November 30, 2005

Elisabeth in a Pool (the last session of 2005)

As much as I had hoped for good portraits, the real focus for the session with Elisabeth was to take the water session I'd had with Brianna in the wading pool a week earlier and see how much further I could push the same approach. Elisabeth had already seen the couple of images I'd posted to my blog and was more than interested in seeing where we could take the idea.
Digital infrared original, 7 frame stitch
With all the trouble-shooting of the first session under my belt, I found it much quicker to just focus on the scene before me, and find the images that worked with Elisabeth. Almost all of the images used the same basic approach, with the softbox on the far side of the water providing the reflection in the surface and the light on the figure at the same time.

The vast majority of the images of Elisabeth in the wading pool were constructed from multi-frame stitches. The higher resolution of stitches was crucial, as the photographs focused on the details of the meeting of water and skin, fine details were very important, and since the majority of the images were long and narrow compositions, they lent themselves naturally to multi-frame stitched panoramics. The issue of the water moving slightly between the different frames of the same stitch was address by working as swiftly as possible (though I did discover with the work with Brianna to wait longer than the flash indicated between photographs, to insure an even exposure), and by clearly communicating with Elisabeth when it was paramount to stay still, which allowed her to hold her breath through the multiple frames that made up the final images.
Digital infrared original
The greatest difference overall between the work I made with Brianna and what I did with Elisabeth was the confidence with which I approach the session. With Brianna, the wading pool was all very much an experiment and, while I very quickly got a sense of how the work was progressing from the post-views on the digital camera's LCD screens, the whole first session was as much about working out the details as it was about making the best images possible. With Elisabeth, the details were already taken care of and all we focused on was making the best images we could.
Digital infrared original
I didn't revise much in regards to the set-up of the indoor water-pool. In an attempt to get rid of the pattern on the plastic bottom of the pool, I layered the fabric in the pool to give a thicker barrier, but in the end, the pressure of the water still pushed the sheets down into the circles, leading to distracting elements in the background which I either will have to live with, or carefully remove in the digital darkroom.. The next time I work with an indoor pool I think I will try to construct a square pool, both to avoid the issues of the curved walls, and to get a perfectly flat bottom to work as a background.

Elizabeth comes to Visit

An ironies of moving to New Brunswick in 2003 is that it put me closer to Elisabeth, who had moved to the province earlier the same year, and yet I only ended up working with her only twice since then, as she lived in the exact opposite direction to that which I normally travel when renting a car.
Digital infrared original
This being the case, when I heard that Elisabeth was planning to move to the USA, I immediately got in touch, and together we managed to schedule a final session shortly before her departure. After a couple of attempts, we finally managed to be in the same place at the same time, and set down to work.
Digital infrared original, 16 frame stitch
While we had focused the session plans on working with the wading pool, I did want to make sure I got some portrait images out of the session. Because her hair would get wet in the pool, we began with the portraits, taking a cue from a session with Kylie and working in the kitchen with the window light and a single chair.

The session went perfectly, with soft, directional light provided by the deck doors, and Elisabeth's usually captivating gaze providing the focus of the images. For the first time in months, I found myself working quite deliberately in colour, drawn to the delicate tones of her hair and pale skin. That being said, I did make the majority of images with the infrared camera, still definitely preferring its more evocative palette.
Digital original, 14 frame stitch
With the knowledge that this would be our last session for some time, I felt a definite pressure to produce some really strong images, to serve as a book end for our work together since Elisabeth first modeled for me in 2002. I am not sure if it was because Elisabeth and have such a good rapport, or because all the pieces (light, mood, pose) came together by sheer chance, but the results from the portrait portion of our afternoon together are among the strongest portraits Elisabeth and I have produced - I could not have hoped for better results!

November 21, 2005

Brianna in a Water Pool

Though I had arranged for a studio space in which to work on the night of Brianna's arrival, the real focus of her visit was to try something I'd had in mind since I purchased my studio lights earlier in the fall - indoor water nudes. I'd spent the previous month trying to find someone with a child's wading pool that I could borrow; in the end, a friend gave me one with a small hole in it. This was perfect for my intended use, as I was going to line the pool with plastic anyway.
Digital infrared original, 5 frame stitch
The real inspiration for the indoor water Nudes came from Surfacing, an image I made in 1998 (titled after the album by the Boomtown Rats, "The Fine Art of Surfacing"). Surfacing was made with the light of the setting sun reflecting off the water's surfac and, ever since making that image, I've been fascinated by the possibilities if working with sunsets and water nudes. I'd also started to think about the possibilities presented by a studio. The more I worked with sunsets, the more aware I became of how fleeting the light was. In most cases, there was less than ten minutes between when the light started to work and when it had faded below a level where it was practical to work.

