October 31, 2000

Randi's First Studio Session (Halifax, Nova Scotia)

Randi's introduction to modeling in the studio was a real test of her mettle; for reasons well beyond my control, the heat had been turned off in the studio I have access to and, though the day was relatively mild, it took all of Randi's dedication and enthusiasm to carry her through the two hours we worked with only space-heaters for warmth.
35mm infrared film
The session, like much of my work in the studio, was only loosely directed. We went in with the dual intention of continuing Randi's familiarization with the studio environment (she'd assisted twice before, once with nudes), and my work with the mirror. Beyond that, there really were no ideas in mind when we began, and, as usually, I started the session producing some nude portraits of Randi, a method I use with pretty much every model when I begin working with them in the studio.
4"x5" film
The results were mixed; most of the portraits I made had an odd expression on Randi's face - this was a bit confounding, as the portraits we'd done outdoors have been quite successful to date. Oh the whole, I'll count the portraits as a starting point, and leave them be. In stark contrast to the portraits, however, were a series of infrared images I made of Randi's torso, working as she moved to the music in the studio. The strongest image of these I've posted here as strong example of the advantages of a small, hand-held camera for capturing a fleeting gesture.
4"x5" film
The close of the session was spent working on more mirror nudes; with my show being printed in the next couple of weeks, it was last session with the mirror (the REAL last session) before all the work for the show was selected. As Randi had been assisting me in the darkroom, she was already familiar with the series, but it was interesting how she brought her knowledge of the work to the studio, and let it influence her posing. While she had little sense of what my camera was framing, Randi propelled the work forward by working hard to strike poses that weren't represented in the earlier mirror images. On the whole, the mirror work was the highlight of the session, with several striking images being created; unlike earlier sessions, I concentrated on large format images, and just used 35mm as an after-thought.

October 27, 2000

Randi in An Autumn Forest (Halifax, Nova Scotia)

The last outdoor session of 2000 was spent just outside of Halifax, in the woods near a lake. We chose an outcrop of lichen-covered granite, both because it provided interesting settings to pose against, and because it permitted us to work with the angular autumnal light.
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Like the second outdoor session, Randi and I focused upon images that reflected the landscape. After two sessions, she's beginning to get a sense of what I am after when I give directions, and generally speaking, we're getting faster at making an image come together.

In some ways, this session felt a little desperate - the air was cool, and I actually didn't expect Randi to model for long, if at all. Once we began however, she insisted it was comfortable enough, and we proceeded to explore the space.
4"x5" film
In some ways, choosing to work on such a small plateau of rock was a real restriction to the work as a whole. By the same token, restrictions breeds innovation, and well before we ran out of idea, Randi had grown too cold, and we had to depart. The early and most evident images came from playing the body off against the rocks, exploring the crevasses and breaks in the broad stone. Towards the end of the session, however, Randi suggested a series of poses against a thin tree beside the rocks - the resulting image, above on the left, speaks strongly to me of Mapplethorpe, an American photographer from the 1970's and 1980's who made a series of studio nudes with particularly strong and powerful models. While this image has a different tone and setting, it certainly comes from that same place of confidence and power in the model.
4"x5" film
Overall, the three outdoor sessions with Randi were a great way to draw my outdoor work for the year to a close. Her dedication and thick skin permitted me to make a number of very strong images, and push my work further in several directions, than I would have otherwise. I hope to continue working with her occasionally over the winter, and in the coming year.

October 24, 2000

Randi in Autumn Light (Halifx, Nova Scotia)

6x9 cm film
Every time I manage to get out and work with Randi, I feel I am snatching a missed opportunity from fate, and turning it around. I usually don't do many session outdoors after the first of September, and working this late in the year, and with a new model to boot, is a real luxury. The first session with Randi was so late in the year that I had thought it would be the last outdoor session of the year; I was wrong. Our second session proved to be more focused, more comfortable, and best of all, warmer.
35mm infrared film
 It is really frustrating to learn that the best light for outdoor figure work in Nova Scotia is present only this late in the year. Randi and I worked for almost three hours, beginning just after noon, and all through that time, wonderful low raking light flowed across the landscape, providing rich modeling of both the land and body. The quality of the light was really rich too, providing crisp, defined highlights to everything it touched, but not so harsh as to black out any shadows in the same image. Practically every photograph we made worked explicitly with the angular light, either using it as rim lighting for the figure, or to set it against the landscape in some way.
35mm infrared film
This session was really focused on making images, where the first time Randi had modeled, it was really all about giving her an experience of the process. This time however, everything was dedicated to the process itself, and the change was evident in the work. The biggest frustration now is knowing that the good weather can't last forever, and eventually, I'll have to retreat from the winter light indoors, to studio, candles, or afternoon light.

