September 29, 2006

A Studio Pregnancy Session with Carol

With Carol's due date becoming more and more immanent, we decided to shift gears a little for this session, and actually focus on the pregnancy itself. For almost all the sessions we've had together since we began working on the project, we have been working on a series of images following the evolving pregnancy, but have actually spent almost no time photographing the pregnancy beyond those three sets of images
Digital infrared original
I set up my flash lighting and a black backdrop to work again, and we began working. As with almost all my photo sessions, we began with a series of portrait, balancing the beautiful curves of Carol's belly against her serene face. Once these were finished, we moved onto more body centric images, working our way from some standing pose to a series with Carol lying on the floor. It was important to work in this order (standing, then lying down) to ensure that Carol didn't tire out. The session was taking place at the end of the day, and while Carol was vibrant and full of energy, I didn't want to tire her our any more than necessary, regardless of how keen she was to model.
Digital infrared original, 6 frame stitch
By the end of the session, I was very pleased with what I had seen through he viewfinder. Though the room we were in was small, I'd been able to control the lighting enough to get the effect I was looking for, with smooth, luminous highlights and a deep black background.
Digital infrared original, 9 frame stitch
I am not sure if this will be our last pregnancy session or not (Carol's due date in in less than two weeks), but as I was packing equipment up to head for home, I knew that we'd made some beautiful images of the peak of the pregnancy, singular photographs to work alongside the documentary series we'd been working on for so many months!

September 25, 2006

Victoria on Maugher's beach

While R_'s arrival in Nova Scotia was unexpected, Victoria's visit at the end of September was long anticipated, and while I didn't know if we'd get the chance to work together, I was very much looking forward to seeing her for the first time in over a year.
Digital infrared original, 3 frame stitch
As it turned out, Victoria did have time to head out for an afternoon, and, while it wasn't certain we'd have the chance to make some photos, I brought my camera and tripod along just in case. It turned out to be a good decision, as once we were on McNab's Island (we'd gone out sailing for the afternoon, to enjoy the early fall day), Victoria offered to pose for a while, as much to continue building the images we've worked on to date as to make new ones.
Digital infrared original, 5 frame stitch
The only model with whom I've consistently worked with longer than Victoria is Ingrid, and that is only by a matter of an extra week. The strength of our work has only increased over the years, a combination of my evolving photographic abilities, and what both Victoria and I have learned from the results of our sessions.

For a variety of reasons, this was a very brief photo session; the day was sunny and bright, but there was a cool snap in the air which would have eventually become uncomfortable. I started the session with a series of standing portraits, setting Victoria behind a screen of high dune grass with the sun behind her. With the wind blowing the grass all over the place, the successful images were more luck and happenstance than skill, but we still made several striking images.
Digital infrared original
From here we moved onto a few bodyscapes on the beach itself, backing the composition with the dune grass and dark sky (it was actually bright blue, but rendered as almost black with the infrared camera). After these, we finished off the session with another series of portraits, this time with the sun cascading across her torso, and her sun turned towards it, eyes closed. A beautiful way to end the session.

September 22, 2006

R_ Indoors (with a Snake!)

The last session with R_ before she went back to Europe was to be spent working indoors; R_ had asked about modeling with our snake, Slytherin, and as our work has begun five years before indoors, I thought it would be a good way to close her visit to Nova Scotia.
Digital original, 7 frame stitch
I have only worked a couple of times in my new apartment, and also welcomed the chance to work again with the new space. Often it takes several sessions before I become really comfortable with the light in a space, and am really able to make the most of its potential. With this apartment facing east, it isn't the best for afternoon or evening light, but what light there is tends to be lovely and even, so that at least is in my favour.
Digital original, 9 frame stitch
Though I did work some with my infrared camera, this session was unusual in that the majority of the images I made were produced with my colour DSLR. With Slytherin playing a major part in the session, much of my focus was on colour (his orange and yellow colouring worked very well against R_'s rich skin tone), and while many of the images were eventually converted into black and white, Having the option of keeping them in colour was a definite benefit.
Digital original
Overall, the session was a great close to R_'s visit. As we both knew it would be the last session, it ended with an emphasis on portraits, something that I feel is quite important, given that I don't know when we'll next have a chance to work together again. R_ has extended an invitation to work with her in Europe, and while I don't know when I'd be able to take her up on that offer, it is certainly something I'd love to be able to avail myself of someday.

