The One with the Plinth

Lately, I’ve been revisiting (ok, binge watching) all the “Friends” episodes and realized none of the episodes had titles. On Netflix however, they’ve title them. For example: “The one Where Phoebe Runs”, or “The one with Ross’s Leather Pants”. So this blog is lovingly titled, “The One With the Plinth”.

The story of how I got the plinth is this… Where I work on Carlaw Ave in Toronto, is a plethora of interesting businesses. One little boutique shop was moving from one hallway to another, selling some of their merchandise and displays. To my joy, there was a waist high, black, plaster column, for $20.00. How could I say, “no” to that? It was weeks later after having it in front of my desk, beside my desk, in the board room, etc., that I finally Ubered it and myself to the studio in Liberty Village.

The photo shoot happened some weeks past now, but for some reason I’m still going over the photos. Oh believe me, I’ve started to edited them. Even printed and framed 2 portraits. I have many successful images from this shoot that mesmerize me. I  going to let modestly hit the fan here and say, I feel this shoot is the best one yet.

Designing this set in particular, was quite fun, especially the task of affixing the ivy and berries to the plinth. In the end I’ve managed to have things look natural. I have to admit buying and collecting these items aren’t remorse purchases as one would think when you make up the excuse, “Yeah, I can use this for my sets!”. They have been used again and again, becoming interracial supplies that make up a repertoire of props and designs. When Nadia exclaimed, “It looks like a painting!” after taking one shot of the background, I knew this shoot would turn out well.

My hairstylist, Kai came to the studio with a more Gibson Girl look in mind. It completely blew me away. She is an amazing person. Having spent the morning with me, she had another job in Mississauga doing make up for a group of acrobats. When I hire her now, there’s no discussion. It’s not necessary. She knows what I want and what will look good. And I know she enjoys the fruits of her labours when I send her photos of the finished product.

For one hopeful reason, I won’t mention because I might jinx it, I’ve started hunting for antique frames. For those who follow me on Instagram, you would have seen them already. The feeling I got when the image was in the frame sent shivers through my whole being. It sounds silly, but there was a visual connection, a remembrance of seeing myself thus. This feeling was completely different from looking at an original photograph of a stranger from that time. I don’t quite understand it myself.

Be sure to check out my third Instagram account, The Anachronist Project. If you’re not already, please follow.

Stay tuned for my next blog, “The one with the Chair”.

 

 

The Anachronist 2

The first studio shoot that started it all is based on Edwardian photo shoots with painted backgrounds. Where in the heck, do you find a painted background that is 10 or more feet long and wide? In the states, though to rent then would be an arm in a leg. To find a way around this, I decided to project an image behind a white fabric where it’s projected through so I wouldn’t be caught in the projectors light.

To begin with I tried a sheer fabric, but the image was not crisp and clear enough. There was too much tanslucance. So I cycled to King Fabrics one day before a test shoot and bought a thin piece of white poly cotton. In my quest for white fabrics, I realized many of them are not a true white. Many have a hue of one colour or another. One fabric jumped out as first being really cheap, then really hideous. All I could think of was all the post editing issues mainly getting rid of a green hue from all the images. Why put yourself in that position to begin with? Ends up, the fabric I bought was not wide enough. Off to Designer Fabrics at Queen and Shaw where they sell double width fabric. Not in the same day of course.

The interesting thing in choosing a background to be projected, is to pay attention to where the light in the image is coming from. I say this, because I chose a picture of a trellis I took on Toronto Island with a wave of foliage draped over it and a spray of roses and peonies at the base. The light that day was coming from the top left, so placing the light and at a particular strength was very interesting. There was much experimenting sometimes as late as 10pm.

Containing the light and blocking out natural light was fun. Each time I came I’d laps into a routine of pulling down the blinds, covering the doors with a black-out material and finally climbing the stairs to wind down the black-out curtain over the garage door. The studio is higher on one end then the other. To block out even more light, I had pieced together rods and light stands, stringing along it a voluminous, black muslin dividing the office and the studio. The light at this point was minimum and working well.

Three test sessions later, the shoot happens. I’ve hired a hairstylist and have an assistant for the first time ever. Alanna is an accomplished hairstylist and has done many photo shoots, but I didn’t explain myself well enough to convey what I actually wanted (which was the Gibson Girl pompadour) and in the end improvised. The result was very elegant and thanks to Alana’s ministering hands, lasted throughout the entire shoot. Thanks Alana.


