ROB DURSTON PHOTOGRAPHY

Business

Charles McQuinllan – Big Time Photographer

Today I’m having a coffee with my neighbour Charles McQuinllan. Charles has done many things in photography, starting in the darkroom and working his way through being  Prince’s tour photographer to diving into the icy water of Northern Ireland to photograph cold water surfers. It was a hoot having coffees (very much plural) at his place and chatting about everything from gear to trying to find your way in photography.

You can also find us on iTunes at Agitate

Links from today’s podcast

www.charlesmcquillan.com/

 


Chris Whitehead – Serial Entrepreneur

Today I’m chatting with an old friend, Chris Whitehead. Chris has been in the business of creating businesses for years; starting small and growing large. Having sold his main business 3 years ago, now allows Chris to spend more time with his family, explore the world and his lust for the outdoors. Hopefully you find this podcast inspiration in the way Chris approaches his life, work and play.

You can also find us on iTunes at Agitate

Links from today’s podcast

https://www.adventureover40.com

https://www.instagram.com/adventureover40/

https://theketogenicathlete.com

http://feeds.stownpodcast.org/stownpodcast

https://itunes.apple.com/gb/podcast/serial/id917918570?mt=2


Rental car review (hire car) Ford Tourneo

Its been almost five years since my last rental car review, not that I haven’t rented any over the past years. Anytime I have a big shoot or need to travel longer distances, I prefer to put the miles on someone else’s vehicle. Since most of my rentals are for longer distances, I like to rent diesels when available. They are usually hard to come by and I only happen upon them by chance. The difference in fuel economy can be almost double depending on the car.
For a recent project I was back on the phone to my local hire spot. I didn’t want to spend much as the budget was barely covering the mileage. Due to some unforeseen circumstances I also had an extra body coming along for the ride (a model), so I really couldn’t just opt for an economy tiny car. I called up my rental guy and booked a “small” car. Not thinking much more about it, I started running through the project in my mind about what gear was going to be needed on location and it quickly escalated into much more than a small hatchback might handle.
It was right about then, when the phone rang. The car hire place couldn’t supply a small hatchback but they could offer me a diesel Ford Tourneo van instead. . . hmmmm, let me think for a minute, “uh ya”.

2015 Ford Tourneo

2015 Ford Tourneo

2015 Ford Tourneo

2015 Ford Tourneo

The Tourneo is an eight seat van based on the Ford Transit; basically a Transit converted to a people carrier, with insulation, proper seating, controls, ventilation and windows. This particular van was a 2015 model and with relatively low miles on it. The big bonus for us, travelling in it with all the added cargo space besides what the seats we were going to occupy. I was able to pack away my cameras, back ups, laptop system, tripod and any extras without any trouble.

HUGE rear tailgate, can be used as a picnic shelter

HUGE rear tailgate, can be used as a picnic shelter

Lots of cargo space

Lots of cargo space

Getting up and into the driver’s seat is a bit of a jump if you are used to driving around in cars all the time but once you’re up there. . . . you’re really up there. The added height of the driver’s position is a great thing; allowing you to look further down the road and over smaller cars. The steering wheel feels more car like than the Transits I have driven; it gives it a much more automotive feel to the drive than the UPS/FedEx feel of a regular Transit. Once in the seat, you have the view of most modern Fords, with an easy to understand layout of gauges, vents, cubby holes and entertainment system.

Clear instruments & full info displays

Clear instruments & full info displays

Center pod cubby hole, holder for a phone

Center pod cubby hole, holder for a phone

Overhead cubby hole

Overhead cubby hole

Driver's side cup holder & cubby hole

Driver’s side cup holder & cubby hole

For the passengers we have two rows of three seats each behind the driver’s seat to choose from; both with independent ventilation controls. So many seats to pick from you could have five people in here and still be able to stretch out in one of the rows for a nap. I’m guessing this Tourneo had its seats covered in extra durable cloth for the rental market. Its still comfortable but I would probably take the next upgrade from this option.
With all this decent comfortable seating, the Tourneo is a great long distance people/production mover.

Pick a row of seats and get comfortable

Pick a row of seats and get comfortable

Now with the mileage we cover on projects, the stereo is probably the most important piece of kit outside of comfortable seats. The entertainment system is reasonably laid out and easy enough to understand as long as you follow along with the digital display above it. It took me a while to find the USB plug in, its located in a secret cubby holes above the steering wheel. Inside, there is also a 3.5mm jack and a 12v cigarette socket. I did have a few problems every now and then, getting back into the van and plugging in my iPhone to the USB only to have nothing coming out of the stereo. I know the cable is good(the phone showed the charging symbol) so it was then a matter of switching over to Bluetooth. The phone system works great in the Toureo and I was surprised at how seamless taking and dialing calls was.

