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.

August 13, 2015

A Coastal Session with Lavender (Polly Cove, Nova Scotia)

Lavender and I reconnected this winter when she modeled for the Surface Tension project in January; after that session I suggested we do some more work outdoors this summer, and she agreed. After a weather cancellation several weeks before, we finally managed to get out - all be it on a foggy afternoon. To be honest, we both felt the fog was quite magical looking, and enjoyed the slight temperature drop, as it was cooler near the coast.
Digital image, two frame shutter speed blend
The first set of images we made were created right at the edge of the shore, with breaking waves sweeping in from the open sea behind Lavender. For each pose Lavender found I made a dozen or more images, each trying to make the most of the beauty of the ocean swirling behind her. The above image was exactly what I was seeking to create, blending the beautiful serenity of Lavender's pose with the fluid energy of the ocean behind her.
Digital infrared original, two frame stitch
Lavender and I created a number of really lovely images over the first two hours of this session, but it was the above photograph, created towards the end of the session, that really stands out for me. Lavender's body fits perfectly into the rocks around her, and the reflection of her luminous form in the seaweed on the opposite side of the frame balances the composition perfectly. I'm often asked why I use infrared cameras, and this image is a perfect answer to the question; without the infrared sensitivity, Lavander's figure would lose some of its beautiful luminosity, and the seaweed in the distance would be a dull yellow brown.
 Digital original
The final location we worked with was a lovely layered rock face with a seam of quartz flowing across it. Lavender was able to stand within a crevasse and work her body into a pose along the leading edge of the rock. The high cloud was finally beginning to thin, so there was a little more direction to the light, which in turn provided more modeling to Lavender's figure, while not introducing the hard shadows that come with direct sun.