January 31, 2004

Miranda in a Moncton Studio

One of my hopes when I moved to Moncton in August of 2003 was that I would be able to keep contact with the models I've worked with in Nova Scotia and continue building on the images we'd created together. Another small hope was that occasionally a Nova Scotia model might come up to New Brunswick to work with me; many of the people I work with are good friends as well as models, so the chance to see an old friend is as much a lure as the chance to make new images with a long-term model.
8"x10" film
As it turned out, Miranda was the first model to make the journey from Halifax to Moncton; we had talked about fitting it in with her school schedule, and in the end, her timing was perfect. After a driver's education class (I am finally learning how to drive at 35), I met her at the train station on the train from Halifax.
Digital original
We spent our first session since August of 2003 working with my studio flash; Miranda has only worked with me in the studio once before, so it was a little different for both of us. The very first focus of the session was Miranda's braids; they provided a beautiful counterpoint to the smooth lines and texture of her skin and, given only one light to work with, I could emphasize the contrast to great effect.
Digital original
The most engaging portion of the session came towards the end, when I decided to experiment with a painted background I recently received (a free sample provided with my new black backdrops). I set up the light to it illuminated the backdrop, and partially lit Miranda; this pushed most of her form into deep shadow, forming a silhouette against the backdrop. The results were very pleasing, as we experimented with more and more dynamic poses. The only problem (ironically) was that the flash was too bright; the dimmest I could make it, given the size of the room, was about eight times brighter than I would have preferred, so where I pictured the background as distinctly out of focus, it is quite in focus, and distinct. While I can fix this in the computer, using post-production filters, it would have been preferable to get it right the first time!

January 11, 2004

A Second Natural Light Session with Kylie

The final session of the two days working with Kylie was spent in a friend's apartment, working with the afternoon light coming in through a large picture window at the end of the living room (while there is beautiful morning light in my new house, after mid-morning there isn't much light left in any room because of the direction the house faces).
8"x10" film
By this time, Kylie had adjusted quite well to the whole process and was very comfortable with modeling (before the previous evening, she had never modeled nude before). As I had never worked with this space before (I had hoped to work there with Roberta in December, but a snow-storm put an end to that plan), I didn't know what possibilities would be offered by it beyond the obvious wall of windows but the choice of what to work with was obvious as soon as we entered the apartment. A bright triangle of light was cast upon one of the living room walls, and with only a little movement of furniture, it was possible to open up the entire wall for working.

Kylie and I spent about 45 minutes working with that triangle of light; the initial explorations were close and detailed, but the longer we worked, the freer and open the compositions became. Towards the end, I was working with a very small figure in the corner, and a large area of negative space around Kylie - a composition that proved to be my favorite of all the variations I made.
Digital original
After we had worked with the direct, angular light, Kylie took a break while I set up the white sheets across the window, intending to work with the sheets a backdrop. Just as I was finished, I glanced back and caught a glimpse of Kylie's sitting position - she had her hand by her mouth, and the light was perfect - soft but still directional.; I asked her to hold her position, and quickly set up the camera and made two compositions - needlessly, as it turned out, as the first perception was the clearest.
Digital original
In a little more than seven hours of photography over an evening and a day, Kylie and I had produced a very striking set of images. On both our parts, there was an effort to make Kylie's introduction to modeling as successfully as possible, while still making the most of the time she had available to model. The only frustration we both share is that the whole process had to be indoors; I can only hope that in six months, when it is sunny and warm outside, we will be able to dedicate as much effort into working together outdoors.

