We just finished a small campaign for Health & Safety, with Darren from Genesis, which included some of my favourite things: farms, cows, farmers and moody imagery.
The brief was to shoot 4 scenarios, following roughly the lay outs provided.
Here are the lay outs.
I was to shoot the images with and without actors and a few prop variations. As you can see by the image below, the photos without the actors turned out very moody.
The weather played havoc with us during the couple of days we shot this over. We had wind, rain, sun and general drizzle almost everyday and had to shoot around it as best we could since our talent were limited with their time. Its also difficult to make the images play well together when you have all this changing weather; it would be nice to have some congruency between the images. Luckily, we had a strong composition and colour theme running through all the images so the weather played less of a factor than I had originally worried about.
Here’s one of my favourites, shot in the drizzle, around a full tv commercial crew who shooting the tv spot while we were doing the stills. Of course all our lights were weather proofed for the shoot and it all came off without a hitch.
Here are the finished ads.
And here is the finished TV spot directed by Phil Crothers, if it doesn’t load for you, click on the link below.
We did a quick shoot for TargetDry earlier in the summer. It was a fun day and had a great time wandering through the Mournes with good company.
Here are a few outtakes from behind the scenes.
Its coming up to a year since I shot this little campaign for Sangers Pharmaceutical. It was definitely a fun one. Chris from Fire IMC (RIP) approached me with an idea of different locations around Northern Ireland, showing the diverse landscape with one of their vans driving through it. He had a pretty good idea of which regions he wanted to use but that was pretty much it. He left it up to me to find exact locations and scenarios for the vans. Normally for a automotive shoot you would have lighting set up; HMI’s or in the least some big strobes but because of the budget and size of this production it was decided all of that would be staying at the studio and it would be just man and camera scenario, well with an assistant or two to spot for me so I didn’t get run over by any random traffic.
Derry/Londonderry – Of course we had to have the wall in the shot, to place it as being in Derry. We could have just had it running parallel to the wall but it would have been just too two dimensional. I would have liked a real “in yo face” image of the van driving straight for the camera, through one of the wall arches but we wouldn’t have been able to see the branding on the van and more so, I’m sure the PSNI wouldn’t have approved of me lying on the road, directing a 2 tonne van towards me with traffic and pedestrians everywhere. We ended up after scouting around on a reccy day, deciding on the Ferryquay Gate for the van to be coming through. On the day of the shoot everything worked out as planned; the van was backlit, we had a blue sky and traffic was low, making for a great contrasty image, really showing off the van and the branding on the side.
Glenshaine Pass – This proved to be one of the more difficult locations just for the sheer madness of the wind howling up and down the pass on any given day. It is also not any easy location to make the landscape shine as well as have your product in the foreground, attempting to be the hero. The beautiful rolling hills and valleys in the Glenshaine are all just a little too far from the road itself but we found a few locations that lent to a tidy compromise. As well as the two or three stationary set ups we also ventured to try some moving shots, car to van. I can’t say they were really that successful with all the traffic flowing through the pass, as it made it difficult to get a clear shot at any one time. It did prove humourous though when I spied off in the far right of the viewfinder a PSNI police car zooming up the pass towards our Audi A6 chase car; I’m guessing he didn’t spot me, hanging out the window with my upper body contorting out and over the white lines of the road and into the other lane. The image they ended up using was one of our static 15 foot ladder shots with the van passing in front of the rolling hills.
Fermanagh – The brief for this one was simple, show some elevation, the van and some water. All said and good but its near impossible, at least I never found a location on a road where you could place a van and still see the lakes in the background. Oops, I take that back, I did find one location like that, on a bend in front a farm, unfortunately though the client didn’t like it. I spent two days scouting around the area when I finally came up with a suitable option. Looking up and over a small dock area, towards a bridge where we could have the van drive over. At this point though we were starting to run out of time and acceptable days to shoot on. Taking what we could get weather wise, after the long drive out to the location we set up the camera, moved a few boats around and radioed over to the driver to make a dozen passes over the bridge, changing his lane positions slightly to give us a better view of the side of the truck.
Belleek – Here we are in beautiful Belleek. We end up with a beautiful sunny day for this one. Good too, since I didn’t get a chance to scout this location because we were picking it up as an option to one we had shot in the Mournes that didn’t really scream “Sangers” for the client. Since we’re in Belleek what do we have for landscapes or recognizable landmarks? Why the huge Belleek Pottery building of course. I tried a few different angles on the building, placing the van around its outer perimeter. The most picturesque was the van coming over the bridge. Again we waited for the sun to backlight the van slightly and had the driver make a couple of dozen runs due to the heavy spring traffic coming through.
