September 28, 2003

L_ before the Hurricane

In some ways, this session answered some of the questions that were uncertain, in regards to my relocation to Moncton, New Brunswick, and maintaining my relationships and work with the models I work with in Nova Scotia.
8"x10" film
From the time we decided to move, the intent had been to keep returning to Halifax on a regular basis to photograph and this session marked the first attempt; after a three hour drive, we picked up L_, and headed out to York Redoubt to work for the afternoon. As it happened, the day was the eve of a major Hurricane strike on Halifax. As the afternoon progressed, the light grew more and more eerie and the wind gradually increased. It would have been a great afternoon to work by the ocean but the cooler temperatures, combined with the wind, made it more sensible to work in the shelter of the woods.

Of all the landscape I work in, probably the least common is woods and forests. This is partially because the woods in Nova Scotia tend to be thick and dark and partially because trees often present a problem for compositions and posing - being thin and generally vertical, it becomes hard to compose an image focusing on the Nude without abruptly cutting off trees at the top or bottom of the composition. With the first images we made, this was addressed by using an extreme wide angle lens (a 75mm lens, equal to a 12mm lens on a 35mm camera). This resulted in a circular image (because the lens is designed for a 4x5 camera, but used on an 8x10 camera, it did not create an image that extended to all the corners of the film) but it also gave a great sense of space, with the trees exploding away from the center of the image. The use of the super-wide lens helped overcome this, giving a sense of the space around L_ without truncating the space and cropping in too tightly.
8"x10" film
After working with such a wide lens, I shifted to a longer lens (19", or 482.6mm in length); this gave a more pleasing perspective for portraits and tightly framed compositions. A side effect of long lenses is that they also reduce the depth of field, effectively throwing the background out of focus, isolating the figure from the surroundings. Working with this lens, I made a number of successful compositions, first focusing on L_ standing in a bed of ferns, and then with her set amongst the limbs of a tree.
8"x10" film
In the end, the even, diffused light that heralded the coming of Hurricane Juan shaped this session as much as the space or model. As the session progressed, the light grew more and more even, with a particular sullen quality which was quite different from high-overcast light, which also gives very even illumination of surroundings.

September 20, 2003

Miranda in a Bathtub

6x7 cm film
As small as my living room is to work with, it was practically palatial compared to the space for my next session. Miranda had wanted to work with candles and I decided that it would be cool to revisit the water-candle nudes that I'd made in October, 2001 with R_. At the time, I'd certainly felt the work was successful, but also knew it was something that I could build upon, and so have had it in the back of my mind as a setting with yet as unexplored possibilities.
6x7 cm film
Part of my attraction to working with candle light is its simplicity. A single light source is about as minimal as photography can get, and the fact that it can often be included in the image (as a referent to the light source itself, and as a way of giving the image some degree of contrast) adds to the possibilities. All this, when combined with the natural reflective qualities of water, leads to a great number of possibilities. Leaving aside the water upon the model's skin, the double light-source that the water creates with the reflection gives some pretty cool effects (plus there's the inherent opposition of fire to water, which is very cool to work with).
6x7 cm film
While Miranda and I only worked for a little more then an hour, we made a number of very successful images, most of which used the reflection of the candle's flame in the water as an element. Probably my greatest frustration during the session was not being able to get the candle close enough to the surface of the water, or the camera at a low enough angle to photograph from. If I ever have my own studio space, one of my first projects will be to construct a water space in which I can work with models, but have total control over the depth of the water, and height of the sides of the tub.

September 09, 2003

Lymari at a Quarry

Digital original
The final session of Lymari's visit was my second try at working with a model with landscape in New Brunswick. Just like the first session, we spent as much time driving, and looking for a location, as we did actually making images. Finally, at a loss to find a better space, and running out of daylight, we settled on an empty rock quarry to work in, hoping to make some successful images working with the piles of rock and stone.
Digital original
It turned out easier then I thought to work with the quarry - the rock piles were arranged with repeating peaks and valley (I assume these came from the rock-thrower that had made them), and these provided enough form and shape for Lymari to work with. As with the Burntcoat Head session from a week before, the session was all-digital. I often wished I had the 8x10 along, for the increased detail and focus controls but the thought of waiting a month or more to see the images kept me firmly focused on working with the digital camera.
Digital original, 7 frame exposure blend
On one level, the rock quarry was a very limited space to photograph in, with nothing but the piles of rock for Lymari to pose upon. But by the same token, they provided us with a very simple space to work with, so the images focused upon the light and form. With such a minimalistic setting, the images focus even more upon the model, so the combination of pose, angle of view, and lighting are crucial to creating images that worked.

At the end of the session, I was quite pleased with the results; I would have been much happier if we had found a more dynamic or inspiring space, but given what we had to work with, we did exceptionally well. It is the test of a model to be able to work in such basic a setting and Lymari did well, spending a couple of hours working with the piles of rock and generating a number of very compelling compositions.

September 02, 2003

Lymari at Burntcoat Head

When I first worked at Burntcoat Head with Miranda and Natasha, I was so stunned by the landscape, I knew it would be a space I would return to again and again. My second try at working there failed due to misreading the tide tables but, for this session with Lymari, I double-checked the tides and we arrived about an hour before low tide, insuring more then five hours of working time.
Digital original, 5 frame stitch
I would have loved to work with the 8x10 in the space but the session happened shortly after my move to New Brunswick, and I wouldn't have my new darkroom up and running for another month or more. Rather than making images I would have to wait weeks to see, I decided to work entirely with the digital camera; this way, Lymari and I could view the work immediately after the session was over. This worked well on several levels, as it permitted me to work in colour and, while I would have liked the higher resolution of the view camera, using the digital camera to create multi-image stitches helped overcome that shortfall.
Digital original, 10 frame stitch
The vast majority of the images we made were produced on the same island where I worked two months earlier. At high tide, the island is surrounded by water but, from mid tide onward, is accessible from the mainland and had the most beautiful water-carved caves and rocks on the outer side (which just happens to be the side away from where the public accesses the beach the island is located on.)
Digital original, 12 frame stitch
I find it quite interesting that after having such a strong reaction to the rich reds of the space, most of the images I ended up liking were in black and white. While digital photography permits you to work in both black and white and colour, I think my long experience of working with monochrome films has biased my judgment of what constitutes a successful image. I think with more time and consideration, I might end up with a more positive reaction to the colour images, but on the first run through of the images, in almost every case, it was the black and white images that really caught my eye.