October 23, 2000

A Cello and Claire (Halifax, Nova Scotia)

35mm infrared film
Almost since I first met Claire, she and I talked of doing a photo session that incorporated her cello; the mixture of the body and instrument seemed only logical, but it took until the fall for us to finally put together a session (to be honest, we could have done it earlier, but as the weather was good enough for outdoor work, we took advantage of it while it lasted). The session was hampered by cool weather (the studio was unheated) but was really encouraging all the same. The flow between the body and the cello was less obvious than I had thought, but yielded some really stunning combinations that surprised me even more when I saw the images on film the next day. Sometimes the results exceed the expectations.
35mm transparency film
I almost never work with props in my images (though one could argue the mirror is a prop), but in this case, I approached the work with enthusiasm and interest - the possibilities seemed to great to be ignored. Surprisingly, however, most of my pre-conceived ideas went out the window when we actually started working; the cello was so different from what I'd expected.
35mm transparency film
The first poses we tried worked with contrasting the flow of the body to the lines of the instrument - using strong back lighting to light Claire's hip and the side of the cello. From these, we moved on to play with the mirroring of the body, framing hips, breasts and shoulders against the body of the cello. Overall, the results were frustrating, even with the strong successes. The studio was too cool to permit really detailed set-up for the images, and as much of a trooper as Claire was, well before we'd exhausted the possibilities, she was too cold to continue. I hope to revisit the cello and Claire in the studio again, but it will be with more time, and more heat.

October 18, 2000

Randi Posed at a River (Gold River, Nova Scotia)

Once it is past the first of September in Nova Scotia, it is always a crap-shoot as to whether it will be warm enough to work with a model outdoors. I suspect that this session will be my last figure session outdoors for this year, which in some ways, makes it a sad occasion. What makes up for it though, is the strength of the images I made, and the fact that it's hopefully the beginning of a working relationship with a new model.
35mm transparency film
I've known Randi for a couple of years, but she moved away a year ago, so it was a surprise to receive a call from her in September, saying she was returning to Halifax, and asking if I would take her on as an apprentice. Since I'd first met her, I'd wanted to ask her to model, and seeing as her interest in photography was partially oriented towards the Nude, I thought it appropriate to ask her if she'd model for me. I also pointed out that besides being of benefit to me, having some experience on the other side of the camera never hurts - it gives you a better degree of sensitivity to the model's role in the process. Randi responded that she hadn't thought of that, and wasn't sure - she'd let me know though.
35mm infrared film
Since then, we've pretty much done all darkroom work, so when it looked like we had a good day coming up, we made our plans. At that time, Randi indicated that she might model if the weather was warm enough, but as the forecast for the day was only fair, I was expecting it to be a rocks and water day. I was pleasantly mistaken.

While we began the day with both of us photographing, exploring the rocks and water at Gold River, we both weren't feeling particularly into it, and eventually, began doing some figure work. The early images were straightforward, with Randi perched by a rock, looking at the camera, but very quickly Randi became more comfortable in front of the camera, and we moved onto more involved images, working the pose into the landscape, as opposed to her just being in it.
35mm infrared film
The last set of images we made were created on a steep shale hill, above the river - the strong angle of the hill made for a couple of really interesting settings to work in, and while we did not get to work with all the possibilities present because of the cool weather, what we did make was really pleasing, both on the 35mm (infrared) and the 4"x5" cameras. Because of the cool weather, I worked as fast as I could, starting each set of images with the 35mm camera, to make sure I knew which angle and lens worked best, and then translating that image to the 4"x5", to make the final image or two, before we changed the space and pose. The system worked well, giving us a surprisingly number of images for the length of time Randi modeled.

