September 28, 2004

An Outdoor Session with Carol

This may well be my last outdoor session of the year - while the day was lit by beautiful light, thanks to some high cloud, it was slightly cool, with the snap of a fall day in the air. Since the beginning of Carol's pregnancy, the plan had been to document the pregnancy with the indoor sessions, and than do a session or two outdoors at the end of her term. During my last visit, ten days earlier, a baby shower and other plans precluded working outdoors so, after some debate, it was decided to make a special trip to Halifax, just to insure that we had the opportunity to do some images outdoors. The logic of a specific car rental and six hours of driving for one hour of shooting might escape some but I think the importance of wrapping up the images of Carol's pregnancy with some outdoor images far outweighed the effort and expense.
8"x10" film
As it happened, the day was a little cool for the images we had initially considered - outdoor images along the coast so, as an alternative, we headed to Spion Copp, one of my favorite architectural spaces to work in (and where I'd worked with Christine at the end of her pregnancy). Though technically not an outdoor setting , the old fort was definitely different from the indoor spaces in which we work for the previous five months and gave a very different type of image.
Digital original, 30 frame stitch
Carol was more than indulgent in providing me with the hour that we worked; this late in a pregnancy, pretty much anything gets uncomfortable after a few minutes, and working barefoot on the cold concrete floor was above and beyond the call of duty. I knew we wouldn't have much time to work, so I tried my best to photograph swiftly while still using all the tools at my call. For the digital images (all multi-image stitched), I first made the exposures of the part of the image in which Carol was present and, as soon as those exposures were made, got her back in her robe and shoes, and continued with the rest of the image. This permitted her to warm up between exposures and helped keep her from becoming too stiff and uncomfortable. For the 8"x10" view camera images, I did my best to get the composition and exposure set before Carol disrobed, making the final image in thirty seconds or so, with only a quick conformation of the final composition being made on the ground glass.
Digital original
With the end of the session also came the end of the body of work Carol and I have created over the previous five months focusing on her first pregnancy. A little over a week later, she successfully brought her first child into the world and both mother and baby are doing well!

September 26, 2004

Elisabeth under a Bridge

It turned out that the second space was right where I'd parked the car. The huge highway bridge which we'd parked under was quite awe-inspiring but both Elisabeth and I were unsure if it could be used as a setting for a figure session, given the massiveness of the scale, and the limited elements involved (basically, the huge concrete base and two pillars).
Digital original
Throwing hesitation aside, I helped Elisabeth up onto the concrete and began walking around it looking for angles to photograph from. Very quickly I realized the 12-24mm lens would be the best lens to use, as it was the only one capable of showing the bridge and Elisabeth with any sense of scale. I let Elisabeth know that I thought it would work, she undressed, and we started working.

Digital original
In actual fact, over the entire session Elisabeth probably moved less than ten feet; she started standing next to the left-hand pillar, then shifted to lying on her back below the pillar and finally to working standing on the inside edge of the concrete. Almost immediately, I saw that the real strength of the images would come from the contrast between the deep blue sky, the warmth of Elisabeth's skin, and the gray concrete. The limited range of poses that were possible was a little frustrating, forcing me to work more with composition and framing, but the graphic qualities of the bridge, combined with the rich colours made this more than possible for the twenty minutes we worked.
Digital original
In the end, the bridge images were in some ways more engaging than the river Nudes we had done at the beginning of the afternoon. Where those images were comfortable and familiar, the lines and stark colours of the bridge were totally new and invigorating, something that is near impossible to plan to build into an image.

September 24, 2004

Elizabeth in Jemseg

Although I moved to New Brunswick a year ago, I have actually worked very little in the interior of the province, preferring to concentrate on the areas closer to Moncton and between there and Nova Scotia. When I learned, however, that Elisabeth would be moving back to her home in central New Brunswick in the fall, I immediately asked her if she though it would be early enough in the year to permit a session or two before the winter weather closed in. She thought this wouldn't be an issue so we made tentative plans early in the year.
Digital original
When everything finally fell into place for a session, at the end of September, we were looking at the dying light of summer, and one of the last warm days of the year. Because neither of us had very much in the way of local knowledge, we decided to simply drive along the old highways of New Brunswick, and keep our eyes open for possible spaces. I have long been interested in photographing along the riversides in New Brunswick, but such a space, both isolated and accessible, seemed elusive, as the road was either directly beside the water, or too far back to permit us to judge if the space would work or not (the day proved again how important local knowledge can be to finding spaces).

