June 29, 2006

Brianna in an Abandoned Building

As the day progressed, the weather declined and by mid afternoon, as we were looking for our second location for the day, the drizzle finally set in. Brianna and I talked briefly about the options, and decided that we'd head for an abandoned house I'd worked with three years earlier as a place to work I have always had an affinity for working in abandoned buildings with the Nude, and Brianna agreed that the location had potential, so we set up and began to work. The first set of images were made on the main floor, working with the light coming through the windows and doors, but very quickly, we discovered the best light was upstairs, where the windows were unimpeded by the rampant foliage that surrounded the building.
Digital infrared original

Once upstairs, we began exploring similar images (Brianna lit by window light) but this time, the light levels were high enough to get realistic exposures from. The best image from these compositions actually made better use of the outdoors than the building; Brianna has carefully sat down on a windowsill, and I was immediately struck by the strong contrast between the warmth of her skin and the green of the outdoors.
Digital infrared original, 13 frame stitch
The last images of the session were made outdoors; on the back on the house was an old dilapidated deck which was sheltered enough from the weather to permit Brianna to work on it without getting soaked. With some care she found a location she could work in, and very quickly we came up with a pose that worked in the space. I was unsure how the vertical posts would work in the final image, interrupting the flow of her body so strongly, but overall, the image is exactly what I was seeking, contrasting the wonderful weathered wood of the old house against the pale, luminous tones of Brianna's body.
Digital infrared original, 28 frame stitch
When we drew the session to a close, it also marked the end of Brianna's third visit to work with me. Over the couple of days we'd worked together, she'd help me make many striking images, and with her departure, I began the lengthy process of editing and archiving the hundreds of digital files we'd produced.

Brianda Models at Shenstone

The last day of Brianna's visit was spent dodging weather; the forecast called for showers all day, but a glance out the window showed only threatening clouds, so Brianna and I decided it would be worth the effort to try to find locations to work in that were either not wet, or sheltered enough to work in, regardless of the weather.
Digital infrared original

The first location we worked in was Shenstone, the summer home of two good friends of mine, and a piece of private land with several ponds and a couple of streams. I'd only seen Shenstone in the winter (when the steams were all covered with ice), but was assured it was a sight to behold in the summer, and given carte-blanche to work on the land whenever appropriate.

Although actually finding Shenstone turned out to be harder than I though (we ended up at a golf-course on our first try), Brianna and I had no problem finding the main stream at Shenstone. After setting up our equipment by the shallow swimming hole, and a quick test of the water (a little cooler than ideal, but good enough for a couple of poses, Brianna reported), we set about working. Brianna had previously modeled nude in a lake and the cooler water of the stream was a bit of a shock. But we managed to make several very striking images before she (quite wisely) declared the water too cool to continue modeling in.
Digital infrared original
Just after Brianna exited the water, for a few brief minutes, the sun broke through the clouds, and warmed the air quite suddenly. The increased contrast of the direct sunlight was a small price to pay for its luminous rays, and within fifteen minutes, Brianna was all warmed up, and happily modeling again. We first made a small set of images in the ferns along the riverbank, and them moved out into the open fields, to give Brianna a chance to warm up.
Digital infrared original
The last photos of the session were made beside one of the ponds; ringed in bullrushes (also called cattails) the pond was deep and black, and not at all enticing as a space to model, but as the sunshine came and went, Brianna soaked in what warmth there was, and I made a small number of portraits of her surrounded by the foliage. I used a much longer lens for these portraits (300mm, as opposed to my usual 50mm portrait lens), compressing the perspective, and reducing how much was in focus.