September 16, 2006

Alexandra & Liam at the Coast

Alexandra and Liam had blocked out their whole day to work with me, so after the river session in the morning, we took a break for lunch, and then drove to the coast, to spend the rest of the afternoon working along the shoreline.
Digital infrared original
An unexpected element of this session was Liam's willingness (and indeed, enthusiasm) for working in the ocean. While the Atlantic Ocean is actually at its warmest in October, by mid-September, the air temperature is low enough to make it seem quite the opposite, so when Liam first volunteered to pose in the ocean proper, I tried to discourage him. Forty minutes later, he was still in the ocean. I finally had to consider his claims that it wasn't that cold had to have some validity.
Digital infrared original
Over the four or so hours that the three of us worked along the shoreline, we made a wide variety of images, working between photographs focusing on each model individually, and images of them together as a couple. Usually when I work with two models outdoors, even if they are in a relationship, I tend to use the second model as a resource to add to an image if it looks like a second figure would add to the composition, but with Alexandra and Liam, I just as frequently would make images that were mirrors to their relationship. Time and time again, the addition of the second figure would spontaneously evolve into a change of pose and position, until it became, quite naturally, an image focusing on intimacy and tenderness, for all that is set in the great outdoors.
Digital infrared original, 24 frame stitch

The day spent with Alexandra and Liam was fabulous, with the perfect mix of a late summer day, great company, food and photos. Since this session, the two models have moved overseas for a time (six months or more), so it will be my last chance to work with them for some period of time, but it was a rich and variety filled session that led to some really striking results, perfect for my final session of the year with them.

September 15, 2006

Alexandra in the Woods

Digital infrared original, 18 frame stitch
After we had a break for lunch, Alexandra, Liam and I discussed our options. Behind the house where we had lunch were some thick woodlands, with a number of really lovely treed; Alexandra agreed it would be interesting to see what would could do with such a simple space.
Digital infrared original, 15 frame stitch
As I suspect, the silver-white wood of the old trees was beautiful in infrared, complimenting perfectly the luminous smoothness of Alexandra's skin. Towards the end of the ten minutes we spent working with the trees, I shifted to working in colour, and made a number of really pleasing portraits.
Digital original

Alexandra & Liam Pose in a River

Alexandra and Liam have worked with me almost half-a-dozen times indoors on couple nudes, but this session marked our first chance to work together outdoors. With my move back to Nova Scotia in August, I was now only an hour or so from where they live, and it was much easier for us to work out a time to meet up and work together. We settled on a day to spend working together, and by late morning, we were walking into the Petite River, looking for an alluring location to begin working.
Digital original, 8 frame stitch
While the intention was to pose the models in the river, creating a series of water nudes, the first images I made were of Alexandra posing with a lovely tree, growing out of the bank on the far side of the river. The lines and form of the tree were just too lovely to pass by without making an image with them. With the river between the tree and the camera, it was very easy to get the angle and perspective I sought. Often with forest-based nudes, it is hard to make an image from a distance, due to the intervening trees interrupting the view.
Digital original, 12 frame stitch
With the tree nude completed, I began working with the models in the water; starting with Liam. The river, which I'd never worked with before, was absolutely perfect. The flow was slow enough to not move the model during the long exposure times I prefer to use, yet swift enough to clearly blur over an exposure of a second or more. And even though the river was quite shallow overall, it was never difficult to find spaces with the right water levels for the models to work in - often emerging from the shallows.
Digital infrared original, 8 frame stitch
Though the space we worked in was relatively isolated, it was slightly visible from a distant road and house, but at the beginning of the session, a consensus was reached that this wouldn't present an issue to working. It turned out to be the wrong decision, as just under an hour after we started working, we were asked to leave by a local land owner. Interestingly, his stated reason for asking us to leave was a concern over liability for accidents while we "swam" on his property, as opposed to the obvious nudity, but regardless, we had been able to make some very successful images before the request to vacate the river came, so we could not complain, whatever the reason for the request.