Our real break came as we drove along the old road, under one of the new highway bridges, built in the past decade. we spotted a dirt road heading off from the highway, towards the river, underneath the new bridge. A short drive later, we had the perfect space to work, in trees overhanging the slow-moving Jemseg River.
Digital original, 12 frame stitch
The session was actually quite short; there were only a few trees with the right shape and form to work in and the direct sunlight, while great in terms of keeping the day warm, was difficult to work with. In the end, after a little more than thirty minutes spent working with a couple of trees, we packed up the gear, and headed back to the car, planning to look for a second space to work.

September 20, 2004

Bobbi in a Forest

From mid-September onwards, outdoor sessions take on an extra edge. Not only is each session a crap-shoot in regards to the weather, but the light has a particularly beautiful quality as the sun moves lower in the sky for the winter months. Even for a session like this, where the lighting was muted and subdued, the low angle of the sun still had an influence, providing a direction to what would have otherwise been a totally diffused light.
Digital original, 12 frame stitch
I haven't done many woodland sessions this year so, knowing the bugs were long gone, I suggested to Bobbi that we work in some trees for this session - the day seemed warm enough, as long as we were out of the wind. For lack of a better place to work (one woodland setting is pretty much the same as another) we drove outside of Halifax and then parked by the highway and walked into the woods.
Digital original
As I'd expected, the light in the woods was beautiful; none of the trees had turned to their fall colour yet, so the space was predominately shades of green, though there were undertones of gray and brown. The muted colour palette suited colour images, and while a few of the photos we made were converted into black and white, the vast majority of them I chose to keep in colour, playing with the contrast in hue between Bobbi's warm skin and hair, and the cool tones of the forest around her.
Digital original
This session was produced exclusively with a digital camera; I had considered bringing the 8"x10" camera, but as it was pretty cool when we started working, I didn't want to sap Bobbi's energy by having her stay still for the longer poses required by the larger camera. In retrospect, the best reason for using the digital camera turned out not to be the working process (it ended up being much warmer in the woods then we'd anticipated), but the fact that the images were made in colour. So much of what I responded to in the woods was the beautiful vibrant colours of the trees, and while many of the images we made work well in black and white, it is the colour images  which appeal to me the most.

September 19, 2004

A Final Sesion with Carol

Digital original

This session marked the completion of more then five months of work. What Carol and I had begun at the end of April was brought to a conclusion, with the last of our indoor sessions focusing on her pregnancy. The work that we'd produced was very different from any other photographic project I'd done to date; where most of my work revolves around singular images, this project followed a number of poses through the pregnancy, working with the idea of repetition and growth, as opposed to chronicling a singular grace.
Digital original
In many ways, we were fortunate over the course of the project. Our sessions were regularly spaced and by luck more than design, the poses and setting we chose in her house had surprisingly consistent lighting, given how much the time of year could have changed this.
Digital original

The final part of the project will take place over the coming fall and winter - taking the images and assembling each series into the final, printable, images. Done the easy way, this would require little effort, simply placing each image next to the previous, and calling it finished. Early into the project, however, I decided that I would rather keep the only variable the evolving pregnancy so I will be pulling Carol's figure out of each composition and carefully matching the images in size and composition on the same background. This will accomplish several things - by insuring the background is identical in each image, it will increase the sense of repetition of each series, but by the same measure, it will increase the sense of difference between each of the photographs, focusing the eye on the subtle differences in the body between each frame in the final composition.

September 18, 2004

Some Field Trip Images

Digital original
I do not often include images in the Photo Diary that are make on the various photographic workshops I teach, often viewing them more as side-effects of the teaching process. Over this summer, however, more and more I find myself making images that resonate during the workshops. These images are very different from my work with the Nude, but still rooted in my love for visual exploration and revelation.
Digital original
This particular workshop was about photographic perception - being open to visual possibilities at any time, as opposed to setting out to photograph preconceived notions. Of all the classes I teach, this is the one most rooted in the idea of actually making images, so it also tends to be the one that I make the most images in.
Digital original
We spent most of the morning photographing along the Halifax waterfront but, rather than making images of the space as a whole, I was drawn to the little details, the rope lines against boats, the weather marks on the wharves and concrete. What really caught my eye though, was the rise and fall of the waves; when I have extensive experience photographing moving water in lakes and rivers, I haven't done much photography of the ocean, so I pulled out my ten stop neutral density filter (which makes the exposure 1024 times longer then it would be without it) and made a thirty second exposure of the water moving between the wooden beams of an old pier. The result was extremely pleasing, and was a peak to the day.