well past where Monique and I had explored, and worked right on the outer edge of the shoreline, with nothing between Y_ and the Bay of Fundy.

Once I found an interesting space to begin - a long thing outcropping of rock surrounded by sand and seaweed, Y_ disrobed and began to explore the pose possibilities. The rock was selected for both its orientation and setting - the light was direct, uninterrupted evening sun, which made this an idea setting to pose upon, and in infrared, I knew the rock weed that cascaded off the stone would become light an luminous, giving great contrast to the smoothness of Y_'s skin.

photo by Ingrid

After making a full set of images with a variety of lenses, compositions and poses on the flat portion of the shoreline, Y_ and I walked further along, with an eye to working with a massive rock outcropping that interrupted the shore line. I made several sets of images as we approached the rock, but the most pleasing is the below composition, with Y_ arching back, framed by the massive is misleading because of the use of an ultra-wide lens, but the rock behind towered over Y_, and yet with the lens and composition, the power and confidence of her pose dominates the image! I really like the confidence and power this image coveys, and it comes directly from Y_'s sense of self, and her presence in the space.

Digital infrared original
From start to finish, this session was fabulous - the location was rich in potential for spaces to work in, L_ was fabulous to photograph; she enjoyed exploring pose options, and was always open to suggestions or revisions (it is amazing how much a shift of a hand here, or redirection of a foot there can make or break a pose). The two hours we worked together was more than worth the more than 10 hours invested in travel time between the two of us, and it makes me hope we can build on this work in the future.
Digital infrared original
There is a simple irony to the reality that the biggest frustration of the session, the harsh, direct sunlight, is also one of the strongest contributors to the strength of the successes we realized. Rather than fight against the light, I embraced it, and time and again made images where the directional quality of the light worked well. The above images, one of the last compositions of the session, is all about the light, both on Y_'s figure, and the distant clouds over Nova Scotia in the background.

November 26, 2022

An Indoor Session with a New Model

A undeniable fact is that it is becoming increasingly uncommon to find new people to photograph; whether this is due to the continued fall-out from COVID-19, my age (now mid-50's) or my approach (which admittedly is completely passive, hoping people will see my work and approach me about modeling), I cannot say, but when I got a message from Y_ asking about modeling, I was more than happy to meet up and discuss my process. After a lovely chat, and reviewing my images in print (which is SO much better than online/digitally), Y_ confirmed her interest, and we committed to making some images...sometime soon!

Digital infrared original

As Y_ lives hours away from Halifax, it was some time between our first meeting to discuss working together, and her next time in the area, but once she confirmed her plans, we put our heads together, and arranged to meet up for a first session.  Though my obvious preference is to work outdoors, given the time of year, we had to be practical, and work indoors. I brought studio lighting with me, but as it turned out, the Air B&B Y_ was staying had had wonderful natural light, and the entire session was spent working with that.

Digital infrared original
My favourite thing about working with natural light is it is quite similar to my approach to working in landscape; I spent much of the session hunting for a composition based upon what is available before me (unlike studio photography, which is a lot about setting the light as you wish, and then working with the model to make the most of the light). The best part of this location was it had a large bare wall, which I spent most of the session working with; with large windows to my left and right, this gave a wonderful wrap-around lighting effect which really worked well with Y's figure.
Digital infrared original

The last images of the session were made on a dark leather couch below a large window - this gave some wonderful textures to contrast Y_'s skin, and presented some different pose possibilities, when compared to working against the wall. 

Overall the session was really pleasing. Y_ is a delight to work with, and have a wonderful work ethic and buckets of enthusiasm. Given her location, I am not sure how often we will get a chance to work together, but I look forward to taking what we made today, and putting it in a more natural setting!

May 14, 2022

An Outdoor Pregnancy Session

It is close to 33 years since I first photographed a pregnancy, and it still remains such an honour to be asked to help celebrate this incredible point in a woman's life. As was the case with our first session two years earlier, this was planned as "the" session to celebrate this pregnancy; though I offered the option of multiple sessions following her pregnancy's progress, the model preferred to have a single sessions late in the term, trusting to my skills to make the best image possible.
Digital original

Learning from the first session, we avoided the coast for this one, and instead worked on the glacial plain that line much of Nova Scotia's eastern coast, taking advantage of the wild landscape and massive glacial erratics (glacially deposited rock differing from the type of rock native to the area in which it rests). Our first set of images were made with the early evening sunlight providing some wonderful edging to the breast and belly, and picking up the warm highlights in the model's hair.

