July 25, 2004

Sue Ellen on Green Mountain

When I saw Sue-Ellen's new model listing online, I immediately e-mailed her, to ask if she'd take a look at my work and consider meeting me to talk about working together. After a couple of days we had made plans to meet up and talk, and depending on how that went, to spend the rest of the day making photographs.
Digital original
We met just before lunch, and after a good meal, lots of photo albums and some discussion about my work, and her previous experiences, we said she'd be happy to work with me, and we headed off. One distinct advantage to working with local models is that they often know of spaces to work in, and Sue-Ellen was no exception - she knew of a small waterfall which she thought would be a good place to work, and guided us there with no problem (other than the half-hour walk into the space).

Once we arrived at the river, we quickly set down to work; Sue-Ellen had modeled nude in the past, but was not experienced with working in landscape, so much of the time at first was spent helping her work out poses, and creating our initial compositions. While every model brings their own individuality to a session, to a large degree, the actual process is the same from person to person, with either the model or I suggesting a space, and then building upon that initial inspiration. Often the refining of a pose is started by a model (after all, they are in the position, and know what is comfortable), and then the final revision is done by myself, from behind the camera.
Digital original, 2 frame exposure blend
Once Sue-Ellen had the first couple of images, she began to get the hang of my process and the rest of the session flowed a little faster. The biggest damper on the session was the water temperature - I think to date I have been spoiled, as most of the streams and rivers I've worked with have been fed out of lakes, and thus been warmer. As far as I could tell, this stream had no feeder origin and as a result the water was quite cool...apart from the final image, where Sue-Ellen lay directly back in shallow water, the most she could bear was to put a foot or two in the water - as much as I wanted to work with her in the moving water, it was out of the question
8"x10" film
In the end, the session was good, if short - we spent almost as much time traveling as shooting which was a little frustrating, and because of the cool water, we couldn't realize the full potential of the space, much as we'd wanted to. In some ways, the session was more about laying ground-work then the single-minded pursuit of beauty. With Sue-Ellen living much closer then Halifax, I hope to work with her again, and build on the images we made (perhaps with warmer water!). That being said, most of the time when I have a rental car, I'm heading to Halifax to teach, in exactly the opposite direction!

July 11, 2004

Sunset with Victoria

At about the same time as I moved to New Brunswick, Victoria relocated to upper Canada to begin her Masters Degree. Needless to say, we haven't worked together a lot since. So when I heard that Victoria was back in Nova Scotia for part of the summer, my hopes were raised that we could work out a time to meet up and make some new images.
Digital original
As it turned out Victoria had the same idea, so after a couple of hours spent catching up and hanging out, we made plans to meet up the next evening and take advantage of whatever light there was left in the day. As I have mentioned before, the fact I only visit Nova Scotia once a month inevitably leads to a full schedule during those visits, often with photo sessions timed back to back (in this case, three sessions in one day).

By the time I'd dropped Bobbi and Kylie off, and picked up Victoria, it was well into the evening, so we headed to the high rocks at York Redoubt, knowing that the last light of the day would still be visible here, long after other locations were shrouded in shadow. I hoped that given this location, we would be able to work until the sunset, or even longer.
Digital original, 2 frame stitch
As it happened however, a serious misjudgment was made on my part; when we left the car, to walk into the rocks, I decided to leave the bug-repellent in the car, assuming that there wouldn't be any insects on the high rocks. I was wrong, and very quickly, after starting to work, the bugs arrived, initially a distraction, then increasingly an impediment to Victoria modeling.

In the end, we had to retreat from the space altogether; without the drug-repellent Victoria was in danger of being carried away altogether, and rather then lose a model to the wildlife, I decided that it would be better to call the session to a close, and get away while we could.
Digital original
For such a short session, I still achieved much of what I hoped to accomplish - after working together for six years, I was focused upon making images that can add to the body of work we have already created - a good portrait, and one or two successful landscape-nudes was what I sought to create, and even in a session that lasted less then an hour, these were created, and the body of work Victoria and I began in 1998 continues to evolve.

