July 28, 2006

The Morning of a Wedding

Digital infrared original
My last photo session in Moncton, before moving back to Halifax in August, was one of the most unique I've ever had in almost twenty years of photography. Virginia was introduced to my work by her step-mother, who was enrolled in one of my photo courses, and decided that she was interested in working with me the next time she was in New Brunswick, which was at the end of July for her wedding. So, on the morning of her wedding day, Virginia and I met up, and she went through a selection of my work (I always prefer to have potential models view actual prints, in addition to my work online, as there is such a significant quality difference.) After perhaps half-an-hour of chatting, we moved onto the photography, setting up in a room specifically set aside for us to use for the morning.
Digital infrared original, 10 frame stitch
The room we had to work in was perfect, with large glass double doors on one wall, and a comfy couch for Virginia to pose upon. Once my white sheets were laid down on the couch, and draped over the windows, we started working, keeping one eye on the clock to make sure we didn't interfere with the wedding schedule.
Digital infrared original
Usually, when working indoors, time isn't much of a factor, with a session running until the model or I feel that it has run its course, but for this session, with a wedding in only a couple of hours, time was a major consideration. This isn't to say that time restrictions changed or interfered in any way with the process, or the work that we created together, but it was a constant presence in the back of our mind. Also, for me at least, a real source of amusement - the session was so quiet, relaxed and low key, and in a matter of hours, Virginia would be walking down the aisle to be married. Both events were celebrations of Virginia, in a way, but I can think of few greater contrast in realities.

July 23, 2006

Ingrid and Miranda Model for a Workshop II

The second day of the workshop dawned with my worst fear - rain; the night saw the worst of it, with a torrential downpour drenching the landscape, and putting a damper on everything. By the time breakfast was finished, the day was improving, but rather than take our chances with the weather, I set up an available light studio indoors, and the students (and I) spent the better part of two hours photographing the two models on my white sheets, all the while watching the day outside grow brighter!
Digital infrared original
The rest of the workshop was spent working outdoors with Ingrid (Miranda had to leave after the morning images to insure she was back in Halifax in time to work on Monday). The first set of images outdoors were solidly rooted in my own interests; outside the main house at Shenstone was the outhouse, and beside that, a claw-footed bathtub. Since my first seeing it six months earlier, I knew I wanted to do an image of a model reclining in it. Ingrid was perfect too, as her long arms flowed perfectly down the sides of the tub as she reclined.
Digital infrared original
The last hours of the workshop were spent working with Ingrid in the stream that flows through Shenstone. The night's rain had swelled it so much that at several places it had shifted its course, but the water was still quite shallow, permitting Ingrid lots of scope to work with, in regards to pose and positioning. The students found working with the water both challenging and energizing, so it was a wonderful way to draw the workshop to a close.

Digital infrared original, 34 frame stitch
The weekend was a major learning experience for me, as many of my workshops have been. The further I get from it in time, the more balanced my perspective on the experience has become, and while I do not expect to follow the same model for a workshop in the future, the Shenstone workshop will be a major influence on how my workshops and courses are shaped in the future.
Digital original, 10 frame stitch

July 22, 2006

Miranda & Ingrid Model for a Workshop

This day was the first day of two days of a figure workshop I had scheduled 6 months earlier, focusing on working with the nude in landscape. I've always had some hesitance about teaching a workshop on Photographing the Nude, but figures it would be impossible to decide how I felt about it, without actually trying to present one.
Digital infrared original
It took relatively little time to actually put into place the pieces for the workshop. Good friends in Moncton owned a beautiful piece of land at Shenstone (where I'd already worked with Brianna), not thirty minutes from the city with everything one could wish for, in regards to locations to photograph in. When I approached Ingrid and Miranda about modeling for the workshop, they were both quite interested, and once the details were worked out, they made the commitment in time necessary for me to actually schedule the event.
Digital infrared original, 22 frame stitch
I'd hoped for between six and eight students for the workshop, but ended up running it with two (which put me in a deficit position, but as the entire exercise was something of an experiment, I was a little more flexible on the student levels than I'd normally be). When the weekend for the workshop arrived, the weather forecast was none too great, but the two photographers and I converged on Shenstone to spend the evening going over the general process of working with the Nude.
Digital infrared original, 13 frame stitch
The next day dawned with much fanfare and the arrival of the two models, and in no short order, the workshop's photography portion began.
Digital infrared original
When I'd mapped out the workshop process, I didn't make the assumption that the students would be comfortable with me photographing as well, but they both emphatically said that seeing my working process in the real was part of their motivation for taking the workshop, so over the day I occasionally took to the fore, and set up images and compositions with one, or both of the models.

