August 31, 2003

My First Figure Session in New Brunswick

Usually August is my busiest month for photographing, being that it is the warmest month of the year. This year, however, because of my move to Moncton, NB, most of August has been spent packing and unpacking, and renovating the new house (including building the new darkroom). While it was frustrating to have to take so much time away from making art, it would have been impractical to delay moving until later in the fall.
Digital original
All that being said, Lymari, a photographer/model from New England, has made a regular event of coming up to visit every summer since 2001, and this year was no exception. In some ways, she was short changed this visit, as much of my attention was focused on the renovations and unpacking, but all the same, we managed to fit in some time for photography.
Digital original, 14 image stitch
In the end, we settled on working in a section of beach directly below a small provincial camping ground, but separated from it by a high cliff and some fencing; this ensured that anyone approaching would have to come from the left or right, but couldn't come upon us from above. The setting was more the adequate, with the warm Northumberland Straight along one horizon, and the high cliffs on the other.
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After all the time we spent looking for a space, the session was surprisingly short; though I was working with the Canon EOS 10D, I worked slowly, carefully composing each image, and making most of them as multi-frame stitches. It was only about forty minutes into the session when we spied some kayakers paddling up along the beach, and decided we'd better end the session before they came close enough to see Lymari and I working (it is better to be cautious than foolhardy). So, with fewer than half-a-dozen compositions recorded, we gave up the beach to the kayakers and headed home. I did manage to make several strong rock-abstracts on the way back to the car, but this was more to off-set the frustration of not being able to continue to work with Lymari, than it was a real exploration of the rocks and shoreline.

August 16, 2003

A Halifax Field Trip

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The field trip visited a local yacht club, to provide students with a new enviroment to work with; one aspect that caught my eye were some old engines set asside to use to moor boats. The gears especially drew me in.
Digital original
Depth of field was the focus of all the images of the gears, though this image was a little more minimal than many of the others.

August 15, 2003

A Moncton Workshop Field Trip

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The beauty of weathered wood always draws my eye.
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There are times when clarity comes easily.
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My favourite image from the field trip was also the most abstract...paint on a window.

August 04, 2003

Ingrid & Miranda in the Woods

After the end of the water session, we still had some time available to work, so I asked Ingrid and Miranda if they would be interested in working with the woods and ferns that surrounded the lake before we packed up to go home. While we were eating our snacks and the models were getting warmed up, Ingrid had been eyeing a particular tree which formed the corner of a particularly precarious looking unfinished tree-fort. Knowing her love of climbing and precarious poses, I asked if she would like to try working with the tree; her instant response was to head over and test if it could bear her weight, which it indeed could.
Digital original, 8 image stitch
The tree was more than strong enough, and we made a vertical stitched image of her lithe figure surrounded by the delicate tracery of the green leaves.

After this image, I shifted my vision to the forest floor, and worked with both Miranda and Ingrid in the rocks and ferns under the canopy of trees. The light was beautiful and even but there was also a delicate chaos to the patterns, with no area without detail and a riot of texture. This proved to be a perfect setting for the Nude, where the unbroken lines of the model's skin contrasted well with the surroundings.
Digital original, 8 frame stitch
With Miranda and the rock, we worked with a couple of different poses but by far the best pose had her stretched back following the lines of the rock. This led to a highlight being formed along the entire upper side of her body, separating her beautifully from the chaotic background (the image was assembled from eight frames, so the detail of the woods is recorded in great detail).

For the final image of the session, Ingrid reclining in the ferns, I created a more dramatic contrast between Ingrid and her surroundings by altering the tones of the ferns and then rendering the image in black and white. This is very similar to how I would have approached the image with black and white film and filters but had the added advantage of being reversible, if I decided in the end that I didn't like the effect.

Digital original, 13 frame stitch
As my final day of photographing before the move to Moncton, I couldn't have asked for more. The water work from the first half of the day was very successful, with some really refreshing images; the end of the afternoon, with the couple of compositions of Ingrid and Miranda, gave some very quiet, serene images to close the day.

Ingrid and a Skull

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As it came to pass, the woodland Nudes at the end of the water session were not the last images of the day. After dropping off Miranda, I went and hung out at Ingrid's apartment for a while - and while I was there, her collection of skulls caught my eye. Knowing that I wouldn't be back in Halifax for a while, I asked if Ingrid would like to do some images with the skulls before I headed home.

