August 04, 2020

Esme & Ingrid in the Waves

 The strongest thread to flow through my work in the past couple of years had been working with models and the ocean - specifically Esme & Ingrid. Their comfort with working in the Atlantic Ocean off Nova Scotia has lead to making some really strong images, and the more I work withe the combination the more I come to understand what it is that draws me to it, and the better I can create images which relate that to the viewer.

Digital infrared original

As much as we had planned to work with the ocean during this session, we couldn't pass by a lovely rock pool. I'd worked in this space before with Carol & Ingrid, but this time, with direct sunlight, the space was very different, and created an image which in no way competes with the older composition - both work in their own distinct ways.

Digital original

 As we moved to working with the ocean proper, the real wealth of the evening began to reveal itself. The waves were breaking against the shore with great energy, which I was able to capture in the above image of Ingrid - it is important to note most of the chaos and spray around her is from waves breaking before or behind her...while she did get truly soaked, all the wave action that came in contact with her was quite tame, with the energy of the ocean already spent when it broke on the wave she was leaning back upon.

Digital original

A couple of dozen meters from the above image, Esme and Ingrid posed on the edge of a rock which rose out of the ocean vertically; waves that stuck this rock broke almost straight up,which most of their power gone by the time the water rose high enough to touch the models...it was this upward throw of the wave which I sought to capture.

Digital infrared original

As the evening began to draw to a close, we walked further down the shore, seeking areas to work in. I saw this Esme-sized rock and immediately thought it would be great to make an image of her with the ocean swirling around below. It took a couple of minutes for the waves to co-operate, but the final mix of the still pose and fluid water below is exactly what I sought.

Digital infrared original

The last images of the session came as the sun light the evening sky from behind the horizon; I asked Esme and Ingrid to pose in the water of a calm bay, centered in the reflected light of the sky. It proved challenging, as there as only one rock for the models to perch upon, and after numerous experiments, the best images were of Esme leaning back over Ingrid...yielding a composition just begging for a title or storyline.

July 30, 2020

A Gray Evening on the Coast

As this strange summer continues (thanks COVID-19), the work with Esme & Ingrid just keeps getting stronger.While this day in Halifax was sunny and stupid hot, when we arrived at the coast, it was overcast, and threatening rain and/or fog. Never one to pass on beautiful, soft light, we set out to the rocks at the edge of the coast, and started to work.

Digital original, 4 image blend

The first set of images were made on a low rock shelf which occasionally saw waves break over it; the space looked like it would work well with a long shutter speed to blur the water. Both Esme and Ingrid felt that there wasn't significant risk to posing the location, and quickly found a pose that was both secure, and looked good. The discussion of risk is a big focus of these sessions, as working as we are in the ocean (as opposed to beside it, which has been the focus of my work with the ocean prior to this new direction). In the end, even with a couple of wave completely breaking over the models, they never moved significantly, and ended up laughing more than anything. The careful combination of four separate images provided the ideal blend of the models, and power of the ocean around them.

Digital original

As we moved down the shore, we came across a lovely outcrop of rock, set above the surging ocean. Esme, then Ingrid explored the space, and a number of images were made, but one of the strongest is the above image of Ingrid. I debated over her placement, in regards to the horizon (I actually photographed it both ways), but in the end, the composition with her breaking the horizon line felt more balanced.

Digital original, 3 image exposure blend

After finishing thee image with Ingrid, I asked Esme if she'd like to see what the two of them could find - and the above was made. Shortly after making the image, it started spitting rain. For a couple of minutes, the three of us sheltered in the lee of a perfectly positioned rock, until it became clear that rain was not indeed going to happen...it was during this break that it was mentioned that this might be the first session in years to be exclusively in colour...so when we emerged from behind the rock, my mind was alive with the idea of finding a space that would work well in infrared.

