September 17, 2020

A Second Session with Jessica

There was almost a month between Jessica's first session to her second, but I wouldn't have known it from how the sessions started. After walking into the location, we made our first set of photos in some high grasses (in part, I was thinking back to grass photos I did of Esme several months earlier). Right from the first image Jessica was on point, and the images reflected this.

Digital infrared original

After working so consistently with Ingrid and Esme over the past couple of years, photographing a new, inexperienced model like Jessica is quite a change. In many ways, returned me right back to the core of how I work - the collaboration between the model and I, and the mutual effort to craft the images I record. With Ingrid (after 23 years) and Esme (after only three years) there is a pretty strong non-verbal part to the process, with the models quickly finding poses and refining them with me, but with Jessica, this session was filled with constant feedback to Jessica on what was and was not working, and why, and very quickly, the session evolved a very strong flow from initial ideals (on either my part or Jessica's) to realized images.

Digital infrared Original

After finishing the images in the grasses, we moved a little more inland, and stared exploring some rocks and driftwood along the shoreline. Quickly, Jessica and I gravitated towards one bleached-white tree in particular, and after some experimentation with pose,the above was revealed, with the lines of Jessica's back mirroring the flow of the driftwood,  and the direct sunlight reinforcing the shapes it fell upon. With the weather shifting into early fall, bright sunny sessions are now starting to be functional, where only a month earlier the light would have been to directly above to work well.

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As we moved along the shoreline, the sunny afternoon continued to shape the images we made, with me finding spaces that would work with the direction and angle of the light, and Jessica exploring them physically, until the light and form came together into the final composition that worked. At times, I was unable to position my tripod exactly where I wished to be, so over the whole session, entire sets of images were created hand-held, which is quite unusual in my practice.

Digital Original

One question raised quite early in the session was would Jessica like to work with water (i.e. get wet), and while there was some interest, we both agreed it would be best to save any immersion until the end of the session, when we could bring things to a close quickly and prevent Jessica from being chilled. With this in mind, we headed closer to the open ocean, and I found a space where Jessica could pose securely by the ocean, without being directly in it. A couple of dozen images later, made over a handful of breaking waves, and the above image was made, blending the calm serenity to Jessica's pose with the chaotic energy of the swirling wave behind her. A perfect addition to an already rich body of work with the ocean and the Nude.

Digital infrared Original

The last set of images were the most surprising, and thrilling of the entire session (and perhaps the summer overall); high on a bedrock outcrop looking over the ocean we found a shallow water-pool; having decided mutually that the ocean was just too active to work with directly, I suggested that Jessica could do a final set of images posing in the pool, crossing off the "water nude" from the day's list, and perhaps creating something interesting. She enthusiastically agreed, and entered the cool water.

I had envisioned images of her figure and the entire pool, focusing on the luminous body emerging from the dark water surrounded by rock, but after creating those, I shifted to my 85mm portrait lens, and made some tighter compositions from Jessica's neck to hip. Just by chance, as I began photographing, some sharp gusts of wind blew across the water, creating a micro-ripple effect - which caught the sunlight, and made it look like Jessica was floating in a sea of stars. Thrilled at what I was seeing unfold in front of my camera, I kept photographing until the wind abated...and the session was done.

September 09, 2020

A Challenging Session at the Coast

One of the most common questions I ask when working with models (especially new ones) is "Are you having fun?" There's little point in doing what we do if it isn't enjoyable, and while posing on rocks or working in the ocean may not be everyone's idea of fun, for most of the people I photograph, the answer to the question is always "Yes". Not during this session, however. Far from it. 

In the famous line from Sesame Street: This session was brought to you by the letter M - Martinique Beach (where we were working), M_ (who was modeling Nude for the first time), Maternity (which is why M_ wanted to model), and Mosquitoes (which is why the session was SO not fun).

