May 29, 2005

Flowers in the Rain

I have always been fascinated with macro photography, but given my predilection for photographing architecture and the Nude, I don't have many opportunities to explore close-up photography. With the weather being as horrible as it has of late (rain, rain and more rain seems to be the order of the days and weeks), I spent today working with a number of photographers in downtown Moncton, and testing the Olympus 50mm f/2 macro lens. My partner Joy bought an Olympus E-300 this spring, and the 50m f/2 lens would be a perfect addition to her system - both as a fast portrait lens and a good close-up lens.
Digital original
Though the day was heavily overcast, with rain spitting intermittently, and threatening a real downpour, we decided to head as a group downtown, to see what we could find to photograph. With the macro lens in hand, I was specifically looking for small things to photograph, and these little white flowers, covered with water drops from the morning's rain, seemed just perfect. The macro lens on the Olympus E300, combined with a flexible tripod and wireless remote, made the whole process simple and straightforward.
Digital original
As it happened, one of the other photographers had the extension tube for the 4/3rds system, so I was able to focus REALLY close with the macro lens - a total revelation. Once I'd set up the lens with the extension tube, I worked alternately between compositions that called for a deep depth of field, and those which would be more appropriate for less in focus. Close-focused images inherently have less in focus, but sometimes, more in focus, as opposed to less, is preferable.
Digital original
The explorations of the water-dropped flowers came to an abrupt halt as the sky opened above us and the real rain started. As nice as the flowers were, they weren't worth ruining any camera equipment.

All I can think of now is how much I want to work with rain-covered flowers again!

May 14, 2005

A Day of Exploration

Usually by mid-May, the weather is more than warm enough to be working outdoors with models, but this year's spring has been unusually cool. As a result, the first weekend that I'd intended to spend working with models in New Brunswick was spent driving around on the Nova Scotia-New Brunswick border looking for potential spaces to work in with models, photographing, and generally having fun.
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The first space to really engage me was a massive stone bridge Joy found in the middle of the small community of Tidnish; in the midst of an innocuous looking park, the path went over a broad, wide bridge. In a country well under 150 years old, stone bridges of this sort are incredibly uncommon, and it wasn't until I was back home hours later that I could discover its origins - it was originally built to support a ship railway, for carrying ships from upper Canada across the Tantramar mashes, and into the Bay of Fundy, saving over 500 miles of sailing. The project ultimately failed, but the remains, like this massive stone bridge, are a mute testament to the grand effort that was undertaken.
Digital original, 2 frame stitch
After leaving Tidnish, I spent the rest of the afternoon driving along back roads, and keeping an eye out for potential spaces to photograph. About the only thing to bring me to a halt was a single lone tree on the horizon of a distant field. The afternoon sky was high and multi-layered, providing a simple but visually engaging setting against which to place the tree.
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The last hour or so of the day's trip was spent photographing the architecture in downtown Amherst, the last town in Nova Scotia before the New Brunswick border. This was the first time in the day that regretted not having my 8"x10" view camera with me. Architecture naturally lends itself to the flexibility and control of the large format camera, but as the day was simply an exploratory mission, I had left it at home. In an effort to make the most of the situation, I decided to focus on architectural details and images where colour was a major element.

May 08, 2005

Three Models in the Studio

The original plan for this afternoon was to head to the countryside with Natasha and work in the landscape for the remaining light of the day. As things turned out though, the rain precluded that plan, so after some quick phone calls, and a somewhat hurried lunch, Natasha joined Ashley, Miles and I in the studio for an impromptu three-model session.
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I've worked in the studio with three models in the past (the most notable time being the "Three Graces" session in 2002), but each time it has been a planned session, with some foresight put into the possibilities and direction of the sessions. For this session, given that Ashley and Miles had only modeled together for the first time hours earlier, and Natasha had never met either of the others before lunchtime, it was a little more awkward at the beginning. Fortunately, I'd left the studio set up from the earlier session, so we could begin where the comfort seemed to be the highest, with the models simply lying comfortably on the backdrop.
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For the remainder of the session, I alternated between the various combinations and permutations possible with three models (1+2+3, 1+2, 1+3, 2+3), often working with very similar poses with alternating models, to make the most of the possibilities. To a degree, it was harder to work with the two women and Miles together than with any other combination, as it was a little difficult to keep the images from looking too hedonistic, but with careful attention, and a focus on a more stylistic approach, the results were very pleasing.
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In the end, for all that the day was cold and wet, with the help of the enthusiastic models I was able to make some very striking images. For all that I was hyper-aware of the potential issues of placing two, and then three models, in such a personal and intimate setting, the day's sessions couldn't

Miles and Ashley Pose Together in the Studio

Sunday in Halifax was blustery, wet and cold; instead of working outdoors as I had hoped, I stayed inside for the day, working in a studio for both the morning and afternoon sessions.
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When planning ahead for this visit to Halifax, I'd arranged to work with Miles and Ashley on Sunday morning. Ashley had modeled nude previously for Miles but, after seeing my work, specifically my work with couples, was interested in modeling for me with a male model. Miles was an obvious candidate as he's worked with me for more than eight years and has several times cheerfully posed with models who were not partners.

