July 12, 2021

A First Session with a New Model

One of the greatest challenges of focusing one's artwork on photographing the Nude (for me at least) is finding people to work with; I have been fortunate to have worked with a number of models over extended periods (the most obvious example of this is Ingrid, whom I've worked with since 1998). This is a long way to say that that sessions with new models tend to be rare, especially in year two of the COVID-19 pandemic. That being said, this would be my second session of the year with a new model. Brittany came to my work after seeing it on Instagram, and after meeting up to discuss my ethos and process, we set a date for a first session, and crossed our fingers for good weather!

Digital infrared original

Luck was with us, and the day of the planned session had perfect weather - warm with high clouds to provide the occasional break from direct sunshine. While we'd planned to head to the Bay of Fundy, things changed at the last minute, and we headed to more familiar territory, along the edge of the Atlantic Ocean. Taking advantage of the warm evening, we began the session with Brittany working in the ocean. Though most of the poses were made of her emerging from the water, early on I made some standing portraits, one of which (above) was a favorite.

Digital infrared original
As the session progressed, the work in the water grew more focused; the reflections of the wispy clouds on the ocean where we were was just stunning, and I tried to make some images that took advantage of the still water. There were several spaces where the rocks below the surface blossomed with seaweed, and in one particular location, the rock was the perfect high for Brittany to lie back upon, leading to an image with the feeling that she is floating of a sea of white seaweed - yay infrared!

Digital infrared original
After we'd worked through the potential of the water, Brittany and I moved onto the rocks that abound on the Atlantic coast of Nova Scotia. By this time, most of the sky to the north and east had clouded over, and it quickly became the focus of my compositions, as I sought for settings and poses that worked with the flow of the sky. After a couple of other images were made, Brittany tried a back-on pose, along the edge of a spine of bedrock. Directly above her, a gap in the clouds provided the perfect contrast to her luminous skin, and the above composition was born!

Digital original, 4 image exposure blend

The last images of the session also were my first sunset session of the year (not for lack of trying, but the weather has been incredibly challenging this summer, with warm, clear evenings never coinciding with my (and models) availability). We had some time before the sunset proper, so scouted out the location, and planned a series of poses and compositions to move through once the sun went below the sky, and whatever that delivered began to happen. The planning paid off, in and in a matter of minutes we moved through a handful of compositions of three separate poses, and were done and dusted before the light began to fade - a great end to a wonderful first session!

July 08, 2021

Ingrid and Liv at the Bay of Fundy

This was a session that almost never happened! Early in the week, the weather forecast for this evening was pretty poor, so I called Liv, and cancelled the session. As it turned out though, the weather improved, so in the end, things were better than ever, with Ingrid joining us for the session! And to make things even better, I had a short term loan of the new Canon R 85mm f/1.2 lens - the upgraded version of my venerable 13-year old Canon EF 85mm f.1,2 II. I am some way away from being able to afford to upgrade the lens, but this loaner will give me a better idea if such an expensive (and heavy) lens would be a good investment!

Digital infrared original
The first thing to really catch my eye was a large, lovely piece of driftwood. Liv was the first to pose on it, and we made some really striking compositions, but it was when Ingrid was added to the frame that things really came together. The infrared really worked well in this setting, highlighting the sparse foliage growing on the cliff-side, and rendering both women as luminous alabaster.

Digital infrared original, two frame focus blend, two frame stitch
The session really began to flow as the three of us moved out onto the ocean floor, and I suggested working with a couple of sea-weed covered rocks. By this time, the evening sky had started to develop some drama, and provided the perfect backdrop. After beginning with Ingrid along, and then adding Liv to the top of the rock back-on (mirroring Ingrid's pose), I suggested Liv flip over and pose on her back, to contrast Ingrid's pose. I felt this the stronger of the two options, and quickly made the three source images for the final composition - one of each of the models at f/1.2, and then one of the sky above them (still focused on Ingrid). The final result is even stronger than I expected, with a dark drama from the coming evening, and a beautiful counterpoint in the relaxed grace of the two models.

Digital infrared original
As the session progressed, so did my exploration of the potential of the 85mm f/1.2 lens; it was a real joy to work with, providing quick, accurate auto focus (one of the primary advantages of switching to the Canon EOS R5 for my infrared photography), and absolutely lovely shallow depth of field at the largest aperture. The above image of Liv posing against a small rock, with the evening sky in the background showed off the real beauty this lens can create.

Digital infrared original, two frame stitch

At the very lowest point of the tide, a long, water-carved bed of red sand emerged, and both models were keen to explore its potential (I was dubious about the logic, given it was still quite wet, and well, sand); over ten minutes or so, the models experimented with a number of poses while I worked quickly (hand-held) and worked through possible compositions. Some, like the above, didn't quite work with the aspect ratio of the camera, so had to be stitched together from multiple frames. As before, these images were produced with the 85mm lens at the f/1.2 aperture, making the most of such a powerful too.

Digital infrared original

As the evening began to move to wards sunset, the three of us started to make our way back to the car; on the way however, we stopped to work with a broad swath of sea-grass. I've walked past this space a dozen times or more, but never worked with it. As the grasses were in the shadow of an island, the light was soft, with some highlights created by the evening sky - just wonderful to work with. Again, the large aperture of the 85mm lens permitted me to create some really pleasing image of both Ingrid and Liv set against a seemingly infinite sea of luminous grasses.

Digital infrared original

The last images of the session were some of the few I made with a tripod; normally I work on a tripod almost exclusively, but the desire to work swiftly, coupled with the flexibility added to the process by the in-body image stabilization of the Canon EOS 5R body made work hand-held the norm for this session. All that being said, for the last handful of compositions I pulled out the tripod, and the difference was palpable - where earlier work was produced quickly, with numerous variations, the final images of the day were all carefully crafted, with both pose and composition adjusted with care, in a slow and methodical way. I am not saying the earlier, hand-held work wasn't productive, but it strikes me as really noticeable the difference in the precision of the last images, compared to the sheer volume create during the rest of the session (close to 800 files).

This session was certainly a long one; from picking up Ingrid to pulling into to my house at the end of the evening was nine hours, but the investment in time, energy and resources was totally worth it!