I wonder if anyone can tell me geographically what’s wrong with this picture?
Belfast – Belfast proved to be the quickest and one of the most fun locations to shoot. Hanging out of the window of the A6, zipping around Belfast City Hall, first thing on a Sunday morning, swapping lanes and dodging early morning pedestrians we finished before the major church going traffic appeared. We didn’t really have a whole lot of options here. A static shot, even from the 15 foot ladder didn’t do anything for the van or the building. It needed some movement. Chris manned the driver’s seat and we sliced through those empty Belfast downtown streets, chasing down our van driver in a unrehearsed game of cat and mouse. No options when it came to lighting, sun position etc, so we just went for it, knowing that any changes or extras we wanted would have to be added in post. We were lucky that for the most part, the several selects were all spot on and the final pick just needed the sky brought down slightly.
So there you have it, another short and sweet campaign brought to you by Rob Durston Photography, thanks for reading.
It’s time for another “Anatomy of an Image” series. This time I’ve chosen 9 images from a series I shot for Ulster Bank here in Northern Ireland loosely called “24 hours of Farming in Northern Ireland”. I’ve been asked by a reader to explain some of the techniques I used to achieve the look of the series. Its a good time that someone threw me a suggestion for a new post; I’m in between projects and my mind is slightly sapped at the moment.
The project came to me from Peter Higgins at Walker Communications. I met with him and art director Pete Hanlon at their offices in Holywood. Their brief was reasonably loose, creatively, except for one stipulation, the twenty or so portraits needed to be done in the next 2 weeks; no extensions. Well, to say the least, weather in Northern Ireland changes by the minute. The saying around here is that you get a 4 seasons in a day in Northern Ireland. I was hoping this wouldn’t be true for this projects. My hopes mean nothing to the weather gods.
I wanted to make the portraits to be iconic; to resonate that the subject is larger than life and is the master of their environment. I don’t think a lot of people appreciate farmers, they seem to be understated in most cultures, and even looked down upon in others. I have the greatest respect for them and at times I’m in awe of what they can accomplish. When it came to the style I need it to be big, I mean BIG. These images were to be printed 3 metres square. I delved into my past and I really liked the style of Dan Cremin, Russell Monk and Evan Dion; wide angle portraits showing the subject as the primary point of interest in the frame and all else is secondary. It is no surprise that each of these photographers did a stint with the master, Nigel Dickson in Toronto.
Okay, to start from the beginning, all these images are shot with available light; no strobes or artificial lighting what so ever. In a few of them I have used a silver/white reflector but outside of that, nothing else. All images were shot on 35mm digital, specifically a Canon 5D Mark 2 with a 17-40mm lens, used exclusively at 17mm.
The first image is that of a feed supply owner with his arms crossed. This shot is the alt to the pick image which is him with a shovel in front of one of the feed slots area thingy place. For the arms crossed image, my assistant turn the 42″ silver/white reflector to silver to grab anything he could of the sodium vapour lights in the ceiling; to can see the light touching him gently under his chin.
This location was by shear chance just feet away from what would be the pick image. Here on this one my assistant again turn the s/w to silver and came in hard and hot from camera left to reflect in the daylight pouring in from a south facing large garage door. For some reason his striped sweater plays off so well in both scenarios; it like a pattern that is not repeated at all in either environment.
The second subject was Edgar. While out at his place, Pete the art director, and I tried a few scenarios but nothing was really working. I really wanted to get across the feeling of a true farmer, someone who has spent everyday in the thick of it, rain of shine. He was wearing his waterproofs (trousers) when we arrived and an old blue sweater. I wanted him to stand off whatever background I situated him on, so in the end a slurry spreader was chosen. The orange of the spreader, half cropped into Edgar with the blue of the sweater playing off the sky and tin of the cow shed just all worked. Take a look at the size of the guy’s hands. You know he works with them for a living.
Next up was Stephen, a neighbour from the next town over from us. He was set to pose with his bank manager in one of his fields; simple and straight forward. This shot is where shooting in the raw file format pays off. I back lit the two of them with the cows sort of meandering around them. I positioned myself low, maybe a foot or two off the ground. With the lens set at 17mm I had the two subjects position themselves with their feet slightly apart, with one pointing back to camera, leading the viewer back into the frame. A random piece of wood on the left just adds to the dimension and width of the shot. With the sun being at their backs, I needed as much from the front as I could muster so I had my assistant turn the large 42″x78″ reflector to silver and aim it at the tops of their heads so the light would fall off their lower body.