October 03, 2000

Rocks & Water (St Margaret's Bay and Blue Rocks, Nova Scotia)

I came to working with water late - it was only after working with photography for eight years that I first made my water nudes, and it was Joy's poetry that opened my eyes to other possibilities, leading to the Laetitia images.
6x9 transparency film
On this day, the chance to guide Peter along the south shore of Nova Scotia was coupled with the opportunity to spend the day photographing the waterways inland from the coast where I normally work. This river, which feeds directly into St Margaret's Bay, is one of the most striking water spaces I have ever come across. The lake which the waterway feed off was as still as glass, but then it flowed through a narrow gap, under the road, turning swiftly into rapids and small falls. The smooth flow of the water towards the bay was wonderful to work with, creating smooth, even ripples in the water. Because I was primarily acting as tour guide, I'd left my 4"x5" at home, and instead was working with my smaller Fuji 6x9 rangefinder. This was a very different way for me to work (the camera has a fixed lens, limiting the angle of view to one the equivalent to a 28mm lens on a 35mm camera). The final results though, were more than pleasing, with some very interesting interpretations of what was, to the naked eye, a small and limited space.
6x9 cm film
When we moved onto Blue Rocks, I again focused on rocks and water, but this time it was tidal pools, as opposed to the moving water of a river. What really drew me to the pools was less the water, and more the reflection of the afternoon sky. The day, up to now, had been overcast, and it was only in the late afternoon that the sun was finally breaking through the clouds, and providing some contrast to the scene. By carefully waiting for the right moment, when the sun was behind clouds, but still very present in the scene, I was able to make a well balanced exposure - with more cloud cover, the clouds would have been too dark, and with less, they would have been brilliant white against the properly exposed rocks.
6x9 cm film
At the end of the day, I was left with a really surprising group of images. Because I have limited time and resources, I tend to focus on the Nude, when I have the opportunity, with the logic that on days where there are no models, there will be rocks and water and stuff. This day bore that truth out, but also provoked the question - if I took more time to work with other subjects (as opposed to working with models whenever I have the chance) how different would my work become, given time to experiment and grow?

October 02, 2000

Clair Models by the Ocean (Peggy's Cove, Nova Scotia)

Peggy's Cove is Nova Scotia's most popular tourist site; the white lighthouse on its point is the best known lighthouse in Canada, and probably has several million photos made of it every year by visitors from around the work. Almost regardless of the season, the huge granite rocks that surround Peggy's cove are always scattered with tourists, clambering around on the rocks, or watching the waves crash upon them. Not an ideal space to have a figure session perhaps, but after our trip to the area in July of this year, both Joy and I were convinced it could be done, and that the incredible beauty of the rocks and water were more than worth the effort. I discussed the plan with Claire, and she was more than interested, agreeing with us that with people keeping a watch on the tourists, and a good sense of timing, anything was possible.
4"x5" film
As with the previous trip to Peggy's Cove, this day's work was facilitated by a visitor from Europe, Peter, who had come to explore Nova Scotia for a couple of weeks. Claire was fine with the extra person coming along, and agreed that having another person to spot for curious passers-by was a good idea.
4"x5" film
It turned out that our guess was right, and that it was reasonably easy to work on the rocks; Claire and I set the poses up with her clothed, and would then tweak them after she disrobed. I had a strange sense of déjá vu from the Alberta Project, where I frequently worked with Victoria while Annie watched for people. Once or twice there were close calls, with people coming over rocks a little too close for comfort, but on the whole, the session went off without a hitch.
6x9 cm film
The interesting thing, as always to me, was the results. The constant possibility of interruption, having three additional people at the session, and the simple fact that the air was chill, necessitating that the poses be kept short to keep the model happy and warm, all added up to distractions from the process. I managed to get some more than decent images, with a particularly good portrait, and great water-rock nude among them, but those that didn't work REALLY didn't work, which is unusual for me. Usually I'll get a good number of pleasing images from a session, with one or two that succeed wonderfully. From this day, however, with the exception of perhaps four, all the images had serious flaws, ranging from the pose, the composition, to everything combined. At a loss for other explanations, I really have to put this result down to the distractions that abounded, and to the stress of the setting. While I'd work again at Peggy's Cove without hesitation, I do think some forethought into the planning would pay off (a warmer day, earlier or later, and perhaps, starting off further down the shoreline would help).