In a studio, however, the light levels are steady and predictable, which would permit a model and me to work at our leisure until the possibilities (or the model) were exhausted. All that remained was to test the theory and see if it was actually a practical approach.
Digital infrared original
As it turned out, it was perfectly doable; after double-lining the pool with builder's plastic, and using a garden hose to fill the pool with warm water, Brianna and I worked for the better part of two hours with the wading pool. We kept the water temperature pleasant by continually adding hot water, much to Brianna's pleasure.

With the pool filled, and Brianna comfortably floating around in it, the real work began. I positioned my large 30"x60" softbox low on the far side of the wading pool, and worked on a similar low angle, using the reflection on the surface of the water as my highlight for the image. I alternated between using a 50mm portrait lens, and a longer 105mm lens, depending on how close to Brianna I was. Regardless of which lens I used, many images were stitched together, both to achieve a higher resolution, and a wider angle of view. With almost all the images of Brianna's body emerging from the water, it was practically inevitable that they would end up as panoramic images.
Digital infrared original, 2 frame stitch
Fifteen minutes into the session, I knew we had a success on our hands. Where I'd often worked with bodies in water before, I never had the time to refine any images to the degree I could with this approach. There are numerous technical issues to address (the bottom pattern of the pool is quite visible in a number of images), and some aesthetic issues to overcome (I didn't like a single colour image made in the wading pool, though the inspiration for the project, Surfacing, is in colour), the experiment was a stunning success, pleasing me more than any studio image have in many years!

November 20, 2005

Brianna on Millstones at Sunset

Though I hadn't expected to have the opportunity to work outdoors, the second day of Brianna's visit was relatively mild (for the end of November), so we set out late in the afternoon to see if we could find a space that would work for a session. We ended up working on the dyke land by the banks of the Petitcodiac River, in a space I had discovered earlier in the year, where some old mill-stones lay abandoned in a remote field.
Digital infrared, 2 frame stitch
In truth, the setting was strongly on the minimal side; apart from the handful of mill stones, there just wasn't much in the field, but I had selected the location for just that reason. I really felt it would work for a couple of images, but wouldn't really fill out a long session. Thus, it was perfect for a short session on a cool early winter evening.

While the location was quite minimal, the image possibilities were anything but; the sky above was peppered with red-painted clouds, so as opposed to working with my regular colour DSLR, I reached for my infrared camera, knowing the clouds would gain an extra edge of contrast from the sunset sky.
Digital infrared
To some degree, this session was a study in variations on pose and point of view; while it wasn't too cool to prevent Brianna modeling, we both quickly agreed the session would a short one, as the cool stone and earth sapped the warmth out of her bones. I worked with a wide-angle lens to capture as much of the sky as possible, and kept close to Brianna, to keep her a prominent part of the image. I made a couple of two-frame stitches, but to keep the session as short as possible, I resisted the temptation to made larger stitches, which by necessity require more patience on the model's part.
Digital infrared, 7 frame exposure blend, 2 frame stitch
In the end, it wasn't the temperature that limited our session, but the time of the day - we arrived in the field just as the sun was approaching the horizon, and less than ten minutes later, the sun has dropped below it, and much of the light we were working with suddenly disappeared. With the infrared camera, as soon as the sun sets, available infrared light also declines rapidly. As a drop in air temperature

November 19, 2005

Brianna's Return

Brianna first worked with me in the late summer of 2004, driving up from the US to model for a couple of days, and helping me make some very striking images. Since then, we have kept in touch, and while she was unable to make a visit again during the summer, as the days grew shorter, her plans firmed up enough to permit us to pick a weekend to make more images upon.
Digital infrared original
As it was so late in the year, being a realist, I knew that at least some of our time together would be spent working in the studio; in anticipation of her arrival, I'd arranged for a space to work in (while I now own a set of studio lights, I don't have a permanent space in which to work with them), and on the night of her arrival, after a good meal we left to spend a couple of hours working in the studio.

