June 30, 2008

Scotland 2008 Part XXXVIII: Driving the Cathedral Route

Digital original, 2 frame exposure blend
My first stop on my "day of abbeys" was at Melrose Abbey. Founded in 1136 by Cistercian monks, the abbey was the final resting place for the heart of Robert the Bruce. It was found in 1921 within a lead container buried under the remains of the chapter house.
Digital original, 10 frame exposure blend, 2 frame stitch
I was enthralled by the warm green foliage that stained the walls of Melrose abbey; I usually don't respond to colour, but in this case, the whole motivation of the image was to convey some sense of how lovely the colour was here.
Digital original
Dryburgh Abbey has a chapter house that is partially underground; once through the doors above, it was several steps down to the floor of the ancient room. New clear class fills the windows, as part of the effort to preserve medieval paintings on the walls below them.
Digital infrared original
I never really used infrared film for architecture; it was too expensive (at $15/36 exposures, which really represented about 12 images, if I was lucky) to spend on experimentation. With digital infrared however, all the cost of infrared is up front, with the camera conversion; so experimenting with other subjects, such as this ruin in Dryburgh Abbey, and it’s surrounding trees, was more than easy to do!
Digital original
Built as a memorial in 1933, these cloisters were beside Kelso abbey, and give some hint to how lovely all these ruined abbey would have looked in their original condition. I have such a passion for repetition and symmetry in architecture, I could spend all day working in spaces like these.
Digital original, 5 frame sttich
The last site of the day was Jedburgh Abbey, where I arrived only 30 minutes before close; I did what I could in the time I had, but the space was so rich I vowed to return the next morning (the attendant was a Nikon fan, and said he'd be happy to let me in in the morning with the same entry fee I paid at the end of this day.

June 29, 2008

Scotland 2008 Part XXXVII: Stirling & Edinburgh, Scotland

Digital original, 4 frame stitch
The castle of Stirling is a on a majestic rocky spur that commands the landscape for miles around.
Digital original
Near to Stirling, the Wallace Monument was completed in 1869, and commemorates the most famous leader of the early Scottish Wars of Independence.
Digital original
I arrived in Edinburgh in the late afternoon, and after finding my B&B (a task in itself), I headed downtown to walk about with a camera. As with all the remaining days of my trip, I was drawn to architecture, and found myself photographing this single church for a good fifteen minutes, as the evening light (good until well after 10pm) slowly changed in the sky above.
Digital original
I only had one evening to photograph in Edinburgh, but with sunset sometime after 10pm, there was plenty of light to work with, even after I was finished a relaxing dinner.
Digital original
I would have loved to get into St Giles' Cathedral, but given the late hour, all I could do was satisfy myself with photographing the exterior. This view from a nearby arch was a great way to downplay the bright, backlit sky.

Scotland 2008 Part XXXVI: My Last Session with R_ in Scotland

Digital original, 3 frame stitch
On our drive down from the highlands, R_ and I came across this wonderful bridge; as pleasant as the weather looks in this image, this was just a window of sun in a day of intermittent rain, which apparently is typical for Scotland.
Digital original
Scotland is littered with rhododendrons, which many view as a weed; it is hard to deny how pretty the bushes are however, especially when in full bloom.
Digital original, 12 frame stitch
This was the last image of R_ made during my 2008 Scottish visit. I stopped here because the island besides the highway was the ancestral burying grounds of the McNab clan, and I wished to see it; McNab's Island is a major element of the landscape of Halifax Harbour, and I though it'd be interesting to learn more of the family it was named after.

It was only when I learned you had to ask for a key, and lock the gate behind you in order to see the burying ground, that I realized it would be a great place for some final image so of R_, before she flew back home.

Scotland 2008 Part XXXV: Morning in Dunkeld

Digital original, 2 frame stitch
As R_ spent a leisurely morning the B&B, I walked into two to photograph for a while. On my morning walk through Dunkeld, I was totally entranced by the simple beauty of the houses that line the streets.
Digital original
This is my favorite architectural image from Scotland; I’d timed the trip to give me half a day to photograph in Dunkeld, but totally missed that I’d be in the town on a Sunday, when the church ground was closed to visitors due to Sunday services. All the same, this image, made from outside the property fence, caught the reflection of the morning sun coming through a gate on the right, reflecting up under the tree, and giving the final image the most magical of light.