Working with two models who are not a couple is always an interesting (and on some levels, delicate) process. Much of the tone of a session is set by the models' comfort; while one can assume the comfort level of a couple, when two friend or acquaintances model, there's no way to predict how relaxed or awkward the session will be.
Digital original, 5 frame stitch
With Ashley and Miles, it didn't take long for the models to find their own comfort level and simply focus on making the images. For the first while I worked with the models standing, but the awkwardness this introduced was hard to overcome. With "real" couples, standing poses inevitably turn into cuddlefests, but with Ashley and Miles, as much as they worked with embraces and hugging, the images had an artificiality to them which is impossible to ignore.
Digital original, 4 frame stitch
The second half of the session was much more successful, with the models shifting to work on the floor, and the lighting shifting to a more dramatic, side lighting. By this time, there was little hesitation or uncertainty in the models' movements, and that, combined with the more relaxed, prone poses, really strengthened the closing images of the session.

May 07, 2005

L_ Dancing

L_ recently returned from a long trip to Turkey and India. Shortly after getting back to Halifax, she asked if I'd be interested in photographing her in some of the belly dancing costumes she'd bought during her trip. I was more than happy to to help and we made plans to spend an evening in the studio during my next Halifax visit.
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I was quite surprised by how different working with clothed models is (I suppose this should come as no surprise, but, as I'd never thought about it, it was worth mentioning). With the focus being on the dance costumes, I had to alter my usual approach to working, and experiment more with pose and position than lighting. As it happened, L_ forgot to bring dance music so she had to work harder to create a natural flow to her body and the costumes.
Digital original
As the session was so focused on the costumes and poses, I lit the studio as evenly as possible, which had the added advantage of using all the flash heads available to me. This resulted in my being able to set the lights to their lowest setting, permitting me to photograph L_ dancing at three frames per second!
Digital original

This session, more than any other recently, brought home the huge influence that digital cameras have had on my approach to photography. Because so many of the images were of L_ in motion, I took advantage of the high volume of images possible with digital SLR cameras. By the end of the session, we'd recorded more than 1,100 photographs and, while many of these were discarded (due to facial express problems, bad timing, or bad framing) the images I kept were much stronger for the high volume used to create them. The other element that digital photography added to the session was that less than two hours after finishing the session, L_ and I parted ways - her with a DVD full of images, and me with the satisfaction that I'd been able to go from start to finish with the session in under five hours!

May 06, 2005

Miranda and Partner

With the warmer weather in May comes the beginning of the photo workshop season and the resumption of my regular visits to Halifax. I was lucky on this visit, in that Miranda's work schedule permitted us some time to work together on the day I'd arrived (we'd planned to work later in the weekend too, but scheduling issues conspired against us). The day was too cool to permit working outdoors but fortunately one of the upstairs rooms was available to work in (the same room where I'd worked with Gilda, Ingrid and Miranda on New Year's Day).
Digital infrared original

As I move closer to converting the Nikon D70 permanently to infra-red, I decided to do a test with an infrared opaque filter - the results were quite pleasing - this image of Miranda was made by soft diffused light - I pushed the ISO up, and used a fast f/1.4 lens, but the results were more than acceptable. If this is an indication of what I will get with the converted camera, I am very much looking forward to using it.
Digital original

With my previous DSLR, the Canon 10D, infrared photography wasn't practical; the camera was both very insensitive to infrared light and many of the images had a huge hot-spot in the centre of the image, making the results basically useless. The Nikon, on the other hand, worked quite well - the camera was quite insensitive to infrared light, but the results were quite lovely with no hot-spot to be seen. I made a number of images of Miranda standing against an open door, drawn to the small white door handle - the only real problem being getting accurate focus.Infrared light focuses behind visible light and requires adjustments to focus for larger apertures.

The rest of the session was spent working with Miranda on the bed, lit by the window behind it. The experiments with the infrared filter at the start of the session had been focused on standing poses, so I thought working with sitting and reclining poses would add some variety. In the middle of the session, Miranda's partner leant his arms and torso to a number of images, adding a third layer of variety.
Digital original, 5 frame stitch

By the end of the afternoon, the light was fading, and I had to take my leave to set up for teaching. The experiment with the infrared filter had made me even more enthusiastic for the modification of the camera, and the variety of images, from working with the door, Miranda and her partner, and just reclining on the bed, made me feel like we'd made the most of the time we'd had.