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.

August 15, 2005

Bouchtouche Beach

I have always had a love for subtle tones in blocky compositions; horizons and skies have always been attractive to me for some mysterious reason. On this particular afternoon, I had a car but no available models so, for lack of a better plan, I drove to the beach for the early evening light.
Digital original, 2 frame stitch
I spent almost the entire time at the beach with my camera on a tripod pointing out to sea. The horizon was so beautiful, with a narrow band of yellow and red on it, that I couldn't leave it alone as a subject. I explored a full range of shutter speeds, from 1/30th of a second down to 30 seconds (using neutral density filters and smaller apertures) over the evening, eventually settling on the 4 to 6 second range as my preferred shutter speed - just enough to seriously blur the movement of the ocean, but not enough to remove all traces of the surf caused by the waves breaking on the beach.
Digital original
As the evening moved on, I shifted from focusing on the sky, horizon and beach, to working with the repeating lines of the waves meeting the shore; the sun was setting over the land, and the bright sky leant some beautiful colours to the water and wet sand. Again, the real challenge here was finding the right shutter speeds - my intuition was that I'd need longer speeds, to blur the water as it pulled back from the beach, but as it turned out, the best looking images were made with much shorter exposures, in the range of 1/8 to 1/2 a second.
Digital infrared original
The disappearance of the sun below the horizon brought the evening at the beach to an end but I was very pleased with the results. More than many recent sessions, the beach images reinforced how much my photographic technique has changed since the introduction of digital photography. The LCD panel on back of the digital SLR proved invaluable for post-viewing the effect of the various shutter-speeds on the images, and while I certainly use the LCD regularly, usually it is for the viewing of the exposure results via histogram, as opposed to the image itself.

August 14, 2005

Jesse at the Gypsum Tower

Digital infrared original

I suppose the irony with Jesse is that she and I live in the same city and never seem to manage to find the time to work together. Ironically, this is highly influenced by the fact that when I have a car, I am often in Halifax teaching. On this weekend, though, I did had a rental car and was around Moncton, so the two of us managed to meet up and headed out for an afternoon of photography. Still a little unfamiliar with the areas possibilities close to Moncton, we opted to head to the old gypsum silos where I worked with Ingrid during my first outdoor Nude session in New Brunswick.
Digital infrared original, 8 frame stitch
As I'd previously worked in the space with a variety of models (including Ingrid and Miranda), I tried hard to take the cue for the session's images from Jesse's reactions to the space as she had never been there before. We started by making a series of images in one of the towers but relatively quickly shifted to working on the riverfront before them. I eventually wandered upriver to explore the possibilities in the grasses along the bank. We quickly discovered that the lovely green grasses were all rooted in thick red mud which totally removed any chance of working with Jesse lying among the grasses. We did, however, find some old weathered wooden posts set into the mud, and managed to make a small series of images working with one of posts with the river and far shore in the background of an image rooted in the sea of luminous grasses.
Digital infrared original, 5 frame stitch
After exhausting the possibilities of the grassy shore, we returned to the towers, but this time to work with the remains of the piers there, taking a cue from the image with the wood further down the shore. Set horizontally into the shore below the silos were a series of long wooden poles (I assume these once supported a dock or deck formation in front of the gypsum towers, but the rest of this is long gone, so it is hard to tell). The primary advantage of working with the wooden poles was they kept Jesse out of the mud and much on the riverbank (at this point, the Petticodiac River is fully tidal, with more than five meters of rise and fall twice a day!), but they also gave the image some definite structure, something to form the final composition around. In the end, after much experimentation and trial of angles of approaches, my favorite image is from above, looking down on the shoreline, with Jessie off to the side, looking sandwiched between two massive logs. Potentially a disturbing image if you don't understand the depth between the two poles, but quite striking visually, with Jesse's body the only highlight in the entire image.

August 08, 2005

Miles & Natasha Model Outdoors

Miles and Natasha had accompanied Trisha and I to the coast; towards the end of that session, I'd asked if either of them would be interested in modeling or if they'd like to model together. The opportunity to work with one or two more models in such a beautiful space was certainly not to be missed.
Digital infrared original, 4 frame stitch
The first set of images I made was of Natasha alone. We took our cue from the last images I'd made of Trisha, and worked in the shallow water pool. We arrived at the peak of the tide, as the water level barely changed over the hour or so that I worked in the water pool. As opposed to focusing on her figure alone, I choose to make a series of more dramatic compositions, with the big sky above Natasha providing a balancing element to her pale form in the dark water.