Digital infrared original

As luck had it, at the exact same time, a thick band of fog rolled in, providing soft, even light over the entire coastline. Looking for a last spot to work with revealed a lovely angular line on a low rock face, and within minutes, both models were posing on the rock, with Esme fitting into the line of the rock, below a reclining Ingrid. The soft directional light of the fog played out beautifully in infrared, and broke the colour trend of the session, right before it came to a close due to the dying of the light.

July 28, 2020

Esme on the Coast at Sunset

Though we intended to to focus on water Nudes, this session started with Esme and I working with the granite bedrock and glacial erratic that line the Atlantic Shore of Nova Scotia. With the long evening shadows, the texture of the rocks was emphasized, making the contrast between skin and stone even stronger. Esme and I made a number of photos focused on this, but the strongest of the session was one in which Esme sought to become an augmentation to a stone's shadow, hugging the edge of the rock; I built the composition around the flow of the rocks around her, and the shadow that fell behind. Using the infrared camera permitted me to open up the shadows, and prevent the final image from becoming a mess of blown highlights and pitch black shadows.

Digital infrared original

As we worked our way along the shore, Esme and I came across a bed of shore grass, exposed by the low tide. We both agreed the space was about as different as one could get from the rocks we had started the session with, and stopped to make some photos. After making a number of body-focused images, I shifted to creating some portraits - the strong back-lighting provided by the evening sun was challenging to work with (I had to shelter my lens with my hat, to prevent flare from completely destroying the images), but provided beautiful results, especially when combined with the unique tonal rending of skin in infrared.
 
Digital infrared original

From the sessions' beginning, the intent was to focus on working with the ocean. Since I first worked with Esme in 2018, I've more and more been drawn to working with the body in the sea, both celebrating its quiet moments, and its power. In 2008, I exhibited Memory of Water, a gallery show  focused on the Nude in lakes and river (there were a couple of Nudes in on or by the ocean, but all of these were focused on still water). With the work I made with Ingrid and Esme last year and so far this year, I feel I am working forwards a new exhibition, this time focused on the power of the ocean. With this in mind, Esme and I made a number of images sets focused on water breaking around (and over, occasionally) her figure. The setting sun provided the perfect back lighting for the waves, and Esme's patience and enthusiasm helped us make some really dramatic images.

Digital original

For the below image, I positioned myself so the camera was looking at Esme, directly below the setting sun (while shielding the lens from the sun itself). This created both a wash of warmth across the images, but also a really lovely tonality - even though the lens was protected from flare, the strong back-lighting washed over the foreground subjects, lowering their overall contrast, and making the image all the stronger for it.

Digital original

The end of the session came with a rather quiet sunset - there was just one string of clouds in the sky, and it only lit up for a couple of minutes. Fortunately, Esme was already in the water with a pose selected, so we could make a couple of images before the light faded. Truth be told, after making the above image, I ran to my gear to change lenses, but by the time I returned with a long lens, the light had faded, and the cloud was just a gray smear in a darkening sky...so we packed up, and headed back to civilization.
 
Digital original, 2 image exposure blend

Overall, this was a great session; the earlier work built on years of my work with infrared light, and yielded my favorite portrait of Esme to date, but as soon as we started working with the waves, everything just took off (in colour too), proving that this new direction was absolutely one to pursue. Due to the capricious nature of the ocean, I think it may be several years before I can assemble a full exhibition which shares what I am seeing in this work, but I am now certain it needs to be seen!

July 21, 2020

Sunset with Ingrid on the Ocean Floor

Early in the summer of 2018, I decided to try a radical experiment, photographically speaking. I decided to only photograph in good light for that year - and for the most part, for over 2 years now, I have adhered to, and benefited from, this decision. It has seen most of my work focused on working in the evening, or on overcast days. I have no doubt that I have missed making images that would have been made at other times, but rather than making images in good light, I am focused on working with great light.

