Nude Study—Kelsey In The Moab
Sfumato And Chiaroscuro
One of the most famous artists to study the human body was Leonardo da Vinci as he truly believed that three-dimensional human forms were best portrayed in his paintings through the use of chiaroscuro, or the intermixing of lights and darks (shadows) to create that illusion in a two-dimensional medium (his canvas). He also used a technique called sfumato that was based on how the detail and color of a subject changed with distance that created only subtle tonal transitions, “without lines or borders,” from light to dark areas producing soft shifts between tones and colors.
Kelsey strikes a more fashion oriented nude pose during the latest Moab photography workshop.
This blending of tones is also achievable in photography and when combined with chiaroscuro, works great with nudes and landscape, especially when the model’s body is similar in color and tone to her surroundings, as with Kelsey, the model in these series of photos from my most recent Moab photography workshop.
It’s uncommon that a model’s skin tones match her surroundings (foreground and background) in a photograph, especially a nude model, but the various hues of the Moab rocks allowed me to make subtle transitions to Kelsey’s skin tones. As we both scouted the locations and walked around the area, I studied not only her body from an artist’s perspective, but how she’d blend into the rocks with the naked eye from a distance.
Though I didn’t relay this to her in conversation, as I only mentioned that I was looking for interesting rock features, in my mind I thought about how would I be able to get that separation of her body from the rocks. One idea was to look for the shadows cast by the oblique angle of the sun during the Golden Hour. The sweetest light in the Moab is the Golden Hour during sunset where the sun is not overhead and the direction of sunlight comes from a lower angle. While this light is also less intense and filled with warmth, when your subject faces the sun, as your subject should face unless you’re shooting silhouettes, you’ll get long dark shadows, especially when the distance increases between your subject and the rock formations. Bring your subject closer to the background and the shadows shorten.
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