August 30, 1999

Victoria in a Studio (Halifax, Nova Scotia)

After all the work we had created together in Alberta, I was loathe to call Victoria and ask her to model for me whatever the reason.  Having been given the gift of a week of her life, it seemed greedy to ask her to model more. That said, on the night before her departure for a four month study period in Cuba, we met at midnight to do some studio work.
35mm infrared film
I'd first met Victoria in July of 1998 when I did studio images of her with Ingrid. After that, we'd worked together outdoors, indoors again with Joe, and for a full week creating Victoria, The Alberta Portfolio.  But I'd never worked with her alone in the studio. This left a serious gap in our work together and I relished the opportunity to fill this in before her departure for Cuba.

The session had a very strange energy. Victoria and I were both tired, but we'd both agreed it would be good to wrap up the work we did together with these solo studio images. I began the session by doing a self-portrait with Victoria;  We'd meant to make this image in Alberta, but it never seemed to happen.
4"x5" film
After the self-portrait, we worked on more traditional studio work, exploring the body and light, and playing with form and texture.  It was a very different way of working from what had happened in Alberta, and lead to a distinctly different feel to the results.
35mm infrared film
The biggest upset to the session was my fault. About half the images were made on Kodak HIE infra-red film, using the new Canon EOS 3. The problem arose from the fact that the EOS 3 uses an infra-red sensor to track the film advance. Unfortunately this sensor fogs infra-red sensitive film. All my 35mm images from the session have a band of fogging on the bottom edge, extending some way into the image. While some images could be saved by cropping this edge off, I'd by far rather have produced the images on the right camera. Live and learn.

August 24, 1999

Megan and I Head Outdoors (Prospect, Nova Scotia)

This day was perfect, and as Megan had no other commitments, we planned on spending the full day working, first at Prospect, then at Gold River. This session is the first time I have returned to Prospect since 1997. One of my favourite spaces to shoot, it has the double problem of needing a car to access and of being right on the frequently fog-bound Atlantic coast.
35m infrared film

We began working with a series placing the body on the spines of rock that run along the coast. Using an ultra wide lens on my 35mm camera, I used infrared film to create a luminous glow on Megan's skin, set against a darkening sky.
4"x5" film
The end of the work at Prospect focused on a Megan crouched in a small pool located high above the Atlantic. I'd discovered the depression in the bedrock in 1997 and it had changed little over the past two years. The only way to frame the entire pool was to use the wide angle lens and move the camera back as far as possible. A problem arose, however, as I moved back, because the rock slopped swiftly and it became difficult to position the tripod. In the end, the only way to make the image was with the shadow of the tripod legs in the lower portion of the image. By cropping off the sides of the image, the shadow of the tripod is almost imperceptible, and what was removed is totally unimportant to the composition of the image anyway.

After the rock-pool images, we packed up the gear and walked back to the car. We drove inland, picked up some lunch, and then drove to Gold River, where we finished up the day's image making.
6x6 cm film
Gold River has come to be a central point in my 1999 work; almost all my water nudes this year were explorations of a couple of hundred yards of the river. With Megan, we stuck to the upper portion of the river, near the road access, and where the water was moving the swiftest. We didn't have much time left in our day and wanted to make the most of what time and light there was. I worked exclusively with the Bronica at the river, working with a slow film and long exposures to produce enough water-blur to make the images please my aesthetic. The biggest problem with working on rivers on sunny day is getting exposures long enough to permit some water blur to occur; rating Agfa 25 at 6 ISO made this a simple procedure and yielded a very successful image. The strength of Megan's shoulders provides a solid contrast to the fluid water behind her.

August 23, 1999

Joe Poses in a River (Ingramport, Nova Scotia)

6x6 cm transparency film
I had first worked with Joe in January, in the studio with Victoria, but due to the time of year, we didn't get the opportunity to work outdoors. Fortunately, Joe was visiting Halifax in the summer, and had time to work with me again. Joe is very familiar with my work, and when asked where he'd like to model, he immediately said, "water."  We promptly set off for the closest flowing water, the very same river where I'd begun working with water nudes in 1996.
4"x5" film
We began the session late in the day, well after the sun had gone behind the trees. Working at this time of day had three advantages: one, the light was softer and cooler, providing a strong contrast to Joe's tanned body; two, the diffused light made it easier to achieve the long exposure I like to work with when photographing the nude in water; and three, the cool air made the water seem warmer. An unexpected bonus to the light was a wonderful pink cast that came into the sky, delicately playing through the late images.
6x6 cm film
In the end, we ran out of light before ideas for poses. At the same time as the light dropped, Joe became too cold to be comfortable working in the water, bringing the session to a spontaneous close. The photos were a great success, however, with good images in black & white, and in colour. Working with two cameras helped clarify the different medias; I used colour for the most part in the Bronica and exposed black and white film exclusively on my 4x5.

