Polaroids and... Polaroids - Laneikka

Laneikka and I had worked together back in April. There's a blog post about that shoot here. She's such a talented girl, is just lovely to work with and understands my need for capturing emotion. 

So Laneikka needed some standard modelling polaroids for some agencies she was talking to. Easy. Studio strobe-lit photos are formulaic and take a bare minimum of skill and zero creative input from the photographer. I set up the Elinchrom strobes in the loungeroom plus a grey backdrop. Used two lights for the full length shots and one light, butterfly style, for the waist up shots. All done in about 40 minutes.

I had some styled art-fashion shots in mind to shoot on film - polaroids and colour 6x7. These were inspired by some recent browsing of Paolo Roversi's work, who I've admired for ages.

We didn't have the time or resources to create anythign exotic, lighting wise but I'm real happy with what we achieved in that small poorly lit corner of the loungeroom.

I ended up taking a window out so I could shoot from the right angle and still have good light. Also used a small 300W fresnel for a few shots and even bounced the Elinchrom soft box off a piece of white foam core in a few other shots. Using the Pentax 67 and a strobe needs a bit of thought as to the strength of natural versus strobe light as the synch speed is only 1/30 second. 

Laneikka had taken the brief seriously and brought along the most beautiful outfits - three of them that were almost perfectly matched to the reference images! So grateful for that. Her wardrobe is something else. Gina from GIAN Designs had designed and created some beautiful floral head adornments and also created a cool head wrap with some material.

The backdrops were a mish mash - I literally threw and draped various fabrics over the stands, knowing they'd be out of focus and merely provide some nice coloured texture to the images.

Laneikka put together a brief blog post on her increasingly popular fashion blog. You can see it here.

Quiet Achiever

I made contact with Andrea after a friend had recommended her. At the same time, another friend - Eric Clayton, was shooting with Andrea at a Surry Hills hotel. I'd been assisting Eric do the planning for this shoot. Looking at Andrea's portfolio it was obvious she could do just about anything, but to me, she had a beautiful expressive style which I thought would be perfect for my emotive portrait work. So when I contacted her through her Model Mayhem profile, I proposed this idea to her. I also offered to shoot whatever she wanted to do as I was proposing a TFP arrangement.

Oh, and the name of this story, "Quiet Achiever". A term used a long time ago to describe the quintessential Australian character which is largely irrelevant and plain incorrect these days. We aren't like that anymore, social media and Americanisation has changed it all. So anyway, Andrea still is a quiet achiever, she doesn't do Facebook or Instagram, preferring to go about her business in a more understated way. I like that.

TFP - or Artistic Collaboration?

TFP gets a lot of bad press. It gets abused by people. My take on it is that is the best and only way to work if you care about artistic collaboration. Sure, I can go hire a model for a specific project, and I do that regularly - it works well as I can choose the mode based on his/her looks, ability and other factors. But, if I want true artistic collaboration - meaning my collaborator actually also wants to work with me - to create the same thing - then that's wonderful, and the images that get made will reflect that investment, engagement and level of collaboration. That kind of artistic collaboration is probably the most satisfying part of my workflow - I absolutely love engaging and collaborating around the same set of ideas. I don't know it all and I'm always open, right up to the actual time of the shoot, the incorporate ideas.

Another dimension of this involves the nature of my work - which is often based around emotive aspects. Many genres of photography don't involve that level of connection and presence. Some genres involve an almost routine approach to posing - and a subsequent routine approach to shooting - where neither photographer nor model are  really connected. Presence is often not a part of that styler. So, having  that level of presence before the camera is much easier when there is a good emotional investment - from both sides of the camera.

I met Andrea at Central station and we drove over to my spot at Cape Banks. It was the least I could do, sh'ed caught the train down from the central coast. Just doing that, demonstrates a large degree of commitment and interest in the shoot and I'm so appreciative of that. This was going to work.

It was a Saturday but as usual, not many folks around. The sun was shining, it was near perfect. We struck up a good rapport on the drive out and I had that feeling wee'd get some great pictures and video today.

