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.
We’re back to a new post, its been a few months and we’ve been super busy with both life and work. The new website and promo have both been paying off.
Enough of the business chat, let’s talk about some imaging.
We were called to photograph a project for the NITB, covering off the new launch of the Cow Parade in Northern Ireland. The Cow Parade is ” the largest and most successful public art event in the world since 1999, has been staged in 75 cities around the world and more than 32 million people have seen at least one exhibit.”
Now as most people know, Northern Ireland is never an easy location to shoot in; weather and terrain are always up against you in the battle of the “deadline” and this deadline was very much looming over our heads. With only 4 days to shoot in nine locations across Northern Ireland we needed to have a strong game plan and scheduling. Between NITB and the agency, they handled most of the scheduling and my assistants Steve, his brother Phil and I just needed to make it to each of them on time and be able to find an interesting angle and scenario to photograph the two cows we had. I should mention that yes, we did have two cows. It is not just one big full sized one, we also had a half sized “mini moo”. We nicknamed the large 98 lb full sized cow, Clarice and the mini was Eunice.
There were a few production issues with the cows at first, so we didn’t actually get them delivered until the end of the first shooting day. So that laid to rest any hope of getting it all done on time. However after a few phone calls we managed to get a couple of extra days thrown in here and there over the next week in case we really ran into weather problems.
The next morning, early 5:30 am, I loaded up the few remaining items into the van which the boys and I loaded the cows into the night before, and we all headed to our first location, the Mourne Mountains and Silent Valley Reservoir. Weather is the Mournes is never predictable and we were supposed to be in store for heavy rains for a week in Northern Ireland. We drove south towards the mountains and the weather was “okay”. The closer we got however, the more solid the sky became with cloud cover; nothing too dark and ominous, just solid cover with no definition, a photographers worst case.
Let me explain, photographers know only three types of sky.
1. Blue with no clouds which is okay to portray a summer day in the desert but never feels right anywhere else.
2. Blue sky with clouds which feels more realistic and gives the viewer something to look through besides the subject matter below (unless of course the subject is clouds, which in this case is perfect then).
3. Overcast with no definition, a barren whiteness of nothing, nothing for the viewer to latch on to, nothing for your eye to rest upon while it takes a break from looking at the subject material.
Today was a number three day.
All we could do was set up and hope that the sky would break for a moment. We climbed almost 300 stairs to the top of the dam at Silent Valley, an amazing view, when there is a sky. When there isn’t a sky and its just overcast and raining its hard to place where you are. There were times we couldn’t see the bottom of the valley and it felt like we were all sitting on the edge of a rock wall over looking a field or something.
Day one is completed, stay tuned for the rest of the NITB Cow Parade “Behind the Scenes”.
Seeing as this was our first day and I wasn’t too keen on falling behind schedule here, I announced that we needed to be out of there by 11am. We had the first shot set up and lit for 8:30, then came the waiting. We shot on and off between bursts of rain and cloud, hoping to get something. Then at around 10 am we headed back down towards the lower reservoir. We stopped off at the side of the road, near the most northerly point of the lower reservoir and I walked through the bog by myself to scout a site along the edge of the water. It was perfect and the clouds were starting to break a little. We might have a chance. The boys slugged it out with the gear and Eunice across the bog and we set up the shot. The only thing was that the wind was picking up and blowing poor Eunice over.
I only managed to get 3 frames before it just became impossible to shoot anymore.
We packed up and drove down to the main area of the reservoir, set up for a few more images but nothing really became of them. The wind, rain and cloud cover just got worse and worse; 11:30 am, time to move along.
And worse, and worse, we arrived at our next location at Castlewellan Park and the rain was just pouring down. The three of us were camped out in the back of the van, Larry the Lurcher had the whole cab to himself, while we watched our first day’s second shoot stream out of the parking lot. After about 20 minutes I got on the phone and we organized a wild card location, Jonesboro and Slieve Gullion.
I was not familiar with the area and had never shot before here. We had a contact from the local council touring us around. We made it to 3 locations in the area luckily and two of them turned out really nice. One was of Moyry Castle and the other was of a burial tomb or cairn but I can’t remember the name. I’ll try to contact the council and get it.
We trundled up the side of the hill towards Moyry Castle. It was starting to dry out a bit as the rain had stopped and that deep, damp humidity was beginning to set in. Larry was loving it, running around the hilltop and bounding through the tall grasses. We set up some lighting and lit the front of the castle, inside and a couple of on Eunice herself, making her stand out a bit off the grass.
The last location of the day, and everyone is totally bushed. We arrive down this old lane in the back woods of Armagh; drive down a farmer’s lane and the gravel ends and then brand new pavement (you know the kind, “brand new government pavement”, meaning there is something of interest down here) where it opens up into a small car park. On the other side of the car park can be described as little more than a big pile of rocks. Our guide Darren explains to us that this is a 5000 year old burial chamber and bones and artifacts have been found within it. Okay, now my interest is really peaked. Its amazing to think that this was constructed by locals 5000 years ago, astonishing.
Below is a photo showing Clarice in the front chamber which is comprised of a circular room with a smooth stone wall leading into the first chamber, then out of frame, a second chamber. I know about the pyramids in Egypt, Mexico, Peru and Cambodia but this is really amazing that the locals had the tools, manpower and engineering to craft such a delicate and finished structure.