The second shoot was a little more artistically creative. Maybe even a little more fun. There are many photos from the Edwardian era that could be considered some of the first photo booths that were set up in traveling circuses or fairs. Of these many are individuals, couples, friends or children sitting on a moon. I’m sure the moon was wooden and it was perhaps on a stand with a black background and some sort of seat behind it. Both my moons were made from cardboard, the first one being too small. I also made cardboard primed white, glueing cotton batting to them, making them look fluffy. When I discovered the first moon was too small, I made a much larger one, almost twice the size, but had to make it into three separate pieces, held in place by gaffers tape and three wooden dowels for support. Though the clouds could easily be hung between two light stands on a poll, the moon itself was hung on a large boom that could easily be moved this way or that. A stool was placed behind the moon, the cloud in front and there you were.

Before the shoot happened, I put an ad on Facebook to have people come and have their portraits taken on the moon for free. The. I probably would have been too exhausted after my own shoot to take pictures of other people anyways.

My second hairstylist, Xandra arrived on the scene earlier than I had anticipated. I wasn’t even finished setting up, or getting dressed. I didn’t even steam my clothes. My excuse was that were I gone to a fair, and walking around all day, my clothes would be wrinkly then as well. The day before Xandra came to the shoot, she practiced the style I chose on a mannequin. It was the style I originally wanted. So beautiful graceful and authentic, I felt so much closer to the time and therefore more into the shoot itself. We laughed at the movies filmed for that time, where women would take one pin out of their pompadour and whoosh, it would gracefully fall to their shoulders. Yeah right. When I got home, it was a completely different story. I think I counted close to 20 bobby pins and spent much time in the bathtub with my hair submerged.

As it happened it was the second time I locked myself out of my new apartment. I figure going around Toronto with my hair in an Edwardian couiff is going to be almost a regular thing for me, so I might was well kill time at Tim Hortons and Ceili Cottage for mac and Cheese and beer while I wait for my land lord and get use to it. Not the locking myself out that is.


And the latest, The Swing. I wavered between real and fake fauna to decorate the rope of the swing. I researched online what the cost difference would be. In the end, on a lunch time trip to Value Village I found beautiful paper roses and fake berries for $.99 each (whatever happened to the “cent” sign?). When I was downtown, I went to Michaels and discovered greenery was half price, so I bought two chain linked garlands of Ivy and baby’s breath. Perfect timing and problem solved.

It was absolutely imperative, though I had already did test shots, that I have everything 100% ready before my hairstylist came, so I set up the evening before, decorated the Swing, did a few test shots and felt confident in knowing that this was going to be an easy shoot.

The next day, I waited for my third stylist, Kai. She was freshly home from visiting Russia and had great getting to know you conversations when she finally arrived. Her lateness, I can absolutely relate to having had similar issues only a month or so before. Her Samsung phone was on the fritz and died during the night, so she didn’t wake to her alarm, but to her cat. She called and apologized profusely, and though I tend to be not he forgiving side, I knew she was 100% genuine.

In my wait for her, I took some photos of myself with my hair down, a more natural look and feel, and in some cases I seem more at ease than with my hair up. Perhaps because one then feels more prim and proper. More lady like. Try as I might, I could not look or feel as relaxed as I did before when I curled myself up on then swing with an original book of poetry by Robert Service, “Songs of Sourdough”. I also had with me my stereoscope and steroviews. I love these, but the shirtwaist I’m wearing was becoming more and more damaged as the day when on. There’s no way to hide my bear elbow, not even by Photoshop. Though if you have any suggestions, please don’t hesitate to let me know.

Kai is into all the things I’m into. She’s taking an adult point ballet class, horseback riding in Caledon, waltzing, Lindy Hopping and Charlsting with the best of them. Even in Russia. She loves vintage and was very excited to do my hair, though I admit I was doubtful at first because her Model Mayhem profile didn’t advertise this side of her profession. When she was done, we exchanged contact info and hopefully I’ll have her again for my next shoot. Whenever that may be.


And what’s next? Hopefully a few more studio shoots. I recently bought a Greecian column that was generally seen in Edwardian portraits with ferns upon them and women leaning on or beside them. By chance, a store in the building where I work was having a moving sale. I bought it and bolt a pinstripe fabric that may work for period clothing. Needless to say the column portraits will be next and then hopefully I can find the same good luck in finding a chair or settee to borrow.

Kelso Lake

Antoinette is a fellow member of Rob’s Casual Tuesdays or Photographers Anonyms. She and I have wanted to shoot together for some time now. We were drawn to each other’s style, methods and images we’ve seen from previous workshops. So I proposed to her a shoot based on what I did at the Bruce Peninsula with Amanda V. in the low level water.