September 26, 2000

Delaps Cove (The Valley, Nova Scotia)

I'd first been to Delaps Cove in 1995, but the images I did there only whetted my appetite for more. Set on the Bay of Fundy, near the world's highest tides, the space is very bizarre, with long sheets of layered basalt
4"x5" film
The main motivation for the visit to Delaps Cove was to show Peter, who was visiting from Europe, the only waterfall I knew of in Nova Scotia. Peter is an avid photographer of waterfalls, and I felt honour bound to try to show him at least one good fall during his stay. I only had a vague recollection of the fall itself, but as it had a good write-up in a book on Nova Scotia waterfalls, so I felt pretty safe recommending the space for Peter to work with.

As I only get a chance to work this far from home when a friend or model has a car, I was more than happy to take to opportunity to photograph the space. While the space, as usual, really called to me for a figure to be incorporated in the images, it had more than enough visual wealth to fill my ground glass with rich possibilities.
4"x5" film
 While Peter's primary focus was on the waterfall, the rock beach below it held more interest for me - nestled in the middle of it was an old engine block that had been worn and battered by the tidal flow until it looked more natural than man-made. The real difficulty was the lighting - the late afternoon sun was coming across the beach, and making everything really contrasty. My answer to this was to have Joy hold my dark cloth between the sun and the engine block, so it was cast into even, diffused shadow. The final result, to the left, is much better than would have been realized with a straight exposure; even with exposure compensation, I doubt the contrast between the soft lines of the rocks and worn metal would have been apparent.
4"x5" film
I did end up making an image of the waterfall; the last two times I'd been on the beach, there had barely been enough water to trickle down the rock wall. Given that it was in full flowing, I thought it was prudent to document it this time, on the probability it would be dry the next time I visit. The result, to the right, is pleasing enough, but as with many of my other attempts at landscape, it simply lacks something for me. I am not sure why I find it so difficult to approach straight landscape; as pleased as I am when I frame an image up on the ground glass, inevitably, landscapes fall flat when I realize the final negative and prints.

September 18, 2000

A Studio Session with L_ (Halifax, Nova Scotia)

When I went into the studio with L_, I was well aware that, while she was comfortable with modeling nude, she preferred to remain anonymous, having reservations about her face appearing on-line. That said, the first part of the session produced a series of strong nude portraits; L_ has a wonderful presence before the camera and translates well onto film. The image to the right is from this part of the session, made with her restrictions in mind. The luminous skin tones, coming from the image being made on infrared film, and the wild burst of hair at the top of the image are what make it sing in my eyes.
35mm infrared film
It's almost a year since I made my first mirror image, and the possibilities it offers up are still not exhausted. L_'s response to the mirror was similar to the others I've brought to it; she enjoyed the challenge of working on it, and, while there was some frustration because she couldn't really anticipate what I was imaging, the session went well.
35mm infrared film
In some ways, for me, the mirror images are the most functional of all the work I do in the studio. Usually I find the studio a sterile, lifeless space to work in. While a particularly stunning model, the opportunity to work with a couple or an especially energetic session can yield good results in spite of this, even the best studio image pales for me, in comparison to a similar photo made out in a "real" environment.

What the mirror does, however, is inject much of what I thrive off into outdoor photography. The lighting is unpredictable, given that it is seen from both sides simultaneously, and a subtle change in the pose can have a remarkable influence on how the image looks in the mirror itself.
4"x5" film
I left the session after the session with L_ with my head spinning. Much like after the first mirror session, or the one in June with Zoë, the images of L_ on the mirror were swimming through my mind, and I could not wait to get into the darkroom and see the results. The results were, if anything, better than I expected, with several images totally unlike anything I'd previously created using the mirror. For a first session with a new model, it was really good, and, I hope, the beginning of a larger body of work. As a student, L_ doesn't have much time to model over the fall and winter, but come next spring, I hope to be able to work with her outdoors, and see what she can do with that as a space.