While I didn't have any specific ideas in mind I opted to work with a dead black backdrop, as opposed to my white sheets, as a reaction to my recent work with Alexandra and Liam. In that session I worked predominantly with smooth, seamless backdrops, and the results were still in my mind. With Brianna, I didn't have a seamless white backdrop (usually made of paper) but it was quite easy to make a black backdrop seem totally flawless, so I took that approach.
Digital infrared original, 7 frame stitch
As usual, I began the session with a series of portraits, both to reintroduce Brianna to the whole "being Nude in front of the camera" experience, and to continue to build my body of Portrait Nudes, which have long fascinated me for their confidence and visual power.
Digital infrared original, 4 frame stitch
With these completed, we shifted to working with body scapes, and the most striking image of the session came about quite by accident. I had Brianna sit upon my white sheets (she was up on a table, permitting me to keep the background a solid black), and as she was arranging them under herself, she twisted around away from the camera, and the light flooded over her back. I caught a glimpse of this and called out for Brianna no to move; I quickly made a couple of lighting adjustments, and made the final image (actually, a series of images, as the final photograph is stitched together). From this image on, the rest of the session flowed wonderfully; we continued to work on the table, against the black backdrop, and made a couple of other very striking photos, but truth be told, having made the early image of Brianna's twisted back, everything else in the session paled in comparison.

October 22, 2005

Miranda in the Shower

While I have worked with digital cameras with increasing focus since 2003, I almost always use them at their lowest ISO setting, preferring to have the highest image quality possible, and willing to accept the lower shutter speeds that frequently come with such a setting. The higher the ISO setting, the faster an exposure can be made in the same lighting conditions. While I have made tests with higher ISO settings, I have never put these settings into use during a session, primarily because I had no need too.
Digital original
For this session, however, the day had finally arrived when I would need to push every last ounce of light sensitivity from my Nikon D70. Miranda and I had planned to work in the shower of her new apartment since she had moved in and had blocked out an hour on the last afternoon of my stay in Halifax to make the images. The day, however, had dawned with the sky a dark shade of gray and a torrent of water lashed the streets and buildings of Halifax. The light in the bathroom was very low, both due to the poor weather outside, and the dark colour of the walls and floor. All the same, Miranda was still keen to model, so after setting the camera to its highest ISO (1600, eight times more sensitive to light than the lowest ISO of 200), we began to work.
Digital original
As I had expected, the light was incredibly low, necessitating exposures in the realm of 1/15 to 1/8 of a second; not long enough to blur Miranda if she stood still with care, but certainly enough to cause a problem if I'd been been forced to use a shutter speed eight times longer (leading to exposures of 1/2 to 1 second). Fortunately, the other parts of the process fell into place perfectly, with the light from the window giving some beautiful description to Miranda's body, and lighting up the otherwise ugly plastic shower curtain until it became a beautiful element to the image, as opposed to an annoying distraction.
Digital original
In the end, the higher ISO did not detract as much from the final images as I had worried it would; even without using noise-reduction software, the image looked good at 7"x10" (the largest size the Nikon D70 prints to without making up the image resolution in software), and with care could easily go to twice that size without too many problems. I still would prefer to work at lower ISOs when possible, but with this experience under my belt, in a pinch I know that I can push the envelope a little further.

October 21, 2005

Liam & Alexandra II

After such a pleasing first session, I was eager to work more with both Alexandra and Liam, and fortunately they both had the following morning free. Even better, they happened to live only a stone's throw away from where I was staying in Halifax, making an early morning session the next day easy to arrange.
Digital original, 19 frame stitch

It turned out to be fortunate that Liam's apartment was in the tallest building in Halifax, as the morning was dismal, with hard rain and a driving wind making even the short walk to the apartment chilling. With the high apartment, however, we could gather what little natural light there was, and make do with that.

After a hurried rearranging Liam's room, we began to work with the soft light from the storm outside coming through the windows and illuminating the couple. I used the same white sheets as we'd made use of the day before but this time, with only natural light, they were  employed to simplify the background, rather than as an alternative to a stark white or black background.
Digital original, 8 frame stitch
Both because of the low light, and the limited pose possibilities (basically Alexandra and Liam were modeling on a small bed below the window), the session was rather short. This is not to say that we didn't have any successes, but rather that what possibilities for pose and compositions were quite rapidly worked through. The only real spontaneous image came when Liam had to leave the room for a moment and Alexandra sat up and waited for his return - the light warping around her body, and the chaos of the white sheets behind her was just so delicate looking that I had to make an image of it.
Digital original, 8 frame stitch
The only real downside to the two sessions with Alexandra and Liam was that this was my last visit to Halifax for the year and it will likely by 3-6 months before we get another chance to work together.
Finding such comfortable and enthusiastic models is such a gift, and to make such stunning images with them on their first sessions hints so much towards the possibilities that it will eat at me all winter just thinking of what lies ahead.