Kylie Models in Available Light

The second day of working with Kylie began with a morning session in the kitchen, taking advantage of the natural light coming through the glass doors to the deck. This is similar to the spaces I worked in my Halifax home but a little dimmer, given the size of the doors. All the same, the quality of the light was very close to what I became used to in Nova Scotia.
8"x10" film
Where her first evening of modeling began in the comfort of dim candles, this session was spent in the full light of day. On some levels, it would seem that working in the full light of morning would be daunting for a new model (candles have the advantage of being a very dim, almost mysterious, illumination), the fact that the space centered around a futon covered by white sheets makes it a personal, comfortable space.
Digital original
Among the greatest challenges of indoor work is the emphasis it places on the posing, either from the model or me. Given Kylie's inexperience, I had expected to have to provide a lot of guidance to her in regards to posing, but more and more during the session, she was proposing more and more possibilities and poses.
Digital original
Easily more than half of the poses we worked with during the morning session were proposed by Kylie. With the exception of minor adjustments (point your fingers, turn your face a little) most of these ended up being quite successful. This only serves to emphasize the importance of the model's involvement in the process - if Kylie was only responding to directions and instructions from me, a good number of the best images we made would never have happened, and even those which I suggested were modified by the model - taken from me as possibilities, and made into her own poses.

January 10, 2004

Kylie Models in a Studio

After finishing with the candle images, Kylie and I shifted to a totally different approach, working with a studio flash. In Halifax, I have access to a fully equipped studio (through a very kind professional photographer, who has helped me in a wide variety of ways over the years) but with my move to Moncton, New Brunswick, I have had to come up with alternatives. The perfect solution would be to purchase a full set of studio lights but this is both financially impossible and physically impractical - there is no way I could afford such an investment and I currently have no space to use that much equipment in Moncton.
8"x10" film
All that being said, it isn't practical to expect to never need to work indoors at night, so as a compromise, early in 2004, I purchased a single used studio flash - a light that happened (by fortuitous happenstance) to come complete with a small 24" square soft box (I use soft boxes in the studio to soften the artificial light and give it a more pleasant quality that is closer to natural window light). This set-up cost well under half the cost of a single new studio light and at a minimum will permit me to work indoors at night, without always having to resort to working with candles.
8"x10" film
As it was my first time working with the new light, it was also a session full of experimentation - the first lesson was that I couldn't synchronize the EOS 10D camera with the flash - it just wouldn't trigger the flash. The 8"x10" lenses worked fine, however, so I just set aside the digital camera and worked with film.
8"x10" film
I was a little concerned that the single flash wouldn't have enough light for working with the large format camera but my fears were unfounded. For torso and body-pose images, I was able to get enough light to ensure sharp focus and while there wasn't enough light to work closer with everything in focus, I simply changed to working with a narrow depth of field for my close-up images and produced a number of quite successful compositions. In the end, the majority of the problems I cam up against were surmountable and the biggest issue was not having enough light but rather having enough space - my living room worked well enough, but I kept having to shove furniture out of the way to get the right camera position!

A Candle-lit First Session

It is almost a tradition to start work with a new model with candle nudes; first with Lynn in 1988 (the second model I ever photographed), with Sarah in 1992, and with R_ in 2001. I think there is an implicit comfort in working with candles, because the space is so dark and "warm". From a photographic perspective, candles are sometimes challenging to work with - they are dim by nature, and often have to be very close to the model to provide enough light to work with. This means that they are often in the image - it is quite unusual to having the light-source in the composition when working inside.
Digital original
For this first session with Kylie, I worked almost exclusively with the EOS 10D; the digital camera's lens let in more than enough light (I used a 50mm f/1.4 lens) compared to the 8"x10" (whose 300mm lens is sixteen times slower) and the digital camera permitted me to work fast enough to insure the comfort of the model (always important to make a good first impression...models who enjoy the first session might come back and do it again!).
Digital original, 2 frame stitch
At the same time as candle sessions are good for first-time models, they are challenging for me as a photographer. Given my preference for working with a single candle, I have to work hard from simply repeating images I have made before - at times this is inevitable, and I rely upon the different bodyshapes and language of the models to make the images distinct from one another, but overall, it is quite engaging to work with such a simple approach.
Digital original
Probably the best reason for using candles with first-time models is their reaction to the images; they never seem to fail to please; with Kylie, even the couple of images that I shared with her during the session engaged her enthusiasm and gave her an indication of how the session had progressed. When all the work was processed (just like traditional film images, digital files need processing before being ready for consideration by models and the public) and ready for review, Kylie was very pleased with the result which was the main point of the exercise. The fact that I managed to create images that pushed my candle images further is an added bonus.