Digital infrared original, 8 image stitch

As a result, Ingrid and I drove across Nova Scotia for this evening's light, looking across the Bay of Fundy towards the setting sun. We arrived to a lovely warm evening, with strong directional light that lent great contrast to the subtle patterns on the Fundy mud. One of the first successes of the session was the above stitch of Ingrid's standing figure juxtaposed to the tidal pattern behind her.

Digital infrared original

The beauty of the Bay of Fundy is the wealth of shoreline that is revealed at low time (which was why I selected this day for the session - low tide coincided with sunset), and for the better part of two hours, Ingrid and I wandered the ever expanding shore line, making images where and when they called out to be made. Over an over, we found small tidal pools or rock formations to explore, enjoying the lovely light, and exploring all kinds of possibilities.

Digital original, 2 frame stitch

As the sunset neared, we moved back to the cliffs that lined the shore, and worked for a time there with the last direct light of the day. The sunlight was SO warm that I had to tone down the red/yellow in these images, because as created, the red in the light combined with the rocks and Ingrid's skin to be almost neon...totally overpowering the rest of the image, and making it seem completely unrealistic.
 
Digital original, 4 image exposure blend

The last images of the evening were made after the sun went down. Though the sky lacked the over-the-top drama that sunsets occasionally have, it was wonderfully rich in colour, and presented a soft, directional light for a final set of images on the water-carved rocks of the Bay of Fundy.

At the end of the session - more than three hours after we arrived, Ingrid commended that she probably spent more time during this session totally naked (walking around between images) than ever before - which is quite something, after working together for more than 100 sessions over 22 years!

July 02, 2020

Esme & Ingrid on the Ocean Floor (Bay of Fundy, Nova Scotia)

While it is some distance from Halifax, of all the spaces Nova Scotia has to photograph, the Bay of Fundy is one of the most spectacular (at low tide, at least). I first photographed Ingrid here in 2004, so it seemed a suitable space to take her to mark 22 years of working together - and Esme came along as well, making it another multi-model session on the bottom of the ocean. 

Digital infrared original
Though I've worked at the Bay of Fundy before, this was my first time working in this location, and the first images was a direct response tot he beauty of the space. We were at the head of a small marsh, with a river the flowed out (at low tide) to the bay...with the heavily overcast sky, the river was like a ribbon of light cutting through the foreground..and I knew I had to make an image of it. As there wasn't much to work with, in regards to posing, I asked both women to simply stand with the backs to me, and look out to the Fundy.
 
Digital infrared original

As beautiful as the view towards the bay was, the real reason to work at the Bay of Fundy was the lovely water-carved rocks, which provide rich environment in which to work with the Nude. Both Esme and Ingrid really took to the space, and found a number of really striking poses, working against the red sandstone. The evening was surprisingly windy, so I made a larger than usual number of exposures, and was wise to do so, as about 1/3 of the exposures were ruined due to tripod/camera vibrations.

Digital infrared original

The other reason I like worked at the Bay of Fundy is more specific to my love of working infrared; on the red sandstone rocks of the Fundy coast there often grows a lovely soft, bright green seaweed - and in infrared, it ends up rendering much like pale hair - as seen in the above image of Esme and Ingrid. While I am sure this seaweed grows elsewhere in Nova Scotia, it is easy to find, and work into subsequent compositions on the Fundy rocks.

Digital infrared original, two frame stitch

As the evening progressed, the cool air (exacerbated by the high wind) started wearing on the models,so we decided to pack things up and head to the car...but on the way, Esme caught sight of a beautiful slab of stone, set against a deep pocked in the rock behind. "Could I work on that?" she asked, and a minute or so later, the above image was made. I ended up stitching the composition together from two frames, as I liked both the smooth rock below her, which merges into the beach, and the horizontal bands in the rocks above; if either was absent, I didn't like the image as much - so I merged both framed together!

June 27, 2020

A River Session with Esme (South Shore, Nova Scotia)

This session was intended to be a follow up to the first session of the year, but when I arrived at the coast, though it was hot and sunny in the city, it was foggy and cool. After a short discussion, Esme and I decided to try to work in an inland river; we'd worked there two years ago, and at the time, Esme was a little disconnected from the experience (preferring the ocean), but she'd decided it would be good to revisit the whole "river thing", so off we went.

