June 07, 2021

A Sesson of Firsts!

This session was all about firsts! It was my first session working with Liv, my first time using a new IR camera with a model, and my first outdoor figure session in 2021. Usually, I've started to photograph outdoors by May, but because of Canada's third wave of COVID-19, it is only in early June that outdoor interaction (photography or not) with mask-less people who aren't within a house-hold bubble is permitted in Nova Scotia. 

While I received my infrared converted Canon EOS R5 in early May (after it sat in customs for a full month!), the only images I've made with it have been a few of landscape and architecture, and a load of technical tests...this session is my first using it for what I bought it for - photographing the Nude! The decision to shift to mirrorless for my infrared photography was a big one, and this session would put that to the litmus test.

As Nova Scotian COVID-19 restrictions began to ease in early June, I reached out to Liv about working together. I knew she'd done some fine art modeling before, and I found the energy and character of her portfolio revealed engaging. That, coupled with the fact a friend of mine had worked her, and spoke highly of the experience, made me take the (for me unusual) step of reaching out to see if she'd be interested in working together. After a meeting to share my work and process, we set up a first session date (which turned out to be the next evening, as chance would have it), and headed for the coast (in separate cars, due to COVID-19 restrictions)!

Digital infrared original
We began the session with Liv reclining in a tidal pool; the evening was not that hot at the coast, and would only get cooler, so we'd decided to start with water images, and make the most of location while we could. Having the first images of a session with a new model tie into a thread that's flowed through my work since 1996 is never an issue. The thin, high cloud provided some soft diffusion of the sun, while still permitting some brilliant highlights on her body, and in the reflection in the water around Liv. While I started working with the camera on a tripod, I quickly shifted to hand held, taking advantage of the reason I moved to the mirrorless camera for infrared - fully accurate viewfinder auto-focus. It paid off, and permitted me a very low, dramatic viewpoint for the best image of the pose and setting.

Digital infrared original
As the session progressed, Liv and I continued to return to her working in water pools. By the middle of the session, the sun had moved lower in the sky, and provided a really beautiful side light. Working in a larger tidal pool, I made a series of compositions of her facing the sun, arching back while emerging from the pool. Initially, I worked from a higher camera position, but was frustrated with her body being set against the line of rock behind her, as opposed to against the sky, so I moved the camera lower (inches above the water surface), and everything came together. To make such a striking (and for me, atypical) image during a first session with a new model is a gift indeed!

Digital infrared original, two image blend

As the evening stretched out, working in water became impractical (the air became too cool), so as Liv dressed, I packed up my gear, and we began to walk back to the cars...only to be brought to a halt by some good light on an interesting rock face! A line of granite bedrock was being kissed by the evening sun providing beautiful side lighting to work with - and Liv was happy to see what we could make of it. After some pose experimentation and lens and camera angle variation, the above image, with Liv's sun-lit hip just kissing the downward sweep of the rocks behind her, was made!

Digital infrared original

The last success of the session was born of careful pose and camera work, blended with the beautiful happenstance that working outdoors provides. On the crest of the bedrock ridge, a glacial erratic was perched on smaller rocks (rumour has it that Art College students in the distant past may have had something to do with this particular phenomenon). Using a wide lens and careful tripod positioning, I balanced the stone compositionally against the lovely sky that was happening above it, and then Liv slowly refined her pose until everything came together. It was a striking composition to end the session on, and both of us felt it at the time. I hope this bodes well for continued sessions with Liv in the future!

For a first outdoor session of the year, I am really pleased; mixing working with a new model and a new camera into the same session could have been unwise, but in the end, Liv's comfort, experience and trust in the process shone in the images, and the camera just did what I hoped it would do - worked. Being able to preview the infrared image in the viewfinder is revolutionary (with my previous DSLR infrared cameras, one could not know how an IR image would look without first taking a test image), and having fast and accurate auto-focus after more than 15 years of having to manually focus infrared images (initially using the IR focus dot on lenses, and since 2005, using LiveView) is absolutely amazing...and yet withing minutes, just became the norm, as the session progressed. Ultimately, tools are for creating, but in the case of the new camera, it is a vast improvement on previous tools!