September 12, 2006

Ingrid & R_ on McNab's Island II

The second part of our day on McNab's Island was spent working on Magher's Beach; R_ and I had made a small series of images on the walk back from the fort, but I had thought the photographic portion of the day was over when those were finished, and that we were headed for home.
Digital infrared original, 11 frame stitch
All this changed of course when we arrived on the beach, and Ingrid immediately took to the sand, and soaked up the heat. Never one to pass up an opportunity to photograph, I began making images of Ingrid's body stretched out on the sand...during which time, R_ came into the frame, mirroring Ingrid's pose.
Digital infrared original
Usually, I avoid photographing in direct sunlight at all cost, preferring to avoid the harsh shadows and contrast that it creates. In the late summer/early fall however, the sun begins to move lower in the sky, and gives a lovely angular edge to everything, and as the models were so enthusiastic about the warm beach, I wasn't about to pass up the opportunity to made a final set of images.
Digital infrared original
Most of the beach photographs were of the two models lying side by side, with the sunlight creating highlights on their skin; I used a longer lens (85mm) and different angles to create a variety of compositions (usually playing on the repetition between the model's bodies). Over the session however, I did spend some time focusing on each of the models individually, setting them against the sky or dune grasses, and creating a set of portrait of each, celebrating their grace, and the beauty and light surrounding them.

Ingrid & R_ on McNab's Island I

Digital original, 16 frame stitch
R_ had asked about the possibility of working with another model during her visit, and when I approached Ingrid about heading out to McNab's Island for a day, and working with R_, she immediately agreed to come along. I selected McNab's Island as a location as I hadn't been there for years and also because it provided a wealth of different locations to work in (forts, woods, sand beaches).
Digital original, 15 frame stitch
After a brisk walk up to Fort McNabs (which included the unexpected treat of seeing several deer on the way), we began working in the old World War II fort, exploring some of the underground gun shelters, and gradually moving into the above ground buildings.
Digital infrared original
There is a real advantage to working with two models during one sessions; while I work with one, the other is free to relax and just enjoy the day, and if a space calls out for two figures in it, I have the luxury of being able to realize the possibility. For most of this session, I worked with either Ingrid or R_, but quite frequently, I asked the other to come into a composition, balancing out the image, or building a photograph about the interplay of two bodies, as opposed to a single form, and the space around it.
Digital infrared original, 10 frame stitch
Both Ingrid and R_ have lots of experience modeling, and it really made a difference to the day - over and over, one model or the other would find a space they wished to work in, and by the time I arrived from working on a previous compositions, they'd have already begun to find a pose. While both models frequently had time to roam around the old fort and just enjoy their day, I always seemed to have a wealth of images to consider and create with the other model - the model to follow for a perfect day of photography!

R_ at Chebucto Head II

Digital original, 16 frame stitch
The end of the afternoon with R_ was spent with her posing in an old military bunker, working with the architecture, as opposed to the natural landscape around it.
Digital original, 17 frame stitch
The interior space was limited (the structure only has 2 rooms), so there wasn't much variation between the various images I made of R_.  The best space to work in turned out to be a small low window between the two rooms, just large enough for R_ to pose within.
Digital original, 6 frame stitch

R_ at Chebucto Head I

After the morning's session at the burnt forest, R_ and I decided to head somewhere totally different and ended up driving to the mouth of Halifax Harbour to photograph in the rocks and shoreline of Chebucto Head.
Digital infrared original, 24 frame stitch
When we arrived, the parking lot by the lighthouse was totally empty, so I decided to take advantage of this rare occasion to work with R_ in the abandoned military station located at the site. After setting up, we made a series of compositions focusing upon R_ posing within a small window within an interior wall, before continuing to walk down to the rocky shoreline.

