A Rock Triptych
One of the fascinating things about photography is how many things have an influence over the process, and its results. Even with the same location and subject (in this case, a pair of rocks, and the Nude), the variations in weather and tide, lenses and camera position, and even the model’s response to the space, can greatly influence the outcome.
Over the spring and summer of 2009, I had the chance to work with three different models in the same space, and the results underline the power of the choices made in the photographic process.
The first image, made with Jessica at the end of April, began my exploration of the space. I liked the juxtaposition of the smaller rock in front of the much more massive rock, and the reflections both cast in the water surrounding them. I contemplated making the image with a wide-angle lens, but as the widest lens I had at that time was a 24mm, I knew that wouldn’t have a wide enough angle of view to present the location as dramatically as I desired. I ended up using an 85mm lens, and stitching the final image together from four frames. I used the infrared converted camera to elevate Jessica’s skin tone, and render the water darker around her. The pose itself is one of five we experimented with - the others are strong, but this one rose above the rest, in terms of how well it incorporated the line in the rock behind Jessica.
The second image, made with Jill in mid August, was a direct response to the first image, but this time, a change in the lens and viewpoint, as well as the weather, resulted in a very different image. The day was hot and sunny, without a cloud in the sky, which, in infrared, resulted in a dark, featureless sky. Jill found posing on the rock challenging, as she kept slipping off into the water, so once she found a pose that worked for me, and that she could hold, she maintained it for the rest of the compositions. Where the first composition was made at some distance, and provided a conventional perspective of the scene, the image with Jill was made with a 17mm T/S lens, from only a couple of feet from the model; this generates a strong distortion of scale, and when the final image was completed (stitched together from three frames, each shifted using the lens, as opposed to redirecting the camera), it mirror the same strong square of the first composition made in the space. The dramatically different lighting, combined with the exaggerated perspective of the ultra-wide lens produced an image that more closely met my pre-visualization, when I’d first come across the space months before.
While I thought, with the image of Jill, that I’d realized the potential of the location, I caught a glimpse of it at the end of a session a week later, and the tide was so high that it almost washed over the “pose” rock in front. I immediately asked Elissa if we could make a final image of her standing on the rock, as I’d already worked with it before, and thought this final composition would compliment the other two nicely. The lighting was soft (foggy), but unlike the first session with Jessica, months before, the foliage around the shore was in full growth, which meant that in infrared, it was a luminous white, as opposed to the duller tones of the spring image. Also, I decided to use a longer shutter speed (2 seconds) to blur the water around Elissa, seeking a more glass like surface to surround her (in the end, I think it looks more like ice, but I am still pleased with the results).
All three images had the same components (in a basic sense), yet each is fundamentally different from its predecessor, due to the uncontrollable nature of tide and weather, and the more deliberate choices of lens and point of view. The added element of the model’s own reactions to the space serves to further separate each of the images into their own space visually, while the maintenance of the image format (square) and camera choice (all three being infrared images) provides some coherence to the set aesthetically.