October 26, 2015

A Fall Gift from Ingrid (Herring Cove, Nova Scotia)

When Ingrid asked if I'd be up for one more outdoor fall session, my first comment was "you know what temperature it is outside, right?" After some discussion (Scotland was mentioned, as we'd done some work there in near freezing temperatures), we agreed that we'd at least try the following morning, but everything would depend on the weather.
Digital Original
The weather-gods smiled us, and bright and early the next day, Ingrid and I were at the coast, working away. Any thought of working with vistas overlooking the ocean was nixed by the morning's brisk wind, but on the lee side of the hill the air was much more sedate, and we set to work. The space was somewhat limited in terms of spaces for Ingrid to work in, but the above rock proved to be a perfect space to make the first success of the session.
Digital original
After ten minutes or so at the coast, we packed up and headed a little inland, hoping for even less wind, and warmer temperatures; this turned out to be a little optimistic, but we did managed to find a beautiful twisted dead tree that was the perfect setting for a more dramatic pose - this time however, rather than photographing directly into the light, I opted to use the raking morning light to flood across Ingrid's body, and set it off against the surrounding bog.
Digital original
Towards the end of the session (as Ingrid actually began to admit she was getting a little cool), I made a series of images working with the low foliage that is so ever present on the Nova Scotia coast land; in the fall it turns a brilliant red. The best of these compositions was the portrait above, as much for the look on Ingrid's face as for the momentary magic of her hair being tossed by the increasingly brisk morning breeze.
Digital original
The last photos of the morning were made with the brightest leaves we could find; the irony about the session was that it actually fell on the far side of the best autumn colour - we'd hoped to find a riot of colour, but almost every tree was either bare or yellow. This one oak tree had the richest shade of red, so won the prize of being the last setting in which Ingrid posed in 2015!

October 25, 2015

An Afternoon Field Trip (Halifax, Nova Scotia)

Digital original
By this time, most of the fall colours around Halifax are gone - only the occasional fallen leaf has any bright colour - in this case however, the right leaf was in the right place! I spent about 30 minutes working with this single scene, experimenting with shutter speed, focal length and point of view.
Digital original
The most fascinating thing about the leaves in water was how much the tone of the water changed depending on the angle of view; the first images takes most of its colour from the surrounding yellow trees, where the above image is only coloured by the blue sky above.
Digital original
The final image is more of a technical experiment than anything else; my new camera (a Canon 5DsR) is my first Canon with multiple exposure capability. The first obvious application of this is the Orton effect (when an out of focus image is blended with an in focus image). I am not sure how I feel about the result (to be honest, I'd be more interested in trying it with a Nude), but it was great to have something new to mess around with, technique-wise.

A Morning Field Trip (Halifax, Nova Scotia)

Digital original
The Halifax skyline has been littered with construction cranes for the past year or two, and from time to time I have investigated them with a camera, but this is the best image I have made of them to date, primarily because of how well the intersecting lines work.
Digital original, 3 frame exposure blend
Part of the focus of this field trip was using the new Lightroom Photo Merge HDR process to deal with scenes of extreme contrast; the above image, of the rising sun back-lighting morning cloud, was a perfect scene to create an exposure blend, needing three different exposures to cover the full range of tones from highlight to shadows. Lightroom did a perfect job of blending them together.
Digital original
As I was walking back to my car from the field trip, I happened to walk past an Keith's Hall, an historic building which recently had its facade restored. As it was a Sunday morning, there was almost no traffic, so I was able to work with my camera in mid-street to make this classic elevation view of the porch.

October 24, 2015

A Waterfront Field Trip (Halifax, Nova Scotia)

Digital original
One of the reasons I choose the morning to do field trips along the waterfront is because the lower, angular light in the morning creates great shadows, which help give birth to photographs like this.
Digital original
The three tortured street lamps are a waterfront sculpture. Usually I photograph them much closer with a wide lens to exaggerate the twisted forms, but I caught a glimpse of this vantage point, with all three lights intersecting, as I walked along the waterfront, and changed to a long lens to make this view.
Digital infrared original
I've been photographing the Emera Headquarters since before it was renovated, but with so much glass on the building face, it is so different from day to day.

