June 27, 2020

A River Session with Esme (South Shore, Nova Scotia)

This session was intended to be a follow up to the first session of the year, but when I arrived at the coast, though it was hot and sunny in the city, it was foggy and cool. After a short discussion, Esme and I decided to try to work in an inland river; we'd worked there two years ago, and at the time, Esme was a little disconnected from the experience (preferring the ocean), but she'd decided it would be good to revisit the whole "river thing", so off we went.

Digital infrared original

I've worked in this location since 1996 - in fact, it was the first place I combined the Nude with water in my work, so it has long been a creative touchstone. The river level was lower than usual (by about 18"), but that provided a number of lovely locations for Esme to pose in. The first set of images were made with the camera on the shore, but within about 10 minutes of the start of the session, I was clambering around in the river, working closer to Esme with wider lenses, and enjoying how that opened up the compositions.

Digital infrared original

The light at the river was absolutely perfect - by the time we arrived at the river, a low, thin cloud had rolled over the sun, providing soft, even light throughout the session. Bright, high contrast sunlight is challenging to work with at the best of times, but with water and river settings, it is particularly challenging. The added advantage of the soft light was it made it very easy to reach longer shutter speeds when combined with neutral density filters. For the entire session I used 1.8 filters (64x darker), which provided me with shutter speeds between 1.3 and 3.2 second - just perfect for the look I sought.

Digital original

As the session progressed, Esme and I slowly moved up river, but realistically, I doubt be moved more than 30 meters over the entire session - leaving lots of the river to work with on other sessions. The real reason for this low progress was how perfect conditions were. The water temperature was lovely, meaning Esme could stay in poses for extended periods while I explored visual possibilities from all angles. a luxury I don't always have when working with the Nude.

Digital infrared original

The last images of the session were quite different for me - I seldom include the forest around the river in the images I made of models in water. It was a little challenging to make the images with the lenses I had (this is the first session in ages at which I wished I had my 17mm TS-E lens, which would have been the perfect lens for the above image.

All in all, the session was lovely, with some striking images being created, and Esme thoroughly enjoying herself.

June 18, 2020

The First Session during the Year of Covid-19 (Atlantic Coast, nova Scotia)

COVID-19 caused Canada to shut down; on March 22, 2020, Nova Scotia declared a State of Emergency, Several weeks earlier I began winding down my courses, buy from March 22 until June 18th, social distancing was the requirement, to protect people against the virus. One June 18th, however, the provincial government unexpectedly announced that groups of up to 10 could meet, without social distancing. As it happened, I had already arranged to work with Esme on June 18th...initially for a "socially distanced" session...and now, for a session! The first time I'd make new photographs in months.

Digital infrared original

The first photographs of the session were made in a small water pool a little in from the coast; the evening was on the cool side, so Esme's thought was that the small pool of dark water would be warm enough to pose in. Moments later, she was exploring the possibilities. The light worked well with the pool's orientation, and we made a small series of images with a variety of poses and lenses.

Digital infrared original, two image blend

The coast was where we spent the rest of the session, starting with a set of images created with Esme posing on some large granite boulders. My favourite from these images was made looking straight into the evening sun. I took the composition inspiration from the shape of the rock (with the left and right bottom of the frame defined by the rock. I made the finished image by combining two images - one with my fingers blocking out the sun and preventing flare, and one with the flare busting across the frame...a careful blend of the two creates the final image.

Digital infrared original

As we worked on the shoreline rocks, and she explored pose possibilities, Emse arched back between two rocks split from the same massive boulder, fitting her body to the gap in the rocks - which was both comfortable and beautiful. I made images of this pose from numerous different angles, and with three different lenses, but the above version is my favourite. The lack of context, with just a sea of rock around Esme gives the location some mystery, and the reflection of the pose in the rock is something I always enjoy in my work.

Digital infrared original

The last images of the session were made with Esme modeling in the ocean. The most unexpected success one was a candid image I mad as she was adjusting to the water - Esme looked away from the camera for a moment, and I managed to make the above image. In the end, the evening was just a little too cool for Esme to do any serious posing in the ocean, but her enthusiasm was palpable, and the short water modeling at the end of the session just whet her appetite for more, in future sessions.