Her response was more enthusiastic then I could have anticipated. "This skull" she said, taking down the horse skull "is my most prized possession . Of everything I own, I treasure this the most". She'd found the skull in Newfoundland as a child and had had it ever since.
Digital original, 9 frame stitch
The session flowed incredibly well, with Ingrid combining her natural ability to find a pose with her obvious comfort (and almost affection) for the skulls. Because of her lack of interest in working inside, this was only the second time I've worked with Ingrid indoors (the first time was the second time we worked together), but like the first time (which was with Victoria), she had something to respond to, and so the session had a natural focus.
Digital original
At the end of the day (when the light had grown too dim), I was left with a number of vibrant images dancing around in my head. We did the best we could with the setting (her bedroom was pretty small, and the bedspread quite colourful), and came away with some beautiful images, but I am left wondering how much stronger they could be if we had a full studio to work with. Perhaps sometime in the fall, if I can make it back to Halifax, I'll be able to revisit these ideas in the studio, and take the striking beginnings we made today to polished fruition.

Ingrid & Miranda at Long Lake

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On this day, both Ingrid and Miranda had time free to work with me, so we decided to take advantage of the hot day and spend the session working in Long Lake. The advantage of Long Lake is two-fold; first it is very close to Halifax, easy to get to and from, and therefore a good use of the time available; secondly, as a shallow lake, it is easy to work with models close to the shoreline, while still getting a sense of a broad body of water stretching out behind them.
Digital original
I find it very interesting that, while Ingrid and I had worked together extensively from 1998 - 1999, it was only in 2003, after her return to Nova Scotia from the West Coast, that I began to make portraits of her that really looked like her. I wonder if this is because over the intervening years she grew more into her skin, or if I grew into mine. Regardless, I am increasingly pleased with the portraits I have been making of her, and this image is no exception.
Digital original, 7image stitch
While I have often worked with multiple models outdoors, it isn't very often that I use the models in contact poses; this focuses the attention on the two models alone, as opposed to presenting them as figures in the landscape. In this case, however, it worked well; as landscape, the wind-blown water of Long Lake, was simply a minimalist plane upon which to work with the Nude. This approach worked well with the digital camera - the elongated poses created by working so low to the water were perfect for working up as stitches, and most of the images of the later half of the session were produced in this way.

August 03, 2003

Natasha at Herring Cove

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Natasha and I had planned to work at the coast this afternoon, but when the day turned out to be wet and foggy, there was some doubt whether we should venture out; while I have previously worked with a view camera in the rain, it is not an easy venture, as more attention must be given to keeping the equipment dry than to the actual making of the images. When the time came to set out, I decided to leave the 8"x10" camera at home, and just work with the EOS 10D; the smaller camera would be easier to keep dry, and faster to work with, making the most of our time if the rain did actually come.
Digital original
Over the session, we gradually worked from the rocks below the path, to those right by the ocean. The images of Natasha on the rocks were quick and successful, with many of them playing with the merging of the body with the rocks, but it was when we moved to working right by the ocean that the images really started to sing. The combination of Natasha's fair skin, the richly textured rocks, and the roll of the waves and surf all came together to create a series of very striking images. Because the ocean was quite sedate, we were able to work right next to it with little concern for the waves; this permitted me to work with wider angle lenses, and get a stronger sense of perspective between the model, in the foreground, and the ocean behind her.
Digital original
Probably the most interesting element of the session was the colour; because of the fog, the light was beautifully soft, but the rocks, often sun-drenched and shockingly white, had a beautiful warmth to them. That, combined with the cool blue-gray of the ocean, proved to be a beautiful setting for the Nude, and more then half of the images I viewed as successful I left as colour - very unusual for me, being such a black and white traditionalist.

August 02, 2003

L_'s New Apartment

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When L_ mentioned she was moving into a new apartment in August, my very first thought was to ask if she wanted to do a session in it before she moved any furniture in; as it turned out, she'd planned to have it empty for the first couple of days, and was quite enthusiastic about exploring the possibilities of the space for a nude session.

Shortly after entering the apartment,  I was brought up short by the light at the end of the hall - it flooded in from the second bedroom, and produced a beautiful glow on the end wall and the wooden floor. "What can we do with that wall" I asked L_, and for fifteen minutes or more, we experimented with both the digital and the view camera, exploring the potentials the luminous light held.
8"x10" film
One of the major advantages of using a view camera is having access to movements that can correct perspective problems but, rather than take advantage of these, with several of the images, I chose to leave the converging lines intact, using the distortion of the window and room as a way to draw the eye to L_'s figure. I am not sure if I will continue to use this approach (this is quite literally the first time in years I have consciously NOT corrected perspective in an image.)
8"x10" film
One of my favorite images of the session was a standing portrait made by one of the room windows; the light was perfect, evenly diffused with lovely description of form, and there was more than enough of it to facilitate working with the 8"x10" camera. The only problem was getting the distance necessary for the portrait; because the 8"x10" portrait lens needs more then two feet between the lens and film, I ended up with my head jammed into the corner, and the camera touching the wall on two sides...not the best position to compose an image from!