October 14, 2019

Fall Colours Field Trip (Ingramport, Nova Scotia)

The last fall colours field trip of 2019 had a poor start...the initial location where I'd arranged to met the students had NO colour to be found, but fortunately, there was a backup location just down the road. Fifteen minutes later, the students and I were out, looking at colour, and making images.

Digital original

As tends to be my default with water, I worked a lot with neutral density filters, and was very pleased with the result. I am particularly pleased with the look of reeds and grasses reflected in the time-smoothed water - I certainly will see if I can incorporate that into my work with models in the future.

Digital original

After working with long shutter speeds for the first part of the field trip, I switched to my macro lens, and made some details of plants...and the colour just didn't work for me, so I converted it into monochrome, and was much happier with the result.

Digital original, 2 frame stitch

The final image was actually made below a highway bridge - the river the passed below was slowly moving, but with a neutral density filter, I was able to introduce enough blur that the colour of the foliage, as opposed to the surface of the water, became the focus.

October 06, 2019

Fall Colours Field Trip (Shubie Park, Nova Scotia)

Digital original

I am fully aware of the irony of making in posting a blog post with the title Fall Colours, and leading with a monochrome image, but the above photograph was the first image of the field trip which spoke to me - and no colour was anywhere to be seen.


Digital original

Shortly after the monochrome images of the twigs were made, I caught sight of a small rock in front of a wall of fall colour - and the lower I moved, the better the reflections became, so I inverted my camera, and worked just above the ground. I experimented with a couple of different shutter speeds and in the end, 1/4 of a second provided the perfect mix between stillness and motion.

Digital original

The last images were a mix of the early monochromatic stick images, and the rock reflection's burst of colour. Some thin water grasses emerged from the lake, and with a long lens and careful composition, I managed to get the hint of colour into the frame, making a very quiet, yet colour-dependant image.

September 26, 2019

A First & Final Session (South Shore, Nova Scotia)

Digital infrared original

First sessions are always challenging; I have to walk the balance of engaging the model and gaining their confidence, while still pursuing images that move my work forward. For this session, after a couple of missed attempts, E_ and I managed to synchronize our schedules, and headed to the coast for an afternoon session. The session had to be short due to other commitments, so once we arrived at the coast, the two of us dove into the process of making art.

Digital infrared original

A great advantage to Nova Scotia in the fall is that when it is warm enough (as it was on this day), the light is lovely all day long - for this session there wasn't a cloud in the sky, but the sun was low enough to provide contrast and definition to both the landscape and E_'s figure. A great advantage of the coast where we were working faces the afternoon sun, so the light was about as good as it gets at that time of day.

Digital infrared original

After a little over and hour, the session had to be called to a close, to get back to Halifax on time. I could have photographed to sunset, but as a collaborative process, it isn't always what I want that come to pass. In the end, E_'s first session was also my final work with the Nude for 2019 - so it was a first session, and the last.

September 23, 2019

A Final Session in the Forest (Halifax, Nova Scotia)

Since Esme and I first worked together in 2018, we have worked almost exclusively at the coast, with a focus on working in water (following her passion on that front). For this session, I suggested we try working with something new, and work in a forest close to Halifax.


Digital infrared original

The fascinating realization that came out early in the session was that Esme's spent little to no time in forests; she grew up in the Canadian North, and found all the trees, underbrush and ferns quite overwhelming. It was not possible to convey this in the images we made, but her constant wonder and surprise at the nature of the landscape she was in was a definite undertone to the session.

Digital infrared original

Though I have worked in Nova Scotia forests for several decades, I still find them challenging settings to photograph - trees are, ultimately, big vertical sticks, and as such can be quite challenging to photograph a model with. Fortunately, in the area we were working in, a fair number of the trees has some shape (or in the above case, lean) to them, which provided some inspiration to work with.

Digital infrared original

The final images of the session were created with the intention of merging them into a single photograph. Esme commented that it was too bad there wasn't another model available to pose with (given that for many of the sessions we've had together have had two or even three models, this was not an unusual thing) - I then proposed she could model with herself, using the magic of digital. Thus the last composition of the session was created.

September 16, 2019

Ocean Sunset with Esme (South Shore, Nova Scotia)

On this evening, Esme and I had about 90 minutes to work before sunset, so we headed out to explore the possibilities. We've both explored the shore on which we were working extensively, but still managed to find a space completely new to both of us.

Digital infrared original, 2 image exposure blend

Below a high rocky outcrop we found a narrow pseudo-cave, formed between the outcrop and a massive granite boulder. With some care, we both moved into the space and Esme found a perfect rock shelf to lie upon. The light coming into the crevasse was quite delicate, and provided lovely highlights on Esme's reclining torso.

