May 28, 2002

Workshop Day 3 (Prospect, Nova Scotia)

The last day of the workshop was with at one of my favourite locations in Nova Scotia; Prospect has
served to provide me with some of the richest and most beautiful images of the Nude to date. This,
together with the simple pleasure of working in such a beautiful space, made it the perfect place to close the final day of the workshop. Ironically, while I've worked many times at Prospect, this was Victoria's first session at this location.
6x9 cm negative

As with the previous day, I'd brought the 8"x10" camera as my main imaging tool. While the student, using small and medium format cameras, worked at a more rapid pace with Victoria, I proceeded at a slower pace, setting up compositions, and then borrowing Victoria to complete the images as necessary. In between these more considered images, I sketched with my medium format Fuji 6x9 camera, working in both colour and black and white, as the images demanded. The results from both cameras were more than pleasing,
8"x10" film
I often use smaller, more portable cameras to explore possibilities before moving in with the view camera, but for this session, I reversed the process, following my intuition with my primary camera. The difference between the two approaches is subtle, but pursuing the first perception with the larger, more demanding camera, kept the session focused
4"x10" film
The biggest influence of the workshop on my work for the day was the distraction factor; while I am used to working with assistants and others around, the constant division of my attention between the student and my own images took its toll, not on the images themselves, but on the process - the day was riddled with minor errors and mistakes. All this aside, the three-day workshop provided my with lessons, as well as the student.

May 27, 2002

Workshop Day 2 - Part II (Halifax, Nova Scotia)

After we finished up working at Spion Copp, the four of us (two models, two photographers) packed up and headed for the coast - the bugs at the forest-bound fort had been increasingly annoying, so we opted to try for a less insect-infested space.
6x7 cm film
As it turned out, the coast was enshrouded in fog, which while it gave a wonderfully soft light to work with, also put a chill wind in the air that pretty much ruled out open air modeling. We walked along the shore, hoping for possibilities, when we came across one of the old search-light emplacements from the Second World War. The space provided both shelter from the wind and graphic lines against which to place the Nude. I was initially content to let Victoria and my student work, alternating between holding a reflector and making my own interpretations of the poses that arose from the work with the concrete walls.
6x7 cm film
It was during this process that I began to muse on the possibilities of the space for a digital image; ever since I first worked in York Redoubt's with Bili and Joe, I had wondered about the possibilities of using models as caryatids. I described what I was thinking of to the models, and while the day had got nothing but colder, both were willing to make the images necessary for the creation of the image I had in mind.

The first image of the caryatids, was simple enough to make; both women worked hard to mirror the other's pose, with great success. The lighting was perfect for the image, with the fog outside softening the contrast to a point that there was almost no difference in the illumination of the side walls of the room and the front floor.
8"x10" film
We then shifted to making the central image; Carol and Victoria tried several different poses when suddenly it clicked, with the two of the overlapping their arms, and their bodies flowing out from the centre. I made the image and then realized (after the models had dressed) that I'd made a critical error - I'd neglected to refocus the camera after the first image - though it was taken with a wide angle lens, the depth of field was not enough to record the second pose, at the front of the room, in sharp focus. I asked the models if they'd be willing to make the image again (by this time, the chill of the afternoon had taken effect, and both models were thoroughly cold) and they both agreed, not hesitating. It is this kind of confidence in the process and results that is impossible to get through any other means then collaboration.

A Workshop - Day 2 Part I (Halifax, Nova Scotia)

6x9 cm negative
The second day of the workshop had two models, Carol and Victoria; the idea was to give the student more time to work independently, and also to give his the opportunity to work with two models at once, a challenging task at the best of times.
8"x10" film
Though the models had never worked together before, there was an instant rapport and comfort between them, which only helped the process along. Unlike the first day, this session saw me working with the 8"x10" camera - I'd left the larger camera home the previous afternoon, in favour of the smaller, more portable Mamiya RB. The choice proved to be a good one, as the slower pace of the day suited the larger format, and between the 8"x10" camera and my Fuji 6x9 rangefinder, there weren't any images I wanted to make but couldn't.
8"x10" film
The most enjoyable part of the session for me was the chance to try a new (and free) tool for the 8"X10" camera - a 4"x10" panoramic adapter. Made from a dark slide cut in half, the panoramic
adapter permits me to make two narrow images on a single sheet of film. I was somewhat dubious that the approach would work, so the workshop seemed the perfect time to test it; the emphasis was less on making new images then it was in providing insight into process and support for image making. As it turned out, the adapter worked wonderfully, providing me with a number of images which would have otherwise have had too much dead space around them. Given that one of my biggest frustrations with 8"x10" images is the almost square shape of the negative, being able to make strong, graphic horizontals (or verticals) expands further on an already flexible tool.
4"x10" film