The final image in this diary section was from this session but was not added to the entry until fall of 2000 when L_ changed her mind about the face release, so the full work from the session can now be included in the diary entry.

September 11, 2000

Working with Claire in the Studio (Halifax, Nova Scotia)

Because I began working with Claire during the summer, all our sessions to date have been outdoors - taking advantage of the weather and warmth. On this day, however, as good as it was, we didn't have any transportation so we opted to do studio work and see what came of working in that space.
35mm infrared film
I started the session by having Claire work on the mirror. I'm having an exhibition of this work on January 6-24, 2001 at ViewPoint Gallery. The planning is already well underway, I still wanted to add to the pool of work from which I could draw images for the show. The first lesson I learned was that it is one thing to work in this particular studio at night, and another to work in it by day. Though the studio area proper is light-proofed, enough light was coming through the windows in the other end of the room to make it a little difficult to gauge the actual lighting. For more traditional images, this would have been less of an issue; for the mirror work, the lighting is such a large part of what makes the images work that I found it a serious frustration.
4"x5" film
We struggled through, however, and managed to make a number of images, my favourite of which is displayed to the right. I think what has drawn me to the mirror work is how malleable it makes the figure - in this image the arm and reflected arm merge and intermingle with the chin, until it all kind of blurs together into something far more complex than its parts.
4"x5" film
After we finished up with the mirror, rather than fight with the available light interfering with the studio flash work, I got rid of the flash all together, and reverted to the available light coming through the studio windows. Natural light is far more to my liking, and much easier to work with because what I was seeing, I was getting. The images at the close of the session were very successful, mostly focusing on nude portraiture, but also involving some details of skin on skin, with the wonderfully soft light of the window. With the number of days available for outdoor work waning, it was good to see how Claire reacted to the studio as a space to create in; the session holds out promise for the winter months.

September 02, 2000

Fort Warren (Boston Hrbour, Massachusetts)

My final day photographing during the New England Expedition was spent on Georges Island, photographing the parts of Fort Warren that I didn't have time to work with on my first visit. I got up at 6 AM, rode the commuter-train into Boston, meet up with a friend, Jim, and then took the first ferry to the island. We arrived at the island shortly before 11 am, and would be able to stay until the last ferry returned at 6 pm. A full, undisturbed day working with one of the most enjoyable visual spaces I have ever had the pleasure to work with, which was a wonderful way to finish the fortnight.
4"x5" film
My first goal for the day was to circumnavigate the fort, documenting the exterior walls and defense before I ventured back to the interior. When I started working around the fort, I was initially reminded of Fort George (the Citadel) in Halifax, with its high walls and deep dry ditch around it. The entire exterior of Warren is done in granite brought from Maine, and provides a foreboding barrier to any attacking army. When I reached the eastern side of the island, I discovered another layer to the forts defense - an entire separate battery on the ocean side of the ditch, originally linked to the main fort by a removable bridge. Encompassing this, the walls, the ditch and the seaward gun-line, was a challenge, but using the extreme wide-angle lenses (65mm and 75mm) on the 4"x5" it all came together, and did justice to the scene.

I completed up the circumnavigation shortly after 1pm, and met up with Jim, who'd gone ahead, photographing the other visitors to the fort. We walked to the western side of the island, where we sat in the shade and ate lunch. Because I often work in often work in remote or isolated places, I frequently forget how unusual a wooden view camera looks to the casual passer-by; over the half-hour we spent eating, easily a dozen people stopped to ask about the Wisner sitting beside us on its tripod .
4"x5" film
The last half of the day was spent inside the northeast bastion of the fort, working with the arched casements and gun rooms which are shared by all the forts of this era. To some degree, baring the subtle differences, these spaces are interchangeable between the forts I have photographed - an image of an emplacement at Fort Knox looks much the same as one in Taber or Adams. What was surprising at Warren, and unique as far as I know, was that the north-east bastion has its interior walls and arches faced with wood; I have never seen this before, and suspect it was a later addition, possibly during WWI or WWII, to improve the winter conditions within the fort. Regardless of the reason, the whitewashed wood lining of the high-arched rooms made for a very difference image from those I have made elsewhere.
4"x5" film
Overall, the New England Expedition was a great success - the weather was phenomenal (it only rained once, and we were indoors in a museum at the time), the models and spaces I worked with were stunning, and the results, a sampling of which are presented here, speak for themselves. A great debt of gratitude is owed to our hosts (you know who you are), for facilitating the entire trip's accommodations, and to Joy, for doing so much of the prep work . The pleasure of long, sustained periods of image making, first encountered in Alberta in 1999, again filled my life, making my mind's eye reel with each day's work. I declined to call the Expedition a holiday for a reason - for this two week period I worked harder than I had in almost a year.