Alexandra & Liam I

Alexandra has known of my work for several years, mainly through her friendship with L_, but it was only this fall that she got in touch and asked about the possibility of working with me. After some e-mail conversation, we made plans to work together the next time I was in Halifax - as is often the case, we both would have preferred to be able to work outdoors, but the cool weather precluded this, so instead, we went to a friend's studio (thanks again, Sue) to work for the afternoon.
Digital infrared original, 5 frame stitch
When we'd first discussed the possibilities, all the conversation revolved around just Alexandra modeling, but, as the e-mails went back and forth, she mentioned that her partner Liam might also be interested in modeling and the plans quickly evolved into a two model session. This, combined with the fact we'd be working indoors, changed a compromise (working indoors as opposed to out) into an ideal situation (working with a couple in the studio).

I began the session with some images of Alexandra alone, as we had initially planned on the session focusing on just her. Unlike most of the studios I have used over the years, this one had a seamless white paper backdrop, which I decided to use, as opposed to opting for my more usual approach of draped white sheets. This made the images look a little more stylized than usual, but also focused the eye more on the subject, rather than the surroundings. All through the session, I alternated between the seamless white and a black backdrop, varying it somewhat randomly, to inject some variation into the images.
Digital infrared original, 10 frame stitch
Once I had made a small series of standing and portrait images of Alexandra, I invited Liam into the spotlight beside her, and shifted the session to focus on the two models together. Both Alexandra and Liam proved to be very comfortable in front of the camera, and the rest of the session focused on the two of them, beginning with standing embraces, and closing the session with the two of them down lying on the white sheets against a white backdrop.
Digital infrared original
As seems to always happen, working with the two models was a stark contrast to working with Alexandra alone. The two models had a physical comfort with each other which was immediately evident, and more often than not, after giving a suggestion for a pose or modeling position, the two
models would shift it subtly, and reveal an altogether stronger result. Much of the session was spent simply recording what unfolded before me, as opposed to struggling to create a pose which came together with the lighting to create a successful image.

The session came to a close when we ran out of time, as opposed to ideas or possibilities.

October 18, 2005

Toronto in Infrared

Digital infrared original
After my thirty minutes photographing for the Naked in the House competition were over, I still had some time to spend in Toronto, so my friend Hugo, who was playing host to me for the day, took me on a driving tour of Toronto.
Digital infrared original
There wasn't really enough time to stop and photograph, so we played tag with images, driving around the city, and making what photographs I could create at intersections, stop signs, and other pauses in the traffic flow. At the time I felt this was a kind of laziness, but in retrospect, it leant a very particular feel to the images - almost all of them were of the canyon of architecture particular to large metropolises like Toronto - narrow streets bordered by tall office buildings forming urban canyons.
Digital infrared original

Naked in the House 05

It was in the middle of the summer of 2005 that I first heard of Naked in the House, a photo contest out of Toronto which is now in its fifth year.

Based on the simple premise of one camera, one lens, one roll of film and one nude model, the event (which in the past has been presented on Fashion Television as an annual special) sees twelve photographers given thirty minutes each to work with a naked model in a specific location with some pretty strict limitations placed on them. Jane, who I first worked with in June, had mentioned the TV show to me numerous times over the summer, so when I received an e-mail invitation in late September to participate in Naked in the House 05, I had some point of reference.

6x7 cm film
After much debate (mainly focusing on the cost of close to $1500. CDN, which would require me to sell some equipment to pay for the cost), I decided to accept the invitation, and just over six weeks later, I stepped off a plane in Toronto with a borrowed Mamiya 7 (thanks Steve), a roll of 120 film, and butterflies in my stomach.

As it turned out, the Naked in the House competition was quite different from what I'd envisioned, though I suspect this is from misinterpretation, as opposed to misrepresentation. When I'd read through the promotional material, I missed the fact that the model for the event was a fashion model, not a figure model. I suppose the give-away to this should have been the fact the TV presentation of the event has always been on Fashion Television, but as I do not have a TV, that little detail escaped my attention. While on one level, it might be proposed that a figure model was little different from a naked fashion mode), I would argue that there is a major difference, and my experience with the competition bears this out.
6x7 cm film

Even before I'd arrived at the competition, I had some reservations about the process; usually when I work with a new model, I spend some time sharing my work, and learning what they are seeking from the work; in this case, however, I knew I would have 30 minutes with the model and was expected to deliver three finished image at the end of the process...three frames out of ten on a roll. This did not permit much time for chit-chat, so it went without saying that I'd have to forgo the preliminaries, an approach I found unsettling and foreign.

