July 26, 1998

Another Morning with Lilly (Rainbowhaven Beach, Nova Scotia)

4"x5" film
A week after our first early-morning session, Lilly and I got up at sunrise, and again ventured to the beach to work with the early light. I was still very excited about the images from the previous week, and hoped to build upon the strengths of those.
4"x5" film
One of the biggest risks I have taken in the last year was purchasing a top-of-the-line wide-angle lens for my 4"x5" view camera. Previously I had two - a 90mm lens and a 65mm lens; but both lenses were limiting - they were slow (f/8) and did not have a broad range of movements. The new lens, a 75mm f/4.5, was both fast and flexible. The risk was that I was not convinced that I would use the lens enough to justify the investment; I now know the decision was a good one.
4"x5" film
It takes time to learn how to see with a new lens (one of reasons why I dislike zooms - too many focal lengths to learn), but I am finally becoming comfortable with the 75mm. Since buying the lens, an increasing number of successes have come from it - to the point that over the last two sessions, it has been the lens of choice! The inherent difficulties of a wide angle lens (size and shape distortion, extreme perspective angles etc) have slowly become controllable, and more and more, the images I am producing with the lens are simply successful images, not "wide angle" images which succeed. The look of an extreme wide angle image can be impressive, but this is more often due to the novelty of the angle of view than the image itself. The more I use the 75mm lens, the easier it becomes to use well.

July 19, 1998

A Morning Session with Lilly (Rainbow Haven Beach, Nova Scotia)

The biggest lesson I am learning from my sessions with Lilly is that working in short, intense sessions can be as successful as spending full days making images. Typical figure sessions can run as long as six hours, but due to Lilly's busy schedule, we seldom have more than two hours at a time but the work that comes out of these sessions is strong nonetheless. On this particular Sunday, the only time Lilly had was until 11 in the morning
35mm infrared film
Working early in the morning was a new experience for me; the raking light provided wonderful mottling of Lilly's body, but the high contrast of the lighting made some of the exposures a little tricky.
4"x5" film
The strongest image of the morning (above) would have been far less successful if it was made in afternoon light. The low sun glistening on the water, combined with a 1 second shutter speed (achieved by stacking a 2x neutral density filter with a yellow-green filter), gives the surroundings a subtle, ethereal quality, while the light flowing over Lilly's body is so sculptural, the image seems almost carved in stone.
4"x5" film
The rest of the morning's work went well, producing close to two dozen 4"x5" negatives in a wide variety of settings, as well as two rolls of 35mm images, but they all fade in comparison to the first image. I suppose it only human to single out a favourite, but then again, I tend to think the "best" image overshadows the other successful ones. When I showed Lilly the work, the only image she asked for as a print was the middle of these three, reaffirming my enthusiasm.

July 12, 1998

York Redoubt (Halifax, Nova Scotia)

One of the most wonderful things about photographing the same spaces over and over again is how it allows me to witness change; no matter how many times I return to the same site, I always find more to photograph. More often than not, these new images are documenting the changes themselves. York Redoubt has altered considerably since I first photographed it almost a decade ago; Parks Canada has restored some of it, and stabilized other areas, leading to a much different place from the slowly deteriorating ruin I knew as a child. When they first began their reconstruction, I thought they had ruined the site forever - now I know better.
4"x5" film
The above image of a gun slit in the curtain wall, is my favourite image of the day - very Zen in a way...its beauty lies in its simplicity - the lack of symmetry and slightly off-centre nature really drawing me in.
4"x5" film
Made within a canopier (an enclosed shooting gallery which protrudes out from the main wall) which had been restored several years before, I was quite pleased at how the image captured the essence of the space.
4"x5" film
Down from the main fort is the York Shore Battery, a WW II installation. This site, in contrast to the 19th century fort on top of the hill, was only stabilized, with active restoration restricted to the rebuilding of a sighting tower. The beauty of this part of York Redoubt lies in its decay, in the slow wave of time washing over the concrete and iron of the emplacements and bunkers. Every year a little more of the site is worn away, and encroaching vegetation overtakes a little more of the fort. In another decade it may have changed irrevocably; in a half-century--it may be gone.

July 11, 1998

Ingrid and Victoria in the Studio (Halifax, Nova Scotia)