October 23, 2015

A Tilt-Shift One-on-One (Halifax, Nova Scotia)

Digital original, 3 frame exposure blend
This past Spring was the first time I've taught a class on Architectural Photography, but much to my surprise, it turned out to be very popular. Recently, one of the students from that course acquired a tilt-shift lens, so this was a field trip to help demystify the lens.
Digital original, 3 frame exposure blend
The above image was made using a rise on the lens, moving it vertically upwards to permit the camera to stay level, and avoid convergence (when a building gets narrower at the top in a photograph).
Digital original, 3 frame exposure blend
The second image of the old Halifax Memorial Library (above) was made from the same camera position as the first (note the position of the poster pillar on the right, and the branch coming out of the building on the left), but this time, the camera was turned so it was parallel to the building (pointing towards the right corner, basically), and then the lens was shifted to the left, and up, to compose the image. Such is the magic of a tilt-shift lens.
Digital original, 6 frame exposure blend
Towards the end of the session, we shifted to photographing the new Halifax Library; as opposed to correcting the convergence inherent when a camera is pointed up at a building, I decided to over correct it, and point the camera downwards, and purposely introduce keystone distortion (when a building is larger at the top than the bottom) - the result was really pleasing, if a little wacky.

The other technique being used in the image is exposure blending - in this case, I was experimenting with the new HDR Photo Merge feature in Lightroom CC - it was less than pleasing in this case, as it lead to odd pink highlights in the sky (where clouds moved during the making of the 6 source exposures). Fortunately, I can do a similar thing by hand in Photoshop, avoiding the issue (I posted the result with the issue here more as an academic example than anything else).

October 18, 2015

A Shutter Speed Field Trip (Halifax, Nova Scotia)

Digital original
The final, bright colours of fall make a lovely counterpoint to the soft flow of the small stream into which they have fallen.
Digital original
Ever since I picked up a camera, I've been fascinated with how motions looks in a photograph. In this case, I really enjoyed the delicate curve in the yellow leaf on the rock, and how the blurred water mirrors it.
Digital original
The magic of working with moving water is how different speeds of flow look different in the same image; on the extreme left of this image, the water was moving much faster than on the right, providing a nice mix of flow in the resulting image.

October 10, 2015

A Waterfront Field Trip (Halifax, Nova Scotia)

Digital infrared original
This morning's field trip was spend walking along the Halifax water front - I made the above image in a children's play ground, made all the more magical for the capture being made in infrared.
Digital original
The three blue window panes caught my eye, but initially I was at a loss as to how to work them into a composition - then I realized if I waked back a little, I could break up the form of the window with the light post!
Digital original
As I was packing up my equipment for the day, I caught a glimpse of the evening sky, and immediately changed lenses and made this image - a lovely end to the day.

October 09, 2015

Three Women in Silks! (Halifax, Nova Scotia)

Digital original
This session was a real anomaly for me; after a recent session, I was discussing things with a model when she mentioned wanting photos of her performing with silks; always happy to help a model out with photo related things, I offered to make some photos...and after several weeks of planning, she and two of her friends met me at the silks studio, and we got under way.
Digital original
Fortunately, the studio was large enough for me to set up lighting, so I could use studio flash to light the performers; the back wall was mostly black, so it only took a small amount of post production to take the background down to almost black.
Digital original
I really enjoyed working with the silks performers; I couldn't help but see the potential in the medium for fine art nudes, but it is so far out of my regular approach and focus that it is likely never to be pursued. It was fun to do none-the-less!

