January 24, 2005

A Demonstration Session with Jesse

One unexpected development in my photographic work in recent years is my involvement in teaching and photographic education. I have always presented on my work in conjunction with my exhibitions and shows, but increasingly I have been asked to present on my work independently, speaking to students or photographers, and discussing my techniques and approaches to working, both in terms of technology (large format and digital) and subject matter (the Nude).
Digital original

In 2004, I was invited to present on my work to the New Brunswick Craft College photo program in Fredericton.This year, the same invitation was repeated. One component of the presentation is a live demonstration of my working approach in the studio - for the first visit to the College, Miranda was kind enough to come up from Nova Scotia but for this year, I felt it would be preferable to work with a New Brunswick model. As things turned out, Jesse was available, and willing, so after one cancellation for snow, we set off a week later (the day after another major snow storm) for Fredericton.
Digital original
As with my first visit to the College, the presentation was well received (the students all had an assignment on the Nude due two weeks after my visit, so there was extra motivation to pay attention from their perspective). The studio session was, as always, too short but, as with the previous demonstration, in addition to presenting various techniques for lighting and framing an image, I actually managed to make a number of images that I am very pleased with.
Digital original
As with my first visit in 2004, I was struck by how different it is to work in front of an audience, and try to verbalize the decisions that lead to the making of an image while creating it - Jesse was wonderfully patient and her comfort with the situation and process only made the experience stronger for myself and the students of the Craft College.

January 03, 2005

Lynn Marie by Natural Light

In some ways, I felt like a refugee during this Halifax visit - the trip was planned for myself, Joy and Zoƫ to spend three night under three different roofs, spreading ourselves around so as to avoid overstaying our welcome. Our final night was spent at Lynn-Marie's; the easiest way to insure we worked together twice during the visit was to stay overnight and have a short morning photo session before we returned to Moncton.
Digital original, 2 frame stitch
I had hoped for the morning session to be with available light but the day dawned snowy and gray, so we had to opt for plan B at the start of the session. I had brought a borrowed studio light (thanks Kevin) to use at Miranda's house, so I simply set it up in the front from at Lynn-Marie's and we began working. Because the room had a white ceiling, I simply pointed the flash at the ceiling and worked with the even, diffused light that provided.

We started the session working with Lynn-Marie lying on a long red couch she had against one wall - the couch was perfect for her to recline on, and with careful multi-image stitching I could keep the image resolution high and still show the full length of the couch. There was actually not a lot of variation possible in regards to the pose on the couch but, given that the session was by necessity a short one, it provided us with a good opening space. Between the full-body poses and closer-composed details and bodyscapes, I felt quite pleased with the images we accomplished in the first half-hour of the session.
Digital original, 3 frame stitch
As soon as I saw the room we'd be working in, I knew we would finish the session with images made in the bay window. The three windows provided some nice wraparound lighting, and Lynn-Marie had a comfortable rocking chair which I positioned between the windows, giving it the best of what light there was. The first images used the window light as rim-lighting, highlighting the flow and lines of the breast and belly. The difficulties here were compound - the windows had plastic insulation on them, providing a distracting element to the background, and I couldn't get far enough from the model to get the composition I wanted that would throw the windows enough out of focus to downplay the plastic lining.
Digital original
In the end, I changed the composition altogether for the final image of the session, shifting the chair so that Lynn-Marie was parallel to one of the side windows (essentially placing the other side window at her back), which in turn meant I could work further away from her and use a longer lens for less depth of field. The final image of the session was a three-image stitch of a mellow stretch with the right-hand window's rim-lighting setting off the back of the chair and Lynn-Marie's hand, and the dominant window to the left providing a soft, even illumination of her face and body. An all-too-brief session came to a beautiful conclusion.

January 02, 2005

Miles and Gilda's Second Session

My second day of photography in Halifax was even more focused than the first - three sessions in one day. The first session was more of a continuation of the previous one than a new session. Gilda and Miles met me at the studio and, within ten minutes, we had started working. This session, however, took place in a fully equipped space with more lighting than I could dream of using with two models.
Digital original
Because the previous evening's session was almost entirely focusing on the models reclining on a bed, for this one I designed the studio for standing poses. The studio I was using was very long and quite wide so I lay down a black sheet for a backdro, and used three lights to illuminate the models. The shift to working with standing poses led to the vast majority of the images being focused on embracing, hugging, or one model holding the other. With a full studio available, the images become more polished with rim and side lighting complimenting the main light (the previous evening used only one light, so there was less complexity to the images).