Bobbi & Kylie Model in a River

Bobbi and Kylie have both been keen about modeling in water and, while both have had the chance to do some water nudes, each session to date have been less then ideal - either too short to fully realize the potential, or in water that was simply too cool for comfort. It was only with this visit in July that we finally managed to get to a river I knew well, on a day with the right light, to be able to fully realize a full session of water nudes.
8"x10" film
Canaan River has been one of the most consistent spaces for my water work; it was in this river in 1996 that I first worked with the nude in water, and since then, seldom a year has gone past without me at least working once with a model in the river. One of the best features of working with rivers is how much they can change from one week to the next - this permits working in the same space without obviously repeating the setting.
Digital original, 4 frame stitch
Just as I had thought that I'd focus on colour work, I also thought I'd take more advantage of having two models present to work with. I have done some work in the past with multiple models in water but, more often than not, my water work is with a single model. Though we did try some images with the two women together, almost all the successful images were of single models. This is rooted in the fact that while it is relatively easy to find a pose for a single body, often the composition is weakened by the addition of a second model - the second pose must both compliment the first, and strengthen it...otherwise a good image is being diminished.
Digital original, 3 frame stitch
By the end of the session, Bobbi and Kylie had dubbed Canaan River the "River of Death", a jovial reference to my losing a 4x5 view camera to the river six years earlier, but also acknowledgement to how difficult it was to move around in - the water level was lower than usual and much of the algae-covered rock was half-exposed, making for treacherous footing.

Continuing to work with Carol


Digital original
This session marked the mid-point in the pregnancy documentary; after this session, there will likely only be two more (August and September)- and then the project will come to an obvious conclusion.
Digital original

With each time I work with Carol, the process seems to make more and more sense. The first couple of sessions saw little difference in her body, and she even voiced that nothing was changing much, but now, I almost wonder if monthly sessions are too far apart - every time we work together, the change is so dramatic that I wonder what I'd missed between sessions. However, the reality is that I can only get to Halifax once a month, so I am lucky being able to work with Carol as much as I have been able to.

July 10, 2004

A Couple at Spion Copp

When planning my visits to Halifax, a flurry of e-mails is usually involved, trying to arrange photo session and make the most of the time available for me. For this particular visit, when I let people know I would be in Halifax for the weekend, L_ immediately replied, asking if I'd be interested in
working with her and a new model, her boyfriend Andrew. We arranged to meet on the Saturday after I was finished teaching, and as the shadows grew long we drove out to Spion Copp to work
8"x10" film
Working with two models in an abandoned fort taps into two of my favorite ways of working. Spion Copp has always proven a good space to work in - convenient to get to from Halifax, but isolated enough to seldom have any interruptions. That, paired with the natural interaction between couples was more than enough to insure the session was a success. Because we started in the early evening, I knew we only had a couple of hours to work, but between my familiarity with the space, and having worked with L_ for almost four years, I wasn't worried about the time frame.
8"x10" film
I had considered working only with the digital camera for this session, but ended up bringing both cameras with me -the time was limited, but I knew that if I had left the camera behind, and came across a strong enough image, I would regret it. As it turned out, though I sketched with the digital camera, it ended up being the images I made with the 8"x10" camera that really caught my eye, and thus the images displayed here are all from the film camera. It is not that the digital images were failures, just that the film images were more refined compositions.
Digital original, 5 frame stitch

Overall, the session was a lot of fun; the two models were very comfortable, something that cannot be taken for granted with new models, and the light, though it faded fast, was beautifully soft. In some ways, the session was mis-located - I would have been happier working with the couple in an indoor setting, where I could have focused more upon the relationship and interplay between the models - but as L_ had specifically asked about working outdoors, I was more than happy just to have the opportunity to photograph for the evening!