June 27, 2006

Brianna at Cape Enrage

Digital original, 43 frame stitch

The real destination of for my day working with Brianna was Cape Enrage; low tide was at 3:00pm, so we'd planned to arrive in the early afternoon, in order to have the whole afternoon and early evening to work. With more than ten meter tides possible, it is important to time working at Cape Enrage with the tide! Not only was the tide right, but the weather and the light were perfect as well - the afternoon was sunny and bright, but the cape faces east, and cast shadow upon its cliffs.
Digital original, 20 frame stitch

Brianna responded as I'd expected to the cliffs; once we stopped walked and set about trying to find images, she was clambering around on the rocks, looking for spaces to work with, and rocks to fit her body around. I've had the opportunity to work at Cape Enrage for several years now, and it never ceases to amaze me how different models respond to the same spaces in different ways. The space in which I work at Cape Enrage is actually quite small - a section of cliff-face just far enough from the steps to the shore to ensure no interruptions; thus is wouldn't surprise me to see images start to repeat themselves, but this is far from the case. Even working in exactly the same setting as I'd previously made an image with Bobbi and Miranda, Brianna came up with a pose totally different from what I'd made there before.
Digital infrared original, 42 frame stitch
As the afternoon moved onwards, the air temperature began to drop, and fog rolled in on the Bay of Fundy. Realizing our session was going to come to a premature end, I proposed that rather than searching along the coast for a couple of more locations, we find one particularly strong one (I had my eye on one already) and make several images, exploring a couple of poses, before we called it a day. I have only a couple of times combined several poses of the same model into a single final image, and wished to have another try at the idea, to see if I could push it further. The results, above, definitely indicated it is an approach I will continue to explore, if only for the quirk factor.

Brianna Returns

Brianna's previous visit (her second) was in the fall of 2005, and while we did manage to fit in one outdoor session, it was basically too cold to work in the great outdoors. This visit, however, was carefully planned to give us the best window, weatherwise, to work over the course of her visit.
Digital infrared original
Our first day of working together began working at the gypsum silos at Hillsborough. We spent much of the session working inside the towers but it was when we moved outdoors that the images really started to come together. The day was near perfect with light high clouds blowing across the sky. This provided two advantages - first, if I liked a pose, but the light was too harsh, all I had to do was wait until a cloud moved over the sun, diffusing the light somewhat, and second, it provided wonderful richness to the sky, especially with the infrared camera.
Digital infrared original
On some levels, the riverside around the gypsum towers is quite lackluster, being basically a grassy verge between the dyke on the land-side, and the muddy river bank. For Brianna and me, however, it provided a wonderful setting in which to work. There were several large chunks of driftwood which is where we began working. From there, we moved to posing in the grass itself (I was initially hesitant to suggest this, given it was rooted in wet red mud, but it proved to be totally dry, as Brianna's lying on the grasses pushed enough grass down to totally cover the mud).
Digital infrared original

All in all, the first session of the day was a real pleasure; the day was near perfect, and the images Brianna and I made came with ease and inspiration (as opposed to effort and intention). It boded well for the work we planned to create over the coming couple of days.

June 24, 2006

Following my Own Advice

Digital original, 4 frame original

When I teach, I often talk about being open to the possibilities that present themselves to you, as opposed to trying to create an image by specifically seeking it. This on the surface flies in the face of my usual modus operendi - arranging to work with a model for an afternoon or evening, taking them to a space, and photographing them there, but in reality , all I am doing is setting up a possibility to be open to. When I photograph the Nude, I almost never have plans, expectations, or specific images in mind, instead simply relying upon the process of being open to possibilities to generate the images I made.
Digital original
During this particular workshops, following my own advice was actually easier than normal. The day dawned wet and overcast, so when we arrived in downtown Moncton, all the flowers were covered with water drops, making them just perfect for a series of macro photos. The irony here is that the workshop was almost cancelled on account of the weather, and the rain ended up being the strongest contributing element to the images of the day.
Digital original

The real interesting images of the day came when I left the flowers behind and we headed towards the more industrial side of Moncton; my eye was immediately caught by a yellow no-parking sign painted on a black receiving door. Initially I make an image of this with a long lens (105mm), flattening the perspective and essentially documenting the space, but it was only when I moved much closer, and worked with an ultra-wide lens (10mm) that the final composition came to form, with exaggerated perspective, and dramatic lines. Without being open to the possibilities the space presented, I would have made the first image and then walked onwards.

