Page created October 19, 2007
Sitting date:  September 20, 2007


Once again, I throw a model into the steam room.  For what it's worth:  it's really warm in here.

Yulia, who is not only beautiful but also wicked smart, once challenged me:  she felt that we hadn't really taken full advantage of the shower, and I have to agree with her.  I think there's still a lot that we can do in here.  But it is a significant challenge:

  • Although it is roomy for a steam room & shower, the space is really tight.
  • Water & electronics don't mix.
  • It's difficult to light a model in there.

(Does Valentine look a little hunted in this image?)




But I tend to revisit old ideas, like this wide angle distortion / huge model feet image.  In my defense, the first sitting with a new-to-me model is quite difficult:  we really don't know each other, we haven't quite learned how to communicate, I don't know what concepts work best for the model, etc.  But don't worry -- we will get past these familiar images and get to some new concepts eventually.



Models tend to find these giant feet images amusing, and I think they are a lot of fun.

It used to be easier with the little point & shoot camera -- its pivoting & tilting LCD live preview screen made aiming the camera quite easy.  The DSLR doesn't have a live preview LCD (pivoting or otherwise).  So, for this sitting, I just guess -- I hold the camera & hope that I'm aiming it well (because there's not enough space for me to put my head behind the viewfinder or because I'm just not flexible enough to use the viewfinder). 

So, this is just a guess -- I'm off quite a bit -- the camera isn't exactly vertical, but I like the slanting angles.  I could have corrected this with a variable rotation feature in my editing software), but I decided that there is a more spontaneous feel to the "little bit off" framing.



Okay -- this is a little bit new.  Again, I'm not holding the camera up to my face -- rather, I'm holding it close to the opposite wall & guessing at the aim.  As a result, I get some interesting wide angle effects, and I wind up showing a bit more of the steam room than usual.

I should mention that I typically don't like looking through the viewfinder while making exposures.  I usually partition my process:

  • First, I put the camera on a tripod & spend some time aiming it, doing some test exposures, fine tuning the shutter speed & aperture, fine tuning the lighting, etc.
  • Then, I just hold onto the end of the shutter release cable & I watch the model -- I can release the shutter without watching the camera.

I've seen other photographers work with models, and their attention is always on the camera & not the model.  At all times, the camera is between the photographer & the model.  I just don't like that.

But the space in the steam room is just too tight for the tripod.  I do have a little table-top tripod, but that would mean that the camera would have to be a foot off the bench at all times.  So, I'm hand holding the camera & guessing at the aim. 

(Also the wide angle distortion that curves the walls & bench drive me a little crazy, but what are you going to do?  Actually, my photo editing software can correct that, but the resulting image still doesn't look right.)




Another case in point -- I put the camera down on the bench & angle it up a bit -- a bit too much, but I like this resulting image.  You get a better feel for the space.

A word about the ceiling -- it's a bit lower that the rest of the floor -- the rest of the floor has 9.5 foot ceilings, but here it's a bit under 8 feet (there's plumbing & heating vents servicing the top floor above this ceiling).  You will also note that the ceiling is curved:  that's for aesthetics, to reduce the volume of the space that we have to steam, and that so water that condenses on the ceiling will roll to the walls & roll down the walls.  There is a shower head in the steam room -- when the steam gets intense, you can hose yourself (or the bench) down a bit to prolong your ability to stay in the steam room. 


Y'know, after talking with Valentine, I get the feeling that she leads a complicated life, but in several of these images, like this one, she looks so serene.  Some models, even the most beautiful ones, retain a smidgeon of insecurity about their looks, but Valentine appears to be totally comfortable & relaxed in her skin, and in being nude in front of me & my camera.   




We play a little game.  Using the wide angle distortion, we make a series of images in which Valentine slides her hands across the bench towards the camera.  The light source is quite close, so little changes in her position results in significant changes in the lighting.

Take a look. 










That was fun.

We move Valentine to the floor of the steam room.  The light is quite a bit better down here.  Again, I'm just holding the camera out & guessing at the aim.  With the zoom lens set at wide angle, I can crop down to the interesting bits. 

I like this image a lot.  She has that serene look that I love.  I also like her exaggerated straight posture.  Finally, the lighting is just lovely -- those various shadows contribute to a sense of depth.  Call this a favorite.




One more, for a slightly lower perspective, and I like this even more.  Wanna know how far off the ground is the camera?  Observe the grout lines in the bench, to the left side of the image.  Here, I'm about two tiles length above the ground, while in the image above, I'm about four tiles high.

That's an example of what I do when I study an image -- I figure out how the camera is placed.

This is a favorite image. 