September 29, 2015

Ingrid in the Burned Forest (Herring Cove, Nova Scotia)

As the fall moves on, every outdoor session is precious, and as the colours start to change, more magical. That makes the first success of this session a little ironic as it was made in infrared, and focuses on the contrast of the texture of the fall foliage surrounding Ingrid's torso, as opposed to the colours. More than anything, I love the delicate tones of the image.
Digital infrared original, 2 frame focus blend
There were a number of colour photographs made during the session, but the foliage was only starting to change colour, so the overall palette was more traditional than I'd expected, so I chose to work with the bare, stark trees in contrast to Ingrid, as opposed to the colour below them.
Digital original
The final set of images focused on a massive coil of cable we found in the forest - doubtless a remnant of the old military fortifications nearby. When we first saw it, I gave no thought to working with it (assuming it would be spiky and awkward to pose upon), but Ingrid immediately moved onto it, and discovering it was quite comfortable (compared to rocks and trees), she enthusiastically began exploring it for pose options.
Digital infrared original, 2 frame stitch
In the end, there were more than a handful of different poses which worked, but the above, a panoramic stitch looking from Ingrid lying back on the cable, all the way up past the burnt trees to the lovely sky is by far my favourite. A lovely, and very unexpected way to end the session.

September 23, 2015

The Universe Delivers a Lesson (Herring Cove, Nova Scotia)

Any outdoor session with a model after mid September is a gift, so when Lavender asked if we could go out and do some images on this afternoon, I was more than enthusiastic. When we arrived at the coast, we were both enthralled with the massive breaking waves that were rolling in from the open ocean, and the first composition, below,  A challenging image to make, as the waves were moving from a sun-lit ocean into the deep shade of the rock face Lavender was posing on, I used a careful exposure blend to create a blend of the two levels of illumination.
Digital infrared original, 2 frame exposure blend
After we did a number of compositions working in the deep shade, we moved further up, to experiment with poses where Lavender was in the sun, with the breaking waves far below her. Unfortunately, moments after the below  image was made, a wave crashed up and over, giving a brief and unexpected shower to Lavender, myself, and my gear (fortunately it was brief enough to cause no damage to my new cameras, and the lenses). Unfortunately, as we hadn't planned for water-based images, we had no towel to dry Lavender off with...so the session came to an abrupt halt as she huddled out of the wind and tried to dry off an warm up.
Digital original
After Lavender warmed up some from the unexpected shower, she offered to work on a couple of more images before we backed up and headed for home. And for the first time in the session, I looked up from the breaking surf, and saw the sky.

The hardest thing about photography is being able to see what is really in front of you, as opposed to what you think is there. From when we arrived at the coast, until well after the wave cut the session short, I was focused on the waves, and on trying to incorporate them into the images. In spite of the fact that they were in the worst place, for the light of the day. In spite of the fact that there was an increasingly beautiful sky forming right over our heads.
Digital infrared original, 8 frame mean blend
Fortunately, the universe kicked me in the ass, and made me sit up and pay attention. As Lavender was drying off and warming up, I started to really see the day, and saw the wonderful cloud formation over the harbour. The last composition of the session made the most of that shape, and set it against Lavender's figure nestled in the rock below. Usually I'd be frustrated to have a session cut so short unexpectedly, but after making the above image, I was positively glowing all the way back to the car, I was so happy.

September 17, 2015

A Session with Biranca (Polly's Cove, Nova Scotia)

Though Bianca returned to Nova Scotia in June, it has taken us ages to find time for a second session; almost three months later we finally headed out to the coast to work on the glacial plains.
Digital infrared original, 4 frame stitch
Out first set of images were made on one of the bedrock outcrops that underlies the scrubby terrain. At the edge there was a crevasse in one of the massive rocks, and the early fall sunlight crossed it at a perfect angle to illuminate Bianca as she posed in the gap between the stones. We experimented with a number of different poses, but the first, with Bianca arching against the sunlight, proved to be the best. I used the longest lens I had (300mm) to place her figure upon an arching line of stone, set against the distant horizon of the Atlantic Ocean.
Digital infrared original
Twenty minutes or so later, we were working further along on the same outcrop when Bianca experimented with a pose she'd used a year earlier. Based on a yoga position (Bridge), and the initial images worked well, but when I asked her to extend the leg on the camera side, it all came together
Digital infrared original
The last portion of the session was spent with Bianca working with the rocks, seaweed and water at the coast. We hadn't come prepared to working with water (no towels, water shoes or neutral density filters), and being later in the year, the air temperature was a little cool for wet skin. Bianca did the best she could with the situation however, and the above image was really pleasing - the luminous seaweed and dark water surrounding Bianca highlights her figure perfectly, and the direct sunlight was at low enough of an angle to be flattering, as opposed to frustrating.