Digital original

Though the session began with some lovely evening sunlight, the sky gradually clouded over through the session, and by the middle of the 75 minute session, this had changed to wonderfully soft evening light which was just a delight to work with. While much of the early portion of the session was spent on poses mirroring the shape of the rocks with the shape of the pregnant belly, one of my favourite rock images is above. I'd worked in this exact location 13 years earlier, and loved how the rock looked with the foliage around it - this time however, as opposed to working with infrared light, I kept the image in colour, enjoying the delicate contrast between all the warm tones in the foreground, and the blue sky above.

Digital infrared original

The final set of images we made, bringing the session to a close, were the ones that really resonated with me. By this time, the sky had clouded over completely, and the evening light was incredibly soft and even. Where most of the session had been focused on standing (or prone) poses, for the last set of photos, I asked the model to lean back into a small rock which allowed me to frame her figure with a large dark-lichen covered rock behind her. Working with an extremely wide-angle lens help keep the figure prominent, while still showing the space around her. The sweeping drama of sky above, and the luminous infrared tones of the model's skin make this image an absolute celebration of the full, curving lines of the pregnant body!

May 09, 2022

A Short Morning Session

In the late 1990's, I bought a fine art nude print - an image of a pregnant mother holder an infant on top of her bare belly; this image has hung on my wall for more than 2 decades,but I have never had a chance to take inspiration from this for my own work. When discussing our upcoming outdoor pregnancy session, I asked the model if she'd be interested in any images with her first child...and much to my surprise, she was keen to see what would come out of that idea, and we set a time to meet and make some photos.

Digital original

While this session was not created using my infrared camera, the luminous skin tones I was seeking in the post production certainly are more in line with that approach, but as the day was pretty overcast, working indoors with the infrared camera would have been challenging. Fortunately, the high ISO performance on contemporary cameras is nothing short of stunning, so using ISO 800 throughout the session presented no quality issues.

Digital original

As short and focused as this session was, I am absolutely floored by how lovely the results were - the last image, above, is so far above my expectations it make my heart sing. Photographing straight into the windows covered with sheers created the luminous space I have long been enamoured with (since at least 1998), and the lovely connection between mother and child is all the richer for the pregnant belly the child is perched on! Such a beautiful session.

January 28, 2022

Ingrid, Snow and Ice

I first worked with Ingrid on snow and ice in 2008, and this is literally the first time since those two back-to-back sessions that the weather, our schedules and river ice thick enough to work on has occurred at the right time, and in the right way to facilitate a return to the idea. Thew challenge of repeating this approach is probably more of a comment on global warming than any other factor in the co-ordination of a winter session.

Digital original, 8 image stitch

The first snow and ice session with Ingrid was very much an experiment, but this time, we had a much better idea of how to approach it, and what processes would make it easier, and more effective (less because of any extensive experience working with winter conditions, and more because of all the successes we had in Ireland, working in cool weather). This session was actually quite a bit colder then our first sessions in 2008 - the temperature was at the freezing point (0c or 32F), but with this location, there was not a breath of wind, and Ingrid could warm up between image sets, so the cold did not present much of an issue. Any poses which included contact with the ice involved cloth padding between skin and ice, minimizing the impact of the setting on Ingrid.

Digital original, 11 image stitch
As I'd worked in this setting several times before, I had a pretty good idea of were I wanted to work with Ingrid, and quickly we moved to these spaces. By far my favourite image sets were at the bottom of the watercourse, where it flows over a broad, flat rock in to a small basin (where the second image in Ingrid's first session in this space was made). With the winter freeze, with provided a solid platform of ice for Ingrid to pose on, right next to the cascading water and the pool below. After making images of a handful of pose variations, Ingrid got dressed, and I continued to make the rest of the composition, creating another 10 images of the space to stitch together into the final composition.
Digital original
Ultimately, the biggest challenge of this winter session was not for Ingrid, working on the snow and ice, but myself - shortly after we started , my foot went through the ice (I was standing where I would not have let Ingrid pose, so I knew I was on thin ice), and ice cold river water got into my boot. For the remainder of the session, my left foot grew progressively colder, but I am proud to say we worked until the images stopped presenting themselves, not until I could no longer bear the chill in my foot. in the end, we called the session as we'd run out of ideas for the spaces we felt were safe to work, and we headed home, happy in the knowledge we'd built on the two previous winter sessions fourteen years earlier.

January 01, 2022

New Year's Day at Peggy's Cove

Since at least 2008, I have been marking the arrival of each new calendar year with a photo trip to Peggy's Cove - most have been cold, many with snow, but this year was mild, with no snow or ice in sight. Most of these Peggy's Cove trips have been tied to my teaching, but this year, with COVID-19 still overshadowing society, I kept the event to myself, friends and family.