As soon as I started working, I began to feel the difference between a "figure" and a "fashion" model; the make-up and carefully coiffed hair was a dead give away but the model's literal interpretation of my directions and her for very specific directions in regards to posing and positioning was a little shocking. With the models I usually work with, the process is very much a collaboration, with the model and I working together to discover the possibilities, but for this event, the model was more like sculpting clay, waiting for my very specific directions before moving. This totally stumped me, and while I managed to adjust to it somewhat before the end of the half-hour, the only image of the finay three that really feels "genuine" to me is the first one I made, where I'd just made one image, and model was just relaxing out of the pose...I asked her to stop moving, made a quick composition adjustment, and made the photograph.
6x7 cm film
I think the most frustrating element for me was not so much the fact that I was photographing a fashion model (as opposed to a figure model) but all the extra crew who were part of the process. I had expected a film crew (and got two) but the addition of a make-up artist and a hair stylist brought the total number of extra people on the set to 8 or more people. While the prescence of the film crew was anticipated, the make-up and hair professionals injected a totally unexpected element, often jumping into the frame just before an image was made to primp this or adjust that, more than once taking away an element that I'd been attracted to in the initial composition. Normally, when I am photographing a figure model, the only interaction in the session is between that person and myself. Both the make-up artist and the hair stylist were obviously skilled in their areas of expertise but, to me, their prescence felt diametrically opposed to what I normally do in my nude photography; their goals were to create, enhance and maintain a certain ideal of beauty, while my intent is to simply reveal an already present beauty.

October 17, 2005

Colleen in Toronto

While my reason to visit Toronto was for the Naked in the House competition, I didn't have to be at the competition location until 2:30 pm. My morning was spent working with Colleen, a first-time model who'd just by chance contacted me a week before my Toronto visit, asking about modeling. The world works in mysterious ways.
Digital infrared original
As she'd both seen my work online, and personally knew Monique, a model with whom I had worked,, there weren't too many preliminaries to work through. so less than fifteen minutes after meeting, we had started to work together. Because I knew I would be working with Colleen, I'd brought not only my tripod (which I'd need for the competition in the afternoon), but my white and black sheets, to use as backgrounds for the work in the morning.

I began the session working with portrait poses, covering the background with the black sheet and using the large picture window as a light-source. I'd been somewhat worried about the light levels in Colleen's apartment, but there wasn't an issue - occasionally I even worked without the tripod, exploring the possibilities of shallow depth of field.
Digital infrared original
It is always a balancing act, working with a first-time model - the process of gaining the subject's confidence, all the while putting her at ease and insuring the session is enjoyable is an as important as getting the right exposures, selecting the right lens, or having the right light. With Colleen, it didn't take us long to hit our stride and the session very quickly evolved from the opening portraits to encompass everything from stylized body abstracts to full-frontal nudes. I even spent some time experimenting with long exposures and zooming the lens, something I normally would reserve for a session with a more experienced model as spending time on creative experiments in the middle of a first session is sometimes not the best way to spend valuable time.
Digital infrared original, 5 frame stitch
Hindsight being 20/20, the great irony of the day was that the morning's session, with the inexperienced first-time model was much more engaging, challenging and rewarding than the afternoon's session (below) in a multi-million dollar house with a professional model. I have no doubt this says as much about me as it does the process, but all the same, what I had though of as a warm-up session, working with Colleen before the Naked in the House competition in the afternoon, turned out to be the highlight of the day.

September 12, 2005

Ingrid at the Coast

Ingrid and I have not often had the chance to head out and work together on our own for a variety reasons; this isn't to say that working with her when other models or photographers are present is a problem in any way but I have no doubt that it does affect the tone of a session. On this day, however, it was just Ingrid and me planning to work along the coastline of Polly's Cove, on what I expected to be my last chance to work outdoors in Nova Scotia for the year.
Digital infrared original
 The day was perfect; the air was a pleasant temperature and it was sunny with a scattering of high clouds moving through the sky, providing occasional shade to the shoreline if I was patient. The first set of images Ingrid and I made was a couple of stitches of her posing with the rocks at the top of the bluff overlooking the ocean, but these felt as if they weren't taking advantage of the magnificant scenery around us, so we picked up and headed down to the coast. I'd hoped to work on the rocks beside where the ocean met the shore, creating images of the breaking surf behind Ingrid. It took a while to find the pose and camera position, but once all was in place, it took perhaps two minutes until the right wave presented itself, throwing a fan of foam high into the sky behind Ingrid.