Most of these images were taken in the rain; some torrential, some just spitting. The next image of Damien in the row boot was a torrential one. This particular scenario was for farm diversification and Damien had a couple of small weekend fishing cottages on his land. Feeling that there was nothing that really stood out on shore for this I hopped in a boot with him and Pete (AD) hung off the dock, holding us with one hand and the boat with the other. Pete did eventually take the plunge and found himself up to his knees in the lake but nothing more than that. Again, I wanted the viewer to be led into the image, so his body position, feet and boat oars all draw you into the main focus of the image, him. As far as lighting, there was none. Just the available super diffused light filtering through the rain clouds. If you look closely at the water, you can see the rain splashing down.
The fifth scenario was “milk collection”. Again we tried a few different set ups in the short time we had (all the subjects gave us between five minutes to an hour) and ended up placing him at the tank door of the milking parlour. He was a character all on his own; with his shaven head, Dickies styled jeans and massive belt buckle. Once again it was a drizzling day and heavily overcast; nice light for photographs, we just needed a little fill and we’d be set. For this one the assistant backed out a ways on camera right with the large silver fill. The subject was very at ease and easy to direct, so I had him position himself in the doorway, leading with his left leg at the threshold. It melds with the collection hose and leads into the subject. The camera was mounted to the tripod, down low and centered on the doorway.
The sixth image was from a farm up near Derry on the north coast. The brief stated it was to include the farmer and his bank manager, I’ll let you try to guess who is who. This was one of the toughest ones. We were to show both guys in with the cows. We first tried to incorporate the farmer’s jeep but it was all feeling a bit awkward. We finalised on just having the two of them in the midst of a large herd. It wouldn’t be difficult since his herd was very tame and calm. I had no problems moving around and getting close to any of them. Although even with their tameness I wasn’t going to chance trying to bring a large enough reflector in to light the two, so we would just have to hope for the best. I locked myself off on a tripod and hoped for the best. As you can see it all worked out well. I was never happy with the original sky, being blown out but between then and CS5/ACR now, I got it almost all back. The power of a raw file. I love it.
The next image was shot close to the last one. It wasn’t the same day because I don’t think we ever got that lucky. We wandered around this farmer’s barn with his dad and him but never found anything that fit for the scenario. So I decided, for this one time, that I would do a comp on this final image. I did a few images of him in the combine and standing around it but I always came back to the symmetry; the balance of a centre weighted image. I shot him, proudly standing in front of his latest, his new combine. i locked off the tripod and had the assistant hit him as has as possible with the large silver, with whatever dappled light was seeping through the thick clouds. I then screwed on a thick ND ( I can’t remember what factor it was) and proceeded to expose for a few 30 second frames. I’ll explain the rest in the post production section.
The final image is probably my favourite and it seems to be the favourite of most. Darren, the fisherman was very busy on the day we showed up. I think we had around five minutes so Catherine (from the agency) and I ran around the boat, playing out different scenarios but the one I always came back to was the one with the spools of fish nets. Darren was very busy that day, so when he showed up wearing his bright yellow overalls and his maroon shirt, it all just fell into place. His clothes along with the green netting and blue net motor, all complimented each other. To see the image large, blown up to 3 metres square is pretty magical. All the little tactile details; the chain in the box at his feet, the curling blue paint on the deck, the dirt on his face and under his fingernails, just add the immediate sense of reality. This image was light with available light, no reflector, facing south in the open shade of the second deck of the boat.
I download the raw Canon files into my Mac using Lightroom. I try to cover off as many steps as possible with the download by key wording, converting to dng, backing up and renaming files. I bring them all in using a developing preset; usually one with a clarity of 30, vibrance of 30-60 and a saturation of negative 10-20. From here I run through my usual workflow in LR. Starting at the top and working down on the develop menu, I set each white balance, then tonal values and then presence values. I will often go into the tone curve and give it a slight tweak if I feel that one end of the spectrum is lacking. After that its pretty minimal as far as LR goes; a little messing with lens corrections but that’s about all. From here I will export it to PS CS5 where I take my flatter than usual image and crank in some contrast and depth. I use a multitude of layers and paint back in areas on the layer masks; save them back out as tifs and back into LR for a final wringing out of the last bit. I know this last step negates all the layers I would have created in PS but the UI in LR just makes for a quick and simple solution to some minor issues that might come up. As I stated earlier, only one image was extensively comped, the farmer with the combine. For that image I simply just merged the two images together and painted him into the shot with the clouds in motion. Nothing had moved, it was just him and the combine so it was simple.
It was an amazing job to cover off the 20 odd scenarios in 14 days, rain or shine. I have to thank Peter Higgins, Pete Hanlon and Catherine McKeown for all their guidance and help and my assistants Helen French and Cathal McGeown for sticking through it all. You are only as good as the people around you.