We all walked around and over the mound for what seemed like forever, trying to find an angle or a good view of it. The problem was all the stones were covered with lichen and moss and were in effect camouflaged against each other. If was difficult to figure out the depth of the place. I finally decided to try a different view; down low from the front with Clarice walking past the camera. I’d light the outer and first chambers and try to give it some depth that way, by creating some contrast between rooms. I lit Clarice from overhead and back lit her to stand off the background and we pooled the light in front of her on the ground for effect. A graduated blue filter was used on the bleached out sky to give it some life. All in all I think it is one of my favourites.
I love the feel of real paper like I love the sight of real film. Watch this.
Well, the new website is finally up. It has many nice little features but most importantly it works; its smooth, easy to navigate and you can understand what you are actually looking.
That’s a little beef of mine. While perusing other people sites, either photographers or creatives in general you never really know what they have actually worked on, what it was for or where it was used. Just because that photographer has an image of Gucci perfume on his site might not always mean it was for Gucci. He might have just received a bottle for his birthday and thought it would make a nice image. So the unsuspecting viewer comes along and says “wow”, Ralph has been shooting for Gucci when in fact it was nothing more than a test. I’m not saying its a bad thing, just be up front and say its a “test” or “personal”. You’ll find that all my images are captioned with all the necessary info.
If you have any comments or questions please feel free to ask away.
Oh ya, check out the cool little PDF creator on the left of the site to make you own PDF of your favourite images.
I have been "repped" by Wonderful Machine out of Philadelphia for about six months or so now and we just got our first project from them. It's a decent little gig for a Canadian news publication. Should be cool.
Wonderful Machine is kind of a strange critter in the whole field of photographer sales agents/representatives.
On one hand you have the usual reps; the guys who walk into agencies and push your portfolio across creative/art directors/buyer's desks. These are the people who sell you or another photographer they might rep to creatives in the industry by showing off the best aspects of you to the client and how you fit in with specific clients or project imaging needs. The big ones in photography are Stockland Martel, Art + Commerce, Art-Dept and Jed Root to name a few.
Then there are the small boutique agencies; the ones that really offer up the service that some of the big ones miss out on. A little more personal and inviting, they don't have the huge artist power necessarily that the above ones might have but that doesn't mean their artists aren't as creative. Over the years I have circled around these ones; I have had the orientation meetings and come close to signing paper but they have never come to fruition. Sometimes they have pulled out (like the time another photographer barked that I was too similar to his style even though we shot totally different genres) or sometimes it has been myself who felt the timing wasn't right or the deal itself was slanted one way. I do love these guys, you can ask them questions and have meeting and show off work to them and they are always honest and genuine. I hold no grudges or ills against any of them. On the contrary, I respect their word and judgements over almost anyone else in the industry. They are almost always on the front lines; building relationships on both sides of the desks, helping the artists hone their work to fit with market demands while finessing connections with the agencies and the creatives who are making the work that the artists are looking to do. Some examples of these are Marilyn Cadenbach, Christy Deddens at Deddens & Dedeens, Anne Desrochers at Klax-On-Nez, Kate Ryan at KateRyanInc and the wonderful Andrea Stern at Stern Rep.
At the other end of things are the Alt Picks, Black Book and Source Book options. they allow for a free listing in exchange for a limited number of images and info to be listing amongst hundreds if not thousands of other artists. You can pay for a membership to the sites that offer you more image and enhanced features; allowing you access to other members contact info etc. I personally never found the benefits of being stuck in the middle of students, amateurs and potentially any no talent ass clown with a camera. You get what you pay for and I don't expect anything back from the sites, even though I am listed there; web presence everyone. I can see the benefit to being in there publications, there are still some art buyers and creatives who look through the books and actually research artists before embarking on a big project but at the thousands of dollars the pages in the books command, I see my hard earned earnings going towards more immediate and discernible marketing avenues. Some of the better examples of the work book type of publications/websites are WorkBook, Black Book, Le Book, AltPick and recent new comer Adbase's Found Folios.
Now this is where Wonderful Machine sort of twists the standard rep model and turn it into something for the 21st century. They don't take a percentage of my work, instead they charge me a monthly fee to promote my business to their list of potential clients; a list much larger than I could ever produce from all my contacts. They do this through direct contact (email and standard post mailers), website listing (their own site plus all of the other "source books" listed above), portfolio events for clients, ads in industry publications and many other ways. They also off me a consulting service. If I need help with a big quote, perhaps in a location I'm not familiar with, they can help and give me a more realistic quote that has a better potential to be accepted by the client. Another service I have taken advantage of already is their photo editing consulting. When I have needed to pare down a set of images beyond what I have felt comfortable with (you sometimes lose touch with the images, looking at them day in day out until they meld together into one big inseparable mass of colour and shapes). They have been able to look at them with no bias and come to a judgement on the images that I wouldn't have been able to reach.
I have to hand it to the dozen or so staff at WM, they have done a great job for me so far, lets keep this ball rolling now.
A couple of quick shots of some flowers before we get pummeled with projects this week. I wanted to have something that I could maybe print up for Olivia’s mother to hang in her house. Not sure if they work for her but maybe for us if she doesn’t like them.
The quality out of this lens and film combination is very sweet and smooth.