October 21, 2021

Downtown Halifax at Night

Digital original
My first real love in photography was architecture, rooted in my exposure to European art & architecture as a child. As I live in Canada, the architecture I really love (western-European medieval & gothic) is not readily available, so I have to make do with newer buildings. In Halifax, one of the most interesting "new" buildings in the central Library, with a cantilevered top floor, which is a delight to photograph. In this case, using my 17mm tilt-shift allowed me to really exaggerate the jutting out of the top floor.
Digital original
As this evening grew dimmer, I began to play with the interaction between man-made lighting and architecture, with the above bouquet of metal posts being the first subject I approached with this in mind. I really enjoy the interplay of shadows at the top of the composition, though I did keep wishing I could have had control over the lighting inside the building - as it is still under construction, the visual noise of the unfinished building site detracts from the central focus of the image.
Digital original

 The last set of images I made were created on the walk back to my car; by this time there had been a light sprinkle of rain, and the roads were wet and shiny, which made for lovely light reflections on its surface. The tilt-shift lens created a lovely rendition of this new build, which melds with the older ground-floor building (initially a Zellers, then a night club) in quite an effective way. Again, the evidence of construction (the unfinished cladding on the left side of the frame) is distracting, but fortunately the building is not going anywhere, so it will be easy to revisit this composition at a later time, once the construction is all finished.

October 10, 2021

Another Flower/Bee/Macro Mashup

Digital original
A common go-to location for short photo field trips is the Halifax Public Gardens, for obvious reasons. What is not so obvious is how lovely they are in the fall; by this time the park staff have become more relaxed about their "do no walk on the grass" stance, and yet there are still a wide range of lovely flowers to photograph.
Digital original
The added benefit of photographing in the gardens in the fall is that with the cooler weather, the bees slow down, so it is much easier to focus on these lovely little insects. During the height of summer, they are certainly around, but they seldom stay still for more than a fraction of a second, which makes it much more challenging to get the bees in the right place, but once it cools off, they slow down, and sometimes stay in the same flower for minutes at a time!
Digital original
In the end, it was the bees in flowers that stole this session - hundreds of photos of them yielded some lovely results, adding to the already sizable number of bee-flower photos I've made during previous visits to the Public Gardens.

September 24, 2021

A Final Outdoor Nude Session for 2021

What would end up being my last figure session of 2022 was on a lovely warm fall afternoon, when Ingrid and I went out to the Nova Scotian coast in search of breaking waves. The strongest thread flowing through my last couple of years has been working with the ocean with intent (as opposed to just incidentally working there when the stars align). This year has seen some dilution of this focus, so for the last session of the fall, I hoped to reset my focus on the power of the ocean.

Digital infrared original, two frame stitch

For all that waves were the intended focus of this session, when Ingrid pointed out a massive split between a boulder and the bedrock it lay upon, we just had to make an image - the above takes full advantage of the incredible image quality of the RF 85mm f/1.2 lens at f/1.2 - incredibly crisp where in focus, and velvety soft everywhere else!

Digital infrared original

As the real intent of the session was to work with moving water (in this case, stopping the motion with fast shutter speed, as oppose to exaggerating it with slow shutter speeds, we intentionally sought out spaces where Ingrid could pose, and still be stable when ocean waves broke over her; we quickly learned the trick was to have her in a couple of feet from where the waves actually struck the shore - this way much of the energy of the surf was already dissipated by the time the water reached Ingrid. I don't often use infrared when working with models and the ocean, but for this set, I decided to experiment, and it paid off.

Digital original

The last location for wave images was also one of the most magical I have ever worked in - when walking up the beach, we'd noticed this space with an unusual rock overhang, below which the waves moved in and out. As we were walking out, at the end of the session, Ingrid suggested we do one more set of photographs, exploring the potential of the space. It ended up being a fabulous suggestion. 

As with our previous location, it presented a setting where the power of incoming waves was mostly dissipated by the rock behind Ingrid, so for the most part, there was little strength left in the waves by the time they wrapped around her. Using a higher ISO setting, and the largest aperture on the lens (f/1.2) let me get the shutter speed up to 1/4000 s, which resulted in absolutely no visible motion to either Ingrid, or the water surrounding her.

Digital original
The final photos of the session, and my final figure images for 2021, were a set of standing portraits, with Ingrid's feet surrounded by incoming waves. With the light moving towards sunset, there was a lovely warm glow around her, and it seemed a fitting end for such a successful session.