July 09, 2004

Kylie at Long Lake

The early work that Kylie made with me was all produced indoors (mainly because it was winter), but her real interest was in working outdoors, with a particular attraction to my water nudes. We did get a chance to work with water in May, but that session was less about water nudes then nudes by water (given it was May, the water was still far too cold for actual immersion for any length of time). Now that summer is finally here, I thought this visit to Halifax would be a good chance for Kylie and me to do some water images.
Digital original, 2 frame stitch
As Kylie had to be at work by mid-afternoon, we had to keep the session short, so we chose to work close to Halifax, using a lake I've photographed in numerous times before - in fact, working in exactly the same space where I'd worked with Lilli in 1998. At this point in the lake, a shallow shelf of crushed rock and bricks runs through the lake, providing the perfect platform for a model to work on - far from the shore, but shallow enough to stand or lie upon without most of the figure being hidden below the water.
Digital original, 3 frame focus blend, 2 frame stitch
Because of our limited time-frame, I chose to work only with the digital camera for the session - the 8"x10" camera would have been slower to work with and also did not have long enough lenses to successfully work with Kylie so far from the shore. For most of the images, I used a very long (300mm) lens, and produced multi-image stitches, generating much higher resolution results than would have been possible using the 6.3 mp camera to generate single images.
Digital original, 8 frame stitch
As it turned out, the decision to use only digital for the session proved to have been a very dangerous one. The images from this session were almost lost to a technical disaster. When working in the field with my digital camera, I routinely download my filled memory cards to a portable hard drive (in this case, a 20GB Super Digibin), to store the images until I get back home, and to free up the card for the making of more images. Over the course of this weekend in Halifax, I downloaded 10 GB of digital files to my portable hard drive but when I arrived home, only 2.7 GB, the last 6 downloads of more then 20, were accessible. Somehow, the data on the portable hard-drive had become so corrupted that the earlier work I'd written to it was inaccessible.

After a week, and some hard work on a friend's part (thanks Sebastian!), all the data was recovered, with only four images being irretrievable. In the end, it was recommended to replace the hard-drive all together, which is what I have done. This experience has left me somewhat gun-shy now, and foreseeable future, I will be much more cautious about how I use my portable hard-drive. Ideally, I'd like to replace it, and upgrade to a different machine altogether.

July 04, 2004

Models Posing in a Barn

As I mentioned in the entry about Bobbi's river nudes, it was quite difficult to find spaces to work in Quebec - not a surprise, given that none of us were familiar with the area, but still, after years of experience working in the Maritimes, where often you can simply stop by the road and find spaces to work, the highly populated and civilized area around Quebec City shocked me because of its lack of appropriate spaces for working with models (this isn't to say they don't exist, more that I couldn't find them).
Digital original
One space we passed by early in the day was an old barn, right beside the road, but facing away, into a large field; we paused to check out another space across from the barn, but peeked inside, just to see what it was like. The building was large, dry, and full of old, abandoned machinery, and had a definite air of disuse. Jean-Francois O'Kane, who was working with us for the day and is fluently bilingual, quickly obtained permission for us to photograph in the barn (to this day I am not certain if he mentioned the nudity).
8"x10" film
The space was ideal in some ways; the large doorway to the building was two full stories high, letting in lots of diffused, directional light, but the space was clean and dry as well, making it easy to work in. Because of the large doorway, we spent most of the session working with the light that flooded across the main room. My first images were of Miranda, exploring the side-lighting on her figure, and the backdrop of the barn's walls and debris. I had expected the exposures to be on the long side, but as it turned out, the light was more then bright enough, and as I wanted the background to be slightly out of focus, the final image was perfect, with Miranda staying comfortably still for the eighth of a second exposure.

A Drive to Quebec City

When Miranda let me know she was attending french immersion in Quebec City during the summer, by first question was "How are you getting there?"; a month or so later, Bobbi, Miranda and I were in a rental car headed to Quebec.
Digital original
Having decided to make the 10 hour drive in a single day, we started early in the morning, so it was early afternoon that er finally made it into the province of Quebec, where we took a break for me to recover from hours of driving. After the rest, I headed into the wilderness a little with Miranda, more for the sake of saying "we make photos in Quebec" than anything else.
Digital original