October 14, 2019

Fall Colours Field Trip (Ingramport, Nova Scotia)

The last fall colours field trip of 2019 had a poor start...the initial location where I'd arranged to met the students had NO colour to be found, but fortunately, there was a backup location just down the road. Fifteen minutes later, the students and I were out, looking at colour, and making images.

Digital original

As tends to be my default with water, I worked a lot with neutral density filters, and was very pleased with the result. I am particularly pleased with the look of reeds and grasses reflected in the time-smoothed water - I certainly will see if I can incorporate that into my work with models in the future.

Digital original

After working with long shutter speeds for the first part of the field trip, I switched to my macro lens, and made some details of plants...and the colour just didn't work for me, so I converted it into monochrome, and was much happier with the result.

Digital original, 2 frame stitch

The final image was actually made below a highway bridge - the river the passed below was slowly moving, but with a neutral density filter, I was able to introduce enough blur that the colour of the foliage, as opposed to the surface of the water, became the focus.

October 06, 2019

Fall Colours Field Trip (Shubie Park, Nova Scotia)

Digital original

I am fully aware of the irony of making in posting a blog post with the title Fall Colours, and leading with a monochrome image, but the above photograph was the first image of the field trip which spoke to me - and no colour was anywhere to be seen.


Digital original

Shortly after the monochrome images of the twigs were made, I caught sight of a small rock in front of a wall of fall colour - and the lower I moved, the better the reflections became, so I inverted my camera, and worked just above the ground. I experimented with a couple of different shutter speeds and in the end, 1/4 of a second provided the perfect mix between stillness and motion.

Digital original

The last images were a mix of the early monochromatic stick images, and the rock reflection's burst of colour. Some thin water grasses emerged from the lake, and with a long lens and careful composition, I managed to get the hint of colour into the frame, making a very quiet, yet colour-dependant image.

September 26, 2019

A First & Final Session (South Shore, Nova Scotia)

Digital infrared original

First sessions are always challenging; I have to walk the balance of engaging the model and gaining their confidence, while still pursuing images that move my work forward. For this session, after a couple of missed attempts, E_ and I managed to synchronize our schedules, and headed to the coast for an afternoon session. The session had to be short due to other commitments, so once we arrived at the coast, the two of us dove into the process of making art.

Digital infrared original

A great advantage to Nova Scotia in the fall is that when it is warm enough (as it was on this day), the light is lovely all day long - for this session there wasn't a cloud in the sky, but the sun was low enough to provide contrast and definition to both the landscape and E_'s figure. A great advantage of the coast where we were working faces the afternoon sun, so the light was about as good as it gets at that time of day.

Digital infrared original

After a little over and hour, the session had to be called to a close, to get back to Halifax on time. I could have photographed to sunset, but as a collaborative process, it isn't always what I want that come to pass. In the end, E_'s first session was also my final work with the Nude for 2019 - so it was a first session, and the last.

September 23, 2019

A Final Session in the Forest (Halifax, Nova Scotia)

Since Esme and I first worked together in 2018, we have worked almost exclusively at the coast, with a focus on working in water (following her passion on that front). For this session, I suggested we try working with something new, and work in a forest close to Halifax.


Digital infrared original

The fascinating realization that came out early in the session was that Esme's spent little to no time in forests; she grew up in the Canadian North, and found all the trees, underbrush and ferns quite overwhelming. It was not possible to convey this in the images we made, but her constant wonder and surprise at the nature of the landscape she was in was a definite undertone to the session.

Digital infrared original

Though I have worked in Nova Scotia forests for several decades, I still find them challenging settings to photograph - trees are, ultimately, big vertical sticks, and as such can be quite challenging to photograph a model with. Fortunately, in the area we were working in, a fair number of the trees has some shape (or in the above case, lean) to them, which provided some inspiration to work with.

Digital infrared original

The final images of the session were created with the intention of merging them into a single photograph. Esme commented that it was too bad there wasn't another model available to pose with (given that for many of the sessions we've had together have had two or even three models, this was not an unusual thing) - I then proposed she could model with herself, using the magic of digital. Thus the last composition of the session was created.

September 16, 2019

Ocean Sunset with Esme (South Shore, Nova Scotia)

On this evening, Esme and I had about 90 minutes to work before sunset, so we headed out to explore the possibilities. We've both explored the shore on which we were working extensively, but still managed to find a space completely new to both of us.