September 01, 2000

Fort Adams (Newport, Rhode Island)

My second expedition to Fort Adams was as focused as the first. Where I'd spent that day working with the bastions and sea-side exterior of the fort, this day was to be spent on the more refined interiors, working in the rooms that were the accommodations for the officers and men of the fort.
6x9 cm transparency film
It was in these rooms that the starkest difference between the American forts and the ones in British North America became apparent. Whereas in Canada, the officers and troops were housed in Spartan quarters, the rooms and hallways of the quarters in Fort Adams had elaborate mouldings, delicate paint schemes and even sliding pocket-doors. The only explanation I can come up with for this difference is that, while the British were defending their empire, and had to house and feed their soldiers who were posted to a particular fort for a limited period of time, the American fort was designed to defend the home soil, and therefore the comfort and happiness of the soldiers was of more importance and considered in the design.
4"x5" film
When I first had my tour of the fort, I was torn between photographing the interior of the quarters, and the other elements of the fort. As I knew I could spend a full day photographing the quarters alone, I decided to leave them for the second visit, when I would have already documented much of the fort, and would feel less guilty for indulging myself with so much time on such a limited part of the fort. The plan turns out to have been a wise one, as I spent 90% of my time on the second day inside the eastern walls where the officer's quarters were. As with the other forts, I spent some time using colour, as well as black and white. In the other spaces, I used the 14mm lens on my 35mm camera but with these rooms, a more refined, detailed approach was called for. I loaded some Astia in my 6x9 rangefinder and made a series of images using this high-quality transparency film. The most pleasing of these images, to the left, shows the delicacy of the peeled paint and mouldings, and the bare lathe below the plaster ceiling. The irony is that all the delicacy and detail is constructed on the inside of a casemented chamber that, in need, could be easily refitted to contain heavy weaponry and cannons.

The last half-hour of the day was spent along the south wall, photographing the simpler quarters of the rank and file. These rooms were finished with plaster over the vaulting and lathe and plaster on the walls, and were more obviously of dual purpose, with the room more than open enough to move armament into quickly.
4"x5" film
The last image, above, was of a retrofitted room with a stairway that was added in the early 20th century to access a two-storied brick building that was placed above the original walls. The moment I saw the space, I fell in love with its visual organization, with the smooth arc of the ceiling being interrupted with by the angular slash of the stairs. What made the entire image for me, though, was the small detail of the vertical supports of the lowest step, revealed behind the peeled veneer on the corner of the step.

The second day at Fort Adams added to what I'd started a week before, but still left about 1/2 the fort unphotographed. The start I have made with Adams is a good indication of what I'd like to complete, given time and resources to return to New England again.

August 31, 2000

Bernice Models by a Stream (Canajoharie Creek, New Hampshire)

