July 31, 2000

Glacial Landscape (Peggy's Cove, Nova Scotia)

6x9 cm film
This day was an unusual one for me - a day of casual photography, with no real purpose in mind, and yet containing the desire to create. Unlrich, an Alberta Portfolio patron from Europe was visiting Nova Scotia, and I offered to give him a small tour of part of the province. We selected Peggy's cove to visit - apart from being one of the biggest tourist attractions in Nova Scotia, it is also one of the most beautiful spaces (apart from all the tourists). So after driving out, we all spent a couple of hours roaming the rocks, making images, and enjoying the day.
6x9 cm film
The outcome of this day was interesting, on several levels. I worked only with the 6x9 rangefinder, preferring to work casually and quickly. As the day was bright and sunny, with a clear blue sky, I initially loaded the camera with transparency film, thinking the day called for colour images. Once I started working, however, almost all that attracted my eyes were monochrome images, so as soon as I was through the 8 colour images on the first roll, I reloaded with black and white, and finished the afternoon working with that medium. All that said, in some ways, the most successful images came from the single roll of colour - though the photos are best described as "pretty", they are more pleasing and visually stimulating than the best of the black and white, though there were successes there as well. So the only thing that bothers me now is the realization that a "pretty" picture holds my interest for very little time.

July 25, 2000

Clair Models at the Coast (Prospect, Nova Scotia)

The second session with Claire took place on one of the best days of the year, photographically speaking. The light was absolutely perfect for the beginning of the day, with high, thin cloud softening the sun, and providing a wonderfully bright, even light to work by. The warm temperature was offset by the cool breeze off the ocean, and even when the sun did emerge from the clouds, we managed to work with the changed light, and produce another solid day's work.
6x9 cm film
One of the pleasures of Prospect as a place to work is the incredible richness and variety of the landscape. Though I'd worked on the shore at Prospect before, I'd never made it past the first 500 meters, the space was that full of potential. For this session, however, we walked right past the areas where I'd worked before, opting instead to explore the possibilities of the landscape beyond the familiar. This approach quickly produced fruit, in a series of images we created on a crest of blackened granite right by the ocean. The rock, sheltering a small tidal pool, rose between the shore and the sea, presenting a dark, crack-scarred ridge against a bright, featureless sky. Just below the crest of the ridge ran a long, deep crevasse, which I asked Claire to work with; almost instantly the image came together, as she reached her arm out along the smaller ridge. I made a number of variations of the image, but the one including the sky is by far the strongest, with Clair's pale torso and arm set against the dark rock, mirroring the sky.
4"x5" film
From the black rock, we moved almost directly to working with the whitened granite further in from the water. The sun had come out, and rather than fight against its high contrast, we worked back into the shade of the rock cliffs. I made several images of Claire's torso and hips on the narrow ledges of the cliffs, but after making those, as she was trying to maneuver into a new pose, the beauty of the light falling upon her arrested me. "Don't move" I cried as I quickly framed the image, and made the exposure. The results speak for themselves. The image is tack-sharp, down the to loose strand of hair crossing her face - a breath-taking portrait, and by far one of my best images of the year.
4"x5" film
Unfortunately, the sun remained present for the remainder of the session, forcing me to work with the increased contrast and directional shadows that brings. In response, we moved up off the rock plains directly by the ocean, and onto the glacial fields that sweep back inland - vast stretches of scrub and brush littered with glacial debris. It was these rocks with helped make some of the more dynamic images of the day - inland, thunderheads were forming, and I worked with Claire on the crest of a lone glacial bolder, set against the wispy clouds and forming clouds behind her. Using a red filter to increase the contrast of the sky, I managed to make an image that uses both the quiet, static pose, and a fluid, dramatic sky together. In some ways, the images of the rock and sky I made with Claire remind me of my water nudes - fluid and concrete at the same time.

The results of the second session with Claire certainly build on the results of the first. Her increased comfort and understanding of the process, combined with such a wonderful day and space to work with, yielded a rich variety of images, which, when combined with the work from the first session, belies the fact we have only worked together twice.