Digital original

I've worked with models on Martinique Beach more than 30 times, but have never had any issues with mosquitoes (apart from after sunset, which is quite normal around here)...but as soon as M_ and I got out of the car, we were set upon by the hundreds. We quickly moved to the beach itself,  hoping they'd back off there, but even into the ocean, the mosquitoes persisted. If it had been any other session, I would have called it off due to the bugs, and headed somewhere else, but M_ specifically wanted to model at this point during her pregnancy, and we timed it so we'd be on the beach at sunset, so the session went forward in spite of the mosquitoes. In the end, M_'s dedication to the results, and a lot of time spent swatting bugs, paid off (not to mention taking almost 500 photos to create the final 50).

Digital infrared original

Because of the mosquitoes, I hardly touched my tripod through the session - speed was the name of the game, and hand-held was pretty much the only option. For most of the session, I avoided working in infrared; the colour camera has auto-focuses through the viewfinder, and most of the reason for working where and when we did was the colour of the beach and sunset. That being said, when a particularly richly textured of the beach was pointed out, I switched to the IR camera for a couple of images, carefully working with it hand held, and focusing through live-view. The end result celebrated the beautiful light of the evening, and the contrast between the texture of the beach and the light dusting of sand across M_'s figure.

Digital original

Many of the inspiration pregnancy photos M_ provided were silhouettes; stylistically this is a departure from how I usually work, but in hopes of presenting M_ with images that met her expectations, it was on our "to do" list. I specifically chose this Beach because it faces sunset, and I would be able to get back-lit images of M_ against the evening sky, and wet sand. In this image, my favourite, the hand of the genie (to quote my friend Steve Richard) was in M_'s hair, throwing it out at just the right between her dancing around and swatting at mosquitoes.

Digital original

The last images of the session were actually made after M_ had had enough of the persistent mosquitoes, and we had packed up and were heading for the car. Just before we headed inland to the car park, I saw the sky ahead was starting to become interesting, and asked M_ if she'd indulge me for one more quick set in the water, against the evening's sky. 30 seconds later, the above image was made.

I have not had a session since 2008, in Scotland, where bugs wreaked so much havoc, and in that case, we ran away after making only a handful of photos. But for this session M_ endured the mosquitoes for almost an hour, all in the name of celebrating her pregnancy!

September 02, 2020

A Return to Working with Lavender

It has been over three years since my pregnancy session with Lavender, so it was a great pleasure to get a note from her asking if we could head out for a session. It took over two months for our schedules to align (sigh, one would think with COVID-19 that life would be less busy, but apparently not), but finally, on a sunny morning, we headed out to the coast.

Digital original

As so much of my focus over the past couple of years has been on the ocean, that was the obvious first element to touch upon with Lavender, selecting a shelf of rock which was perfectly positioned as a counterpoint to the incoming ocean. As with all this work, timing was everything, but though patience, the right wave eventually came along, and I made the first success of the session.

Digital infrared original

Moving further along the shore, Lavender and I worked with a massive cracked erratic, with her posing on the lower side, and the upper providing a dark shadow below the dramatic sky. I had thought the extreme far right was extraneous, but after trying the image with it cropped out, I have decided it helps balance the image, and keeps the sky as large as possible.

Digital infrared original

Over the strictest period of the COVID-19 lockdown, I provided printed copies of my entire Photo Diaries for my own reference (6 volumes, each ~200 pages), and out of that process came a reminder of something I've previously realized, but frequently don't address - the vast majority of my images of the Nude revolve around prone, passive, languid poses. I need to make more work with upright models! In light of this, Lavender and I specifically chose a location where she could experiment with a variety of standing poses - this image being my favorite of the set!

Digital infrared original

The last set of images made on our morning session were below a massive glacial erratic that overlooks the Atlantic shore. I've worked with this rock numerous times since 1997, and each models responds to it differently. The first photos took inspiration from the standing photos we'd made closer to the ocean, and with me positioned so I looked into the morning light, a beautiful highlight flowed along Lavender's figure.

Digital infrared original

The last set of photographs were made in the same location, but from a different angle, and with a much wider-angle lens, looking up from the ground. With a pose flowed long the base of the rock, the image has a sense of drama and grace that I always look for - an has, yes, a reclining figure!

