November 17, 2002

Aurora by Natural Light

After two sessions in the studio, both Aurora and I felt it was time to return to available light; I by far prefer to react to an environment, rather than having to create one. Aurora suggested her apartment, which would both put her in a comfortable personal space, and challenge me to react to a totally unfamiliar location. Mid-morning, we convened and began to work, starting with her sitting on a light coloured couch.
6x7 cm film
One reason why I think most people prefer photographing outdoors is because of the low light levels indoors; this is easily overcome with one of the simplest and most accessible of photographic accessories, a tripod. All of the images of Aurora I made on this day were made with shutter speeds between one eight and a full second, depending on the setting. The freedom to make an image as it occurred to me, as opposed to being restricted by the limitations of lighting is a great advantage that more the offsets the slower pace of working on a tripod.
6x7 cm film
After we spent some time exploring the possibilities of the couch, I was a little lost as to where to work next, until I caught a glimpse of the light in the hallway, outside the living room. Lit only by a small window on the lower landing, the light was dramatic and strongly angular. Once Aurora moved into the space, things really came together with the window light giving a rim-light to her figure, and enough fill light coming in from the rest of the house to stop her figure from becoming a shadowed silhouette.
6x7 cm film
The last location for the session was in the shower; when Aurora and I had discussed working in her house, she'd mentioned her bathroom, with a window over the bathtub; I had envisioned working with her in the bath, lit by the window behind her, but when I saw the room layout, everything changed; the window was higher, just perfect for lighting a shower-nude. I asked Aurora if she'd be up for shower images, and she was more then willing to give it a try. As the day was overcast, I had to use 3200 speed film to make the images; even with that speed film, the exposures were in the quarter second range.
6x7 cm film
The images that happened were magical - the backlighting made the water almost glow, and as it bounced off Aurora's skin, it made a glow seem to appear around her body. The only frustration was that working with medium format (my Mamiya RB) didn't permit me to correct the perspective of the images; the window was off-centre, forcing me to angle the camera into the room, thereby distorting the window shape. All I kept thinking during the session was "if only I had my 8x10 camera". Perhaps next time.

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