August 18, 1999

Megan the Studio (Halifax, Nova Scotia)

Many people have commented that I have a knack for working with models who move away.  When I'm lucky, they return like Megan did this summer. Though we'd produced some stellar work in 1998, I hadn't worked with her since June of that year because she left Halifax for the bigger lights of Toronto. I was overjoyed to find she was in town for a wedding and wanted to make some more images.
6x6cm negative
As it turned out, we had to work in the studio, not either of our first choice of venue.  After spending the afternoon frantically generating ideas, I decided to return to something I had begun exploring in 1994. At that time I had free and liberal access to the studio at the art college I was attending but was becoming increasingly frustrated with the stale nature of studio nudes. In response to this, I began experimenting with cloth and the body with mixed results
6x6cm negative
The return to that concept was a frustrating one. Megan, being an indulgent model, was willing to work with wet cheesecloth, but we quickly learned it dried too fast, quickly changing from a wonderful form-following texture to limp cloth on a body. Having to re-wet the cloth, and keep it warm enough to ensure Megan's comfort took more effort than making the photos themselves and the results were weren't good enough to justify the effort.
6x6cm negative
The first and most frustrating problem was that the cheesecloth didn't have the look I was after. I will have to experiment to find which cloth looks right. The second problem was equipment related. While it was a good decision to work with a medium format camera (as opposed to a view camera which would have made the session go even slower), the lack of a telephoto lens on the Bronica 6x6 proved a real hindrance to imaging. The normal lens with a close-up filter focused close enough but didn't provide the tight angle of view I was aiming for and caused some severe distortion of Megan's body. If I decide to pursue the cloth/nude idea, it will definitely be with a telephoto lens, and a different  type of cloth.

August 17, 1999

Lilly Models in a River (Ingramport, Nova Scotia)

Lilly and I had produced some very strong work in a series of sessions in 1998, but due to hectic schedules, had found it hard to get together to work this year.  Finally we managed to work out an evening we both had free, and we headed for the country.
4"x5" film
Our initial plan had been to head for the coast, to make a series of nudes working against the setting sun. This project was shelved however, due to a fog bank we encountered en route. Turning back, we opted to try the Ingramport River, which was about ½ way back to Halifax. By the time we arrived at the river, there was less than an hour left for us to work, including our driving time.
35mm infrared film
Working under a time restriction is never my forte, but Lilly and I did the best we could, with surprisingly strong results. The couple of 4"x5" images we made were well framed, focusing more on the setting. The composition used the body as an element of the setting, as opposed to the focus of the images.  What was more interesting, however, were the 35mm results. I was testing a new 20mm Canon lens, but because of the setting sun, did not have enough light for hand-holding the camera while imaging.. After putting the camera on a tripod, I made a series of photographs using a one second exposure - my first long exposure images made on infra-red film. The results mirror my 4"x5" work, but also contain the elements of infra-red that appeal to me so strongly: the dark, murky blacks and wonderfully luminous skin-tones.
35mm infrared film
The best result for me from a technical point of view was the overall image quality of the session. The Canon 20mm lens proved to be every bit as sharp as I had hoped, producing images that surpass the images I produced earlier in the summer with a 20-35mm zoom. I have always used fixed lenses on my 35mm cameras, and now regret my brief venture into zoom lenses. The cost in terms of lens speed and sharpness is by no means outweighed by the slight increase in convenience.

August 01, 1999

Annie's Forst Sessopm (Scot's Bay, Nova Scotia)

4"x5" film
Annie came across my work on the Internet, and contacted me about modeling. We'd e-mailed back and forth, and after a couple of weeks, managed to arrange a time to work. As she lived on the other side of Nova Scotia from me, we decided to photograph in her end of the Province, using her local knowledge to find spaces to model in.
35mm infrared film
Scot's Bay is on the interior of the Bay of Fundy, with the world's highest tides (26' in some places). When we arrived, we were fortunate enough to have a low tide, permitting us hundreds of feet of very dramatic, ancient volcanic rock to use as a setting for images. We took some time walking down the beach before we found areas suitable for our purposes. Our arrival at the first space was perfectly timed; by the time the first set of images was complete, the tide was nibbling at our feet. After a couple of photographs of Annie in the water, we moved higher up the beach, working our way down until we eventually came to a space with great potential.
35mm infrared film
One of the great things about infra-red film is how it reacts to plants. The final space in which we imaged had a wonderful seam of leafy seaweed growing around the edge. Though I'd never photographed this particular type of seaweed on infra-red, I suspected it would produce a beautifully luminous tone on the film. The results were everything I had hoped for; the overcast day provided a very diffuse quality to the images, and the contrast between Annie's body, the seaweed and the rock is perfect.