Bobbi Models in Lac St. Joseph

Bobbi has wanted to do water nudes since she started working with me in May, but the plans had never come together to facilitate a session until this one. Ironically enough, it was in Quebec that we
found a small stream to work in. I'd driven Bobbi and Miranda up to Quebec as a favour (it was cheaper for them to pay for the gas than a train or bus ticket and as a new driver, I was eager to try an extended drive), but also with the idea that during the full day I was taking between driving up and back, I would be able to work with the two models in a totally different province.
8"x10" film
As it turned out, the hard part was not the models, who were traveling with me but finding a place to work in Quebec. Though we met up with a Quebecois photographer, Jean-Fran├žois O'Kane, he was not terribly familiar with the part of the province around Quebec City, so we ended up driving for more then ninety minutes before we finally found a location that would work for the session - ironically enough, a small stream that could just have easily been in New Brunswick as Quebec. It seemed strange to have driven for seven hours, only to work with a landscape so familiar, but by the time we came across the stream, we were running out of time and patience, and decided to take advantage of what was offered to us.
8"x10" film
As it turned out, just like at Neville Lake and la Dune de Bouctouche, Miranda wasn't interested in modeling with the stream; since her hair has grown so long, she has been reluctant to get it wet, given how long it takes to dry off. Bobbi (with much shorter hair) had been quite keen to model in water so she and I headed upstream away from the road to see what possibilities presented themselves to us.
8"x10" film
As it turned out, the river had a small set of rock rapids just out of sight from the road and it was with these that we spent most of the session working. The water was colder than I'd expected (Nova Scotia and New Brunswick water gets quite warm by midsummer), but Bobbi assured me she could model for a while and would let me know when she had had enough. Though I was working with my 8"x10" camera, I kept the images coming as swiftly as possible and managed to expose ten sheets of nine compositions before the cold water finally defeated Bobbi and she had to come out and dry off. In the end, we didn't even work with full immersion images (the water was just too cold), but the results of the session are pleasing nonetheless, with the strong lines of Bobbi's body set amidst the fluid wash of the stream.

July 02, 2004

Bobbi & Miranda at la Dune de Bouchtouche

Because this was Bobbi and Miranda's last day in New Brunswick before leaving for Quebec, I thought it would be a good one to spend on a single location. With the possibility that we might not be able to find an isolated enough location in mind, we set out for the dunes in the mid-morning. After the flowerpot rocks at Hopewell Cape, New Brunswick's best know features are its beaches; much of the eastern shore of New Brunswick is an unbroken sandy coast-line, but the best known beach in the province is la Dune de Bouctouche, which is the longest sand-dune north of the Carolinas (14 km long). I'd already visited the dunes while scouting out places to work in the province, but was unsure if it was possible to find sections of the beach isolated enough to work with models.
Digital original, 4 frame stitch & focus blend
It turned out to be surprisingly easy to get past the people and onto uninterrupted, unpopulated dune. The public boardwalk only goes 1/4 of the way down the dunes, and a half-hour walk beyond that left us alone in the world. In fact, for the entire afternoon that we worked on the dune (more then four hours), we only had one couple come along the shore, and when Bobbi went over to ask if they'd mind if we continued with our work, the women smiled and replied that no, they wouldn't mind, and in fact, it would be most pleasant- a most surprising and pleasant response.
Digital original
As with the session at Neville Lake, one of the freeing elements of working on la Dune de Bouctouche was the isolation; with two models, the usual modus operandi is one models hangs out (clothed) while the other is working, and visa versa; with the dunes however, as I was working with one model, the other would wander down the beach, into the ocean, or just hang out, nude the whole time. Probably the only issue with this way of working was the trail of clothing and equipment we left behind us as we moved slowly down the beach.
Digital original, two frame exposure blend, five frame stitch
On the whole, the session was one of the best of the year; less for the images that were made (which were definitely successful) but more for the tone and emotion - the day was warm and overcast, providing great light to work by, but not hot enough to become uncomfortable. With two models to work with, I could switch between them as appropriate, working with Bobbi in the tidal pools, and then Miranda upon the beach itself. Eventually, it was the weather that put a damper on the day - late in the afternoon, the wind came up suddenly and the sky darkened. Realizing that a downpour was likely imminent, we swiftly packed up, and walked the hour or so back to the parking lot and our drive home. True to prediction, the rain began as we were walking and by the time we met Joy with the car, there was pretty solid rain.