A token color image.  Again, I'm holding the camera as high as I can, guessing at the aim.  You can see why I do my sepia toning trick for most of these steam room images -- the tile & a model's skin & the floor are all warm toned, but it's nice to include the occasional color image, if only to show those few pixels' worth of blue that are Valentine's eyes.




We get Valentine wet & plop down back on the bench.  Several things happen when we get the model wet:
  • The steam room is designed to retain steam, and it's very good at doing that.  Running hot water for just a few minutes is enough to get some steam flowing in the steam room.
  • Invariably, I get wet.  I have to ask the models to control their animal urges so I can come into the steam room with bare feet.
  • Invariably, the camera gets wet.  Perhaps water splashes on the filter covering the lens, or perhaps the steam simply condenses on the filter.  Either way, there are artifacts, which I find interesting.  Wiping the lens doesn't help much, because as long as there's steam, water continues to condense.
  • After sitting a while, the wet model invariably starts to feel cold, so we are constantly applying more hot water to her, which starts this cycle all over again.

Still, wet = sexy -- we've got to do it.   I kinda like the wet lens artifacts.




Example of what happens when the steam room gets steamy.

I believe that I've mentioned the troubles I've been having with my left eye.  It started with an occluded vein which caused my retina to swell.  The steroid treatments have caused a cataract to form.  All of which resulted in blurred vision in the eye for the past several month.  

So, if this image looks blurry to you -- that's a little taste of what my vision looks like nowadays. 




As predicted, Valentine gets cold.  Aware that my lens is steaming up, I come up with an inspired idea.  I leave Valentine in the steam room.  We close the door fully (it was opened a crack), and we run the hot water all the time.  The steam room is adjacent to my shower, and there is a full length window between the steam room & the shower.  I position the light high, sending the light through the window.

With the water running & the door closed, the steam room gets pretty steamy, and I ask Valentine to pose up close to her side of the steam room window.

What results are the most interesting pictures of the sitting. 




One disadvantage:  with the door closed & the water running, Valentine couldn't easily hear me.  Up to this point, she seemed most comfortable with me providing her feedback & direction, but it became difficult to do this.  Still, she managed to show me a wide variety of interesting shapes, and when the need arose, I would rap on the window, she'd open the door, and we were able to talk. 


It really is steamy in there -- you can't even see the bench, not three feet behind the window.  Valentine came up with the idea of running her hand over the window -- for the most part, she's behind frosted glass, but I like how her left eye is a bit more clear than the rest of her.




I haven't made too many exposures of Valentine's back, because her second tattoo is a stylized hand on her right shoulder blade.  Here, it is obscured.

I love the abstract feel to this image. 


As much as I liked these images so far, things got a lot better when I asked Valentine to get low & work on the floor.  I like the lighting much better, and Valentine came up with some wonderful poses & shapes.

Here, the camera is looking down, but I soon lower the camera to Valentine's level.






I love the look of those body parts pressed up against the window.  And I'm particularly pleased with the lovely look & smile on Valentine's face.

This is so unusual for me -- I prefer images where everything is clear & in focus, and I definitely like me being in control.  But here, everything isn't clear -- it's fuzzy & abstract.  Further, since I can't easily communicate with Valentine, she's on her own & finding wonderful shapes, poses, and ideas.

This images are wonderful.  Of course, that's my opinion.




Getting Valentine to work down on the floor was the first evolutionary improvement to this setup.  Here's the second:  I zoom in & crop to remove the tiled framework for the window, leaving just window, figure, and steam.






Here's a favorite -- I love how her hands are sharp & the rest of her is fuzzy.  I like the placement of her hands, at diagonally opposite corners. 

This is a big favorite.


These steam pictures even work in color.






I hate being late, and I hate going over the planned amount of time, but that's what we did -- we worked together a little more than planned, but I don't think either of us minded.  (For the record, I did pay her a little extra because we went over).  It's just that I respect a model's time, but the steamy pictures got us excited, and we lost track of time.  I don't think Valentine minded, and I'm sure she appreciated the extra funds.

At the end, Valentine volunteered the best compliment, the one I always hope to hear:  she told me that she'd love to work with me again if/when she ever came back through town.  

Me, too.  I am captivated by Valentine's beauty.  More than any model to date, I see her in color.  I love her shape.  I love the poses she presented to me.  I love how she reminds me of my youth.  And I love how we found a "look" that was new for me.  I do hope that she'll return to Portland someday soon.

While she was here, she worked with only one other Portland photographer, but a handful of local photographers, after seeing these images, have expressed interest.  So, lots of us are hoping for Valentine's return. 


(Remember -- feedback is always appreciated) 

All images (c) 2007 Looknsee Photography

Valentine's First Sitting Out Takes

Over 130 more images from this sitting are available in the Out Takes Galleries, which are available to those who have made a donation to the upkeep of this web site.  See this FAQ question for more details.

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