The real reason for my borrowing the Pentax 67 was to use it for an evening studio session with Ingrid and a friend of hers, Victoria. Just like my first session with Ingrid, I didn't have the chance to meet Victoria before the session, so I was working with my fingers crossed. I had a number of out-of-date rolls of Konica 750 120 infra-red film which I wanted to use up, and I felt it would make more sense to use it on a 6x6 or 6x7 camera, as opposed to my 6x12 roll back. As it turns out, using the out-dated film was the best decision of the day.
6x7 cm film
The session was unique for more reasons than the film; Ingrid and Victoria, the models, were the first pair of models I've worked with in an intimate context who were friends, as opposed to a "couple". Before we started working, we spent some time talking about what I was looking for, and on the whole, I felt the session was really successful. I was hyper aware of crossing the line between sensuality and sexuality. As it turns out, the most intimate image of the evening was the last pose (to the upper right) which I'd left up to the models to find. Far more intense a pose than I would have suggested, the image has exactly the elements I was after: tenderness. trust, and an all-enveloping warmth.
6x7 cm film
Above I say that using the stale Konica 750 IR film was the best decision of the day, while that is certainly true, I wouldn't have said so the night I processed the film. When I pulled the negs out of the developing canisters, my heart fell - almost all the rolls were fogged! The negs looked horrid, and though I could see the ghosts of some of the images, I truly believed the images were a write-off. Prudence, thankfully, reared its head though, and I saved the negs, hanging them to dry so I could see if anything could be salvaged from them. The next day when I contact printed the "ruined" negatives, I was amazed to see the film had reversed in the shadows, yielding images naturally solarized because of the high base fog. More than 3/4 of the negatives printed wonderfully as straight prints, with the remaining images printing nicely after some creative intervention on my part.
6x7 cm infrared film
Thus, a disaster turned into a blessing. The fogged IR negs have yielded some of the most intriguing images I have ever produced - and since this effect will almost certainly be unrepeatable, they are all the more precious. The 4"x5" images I produced of Ingrid and Victoria are strong and will find their way into other parts of my oeuvre, but they pale when set next to the rich freshness of the infra-red images.

July 05, 1998

Friends Model Together (Long Lake, Nova Scotia)

After spending my morning in a flowing river, I spent the afternoon working on more water nudes in a lake - an opportunity to try out my Nikonos underwater camera which I had bought two years earlier, but had never managed to actually use before.
4"x5" film
The most frustrating thing about the session was that I misplaced my swimming goggles, and had to guess at the composition of each image - thus all the images are too tightly framed, and almost all are dismal failures. The image to the left is the only marginal success from the two rolls I produced - but, for all its shortcomings, I quite like it. Next time, I hope the session will take place on a sunny afternoon, and yield more contrast and variation to the images. For the moment, I am happy that, at the very least, the camera works.
6x7 cm film
I used the borrowed Pentax 67 extensively in the afternoon as well, finding it far more functional for working in the water than the view camera (it is quite a trick to use a tripod with only one hand - the other has to be kept dry to manipulate the view camera and load the film-holders). While I missed the view camera's flexibility and tripod, I was very pleased with the results from the 6x7 colour negatives. The Pentax allowed me to work with a speed and spontaneity usually impossible for me. The reflections in the water would have been much more effective if I had had a tripod (permitting me to stop down for more depth of field) but this disadvantage was off-set by the reality that I could not have made these images with a view camera.
6x7 cm film
Another session with new models, the afternoon yielded some good work, as well as some amusing moments. Both models had tattoos, so almost every image involved the careful arrangement of limbs in order to remove tattoos from view - occasionally sending the models sliding into the water at unexpected moments! While the morning session was plagued by bugs, the afternoon at the lake was totally bug-free - a nice change.

Working with Rocks and Water (Ingramport, Nova Scotia)

35mm infrared film
Of all the different settings in which I work with the Nude, by far my favourite is water- the elegance of a figure emerging from water, fluid or otherwise, is very seductive to me. I have long wanted to work with colour film and moving water, but have never had the opportunity until now.
4"x5" film
As fate would have it, I had arranged to borrow a friend's camera (a Pentax 67) for the evening studio session, and had brought it along, on the off chance it would be useful in the morning session. It was. One roll of 120 film, with ten images on it, shows the potential of colour for water nudes, and has made me eager to get back to the river and work some more. We will wait until the fall, though, when the bugs are less voracious!

July 01, 1998

My First Session with Ingrid (Pennant Point, Nova Scotia)

6x12 cm film
A dismal and dreary Canada Day was vastly improved by a new-found friend phoning and asking me if I was interested in going and making some photos. Miles had earlier offered to introduce me to some friends of his who might be interested in modeling nude. Late in the afternoon we rather optimistically headed for the coast. A couple of factors made this course of action questionable; we were hoping that the foggy and drizzly afternoon would change miraculously into a hot and sunny evening (yeah...right), and I was crossing my fingers in regards to the model for the session because this was my first session with Ingrid ; she had seen my work, but we hadn't met so I did not know what to expect
4"x5" film
When we arrived at Pennant Point, we discovered a major surf running, slamming against the rocks and throwing spray up 20 feet or more. We slowly worked our way down the shore until we came upon a large rock shelf that projected out into the Atlantic. From this vantage point, we tried several ways to capture the power of the waves. The first image is the most successful of the images - the others with the surf in them were almost all white!
The last set of images were made in a "bone forest" - the site of a forest fire years before. By this time, Ingrid and I had found a rhythm - as the camera was already set up, capturing the image was simply a matter of exclaiming "That's it!" and tripping the cable-release. The already elfin features of Ingrid are emphasized by the pose and setting. Even though this image was made at sundown, the light was still decent and very even due to the prevailing fog, yielding a good negative.