The Big Cave

After going through our bags of wardrobe we started shooting in the big cave. Andrea's expression and look was amazing through the viewfinder. 

Andrea's sheer top/dress worked perfectly in this light.

She had an other lovely vintage looking top with her which worked great too.

Expressive Nude Portraits

I don't shoot many nudes these days, unless it's based around a portraiture type aesthetic where the model's character, emotion and expression is involved. In my opinion, there's a lot of 'art nude' photographs which objectify the woman and leave out the human aspects of that person.

We talked about the use of hair as an element in the photos as it's always been a prime aspect of what I do. I love it, and I love seeing it used in creative ways. Apparently, many photographers ask the model to get all the hair out of their face? Or, "just move that one strand of hair from across your eye..." Hahaha, throw that hair everywhere I say. Andrea found some beautifully creative ways to use her amazing full bodied hair, including creating views that accentuated her incredible lips and mouth.

Photographs don't need to be complex when they are directly about the person in front of the lens. Big grandiose poses just aren't necessary, in fact that only detracts from this style of photography.

Edge of Light

So next we moved out to where the shadow ends on the wave platform. And worked that area of light/darkness. These shots are fluid, model moving, me moving, hunting, searching for composition, poise, expression, sun flare - all at the same time.

Andrea was so relaxed and good at this style. Her movements were so fluid and smooth and expressions varied. Such a pleasure to shoot with her.

Final Sunset Shots

I always finish up at this location with sunset shots, shot in a particular way. There are so many great shots from this set, but I'm saving them for later.

Where the Wild Roses Grow

Video

During the final set of stills, we shot video. I'm still editing the video, in collaboration with Andrea, so stay tuned.

Seagull

Sophie is a friend of Zoë's so we hooked up for a shoot mid week out at my fave spot. We had an absolutely perfect day of weather too, bit windy maybe but I do like wind (and hair in the wind).

Sophie caught a bus out from the city, which was awesome of her. I picked her up at the bus stop and drove out to the car park in the National Park at La Perouse. Twenty minutes walk later we were at the spot ready to shoot in my usual cave.

Soph had brought some dark coloured sheer stuff, which I'd suggested as it always works in this light. I also had my sheer black shirt with me of course.

Soph is such a happy soul it didn't seem right photographing her with a serious or intense expression like I usually do.

This is where I think as a photographer you have to move, you have to be open and flexible to go with the flow, that meant for me to take great pictures of Soph, I needed to connect on HER level. When you do this, the pictures come easily and they are not forced.

I love these happy shots. Not what I normally do, but how could anyone resist a face like that.

I'd spied a lovely white fur in Soph's profile and had asked her to bring that along. So the next shots were with the fur, in the wind, with lots of hair - perfect!

We put one of my sheer tops under the fur which gave us this great look with the sleeves sticking out :)

Lots of film still to scan and edit. Here is one from a roll of TRI-X that was pushed to 1600.

Video

I'm so happy with this video. The music - 'Seagull', by Bad Company is one I've wanted to use since I first started putting videos together, but have never had the right footage for it. As with many of my videos, the music seems to fall into place very easily as soon as I start editing. When I looked at the raw footage of Soph, then went to my iTunes library to look for a track, there it was, Seagull.

And the candid 35mm shot involves eating lunch.

Timeless Class

I've wanted to photograph Sophia for years now. We communicated a couple of years ago when I had an androgynous idea to do. For whatever reason it never happened and I didn't hear of her again until my mate Flavia shot her. Flavia's pics were inspiring, Sophia's amazing bone structure and face was easy to see and being a portrait photographer, well, it was a no brainer - shoot her.

We arranged to shoot in the CBD using some locations I've used previously. I asked Sophia if she had a suit - based on some images of Lindbergh's I'd seen recently. She sent me this photo:

So if that isn't cool, what is? I took one look and knew 100% we'd get some great images. Always nice to have that feeling before a shoot.