June 23, 2006

Carol Outdoor at Long Beach

This was my first full day of outdoor work for the year - from mid morning to sunset, albeit with two separate models. This approach, dedicating a whole day to the image making process, is by far my preferred way of working. It has a number of advantages over shorter days, the greatest being that I can pursue images as they occur, building on the momentum of the moment, as opposed to thinking "hey, that's a great idea, I don't have time now, I will try that sometime." The session's uninterrupted sustained focus on image creation only strengthens the results.
6x7 cm film
I'd never worked on this beach before; a long uninterrupted stretch of shoreline with only one access road, at one end. A twenty minute walk down the beach gave us all the privacy we needed, and apart from a single ATV driver late in the session, the six hours we spent working was uninterrupted (we had easily 5 minutes of warning of the approaching ATV, so all was covered by the time the driver went past).
6x7 cm film
The day was spent working along the rocky end of the beach, moving from space to space as the ideas came. It was about 1/2 way into the session when I asked Carol if she'd lie in a narrow tidal pool, thinking to explore the play of the water on her skin, in a similar manner to the Surfacing image. As I moved around the space however, I very quickly became aware of the rich reflections that the water was providing to Carol's torso - an image that suddenly clicked with my mirror nudes. I went to work with both 35mm infra-red and medium format black and white, totally engaged by the narrow reflections in the water. Because of the size of the tidal pool, there were only a limited number of possibilities, but what was produced in that singles spot was certainly the highlight of the session.
6x7 cm film
Once I'd worked through the possibilities with the pool, Carol and I moved on to other spaces and possibilities, though the water-mirror-nudes were still dancing in front of my eyes. I was on an emotional high after making those images, and that enthusiasm and energy carried through the images from the second half of the session.
35mm infrared film
By the time the session had to wrap up, Carol and I had explored only a small portion of the space's possibilities; like Prospect, the space contained much more then could be worked through in a single day. Without a doubt, I will return to the space in the future (likely taking the 8"x10" camera in place of the Mamiya RB which I used as the main camera for this session).

June 19, 2006

Ingrid Returns to Pennant River

Digital infrared original, 6 frame stitch

This was Ingrid's second time working with me at Pennant River (the first being almost a year ago to the day), but unlike the previous session, we were cursed with the worst possible light - bright harsh sunlight, without a cloud in the sky. Normally, given a day like this, I would have opted to work in a different space altogether (one with shade), but Ingrid is such a water baby that I knew there wasn't an option.
Digital infrared original
Working in direct sunlight has two serious issues when it comes to working with water nudes. The first is not specific to working with water and that is the harshness of the shadows; given that the session was two days before summer solstice, the light was about as top-down as it can be. This imposes some limitations on how Ingrid can pose, and where I can photograph from, but with some effort, is possible to overcome. The second, however, is uniquely specific to working with water, and can be more challenging to overcome. With direct sunlight falling upon the river and model, it can be hard to get a slow enough shutter speed to show the kind of motion in the water that I usually seek to show. By using my darkest neutral density filters, I was able to make exposures in the 1/6th of a second range with most of my lenses, which did show some motion, but usually this would be the shortest exposure I would make with moving water, not the longest!
Digital infrared original
Unlike our expedition to Pennant River in 2005, this session was relatively short. Due to the sunny day, the water seemed proportionally cooler, and Ingrid needed several breaks to warm up, which slowed down the session; then, some people came along to swim for the afternoon, effectively putting an end to the work for the day. Ingrid and I did manage to make some very strong images, but the difficult lighting and shorter (proportionally) session did little to help with that. The reality, however, is that given that Ingrid and I have worked together now for close to nine years, the pressure to make loads of brilliant images has been replaced by the quest to build upon what we have already created in previous sessions.