Ironically, our model Monday night was also an Amanda, but my friend and co-worker. I signed up for Model Mayhem, posting a casting call asking for a young woman with long wavy or curly hair. Since I had no nibbles from the site, Friday night after work I practically begged Amanda P. to model for me. Surprisingly she agreed. I say surprisingly because this isn’t the first time I asked. Now she’s had this experience, I hope she will model for me more often.

Antoinette picked us up at 4pm. Amazingly we got out of the city within 45 minutes. Which is strange because we were really confused by the directions Google Maps was giving us; not really understanding where they were leading us. Relized it was navigating us around construction on the Gardiner, thus avoiding a crazy long line up. Thank you Google Maps. Since we made it to Milton in good time, we had supper at the Ivy Arms on Main St. Monday night is 55 cent wings. They were good, but a little dried out.

Well fed, we made our way to the lake. As I suspected, it was the lake you can see from the 401; the one at the bottom on the ski hill by the escarpment. The water level was deeper that than what I expected, but it still worked out well. Amanda P. was such a trooper even though it wasn’t crazy cold, but cold enough to get use to. I’m one to talk, I was wearing rubber boots.

Antoinette was a trooper as well. Not having brought her lights on an on-location shoot like this before. Best off all she had a battery pack ,which allowed us to move the stand into the water and NOT get electrocuted.

Just as I was getting into the swing of things, directing Amanda to do this or that or lamenting the fact that I didn’t have a ladder, a set of lights headed our way down the hill to the beach.

It was funny because we all felt like rebels for bringing the car down in the first place. If they told us we couldn’t photograph down there, then we would leave. As I walked towards the park ranger getting out of the Jeep, I explained we were photographers. He said, “ I don’t have a problem with you doing photography, but the car isn’t allowed down here.” So I told him we would pack up because I don’t think any of us relished the idea of carrying the equipment back up that hill without a car. He was so nice about it and cute to boot. Perhaps I should have batted my eyelashes asking him if could give us another half hour then we’d bring the car up. But I doubt he could see fluttering eyelashes in the dark. A soft seductive voice perhaps? A light touch on the shoulder? Please Mr. Park Ranger, just a half hour more?

It was Antoinette’s turn after all and what she did was really fun. She methodically figured out how to make the lights form the ski hill haze into round halos, to make in interesting backdrop for Amanda’s portrait. I didn’t see the result of these, but I hope to at the next Tuesday workshop. I especially want to see the portraits were we strung the battery operated twinkle lights around Amanda’s head and shoulders. There was the perfect gentleness of winds that blew her hair to the side that completed the image. I know Antoinette wasn’t too crazy about these one’s, ditching the lights in the end. But she captured some beautiful rim lit and silhouette shots with the beauty dish as her final shots satisfied with what she took.

I’m going to consider these test shots. Now that I know what the water level, lay out of the land etc. is, I defiantly want to go back, but our warm days are getting fewer and far between. Not to mention the water temperature will not always be comfortable enough for skimpy, lacy nightdresses.

All in all I was very pleased with the evening, especially pleased Antoinette was “there for the experience.” I felt bad that she didn’t shoot when there was more day light like she wanted to.

On this outing I tried to get together an on-location kit. I started with buying clear plastic drop sheets at Home Depot, but realized I needed so many more things like clamps, duct tape, flashlight. So below, I will endeavor to put together a list of things you need for a shoot like this. I looked online to try to get an idea of what other people use, but the list I found was all camera equipment which is all very important, but didn’t help me with the “just in case” items. Actually this is an article all in on it’s own so stay tuned as I’m going to do another collage of things you’ll need as well as a list and why you need them.

Labor Day Weekend – Bruce Trail, Lions Head

Getting out of the city wasn’t as bad as all that. The most difficult thing about it was trying to find the Tim Horton’s where we were meeting Jeniffer and Amanda. Google said the Tim Horton’s was after the ESSO on Don Mills. But no, it was down the road a bit in a plaza without a Tim Horton’s sign. Sheesh! What’s a Tim Horton’s without a telltale sign? Back to Superstore to get groceries and finally we hit the road.