When I finished working with Natasha alone on the rock, Miles joined her and we worked on a series of water nudes with the two of them emerging from the water surrounded by rockweed. At the time, I thought a dramatic wide-angle composition would be best and made the images with a wide angle lens to be stitched together later. In retrospective, however, the distortion added to the image from the wide-angle view was a little displeasing, so I regret not making alternative versions with a longer lens, for a different perspective. In my own defense, I avoided the long lens option because of some distracting rocks in the background, but I still suspect they would have looked better overall).
Digital infrared original
The final set of photographs I made of the two models was on a set of rocks that rose out of the still water of the pool; I started with just Natasha in the image, but eventually added Miles to fill out the
composition, in this case with him kneeling behind her and stretched out along her figure and the rock. With the infrared camera, the reflection in the water, while clear, is unusually dark, lending a mysterious air to the whole image.
Digital infrared original, 43 frame stitch
The short session with Miles and Natasha at the end of the day was lovely. We didn't work for all that long but made a number of notable images, and made the most of the day which is always a satisfying feeling.

August 07, 2005

Trisha at the Coast

I hadn't worked with Trisha since 1999 when she left for British Columbia in 2000; when I heard she was back in Nova Scotia for the summer and interested in modeling, I kept all of Sunday free. Truth be told, the day dawned bright and sunny, and my heart sank, as that yields some of the most difficult lighting possible.Given the innate changeability of Maritime weather, I decided to go ahead with the session as planned. We met up at West Dover and headed out onto the rocky shoreline to work for the afternoon.
Digital infrared original, 3 frame stitch
Because of the harsh light, the first place we worked was actually in a shadowed cave under a rocky outcrop. The light was beautifully even and the rocks had strong lines and shape to work with. Initially I had been concerned that Trisha's tan lines would cause a problem (her job has her outdoors for many hours a day), but they barely registered on the infrared modified camera, making the whole process easier. Once we finished working in the shade, we moved out into the sunlight, with Trisha modeling on several seaweed covered rocks right by the sea; in infrared, the dark brown rockweed practically glows, giving a surreal quality to the images. I ended up making several multi-frame stitches, though these proved challenging to assemble, as the ocean swept in and around the rock several times over the making of the image. That being said, through the patience of both Trisha and I, the final images worked out beautifully.
Digital infrared original
All through the seaweed images, I wanted Trisha to be immersed in the water but the open Atlantic, even in August, was just too cold for that to be practical. Around the corner in a cove, however, we found the perfect space, cut off from the receding tide by a line of rocks was a shallow basin, sun warmed and perfect for the final location for the session.
Digital infrared original, 8 frame stitch
One recent addition to my DSLR equipment was a right-angle viewer for my Nikon D70. This permits photography at a very low angle without having to look straight through the viewfinder itself. I'd used this the previous evening at Martinique Beach for the first time, but it was during this session that it came into use heavily – with myself standing in the water, it would have been impossible to have the camera at water level and stay dry enough to use it. With the right-angle finder, I could simply bend over and use a hand under the camera to keep from accidentally immersing it in the ocean. This permitted me to make a whole series of images with the camera at near-water level, while still keeping myself, and all the other camera equipment around my waist, completely dry.

August 06, 2005

Krista at a Beach...with a Friend

As Krista was leaving for Ontario at the beginning of September, she'd indicated she is interested in getting as many photo sessions in as possible before her departure. As this was my last planned trip to Halifax before she left, we'd made plans for an evening session. Like the week before, she brought a friend along, both as company and as a potential model, and we headed out to Martinique Beach in hopes of building on the beautiful images I'd made the week before with Monique. I had wanted to walk all the way to the end of the beach so I could photograph with the setting sun across the water but our timing was poor and, by the time we arrived at the beach, it was almost 8pm and with the sun setting around 8:30, the only option was to work on the beach proper.
Digital original, 6 frame exposure blend, 3 frame stitch
Krista and I began working on the low dunes bordering the beach. This had the advantage of providing some shade from the direct sun and shelter from the couple of pedestrians taking their evening stroll down the beach. Most of the poses we worked on explored the lines and form of the dunes but, in each case, I also tried to incorporate the evening sky into the image. We also explored some standing poses, working with the direct, angular light of the setting sun. These proved more difficult to work with, both due to the sparse landscape (dunes just don't have much to work with, in regards to standing poses), and the hard lighting. Even as the sun moved lower in the sky and became less intense, the light was still strikingly direct.
Digital original
As the sun moved towards the horizon, I moved from the dunes down onto the beach proper. There were few beach-walkers left and we had the space to ourselves. As Krista and I began working out the plans and pose for the first image, Caitlin announced she'd like to pose as well and the plans quickly changed to incorporate the second model. In some ways, this made the process
easier; with two models, the poses could have something to rotate around; a single model on a bare beach is sometimes a little hard to work with creatively.
Digital original, 2 frame stitch
I decided to make the focal point of the images the tones of the setting sun. Using a longer shutter speed to get the water to blur (this was accomplished by using a 6-stop neutral density filter over my lenses, requiring sixty four times longer an exposure for the images), I was somewhat concerned that the models wouldn't be able to hold still enough for the longer exposures (between 2 and 8 seconds in length) but I thought it was worth the experiment, and in the end, the results were more than crisp enough to use. With each image, I made separate frames for the beach, sky and model, so while they may have moved in the first two images, I tried hard to communicate to them the importance of keeping still during the images of them alone, which definitely paid off in the results.
Digital original, 11 frame exposure blend, 4 frame stitch
One surprise from the session was how much infrared light there still was after the sunset; Caitlin, who had only decided to model after the sunset, modeled for a number of portraits against the fading light of the sky, and while the light was low (1/60 th @ f/1.4) there was enough light to work – a stark contrast to a month earlier with Miles and Natasha.