I’ve been busy. Life is good.
Been working with some great people over the past several months. Shooting at every corner of the country.
Here are some images from some of the projects. Feel free to comment.
I shoot quite a bit of photography that requires model releases; probably somewhere in the range of 90-95%. I’ve been using paper model releases for as long as I can remember. They are a constant bane on a shoot, always tracking down each talent for their signature, explaining every bit of phrasing and finally filing them away in some sense of order.
I’ve luckily never been asked for a release from the past. I know photographers who don’t bother just for that reason; big gamble. They better hope that their images never hit a larger, global market, especially with that new thing, the internet, out there. I know others who have everything covered in paper with filing cabinets full of the past ten or twenty years of redundant paper, forms and signatures.
I probably fall somewhere in the middle. I totally believe in the power of the model release and I’m scared shedless of someone coming back on one. It tends to be such a grey/gray area for many in the field who look after paperwork themselves. I imagine reps/agents/producers play it safe for larger public shoots and cover it off with a few different options. I’ve seen nightclubs in Hollywood hang posters outside stating entry onto the premisses equals signing of a release, then have a bulk pad of A4 releases on a podium. A real dark area I think for most photographers is the whole public area with models mixed with locals. They have releases for all the models but don’t bother with public since there are more than 20 people in a public place. Then there is the argument of art versus commerce and did it actually affect the individual’s standing. There are so many factors, its best to have photoattorney.com or your own lawyer figure out for you. I’m definitely no expert.
What I’m writing about here today are electronic model releases, specifically Easy Release and Release Me. Both of these work on iPhones, iPads and Easy Release also works on Android. Both were developed in conjunction with working photographers. Easy Release was devised by Washington D.C. photographer Robert Giroux while Release Me was written in conjunction with Joey Lawrence an advertising/commercial photographer from Canada. They cost just under $10 USD and offer much more than just free or $.99 apps out there.
I purchased them both through iTunes and were easy enough to install. Both prompt you after first opening the app to fill in some basic information that will become mostly default info for your releases; name, address and other contact info are inserted into standard app format. Release Me doesn’t always orient the keyboard when the device is rotated which can be a bit of a pain since I’m currently working off an iPhone and the text is small enough. No such problems with Easy Release. Easy Release it must be said also also includes translations for 13 languages in total.
After setting up your basic info, both apps ask for a project/shoot name to begin the model release creation. Easy Release allows you to sort your releases by project, model names, date or release status; I could see this being a handy option down the line after a couple of hundred releases, knowing the name of the person but not which project you worked together on. Release Me on the other hand only sorts by projects. Both work very much the same in all the steps leading to a signed release. Easy Release is a little more comprehensive with it a few more descriptive boxes like ethnicity and DOB. I found them both easy to work through which is good since neither has any instructions; Release Me have a Vimeo video that Joey L hosts, walking you through.
There are a few small things that bug me about each and there are a few more that I like.
outputs to PDF
scale and crop model’s image
change model release on the fly (just make sure your model doesn’t do it themselves)
auto location with iPhone/iPad
hard to read some of the copy
flip orientation is not consistent
can only sort by project
very little info on website
outputs to PDF and JPG and print
property and model releases
all releases show current status
sort by name, date, project or status
photographer AND model have to sign release
can’t change verbiage on the fly
can’t view large model image without going into edit mode
Both apps require you to get a signature if you want to go back into the release for whatever purpose, makes sense but neither of them really give you a large enough preview image of the model without outputting to pdf and viewing it there. It is best to make sure, just like on a paper release, that you fill in as much info as possible at the time; editing after the fact for any purpose requires new signatures so get it right the first time.
In conclusion, I like them both but if I had to invest in only one I would choose Easy Release($9.99 USD). It is far more robust and expandable over Release Me ($8.99 USD)and feels like a professional piece of software. Easy Release also have an extra Pro Pack module for an additional $3.99 USD to customize and add more fields ( I don’t feel its necessary for myself at the moment but I do like the “link to blank release template feature”. It feels like Release Me is a little too simple for a working photographer and has a few minor bugs (orientation) to iron out.
If you want to try one out for free to see if it fits into your workflow, try ID Release, be warned you get what you pay for.
I was trolling though some of my archives looking for a couple of random beauty shots I did back in the film days and I came across these.
They are from a clothing company called Tegna Golf. It was a female specific brand for golf and leisure. If I remember right there was some pretty funky stuff.