One of the reasons to work at Chebucto Head was fact that the afternoon was threatening to be sunny and bright, and I knew the rocky shoreline would provide some shade from the sun. This turned out to be the perfect plan, as by the time we clambered down over the rocks, there was hardly a cloud visible in the sky.
Digital infrared original, 41 frame stitch
After spending the morning working with the chaotic forms of the tree trunk and roots, the simple lines of the granite bedrock seemed almost featureless, but within minutes of arriving, R_ and I found half-a-dozen spaces that called out for a figure to be blended with them

Once we started working with the rockscapes at Chebucto Head, time passed us by, and it wasn't until three or more hours later that we emerged, realizing how little distance we had come geographically, and how many images we had made creatively. The afternoon sky had changed, and now light wisps of clouds were flitting overhead, enough to make us decide to climb to the higher ground and explore the possibilities of working with the clouds as part of our final series of the day.
Digital infrared original
Without a doubt, the most amazing part of working with R_ again, after a five year hiatus, was how comfortable we both were picking up where we had left off. The images we made over the two sessions on this day were refined and focused, not the exploratory results of a first session where both the model and photographer are trying to make a measure of each other. Yet there was something new, something that came out of five years of growth and learning, on both our parts, that helped take the foundation, laid half a decade earlier, and build upon it in a way that neither of us could have guessed would happen, only weeks earlier.

September 11, 2006

R_ in a Burned Forest

The shortest session of R_'s visit was on this morning; we had the full day to work together and thought it would be best spent working between two locations. For the morning, I decided to try working in a burned out section of forest near where I live - it caught fire almost three years earlier, and I'd hoped that by now the burnt trees would have started to flake their bark, and turn silver white.
Digital infrared original
My expectations were dashed when I arrived to find the burn site a mess of blackened trunks and new underbrush...and some wonderfully striking looking uprooted trees.

With the forest fire site so close to the road, R_ and I had to move into the site some distance before we could even begin working. It was here that we found a large tree (large for Nova Scotia) which had toppled since the fire and was lying with its base and roots flung towards the sky.
Digital infrared original
Immediately R_ began exploring the fallen tree (after I carefully helped her up on to the roots and took her shoes). There were plenty of handholds and places to stand but the September sunlight was direct and harsh, which made photographing through the roots difficult. It was only when R_ rotated,  facing out from the roots, that the images really started working - the dark mess of chaotic roots upturned behind her were the perfect contrast to her pale, sunlit figure arched longingly towards the dark, dramatic sky.
Digital infrared original, 33 frame stitch
After we made a whole series of images on that tree, we spent perhaps half an hour looking for other spaces, but the resonance of that single post, with R_ arched against the sky, filled my mind's eye and I very quickly suggested we simply pack up and leave for somewhere else, as I already knew we'd made the best images we could in the space.

September 10, 2006

R_ Returns for a Visit

I had a great (and wonderful) surprise waiting for me in my e-mail several weeks before this session; R_ wrote me to say that she was expecting to be visiting Nova Scotia in September and was wondering if I'd be available to work on some new photographs.
Digital original. 20 frame stitch
 R_ began working with me in the spring of 2001, and over the next fourteen months, we worked together fifteen times (which is no small feat, given that R_ had to drive for 90 minutes just to meet up with me in Halifax). This all came to an end when R_ moved back to Europe in the spring of 2002, so her e-mail and interest in continuing to work together four years was an unexpected chance to continue building on the strong images we already had.

For the first session of R_'s short visit, we decided to return to the woods where we first worked together outdoors, both for the nostalgic factor, and because we only had a couple of hours to work; these woods are less than ten minutes from where I live, and therefore maximized the time we spent actually making images.
Digital infrared original. 20 frame stitch
As soon as we started working, it was as if no time had passed at all. My technical approach had changed since when we last worked together (large format and 35mm cameras both having been replaced by digital SLR cameras), but other than that, the session could have been a week after our previous one, four years earlier. R_'s enthusiasm for modeling had, if anything, grown, and from the moment we started making images, she was right in the process, helping to make some striking images from the first composition of the session.