Digital infrared original, 2 image exposure blend

Below a high rocky outcrop we found a narrow pseudo-cave, formed between the outcrop and a massive granite boulder. With some care, we both moved into the space and Esme found a perfect rock shelf to lie upon. The light coming into the crevasse was quite delicate, and provided lovely highlights on Esme's reclining torso.

Digital infrared original

After emerging from the crevasse, the evening light was even more striking than it had been earlier, so we made a series of images taking advantage of the low, raking light. Working right by the calm Atlantic ocean permitted me to keep the horizon low, and balance the busy, highly textured foreground against the largely empty sky above.


Digital infrared origina

In contrast to the dramatic wide-angle of the shoreline images, I creagted a set of images of Esme posing in high grasses just inland from the rocks. Using a portrait lens and large aperture to create a wonderland of shallow depth of field, I took advantage of the magic of infrared kept the image from being too contrasty (I was photographing directly into evening sunlight, after all)

Digital original, 4 image exposure blend

The last images of the session were spent enjoying the warm wash of light the sunset provided; Esme and I had moved right down to the shore for these images, and I used a super-wide lens to set Esme's figure against the broad atlantic shore she posed upen. A lovely end to a September session.

September 03, 2019

Ingrid and Esme at the Coast for Sunset (Atlantic Coast, Nova Scotia)

As soon  as the calendar turns to September, I begin to watch the weather, aware that the warm days and lovely evenings will eventually draw to a close. With this in mind, in Early September, Ingrid, Esme and I headed to the coast, and spent a lovely evening explore the landscape and light.

Digital infrared original

One of the first successes of the evening was a set of images I made of Esme on a rock, in front of a scrubby stand of trees. The evening sky had some lovely low clouds on the horizon, and I used a long lens with a large aperture to keep the background soft, and provide some distinct separation between Esme and her surroundings.

Digital infrared original

The passion that Ingrid and Emse have for working in water has been a huge influence in the work the they have helped me create over the past couple of years. The ocean on this evening was particularly calm, which made working with these seaweed covered rocks particularly easy - as the waves came in, water swept through the channel, and reinforced the flow of the bodies between the rocks.

Digital infrared original

As the evening progressed, the light became softer and softer, to the point where it lost almost all sense of direction. That helps give this image of Esme on a rocky outcrop a very strange feeling of timelessness. The sliver of dark horizon above her is less striking in the small online version, but if a full sized print, it is a hint of drama in an otherwise subdued image.

Digital original, five image exposure blend

The last images of the session fulfilled the real hope for the session - a sunset-focused photograph. Until moments before, I was feeling quite negative about the chances of getting some colour in the gray evening sky (and therefore was working with my infrared-camera) but in a split second, a red wash of light spread across the horizon, and sent me scrambling to change cameras. Fortunately it was near at hand, and Ingrid and Esme already had poses worked out, to permit me to make a handful of images before the sun disappeared for the day.

September 02, 2019

A Final Island Day (Prince Edward Island)

Digital original
On my last day of this brief visit to Prince Edward Island, I decided I needed to get a quintessential hay-field photograph, and as it happened, just outside of New Glasgow, I spotted a field of freshly cut hay. Ten minutes later, I had made a couple of dozen different compositions - the best of which is above.

September 01, 2019

A Butterfly House (New Glasgow, Prince Edward Island)

Digital original, three frame focus stack
By far my favourite part of this trip to PEI was the discovery of a Butterfly House in the Gardens of Hope, New Glasgow. I'd wanted to go to the butterfly house in Halifax (at the Nova Scotia Museum) but never have managed to make the planning work...but in this case, we arrived at the garden about an hour before the butterfly house closed...so there was more than enough time to photograph.
Digital original, two frame focus stack
Tough I had my tripod with me, there was just too much congestion (between the butterflies and the people) to set it up, so I photographed hand-held for the entire time, but that didn't stop me from making numerous focus stacked images!
Digital original, two frame focus stack
One of the last images I made in the butterfly house was also one of the most pleasing focus blends - I made two images, one of each butterfly, and then manually combined the images together, to better reflect what my eye saw.
Digital original
The last images of the day were of a beautiful gray heron hunting in the evening light - not easy to photograph, even with a 420mm lens.