It was an early morning start. My assistants Micheal Holmes and James Dewhirst loaded up the Cherokee with the gear, a background and prop/styling kits. We were a full load, so we actually had to bring the creative director, Joelle Hanna’s Jeep as well. So the crew from Carpinteria was myself, Micheal, James, Joelle and Lynda Martin. We were to meet up with the LA portion down on Abbot Kinney at some coffee shop. Well, people got lost, models got turned around in traffic and we all got to the studio a little late. I even remember the address 1332 Main Street
I took this photograph of one of the models, I can’t recall her name, outside between shots. I brought along my old Polaroid 195 camera. I used to use it all the time when I was shooting film to capture behind the scenes images on and around set. Today I had it loaded with Fuji FP100c.
Here is one shot on the Mamiya RZ with James the assistant standing in for one of the models.
It was a great day. I’m pretty sure we all had a great time and ate well since we were working in Santa Monica, right down with all the good cafes and restaurants.
We brought the film home to Santa Barbara and had it processed at Color Services. I remember the client asking for all the film as they didn’t know how each garment was going to be laid out on the pages. I reluctantly agreed but told them I would need the film back as I was the copyright owner of it and they could have it back as they needed it. I would have never done this before; they would have received a set of scanned contact sheets and chosen from them but with the timing and them being on the east coast, it just wasn’t possible.
You can imagine the rest of the story. They scanned the film, used what they wanted, stalled me for a year or so, then went bankrupt. In the end I was left with a pay cheque and around a dozen or so Fujiroids. It pissed me off to no end back then. I remember getting crazy poses out of the girls, whom two of had never modeled before. They were all very unique and not the normal looking California model types for catalogues. Here are the rest of the images I still have. Thanks again to everyone who worked on the shoot if I missed you name.
I have some more images over at WonderfulMachine. They are featuring me in the latest installment of their tearsheet section (you’ll have to scroll into it a bit). The images are some nice portraits I did for the Northern Ireland Cancer Fund for Children with AV Browne and Darcie Graham.
Darcie is gone from AV Browne now; she’s off doing a year at Hyper Island in Interactive Art Direction. I know some people might think that’s an oxymoron like the old military intelligence or Microsoft Works but Darcie will do great there.
Here’s a little more info on Hyper Island. It was started in 1996 with 32 students and was housed in an old prison. They now have almost a dozen long term courses in a variety of multimedia fields for around 260 students. They have two campus’; one in Stockholm and the other in Karlskrona. It is very much a real hands on school where students work on proper briefs and use real life experiences, both good and bad to come to the best results. The course run down looks like this:
Digital Media – 90 weeks, including a 30-week internship
Mobile Applications – 60 weeks, including a 16-week internship
Interactive Art Director – 45 weeks, including a 15-week internship
eCommerce Manager – 40 weeks, including a 14-week internship
Motion Graphics – 40 weeks, including a 13-week internship
Interactive Media Design & Management – 32 weeks, including a 12-week internship
They don’t have any photography classes so I probably won’t be seen in Stockholm anytime soon but the motion graphics class sounds interesting.
All the best to Darcie at school.
And thanks again to WondefulMachine for spreading the word
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.
Here’s a short little anatomy of an image for some recent stuff hanging up on billboards around NI. It was a project I worked on for the Northern Ireland Tourism Board through AV Browne. It involved a couple of models, a Fiat 500 and some picturesque coastline of the north. I had scouted the shore along the Tor Head road overlooking Cushendun before and knew a spot where you could see the coastline as well as the village.
So now that we knew the area we got permission from the landowner to do an early morning shoot there. Below are some of the variations that happened in the wee hours of the morning at sunrise. You can see we had to spark up a 2.5 kw HMI early in the morning when we didn’t think we were going to get any direct sun.
A wide shot, it still hasn’t warmed up yet at this point.
The sun is finally coming out in force.
Luckily the sun did show its face and as it dipped in and out of clouds, we had Davey and his boys from Keylight scrim off any harshness on the models.
And this is what we ended up with in the end. Great thing about NITB is there is no trickery in the images; so what you see is what you get. The final image we choose didn’t have anything between the sun and the models, just a light haze to cut it down a bit so we didn’t need the 6×6 scrim out front. We did manage to keep some direct sun on the village and the rolling hills in the background.
The client has decided to take the campaign in a different direction. I will be using the images in some form for a self promotion but I won’t be posting them up until the dust settles.
In the mean time, here’s a pretty picture to look at while you’re waiting.
Well, I'm going back to film.
I've had enough of digital.
We had a good run together.
But it's over.
I'm going back to tried and true film; both medium format and 5×4 or 4×5 depending on where you are.