We worked solidly for two hours, moving through the woodland as needed, from space to space. For the most part, I worked in infrared, taking advantage of all the foliage around us. but occasionally, I switched to the colour camera, working with the rich green tones of the leaves, as a counterpoint to R_'s warm skin.
Digital infrared original. 20 frame stitch
I have always appreciated the wealth that extended collaborations have brought to my work, but I don't think I have ever been more aware of it than during this session.

Carol's Pregnancy

Digital original, 7 frame stitch
Carol's pregnancy is in its last month so our sessions are gradually expanding to include more and more images simply celebrating the beauty of her pregnancy, as opposed to just continuing to follow the series of three poses which we started working on months before.
Digital original
At the end of most sessions, Carol and I have been making a series of standing images, with her set against a black backdrop. It is from these images that a casual stretch on Carol's part lead to this particularly fluid image.

September 09, 2006

A Session at Canaan River

Allan contacted me midsummer, asking about working with me on some water nudes of him, hoping to fit in a photo session as a gift for his spouse before the water grew too cold. The irony that was revealed as we worked out the details by e-mail was that he lives in New Brunswick but contacted me only weeks after I moved back to Nova Scotia.
Digital infrared original, 14 frame stitch
In the end, we worked out a date and late on an early September Saturday afternoon, the two of us headed out to Canaan River, where I started working with water nudes more than a decade ago. I chose that space because it was close to Halifax (with a five hour drive home after the photo session, it was important that we work close by) and because I was very familiar with it, which guaranteed that we'd end up with the kind of images Allan was seeking.
Digital original, 17 frame stitch
Once we arrived at the river, we immediately set up the gear and started working. The biggest surprise of the session was how much the water had cooled off. Similar to the session with Joe, from late August 1999, the weather had turned cool the week before, and the river, while bearable, was cool enough to cause an issue within fifteen minutes of us beginning to work. This is in stark contrast to rivers and lakes earlier in the summer, which can be worked in for an hour or more before the body cooled enough to make it uncomfortable.
Digital original, 12 frame stitch
With the cool water, the session went faster than I'd hoped, with Allan and I packing it in after less than twenty minutes of photography. The most important thing, however, was that we had, within that twenty minutes, made a number of very strong images, which is all that really mattered in the end!

September 08, 2006

Lisa at York Redoubt

York Redoubt has long been a favorite place for me to photograph - it is easy to get to by bus, large enough to work in without being concerned about passersby and full of a variety of spaces to work in, ranging from woods and shoreline, to the military forts that are scattered around it.
Digital original, 10 frame stitch
For this particular session, Lisa and I ended up working in the forts by the shoreline. The beginning of the session saw us exploring a gun emplacement cut out of the living rock (and granite at that), but that space was so dark it precluded the making of many images. Cool as the space was, we quickly backtracked and walked down to the York Shore Battery.
Digital infrared original, 5 frame stitch
We ended up working at the old Second-World War search light emplacements, starting with a series of images focusing on an old set of old doors at the back of the building. After making a stitch of the entire image, Lisa and I recorded a handful of different poses within the space, working in both colour and infrared. After these images, we made a number of portraits in the search light emplacement and then moved down to the shoreline to finish off the session.
Digital infrared original
Much of the magic of working with the IR converted digital camera is the magic of seeing how things look in infrared; this is nowhere more apparent than by the seashore, where things are radically different in infrared than to the human eye. Most of the images Lisa and I made along the shoreline worked best in IR, with the seaweed becoming a luminous mass of texture, and the rocks and other debris on the beach remaining unchanged. This setting, combined with the delicate skin tones that the camera renders helps create the most magical images in what, to the unaided eye, looks like an almost monochromatic setting.