August 13, 2004

Bobbi in an Abandoned Engine Room

Some of my very first outdoor nudes in 1989 and 1990 were made in the military ruins that abound in Halifax. These spaces still serve as very successful settings for working with models. They are perfect places to work on sunny days, as they keep the compositions in the shade, and they are often quite secure from interruptions, as the forts are relatively remote and unvisited.
8"x10" film
As Bobbi had the whole afternoon available, I knew from the start of the session that I would concentrate on working with the view camera and working slowly enough to insure that every image was as refined as possible. This is a luxury seldom present when working with models - usually the emphasis is upon making the best of the setting and lighting, while looking to the comfort of the models; in this case, with a comfortable setting, consistent lighting and plenty of time, I could put as much into each composition as required.
Digital original
We spent the majority of the session in a small concrete engine room, working on the concrete blocks that supported the engines, and the small windows around the room. Because of the regimented nature of the space, with the engine-block supports on the floor and the concrete roof beams running parallel, the space was fabulous to work in with a wide lens. With the view camera I could use lens movements to keep the perspective correct, and with the digital camera, I could play with the inherent distortions of ultra-wide lenses, pulling lines to the corners, and playing with spatial relationships.

As much as I had intended to focus on working with the view camera, a good amount of time was spent working with the digital - after finishing with my initial perceptions, I often explored to pose with the digital camera, using it to examine other possibilities and less rigid compositions. I have such a strong attraction to image symmetry that often it is difficult to bring myself to make photographs that use off-centre composition, or strongly distorted perspectives.
Digital original
Every time I work in the forts, I am reminded of how beautiful the light is - the combination of diffused, even lighting for the image as a whole, and small focused bright light-sources (the room windows) providing beautiful highlights on the models. This combination almost never fails to deliver on the final images, and put together with the long tonal scale of large format negatives (or carefully processed digital images, to be fair) really helps create photographs of great delicacy, where the lighting is concerned. I think this is where my real attraction to working in the forts lies - the light is so beautiful and delicate, and the poses and settings often have a real look of strength and power that the final image is the sum of both elements.

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