May 26, 2002

A Workshop - Day 1 (Halifax, Nova Scotia)

One of the biggest internal debates I have is in regards to teaching workshops; I regularly teach basic photography on a small scale, but where that is concerned with a straight-forward technical process, a workshop on photographing the nude encompasses an entirely different set of issues. It is one thing to teach exposure and development, and quite another to give an outsider insight into learning how to see. Add to that the added issues of fairly compensating the models while still making the entire process financially reasonable, the simple reality of the weather, and things get rapidly more complex.
6x7 cm film
All that said, when I was approached by an American photographer about facilitating a one-on-one workshop for him on working with the nude, I decided after some debate to agree. After some on-line and phone conversations, I planned out three days of intensive photography of the Nude.
6x7 cm film
Fortunately, unlike the previous sessions, the weekend of the workshop was relatively warm (I say relatively because while the air was warm, there was a significant breeze that kept a chill in the air), and permitted us to work outdoors.. Our first day was spent working within the still leafless woods of Nova Scotia, working on both rocks and trees. Mixed with the great setting was the light, a near perfect mixture alternating between angular direct sun and soft, diffused light from behind high cloud.

The first day of the workshop, more then anything else, served to set the tone for the days to come. As the two of us photographed Carol, the model, in an alternating pattern, I tried to give insight into the process I use to create my work, while giving the student the freedom to take where I began and generate his own images off that beginning. On the whole, it was a fairly functional process.
6x7 cm film
One of the reasons I felt comfortable with the workshop as we designed it was that it facilitated my working, as well as the students; in this way, I both continued to build on my own imagery, and created compositions which permitted the student to look directly through my lens, and see what I was seeing. While there was a definite division of attention, with mine being split between the student and the model, I still managed to make a number of very successful images, my favourite of which were all made on infra-red or infra-red sensitive film.

May 20, 2002

Lynn Marie Outdoors (Feltzen South, Nova Scotia)

After the morning session with the skull was complete, we took a break for lunch, hoping that by early afternoon, the fog would have burned off, and the day warmed up enough to facilitate an outdoor session. As luck had it, this was the case, with the fog retreated to the open ocean, and the late day sun shining down on the rocks. It wasn't hot by any means, but Lynn Marie assured me it was warm enough to model, so off we went.
6x7 cm film
The Lunenburg Bay shore near Feltzen has become one of my favourite places to work since I discovered it during the Cassandra Portfolio. To date, each time I have worked there I have come away with striking images, and the more time I spend working with its rich rockscapes, the more I can see to work with. The debate of working with a space I know, and working with a new, unknown space is a hard one; with a known space, I am always, to a point, working against what I have already done, and have to struggle not to repeat myself. In seeking a new location to work, there is always the risk of having to settle for a less then ideal location, because something better came up. With a new model, I prefer to minimize the variables, and stick to know I know will work for the setting. This gives me the best chance of producing strong images, as I know the possibilities of the landscape ahead of time, and the only variables are what the models bring to the session.
6x7 cm film
In contrast to the indoor work, where the poses were either drawn from Lynn Marie's own body movement, or from the juxtaposition of her body and the caribou skull, the outdoor session's poses all came from the lines of the land, and evolved from the communication between the model and myself. This process is hard to explain, and impossible to prepare a model for. The only way to learn how well a model will interact with the landscape is to set to work, and see what happens.
6x7 cm film
In Lynn Marie's case, there was no problem in the translation from working indoors to outdoors; her main interest in my work came from the landscape Nudes, and very quickly into the session, she expressed how much she was enjoying the process. Both because of the limited time we had, and the fact it was Lynn Marie's first time modeling outdoors, I worked only with the smaller, faster roll film cameras, keeping the emphasis on the flow of the session, as opposed to the results. The outcome was more then pleasing, with several very successful images.

Lynn Marie Indoors (Feltzen South, Nova Scotia)

Lynn Marie came to me through her friendship with Carol; she'd viewed my work online, and approached me about wanting to model. The week passed, and one thing conflicted with another, but eventually the stars aligned, and we were able to set a date that worked for both of us.
6x7 cm film
As with the previous day, I'd hoped this would be an outdoor session, but the morning was cool and foggy, so we followed in Carol's footsteps and started our session indoors. For the first images we worked in a small bedroom, with Lynn Marie curled up on a corner chair, and then lying on the bed.

The light was wonderfully soft, diffused through the light fog that was still pervasive outside. This proved a great place to start, as it gave Lynn Marie a chance to get accustomed to the process while at the same time, it provided me with a physical space that gave some variation to the positions and poses possible for the model.
6x7 cm film
After a couple of rolls in the bedroom, we moved downstairs to the temporary studio I'd set up the previous day so we could continue the work I'd started with Carol and the skulls. This time, as opposed to a single caribou antler, I had a full skull and antler rack to work with. I'd known about the full rack the previous day, but had been reluctant to use it without the permission of the owner; for this session Joy headed over and asked, coming back shortly thereafter with the skull.