January 03, 2004

A Late Pregnancy Session

When I was debating over visiting Halifax for the New Year's weekend, it was actually Lynn Marie's e-mail that turned the balance. Six months earlier she had let me know about her pregnancy and we had a first session, intending for there to be others. As things turned out though, we never managed to meet up again and the planned documentation of her full pregnancy never materialized. When I received her e-mail in December asking if I would be in Halifax over the holidays and if I would like to photograph her during the last month of her pregnancy, I jumped at the chance. The fact that two other models (Miranda and Veronica) had asked about my working with them over the same weekend was encouraging and tempting, but a third model at the height of her pregnancy, was too much to ignore.
Digital original
This was my third studio session of the day but, through careful planning and the assistance of my partner, Joy, I was well fed and watered and quite looking forward to working with Lynn-Marie. By the end of the session, I would have been in the studio for more than 12 hours, photographing for almost nine of those.

Just like my couple nudes, I feel that pregnancy nudes are particularly suited for the studio, where the focus is on the shape and form of the model, as opposed to the setting. Lynn-Marie, who started working with me in 2002, has never modeled in a studio before, but given the time of year, and the late hour, there wasn't any other option for the session.
Digital original
Between my work with Christina and Carol, I've had a lot of experience working with late-term pregnancies in the past couple of years, and it was upon this body of work I built during this session.
While each model I work with bring a difference to the session, there is a thread running through the pregnancy images, the swell of the baby within the womb which pulls them together into a body of work, more so than many of my other images.

While many of the poses and compositions I made with Lynn-Marie were drawn directly from earlier images, the subtle differences between her body and the other models, and the subtle changes in the lighting and positioning made the results augment the earlier images, rather then replace them.
Digital original

Because of the pregnancy, the session was by necessity short, with less the ninety minutes passing between the first image and the last. I tried to vary the style of images over the session, working between standing, sitting and reclining poses, and dramatic versus flat lighting, to make the most of what time we did have to work. In the end, I do think the strongest images are varied enough to be set side to side and not read like variations on the same theme but rather like explorations of the same subject, subtle but definite difference in tone.

A Second Session with Veronica

Veronica and I first worked together in August of 2004, but as she lives in Montreal, Quebec, we had to wait until we both happened to be back in Halifax at the same time to work together again. Fortunately, in mid December she let me know about her New Year's plans and we set up a time to make more photographs.
Digital original
Unlike our first session, which was in a small house with available light, this session took place in a large studio with plenty of natural light, as well as a full selection of studio lighting. I began the session working with the natural light coming through the three large windows - by the time Veronica arrived, the sun had shifted in the sky and there was now direct light on the concrete wall where I had worked with Gilda and Miles only an hour or so earlier.
Digital original
Almost all of the natural light images were portraits, both as a point to being the session (I almost always start a session with portraiture), and because Veronica has such a striking face and sense of poise. We worked along the window-wall of the studio until she was in the direct sunlight on the brick wall, where we finished working with the natural light.

The major difference between available light and studio flash is control - with available light you are forced to work with what the world presents (which I actually prefer as responding to light is often easier and more magical then creating it), while with studio lighting all the control is in the hands of the photographer. When I set up the studio for the images of Veronica, I used the same approach as I had with Gilda and Miles earlier in the day - three lights or occasionally two. This kept the lighting focusing on the model's form, and when we shifted from the natural light to flash, the style of images shifted accordingly, focusing as much on stylized bodyscapes as nude portraits.
Digital infrared original
The remainder of the session went by rapidly, working mostly with the digital SLR cameras, and occasionally making an image with the 8"x10" view camera. Veronica turned out to be quite comfortable with the relatively sterile atmosphere of the lighting studio (having had her first session in a house, with all the clutter that accompanies that space, an empty studio could have seemed quite daunting). About the only frustration after the session was completed was knowing that the chances of working with Veronica outdoors, where I can just imagine the possibilities, is slim to none, knowing how far from the Maritimes she lives.