July 01, 2004

Models in an Abandoned House

As it turned out, try as we might after the lake, we drew blanks for other spaces to work for the afternoon; a drive up the coast yielded little other than construction delays and distant views of the muddy Bay of Fundy. Even after hunting down some promising looking rocks at Advocate, it turned out as perfect as they were to work with, they were in the middle of a popular tourist beach, complete with ...well...tourists.

After a short conference (after all, there were six people involved) we decided to cut our losses and begin the drive back, stopping on the way at a couple of abandoned houses we'd passed, to see if they had any potential. As it turned out, we never made it past the first one. Boarded up from the roadside, the back of the house was open, and we quickly agreed that the space had great possibilities.
Digital original
I spent almost my entire time in the house working on the second floor - for one reason, the second story windows were still intact (as opposed to kicked in, or boarded up); for another, the rooms had
beautiful lines to them, with the roof sloping down on one side and the old floorboards radiating out from below the windows.
8"x10" film
The first room I worked in (of two spaces plus the hall) had a wonderful element - a smashed light-bulb dangling from the ceiling. It was just lovely, lit by the light from the window. Bobbi spent five minutes energetically kicking debris to the other side of the room to get the floor relatively clean. The final composition, with the stark room and Bobbi leaning against the wall, wouldn't have been the same with paper and detritus piling up around her feet. The final image, with the white, empty
room has a much more appropriate feeling...a quiet, almost disturbing sense of calm.
8"x10" film

Both Bobbi and Miranda found a wealth of possibilities in the house and over a couple of hours, helped create a number of very strong images. The final photograph of the session, however, was carefully constructed by myself with a low angle, looking through two doorways at the two models. The hope was to try to create an image which demanded an absent narrative which would demand the viewer make up a story to explain the scene before them. I am not sure where this image originated, or if the approach (a deliberately constructed image pointing more towards a narrative, than simple celebration of beauty) will reoccur, but on the most basic level, I think the image is successful, which is all that really counts in the end. In some ways, it reminds me of an image I made exactly two
years earlier.

Bobbi & Ingrid at Neville Lake

A tradition of sorts began on July 1 (Canada Day) in 1998 when I first worked with Ingrid. Since then, more than half my Canada Days have been spent photographing the Nude, usually connected to either Ingrid, or Miles (who initially introduced me to Ingrid). Though we had met up for a day's photography two days earlier, both Ingrid and Miles were quite interested in the idea of meeting up again to celebrate Canada in our unique way, so we set upon northwestern Nova Scotia as the meeting point and made our traditional holiday plans.
Digital original, 3 frame stitch
Not knowing the area, I kept my eyes open as we drove and, close to Parrsboro, where Bobbi, Miranda and I were planning to meet Ingrid and Miles, I spotted a possibility and after hooking up, we returned to Neville Lake, a provincial picnic park. The shoreline curved away out of sight form the picnic area, so after walking down the road a couple of hundred meters, and walking through the rather thick woods, we found ourselves in an area on the shoreline where we could work in the shallow water out of sight of other people.
Digital original
The lake turned out to be a perfect place to work on water nudes - the lake was so shallow that even a hundred meters from the shore, it was barely a metre deep. This meant it was perfect for modeling in, as most of the poses I liked were stretched out and the bottom was close enough that the models could lie half-out of the water without being right next to the shore. One of our first discoveries of the session was that the water seemed alive with pollywogs - both Bobbi and Ingrid had great fun catching the largest of these in their hands and watching them wriggle out of the water.
Digital original
The session overall had a great sense of play to it; Ingrid and Bobbi enjoyed the warm water, and the constant darting about of the dark polliwogs kept their eyes alight with glee - at times I had to fight to keep their attention on modeling. But the reality was that the space was so isolated that the models could afford to take the time to play; there was next to no chance of interruption and, while most of the spaces I work in are isolated, there is seldom such a sense of isolation and security that the lakeside provided. While the whole day was in front of us for working, we didn't know what other spaces would present themselves, so while we had the resources (plenty of memory for the digital camera), we worked and played away, making the most of the early afternoon.