The day we set aside for traveling to Donegall turned out to be a stinker of a day; a real Northern Irish winter day complete with strong winds and intermittent heavy rain. As we usually just travel light for most of these shoots, this one was much the same. A Profoto 600B along with a softlight reflector some stands and our trusty California Sunbounce were all that we needed to photograph Liz Potter for the Guardian.
Liz’s story began last year when she was riding along the shore by her house with her boyfriend. Her horse Clyde and Liz were terrifyingly sucked up by quicksand. You can read the story here.
We wanted to show the relationship of Clyde and Liz and portray it in a nice and simple, straightforward portrait. The daylight was very inconsistent because of the weather and it just wasn’t co operating with us. Steve, my assistant, “bagged” the Profoto unit into clear plastic garbage bags at the car and we set off across Liz’s fields to find a location. We took some photos of her and Clyde riding in the big field but the light was just too flat. I did a quick tight portrait of the two of them stationary that turned out nice but it didn’t have much zing.
Steve and I set up for larger shot, we were going to light Liz on Clyde, set against mountains and ocean. The clouds were rolling by very fast and we were getting hit by heavy rain, on and off, every few minutes. Liz’s face as well as our own were starting to get very rosy and raw looking. We would have to take what we could get and move out of the field soon. Steve cranked the light as high as it would go on the stand and dialed the power to halfway. I was getting f8 @ 100iso, not too bad. We took this photo and then a few more quick ones of Liz and her dogs, Red and Scooby. Here is a before and after with the final crop used for the magazine.
This one of Liz, Red and Scooby is in the same field, using the silver softlight as well but this dialed down and brought to just outside the frame and close to Liz’s face so as not to light the dogs as much. You can see how Steve has feathered it off Liz almost entirely and it is lighting up the grass in the background, good job Steve.
The final image implements a technique I’ve been using for decades but didn’t really come into its own until digital made all the elements consistent. You take a longer fast lens than what you would normally use and basically create a panoramic or photo merge of the scene. You keep your exposure settings and focus consistent for all the portions of the image and later “stitch” it all together in Photoshop. What you end up with is a very high pixel dimensioned image (high res) that has an extremely shallow depth of field, that kind of emulates a larger format, shot wide open (shallow depth of field).
All in all it was a great shoot and it was very nice to meet a fellow animal lover in Liz and her partner Ryan.
We shot a small gig for Artists & Illustrators magazine from London. Our subject was none other than the extremely talented Colin Davidson. It was a simple shoot; just capture the man in his space with his tools of the trade.
If you get the chance check out his work, do it. He is speaking in Dublin, January 16th, 2013 at the RHA lecture series, here.
I photographed Mark Pollock for the Guardian recently. If you’re not familiar with him, he’s worth looking up. I read up on him and couldn’t believe his story of bravery and courage. I’m not going to try and sugar coat his life, go to his website and you can read it for yourself.
I keep my lighting ideas simple; simple for each subject and the intended audience. I don’t like to over light things especially for editorial subjects so to photograph this image of Mark its just a Profoto silver Softlight over camera and pointed more down for a dramatic vignetting on the background.
My assistant Steve and I were awestruck to see Mark walking across the floor; I can honestly say this is one of the few times I have ever got teary eyed photographing a subject.
I’m going to try to keep the posts shorter and more frequent instead of my long winded banter every few weeks, so hopefully another one is coming your way in a few days.
When I first arrived here, in Northern Ireland, I didn’t really know a single soul except for Olivia. If I planned on staying and making my living here I had to work. To work I would need to do what I feel I do best (well best besides making a pretty fine vegan chili), photography.
While working in North America I mostly shot products and beauty images for cosmetic companies. It was good work and I enjoyed it. It came relatively easy; work flowed and business was decent enough. I rarely needed to show my portfolio as most work came by referrals. That’s not to say I didn’t work hard on getting business. Every job I worked, I put my all into it. I made sure the client and the creatives were happy but most of all I had to be happy. I did some pretty nice work with some really amazing people. More and more over the years, the portfolios started gathering dust and the website got more and more hits. It seemed like the creatives were embracing the technology.
I moved to Northern Ireland, full-time, about three and a half years ago. Before that I was commuting between LA and Belfast for a little over a year. In that year I made the most of my time. I was visiting every agency that I could; making the rounds with my portfolio under my arm. I only had a couple of portfolios back then. They were custom made and not cheap all told in the end. I got some really good responses from everyone I met with. I didn’t have one “bad” meeting. I pounded the pavement for a few months, just getting my name around. In the beginning I didn’t have a car or insurance so I was renting one from a dealership who provided insurance. That was something like £75 a day so I had to make those days count. Learning Belfast, all the little streets and one way systems. It wasn’t long before I bought a GPS just to have for those days. I traveled down to Dublin and visited a bunch of agencies there as well. Good people, all of them. Some offered up promises they couldn’t keep, whether it was the collapse of the Celtic Tiger or forgetfulness or just a change of mind, there were a couple of sweet projects that just couldn’t be landed.
I often thought about a rep or agent. I had a couple previously in California. They didn’t produce much work but I thought they could be more effective for me in Europe, seeing as how I was new to the scene. I spoke with a few; almost signed with one but in the end nothing gelled. I’m happy for now, that I don’t have one (bar Wonderful Machine). I spoke with a few photographer friends but it was Deb Samuel who summed it up best, “you’re doing a fine job on your own now”. Yup, I guess I am, for now.
Enter an unnamed London photo agency a couple of months ago. They sourced me out (I think through Wonderful Machine as a matter of fact) to commission me to do a feature for The Guardian Saturday magazine. I was kind of weird, I’d never had an agent get involved in editorial work before, especially such a small feature. In the end they bowed out, there wasn’t enough pie.
The story was about Lauren Millar. Lauren’s story can be read here http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2011/aug/26/my-baby-was-stillborn-experience
It was a simple shoot; no scouting, no pre production, no assistant, just in a out with a few options. Lauren and I agreed that the best location would probably be her place so after a quick survey I decided on three scenarios.
2. Lauren standing in the living room; both full length and cropped with the wallpaper as a background. Shot using available light.
As you can see by the link to the story, the image for the online version was cropped very tight and I understand the printed version was much the same. I’m happy with the images on a whole but I would have liked to have see them reproduced full frame.