Winter's Earth Shadow / by Mike Stacey

Winter is usually the time when artistic nude photography takes a back seat to other things like portraiture or studio work, but for models like Sylph Sia who don't seem to need to take a winter break, I'm up for it!

It was awesome to see Sylph again and catch up with her about her amazing travels and current lifestyle. It's so great that with solid dedication to her art, she can pursue this lifestyle of making art for the rest of us to enjoy. Not only has her modelling skyrocketed but her photography has also begun to reach levels that are impressive, such as this shot she took of herself and fellow art model Zoe Rayne.

 Photo by  Sylph Sia . Models:  Zoe Rayne  and  Sylph Sia .

Photo by Sylph Sia. Models: Zoe Rayne and Sylph Sia.

A shot like this takes more than tripping the shutter, it takes vision - and knowledge beforehand of how the capture will translate to a photograph. If you would like to support a great artist who is going places then donate to her Patreon account which will allow her to continue producing work like this. Why donate to Patreon? Have a read of these great articles by Lee Nutter, who provides numerous reasons why Patreon is a good thing.

The location I had in mind for our mid winter shoot was the Kurnell sand dunes. I had shot there at almost the same time last year with Ivory Flame and the results were amazing - big skies, lots of space and a minimal environment on which to construct compositions. Of course, I had some artistic nude shots in mind but also some fashion-nude-portrait stuff.

We arrived at the Dunes at about 2pm I think, after I got us a bit lost for a while! Climbing up to the top of the dune, it was chilly with a stiff south westerly breeze. The dune is orientated north-south and the west side is the good side for photos so it was exposed to the wind and cold. I checked in continuously with Sylph, but she was right to go.

We shot a set of fashiony portraits in the grass that grows on the top of the dunes. The afternoon light streaming across the surface of the sand, through the grasses was beautiful. Shooting back lit portraits like this is one of my great loves in photography. I had a tight sheer black top for Sylph to wear, and with her glistening blonde hair - her figure and form was stunning. I also had a lovely orangey coloured fur (courtesy of Gian Styling) which we used in some standing poses with the sweeping grasses in the background.

Along with the digital I shot one roll of Portra - well nearly a roll, 8 shots in total. Nearly every single shot on that roll is just so nice - the tones are out of this world and for some reason the hit rate with film is always like this. I probably concentrate more and I obviously take more time - manual focusing etc etc. A couple of Sylph's moves in this sequence are just so beautiful and fit the context of that light and environment so well. That's called reading the environment.

This looks warm but it wasn't. Pentax 67, Portra 400.

After that initial set we began with the nudes, using some fabric I'd brought with me. I deliberated about bringing the fabric as that concept has literally been done to death but I somehow thought we'd be able to do something different with it, and I think we did - those images are still in post production but I can say they are looking real fine.

Tech: Highlights not blown at all, metered from skin then added 2 stops de rigueur. It's nearly impossible to blow highlights in Portra.

As the sun sank lower the temperature sunk accordingly and the wind got stronger so we legged it down off the dune to the coastline. Oh yeah it'll definitely be warmer down here by the water!

After shooting a couple of long exposures in absolutely bitter conditions we started heading back to the car. As we walked back along the windy shoreline, there was a spot just before the turn off toward the carpark where I noticed the light was really special. It was that time of day when I used to love shooting landscapes - about half an hour to an hour and a half after sunset when there are no shadows, contrast is very low and objects take on a surreal appearance. This time of day is always characterised by the Earth's shadow being visible above the eastern horizon which forms an amazing gradient of soft purple-pink-blue hues(if the sky's clear) that slowly reaches up into the sky above. There isn't much light around at this hour so it's either high ISO digital or long exposure film shots.

It was at Sylph's prompting that we shot the last set here in this amazing light. It was quite challenging due to both the cold (for Sylph) and the low light (for me). She snapped off a number of difficult one legged standing poses that can only be held static for a second or so - so capturing them was tricky but the results ended up great - Sylph's body and head are sharp enough but often a foot or an arm is slightly blurred giving a wonderfully dreamy feel. The surreal light and strong breeze through Sylph's hair created an atmosphere that was truly special and the pictures are certainly special too.

Sylph will be using the art nude images for her Patreon account so you'll have to head on over there to see how absolutely wonderful they are!