May 18, 2000

Jennifer's Second Session (Halifax, Nova Scotia)

The second session with Jennifer was quite different from the first; the initial question about a first-time model were answered, and instead of going into a studio with a large question-mark in my mind, I knew what would be the focus of the session, and what direction I wished to propel it.
4"x5" film
Given the strength of the portraits we had created during our initial sessions, I decided to continue building on these. The main focus was to be on nude portraits, concentrating on the beauty of Jennifer's face, and the powerful confidence of her eyes, looking directly into the camera.
4"x5" film
As we met at the studio in the early evening, available light wasn't an option, so I set up the studio flash. Because the window light at the end or the previous session with Jennifer had been so successful, I opted for a broad, even light-source as opposed to more directional light. This gave a smooth, even light to the images, not quite a high-key set-up (where there were no shadows), but certainly very appropriate for the images I was seeking.
4"x5" film
After making a number of "straight-forward" portraits, I changed the set-up, laying white cloth on the floor over cushions. I asked Jennifer to "flop" onto the floor, and make herself comfortable, and then proceeded to explore the possibilities her undirected pose provided. The results were striking; setting the camera at an odd angle, drawing from the pose as opposed to the horizon, gave the results an odd perspective. This, tied to the use of the focus controls on the view camera produced what I feel are strong companions to the already striking portraits of Jennifer made three weeks before.

May 08, 2000

Victoria at Long Lake (Halifax, Nova Scotia)

This session marked my first time working outdoors with Victoria since our work in Alberta, but since she is still extremely busy with her dance and university courses, we only had a couple of hours to work together. Hoping to make the most of the time, we worked close to the city, alongside a lake.
6x9 cm film
One of the most difficult conditions to photograph under is a sunny day; the direct sunshine creates high contrast situations that are hard to combat, even with the flexibility of black and white film. In addition to the contrast problems, direct sunshine also severely restricts the poses, throwing hard shadows across the body, and ruining otherwise strong poses with glaring highlights. This can be off-set to a degree with black and white film, by over exposing the negatives (which increases the shadow information on the film), and then cutting the development time to compensate (this keeps the negative contrast down). While this is not as pleasing as working on an overcast day, it does help make workable images with some shadow detail.
6x9 cm film
This session was unusual, in that I left my view camera at home, and just took the Fuji 6x9 and the Canon 35mm camera. While the main motivation for the light equipment load was the short time that Victoria had for modeling, it would also serve as a good field test for the 6x9 camera, which I had yet to use with a model outdoors. Normally, I'd never use a figure session for equipment testing but given Victoria's strength as a model, I knew that any problems in the session would be rooted in my adjustment to the new camera and not any reflection on her. I seldom work hand-held, and found it a little frustrating to frame everything without the stability of a tripod, but this was offset by the ease of use, and speed which I could move from image to image.
6x9 cm film
In the end, while the 35mm infrared images had their successes, it was the 6x9 camera which created my favourite images from the session. It always takes some time to adjust to a new camera, but the images created with the 6x9 surprised me with their strength. Setting out without my main camera, made me a little hesitant in regard to the results, but I am pleased with the outcome.

May 06, 2000

Point Pleasant Battery (Halifax, Nova Scotia)

On the first sunny day after endless drizzle and rain (or so it seemed to me) I set off to Point Pleasant Park to spend the day roaming and focusing very tightly on the coast battery at the very western edge of the park.
6x7 cm film
Probably the hardest part of working at Point Pleasant is keeping the people out of the images - several images took many minutes to create, simple because of having to wait for people to move out of the frame. For the past 18 months or so, I've focused almost exclusively on the Nude, a generally spectator-free pursuit. Working in a public park with the view camera often attracts an audience (many of whom ask how old the "antique" camera is). For the final image here, a young boy watched from the window in the middle of the image with great interest as I set up the camera but showed no inclination toward moving out of the image when I was ready to go. Eventually, the withering gaze of three waiting photographers got the better of him and he fled the scene.
4"x5" film
The pleasure of working with an engaging subject, at a leisurely pace, cannot be exaggerated With the Nude, there is always the model's time-frame to consider, but with architecture, I can take all the time I wish, waiting for the right light, for people to move, or for the clouds to move into position or out of frame..
On the whole, the day spent working with the ruins at Point Pleasant was thoroughly enjoyable. True to form, in the four hours I spent working, I probably moved less than 200 meters from where I started - the joy of working with patient, static subjects was refreshing and novel; I have been too long away from the forts.