August 20, 2015

Victoria Returns (Ingramport River, Nova Scotia)

In some ways, this year seems to have the theme of reunion...between the winter studio sessions with the waterpool, and my summer work outdoors, I have reconnected with a significant number of former models. The last time I worked with Victoria was in 2008, when she came up from London to work with me in Scotland. Since then, we've kept in touch, but never had the chance to continue building on the images we began making together in 1998. This summer, however, Victoria had a longer visit home, so we finally had a chance to get out and make some new images, coincidently returning to the first location we'd worked in outdoors seventeen years ago.
Digital original with a mean shutter blend
There is little as enjoyable as reconnecting with a friend after a long separation, and it is much the same when it comes photography; it was fabulous to have a chance to photograph Victoria again, and only minutes into the session, we made our first strong image (above) taking full advantage of the late evening light, and the smooth flowing river to blend her body perfectly into the composition.
Digital infrared original with a mean shutter blend
In contrast to the previous river session with K_, while I had my neutral density filters with me this time, I couldn't put them to much use; Victoria and I had timed the session for evening light, but I didn't expect high fog to roll in, and push the light levels significantly lower. I'd planned to use a 6-stop (64x or 1.8) filter to get a 2- 4 second shutter speed range, but it turned out I could get a shutter of 0.6 seconds without a filter (this in turn meant the 64x filter was giving me shutter speeds 8 seconds or longer, which are not practical when working with a model). So the irony was that the session I really needed filters for (with K_) was when I forgot them, yet the next session, when I had the filters in hand, I didn't need them. All the same, with most images, I ended up using a mean shutter blend to create and even more even sweep to the moving water.
Digital infrared original with a mean shutter blend
Though we made a number of really pleasing images, I think the above photograph, made towards the end of the session, is my favorite - I love the way the pose works with the surroundings, and the contrast between all the textures - the rock, wood, skin and water.

Victoria and I both really enjoyed the session - as we walked back to the car, she mentioned how easy it was, even after a seven year hiatus, to rediscover the dance that is so integral to the way we work together - her exploring the space to find the pose, the two of use refining the pose, and then myself explore the potential through a lens. 

A Morning field trip (Halifax, Nova Scotia)

I spent this morning int he public gardens working with a one-on-one client, working on macro skills. About an hour into the session, I came across a classic green grasshopper...sitting in a yellow flower.
Digital original

It never fails to surprise me how easy it is to make pleasing images of flowers. In the case below, I loved the contrast between the two colours.
Digital original
 It is hard not to find pleasure in seeing a composition unfold in front of the camera.
Digital original

August 18, 2015

Discovery from Adversity (Dorey Lake, Nova Scotia)

This was the time session K_ and I have worked together this year; as the first worked by the ocean, I thought we'd spend the second working in a river; by August, Nova Scotian rivers tend to be quite warm, and more than a pleasure for models to pose model in.
Digital original with a mean shutter blend
It was only when we'd parked, and walked into the location that I realized I'd left all my neutral density filters at home (with 9 filters in sizes from 72mm to 145mm, I have a separate bag for them)...and my plan had been to use neutral density filters to provide me with slower shutter speeds to blur the water around K_'s figure.

It is said that discovery comes from adversity, and in this case, that is certainly true. Though I had never used the technique, I knew it was possible to combined multiple images into a mean blended image, which should in theory provide "blurred" water if there were enough source images. With this in the back of my head, K_ and I began making images.
Digital original with a mean shutter blend
For each composition that worked, I tried to create at least 8 exposures of K_ in the water; these typically had shutter speeds in the 1/4 to 1/2 second range, which meant they had only a moderate amount of motion blur. When combined into a mean blended image in post production however, they emerged as a wonderfully smooth image displaying as much if not more water blur than I usually work with.

