February 26, 2005

Alexandra & Liam in Moncton I

Alexandra and Liam arrived from Halifax the night after I worked with Jane on the start of a cross-continent adventure. After our first session last fall, we'd planned on working together again, but given that we live more than 300km apart, it took a while for this to come to pass.
Digital infrared original, 16 frame stitch

I set up the living room exactly as I had for the work with Jane, again deciding to focus more on composition and pose than lighting. The grand irony of the situation was where I felt frustrated and let down by the studio images of Jane, I felt engaged and inspired by the same approach with Alexandra and Liam. The addition of the second model made all the difference in terms of how the session evolved for me.
Digital infrared original, 13 frame stitch
Having seen the image I made with Jane the night before, I initially used many of the same approaches (shallow depth of field, close compositions) with Alexandra and Liam. Very quickly, however, I reverted to my more traditional approach to working with a couple indoors, focusing instead on the larger composition of interwoven bodies. I did keep the shallow depth of field, as I have become quite enamoured with the softness it lends to bodies as they go out of focus, but the tighter compositions I found so pleasing with the images of Jane just looked confusing with so many anonymous body parts.
Digital infrared original
As has become my modus operendi, as the session progressed, I found myself making numerous multi-frame stitches, wanting to create the most detailed, high resolution results. A distinct advantage of working the way I do is that I try hard to make sure the models are comfortable before I start working with a pose, so if it took 16-20 frames before the images is completed, the models are usually fine with that approach.
Digital infrared original
The contrast between working indoors with a couple and a single model is impossible to overstate; all through the session with Alexandra and Liam, poses would unfold in front of me, simply from the interaction of the two models. The comfort and affection that the two models have for each other is palpable and at the core of all the photographs we made during this session.

February 24, 2005

Jane in Moncton

Jane and I began working together last summer, having the opportunity to work outdoors several times. For this session, however, we were to work indoors, mainly due to the freezing conditions outdoors (being the middle of winter and all).
Digital infrared original
Jane was visiting Moncton for a conference but did have an evening available to work with me so I set up my lighting and we began working. As opposed to using all three lights, and continually having to adjust one thing or the other, I decided to use the most basic of lighting approaches and set one flash head above the couch on which Jane was posing. On this flash I used my large (30"x60") softbox, to give the light a soft, even quality.
Digital infrared original
Unlike our previous sessions outdoors, where Jane and I worked with the body in the landscape, this session was focused on details. With the softbox positioned high above her, the light gave beautiful description of form, yet gave soft, delicate transitions from light to dark (with direct light, these transitions would have been harsh and contrasty). This focused the images on form and shape; this, combined with shallow depth of field (a result of using my 50mm f/1.8 lens at large apertures), allowed me to make a whole series of images that walked the line between being details (because of the close-up composition) and abstract (because of the shallow focus).
Digital infrared original
It was a great pleasure to work again with Jane whom I hadn't seen for many months but, as enjoyable as it was, I couldn't help but feel how lacklustre the images were compared to the work we'd produced outdoors. I have never really overcome my frustration with working indoors with studio lighting, and while it is definitely preferable to not photographing at all, it often falls so far short of my work outdoors that it becomes more about practice and experimentation than actually pursuing the making of images.

February 01, 2005

Indoors with Jesse

When I picked up Jesse for the drive to Fredericton, I'd caught a small glimpse inside her house and commented that I'd love to work with the space. Jesse's reply was "no problem, just let me know when" - a week later, I was on her doorstep again, this time with cameras in hand. The day was bright and sunny, with fresh-fallen snow, so it was more then bright enough to work, even with the smaller windows that fill her house.
Digital original, 4 frame stitch
We started the session with the image that was stuck in my mind from the week before - between Jesse's living room and den is a set of glass-windowed double doors. I'd caught a glimpse of the light coming through the glass, and knew that with the right pose, the compliment between the luminous glass and the nearshadow of the figure set against them. As it turned out, the real struggle with the image was not the contrast, which I'd expected to be hard to control, but Jesse's height. When I'd seen the doors, I'd thought of the figure set against them grasping the top of the molding ...another 20 cm above the highest Jesse could reach. After a quick modification of the posing., and some experimentation, we managed to make an image that better mirrored my intention.

The second location we used was the staircase, which had also caught my eye, both because of the quality of the light and the intricate carving on the newel post. Similar to the difficulties I'd experienced in Lynn-Marie's house, the only real problems I had with this space was difficulty in getting far enough from the subject to use the lens I wanted. In the end, I had to work with my back right to the wall before I could get the perspective I sought.
Digital original, 5 frame stitch
Once we'd completed working with the two spaces I'd had in mind when I'd first seen her house, I asked Jesse if there was anywhere else that might have potential - she led the way and, after a short tour of the house, we settled on working in her bedroom for the final images of the session. The light in the room was not the best but the setting, an iron-post bed with soft white covers, was perfect.

We started working with some simple portraits, eventually working so Jesse lay at the foot of the bed, half-covered by the white comforter. I couldn't get quite high enough to keep the metal work at the bottom of the frame out of the image, so I decided that the final image would be more stylized (similar to an image I made of Veronica in the summer of 2003), and I would erase all the problematic areas when I assembled the images into the final composition. The end result is one of  my favorite portraits of Jesse, on par with the image I made of her during the first session we worked together.
8"x10" film
In the end, the day's fading light brought an end to the session but the closing images in the small, dim bedroom upstairs were such a highpoint of the session that it felt like it ended when it was finished, as opposed to when the light died.