Digital infrared original

I've worked in this location since 1996 - in fact, it was the first place I combined the Nude with water in my work, so it has long been a creative touchstone. The river level was lower than usual (by about 18"), but that provided a number of lovely locations for Esme to pose in. The first set of images were made with the camera on the shore, but within about 10 minutes of the start of the session, I was clambering around in the river, working closer to Esme with wider lenses, and enjoying how that opened up the compositions.

Digital infrared original

The light at the river was absolutely perfect - by the time we arrived at the river, a low, thin cloud had rolled over the sun, providing soft, even light throughout the session. Bright, high contrast sunlight is challenging to work with at the best of times, but with water and river settings, it is particularly challenging. The added advantage of the soft light was it made it very easy to reach longer shutter speeds when combined with neutral density filters. For the entire session I used 1.8 filters (64x darker), which provided me with shutter speeds between 1.3 and 3.2 second - just perfect for the look I sought.

Digital original

As the session progressed, Esme and I slowly moved up river, but realistically, I doubt be moved more than 30 meters over the entire session - leaving lots of the river to work with on other sessions. The real reason for this low progress was how perfect conditions were. The water temperature was lovely, meaning Esme could stay in poses for extended periods while I explored visual possibilities from all angles. a luxury I don't always have when working with the Nude.

Digital infrared original

The last images of the session were quite different for me - I seldom include the forest around the river in the images I made of models in water. It was a little challenging to make the images with the lenses I had (this is the first session in ages at which I wished I had my 17mm TS-E lens, which would have been the perfect lens for the above image.

All in all, the session was lovely, with some striking images being created, and Esme thoroughly enjoying herself.

June 18, 2020

The First Session during the Year of Covid-19 (Atlantic Coast, nova Scotia)

COVID-19 caused Canada to shut down; on March 22, 2020, Nova Scotia declared a State of Emergency, Several weeks earlier I began winding down my courses, buy from March 22 until June 18th, social distancing was the requirement, to protect people against the virus. One June 18th, however, the provincial government unexpectedly announced that groups of up to 10 could meet, without social distancing. As it happened, I had already arranged to work with Esme on June 18th...initially for a "socially distanced" session...and now, for a session! The first time I'd make new photographs in months.

Digital infrared original

The first photographs of the session were made in a small water pool a little in from the coast; the evening was on the cool side, so Esme's thought was that the small pool of dark water would be warm enough to pose in. Moments later, she was exploring the possibilities. The light worked well with the pool's orientation, and we made a small series of images with a variety of poses and lenses.

Digital infrared original, two image blend

The coast was where we spent the rest of the session, starting with a set of images created with Esme posing on some large granite boulders. My favourite from these images was made looking straight into the evening sun. I took the composition inspiration from the shape of the rock (with the left and right bottom of the frame defined by the rock. I made the finished image by combining two images - one with my fingers blocking out the sun and preventing flare, and one with the flare busting across the frame...a careful blend of the two creates the final image.

Digital infrared original

As we worked on the shoreline rocks, and she explored pose possibilities, Emse arched back between two rocks split from the same massive boulder, fitting her body to the gap in the rocks - which was both comfortable and beautiful. I made images of this pose from numerous different angles, and with three different lenses, but the above version is my favourite. The lack of context, with just a sea of rock around Esme gives the location some mystery, and the reflection of the pose in the rock is something I always enjoy in my work.

Digital infrared original

The last images of the session were made with Esme modeling in the ocean. The most unexpected success one was a candid image I mad as she was adjusting to the water - Esme looked away from the camera for a moment, and I managed to make the above image. In the end, the evening was just a little too cool for Esme to do any serious posing in the ocean, but her enthusiasm was palpable, and the short water modeling at the end of the session just whet her appetite for more, in future sessions.