Gina and I met Sophia at the Post Office in Martin Place. I didn't have a plan until I walked around the block just before Sophia got there. It was all so clear. There were patches of reflected light everywhere, even in the middle of crowds - so to any photographer it's kind of obvious what to do, I was excited and just hoped the light would hang around until Sophia got there. It did.

I wanted to shoot this almost street photography style, so to capture other people in the shots but have them out of focus - that wouldn't be a problem as I rarely shoot higher than f4 on a long lens.  

Some shots took two or three takes and Sophia did the 30 metre walk through the crowd a few times to allow me to isolate her in patches of light and also to try and grab focus - this was pretty challenging. At one point I was standing on top of one of those round poles that are about waist high, in order to get the right vantage point.

Final shots were in a quiet location which had some perfect light, shadow and modern sharp lined architecture.

These are some of my favourite locations and I used to shoot straight architecture this way just usi the available shadows and lines to create abstraction. So having this beautiful model in Sophia to concentrate on within that context was really awesome.

Sophia was absolutely perfect to work with, very relaxed, so much so we had some afternoon smoko half way through the shoot. I couldn't even see Gina at one point from all the smoke.

And yes, there are plenty more images to come from this shoot.

Sass Kia

Sass Kia and I hooked up via Facebook some time ago. The world of freelance photographers and models is a small one and in the art-nude area, everyone knows everyone. This is good, it means, to a certain extent, there's an inbuilt trust mechanism, important where nude models are concerned and it makes it easier for them to make connections that are trusted and also hopefully skilled. The networking also works from the photographer's point of view too.

We'd decided to do a set for her patreon which would essentially be a boudoir/strip set, and then some portrait stuff. Sass had some nice lingerie which always looks great in these old rooms. We worked various locations in the room, making the best of the ambient light. The mirrors in these rooms are always great to use too and this room has three of them. From certain angles when you look into one mirror you can see the reflection of other mirrors so with some careful positioning we got some interesting effects.

This set will be available on Sass's Patreon so why not support a hard working and dedicated Australian artist and check it out! For that reason I won't be posting any images from that particular set here.

The first set was shot entirely on digital so the metal brick with the timber handle came out next loaded with some fresh XP2. Sass is mainly an art-nude model so shooting portraits was a little different for her but she (we) got into the swing of things pretty quickly.

I'd brought a few wardrobe items with me and layed them out for Sass to choose from. She picked a sheer black top, which always works so well - sheer black things are my absolute favourite item. They can look elegant and they can look real edgy and sexy, depending on how they're worn and photographed - but they always work! The kind of light you choose should effect wardrobe choice too, and I know that sheer black looks great in my favourite lighting.

I picked a spot in the room that had great light and made sure Sass was facing directly into it (butterfly lighting style). Then she just sat and leant in various positions on and against a lovely little seat that I'd pinched from the hallway.

Mark Rhodes had kindly sent me a roll of Cine Still 800 to try and I really like the cooler colour palette - although I tend to like a bit more grit and grain.

The old staple, Portra 400 always gives such nice grain and vibe - the colour in some of these shots was a bit wild straight off the scanner but I decided to leave it like that - looks like some sleazy 90s movie scene. Keep thinking of the film Blue Velvet for some reason.

It was great shooting with Sass Kia - she's absolutely cool and easy to collaborate with and adapts herself amazingly quickly to a number of different looks and scenarios. She managed boudoir, portraits, and an edgy variety of portrait that doesn't adhere to any preset posing routine. This was great, as it's my preferred way to work, it's more challenging for me and more challenging for the model - resulting in more interesting pictures, in my opinion.

I used to do a lot of art nude photography but as a photographer found it very unchallenging. When I looked at my pictures, they were almost entirely a result of the skill of the model, not me. Coming from a landscape and architectural background, it was so easy; find some good light, find a good landscape composition (easy) then just plonk your model in the right spot and let her do her routine; snap, snap, snap voilà.

Since the shoot I've been talking to Sass about another project which involves some video and another major passion of hers - dance. I'm looking forward to collaborating with her on this to create something meaningful and human.