August 02, 2005

A Return to St John's Church

In the fall of 2001, on Halloween night, a tragic fire struck in the town of Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, totally gutting the second oldest Anglican Church in Canada. Several days after the fire, I'd visited the church to photograph the destruction, making a record of the devastation in hopes that it would someday be returned to its former glory, and that the images of the burnt building would be of interest historically.
Digital original
After finishing up at Gold River, the plan had been to journey to the coast for a second session, but the rain had finally arrived, so that option was out. Being so close to Lunenburg, however, we decided to take a look at the recently re-opened church, to see how the restored building looked. The first view through the doors was awe-inspiring. What I had last seen as a charred, broken mess covered by haphazard blue tarps and reeking of creosote and soot was warm and golden, a cozy, intimate space where before there had only been charred wood and many dense inches of ash underfoot.
Digital original
I cannot begin to understand the labour or love which went into the reconstruction of this beautiful building. Someday, I hope to have the time, permission and resources to return to the church and recreate the same images I made during my first visit. I think the juxtaposition of the devastation and restoration would be inspiring (both visually and spiritually, as resurrection is such a major theme in Christianity, and this is nothing if not a stunning example of that transformative process).
Digital original
The only frustration of this visit was the lack of time. We arrived literally minutes before the church was closed for the day and I only had the chance to walk through the church and take perhaps a dozen images (all without a tripod) before we had to leave, so they could close for the day. On another date, with more time, and permission to use a tripod, the results would be much more refined.

August 01, 2005

Ingrid & Natasha at the Killdevils

After the previous evening's unplanned session with Ingrid at Chain Lake, one might think I would have had my fill of water settings for this visit to Halifax and seek to work in a different locale, but nothing could have been farther from the truth. With last night's images still resonating in my mind, I couldn't say no when it was suggested we try working at Gold River. This was a space I hadn't visited since 1999 when Ingrid and I had our last session before she moved to the Pacific coast and, based on the strength of our collaboration since her return, I knew the setting would inspire both of us.
Digital infrared original
Ingrid and Natasha were both available to model for the day, so with the models, myself and my good friend Miles, a fellow photographer who was the model for the River God I & II images, we headed off to Gold River. The day was overcast with a forecast for rain but we all held out the hope that the weather would be different on the South Shore, or at the very least, hold off until the session was over.

As I haven't worked at Gold River in six years, I was prepared for change, but all the same, was rather surprised to see a handful of houses built overlooking the river, not close enough to interrupt our process working by the Killdevils (a specific place where the river narrows through a rocky passage, and then widens into a broad, deep bottomed bowl), but certainly preventing us ever working in the up area of the river again. Even so, the river was beautifully to behold, with plenty of water for motion-orientated images, but not enough to ever put the models at risk of being swept downstream.
Digital infrared original, 4 frame stitch
I began working in the Killdevils proper, exploring the possibilities of the slow moving water and more careful, refined poses. When working in water, the pose is often dictated by a combination of the setting and the temper of the water - a calm lake provides much more opportunity for careful composition and posing than a swift moving river.

I made a number of compositions working with both models in the same frame, before heading off with Natasha to make some images of her alone. I was particularly enamoured with the possibilities suggested by her pale body emerging from the deep, dark water of the Killdevils - a stark contrast further enhanced by the creation of the images in infrared. The final results, with her pale, radiant torso set among the darker water was everything I'd hoped. One interesting side effect of working with digital infrared is that I find myself back in the world of a darkroom-based image; while I can get a sense in the field of how an image will look, I don't know for certain until I am back at home and have processed the image in the computer.
8"x10" film
After finishing the series of images of Natasha, I switched to working with Ingrid, who had been further up river modeling for Miles. Ingrid has always had a love of water and, for perhaps fifteen minutes, I made a series of multi-frame stitches of Ingrid in the swirling river. At this point, I decided to switch from the digital SLRs to my 8"x10" view camera. I had seen a number of possibilities in the spontaneous river nudes of Ingrid that I wished to try with the larger camera. After carefully clambering over the rocks with the camera and lenses, I proceeded to make the previsualized series of images with varying success. Most missed the freshness that I'd seen with the digital cameras, but one in particular, of Ingrid lying back along a rock, with her hand stretched out over the raging water behind her, looked perfect on the ground glass. After refining the pose to get the angle of Ingrid's body just right, I made the exposure. With a bit of cropping in the printing, the image is just as I envisioned it - drawing subtly on the hand of Adam in Michelangelo's Creation of Adam on the Sistine Chapel's ceiling.