Digital infrared original

After emerging from the crevasse, the evening light was even more striking than it had been earlier, so we made a series of images taking advantage of the low, raking light. Working right by the calm Atlantic ocean permitted me to keep the horizon low, and balance the busy, highly textured foreground against the largely empty sky above.


Digital infrared origina

In contrast to the dramatic wide-angle of the shoreline images, I creagted a set of images of Esme posing in high grasses just inland from the rocks. Using a portrait lens and large aperture to create a wonderland of shallow depth of field, I took advantage of the magic of infrared kept the image from being too contrasty (I was photographing directly into evening sunlight, after all)

Digital original, 4 image exposure blend

The last images of the session were spent enjoying the warm wash of light the sunset provided; Esme and I had moved right down to the shore for these images, and I used a super-wide lens to set Esme's figure against the broad atlantic shore she posed upen. A lovely end to a September session.

September 03, 2019

Ingrid and Esme at the Coast for Sunset (Atlantic Coast, Nova Scotia)

As soon  as the calendar turns to September, I begin to watch the weather, aware that the warm days and lovely evenings will eventually draw to a close. With this in mind, in Early September, Ingrid, Esme and I headed to the coast, and spent a lovely evening explore the landscape and light.

Digital infrared original

One of the first successes of the evening was a set of images I made of Esme on a rock, in front of a scrubby stand of trees. The evening sky had some lovely low clouds on the horizon, and I used a long lens with a large aperture to keep the background soft, and provide some distinct separation between Esme and her surroundings.

Digital infrared original

The passion that Ingrid and Emse have for working in water has been a huge influence in the work the they have helped me create over the past couple of years. The ocean on this evening was particularly calm, which made working with these seaweed covered rocks particularly easy - as the waves came in, water swept through the channel, and reinforced the flow of the bodies between the rocks.

Digital infrared original

As the evening progressed, the light became softer and softer, to the point where it lost almost all sense of direction. That helps give this image of Esme on a rocky outcrop a very strange feeling of timelessness. The sliver of dark horizon above her is less striking in the small online version, but if a full sized print, it is a hint of drama in an otherwise subdued image.

Digital original, five image exposure blend

The last images of the session fulfilled the real hope for the session - a sunset-focused photograph. Until moments before, I was feeling quite negative about the chances of getting some colour in the gray evening sky (and therefore was working with my infrared-camera) but in a split second, a red wash of light spread across the horizon, and sent me scrambling to change cameras. Fortunately it was near at hand, and Ingrid and Esme already had poses worked out, to permit me to make a handful of images before the sun disappeared for the day.

September 02, 2019

A Final Island Day (Prince Edward Island)

Digital original
On my last day of this brief visit to Prince Edward Island, I decided I needed to get a quintessential hay-field photograph, and as it happened, just outside of New Glasgow, I spotted a field of freshly cut hay. Ten minutes later, I had made a couple of dozen different compositions - the best of which is above.

September 01, 2019

A Butterfly House (New Glasgow, Prince Edward Island)

Digital original, three frame focus stack
By far my favourite part of this trip to PEI was the discovery of a Butterfly House in the Gardens of Hope, New Glasgow. I'd wanted to go to the butterfly house in Halifax (at the Nova Scotia Museum) but never have managed to make the planning work...but in this case, we arrived at the garden about an hour before the butterfly house closed...so there was more than enough time to photograph.
Digital original, two frame focus stack
Tough I had my tripod with me, there was just too much congestion (between the butterflies and the people) to set it up, so I photographed hand-held for the entire time, but that didn't stop me from making numerous focus stacked images!
Digital original, two frame focus stack
One of the last images I made in the butterfly house was also one of the most pleasing focus blends - I made two images, one of each butterfly, and then manually combined the images together, to better reflect what my eye saw.
Digital original
The last images of the day were of a beautiful gray heron hunting in the evening light - not easy to photograph, even with a 420mm lens.

August 31, 2019

Island Wandering (Prince Edward Island)

Digital original
Early in this day of wandering we drove east across the top of the province, photographing anything that caught the eye. In this case, a small fishing port at high tide.
Digital original
On our way towards the south-west of the province, we passed by a large field to sun flowers, and had to turn the car around, so I could park and make some photographs...I'd never seen such an endless sea of sunshine!
Digital original
The last photos of the day were made in Summerside, looking out towards the Northumberland straight, and some lovely layers of clouds.

August 30, 2019

The North Shore (North Rustico, Prince Edward Island)

Digital original
A three-day sojourn to Prince Edward Island provided me with the chance to do something I don't often do - walk with a camera. While waiting of a dinner reservation, I sauntered around the fishing village of North Rustico, and made some images.
Digital original
My favourite image of the evening was the above one, with the brilliant evening sun coming through  the edging on a wharf - the texture of the pressure treated lumber was lovely!
Digital original
The last images were of some lobster traps, working with large apertures to throw the incredibly busy background out of focus...the fact it gave me a fast enough shutter speed to avoid camera shake was an added advantage!