I've run the tests and I can't see any advantage anymore to digital beside speed and I don't want to be know as a "speedy" photographer. As well, I feel both photographers and the creatives that work with them have become lazy, very lazy. Gone are the days when you might shoot 40 or 50 rolls of 120 in a day. Now it's not uncommon for clients to be looking at thousands of images from a multiple day shoot.
Remember Polaroids? You would shot a couple maybe per set up to show the client and creatives, then they would let you play with it from there; cover that off and then let your own creativity go and paint your own scene. Now they want to see almost every frame you shoot, just so you don't veer too far from "their" original brief. Hold on though, isn't that why we were hired in the first place because we are creatives ourselves and bring something of our own to the table? Has digital given them and us too much information? Are we processing all these visuals and coming up with better ideas on the fly? NO, we're looking at the backs of cameras so we know we have covered off the needed and the client doesn't give us shit. That doesn't really breed creativity in my books. Well now they get to see just the Polaroids with me.
So I've got myself a decent little 5×4 hand holdable camera and a 6×7 medium format and I will be using this from now on. All my digital equipment is going up for sale. I'm covering off most of my usual focal lengths in medium format and just a couple on the larger sheet film. Film is just giving that warmer glow; that internal glow and feeling that digital lacks. It becomes a smoothness, both leading from the transition in tones to the actual grain. The grain on film is long imitated but never replicated. And the tones just act smoother when going from the burnt out highlights to those deep endless black shadows that always prove to be the bane of digital photographers.
Here is a 6×7 image.
As you can see, the tones moving from the highlights, down down down into the deep shadows on the right hold their own. The colour is accurate without being cartoon like. The contrast is pleasing without being so crunchy that you start to block up in the shadows and blow the highlights to the moon. You can feel the texture in the flaking paint on the walls. The skin tone is bang on.
I just don't see the use for digital anymore.
Please feel free to comment.
I have been asked by quite a few people in the past couple of months, about an image I created for Ardmore Advertising for their client NIFRS a few years ago. Its an image they are still using on 48 sheet billboards and Adshells. Most people ask me how I did it or how many layers is it?
Well to make a long story short, 26.
Now for the long story.
Richard from Ardmore asked me if I would be interested in a project for the NIFRS as he felt it would suit my style. I was traveling back and forth to North America on other jobs but told him when I came back to NI we could meet up. It was basically an outdoor campaign showing wild fires, firemen, a hero and a burnt landscape. All of these ingredients needed to evoke emotion; to the men and to the landscape around them. "Sure, no problem", I said. We lined up a date to head out for scouting or as they call it here ' a wee recce' to the Mourne Mountains around Newcastle. We wanted a good view of the town with a decent amount of trees and growth to portray the brief properly.
The first location was about half way up the mountain overlooking Newcastle. We had the full NIFRS Land Rover detail out with us scouring over the area, looking for a suitable spot. This shot of Richard above, shows how ridiculously windy it was at that elevation so we decided to move down the hill. We found a spot about halfway down from the previous one that was sheltered from the wind, mostly, and had everything else we we looking for, sort of, more of that though later.
Here is the chosen location with Richard standing in as the "hero".
With the location picked we now had to got about casting. That was pretty much taken care of by Ardmore and the NIFRS as they wanted to include men from the different stations. My next task was to concoct a lighting scheme and rough layout of how I wanted the day to go down. During this time I was in the middle of moving my studio over to Northern Ireland so I had to rent my lighting from the good folks at Calumet. Unfortunately they didn't have anything I wanted so I had to make due with some Bowens mono "blockheads". I lined up a genie to power everything but was told by the Fire Service that it wouldn't be needed as they had one there. Cool, one less thing for me to think about.
When the day came, my assistant and I headed up the mountain with the crew, the agency and a couple of service appliances(fire trucks). The shoot was reasonably undramatic considering what we were dealing with. We couldn't start any fires so they would have to be put in post. The crew had a smoke machine but the winds were so high that it all just blew away. I set the lights and asked the guys about the genie they had. Some guy came out from around the truck with this little neon green shoebox. "What is that?", I asked. "That's your generator". Well, it was like nothing I had ever seen. It was a little two stroke compact genie that I don't know what would power. My mind started to race, "damn, what now?". Luckily a much larger one materialized after a few moments, phew. We sparked everything up and shot a few test images. It was all coming together.
There were a few little hitches that I knew would come into play with this project; one being the resolution for a 48 sheet and two, the physical dynamics of the actual landscape. The first point I knew I could get around by stitching or combining images together of the landscape and dropping the crew into it. I ended up doing four images, shot vertically.
You can see from those images that most of the elements are already in place, except I didn't like the horizon above his head and to move the camera angle lower would mean we would lose the foreground field behind the ridge the hero is standing on. More to do in post then.
