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.