July 16, 2006

Macro Florals

Macro lenses and flowers have always been a winning combination for photographers, though it has been a focus that I have come to slowly over my near-twenty years of photography (sometime like the way that it took me more than a decade to make my first really intentional sunset image!). As I find more and more of my life being focused on photography (not just image making itself, but also teaching about image making), the more I find that photographing flowers is something I really enjoy, though I have no real outlet for the images (one side effect of working so long with a single subject, as I have with the Nude, is that people expect only that kind of image from you, meaning every other subject becomes "Oh, that's not even a Nude"...)
Digital original
I think that one of the most seductive element of photographing flowers for me is that they are so different from working with the Nude. Apart from the obvious fact that flowers can be photographed with ease in the middle of a crowded park in the centre of a city, they also call for a totally different approach technically, while still relying on many of the same photographic skills.
Digital original
These images were made during a photo course field trip, where students are given the chance to stretch their photographic legs, and apply what we have learned din the classroom in the field. Much of my time during these field trips is spent working with the students, but usually as the day settles down and students start hitting their stride, I have time to photograph as well, and it is during these periods that the flowers come into their own. Even with only five minutes to spare, I can usually coax a successful composition out of the smallest patch of colour, with even a single flower presenting enough possibility for an entire image!
Digital original
I don't know if flower photographs will ever be more than just a relaxing side-subject, in comparison to my work with the Nude, but at the most basic level, I am enjoying photographing them, and ultimately, that is all that matters.

July 10, 2006

Ingrid at Dawson Brook

It occurs to me that something that is fresh and new should, though logical extension, eventually become stale and old, and yet, after working with a model and water for more than a decade (my first water nudes were made in 1996), I still find myself as mesmerized and engaged by the combination as I was on the day I made my first water nude.
Digital Infrared original, 15 frame stitch
Ingrid's love for modeling in water is similar to mine for photographing it, and she never tires of spending an afternoon exploring a river or lake, regardless of whether she has been there a dozen times before, or it is a new, undiscovered space. This session was perhaps our fifth or sixth working at Dawson Brook, and yet Ingrid was as spontaneous and open to the possibilities she space offered as if she had never seen it before.

One of the challenging aspects of working with a single subject or approach for more than a decade is the risk of self-censorship; not making an image, because it's been done before, or not investigating a pose, because the model has used it before.
Digital Infrared original, 22 frame stitch
I always try to work "in the moment" when I photograph, in order to respond to what is happening before the camera, and not be concerned with what has gone before. Ingrid too seems to have this approach to modeling, seldom worrying if she had used a pose, or even been in a specific space previously, and simply working to get the best photograph for then and there.
Digital Infrared original, 9 frame stitch
This session, more than many, proved that this manner of working is effective. Ingrid and I have worked with the fall at Dawson Brook many times before, and each session focused on water nudes, but this was the first where we really hit our stride. The particular geography of Dawson Brook falls makes them difficult to photograph, but for this session, time and time again, we made images that surpassed the best we'd done in the past, all the while while not even considering what had gone before.

July 09, 2006

Carol's Pregnancy

Digital original, 11 frame stitch
The documentation of Carol's second pregnancy continues as expected, with this being our third session of what will hopefully be six or more.
Digital original, 4 frame stitch
As the pregnancy becomes more evident, we'll be spending more and more time working on other images, besides those I intend to use in a final image spanning the entire pregnancy (similar to what I'd created with her during her first pregnancy, but this time as a series of horizontals, as opposed to verticals). This image is one of the first which really focused upon the pregnancy, with Carol in her fifth month.
Digital original, 3 frame stitch