August 28, 2019

Esme at Sunset (Bay of Fundy, Nova Scotia)

Two weeks after Ingrid's solo session at Burntcoat Head, I planned to return with both Ingrid and Esme to continue our explorations, but as things happened, Ingrid wasn't able, so Esme and I headed out on our own (the real irony of this is that Esme had hoped to come on the previous session, but was unable to attend for somewhat similar reasons).
Digital infrared original

As seems to be the weather this summer, the day was both sunny and hot, but unlike the previous Fundy session with Ingrid, I spent much of this session working with the direct evening light, taking advantage of the angular light closer to sunset. One of the first set of real successes was of Esme standing on a rock ledge, set against a shadowy cliff behind her. The light flooded across Esme's figure from the side,
Digital infrared original
As the session progressed, Esme and I moved further down the beach then I'd ever explored previously, which game a lovely feeling on exploration to the session, for all that we were working in a space I'd previously photographed in. The greatest find of this venture was a broad sweep of rock covered with fine green seaweed. Our first images here were made in infrared, focusing on a small rock at the edge, with a fan of lines in the sand flowing out from it. After some experimentation, I suggested Esme try arching right across the rock, with her hands flowing into the lines - and the above image was born.
Digital original, two frame stitch
Both Esme and I felt that the shock of the delicate green seaweed was too usual too unusual to pass by, so we spent some time working with it, both on the sun-lit side, and over the ridge in the shade. Both sets of images worked, but I decided the above composition, which presented a more delicate scene overall was the best counterpoint to the previous image, which drew heavily upon the contrast of the evening light.
Digital infrared original
By the time we finished working with the seaweed covered bedrock, the sun was approaching the horizon, so Esme and I began to move towards the shore, to make our final images of the session. On our way, we stopped on a small line or rocks that rose out of the sea of sand, to make some images of Esme against he distant horizon - the evening was quite breezy, so we had some fun with Esme holding her hair up and letting it fly free!
Digital original, 3 image exposure blend
As has been the focus all summer long, we ended the session working at the shoreline, with the incoming time at sunset. The challenge of doing this on the Bay of Fundy is further increased by the speed at which the tide comes in. Over the eight minutes I worked with the sunset, Esme had to move inland three times, as the rising water made each space she posed in too set to continue working with. As a result, I worked far faster my usual approach, but the results were worth the rush! While the sky lacked some of the drama I was hoping for, the bright yellow sky provided some lovely highlights on Esme's figure, and made the rock below her look like molten gold in some parts.

After making the last image, Esme quickly dressed as I packed up the camera and tripod, and we rushed through the darkening dusk to the car, as the tide continued to lap at our heels. All in all, a great way to spend a lovely evening!

August 27, 2019

Esme & Ingrid Continue Exploring the Coast (Atlantic Coast, Nova Scotia)

Digital original
In many ways, this summer is less a series of photo sessions (which is more typical for me), and more one single extended session, working with both Esme and Ingrid. This is in part because of both model's love of working with water, and the simple fact that 90%+ of the images I have made this summer have been of the two of them (with Carol being the third model along for a couple of sessions). Thus, the first image, above, is a continuation of the shorter-shutters speed I have been using with the ocean for the last couple of sessions - in this case, revealing some really lovely colours and textures in the ocean below Esme.
Digital infrared original
I'd been trying to make the above image since late June; during a solo session with Esme, I made a set of images at the end of her body surfacing in seaweed, surrounded by calm water. For session after session since, I'd hoped to have the right circumstances arise, but no luck - until this session. As soon as I saw the space above, I asked Ingrid and Esme to move into it and pose parallel to the camera, with the bodies flowing out into, and under the water. The evening light was just lovely, and I realized exactly what I'd had in my mind's eye from over 8 weeks earlier.
Digital infrared original
In 2005 (14 years ago) I made some similar portraits when working on the Miranda Portfolio; ever since I have had a real love of infrared portraits made in high grasses - and along one section of the shore line, a perfect patch of high beach grasses grows above the shoreline. I pauses to make portraits of both Ingrid (above) and Esme (below) there...if I had thought of it, I would have made some portraits of both models together (echoing the portrait of Ingrid and Miranda I made in 2007)...but I was so caught up in the beauty of the light, I totally blanked on that possibility.
Digital infrared original
The last image of the day (below) was something of a surprise. After finishing in the grasses, the three of us simultaneously realized that sunset was imminent - so we rushed down to the shore, and sought out a last location to work in, focusing on the sunset light falling across the two models. After a few minutes, we found a good spot, and as the sun crossed the horizon, both models worked their way into the rocks, facing the sunset. I made a couple of colour compositions, and then, on a whim, shifted to working in infrared - and the light was just lovely. Where the earlier direct sunlight was giving stark highlights and deep shadows, the sunset sky provided soft, yet directional that flowed across the women in just the right way. While I do agree the colours of sunset can be lovely, in this case, I'll take the lumious tones of infrared!
Digital infrared original