Though I had no idea the approach would work at the time, my faith in the abstract concept paid off - K_ and I made a number of really striking water Nudes, each of which is made stronger when combined with the mean shutter blend. I suspect I would have been happier working with my more traditional approach of "real" long shutter speeds accomplished through Neutral Density filters, but in the end, the final result is all that matters, and I am more than happy!
Digital infrared original with a two-frame stitch
Towards the end of the session, K_ and I walked to the head of the river, and did a few images on the side of the lake that fed it; there was a fabulous tree that rose into a deep blue that was was just perfect for infrared. After K_ found a pose on a smooth rounded rock below it, I made a series of images with the 17mm TS-E lens that gave full expression to the massive tree rising above K_.

August 14, 2015

Waterfall II with Tanis (Dawson Brook, Nova Scotia)

Digital original
Tanis and I began our second session of the day working with a shelf of rocks that ran along a small brook; the geometric shapes of the rocks caught her eyes and Tanis wished to see what we could make of such a structured natural setting. After some experimentation, I felt that looking almost straight down worked best, accenting the hard lines of the rocks, but also focusing almost exclusively on their moss-covered top sides. The rich green worked perfectly with Tanis' colouring, and placing her body heading almost straight into the corner seemed the perfect way to both mirror and provide a visual counterpoint to the flow of the stones.
Digital Infrared Original
The reason I selected this location was for the brook that flows over the rock shelf and quickly transforms into a 20' waterfall - a waterfall that was unexpectedly inaccessible because of the three full-sized trees that were collapsed across it. Where I'd worked for a dozen or more sessions over fifteen years was now completely unusable. Not willing to give up, Tanis and I moved to exploring the possibilities of the brook itself, but to be candid, I had a hard time believing we'd find much to work with in the shallow water...

...until I began to look through the camera. While Tanis was stretching out in the rapids flowing over some rocky steps, the river to her right was as smooth as glass, and with a cloud obscuring the sun, the even light cascading down upon Tanis was perfect to set her figure off against the surrounding dark water and moss-covered rocks. I had time to make five separate compositions of three poses before the light changed, and Tanis and I moved further up the river, in search of softer light.
Digital original
Overall, the session at the second waterfall location was a blend between elation and frustration. Some of the images practically lept off the camera's LCD screen in review, the were so striking. At the same time, the fallen trees limited the composition and posing possibilities, and the light changed quite frequently, which made exposures challenging (there's nothing like the sun coming out during a 4 second exposure). In the end, with the sun more out than behind clouds, we called it a day and headed back to the car.

Waterfall I with Tanis (Kentville, Nova Scotia)

Digital original, 2 frame stitch
I first worked with Tanis in 2011, but because of her location (an hour away from Halifax), it is only now, four years later, that we've managed to meet up for a second day of photography. The first location I chose was a waterfall just outside of her hometown, right beside the highway.

We started the session working with the top of the falls, in the narrow river that flows under the highway, and down the rock face. After initially making some image of Tanis in the falls, we shifted to her posing with her figure crossing over the river, which turned out to be the most successful image!
Digital original, two frame shutter speed blend
After we finished up at the top of the falls, Tanis and I carefully clambered down, and proceeded to work in the water at the base - we made number images working both where the waterfall met the pool at the bottom, and with Tanis on the falls themselves, but there was nothing that had more impact that a portrait we made right at the start, with her kneeling in the water and leaning back into the falling water.
Digital Infrared Original, three frame stitch
The end of the session was spent working out of the water, below the falls. I've made numerous attempts in the past at capturing the size of these falls in contrast to a Nude, but this was the first time I've managed to accomplish both of my goals - making an image which really portrays the scale of the setting, and which has a pleasing placement and pose of the model. In large part this is because I used a 17mm tilt-shift lens, and managed to keep Tanis from becoming too distorted, but it also is rooted in her her pose, which works perfectly with the rock shelf to the side of the falls.