The stitched images look something like this.
Now time for some post production on this sucker.
First thing was to give the image some shape, stretch it out slightly and correct the distortion. I then proceeded to move the horizon line down so it was much lower in the shot. From here I started adding elements; smoke and fire that I created at the farm against a black background, and the rest of the members of the others crews who all played different parts in each crew's images. So, no this isn't just 3 or 4 guys cloned all over the hillside, they are all unique individuals who played specific roles in each others shots. I removed cables and stands, Added my own brand of treatments to the sky, trees and grasses. With me moving the horizon down, it started to crunch down some of the noticeable landmarks of Newcastle. With this I had to go back in and save certain neighbourhoods and buildings so that it anyone who looked at it, would know it as Newcastle. In the end, each element had its own layer and most of those had their own layer mask so I could tweak the living bejesus out them. Of those the fire were contained in a group as well as a group for smoke and crew. The sky and clouds had their own layer so I could shift it up or down or side to side depending on where I wanted everything up there to be placed in respect to the crew and landscape. Finally I added some final colour and tonality treatments with separate colour mixer, hue/saturation and curves layers and cropped it to its final size.
26 layers and probably 26 hours in assembly time.
and with copy
I'm not trying to get too political here but why does all this still go on? Almost everyone living here knows the answers to the rioting and violence and why they still happens but that still doesn't answer the question "why?". No one really wants it but they want to keep on marching and doing July 12th and of course people clash. I'm not going to get all heavy handed and start giving ideas or solutions; its too embedded in people.
The PSNI have had a tough time of it; being the long heavy arm of the law in the past, trying to work along side the army to keep the peace. Since the early 2000's the PSNI have been responsible for upholding the law alone. They are ever changing their brand and becoming more public friendly. This is where I came in.
I was hired on by local agency Genesis Advertising to translate their brief into images. They were looking to create a bridge between the public and the PSNI, to show how the PSNI is committed to listening to the public and solving their problems and issues. The brief outlined about a dozen images, all on location, with a diverse cross section of the public, represented by models. Of course the beautiful Northern Irish weather that I love so much proved itself once again as being as reliable as a Lucas ignition. Many of the images were shot in the rain or blowing gales. It was on one of these days that I got a severe chest infection that had me coughing and hacking in pain for almost 2 months.
I've been there probably a dozen times in the past 3 years. this time we are here to grab aspects and details of the opening day of their new Peace Bridge. The £14.6 million bridge was funded by the EU's PEACE III programme and constructed started back in January of 2010. It a pretty sweet looking bridge and I'm mighty impressed with the design that Wilkinson Eyre did on it.
The phone lately has been pretty much consistently ringing; quote/bids, confirmations and cancellations. I've been getting them all but there no complaints because it is all working itself out. I'm also in the middle of writing a large art proposal for the government here. It will be a year long project and then tour for another year. I'm hoping to shoot it all on 5×4 black and white film and print it myself on silver based fibre paper. I've been getting back into the darkroom, little by little. Taking it slow so all my past memories doesn't come pouring down on top of me and make me feel overwhelmed. I used to do lot of darkroom work back in the 90's and enjoyed it for the most part, till I started getting socially deprived by spending all my waking hours there. There is a feeling you get after standing/sitting in the darkroom for 10-14 hours by yourself, then going out in public and mixing in with all the daylight people.
Well must start prepping for a project in Dublin, so I will leave you with this final image of the Peace Bridge.
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.
I had a little break in shooting so what should I do besides feed the horses?
I had E.E. Kelly come into the studio, looking to do something different and I think I delivered. I was looking to create a more sinister, end of the world feel; maybe something like Sandra Bullock if she starred in Mad Max as Max.
We shoot a couple of frames in the studio, showing the starkness of the shaven head and the strength of her body with just one light and some negative fill. Then we went outside into the “zone”. Olivier had been burning some rubbish, like he usually does, and it made for a very moody surrounding. Dust, smoke and fire with all the rubble made the two frames we shot feel like we were in another time for a moment. That is until the locals started pouring in when they heard there was a girl being photographed. Both images were shot on Harman Direct Positive, wide open at f4.7 and process in standard b&w chemicals.
Ford Focus 1.6 Zetec Petrol burner
Well its time for another car rental review. Today I have a Ford Focus 1.6, not what I asked for but you can’t really choose when it comes to hire cars.
I ask my local for diesel pretty much every time but for some reason I keep getting petrol burning cars and diesel vans. I don’t mind the zippyness of a petrol car but at “only” 36 mpg for an average for a 800 mile trip, it can be a little costly; getting older, I don’t mind a diesel’s pokeyness over the zippyness.