June 18, 2006

Lisa at Chebucto Head

One of the first places I went to when I started working with the Nude outdoors was Chebucto Head. The location, a series of rocky headlands jutting out into the Atlantic Ocean, is full of spaces perfect for posing a model within and it is set far enough away from the city of Halifax to insure the privacy necessary for working with the Nude.
Digital infrared original

On this particular afternoon, Chebucto Head was chosen as a location not only for the location, but also the light. The day was bright and harsh, and Chebucto Head was one of the few location where I thought we'd be able to avoid the direct sunlight, using the rock valleys and ravines as locations to provide us with shade to work in.
Digital infrared original, 8 frame stitch
As soon as we arrived at Chebucto Head, we proceeded to walk down the coast for fifteen minutes or so, to get away from the parking lot and into some of the more interesting rock spaces. Lisa was quite impressed with the landscape and started seeing visual possibilities as we moved over the rocks, so it was no surprise that as soon as we found a deep enough ravine to shelter her from the sun, we started working.
Digital infrared original

The only real issue of the session was how far away from Lisa I was for some of the compositions. Working in the narrow fissures of rock sometimes necessitated me photographing from up on top of the bedrock, looking down. The only compensation for this was how close I had to work for images made down in the crevasses; often I was working with an ultra wide lens, creating dramatic lines and compositions while working only a meter or less from the model.

The Dingle

With how I have structured my life, and how much I have chosen to focus on photographing the Nude, it is quite uncommon for me to just head out with a camera to see what I can make photos of. On this particular day, while I had made plans with Lisa for the afternoon, my morning was open, so I headed to the Sandford Flemming Park in Halifax to see what I could find to explore.
Digital infrared original

Much of the time at the park was spent working with my new Sigma ultra-wide angle 10-20mm zoom, learning more about how to use it most effectively and exploring its functionality with my infrared camera. I've already used it several times with models, but in those situations, there is not a lot of time for experimentation or reflection on working with a new lens.

Midway through my experiments with the 10-22mm lens, I spotted something on the grass below the Dingle Tower (which commemorates the establishment of representative government in Nova Scotia); I walked closer to discover a massive moth clutching a single blade of grass. The sight was incredible as the moth's body was a good 10cm long and it was hanging motionless off the grass. I began by working with the lenses I had on hand (shifting from the wide-angle to my 50mm lens), but very quickly realized that, without my macro lens, I was missing all the details. I rushed back to the car to get my macro lens, worried that the moth would be gone by the time I returned.
Digital original
My worries were unfounded, however, as when I returned with the macro lens, the moth had not moved at all. The next fifteen minutes was spent working with the moth, exploring various angles and compositions before the sun finally struck the little insect and it flew away.

The real reward of the morning was less the photos of the moth, and more the pleasure of photographing for the joy of seeing. I often forget how much I simply enjoy spending time with my camera and the morning served as a reminder of why I enjoy photographing so much.

June 17, 2006

Christine at the Coast

This session, Christine's third posing nude, was our first to follow my preferred mode of working; we met in the late afternoon and had the freedom to work until the light, energy, or ideas ran out.
Digital original, 2 frame stitch

We decided to work at Prospect as it is one of the few coastal areas near Halifax which permits a good view of the sun setting over water. The evening had a near featureless blue sky which kept the contrast high and while we had come to Prospect in hopes of working with the sunset, my natural aversion to high-contrast kept Christine and I working in the shade for much of the session.