After finishing with the ocean surf (our experiments were cut a little short when a wave actually broke over Ingrid, soaking her thoroughly) Ingrid and I spent a little time exploring the massive bedrock forms along the shoreline, making a series of images in the crevasses and cracks in the stone. At this point, the sun was dancing between the clouds, and the images were swiftly changing between being harshly lit, and delicately described, which made it a little frustrating to work (with every change in the light, a new exposure was called for, which dramatically slowed down the working process, and caused a number of images to be lost, as I couldn't get the right exposure before the light changed for a second time).
Digital infrared original
The last portion of our day was spent working on the seaweed, working with the hard lines of the direct light, and the luminous quality that infrared sensitive cameras give to dark brown rockweed. By this point, the sun had settled high above the clouds, and the light was even and consistent, if a little contrasty. Most of the images we made on the seaweed were multi-frame stitches, with and angle of view wider than that of my widest lens (12mm, equal to 18mm on a 35mm camera). In most cases, I was stitching less for resolution than composition, as the spread of the seaweed and sky before me was just to dramatic but, for a couple of the images, I used a longer lens (50mm) and made higher resolution stitches to facillitate printing at much larger final sizes.
Digital infrared original, 6 frame stitch
The end of the session came somewhat reluctantly. I still had a three hour drive back to Moncton ahead of me, and the afternoon was growing cooler, so as the tide slowly drew the seaweed back under its blanket, Ingrid and I climbed back to the high ground and headed back to Halifax.

September 11, 2005

Miranda on a Hill of Sawdust

The second half of the day I spent working with Miranda was spent exploring the possibilities presented by a massive pile of sawdust from a long abandoned saw mill in the middle of the woods. I am not exaggerating by using the word massive - this sawdust pile has to have been close to 500m long, and easily 8m high - putting us close to the top of some of the trees that surrounded it.
8"x10" flm
Initially, I was somewhat dubious that the sawdust hill would present much of interest visually, but when we can across the first piece of abandoned machinery, a line of half-buried chain of massive dimension, I began to change my mind. Then, moments later we came across a partially buried drive shaft of some huge machine, and I immediately set down the camera gear, my eyes suddenly alive with the possibilities.
Digital infrared original
Five minutes later, Miranda and I were exploring the possibilities of the piece of machinery. We both were very careful to avoid placing footprints in the soft sawdust around the metal, while doing our best to discover the most successful pose possibilities. After a couple of minutes of experimentation and sketching with the infrared DSLR, we'd worked out a number of successful poses, and changed over to working with the 8"x10" view camera. I worked with the camera placed on the shady side of the drive shaft, using the direct sunlight as a rim light, which also had the side effect of helping to set Miranda's figure off against the surroundings.

After we finished working with the half-buried machinery, I made a small series of portraits of Miranda, standing with her back to the sun. This was somewhat of a hold over from the New Brunswick Portfolio, where our mods-operndi was to constantly inject a portrait series into almost every location.
Digital infrared original, 18 frame stitch
The end of the session was spent working with the huge chain that we'd seen when we first arrived on the sawdust pile. I wasn't sure what could be done with it, but the lines and shapes of the links, emerging and disappearing over and over again was quite engaging visually. After some experimentation, Miranda managed to find a number of very successful poses, which when combined with the lower autumnal angle of the sun, lead to some very dramatic images in this desolate location.

One thing to note about this session is that is was my last using my 8"x10" view camera. For personal reasons, over the fall of 2005, I made the transition to working 100% digitally, selling the last of my film cameras, and changing my chemical darkroom over to a digital one.

Miranda at a Dam

Since moving to New Brunswick from Nova Scotia in 2003, I haven't had much chance to explore new locations as much of my time photographing in Nova Scotia has been spent working with places I was already familiar with, the logic being that it is better to make images in known spaces than risk spending a day looking for a location, only to find nothing workable. This session, however, saw me journeying to a new location, guided by my friend, fellow photographer and occasional model, Miles. He'd worked at the Sandy Dam several weeks earlier with Ingrid and, after viewing those images, I agreed with him that this would be a great place to spend a day working at with Miranda during my next visit to Halifax.
Digital infrared original
The location turned out to be near ideal, especially given the weather. The day was both sunny and windy, and being an early fall day, the wind was quite cool. Miranda was well sheltered, however, as the dam dropped down below the surrounding landscape and protected her from the chill wind that swept across the lake above.

