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!

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.

September 16, 2021

A Fall River Session with Ingrid

As soon as Ingrid saw the images from my session with Brittany, she asked if we could visit the location, so she could see what she found to work with. More than any other model I've ever worked with, Ingrid loves posing in water, and the chance to work with a new river really piqued her interest.

Digital infrared original

We arrived to find the river flow quite different from my first session there - there was less water moving through the river, and lower flow changed the nature of the falls, giving them a more delicate, subtle feel. This had some advantages however, as Ingrid was able to find poses with her body right in the river flow, where Brittany almost always had to work to the side. The above image is quite unusual for my work with the Nude in rivers, as it is a side view, as opposed to from above.

Digital infrared original, two frame shutter speed blend, two frame stitch

My absolute favorite image from the session took full advantage of the infrared camera, which rendered the fall foliage (yellow, orange and red) a brilliant luminous white. It was a little tricky for Ingrid to find a comfortable space to work in on the edge of the angular rock shelf, but when the pose came together, and she threw her head back, everything came together!

Digital infrared original

Overall, the session was really pleasing - Ingrid got to work in a new space, and yet I was revisiting a location I'd seen so much potential in. I work in such a limited number of spaces that being introduced to a new one, especially one as rich as this one, really hold great potential for future images!

September 13, 2021

Return to the Northumberland Shore 2/2

After finishing with the waterfall, we took a break for dinner, and then headed to the coast for the final images of the day. Jessica had told me of this location during my last visit, but we didn't get a chance to visit it then - so it was the logical place to finish up this session at.

On the walk in to the coast, we passed through a number of twisted, bare dead trees, bleached white by the constant onslaught of the nearby Northumberland Strait. Given the wonderful soft light on this side of the hill we were about the climb, I suggested we stop and work with the trees for a time - and was really pleased with the results.

Digital infrared original

Each model spend some time working with the trees - both focused primarily on one tree in particular that lent itself to posing, and was perfectly situated for maximal access with a camera. One of the most positive elements of switching to mirrorless cameras (Canon 5R) over the past year is how suddenly practical hand-held infrared photography is. The ease of accurate auto-focus, coupled with the incredibly broad range of focus points makes the focus issue that was constant with DSLR infrared photography non-existant, and the incredible image stabilization makes a much broader range of shutter-speeds usable - total game-changer.

Digital infrared original

The work Ingrid, Jessica and I made on the old tree was so thrilling to make - each pose worked well from multiple angles, and both models really enjoyed the posing flexibility the space presented. If there was a problem, it was on the editing end - I had so many good images, with such subtle variation between them that it took significant effort to distill them down to the best. Probably the biggest difference between working hand-held and with a tripod is how many more images I take hand-held.

Digital infrared original

The real goal for the location was the crest of a large rock outcrop, right by the ocean. The afternoon was bright and sunny, which made for some harsh light on the top, but thankfully it was getting later, and the angle at least was low and pleasing. Unfortunately, just after we started working, a young couple came by....we spend some time waiting them out, but eventually Jessica just went over and asked them if they would mind if she modeled nude....which the pair found amusing, and said wasn't an issue. So we resumed working with the low, angular sun and a disinterested audience.

Digital infrared original, 14 frame stitch

By far the best image of the day however, was made just after sunset (as had been the trend for the past 2-3 years, since I made the decision to never photograph in bad light). We'd worked our way down to the shoreline, and initially I had a plan for an image of the two models against a large rock, surrounded on three sides by the ocean...but I caught sight of a small glint sunset on water over a rock further down the beach. Leaving the models behind, I went to investigate, and found a lovely narrow rock pool, with a perfect low rock-outcrop for the two models to pose on. After signaling to them that I wish them to join me further down the beach, I frantically set the camera up, and worked out the composition. After initially composing it with my 17mm lens, I realized it would work even better with a narrow crop - which meant I could use a longer lens and stitch it. 

By the time Ingrid and Jessica arrived and found their pose, I had everything ready, and began to photograph. I made four sets of images of the models, exploring subtle variations in their posing. Once that was done, they moved out-of-frame and dressed (it was getting cool), and I finished the full width of the stitch. The resulting file was over 200mp in resolution - now I need an excuse to print it BIG!