All in all, it was great to reconnect with Lavender, and make some new images, but her help pushing against my preference for the reclining figure is greatly appreciated, and hopefully will echo through sessions to come.

August 19, 2020

Jessica's First Session (with Company)

Jessica came across my work online, and got in touch about working with me. After a meeting to discuss the process, and what she was looking for, we set up a session date, which ended up being postponed, until this date. The upside of this is where the previous session would have worked out well enough, the revised date synchronized with low tide in the Bay of Fundy, so with Esme and Ingrid along for moral support (and extra models, if needed), we set out for the other side of Nova Scotia.

Digital infrared original

One of the first successes with Jessica was against a seaweed-covered rock. The evening light was so harsh that the shady side of the rock was one of the few spaces with soft light that had something for Jessica to pose with. It took some experimentation on her part to find a space that was both comfortable and generated a body position that was aesthetically pleasing, but after some experimentation, it came together and yielded a striking image.

Digital infrared original

As we worked our way down the shore, the sky above began to develop more and more drama, and I started to look for spaces where Jessica could pose below the sky. Once I found the perfect space (a rounded outcrop of rock overlooking the exposed shoreline), I asked Ingrid if she could show Jessica how she'd pose within the space (Jessica, being new to my process, welcomed the process); after, Jessica took up her interpretation of the pose, and I made a whole set of variations on the theme, with the above being the most striking.

Digital infrared original

As sunset drew nearer, we raced down the beach to a particularly interesting set of water-cut caves; with three models on hand, I couldn't pass up the chance to set the against the dramatic background. Posing three models can be a challenge, but with a separate rock under each, it was possible for the women to take inspiration from their individual spaces and find a pose that worked.

Digital infrared original

Shortly after the trio image, the sun bust from below the evening clouds, and flooded the rock with light; I asked Esme to explore the possibilities presented by one of the rock caves, and as she moved into it, I loved how the light caught her figure, and asked her to stop. While I normally avoid hard, direct light, in this case, it really played well against the deep black shadow of the cave behind.

Digital original, six image exposure blend

The last images of the session were set against the sunset; we'd already packed up and were moving back over the beach we'd photographed along over the evening. I was watching the sky as we walked, hoping the sun, already below the horizon, would under-light the wispy clouds, and provide some dimension to the sky. As things looked more and more like that would happen, I called the troupe to a halt, and rapidly selected a space to work in - a round rock set in a shallow pool seemed perfect, so Jessica took up the first pose. I had to work swiftly as the light was changing second to second, but ultimately I managed to catch the light. After three more model/pose variations, the sunlight faded off the sky, the horizon began to deepen, and we resumed our trek back to the car, and the long drive home.

All in all, a good session with a new model, and a lovely opportunity to make some great images with all three!

August 10, 2020

A Foggy Session with Ingrid

As this summer progresses, there are two overwhelming influences; COVID-19 is an obvious one, casting a shadow over everything. I'm fortunate to be in Nova Scotia, where (so far) the pandemic has been for the most part contained - but having a friend go onto a ventilator for close to a week made the risk all the more real for me. The second influence has been the heat; Nova Scotia used to be quite temperate in the summer, but increasingly, it has been shockingly hot...and this summer seemed to be even more extreme. For most of the summer, the sky has been clear, and the temperature (humidex, more specifically) well over 30 Halifax. As a result, almost all my photography has been at the coast, where it has been significantly cooler - and in the case of this session - foggy.

Digital original

This was the first foggy session this year (a couple of weeks ago there was fog at the end of a session), and it was really lovely to work with the soft palette that the fog provides. The first set of photos we made was on a split rock looking out to the open Atlantic Ocean - and the delicate colour of the rocks looked just perfect in harmony with Ingrid's delicate skin tones. The above image is absolutely my favourite colour images in ages - it just does not work in monochrome.

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As we worked along the shore, there was an interesting challenge. Due to recent erosion, the beach I'd hoped to be working on was drastically changed, turned into a rocky shore, and ending at a severely weathered island. As the shoreline lacked any elements to take inspiration from, Ingrid and I turned to the driftwood and weathered trees high at the high-tide level, and spent a while blending her body with the lines of the bleached wood.