July 18, 2000

Claire First Session (Three Pools, Nova Scotia)

I'd first photographed Three Pools in the fall of 1999 when a friend showed me the location. Ever since, my mind had been swirling with the possibilities, as almost every space we came across called out to me for a figure to be incorporated.

Claire came to know my work though a mutual friend, Cheryl, who worked with me extensively in 1999. An experienced figure model for the drawing and painting, Claire wanted to try working as a photographic model, and encouraged by Cheryl's enthusiasm for my images, and a couple of prints she saw on Cheryl's walls, she contacted me and expressed her interest. After meeting, looking over my work and discussing the process, she was even keener.
4"x5" film
While I am more than happy to work with a model for even as little as an hour at one time, my preference is to work without time-restraints. There is something particularly enjoyable about being able to photograph without concern for the clock - the images that happen happen, and there is no fear of running out of time to make the next ones. This is how the first session with Claire was structured. Three Pools is about 90 minutes from Halifax, and all told, excluding the driving time, we worked together for about five hours. This was an incredible luxury, permitting me to let images come as they would, as opposed to trying to make them happen, as time was running out.
4"x5" film
It became quickly apparent how good a model Claire was - not just in terms of her ability to work with a pose, but because of her work ethic, and enthusiasm for the process. When she'd first seen my work, she commented on how much she liked the water nudes, so we began in the river, working in the shallow water as it flowed around the rocks and between the high banks of the small valley. Thought the water was cool, and a little shocking at first, Claire hung in, and the first set of images had a number of success - the biggest problem being the fast-moving clouds that changed the light levels from one moment to the next.
4"x5" film
The greatest pleasure of the first session with Claire was the strength and variety of work we produced. Including rock, tree and water nudes in a single session is challenging, not only for the model, in terms of adapting to different environments, but for myself as well, as all three require slightly different approached to the image creation; the lens and exposure selection for each subject affects them differently, but with few exceptions, the images form this first session with Claire show how strong a contribution she made to the work as a whole.

July 17, 2000

Aeyla's Pregnancy (Halifax, Nova Scotia)

The last year seems to have been particularly fortunate, in regards to finding pregnant models to work with. Last fall, I photographed Laura , then I worked with Nancy early this year, and now Aeyla. I actually was told by Aeyla of her pregnancy in late March, but it was only now, at five months, that we were able to arrange for a session. I first worked with Aeyla in 1997.
In contrast to our first studio session in 1999, this evening went very well - I suspect this is because there was something specific to focus upon, and the entire session, from start to end, had a very clear sense of purpose. I think the biggest irony of working with pregnant models is that while Western Culture reveres and worships "thin", the whole goal of images of the pregnant Nude is to glorify and celebrate the swelling belly and full curves of the expectant mother.
35mm infrared film
My favourite images from this session are a pair of 4"x5" negatives of Aeyla standing that I produced on the 4"x5" camera (one of these is above to the right). To make these images, I used a lens tilt on the camera to isolate the focus of the models head, throwing the rest of her figure gradually out of focus. The delicate quality of the defocused figure really appeals to me, though in the past using this technique has drawn some criticism from those who feel it is "non-photographic". The beauty of the image as a print leaves no doubt in my mind about the effectiveness of the technique.
4"x5" film
As I said above, the session went extremely well, with Aeyla and I both working in tandem to come up with poses that were both comfortable for her, and effective for what I was after. The importance of the mother-to-be's hands on her belly, first noticed with Nancy this spring, reappeared, and became the centre of a number of the images.