May 01, 2000

Portraits of Carol (Halifax, Nova Scotia)

The evening following the session with Jennifer found me back in the studio, this time to make portraits of a close friend, Carol, who is also a photographer. Carol and I have been discussing the assorted issues surrounding my work for some time, and recently, she'd suggested modelling for portraits as a way of getting a better sense of how I work.
4"x5" film
The biggest difference between the afternoon and evening session was how much easier it was to work with studio flash at night, when the studio is absolutely dark. Whereas during the previous day's session with Jennifer I chose to abandon flash in favour of available light, in the evening, I was easily able to see exactly how the image was being lit by the strobes, and adjust the lighting accordingly.

Focusing just on portraiture (as I did with Staci two weeks before) again grew into a challenge, and the process was almost a mirror of the session with Staci. We began with conventional portraits, and got exactly what I expected, conservative, traditional images. Wanting to shake the session up, I shifted to a much less traditional mode, asking Carol to lie back on a chair, with her head arched back towards the camera. As soon as I saw the results on my camera's ground-glass, I knew this was what I wanted.
4"x5" film
The best images from the session were variations of the head-back images; one direct on, taking advantage of the narrow depth of field of the view camera to throw all but the eye-lashes out of focus, and the other playing on the flow of Carol's hair, and using an angular composition to increase the tension within the image. On the whole, I am much more pleased with the work that I had expected - portraiture normally does not inspire me, but with this work, I am very enthusiastic about the results.

Jennifer's First Session (Halifax, Nova Scotia)

There is always the risk at the initial setting with a new model that the first set of images will be a write-off, marred perhaps by the nervousness of the model or simply by the desire of both the model and I to get through the "adjusting to modeling" stage and get on with the work. With this session, however, there are successes in the images made in the first ten minutes. My favourite, to the right. is not technically a nude, but I doubt the image could have been made clothed - the delicacy and openness of the photo would have been less apparent without the vulnerability that the hidden nudity lends to the pose.
35mm infrared film
Working with a person new to modeling is always a challenge - it usually takes some time to develop a rapport, and often a first session is just the initial step towards a solid working relationship. Until a session is actually underway, it is really hard to tell if the model is as strong as I'd hoped, or will need some time to reach their full potential. In this case, I knew within the first fifteen minutes of the session that all I had hoped for with Jennifer, and more, could be achieved.
35mm transparency film
I had initially approached Jennifer about modeling in late March, but it wasn't until five weeks later that she had enough time to spare to work with me. Because the weather here is still poor, we arranged a time for the studio, and set to work. Jennifer had never modeled nude before, but quickly became comfortable, working well before the camera and displaying little evidence of nervousness or trepidation.

After working with the studio strobes for an hour or so, I switched to available light, using a window diffused by white sheers. While studio flash is much brighter than diffused window light, the large, even illumination of the covered window is hard to beat, and provides me with much more inspiration than the far more controllable studio flash.
4"x5" film
My favourite image of the session, above, was another of those "hold that pose, don't move" moments. Jennifer had been waiting for me to set something up, and had stretched her arm - at that moment I glanced and saw the light on her face, and her fingers flowing towards her breasts, and I knew the image had to be made. The exposure was made at a very wide aperture, f/8 on an f/5.6 lens, at 1/4 of a second, but is tack sharp, to the point that the room behind me is visible, reflected in her eyes. There is literally nothing I would do to change this image - it is exceeds everything I saw at the moment of creation.

As is often the case with new models, the images that Jennifer and I made during her first session focused predominantly upon her face - her personality providing a focus for a session with no real goals, beyond my beginning a relationship with a new model.