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The fog that surrounded us for this entire session provided such soft, delicate light that it was hard to make a bad image; for so many sessions recently the evening sunlight has dictated what images worked and didn't, but for this session, there was a return to an emphasis on pose and composition, as the lighting was so even it was essentially not a concern.

Digital original

The last set of images were made working with some trees shrouded in old man's beard (Usnea). I have always loved the haunting look of this lichen, but only once before made image that blend it with models (in 2006). In this case, the soft light of the fog was perfect light for Ingrid, and when combined with the shallow depth of field of the 85mm f/1.2 lens, it created a moody, evocative photograph.

August 04, 2020

Esme & Ingrid in the Waves

 The strongest thread to flow through my work in the past couple of years had been working with models and the ocean - specifically Esme & Ingrid. Their comfort with working in the Atlantic Ocean off Nova Scotia has lead to making some really strong images, and the more I work withe the combination the more I come to understand what it is that draws me to it, and the better I can create images which relate that to the viewer.

Digital infrared original

As much as we had planned to work with the ocean during this session, we couldn't pass by a lovely rock pool. I'd worked in this space before with Carol & Ingrid, but this time, with direct sunlight, the space was very different, and created an image which in no way competes with the older composition - both work in their own distinct ways.

Digital original

 As we moved to working with the ocean proper, the real wealth of the evening began to reveal itself. The waves were breaking against the shore with great energy, which I was able to capture in the above image of Ingrid - it is important to note most of the chaos and spray around her is from waves breaking before or behind her...while she did get truly soaked, all the wave action that came in contact with her was quite tame, with the energy of the ocean already spent when it broke on the wave she was leaning back upon.

Digital original

A couple of dozen meters from the above image, Esme and Ingrid posed on the edge of a rock which rose out of the ocean vertically; waves that stuck this rock broke almost straight up,which most of their power gone by the time the water rose high enough to touch the was this upward throw of the wave which I sought to capture.

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As the evening began to draw to a close, we walked further down the shore, seeking areas to work in. I saw this Esme-sized rock and immediately thought it would be great to make an image of her with the ocean swirling around below. It took a couple of minutes for the waves to co-operate, but the final mix of the still pose and fluid water below is exactly what I sought.

Digital infrared original

The last images of the session came as the sun light the evening sky from behind the horizon; I asked Esme and Ingrid to pose in the water of a calm bay, centered in the reflected light of the sky. It proved challenging, as there as only one rock for the models to perch upon, and after numerous experiments, the best images were of Esme leaning back over Ingrid...yielding a composition just begging for a title or storyline.

July 30, 2020

A Gray Evening on the Coast

As this strange summer continues (thanks COVID-19), the work with Esme & Ingrid just keeps getting stronger.While this day in Halifax was sunny and stupid hot, when we arrived at the coast, it was overcast, and threatening rain and/or fog. Never one to pass on beautiful, soft light, we set out to the rocks at the edge of the coast, and started to work.

Digital original, 4 image blend

The first set of images were made on a low rock shelf which occasionally saw waves break over it; the space looked like it would work well with a long shutter speed to blur the water. Both Esme and Ingrid felt that there wasn't significant risk to posing the location, and quickly found a pose that was both secure, and looked good. The discussion of risk is a big focus of these sessions, as working as we are in the ocean (as opposed to beside it, which has been the focus of my work with the ocean prior to this new direction). In the end, even with a couple of wave completely breaking over the models, they never moved significantly, and ended up laughing more than anything. The careful combination of four separate images provided the ideal blend of the models, and power of the ocean around them.

Digital original

As we moved down the shore, we came across a lovely outcrop of rock, set above the surging ocean. Esme, then Ingrid explored the space, and a number of images were made, but one of the strongest is the above image of Ingrid. I debated over her placement, in regards to the horizon (I actually photographed it both ways), but in the end, the composition with her breaking the horizon line felt more balanced.

