August 03, 2021

A Final Pregnancy Session

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What a difference almost 7 weeks can make! For Stephanie's first pregnancy session we went to some military ruins close to Halifax, and worked there, and in the woods around them - where we came across the above erratic. The image we made at that time (at the bottom of the above blog entry) was good, but almost 7 weeks later, Stephanie's belly had grown and dropped, and her whole line had changed, resulting in a richer, more elegant image.
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After we finished revisiting the forest image, we moved into an abandoned engine room, to make a final set of photographs. The light in the space was low, forcing some very long shutter speeds, and high ISO settings, but with Stephanie in poses with lots of support (leaning or sitting on things), we managed to work until the light was near unusable, and made the last compositions of her pregnancy.
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As a last minute, end-of-pregnancy session, this was a great success - the first image is exactly what I sought to create, and the second set of images, in the old building, are really pleasing, and provide some variation to the small set of photo sessions we were able to make in the last weeks of Stephanie's pregnancy!
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Stephanie gave birth several weeks after this session, and mother and child are doing well!

July 29, 2021

On the Northumberland Shore (1/4)

I learned long ago (in 1999 with Victoria, in Alberta), there there is an incredible richness to spending concentrated periods making images. In light of this, when Jessica (who I began working with last year) suggested I come visit, and we work together for most of a day (afternoon to sunset), I was more than keen.

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As the session approached, Jessica sent me images of suggested locations, but one thing noticeably absent was architecture (which was not too much of a surprise, as she lives in the country), so I asked her if she might be able to find a barn or other sort of structure to work in...and in less than a day, she came back with news that she'd found a large barn to work in - and the photos she sent show significant promise.

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For the start of the session, the focus was on a ladder, with us making images of Jessica on it, and in the above image, beside it. I really liked working with the geometric lines of the barn - all of which were blended with an organic element injected by the material (wood) and time. The light was lovely too, turning the bright and sunny afternoon into soft, even light.
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As the session progressed, Jessica became more adventurous, and moved to exploring more dynamic poses, which interacted with the space. We were super cautious with the space, keeping eyes out for nails and other sharp edges, all the while testing beams and planks before Jessica moved onto them
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As we began to run out of inspiration, we finished up with a number of reclining poses, with Jessica working her way under and over some fence-posts on the second floor of the barn. The chaos of the space contrasts nicely with the fluid grace of Jessica's body, providing a rich result to end the session on.

July 27, 2021

A Studio Pregnancy Session

As Stephanie's due date moves closer, each and every session we manage to schedule becomes a gift, so with this in mind, when I realized I had this evening free, I asked her is she'd like to do a studio session, to add to the work we'd already done outdoors (here and here) - and less than a day later, we were in the studio, making photos.

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I have a real affection for dramatic rim lighting, and have used this in almost every pregnancy session I have done (since 1989) - essentially, if you find something that works, use it. For this session, the space I was working in wasn't a studio, so it was more challenging to get the lighting the way I wanted it, but with some experimentation, black foam board and duct tape, I got everything to work.

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All in all, the session was short and sweet; I had all the lighting set up and worked out by the time Stephanie arrived, so could just straight in to making images. I already knew pretty clearly what I wished to achieve in the studio, so it was a very focused session (where often I have no preconceived ideas at the start of a photo session).
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The last photos of the session brought in Stephanie's partner, to contribute hands to the images  - always a great way to end off a pregnancy session!

July 12, 2021

A First Session with a New Model

One of the greatest challenges of focusing one's artwork on photographing the Nude (for me at least) is finding people to work with; I have been fortunate to have worked with a number of models over extended periods (the most obvious example of this is Ingrid, whom I've worked with since 1998). This is a long way to say that that sessions with new models tend to be rare, especially in year two of the COVID-19 pandemic. That being said, this would be my second session of the year with a new model. Brittany came to my work after seeing it on Instagram, and after meeting up to discuss my ethos and process, we set a date for a first session, and crossed our fingers for good weather!

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Luck was with us, and the day of the planned session had perfect weather - warm with high clouds to provide the occasional break from direct sunshine. While we'd planned to head to the Bay of Fundy, things changed at the last minute, and we headed to more familiar territory, along the edge of the Atlantic Ocean. Taking advantage of the warm evening, we began the session with Brittany working in the ocean. Though most of the poses were made of her emerging from the water, early on I made some standing portraits, one of which (above) was a favorite.

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As the session progressed, the work in the water grew more focused; the reflections of the wispy clouds on the ocean where we were was just stunning, and I tried to make some images that took advantage of the still water. There were several spaces where the rocks below the surface blossomed with seaweed, and in one particular location, the rock was the perfect high for Brittany to lie back upon, leading to an image with the feeling that she is floating of a sea of white seaweed - yay infrared!