While I was somewhat frustrated by the harsh sunlight, I was well aware that it was all that made it possible for Miranda to model; without the sun, the day would have been quite chilly. In light of that, the first images I made worked aggressively with the shadows, both on Miranda. Using an extremely wide angle lens on the DSLR camera, I use the shadows as a composition element, drawing the eye to corners, and emphasizing the flow of the image.
Digital infrared original, 2 frame stitch

The other prevalent feature of the back side of the dam was the small set of steps that lead up to an access door. The steps were perfectly centred with the doorway above them; it was this symmetry that I worked with first, making an image with the view camera that centered Miranda on the stairs and used a rise movement (shifting the lens up higher in front of the film) to show all of the doorway alcove above her, without any distortion. Fortune shone her brightest as I was about to make the image and a small cloud passed over the sun, causing a brief shadow to fall across the scene.
Digital infrared original, 16 frame stitch

The final images of the session were created using the same pose of Miranda lying back on the steps but I prowled around her, exploring other angles of view. These I made with the infrared camera, using the different tonal response of the modified digital camera to give Miranda's skin a particularly sculptural quality that is impossible to obtain by any other method. In this case, it also showing some of the veining that infrared film can sometimes display under the right conditions. Again, fortune shone on me and, just as I began to make the image which would eventually be assembled into a 16 images stitch, the sun went behind a cloud, giving me the soft, even lighting I am so enamoured with and which produces such lovely results.

August 21, 2005

Hannah & Krista at Bas-Cap-Pele

Hannah and Krista had both expressed an interest in modeling one more time before they left for central camera at the beginning of September. As I wasn't able to make it down to Halifax again before then, they offered to drive up to New Brunswick, and spend a day working me.
Digital infrared original, 44 frame stitch
In stark contrast to our previous session together, the weather was gray, overcast, and threatening rain. Ever optimistic, the five of us (Miles and Natasha were also along, planning to work together in the same spaces as Krista and Hannah and I were going to use), headed off for the coast, planning to work with the rock formations Miranda and I had used just over a month earlier.

The model's response to the space was much the same as Miranda's, and very quickly they were discussing the possibilities of actually climbing up on the hoodoo to pose. I told them it was too high, and not practical, but moments later, when I turned back from my camera gear, both models were perched on the rock, smiling and asking for pose suggestions. The first step I took to making the final image was actually not working on the pose, but the surrounding image. Knowing the setting was so dramatic, I decided to make the image as a multi-image stich, and with the models such a small portion of the final composition, I made the overall image stitch without the models in position - this permitted them the comfort of sitting, and reduced the time they'd actually be nude to the small time-frame in which they'd be the focus of the camera.
Digital infrared original
With the stitch complete, I then checked around for unexpected visitors, and then moved to working with the models on the pose. Very quickly they discovered that there were only a limited number of positions they could comfortably (and safely) hold on the top of the rock, and with some suggestions from the camera's position, I helped them refine these into a very striking pose, with their bodies flowing in both directions off the side of the rocks. In about five minutes, I was finished with the pose, having made the final images to add into the stitch. Just as I was helping the models down off the rock, the weather started to break, and a light drizzle began to fall. Rather than give up the rest of the afternoon, after a quick debate, Krista and Hannah agreed that we'd try to work for a while in the sea caves, which would both keep the session going, and permit me to build on the images I'd made in that location last month with Miranda.

Moving into the cover the rocks provided turned out to be a wise decision, as the light drizzle soon turned to genuine rain. The rock caves provided plenty of shelter for me and the camera gear, but relatively swiftly, both models were totally soaked, so we proceeded to make some images with them working in the ocean. The most successful of these images was a portrait of Hannah rearing out of the water. This was made by blending two images - one with a short exposure to ensure Hannah's face was sharp and detailed, and one with a much longer exposure, to catch the water flowing over her body as it flowed off of the rocks around her. In the past I have used blended exposures to control image contrast, but never to combined part of an image with movement, and another part as totally still. The final results were very pleasing, and open up another digital technique to use when working with water.
Digital infrared original, 43 frame stitch
The final image of the sessions was one on Krista emerging from one of the rock caves. Hannah, Krist aand I had just finished a series of images focusing on the two of the in the caves, when I asked Krista if she could fit inside one of the small holes, and lie back, as if she was emmerging from the opening. The results looked stunning, so I very quickly shifted to using a longer lens and stitching the image together, to increase the final print's resolution and quality.