Digital original, 3 image exposure blend

After finishing thee image with Ingrid, I asked Esme if she'd like to see what the two of them could find - and the above was made. Shortly after making the image, it started spitting rain. For a couple of minutes, the three of us sheltered in the lee of a perfectly positioned rock, until it became clear that rain was not indeed going to was during this break that it was mentioned that this might be the first session in years to be exclusively in when we emerged from behind the rock, my mind was alive with the idea of finding a space that would work well in infrared.

Digital infrared original

As luck had it, at the exact same time, a thick band of fog rolled in, providing soft, even light over the entire coastline. Looking for a last spot to work with revealed a lovely angular line on a low rock face, and within minutes, both models were posing on the rock, with Esme fitting into the line of the rock, below a reclining Ingrid. The soft directional light of the fog played out beautifully in infrared, and broke the colour trend of the session, right before it came to a close due to the dying of the light.

July 28, 2020

Esme on the Coast at Sunset

Though we intended to to focus on water Nudes, this session started with Esme and I working with the granite bedrock and glacial erratic that line the Atlantic Shore of Nova Scotia. With the long evening shadows, the texture of the rocks was emphasized, making the contrast between skin and stone even stronger. Esme and I made a number of photos focused on this, but the strongest of the session was one in which Esme sought to become an augmentation to a stone's shadow, hugging the edge of the rock; I built the composition around the flow of the rocks around her, and the shadow that fell behind. Using the infrared camera permitted me to open up the shadows, and prevent the final image from becoming a mess of blown highlights and pitch black shadows.

Digital infrared original

As we worked our way along the shore, Esme and I came across a bed of shore grass, exposed by the low tide. We both agreed the space was about as different as one could get from the rocks we had started the session with, and stopped to make some photos. After making a number of body-focused images, I shifted to creating some portraits - the strong back-lighting provided by the evening sun was challenging to work with (I had to shelter my lens with my hat, to prevent flare from completely destroying the images), but provided beautiful results, especially when combined with the unique tonal rending of skin in infrared.
Digital infrared original

From the sessions' beginning, the intent was to focus on working with the ocean. Since I first worked with Esme in 2018, I've more and more been drawn to working with the body in the sea, both celebrating its quiet moments, and its power. In 2008, I exhibited Memory of Water, a gallery show  focused on the Nude in lakes and river (there were a couple of Nudes in on or by the ocean, but all of these were focused on still water). With the work I made with Ingrid and Esme last year and so far this year, I feel I am working forwards a new exhibition, this time focused on the power of the ocean. With this in mind, Esme and I made a number of images sets focused on water breaking around (and over, occasionally) her figure. The setting sun provided the perfect back lighting for the waves, and Esme's patience and enthusiasm helped us make some really dramatic images.

Digital original

For the below image, I positioned myself so the camera was looking at Esme, directly below the setting sun (while shielding the lens from the sun itself). This created both a wash of warmth across the images, but also a really lovely tonality - even though the lens was protected from flare, the strong back-lighting washed over the foreground subjects, lowering their overall contrast, and making the image all the stronger for it.

Digital original

The end of the session came with a rather quiet sunset - there was just one string of clouds in the sky, and it only lit up for a couple of minutes. Fortunately, Esme was already in the water with a pose selected, so we could make a couple of images before the light faded. Truth be told, after making the above image, I ran to my gear to change lenses, but by the time I returned with a long lens, the light had faded, and the cloud was just a gray smear in a darkening we packed up, and headed back to civilization.
Digital original, 2 image exposure blend

Overall, this was a great session; the earlier work built on years of my work with infrared light, and yielded my favorite portrait of Esme to date, but as soon as we started working with the waves, everything just took off (in colour too), proving that this new direction was absolutely one to pursue. Due to the capricious nature of the ocean, I think it may be several years before I can assemble a full exhibition which shares what I am seeing in this work, but I am now certain it needs to be seen!

July 21, 2020

Sunset with Ingrid on the Ocean Floor

Early in the summer of 2018, I decided to try a radical experiment, photographically speaking. I decided to only photograph in good light for that year - and for the most part, for over 2 years now, I have adhered to, and benefited from, this decision. It has seen most of my work focused on working in the evening, or on overcast days. I have no doubt that I have missed making images that would have been made at other times, but rather than making images in good light, I am focused on working with great light.