June 28, 2008

Scotland 2008 Part XXXIV: An Evening in the Hermitage, Dunkeld

Digital original, 2 frame exposure blend
The last evening that R_ and I had to work together before her departure from Scotland was spent exploring the Hermitage, a National Park with a great waterfall and an old bridge.
Digital original, 15 frame stitch
Once we'd explored the areas some, it was apparent there were some great sections of the river just off the beaten path - which is where R_ and I headed without hesitation.

The water-carved dip in the rocks was such a perfect place to place a model, and R_ was more than willing to explore the possibilities…however it was only once she had been thoroughly covered in midge repellent that she actually managed to find a pose she could hold long enough to make an image.
Digital original, 4 frame exposure blend, 2 frame stitch
After working with the water-carved rock, we moved a little further downstream, and made some images of R_ in the river proper, with the evening sky reflected in the swift moving river. With a suitably long shutter speed, the water blurred beautifully, creating a really pleasing image.
Digital original, 12 frame stitch
This image was made at the end of my the second last session R_ in Scotland. We'd finished up working in the river, but couldn't head back to the B&B without making a series of photographs on this wonderful moss-kissed multi-layered rock.

One of the greatest wonders of working in Scotland was how late it was light - this image was made well after 10pm, and it was more than light enough to photograph with ease!

Scotland 2008 Part XXXIII: Driving Further West in Mainland Scotland

Digital original
On our last full day of working together in Scotland, R_ asked if we could do a Nude in a phone box; we'd seen several on our travels, but all were too public to work for such an idea. As luck would have it however,  on our drive across the heart of the Cairngorms, we came across a box on a corner, with nothing to be seen in any direction; with some hesitation (as a car could come along at any moment) we set about making this image...without a doubt the silliest we made in Scotland.
Digital original
Kildrummy Castle  was built in around 1250. The swift moving skies of Scotland were perfect for long exposures, which I’ve always found lovely, but even more beautiful when combined with an ancient castle ruin.
Digital original
I really enjoyed photographing Kildrummy, in part because the infrared camera worked really well with the space, creating haunting images of the ruins.

Scotland 2008 Part XXXII: Photographing Around Balmoral, Scotland

Digital infrared original
The last two days of working with R_ were spent driving from Skye to Edinburgh, where R_ would depart for mainland Europe. I didn't spend as much time researching this portion of the trip, so to some degree we were improvising where we photographed; in this case, it was near the Queen's Scottish residence, Balmoral.
Digital original
As we moved more and more into the lowlands, I began to see landscape that reminded me more of Yorkshire, where I lived for a time as a child. While R_ thought it wasn’t much of a location, she did indulge me in making this image on the side of a hill, overlooking the rolling landscape of lowland Scotland.
Digital infrared original, 21 frame stitch
I caught sight of this building just off the main road, so we turned around and investigated. It turned out to a well maintained but abandoned structure - perfect for photographing a model in!

Part of the joy of working with the nude in architecture is the opportunities it offers for posing; in this case, the composition came from the double-doors, but the pose was improvised in-situ by R_, taking her cue from the archway around her.
Digital infrared original, 8 frame stitch
With a number of small open windows in the building walls, R_ had a wealth of posing potential to work with, though this pose was pretty obvious even before she worked her way into the space.

June 27, 2008

Scotland 2008 Part XXXI: R_ Models at the Ruthven Barracks

The last session of a busy day (in regards to driving at least) was spent at the Ruthven Barracks just outside of Kingussie. The barracks was built between 1719 and 1721, on a prominent mound that had once been the site of a medieval castle of the Comyns, and later the Gordons. A separate stables block was added in 1734, on Major General Wade’s orders, for use by dragoons protecting troops marching along the adjacent military road. 

Though I'd picked Kingussie as ther place to stay for the night specifically because of the barracks, after all the driving, I needed a break before doing any more photography, so R_ and I took time out for dinner before heading over to the ruin. I actually didn't have much in the way of expectations for this location, as it is a Historic Scotland site, and I expected it to be closed by the time we arrived.