Christine's colouring is so fair that I'd expected much of the session's work to be in colour, but it was only the small series of images I made in the beginning of the evening that were made that way. Focusing on her reflection in a tidal pool, the contrast between Christine's skin and hair, and the rocks around her works much better in colour than monochrome.
Digital infrared original
Almost all the other images created during the session were created with my infrared camera. We made a series of portraits in a crevasse-like corner and even when we moved out into the direct evening sunlight, I kept working in infrared - the sunset light was so contrasty that I felt it would be better to accentuate that through using the already high-contrast infrared, rather than try to tame the contrast in colour images. In retrospect, I think I might have made some strong colour images if I had decided to work with colour at this point, but Christine and I planned to work in colour at the actual sunset, so more than anything, we were just waiting for the sun to set.
Digital infrared original
As it turned out, well before the sun set, the air temperature dropped, and Christine and I had to abandon our plans. With some reluctance, we packed up and headed back towards the car, only to be pulled to a stop less than five minutes later. A lone tree was growing on top of an exposed rock, and both Christine and I agreed that while it was still cool, away from the water it was warm enough to follow through with a final set of images. After exploring the possibilities for about ten minutes, Christine was beginning to get seriously chilled, so we called it quits for a second time, and headed for Halifax.

June 16, 2006

Flowers in Halifax

Digital original

Flowers have become something of a side-passion for me. Not to the point that I am actually interested in acquiring a green thumb and planting them but more as an academic exercise in composition and technique. The more I work with flowers, the more engrossed I become with the difficulty of making images of them that aren't just "pretty photographs".
Digital original
On this particular day, I had an afternoon free before I started teaching, so I went to the Halifax Public Gardens and sat down with my camera, a tripod and a macro lens to see what could be created.
The biggest issue of the day was the sunlight - the afternoon was bright and sunny, so I found myself either working in the shade or using my diffuser to shade the plants. I could have worked in the sunlight but I have such a strong aversion to the strong contrast that this gives. I prefer the richness of detail possible on a cloudy, overcast day.
Digital infrared original

Probably the most interesting element of working with the flowers is how much higher the bar is for perfection; with models, I often have to accept small technical flaws in favour of the perfect expression or pose but, with flowers, I can keep photographing until everything is as perfect as possible. For each composition I made in the gardens, I suspect I recorded more than a dozen separate exposures; in the end, after the couple of hours I worked in the gardens, I kept slightly more than twenty images of the three hundred or more I made. Shooting digitally, I had the freedom to experiment without worrying about material costs.

Lisa in the Cobequid Pass

Digital infrared original

Lisa had been interested in working with water from our first session working together, so it has been constantly at the back of my mind since then. Similarly, I have been driving back and forth from Halifax to Moncton for three years now and frequently noted a specific spot by the highway with a narrow ravine, cut over the ages by a small stream. For years I have wanted to work with this space, and with Lisa's visit to Moncton, followed by driving her back to Halifax, I finally would have my chance.
Digital infrared original, 5 frame stitch

Or so I thought. As it turned out, while I knew the exact location of the ravine from the Halifax to Moncton side of the road, on the return trip, I misidentified the location, and while Lisa and I found a river, it was not in the dramatic ravine we had hoped to work in. Unfortunately, we didn't have time to continue searching, as Lisa had to be back for a work shift, and we were already tight for time.
It turned out that the small river we found had several places where Lisa could pose successfully (being early June, the water still had not warmed up enough to model in, and as Lisa had to work early in the afternoon, it was best to keep her as dry as possible.
Digital infrared original, 20 frame stitch

Even though the day was bright and sunny, working under the thick foliage and trees of the riverside helped keep the contrast low, and avoid any of the bright highlights that often come with working in wood on sunny days. While the river was not flowing with any force, there was enough current to blur with longer shutter speeds, so we were able to make several compositions that made the most of the location. By the time we'd worked a couple of hundred feet upstream however, time was running short, and we had to abandon the space to head back to the car, and on towards Halifax. I will definitely return to the Cobequid pass again, to try a second time to find the ravine I'd originally sought to work in, but the images from this session definitely point out how possible it is to make successful images in the most regular of woodland spaces.