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After we'd worked through the potential of the water, Brittany and I moved onto the rocks that abound on the Atlantic coast of Nova Scotia. By this time, most of the sky to the north and east had clouded over, and it quickly became the focus of my compositions, as I sought for settings and poses that worked with the flow of the sky. After a couple of other images were made, Brittany tried a back-on pose, along the edge of a spine of bedrock. Directly above her, a gap in the clouds provided the perfect contrast to her luminous skin, and the above composition was born!

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The last images of the session also were my first sunset session of the year (not for lack of trying, but the weather has been incredibly challenging this summer, with warm, clear evenings never coinciding with my (and models) availability). We had some time before the sunset proper, so scouted out the location, and planned a series of poses and compositions to move through once the sun went below the sky, and whatever that delivered began to happen. The planning paid off, in and in a matter of minutes we moved through a handful of compositions of three separate poses, and were done and dusted before the light began to fade - a great end to a wonderful first session!

July 08, 2021

Ingrid and Liv at the Bay of Fundy

This was a session that almost never happened! Early in the week, the weather forecast for this evening was pretty poor, so I called Liv, and cancelled the session. As it turned out though, the weather improved, so in the end, things were better than ever, with Ingrid joining us for the session! And to make things even better, I had a short term loan of the new Canon R 85mm f/1.2 lens - the upgraded version of my venerable 13-year old Canon EF 85mm f.1,2 II. I am some way away from being able to afford to upgrade the lens, but this loaner will give me a better idea if such an expensive (and heavy) lens would be a good investment!

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The first thing to really catch my eye was a large, lovely piece of driftwood. Liv was the first to pose on it, and we made some really striking compositions, but it was when Ingrid was added to the frame that things really came together. The infrared really worked well in this setting, highlighting the sparse foliage growing on the cliff-side, and rendering both women as luminous alabaster.

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The session really began to flow as the three of us moved out onto the ocean floor, and I suggested working with a couple of sea-weed covered rocks. By this time, the evening sky had started to develop some drama, and provided the perfect backdrop. After beginning with Ingrid along, and then adding Liv to the top of the rock back-on (mirroring Ingrid's pose), I suggested Liv flip over and pose on her back, to contrast Ingrid's pose. I felt this the stronger of the two options, and quickly made the three source images for the final composition - one of each of the models at f/1.2, and then one of the sky above them (still focused on Ingrid). The final result is even stronger than I expected, with a dark drama from the coming evening, and a beautiful counterpoint in the relaxed grace of the two models.

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As the session progressed, so did my exploration of the potential of the 85mm f/1.2 lens; it was a real joy to work with, providing quick, accurate auto focus (one of the primary advantages of switching to the Canon EOS R5 for my infrared photography), and absolutely lovely shallow depth of field at the largest aperture. The above image of Liv posing against a small rock, with the evening sky in the background showed off the real beauty this lens can create.

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At the very lowest point of the tide, a long, water-carved bed of red sand emerged, and both models were keen to explore its potential (I was dubious about the logic, given it was still quite wet, and well, sand); over ten minutes or so, the models experimented with a number of poses while I worked quickly (hand-held) and worked through possible compositions. Some, like the above, didn't quite work with the aspect ratio of the camera, so had to be stitched together from multiple frames. As before, these images were produced with the 85mm lens at the f/1.2 aperture, making the most of such a powerful too.

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As the evening began to move to wards sunset, the three of us started to make our way back to the car; on the way however, we stopped to work with a broad swath of sea-grass. I've walked past this space a dozen times or more, but never worked with it. As the grasses were in the shadow of an island, the light was soft, with some highlights created by the evening sky - just wonderful to work with. Again, the large aperture of the 85mm lens permitted me to create some really pleasing image of both Ingrid and Liv set against a seemingly infinite sea of luminous grasses.

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The last images of the session were some of the few I made with a tripod; normally I work on a tripod almost exclusively, but the desire to work swiftly, coupled with the flexibility added to the process by the in-body image stabilization of the Canon EOS 5R body made work hand-held the norm for this session. All that being said, for the last handful of compositions I pulled out the tripod, and the difference was palpable - where earlier work was produced quickly, with numerous variations, the final images of the day were all carefully crafted, with both pose and composition adjusted with care, in a slow and methodical way. I am not saying the earlier, hand-held work wasn't productive, but it strikes me as really noticeable the difference in the precision of the last images, compared to the sheer volume create during the rest of the session (close to 800 files).

This session was certainly a long one; from picking up Ingrid to pulling into to my house at the end of the evening was nine hours, but the investment in time, energy and resources was totally worth it!