The combination of two keen, enthusiastic models and such a stunning space lead to a wonderful final session for these two, before they departed for central Canada.

Miles & Natasha Tother Indoors (and snakes)

The second day of Miles and Natasha's visit to Moncton was split between working with them in the morning and two other models in the afternoon. The morning session was indoors for several reasons; first, I wanted to concentrate on couple images, and an indoor setting was easier for this, and second, Miles wished to spend some time modeling with a pair of corn snakes that recently moved in. I hadn't worked with the snakes and a model yet, but Miles was quite interested in the possibilities, so without really knowing what would happen, we made the plans for the session, and crossed out fingers.
Digital infrared original, 4 frame stitch
The beginning of the session was spent photographing Miles and Natasha cuddling, working with white sheets covering the window and futon, and focusing the compositions on the two models. The light was perfect, with the sheet-covered window behind them providing some rim lighting, and the other window to the left giving the main lighting.

We started out with prone poses, both models lying on the couch and embracing, but eventually shifted to sitting and kneeling poses; the variations of pose and composition possible when both models are lying down is somewhat limited. The best of the kneeling poses were of Miles embracing Natasha from behind, their knees formed a solid base for the image to sit upon.
Digital infrared original
When we shifted to working with the snakes, I immediately made some changes to my photographic approach. I changed from the infrared modified DSLR to the regular colour DSLR camera, and boosted the ISO from 200 (the minimum for the Nikon D70) to 400, which gave me a little higher shutter-speed to work with. The snakes sometimes move amazingly fast and I wanted to be able to stop their motion as much as possible.
Digital original
As it turned out, it wasn't the snake's motion that caused an issue, but the low light level's influence on the camera's autofocus system. Several times over the session I had the perfect composition and snake position, but the camera took too long to find the focus, and the snakes moved.

August 20, 2005

Miles & Natasha at Cape Enrage

Miles and Natasha drove up to Moncton from Halifax, for a combination visit and modeling trip; they had seen several of the locations I'd worked in with Miranda during the New Brunswick Portfolio production and hoped to be able to model in them. The plan was for Natasha to model for both Miles and me and the two of them to pose together.

Digital infrared original, 16 frame stitch
The day they arrived was bright with direct sun so we headed for Cape Enrage where I hoped the massive cliffs would provide enough shade to give us more even light. My guess proved correct and we arrived to find the entire cliff-face shrouded in shadow but lit by a mostly cloudless sky which gave the most beautiful, even description of tone a photographer could wish for.

After walking down the beach for a half-hour, we began working with most images beginning as solo poses of Natasha, with Miles being included once I'd made the most of what a single model in the  space could present. This method of working is very methodical, and not a luxury I can usually afford but, as we were planning to work for most of the day, my only concern for time was the tide, which was approaching its ebb when we'd arrived, providing us with six or more hours to work in.
Digital infrared original
 As the afternoon progressed, I became gradually more and more focused on the images of the two models. There is an subtle chemistry that flows between two partners when they are modeling together and, more often than not, this can take what was already a successful pose or composition and add an element to it that is impossible to create through direction from behind the camera. The more this occurred during the session, the more I focused on it, making fewer and fewer images of Natasha on her own and, much to Miles' chagrin, interrupting her partner's own photography to call him into the pose. Miles is quite indulgent in this regard, which I definitely appreciate, given the images it has helped me create over the years.

As the session moved along, the shadows along the shore lengthened until it covered all of the rocks, down to the sea. The three of us began moving down the shoreline, exploring the possibilities away from the rock shelf, where I'd focused almost all of the images I'd made to date at Cape Enrage.

The best aspect of moving below the high-tide line was the rockweed that is scattered around on the rocks. To the naked eye, this looks to be brown but, with the infrared converted DSLR camera, the rockweed turns into a luminous, pale plant, adding much needed contrast to the rocky landscape.
Digital infrared original, 5 frame stitch
The first images we made on the shoreline were of the two models entwined on the rocky bedrock, working their bodies to the lines of the rock, and into the lines of each other. Gradually, however, we shifted to working with landscape-based poses where Miles or Natasha would find a pose and then the other model would be fit into the space around the first pose. Unlike our earlier approach, each composition was intended to include the two models, so the design of the photographs was a little more deliberate and premeditated. By the end of the afternoon, we had spent more than six hours on the beach, the tide was coming in, and I knew I had some very successful images, both of Natasha alone and with Miles.