July 11, 2000

A Pair of Models at the Coast (East Pennant, Nova Scotia)

I'd worked with Staci earlier this year, making a number of successful portraits of her in the studio in April, but this was the first time I'd worked with her for a figure session. The session was actually a joint session, with Staci and her friend Lacy both modeling for me (Staci was along as moral support for Lacy who had seen my work a week before, said she would like to model, but was a little nervous - so Staci came to the rescue). The day we had available to work on was sunny and hot, so we headed to the coast, and worked on the granite shoreline between the broad Atlantic and the tree line.
4"x5" film
Working with two models outdoors can be a difficult proposition, and is made even more challenging when the models are not together in a relationship. This said, in the past, I have managed to produce a number of good outdoor images with two models, so I had some previous experience to build upon. With Staci and Lacy, the dynamic was particularly interesting, as both were interested in modeling by themselves, but had said they were fine with being together in the same image. As both had never worked nude with me before, I let them chose who'd model first - they opted to pose together, and the first image, to the top right, is the result.
35mm infrared film
The rest of the session alternated between one model or the other working on their own, and when the composition called for it, the second model being added to the image. Often someone would see a space, and point out what they envisioned with it - we'd frame up the image, insert the model, refine the pose, and make the exposure. Once the initial image was made, I'd sometimes introduce a different pose, or even ask the other model into the image, building a totally different composition. The freedom to work with two models, when the image called for it, was really enjoyable - both models had similar body shapes, so the solo images were almost interchangeable, but the complexity and interplay that arose when the two models were in the same frame was really engaging.

Probably the most interesting aspect of the day was how the dynamic of working with the two models affected my work process. Where usually I concentrate on working with my view camera, and use the two smaller cameras to create variations, on this day most of my work was done on the 6x9 and 35mm cameras, with only a dozen or so 4"x5"'s being made over the five hours we worked. One of the reasons for this decision was that many of the images relied upon the flow of the sea for their success, and it made more sense to make multiple possibilities on roll film than the more expensive 4"x5" film.
4"x5" film
The day was a wonderful experience - the warm sunlight and cool breeze off the ocean making it perfect for working with the Nude, and both models grew comfortable with the process quickly and easily. The results reflected the day, with some very successful photos, both of the individual women, and of them together.

July 10, 2000

Zoë in the Studio (Halifax, Nova Scotia)

As I have said elsewhere, one of the biggest influence the Internet has had on my work is through the models who have worked with me because of discovering my work online. Zoë had contacted me in the spring about working with me as she was visiting the Halifax area for two weeks in July (she actually lives thousands of kilometres away), and we'd agreed to try to work together during her trip.
35mm transparency film
In the end, though Zoë was in Halifax as planned, it took us almost a week to finally meet and make some images. As the only time she had free was in the evening, we worked in the studio, as opposed to outdoors. Working with a new model is always challenging because there is no way to know what to expect, but in the case of someone who hadn't modeled nude before, there is also the element of how they'll respond to that specific element of the experience. With Zoë, the nudity wasn't an issue at all, with her totally comfortable with the process. More than that, though, I very quickly discovered that she was gifted with a wonderful body sense - as soon as I'd make one image, and tell her I was finished, she'd subtly alter the pose, slowly moving through a series of variations, often creating a totally new image without any direction from me. As my major frustration with the studio is how little it provides one to work with in the way of inspiration, having a model who spontaneously created poses was a real treat.
35mm infrared film
The session went well from the beginning, but the real gems came out of the final 1/2 hour. As Zoë was familiar with my website, she was fully aware of my experimentation with the mirror, and more than keen to end the session working with it. What amazes me about the mirror is that though it is a simple construct, every session is so different from the previous one.
35mm infrared film
Most of my mirror work to date has been done with hand-held cameras, 35mm with infrared and colour, or 120 with black and white film. In this case, however, I began by making a handful of 4"x5" images, relying upon Zoë's patience and ability to hold a pose to make the images a success. The mirror images seem to very much rely upon accurate framing, and the major reason for me opting to use smaller camera is because of their design (being single-les reflex cameras where an image can be made as soon as it is realized in the viewfinder) and because of the speed with which they can be operated. With the 4"x5", however, it is often as much as 20 seconds after I am pleased with the composition on the ground glass that the exposure is made - thus the importance of the model staying still. The final results, both from the 4"x5" and 35mm infrared, are very strong and push the mirror work even farther. At some point I shall edit this body of work down to the best images, and create a folio for them, but for the moment, they reside only in a small number of images in the 1999 and 2000 photo diaries.
4"x5" film
As much as I enjoyed working with Zoë, the session was a source of real frustration for me. Zoë and I had talked by e-mail of working several times over the two weeks she was in Halifax, but circumstances conspired against us, and we only managed the single session. To work with such a good model, and get such good results, and yet be unable to take the work further with more sessions, was a bitter pill - all I can hope is that I get the opportunity to work with Zoë again in the future, should she return to Halifax or I venture to her part of the world.