June 26, 2021

Continued Explorations of EOS R5 Focus Stacking

An unexpected bonus built into the Canon EOS R5 is automated focus stacking (called Focus Bracketing in the Canon menu). A technique I have used in various applications for over a decade, to have this quite functional application of the technique so easily accessible is very much a game changer for macro and some other photography.

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During this field trip to the public gardens, as I was helping, I was also casually photographing, making images of some of the flowers around us. The focus bracketing can be adjusted to change how large a focusing step happens between each frame, and how many frames in total are being made - and most conveniently, the images are displayed as the camera takes them, so it is very easy to tell when a particular group of images is falls short of (or goes past) the far goal of the image.
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Early in this day's exploration, it took several experimental image sets (capturing 30, 40 or more images per set) before I began to get a sense of how much of a particular flower would be covered by a set of images. Once I was into the rhythm of the process however, I needed fewer and fewer tests to hit on the optimum number of images, making the whole process smoother and smoother as I worked.

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There is absolutely one downside to all this focus stacking explorations - the massive file count. Over this couple of hours, I made 696 images, with the final edit being 17 final photos made from 278 files (to make the three images used in this blog entry, 100 source files were used). This has serious ramifications on editing and file storage...but the results are SO pretty!

June 25, 2021

Ingrid and Stephanie on the Bay of Fundy's Floor

I have long had a love of working with the Nude in the Bay of Fundy; the dramatic landscape, couple with easy access and relative isolation makes it a perfect place to work. When talking with Stephanie about what she wished to create, in regards to pregnancy Nudes, working in water was top of her list. Unfortunately, the vast majority of the coastal spaces I work in are impractical for an unsteady pregnant woman to walk into - but the Bay of Fundy tends to be flat and easy to work on (ignoring the occasionally super sticky mud).

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As soon as the session at the Bay of Fundy was confirmed, I check to see if Ingrid was available to come, as she always loves working there (the first time she and I worked in the Bay of Fundy was in 2004). Ingrid and I met up with Stephanie by the shore, and were greeted by an absolutely perfect evening - a light wind, soft light, with a dramatic sky above, which I hoped would extend all the way to sunset, giving us a dramatic end to the session.

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I have only worked in this part of the Bay of Fundy once before, so there was a wealth of locations that were new to me for Stephanie and Ingrid to work in. Long  before we made it to any rock-pools, I was happily photographing both women in turns, taking inspiration from the location, and delighting in the beautiful evening light. While I did make a few images in colour, the vast majority of the session was focused on working with my infrared camera, reveling in how the model's skin-tones looked so lovely against the darker rocks.

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As session progressed, the lovely light persisted, and the two models and I slowly worked our way along the shore. There was some differences to how I approached each model; Ingrid's poses were much more physical, coming together into a series of compositions I made of her literally hanging off a rock shelf, against the delicate evening sky. Such an approach wasn't sensible (or likely even possible) with Stephanie, though several poses had her carefully walking up onto rock shelves, to get into a final pose for a composition or two. 

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As the evening progressed, we decided to head away from the cliffs along the shore's edge, and out onto the ocean floor proper, in search of tidal pools to finish the session. An interesting reality to working at the Bay of Fundy is what is present one year (or even session) may not be present at another, as the powerful tides cover and reveal landscape with no rhyme or reason. As things happened, this tide presented a number of pools to work with, and I quickly settled upon one, attracted to how it interacted with the sand patterns around it, and the sky above. 

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The previously luminous and light evening sky was quickly thickening, and parts were becoming decidedly gray in the distance. After initially trying (unsuccessfully) to find a composition with a longer lens, I moved out onto the sand and set up with a wide-angle lens, recording both the pool with Stephanie, and the sky above in a single composition.

Documentary image by Ingrid

After making a dozen or so variations of Stephanie in the water pool, her session was done, and I shifted to working with Ingrid, to bring the evening to a close. By this time, the sky had shifted so much that the outer end of the water pool no-longer worked, reflection-wise, so the two of us quickly shifted to the other end of the pool, which still had some of the quickly darkening evening sky reflecting brightly in it. With little intervention on my part, Ingrid moved through a couple of poses, and after a little experimentation with focus stacking and stitching, the session came to a close.

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All in all, this was about as good as a session can get; the light was lovely, the location was inspiring and full of far more potential than I could touch on in a month of Sundays, and both models were enthusiastic and engaged. The end of the session came naturally, due to energy levels and changing light, and during the walk back to the cars, both models express how happy they were with the entire evening! Nothing to improve on!

June 18, 2021

Ingrid at the Coast

As soon as the Provincial COVID-19 restrictions permitted, Ingrid and I set a time for our first session of the year - Ingrid and I have worked together since 1998, and it cannot be overstated how influential our long term collaboration has been on my work.