After parking the car, and walking up the hill, I was pleasantly surprised to find the site was both free, and ungated (most of the historic sites I've seen to date have had entrance fees, and caretakers, which makes working with a model in them impractical). As we arrived after 8pm, I actually thought the site would be locked tight.. After a quick look back towards the parking lot (with only our car in it), and around to the local roads (empty of any traffic), R_ and I set to explore the site photographically.
Digital original, 13 frame stitch
The barracks were a really rich space to photograph in - almost every building had something for R_ to work with, either in terms of massive joist-holes in the main barracks, or the large, empty windows which were perfect for R_ to perch on. Given it was well into the evening when we began, there was no way we'd be able to realize all the potential, but both R_ and I felt really good about the images we were able to make in the time we had.
Digital original, 10 frame stitch
The last set of images, completed at 9:30pm, was actually produced outside the barracks, on the wall facing the town; I felt a little concern about creating them in a place so easily viewed, but given the late hour, and the distance to the town (a mile) I felt it was worth the risk, given the beauty of the space. When we first came across it, R_ proposed I help her up into the highest window, and it was only after that composition was made did I hit on the idea of having her find a second pose that could be blended with the first, to create and even more engaging image. As a light rain began to fall, R_ and I packed up and headed back to the B&B,
Digital original, 2 frame image blend, 6 frame stitch

Scotland 2008 Part XXX:R_ and I arrive at Kingussie

One challenge to working while traveling is the whole question of finding and checking into accommodations; in this case, I had until 6pm to confirm the booking at the night's B&B, so as soon as R_ and I arrived in Kingussie, we registered at the B&B, and took possession of our room. After the long drive across the country, I was a little road-fried, and R_ wished to take a shower before we headed out for dinner and perhaps another photo session.
Digital infrared original

I'd noticed the wonderful window light when we'd first arrived, and after R_ was through with her shower, I asked if she'd sit by the window so I could work with the lovely directional light. As it presented a welcome change from old building and rough landscape, she was more than happy to oblige.
Digital infrared original
The window seat images were followed up by a small number of nudes made upon R_'s bed; the light was just beautiful to work with, and created a lovely sculptural effect in infrared. Less than five minutes after the first images, I set the cameras aside, and R_ dressed, so we could head across the street for dinner.
Digital infrared original
It is fascinating to me how little is required to recharge a person; no more than a 5 minute rest with my eyes closed on the bed while R_ took her shower, followed by 5 minutes of photography refreshed both of us enough for not only a robust pub dinner, but a final photo session to close out the day.

Scotland 2008 Part XXIX: R_ in Clearance Ruins

This day was the second last of R_'s visit to Scotland, and was also the day we began our journey from Skye to Edinburgh. Other than knowing where we were staying at the end of the day, I had no set plan, though I was hoping to find some ruins or spectacular landscape for R_ and I to work with during the drive.
Digital infrared original
A little more than half way to our destination, we passed by a low ling of trees, with the battered ruins among them; turning the car around, we investigated, and found exactly what I was looking for - old crofts likely abandoned during the clearances. With the road some distance from the ruins, and traffic sporadic, we decided to spend some time exploring the site.
Digital infrared original, 7 frame stitch
The vast majority of the images in the space focused on doorways and rock walls, but there was a beautiful pasture behind the buildings that had an old stone wall and massive trees. R_ suggested we make some photos there, to contrast with all the more ruin-focused images of the beginning of the session.
Digital original, 3 frame stitch
The last set of photos is actually my favorite from the session - and was made on the other side of the highway. In a low dip, out of view from the road was an old shed...or half of one; when R_ stood inside it, she was lit from all sides, though it looked like she was inside a building. The magical appearance of this space I found really captivation, so we made more than a dozen variations on pose, though one of the first ones (above) was obviously the strongest.

After 45 minutes of photography, we returned to the car, and continued our drive across Scotland.

June 26, 2008

Scotland 2008 Part XXVIII: Photographing Rivers on Skye

Digital original
This river, in the Sheil Valley, was the only time R_ and I actually had to ford a river to get to a location; We both carefully walked through chilly water up to our knees to get to  the lovely turbulent river on the other side of the larger one. Before R_ and I began working in the space together, I made an image of the stream itself, one of my few landscape from the second week in Scotland.
Digital infrared original, 6 frame stitch
Once I got the landscape images out of the way, R_ and I began working with the space. The water was cooler than I'd hoped, so the first portion was spent with R_ posing beside the river. Eventually however, she took the plunge and we made half a dozen compositions focusing on the interplay between skin and water. The shallow bowl which R_ spend so much of her time working in was just perfect for modeling; the only missing element was warm water!
Digital original, 3 frame shutter speed blend
Made at the end of a long day photographing on the mainland, R_ and I were driving through the rain towards our bed and breakfast when we passed the Sligachan bridge; I glanced at it, was was stunned by the beauty of the swift-moving river below the bridge. I spent a couple of minutes out in the rain, carefully shielding the lens from the water that was still cascading down. The soaked feet and cold hands were more than worth it.