Lisa in the Pool

Digital infrared original
After more than six months, working with models in the wading pool has before quite familiar; I almost use the word formulaic but while the approach is almost always the same (excepting the small improvements I have made to the technical side), the difference in the models I have worked with is as important to the pool work as it is to my work outdoors. In the same space, two different models lead to a dramatically different set of images.
Digital infrared original
By this session, all the technical issues of working in the wading pool were solved, and Lisa and I could focus on the real work - making successful images. Unlike much of my earlier pool images, I focused less on full body poses, and more on singular images of tightly focused compositions. I think in many ways this is a response to how similar the earlier images of bodies emerging from the water looked; it tended to be the images of details that set the previous sessions apart from each other, as opposed to the larger, more general composition.
Digital infrared original

It is likely this is my last water-pool session for some time, given that later in the summer I am moving back to Halifax. The only thought in the back of my head would be to return to the water-pool idea in Halifax, but, as opposed to using a child's wading pool, build a specially designed space to work in and create a wide variety of images over a short period of time, using the specially built set.

June 15, 2006

Lisa Models in Moncton

Digital original

Lisa and I have worked indoors a couple of times in Halifax (once in the studio, and once with candles) but both her and my main interest is in working outdoors together. With this in mind, she came up to Moncton for a visit and to do some modeling. An added bonus to this was the fact I was teaching in Halifax the following weekend and she could get a drive back to the city with me which would hopefully provide an opportunity to work together outside somewhere during the drive back to Halifax.
Digital infrared original
This session was our first working together with natural light and the comfort and experience that Lisa had gained through the studio and candle sessions really paid off. As soon as I was set up, we started working, and the session went straight into some very successful portraits, focusing on Lisa's striking gaze. Working with the infrared camera for most of these, I was using large apertures to throw the sheets behind Lisa out of focus.
Digital infrared original

While there were some abstracts and bodyscapes made during this session, almost all the immediately apparent successes came from the portraits. After almost eighteen years of working with the Nude (and almost twenty photographing), I really have to admit my figure work breaks down into two classes, one of which revolves around striking indoor Nude portraits.

June 12, 2006

Lis in the Pool

The second session of Lis' visit to Moncton was a continuation of my exploration of studio water nudes. By this session, pretty much all of the technical issues had been worked out (filling and emptying the wading pool I was using, how to light the scene, what to line the wading pool with to ensure the best quality images), so I could concentrate on making the actual photographs.
Digital infrared original

As with the previous wading pool sessions, I focused almost exclusively on the interplay between the light reflecting on the water, and the shadow of the model. The most important part of this process is waiting for the water to become still and then finding the perfect angle to photograph from; too high an angle removes the reflection from the water and too low an angle often had the edges of the water pool in the image. This, combined with the fact that many of the images I was making were multi-frame stitches, made for a very slow, methodical session, with many long pauses as I waited for the water to settle down, and made the series of exposures for each image.
Digital infrared original
As I've noted before, to some degree the studio water sessions feel like I am working with the same compositions and poses over and over again. In a literal sense, this is quite true, as there are only so many positions that look good with the particular combination of lighting and setting I am using, but by the same token, the process is not really focused on making new and different images, but rather on honing the realization of a process, and perfecting the results as much as possible.
Digital infrared original
Truth be told, if Lis and I had more time, I would have been much happier heading outdoors, and working in a real river or lake, but with only so much time before she flew back home, we had to make the most of the possibilities.

June 03, 2006

Carol's Pregnancy Session II

The second pregnancy session in the second series of images of Carol's second pregnancy followed very much the same pattern as the first. I had reviewed the images from the first session and made a decision about which poses I'd planned to follow during the pregnancy. The final piece from her first pregnancy was a long horizontal (presented online as two rows of images) so for this series, I decided to work with a horizontal pose I could assemble as a vertical for the final piecer. With this in mind, I selected three horizontal compositions to follow over the coming months, each of which has the potential to yield a good looking series focusing on the changes that are part of bringing a new life into the world.
Digital infrared
I can't state often enough how much of a privilege it is to have the chance to work with Carol over another pregnancy. Our friendship has spanned more than a decade and she was my best-person at Joy and my wedding in 2002; the opportunity to again be a part of such a special time in her life, making a lasting record of it in my images, is a real honour.