July 08, 2006

Lisa on a Beach at Sunset

Digital infrared original
The longer I work with digital cameras, the more they are influencing the images I make. On the simplest level, they are still just cameras, however the fundamental difference in how they create images and how those images are then treated before use, has pretty much revolutionized how I photograph.
Digital original
For this session, Lisa and I went to Long Beach, to work along the shoreline and hopefully catch a good sunset. When we arrived, it was still several hours to sunset, so we began the session working with Lisa in the water and making a series of images using long exposures to transform the moving water into more of a swirling mass than a series of individual waves. As a side effect of the longer exposures, however, Lisa was continually being buffeted and jarred by the incoming waves, which in turn blurred her pose. Here the digital camera came to the rescue; I ended up making two series of images of Lisa in the water; one with a high shutter speed so with Lisa's pose recorded with crisp detail, and a second set of photos with long exposures showing the water blur. In the computer, these two sets of photos were combined to yield the final image, a process that would have been impossible with a film camera. There are, of course, many ethical issues brought up by the idea of image editing in this manner but, as my images are about the celebration of beauty, as opposed to the news or current events, I feel no compulsion to ignore such an obvious benefit, simply because of some illusionary sense of photographic truth. Everything in the resulting image was present when I made the original images...just not quite at the same time!
Digital original, 2 frame stitch

The other strong influence that the digital camera had on this session was the fact that it was almost exclusively photographed in colour. When I used film, colour was always an option (it is simply a different kind of film, after all), but it came with a high price - lack of control. With both print (colour negative) or slide (colour positive) film, there was never an easy way to gain control over the quality and characteristics of the resulting images - without a dedicated colour darkroom, I could not make my own prints. So for most of the first 17 years of my photography, I left colour alone. Since I started working digitally, colour has crept more and more into my work - especially on a day like this, when the light was perfect, the setting dramatic, and model patient enough to put up with my passion for the technical; many of the colour images combined two or more exposures for the longest possible tonal range - the last of the big digital influences that played a part in this photo session!

July 07, 2006

Lisa on the Barrens

Digital infrared original, 25 frame stitch
The glacial barrens of Nova Scotia have long fascinated me and have been among my favorite places to work with models outdoors for over a decade. One of the best aspects they have to offer is that they are just so vast, spreading for miles in every direction and, while it is easy to become familiar with a section or part of them, I doubt in a decade I would find all the magical spaces they have to offer. Which of course makes it the perfect place to work with a model, as there is never any lack of locations to work in.
Digital infrared original
Lisa had the entire morning free to model, so we headed out to the barrens relatively early and walked about for a bit to find a good place to start working. The glacial plains are crisscrossed with paths and simply by following a couple of these, we found a lovely location to work on a right rock bluff overlooking the ocean.
Digital infrared original, 4 frame stitch
The light was near perfect throughout the session with high clouds diffusing the sunlight and a cool breeze off the coast keeping everything a comfortable temperature. It is really hard to express how joyful it is to be able to work on a day like this - no restrictions on time, a great setting, beautiful light and a keen model. In all the years I have been photographing, sessions like this happen only a handful of times a year, and are well worth savouring as they happen!

July 06, 2006

Meghan's First Time Modeling

Digital infrared original, 2 frame image blend
Working with a model whom I've only met just met is not that uncommon an experience anymore thanks to the proliferation of my work through the Internet and various publications but, all the same, it amazes me how often it works out really well. Once we were down by the shore and set up, I indicated to Meghan that we were ready to begin and with no signs of trepidation or hesitation on her part, she simply disrobed and asked where I wanted her to be.
Digital infrared original, 28 frame stitch
We worked with both the old concrete searchlight emplacements along the shoreline (working inside the buildings permitted us to photograph without disrupting any of the other visitors to York Redoubt) and on the rocky shoreline. As Meghan was only available for the single session, I wanted to make sure she got as much variety out of the session as possible.
Digital infrared original, 21 frame stitch
It was a real pleasure during the session how comfortable Meghan was with the whole process, regardless of whether the composition was a bodyscape, where the pose was elongated and languorous, or a portrait where she was simply standing before me, nude. Meghan came across as comfortable and confidant, which made the results all the more striking. I don't know if she has any plans to return to Nova Scotia in the future, but I will definitely be letting her know that, if she does, I'd be happy to work with her again!