July 07, 2000

Victoria In the Woods (Halifax, Nova Scotia)

It always fascinates me the variety of images possible with a single model. I've worked with Victoria dozens of times, and yet every time we work together, we still manage to create engaging and successful images. While each session builds on the larger body of work, I am often surprised at how much fresh imagery we manage to come up with, even after working together for so long. The question of the success of the photos doesn't rest simply with the model, the setting or me - all three combine in a creative alchemy to build on an already sizable body of work.
6x9 cm film
On this particular afternoon, I took advantage of the soft light in the forest surrounding York Redoubt to make a number of images below the tree canopy. Working on a tripod frees me from any concern about the length of exposures, and knowing Victoria as well as I did, I had no hesitation making images with second-long exposures. The long exposure times were necessitated by a combination of the lower light levels on the forest floor, and my using relatively small apertures (lens openings) to insure a sharp focus throughout the images.
4"x5" film
 For this session, I split colour and black & white between two cameras, loading the 6x9 rangefinder with Fuji Astia, a wonderful transparency (slide) film specially designed for people images. The moderate contrast and colour saturation of the colour film produced a number of wonderfully detailed images of Victoria, the best of which begins this entry - I find the huge rock outcrop somewhat reminiscent of an overgrown Stonehenge.
4"x5" film
With my 4"x5", the session ran the full range of my lenses. Within the woods, we came across a wonderfully twisted fallen tree that Victoria managed to further twist herself around. Initially I was at a loss as to how to translate the pose into a successful image, but once I put the 75mm wide angle lens on the 4"x5", and moved in closer, the composition came together with the up thrust of the branch and arm leading into the rest of the image. In a similar manner, at the end of the session, while working on rocks above the trees, I changed to my 12" long lens to make the portrait of Victoria against the sky, using the narrow depth of field and compression of space to set her body against the evening sky and distant trees, without distracting from the light across her torso. On the whole, for a short session lasting less than two hours, the results were both strong and varied. Moving swiftly from space to space, making only a few images in each setting seems to yield better results than staying in a single space until all possibilities are truly exhausted.

July 01, 2000

Building on the Work with Kris (Halifax, Nova Scotia)

I first worked with Kris in 1996, and it was her enthusiasm and indulgence that lead to my first experimentation with water nudes. Since the winter of that year, I've only worked with her once - school and life-stuff conspired against us. Thus, I was pleasantly surprised when I met up with Kris in June, and even more pleased when she agreed to modeling for me sometime later in the summer.
4"x5" film
The day we set for the session was Canada Day, making this the fourth year in a row that this day has yielded strong work. Initially we'd hoped to work on the coast, but when we drove out, we discovered it was covered by fog. Rather than giving up the day, we decided to work on the rocks and military ruins of York Redoubt.
4"x5" film
The greatest irony of the day was that while it was foggy and cool at the coast, at York Redoubt, five miles inland, there wasn't a cloud in the sky, and the sun shone uninterrupted for the entire session making the afternoon hot and contrasty.
4"x5" film
Normally, direct sunlight is less than optimal for photographing outdoors but we were close to some abandoned military buildings. We spent much of tour time working indoors, taking advantage of the high amount of reflected light coming through the large windows. Unlike the direct sunlight, the reflected light was soft and even, making it a pleasure to work with.