The last session with Bernice was at the old mill, which Bill had taken me to the week before. My first thought, when I saw the foundations and remains in the woods, was how perfect a place it would be for a model. After driving to New Hampshire, we met up with Bill, who guided us to the old mill, and assisted us through the session.
4"x5" film
My intuition was right, and almost as soon as we started working, Bernice and I had successes. The light was perfect, with an overcast sky filtered through a high canopy of trees providing a wonderfully even, delicate illumination to the entire forest floor. Where we started working, within the huge rock foundations of a building, the sky was more open, giving easily twice as much light as elsewhere in the woods. In some ways, working with the foundations walls was a little frustrating - they provided a background more than an environment, and much of the work we produced used it as such, with no attempt to incorporate the lines or other qualities of the rocks into the pose.
4"x5" film
We worked in a methodical way, having walked through the site before we started, and identified spaces we felt had potential. After finishing with the foundations, we moved along the stream, working on the huge rocks and with the large trees. These spaces worked a little more fluidly, with the pose and body placement coming from the lines of the landscape. As the day moved on though, the exposures lengthened; it was three o'clock when we began, and by five, the exposures were reaching into the second long range. I only had ten sheets of 400 speed film with me, so many of the exposures were made on 100 speed film, resulting in longer shutter-speeds than I would like, normally, but the poses were more than easy for Bernice to hold steady, and the resulting images are both crisp and well exposed.
4"x5" film
In contrast to the first day of work I did with Bernice, the work created on this day was more considered, and a little less hectic. There was time for reflection and consideration, which I think shows in the results. I am very pleased with the body of work she and I created over such a short period,. and hope to have the opportunity to continue my work with Bernice at a later date.

Bernice in the Woods (New Hamsphire)

Our drive to New Hampshire was shorter than anticipated, even with a stop for a picnic lunch, and Bernice and I arrived about an hour before we were to meet my friend who had kindly offered to guide us to the old mill site on the Canajoharie Creek where I'd photographed a week before.
4"x5" film
Not wanting to waste the time, Bernice and I drove up into the hills and parked in an out-of-the-way spot. We set off into the woods with cameras in hand until we found a space that spoke to us, at which point we unpacked and set to work. The forest, like the one in Long Island, was very different from what I was used to in Nova Scotia, and presented something of a challenge in terms of posing. Where Nova Scotian woods are often filled with granite boulders, the New Hampshire woods was uncluttered and barren; we had to substitute the roots of the trees themselves as posing spaces, working with one particular tree that had particularly pronounced roots.
4"x5" film
I often avoid the obvious poses, partially because I feel they have been done before, and also because I fear my work will become cliché. That has to be balanced, however, with what a scene calls for, and with the strongest of the forest nudes, a simple back-on pose seemed the most appropriate, with Bernice's strong shoulder and sweeping back contrasting nicely with the downward lines of the tree behind her. After making this image, however, I asked Bernice to "fall" to her right, until she came against the tree; the result is above, with a much more complex set of lines to the pose, and a wonderfully tense hand capping it all off. Time being what it was, we never really had a chance to take advantage of what this space had to offer; before we'd made a dozen negatives, we had to pack back up and head down the hill to meet Bernice, and begin the real pursuit of the day, working with the old mill's remains.

Bernice Indoors (Boston, Massachusetts)

My second day of work with Bernice began at five in the morning, which marked the beginning of the commute into Boston proper, though I didn't actually meet up with her until ten o'clock.
4"x5" film
After a second light breakfast, and some chatting about the previous day's work, we got things underway. I had hoped to do some indoor work with Bernice, and one look at her apartment told me where we'd work - a comfortable white couch in her living room was perfect.

Lit by a large set of windows, the light on the couch was soft and wonderfully descriptive, giving some beautiful highlights, and nice, flowing shadows. The posing consisted of asking Bernice to "get comfortable" and then exploring the possibilities. One of the strengths of the couch in her living room was it was perfect for lounging about, with large pillows at both ends. Too often in the studio I ask models to get comfortable on hard floors with only a pillow or two - it was nice to ask for something that for once was a reasonable expectation.
4"x5" film
The soft light, combined with Bernice's comfort with modeling, lead to a very strong sequence of images. We worked fairly quickly, moving between poses and perspectives fluidly. I focused on the complementary relationship between the lines and shadows on the couch and those of Bernice's body. I also worked more than usual with limited depth of field. I've been using this technique in the studio recently, but applying it with natural light was unusual for me. The results were very pleasing, with the sharply focused portions pulling the eye to one portion, and the elegantly out-of-focus areas seducing it elsewhere. The combination of the two makes for a very complex visual plane.
4"x5" film
The couch session was a good start to the day. Its pace was totally natural, with Bernice changing poses when she became stiff, and I asking for something different when I'd run out of possibilities. The light, combined with the setting and model, all added up to a perfect combination. The work only came to a close when Bernice and I agreed we'd exhausted the possibilities of the space. We were both eager to get on the road to the spaces we'd planned to work with later in the day, so after a good hour of working with the possibilities on the couch, we packed up the cameras and headed off to New Hampshire.