The Focus drives like a much bigger car than it really is. It has great space for a 6 footer and a decent little back seat for some wee leprechauns but the seller for me is almost always “da booty”. This trunk managed to swallow up a Profoto 600B kit, stands, reflectors, camera bags and my 4×5. It would have taken our luggage as well but I didn’t want to cram it tight since we would be working out of the car for most of the shoot.
The suspension is good, tight and handles very well; you can see why this car makes a great little track day ride. It cruises along the motor way at 70, no problem. the only glitch is 3rd.
Come on Ford, what’s with that transmission? As I’m running up the gears with any sort of vigor, third jams itself out. You need to back off and ease it in, then back on the gas and up to 4th. It does not make for quick getaways let alone outrunning rampant stone throwing children.
My overall on this tight rig is a 6/10.
Decent for mom and dad alike.
I have been asked recently to submit to about a dozen different photo competitions and exhibitions. The only thing is that since my last show two years ago, I haven’t really worked on any personal projects for myself.
Recently I’ve taken up going backwards in time. I’m ditching the digital and capturing images like we used to in the olden days, on silver based emulsions. Below are a couple of test images I created using the calotype method. It involves exposing photographic paper instead of film to create a paper negative. From that you can scan the image into Photoshop and play with it from there.
These images though are a little different. They are actually the positive prints right from the camera. The silver media is a positive print paper; very smooth and very very contrasty. By using a couple of different techniques I’m able to better control the contrast and lower it to a more natural feeling of a true black and white image. More experimenting to come and hopefully I’ll have something I feel is worthy of a new exhibition.
For a few years now I've been playing with composite portraits; taking several photographs of one face and them combining them seamlessly in post. Here is one of my latest experiments. I've taken 4 images with a long lense, wide open, with a Canon 5D mk2 and combined them to make one complete face. I've also given it a treatment to give the overall image a feeling of old Polaroid t55; it doesn't have the rebates of a 55 but I feel it has a certain coolness to it. this image was shot in the studio using natural light.
I rent quite a few cars/vans/trucks in my work. Whenever I need a vehicle that needs to do what my daily driver can’t, I rent. Most of the vehicles I rent are vans; to carry my gear, props, rental equipment etc. Since moving to Northern Ireland I’ve taken on a new view towards renting. Whereas in North America i would almost always just rent a Dodge/Chrysler/Plymouth (RIP) minivan, here I hire Sprinters, Transits, Trafics, Kangoos, Vivaros to do the job. I kind of miss the old Dodge Voyagers. They really were a little workhorse and didn’t look after bad doing the work of almost a full size.
Today however I’m just renting a car, something small, that will be fuel efficient and a comfortable drive for the day. Gavin, my Enterprise car hire guy, has hooked me up with a petrol KIA Venga (even though I really wanted a diesel). I was very impressed after starting it, on how ridiculously quiet it is when running. I have never been in a car that was ever this smooth, not even close. Pulling away however didn’t give me much confidence in the rest of the day; it has a jerky clutch and a touchy throttle. Acceleration is adequate, same day service on the 0-60. This car will win no drag races, except maybe against a bicycle, a bicycle in the snow, a bicycle in the snow with no wheels.
The interior is roomy and I have no problem with my 6 foot frame fitting in the luxuriously upholstered cloth seats. All the controls were where they should be and nothing out of the ordinary struck me as odd or confusing. The sound system is decent and has an iPod mini cam plug outlet as well as a usb plugin.
Okay, now for the not so good things.
The A pillar is almost impossible to see around; I found myself constantly stretching my neck around to look into right hand corners. It was a total pain in the ass. The back seat has an industry standard 60/40 split but you have to be a freakin’ octopus to pull the lever and push the seat down at the same time. It would not be easy if I had a large camera bag or stand bag, reaching in over three feet just to have my initial attempts of putting the seats down foiled by not having an extra set of hands to push and push hard down on the back seats, not cool. The final nit pick on of one day test living day with the Venga is the hidden front corners. I’m 6 foot, like I said, and I can’t see over the front fenders/bumpers to know where the car ends. I could only imagine a wee local trying to cram themselves out the window, straining to see where the wheel is in relation to curb.
All in all it isn’t the worst car I’ve ever rented, any GM front wheel drive takes that honour, but I wouldn’t buy a Venga or recommend it.
Close but no cigar.
I’ve been working with the NITB for the past year or so. They and the agency have been great to work with; problem solving, location scouting and hunting, casting and oh ya, creating images that we feel are unique and cool. Here are some of the latest ones for the spring/summer campaign in different formats for different media.