As with Carol, the introduction of the animal skull provided a catalyst for a whole series of images, each drawing directly from the interaction between the model and the lines and shape of the antlers and bone. Initially, I explored the skull in the most obvious ways, with the antlers curving up around Lynn Marie; this lead to some very striking compositions, the best of which were from a very low perspective, with the antlers sweeping up around the body. It was these images which I'd had in my mind's eye when I first saw the skull on the wall.
6x7 cm film
Once the most evident images were recorded, we proceeded to experiment more with the combination of the skull and the body, working both in close and with distant views. At one point, Lynn Marie stretched out her leg, and I was instantly reminded of an earlier image of Megan; I
placed the skull on the back of her thigh, and switched to a wide angle lens; what I saw took my
breath away! I refined the pose some, did what I could to even out the lines of the backdrop, and made the first exposure.

May 19, 2002

Carol Indoors (Feltzen South, Nova Scotia)

I had hoped this would be my first outdoor session with a model for the year, but the weather didn't co-operate; this spring has been one of the coldest I can remember, and though the day was sunny, the air was too cool for outdoor nudes. Fortunately, we had a good indoor space to work in, and rather then let the day go, we decided to do what we could indoors. As it turned out, the furnace was broken in the house we were using, so we had to resort to a fire in the woodstove to heat the house up to a reasonable temperature for working.
6x7 cm film
Though I had hoped to work on the Lunenburg Shoreline, I quickly reshaped my plans for the day to match the reality of the situation; I knew there was a wealth of possibilities to an indoor session, between straightforward Nudes to portraits, and more explorations with skulls and bone.

After a couple of rolls of portraits and bodyscapes that served as an icebreaker for Carol (it was her first session modeling nude), we began to work with a caribou antler, a beautiful white form which just called out to be mixed with the human body.
6x7 cm film
My first images of a Nude with a skull were made in Alberta, with Victoria, in 1999. These were followed up two years later with images of Cassandra with a skull. The combinations of the Nude and these natural forms is so beautiful, I suspect I could dedicate a whole project to the idea (I am already working on trying to get a moose skull and antlers for a photo session). With Carol , it didn't take long before we began to find poses that took full advantage of the lines and flow of the antler.

We worked on the floor with the caribou antler for a full hour, making a whole series of images that
played off the interplay of line and form. With that complete, we changed the setting and the image content, with Carol working against a white wall with a ram's skull (the same skull that I photographed Cassandra with last year). The session closed on a striking image, of the stark white skull positioned over Carol's hips.

6x7 cm film
For a session that I'd intended to have been outdoors, the available light work with Carol, and most specifically, the work of her and the skulls, was striking and inspiring. While I did use the 8"x10" camera during the session, it was dominated by the more fluid and speedy approach granted by the Mamiya RB, which produced images more then sharp enough for my critical eye. Had the house been warmer, or there been more time, I would have pulled the larger camera into service more, but as the session went, the Mamiya was the perfect tool to use.

May 06, 2002

A Morning of Photography (Halifax, Nova Scotia)

Just as working with a model over a long period of time builds a sense of familiarity and comfort between the photographer and subject, working with the same location for years upon years builds an understanding for the character and light of a space.
8"x10" film
York Redoubt is one of the more isolated forts of the Halifax Defence Complex, and as such, lends itself to a considered approach to image making. In more popular spaces, spending ten minutes composing an image, and then another five making the exposure isn't recommended; most people are more then willing to accommodate an inconvenience, but tying up a space for a quarter of an hour isn't reasonable (plus, large cameras tend to attract attention and questions, and that, combined with the picture-making, can stretch into thirty minutes or more!).

On this session, I concentrated on the upper portion of the fort, in the south-western Caponier and the RML line. Every year, my early sessions seem to focus as much on experimenting with new equipment as they do on making new images, and this session was no exception.
8"x10" film
Both of these spaces called for a wide lens, so the opportunity was perfect for working with my Schneider 150mm XL lens, which I had yet to put through its paces. This lens is a vast improvement over my previous 150mm Nikkor lens; not only is it twice as bright, but it is lighter too.

All but two of the negatives I made used the 150mm lens; even in the dark indoor spaces, it proved easy to use, and the results were very pleasuring. Ironically, the best image of the day was a re-make of an earlier negative; a complete view of the end wall of the Caponier. Rather then replace this earlier image, I decided to post the above detail, which is more of an abstract study then a documentary image.
8"x10" film
The more I work with these forts, the more distinct my ways of seeing become; some images are strictly documentary, showing how things are; others are about the aesthetic lines of the architecture, and still others, like the two interiors above, are just about visual pleasure, plain and simple.