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The opening images of this session were made in some high shore-grass, taking advantage of the back-lighting, and continuing the revel in the delight of working with the new mirrorless IR camera; being able to both see the exposure before making the image, and have active, accurate auto focus really makes the camera a delight to use - and over this entire session of hundreds of images, I had not one error in focus!

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I'd expected this session to focus on infrared images of Ingrid posing along the cost, taking inspiration from the waves that were hyper-charged by an off-shore tropical storm, but that approach was just not working. The direct evening light provided too much contrast for the infrared camera to handle, and the results just looked too harsh. I switched to my colour camera, and used an ND filter (a Vizelex ND Throttle lens mount adapter) to slow the shutter speed down to 4 seconds. Ingrid was more than able to stay still for this length of shutter speed, and it took a hash and chaotic ocean, and gave it a little softer edge. The low, direct sunlight was still a challenge to work with in regards to the pose and composition, but in contrast to the infrared, the shadows could be opened up in post-production, providing a more pleasing balance to the composition.

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After we finished working by the shore, Ingrid and I walked inland a bit, to finish the session working on the granite bedrock and erratic that make this part of Nova Scotia so distinct. I switched back to the infrared camera, as by this time, Ingrid's skin had several areas with obvious rock-marks, which would mar any colour images. The contrast still presented an issue, but with careful attention to composition and pose, I managed to make some really pleasing images, including the above.

A reality of working with the someone for over twenty years is that at a certain point, the question of "have we done it all" begins to loom in the background...but this session laid that to rest for now, with dramatic emphasis. After we'd agreed the session was done, and I was packing my gear, Ingrid cocked her head. looking up at a rock we'd been working besides for the past thirty minutes. "Why not climb up and see what you  can find?" I suggested...and then, as she clambered up, to took up my infrared camera and looked through the viewfinder. The deep blue sky behind Ingrid and the rock provided an elegant gradient backdrop, and as Ingrid and I refined her poses, a powerful, majestic image was created.

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Ingrid's comment on this photograph, when I sent it to her after the session, was the highest compliment she'd ever given - "While being heroic and lovely in form, artfully framed etc, the image shows more of my inner self than just about any I've ever seen."

June 17, 2021

A Late Spring Pregnancy Session

Stephanie and I first worked together at the end of 2008, and while we'd worked together almost a dozen times now, the sessions became less and less frequent, as her professional career took off, and demanded more of her time and passion. As soon as I learned she was pregnant, however, I reached out and offered to build on our earlier work with some pregnancy session! Stephanie was more than enthusiastic, and a week or so later, we headed out to make some images.

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For a first session I decided to stay close to home, and we started working in old military ruins; I have always enjoyed the juxtaposition of the Nude against the ruin and decay of older buildings, and these military buildings have been a setting for my work going all the way back to 1989 (and pregnancy images of my soon-to-be-daughter in utero). Our session was scheduled for the good light at the end of the day, and we were fortunate enough to have some perfect light find its way though a doorway, and onto Stephanie.

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After starting in the old buildings, and making the most of them, I asked Stephanie if she was up for a set of images in the woods surrounding the buildings; several places provided easy access, and the light filtering through the trees was just lively. After carefully walking in, Stephanie posed in some high ferns, and I used a long lens with the largest aperture (f/1.2) to give the resulting image extremely shallow depth of field to place Stephanie's figure against a sea of soft, luminous trees.

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As we were walking back to car park, I caught sight of a shaft of sunlight falling on a patch of high grasses, and asked Stephanie if she'd pose with the grasses and light...however by the time we were set up and ready, the light had shifted (evening light moves surprisingly fast), so I had to change the concept to focus on the light falling across Stephanie, and use post production to create some luminescence in the forest behind her.

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The last image set of the session was one I actually decided to make as we passed the space walking in. A long large glacial erratic lay just off the path, and I thought it would make the perfect background for an image of Stephanie - by the time we were returning, the sun had moved very low in the sky, and the light in the forest was soft an even - just perfect for a celebratory image of Stephanie's pregnancy!

A Student's Garden (my 1,500th blog entry!)

During a one-on-one with a student, I had an opportunity to do some photography with their Canon 100mm f/2.8 Macro L lens, while they tried their hand with my Sigma 150mm f/2.8 macro lens.

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As it was a short session, I worked hand-held, taking advantage of the EOS R5 in-body stabilization and excellent autofocus system to make a whole series of super-close shallow depth of field images.

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While the afternoon was windy, I managed to make some sharp photos of a white rose bush, including the above, looking up into the fact of a flower, against the sky.

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Even through I was hand-holding the camera, I did make some experiments working with the in-camera focus bracketing; only one of these was successful, with two petals of the iris in sharp focus against a velevet-soft out of focus background.