Scotland 2008 Part XXVII: A Morning Session with R_ on Loch Duich

Digital infrared original, 2 frame stitch
In the seventeen days I spent in Scotland, only a handful had sunshine; on this day, the forecast for Skye was rain all day, so we headed to the mainland…within fifteen minutes of being across the bridge, we were driving in sunshine. We stopped by the highway and scrambled down to the lochside, to work with one of the few warm days we’d have in Scotland. . R_ had, the day before, asked if she could do some images in water, so that was already in my head, but when I saw the seaweed floating in the loch, I immediately knew what I wished to work with!
Digital infrared original
The above image is one of the most poetic photographs I have ever made...it has such a magical quality to the pose, the light and the tonality. I doubt I could reproduce the look on demand, but it is very appealing to me none the less.
Digital original
The receding layers of the highland mountains surrounding Loch Duich were lovely, especially with the mirroring of their layers in the sky above.

June 25, 2008

Scotland 2008 Part XXVI:The End of a Long Day of Photographing on Skye

Digital original
A constant theme in Scotland was the continual threat of rain; in this case, while visiting Dunvegan, it started to downpour. I'd hoped to work with R_ on a beach beyond the castle, but with the dubious weather, I thought it'd be better to stay close to the car.
Digital original, 6 frame stitch
True to form, almost the moment we arrived at Dunvegan, it started to pour. This ended up being in our advantage, however, as we’d passed an abandoned building on our way through the village. After parking, we ran through the rain into the building, and worked for an hour with total security; while cars and buses were driving by mere feet away, outside the building, not a single walker braved the heavy downpour that was thundering down on the broken roof above us.
Digital original
As soon as R_ and I saw the old gears, used to transfer the power from the water wheel to the mill, we both began to look for pose possibilities. It was only moments before R_ was going to lie back upon the bare teeth of the clogged wheel that she check to see how “dry” it was…it turned out the layer of dirt was actually dust-coated grease - if she’d laid back upon it, I doubt the stain would have come off for days. With that disaster narrowly averted, we tried an alternate pose, working on the belt that went from the smooth wheel to the saw; this was far more practical a setting, and lead to a very strong photograph being made.
Digital original
The last images in the mill were specifically focused on working with the wheel; the only issue was it was still pouring with rain. The best R_ and I could come up with was a pose with her just outside a doorway, but still mostly covered by the old roof; R_ was quite damp by the end of the session, no nowhere near as we as if she'd be out in the full downpour.

Scotland 2008 Part XXV: R_ Works in a Broch on Skye

Digital infrared original
I can only imagine an age when towers like this, more than 13m in height originally, dotted the Scottish landscape. Even today, when driving along and catching a glimpse of an old, mostly collapsed tower, my heart leaps in a visceral emotional response.
Digital infrared original
After I spent some time photographing the broch on it's own, R_ came up from the car and we started to work with the ancient site together. This was absolutely the best location to work with a model in on Skye; there was total privacy (with a 10 minute walk up to the broch from the parking lot), and so much visual potential. The above image is looking down into the "guard-room" directly beside the only entrance to the original tower.
Digital original, 7 frame stitch
Much of the haunting beauty of Scotland lay in how the landscape is layered; as the mountains recede into the distance, they become more and more blue. When set against this, it made R_‘s already rich skin tone seem all the warmer in contrast. All through this session, I couldn't but wonder about the people who built these walls, some 1500-2000 years earlier.
Digital infrared original, 4 frame stitch
I didn't find the infrared camera all that useful for much of the work I did in Scotland, as the landscape was so green and evident. The one obvious exception was when working with models; the beautiful rendition of skin on the infrared camera made almost any setting workable - though in this case, when compared to the colour image further above, it is possible to see how much the infrared camera could cut through the distant haze shrouding the hills behind R_ in both images.