Thursday, January 21, 2010

"...what happened was..." Also, It's a Question of Color

Having said that, I’m pleased to report last Saturday’s shoot was a success; in spite of last minute location changes, cooler than expected temperatures, a sick assistant, and rain, all went well.

However, the day didn’t begin with such an optimistic tone. Ellisia, my assistant and a local leasing agent, phoned to say she was running a bit late, and from the sound of her voice, I knew her flu had returned. The persistent hacking cough confirmed it. The model and I arrived at our shooting location, and stood waiting under the shelter of the old Victorian era porch in the cold and damp. Ellisia was bringing the keys.

The location is an old, three story home, converted to apartments, and rented mostly to local college students. We had been slated to use the topmost floor, but it had been occupied the day before, so we were now to use the second or first floor. I expressed an option for the second floor, and off we went. After fumbling for several minutes at the second floor apartment door, it became clear the key for that apartment was not among the dozens in Ellisia’s hands. Ellisia felt compelled to explain, and in her raspy voice said “what happened was something went wrong with the gas meter in the lower apartment, so the renters were moved to the third floor. But it’s safe for us to use.”

So, we stomped back down the narrow staircase to the first floor apartment and found our way inside. It was musty and cold, but workable, with no odor of gas. A fabulous diffused light poured through big floor to ceiling windows and the curved walls provided excellent opportunities to experiment with perspective and depth. We came prepared with space heaters and to the great relief of the model, power was available. We closed off the room, set the heaters to maximum, and off we went, sending poor Ellisia home after an hour or so.

Savannah was just beginning to emerge from an unprecedented period of prolonged and exceptionally cold weather and the old house had absorbed much of it. The temps were forecast to be in the middle 60’s, and I suppose they were, but the damp and cold was penetrating. After three or so hours, the room where we worked had warmed nicely, compared to the outside hallway and the remainder of the apartment. But as the model will tell you, warmth is relative. This was our first time shooting together, and she was uncomfortably cold during the session, spending as much time as possible swaddling her body in a thick and fuzzy blanket whenever there was the slightest hint of the shooting pace slowing. Still she worked through it, taking direction well and tolerating my slowdowns, creating some lovely images along the way.

In addition to the digital work, I had hoped to shoot 35 and 120 film. It was not to be, eventually being too cold for both me and the model. Heavier rain began to fall and the skies darkened, turning the soft diffusion of light to a flat steely gray. We fled the old house and enjoyed a hot meal at a nearby restaurant.

Photographer acquaintance and fellow blogger Dave L will read this and chuckle, I’m sure. He’s written extensively of late about photographing the nude in snow. Dave, I can only say that cold, like warmth, is a relative term.

Regardless, please enjoy these images from that cold and rainy Savannah Saturday.


Since moving out of the studio and beginning natural light projects, I’ve noticed something quite curious: I’m doing much more with color.

Phrasing that so concisely is something of an understatement. Those that know my work and those with whom I’ve worked over the years will understand why this is remarkable. By my own estimate, I haven’t shot a roll of color film in at least 10 years. Until the first of the natural light sessions with Anna in late 2008, and then with Kathy and Michelle last summer, I never did any figurative work in color. I always shot black and white film, or if shooting digitally, I went to grayscale. Each and every shot and light set-up was pre-visualized using the tried and true Zone System way of old.

If you look back in this blog, you’ll note the presence of color nudes from the beginning; in fact, I wrote about the beginnings of my work with nudes and color near the start. Throughout my posts, I’ve presented figures in color alongside others in black and white.

The trend is now becoming clear. In studio, it’s black and white. Editing color digital RAW files from a studio session, I always convert to grayscale. In studio, I see, shoot, and think in terms of monochrome.

Natural light is bringing out something different, however. Colors and textures abound in quantity from location to location, and the quality of light varies tremendously. In studio, light is a constant and unvarying medium, and my models always worked on a solid white or black background. Could it be the use of natural light and shooting locales outside of a studio set are awakening some latent surges of creativity?

I want to explore this further. Obviously, the images posted above are in grayscale, and while they work well as grayscale, I personally like them better as color. One thing I don't like to see is photographers presenting the same image in color and black and white, or the same image layered with a variety of PhotoShop filters. Aside from examples such as these, you won't see that with my exhibited work.

I prefer to see images that are one or the other; photographs that were planned and executed with final presentation as a part of the process.

With that in mind, here’s a side by side image comparison (as 'side-by-side' as the Blogger software will allow!) of two other images from last Saturday’s session. The only difference between the two is the grayscale conversion. I’m interested to hear what you think. Please drop me a line and let me know.


January 31, 2010, will be my final day as a partner in Savannah’s The Gallery. Another photographer, a good one too, will step in and fill my walls on February 1, 2010. His name is Dusty Vollmer. I think his work is spectacular and I’m sure he will be well received. If you’re in or near Savannah, please stop by The Gallery at 20 Jefferson Street to see. I wish Dusty every success that I’ve enjoyed there, and more.

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