August 15, 2019

Ingrid Returns to the Ocean Floor (Bay of Fundy, Nova Scotia)

Digital infrared original
A month after the session with the three models at Burntcoat Head, Ingrid and I returned on our own, to continue to explore the potential of this space. Where the previous session took advantage of the presence of multiple models, this session, focused solely upon Ingrid, had a very different flow to it. From the first images made by a wonderfully undercut rock to the sunset that ended the session, Ingrid and I moved from space to space, drawing inspiration from the setting and light.
Digital original
One of the most pleasing images from this session centered around a massive sea-weed covered rock; after focusing so much on working with my infrared camera, it was refreshing to make an image that was undeniably a colour composition - the rick red rocks set off the seaweed perfectly, and after some pose refinement, we created this image. I did make an alternative version in infrared, but it pales next to the rich, yet delicate colours present in the first image.
Digital infrared original
When Ingrid and I shifted to working in the water-carved caves in the rock walls, I immediately shifted back to working in infrared - the lovely rock textures show up far better in that medium, and I just love how it records skin tones. After numerous different compositions, I made the above image of Ingrid wigged right back into the rock-face - a composition reminiscent of work I did fourteen years ago with Miranda and Krista.
Digital infrared original
As the sun moved lower in the sky, the shadows grew longer, and more dramatic - I caught sight of this lone rock set into a small water pool, and immediately wished to work with Ingrid upon it. I photographed the rock before she moved into position, and composited the untouched sand back into the final image!
Digital original, 4 image exposure blend, 2 image stitch
The final images of the session were made in the fading post-sunset light; we set up by a large water pool, catching the reflection of the sky in the still water. The planned pose, of Ingrid arching back against the rock behind her, worked well enough, but when I asked her to experiment with other positions, she folded forward, and the above composition was made.

August 07, 2019

A Flower (Halifax, Nova Scotia)

Digital original
During a recent class, a student brought up how frustrated she was with shallow depth of field and photos of flowers...which sent me out to the back yard, to make some examples of how I approach the very same issue. It took a couple of minutes to revise the composition until I liked it, and while I made images at f/2.8, f/8 and f/22, the only one I really liked was the first image, with the shallowest depth of field.

August 06, 2019

Ingrid and Esme on a Calm Evening (Atlantic Coast, Nova Scotia)

The weekly trend of going to the coast with Ingrid &/or Esme continues - both model's love and comfort with working in the ocean has propelled my work with water forward in ways I could never have anticipated a couple of months ago.
Digital infrared original, two image stitch

That being said, the first image set of this evening was of Esme posing with a worn and battered tree right on the path to the coast - the evening light was perfect for the space, and with no hikers visible in either distance, and Ingrid on watch, Esme and I made a handful of compositions with the space, before continuing the walk to the headland.
Digital infrared original
When we finally arrived at the headland, quite a surprise awaited us. Unlike every other coastal session this year (and perhaps ever, to my memory), the ocean was calm...instead of waves arriving every couple of sessions, the ocean just...rose and fell. It was quite literally calm. Initially, I was disappointing, as the whole reason for these ocean-side session was to work with the ocean's movement and power...and it was, essentially, subdued. Then I caught sight of a large rock covered in kelp - it was gently appearing and disappearing every 20 second or so...quite magical. The only issue was that there was nowhere near the rock for me to potion my camera...except where I was then - hundreds of feet away, and probably 40 above sea level. Fortunately, I had brought my 300mm lens, and it was just about the perfect focal length to work with.
Digital infrared original
For the next forty minutes (which contained only 20 minutes of photography, as we took a break as a group of hikers came up, chatted for a bit, and walked on) I worked from that vantage point - separately with each model, and then with both of them posting together. The outcome was fabulous - the rock was one I'd never suggest working with normally - too exposed and precarious, but with the gentle rise and fall of the ocean, it was more than safe to work on. The real magic of the composition came from the kelp blades, which measured 6" or wider in some cases, and made the entire setting look quite magical in infrared. Due to the kelp, the sense of scale is somewhat off, making the models took like miniature kelpies in a magical world of surreal pale seaweed.

The only real issue was that I invested so much time in the space that with 30 minutes of light left, I had really only made one set of compositions.
Digital infrared original
The last images of the session were made right by the shore (in contrast to the earlier images were I was hundreds of feet away from the models), again taking advantage of the calm sea. With the low sun, the horizon was becoming leaden, and the angular light lit up the seaweed along the shore, and models posing upon it. I would have loved to continue the session for another hour, but with the fading light, we finished up what images would could, and headed for home.