The entire weekend was absolutely beautiful. Nothing but sunshine everyday with heat, heat heat! The heat didn’t stop us when we arrived at the Peninsula Motel in Wiarton. After cooling down with a beer we hit the sand court equipped with a net that was midway between volleyball and badminton height. With the cooler close by, we kicked off our shoes, and started with badminton, one of my favorite court games (I’m not a sports person at all. Never played on a team in high school). We didn’t do too bad. All of us played well with the final score of 20/19. We tried (operative word “tried”) to play volleyball, but being so out of practice we made a hash of it, thus making it a very short lived game. Any part of the Bruce Trail was out this day. Meh, it was time to BBQ anyways.

Although we talked about doing more than one hike on this trip, Lion’s head to the Lion’s head look off turned out to be a 6ish (give or take) km hike. I wouldn’t recommend to anyone who just wanted to go on a casual hike. The distance truly was deceiving as much as the landscape was breathtaking. Jen and Amanda were the first back to the parking lot. When we met up with them they commented on how many people were ill prepared, wearing sandals, didn’t have water and brought along infants in Baby Bjorns. The terrain being so unstable in most areas I can’t imagine bringing along a baby incase I stumbled.

We took a break after that hike, each to our respective rooms to nap or whatever. I watched Shirley Temple’s, “Heidi” on Youtube. I’ve been re-watching all her movies lately, and man do they ever date themselves. Watching them as an adult is much more interesting than as a child. I don’t think I ever saw “Around the Corner” because I don’t remember Shirley at the head of a firing squad with a Tommy Gun at a gang of street boys. Even though they were just playing a game, it was bazaar to watch. She always played the nice girl.

The plan was to BBQ again that night, so we went to Foodland, picked up more supplies, drop them off, hitting the road again to the Singing Sands Beach for sunset. It was so gorgeous! The water at that beach was low showing little islands of sands with tufts of grass on top. Seeing this, I knew exactly how I wanted to shoot sunset. Not the ol’ set up the tripod; ready, aim… shoot (talking of firing squads). No, I was down on all fours getting soaked and sandy. But who the hell cares after looking at the images. I captured exactly what I wanted which was the colours broken up over the rivets of glossy sand, catching the reflecting sun instead of the sun itself, to catch the colours in the focused waves with the sand in the background.
Amanda + Costumes + Off Camera Flash Photography = Really Cool Photos. The tulle dress you see, I made a few years ago for exactly this vision, and it fit Amanda perfectly! Over the white sundress the end product looked quite whimsical. This impromptu ensemble was the first inspiration for Amanda’s wedding dress. I told her she could have it, as long as I get it back.

Before the sun went completely down, we had some lovely colours in the background even with the speed-light lighting Amanda up. Though it was just as interesting when the background was completely black, the tulle floating in the water as she posed was exquisite. Being a beautiful confident young woman, it wasn’t hard to direct her into a graceful pose. The only pose I wish I had got was impossible without a wide-angle lens and a ladder. I didn’t want to leave the beach, though it was getting way too late considering we haven’t had supper yet! Amanda wouldn’t have minded either it being a balmy evening and the shallow water still warm. We didn’t eat until 10:30pm as it was. We had a dinner and a show in my motel room looking at the photos we took from the Bruce trail and the beach.

I am so glad I had that rush at the beach. That something that was more than energy and inspiration, a passion that exuded from the body like sweat from an athlete doing what they love. Do you know what I mean? It came at such an opportune time when for a month or more, I’ve been studying for my TICO exam, updating my WordPress blog and website, getting my outings section of the Beach Photo Club together, and sewing. I didn’t pick up my camera in those weeks, so needless to say I was very excited about this trip to get out of the rut I was in.

To end the trip, we stopped at a dock at the end of Dryers Rd., hoping there would be some boats in the water to photograph. There were none. But that didn’t stop Amanda and I from jumping off the dock into the clear water of Georgian Bay. It’s the type of water were you can’t give yourself the chance to get use to the coldness. You have to dive right in. Once you’re in it’s like silk.

The last stop we made before bee-lining it home was Suable Beach. It wasn’t as packed as we would have thought. The wind was high, it was humid with a cool wind, but people were already heading home. Like I said, we bee-lined it home after that, not even a stoping at Tim Horton’s. Only gas. Norm had to be home by 4pm to watch Tiff movies and write about them in his blog.

When I post a weekend outing next time, I’ll clearly state – if you have to be home at a certain time, please let me know so I can make arrangements. Like rent a car separately then those of us in the “slow car” can meander. There are so many side roads that are beckoning when I go on a trip. I feel I’m forsaking them taking the main routs. Clearly, I’m a road less traveled gal.

Thanks everyone for coming on this trip. Had lots of fun!