By this session, Gilda's third working with me, she had become quite familiar with the process and her ease and comfort showed in the images. Because I was working with studio flash, there was no need to work with poses that could be held for long periods. Many of my couples images focus on quiet moments between the models, in part because of the focus on intimacy and in part because much of this work is created with available light and requires a pose that can be held for longer exposures. During this session, however, the models several times assumed fleeting poses, taking advantage of the incredibly short exposures of the flash to freeze them with absolute clarity.
8"x10" film
Towards the end of the session, I put away all the studio lighting and backdrops, and finished the time we had to work with using the available light coming through the large windows at the end of the studio. There was a wonderful old brick wall by the windows which was a perfect backdrop for the photos. The light coming through the windows was both bright and even, the best of both worlds (often natural light is bright but incredibly harsh, which is the worst kind of light to work with in most cases). We made the final images of the session with Gilda leaning back into Miles, who was leaning in turn against the wall.
Digital infrared original
Over this session, I created more then 3GB of RAW digital files which more than exceeded the storage space I had on memory cards. There was an unexpected advantage to working in the studio - there were computers on site which permitted me the ability to download my images as I filled memory cards. This avoided the problems I had at the end of the three-model session the previous morning and permitted me to work as I have grown accustomed to.

January 01, 2005

A Perfect Day Part II

After a morning spent working with three models by available light, I simplified the process slightly for a short evening session, working with two models with a single studio flash. Gilda and Miles had both expressed an interest in modeling together for me, so after a New Year's Day dinner with my family, I met up with the two models and turned the guest room at Miranda's into a makeshift studio.
Digital original, 5 frame stitch
I have mixed feelings about studio lighting for figure images, but for photographs of couples, they are in fact my preferred tool - using studio lighting permits me to focus on the pose and composition of the models and not have to worry about the lighting (usually my frustration with studio lighting is the incredible focus it places on the importance of pose but, with two models, the poses seem to happen spontaneously).
Digital original
The set-up for the session was quite similar to the morning's - I put the studio flash behind the bed so the light would flow across the bed and models, providing a sense of shape and form. I'd left the white sheets on the bed from the morning's session, but wrapped the back of the bed in a black sheet to simplify the space some. Where the session differed greatly from the morning, however, was in the posing which focused on the interplay between the two models; in many ways this is easier than trying to create abstracts or stylized images.

Even though Gilda had little previous experience with modeling, there was little time spent working on poses during this session - with couples, I tend to just let the space and moment dictate the position of the models, and only when I see small adjustments that need to be made to the pose do I make suggestions. With few exceptions, all the images during this session grew out of simple suggestions such as "lie down and cuddle" or "Gilda, why don't you just lie on your side facing me, and Miles can lie down behind you " - everything else just fell into place, generated by the natural chemistry between the two models.
Digital original, 5 frame stitch
Because of the tight time-frame (we were borrowing part of Miranda's house, after all), I opted to work only with the digital cameras for this session; several times I saw images that would have worked well if translated  onto the large format camera, but the slower pace of that tool wasn't appropriate for the session and would have locked us out of working with as many poses and possibilities.

A Perfect New Year's Day

All through December, while I was planning for Katarina and Lymari's visit in the last week of 2004, I was also trying to work out the details for a possible trip to Halifax during the New Year's weekend. At the beginning of December, Miranda asked about the possibilities of working over the holidays with her and a friend who would be visiting from Montreal. At the same time, Veronica had let me know she would be in Halifax until the New Year and would like to work with me. In the end, at 4pm on December 31st, all the family and camera equipment (one could consider the cameras family members practically) piled into a car and headed towards Halifax.
Digital original
The plans for New Year's Day were a mirror of the January 1, 2003 session with Elisabeth, L_ and Krista, though this time there were two photo session planned with four models. The first was with Miranda, her friend Gilda and Ingrid modeling together in a minimalist setting, lying on a bed below a single window. The session was initially planned around working with just two models, Miranda and Gilda but Ingrid was also available and it quickly evolved into a three-model session. After the experience working with three models in 2003, I was quite keen to have a second opportunity to work with such a dynamic situation.

Miranda was kind enough to let us work at her place, so we set up in the largely empty guest room and quickly began working with the available light. The space was near ideal with bare white walls, and a single window directly above the bed where I'd placed the models. This provided a beautiful angular light over the models and more than enough room to work in the room with the cameras (many of the indoor spaces I have worked in previously have had wonderful light, but cramped quarters, limiting angles I can photograph from).
Digital infrared original
 Much of the work revolved around ideas of repetition, playing off the repeating lines, shape and forms of the three models. Using longer lenses (equal to an 85mm lens on a 35mm camera) I compressed the space between the three models and made a large number of abstract bodyscapes. This approach was the least demanding on the models; for the most part, this required them to lay still and only occasionally change their body positions. There were a number of reasons to work this way; first, it is the easiest way to photograph three models in such a limited space (any other way of posing quickly taxes the space on a bed); second, as it was Gilda's first time working with me, I didn't want to put too much emphasis on elaborate posings - the simpler and easier the session was, the better.

Thought the majority of the images were body abstracts, over the session, I did make a number of images focusing on portraiture but, as Gilda was new to modeling, I was not certain how comfortable she would be with her face in the images so I focused on more anonymous images for much of the session to make the most of the opportunity.
Digital infrared original
Sadly, technical issues pulled this session to a halt before I was really finished exploring all the possibilities that presented themselves (the portable storage device I use to store digital files when I travel refused to download any files) but, regardless, the images we made in the ninety minutes we worked were very rewarding, especially the portraits, of which all three models heartily approved.