November 21, 2005

Brianna in a Water Pool

Though I had arranged for a studio space in which to work on the night of Brianna's arrival, the real focus of her visit was to try something I'd had in mind since I purchased my studio lights earlier in the fall - indoor water nudes. I'd spent the previous month trying to find someone with a child's wading pool that I could borrow; in the end, a friend gave me one with a small hole in it. This was perfect for my intended use, as I was going to line the pool with plastic anyway.
Digital infrared original, 5 frame stitch
The real inspiration for the indoor water Nudes came from Surfacing, an image I made in 1998 (titled after the album by the Boomtown Rats, "The Fine Art of Surfacing"). Surfacing was made with the light of the setting sun reflecting off the water's surfac and, ever since making that image, I've been fascinated by the possibilities if working with sunsets and water nudes. I'd also started to think about the possibilities presented by a studio. The more I worked with sunsets, the more aware I became of how fleeting the light was. In most cases, there was less than ten minutes between when the light started to work and when it had faded below a level where it was practical to work.

In a studio, however, the light levels are steady and predictable, which would permit a model and me to work at our leisure until the possibilities (or the model) were exhausted. All that remained was to test the theory and see if it was actually a practical approach.
Digital infrared original
As it turned out, it was perfectly doable; after double-lining the pool with builder's plastic, and using a garden hose to fill the pool with warm water, Brianna and I worked for the better part of two hours with the wading pool. We kept the water temperature pleasant by continually adding hot water, much to Brianna's pleasure.

With the pool filled, and Brianna comfortably floating around in it, the real work began. I positioned my large 30"x60" softbox low on the far side of the wading pool, and worked on a similar low angle, using the reflection on the surface of the water as my highlight for the image. I alternated between using a 50mm portrait lens, and a longer 105mm lens, depending on how close to Brianna I was. Regardless of which lens I used, many images were stitched together, both to achieve a higher resolution, and a wider angle of view. With almost all the images of Brianna's body emerging from the water, it was practically inevitable that they would end up as panoramic images.
Digital infrared original, 2 frame stitch
Fifteen minutes into the session, I knew we had a success on our hands. Where I'd often worked with bodies in water before, I never had the time to refine any images to the degree I could with this approach. There are numerous technical issues to address (the bottom pattern of the pool is quite visible in a number of images), and some aesthetic issues to overcome (I didn't like a single colour image made in the wading pool, though the inspiration for the project, Surfacing, is in colour), the experiment was a stunning success, pleasing me more than any studio image have in many years!

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