Digital infrared original, 8 image stitch

As a result, Ingrid and I drove across Nova Scotia for this evening's light, looking across the Bay of Fundy towards the setting sun. We arrived to a lovely warm evening, with strong directional light that lent great contrast to the subtle patterns on the Fundy mud. One of the first successes of the session was the above stitch of Ingrid's standing figure juxtaposed to the tidal pattern behind her.

Digital infrared original

The beauty of the Bay of Fundy is the wealth of shoreline that is revealed at low time (which was why I selected this day for the session - low tide coincided with sunset), and for the better part of two hours, Ingrid and I wandered the ever expanding shore line, making images where and when they called out to be made. Over an over, we found small tidal pools or rock formations to explore, enjoying the lovely light, and exploring all kinds of possibilities.

Digital original, 2 frame stitch

As the sunset neared, we moved back to the cliffs that lined the shore, and worked for a time there with the last direct light of the day. The sunlight was SO warm that I had to tone down the red/yellow in these images, because as created, the red in the light combined with the rocks and Ingrid's skin to be almost neon...totally overpowering the rest of the image, and making it seem completely unrealistic.
Digital original, 4 image exposure blend

The last images of the evening were made after the sun went down. Though the sky lacked the over-the-top drama that sunsets occasionally have, it was wonderfully rich in colour, and presented a soft, directional light for a final set of images on the water-carved rocks of the Bay of Fundy.

At the end of the session - more than three hours after we arrived, Ingrid commended that she probably spent more time during this session totally naked (walking around between images) than ever before - which is quite something, after working together for more than 100 sessions over 22 years!

July 02, 2020

Esme & Ingrid on the Ocean Floor (Bay of Fundy, Nova Scotia)

While it is some distance from Halifax, of all the spaces Nova Scotia has to photograph, the Bay of Fundy is one of the most spectacular (at low tide, at least). I first photographed Ingrid here in 2004, so it seemed a suitable space to take her to mark 22 years of working together - and Esme came along as well, making it another multi-model session on the bottom of the ocean. 

Digital infrared original
Though I've worked at the Bay of Fundy before, this was my first time working in this location, and the first images was a direct response tot he beauty of the space. We were at the head of a small marsh, with a river the flowed out (at low tide) to the bay...with the heavily overcast sky, the river was like a ribbon of light cutting through the foreground..and I knew I had to make an image of it. As there wasn't much to work with, in regards to posing, I asked both women to simply stand with the backs to me, and look out to the Fundy.
Digital infrared original

As beautiful as the view towards the bay was, the real reason to work at the Bay of Fundy was the lovely water-carved rocks, which provide rich environment in which to work with the Nude. Both Esme and Ingrid really took to the space, and found a number of really striking poses, working against the red sandstone. The evening was surprisingly windy, so I made a larger than usual number of exposures, and was wise to do so, as about 1/3 of the exposures were ruined due to tripod/camera vibrations.

Digital infrared original

The other reason I like worked at the Bay of Fundy is more specific to my love of working infrared; on the red sandstone rocks of the Fundy coast there often grows a lovely soft, bright green seaweed - and in infrared, it ends up rendering much like pale hair - as seen in the above image of Esme and Ingrid. While I am sure this seaweed grows elsewhere in Nova Scotia, it is easy to find, and work into subsequent compositions on the Fundy rocks.

Digital infrared original, two frame stitch

As the evening progressed, the cool air (exacerbated by the high wind) started wearing on the models,so we decided to pack things up and head to the car...but on the way, Esme caught sight of a beautiful slab of stone, set against a deep pocked in the rock behind. "Could I work on that?" she asked, and a minute or so later, the above image was made. I ended up stitching the composition together from two frames, as I liked both the smooth rock below her, which merges into the beach, and the horizontal bands in the rocks above; if either was absent, I didn't like the image as much - so I merged both framed together!