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 Zoƫ, 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.