August 30, 2000

Bernice at Peddock's Island (Boston Harbour, Massachusetts)

When we finally arrived at Peddock's Island, our plans again changed, modified by the situation. I had initially expected to work with the woods on the island, but when I discovered that the area we'd arrived in was scattered with old abandoned buildings, I quickly became distracted.
4"x5" film
Most of the houses were inaccessible - and for good reason- most were in such dilapidated shape that they were pretty much beyond repair and were probably hazardous to enter. We did, however, come across an old hospital building in moderate shape. We worked in this place, playing with both the rich textures of the abandoned building, and with the wonderful light coming through the shattered windows and broken ceilings.

As with the stairway nudes, working for the first time with a new mode in such a space was a chance, as many of the poses involved second long exposures but the risk paid off, and only one of the ten exposures we made had any hint of motion blur to it.
4"x5" film
After we'd explored the abandoned infirmary, we walked back to the shoreline and down along the beach. As we'd arrived by the ferry I'd seen a number of large rocks and driftwood trees I'd thought had possibilities, and as we had to get the ferry back to the city, I thought it better for us to finish up on the shore, rather than back in the woods away from the dock.

This time my intuition paid off, and the rocks provided us with a number of good images - by this point Bernice was loosening up some and had begun to find her own poses, as opposed to relying upon me for direction. I used a 35mm camera as we worked swiftly from space to space to record the possibilities. When particularly strong poses, like the one to the right, occurred, I set up the 4"x5" and made a more refined considered response to the pose. Using the 35mm camera as a exploratory tool has become a more and more common in my work in the past year or so.
4"x5" film
On the whole, the first day of work with Bernice was varied and rich, and while we didn't actually work together for all that long, the time we did have was well used. The best element was the reality that we still had a full day ahead of us to work within, and that this day, which also yielded some excellent work, was also an ice-breaker for what was to come.

Bernice Posing in Fort Warren, Boston, MA

Like Yvette, Bernice had also contacted me through my website about modeling. When she'd first emailed, she was in Toronto, Canada, and while I visit Toronto from time to time, the chances of me doing some figure work in that area were slim. Several months later, however, she relocated to Boston. As I was already planning the New England Expedition, I had hoped to meet up with her to make some images.
35mm infrared film
We managed to get together during my second week in the area, and for lack of a better place to work, we headed out to the harbour, hoping to model in some of the more remote areas of the islands. Our plans went awry almost from the beginning, as we arrived on George's Island only to find that is was 90 minutes before the next ferry to our destination, Peddock's Island, was to depart. Not wanting to just sit and wait, I suggested to Bernice that we walk through the fort - being new to Boston, she'd never been out to the island and I thought she might enjoy seeing it. So we walked up to the fort, and I began the tour, starting with, naturally, the spiral stairs.
4"x5" film
As it turned out, her immediate reaction to the stairways was to ask if I wanted her to model in them. I was a little concerned about doing a figure session in such a populated area (there were other visitors crawling all over the fort), but as we had a clear line of site on the top of the wall, and I would be blocking the stairway with my tripod from below, we decided it was a small risk, compared to the possible results.
4"x5" film
The results, 30 minutes later, felt really good (one of the problems of working so far from home is that you never get to SEE the results until a week or more later). While the space was small and confined, the 75mm lens on the 4"x5" was more than up to the job, and Bernice proved herself almost immediately to be a strong model, setting up the pose clothed, and then, after checking for strolling visitors, quickly re-finding the pose nude for the final exposure. In some ways, this was a less than ideal way to begin a new relationship with a model - in a space with so little time for image refinement, or casual work, but at the same time, the work was worth the effort, and it made the rest of the day seem like a cake walk.