3.5mm, 12v and USB sockets are hidden above the steering wheel

3.5mm, 12v and USB sockets are hidden above the steering wheel

Entertainment system uses the Ford SYNC system

Entertainment system uses the Ford SYNC system

The front seats were good and decently firm; I could easily drive for a few hours without numb bum however a little bit more of side bolstering would be nice, even if it was a bench seat, at least for the driver. The door pull is not very well designed in my mind since you have to twist your wrist to grab it and pull. That might just take a while to get used to but it seemed every time I hopped in the seat and went to pull the door behind me, it always felt awkward.

Telltale evidence of a roadtrip and a poorly designed door handle

Telltale evidence of a roadtrip and a poorly designed door handle

Room up front for 3 messy adults

Room up front for 3 messy adults

As well as the large accessible front doors and the MASSIVE rear tail gate, the van also comes with a sliding side door on each side of the vehicle. They open wide, wide enough to slide a large Plume 140 soft box in without dissembling it.

Doors wide enough to drive a blimp through, okay maybe a Jacobson Blimp

Doors wide enough to drive a blimp through, okay maybe a Jacobson Blimp

And lets talk about that rear tail gate, did I mention it was MASSIVE? Be prepared to hoist on it the first few times you open and close it; this is not your mother’s Mercedes’ trunk lid here. Once open you can easily stand under it for shelter in inclement weather, which we might have a little bit here in Northern Ireland.

HUGE rear tailgate, can be used as a picnic shelter

HUGE rear tailgate, this one is available on AirBnB

In conclusion, I’m a fan, there are some things I would change for sure but overall its a great production van.
Pros –
Diesel mileage
Large cabin/storage/seating
Great visibility
Entertainment system

Cons –
Large overall size
Door handles
Inconsistent USB connection


Glenn Norwood – Commercial Photographer

This time we are over at Glenn Norwood’s studio, chatting to him about software, gear, music and kittens on Instagram. Glenn cut his teeth in the big city hustle and bustle of New York, photographing musicians for many of the big editorial magazines. These days you can find him in his cozy studio shooting very cool fashion, beauty and hair for clients around the world.

http://www.norwoodphotography.co.uk

 

You can also find us on iTunes at Agitate


Mags White – Self Employed Arts Consultant

Today I met with Mags White at The Landing in the MAC. Mags gave up her 9-5 career to set off on her own in the world of self employment(entertainer, comedian, arts consultant, kid’s birthday party clown). I really respect a person who has the hoots-pa to leave the security of full time employment to venture out for themselves. Mags and I chat about this, hecklers, PC & Macs and much more in this episode.
https://www.facebook.com/grapefruitmoonarts


Mark Kneeshaw – Photographer & jack of all trades

Live today from Mr. Kneeshaw’s kitchen, a great friend and a guy who can pretty much get anything done. We talk about a couple of horror projects he has done lately, sewers, barking dogs and chat about old times before we head out to dinner in Toronto.


Chris Chapman – Commercial Photographer

Today I am at SilverLine Studios in Toronto, talking with an old friend Chris Chapman. I used to assist and do production work for Chris back in the olden days. We chat about those days as well as the Toronto Film Festival, photographing entertainers, studios and films.

http://www.chrischapmanphoto.com/


Pentax 645z- Mr ZED – One Year Evaluation

One Year Review – Pentax 645z – Love it, or Leave it

It’s been just over a year now since I took the plunge and dove into the deep end.

Sensor – Bigger is better

I love medium format, almost as much as I love large format, so when someone announced they were releasing a CMOS (finally) sensor based medium format, they had my full attention. The problem was that the manufacturer was Phase and just the back, (let alone the body and a lens) was $35k(€25k). That was out of my reach but it had definitely sparked my interest. The difference between the Phase IQ250 and everything else before it was that it now uses a CMOS sensor. Now if you are into photography you know that generally speaking CMOS is better in low light and power consumption and older styled CCD sensors had a “feeling” to them. Many MFD (medium format digital) users loved the skin tones and the general silkiness to the CCD cameras; remembering back to some of the first Canon and Nikon CCD cameras and the followings that some of them still have. If I was making my dream camera, it would be a full frame; either as a 6×7 or 645. It just seems that a 645 camera should have a sensor that is relatively close to being 6cm x 4.5cm and not 32.8mm x 43.8mm.
For me however it was about the ability to shoot in low light. I do a lot of work with available light, shooting out on location without lights or on film sets using the available lights there. While shooting with my existing cameras, there would be many a time, I’d be up at 640-2500 ISO, fighting with noise shadow detail and cursing with tripods. What I needed was a super high ISO CMOS based camera that had great DR (dynamic range) and a higher resolution wouldn’t hurt either. My dream camera was in my mind, something like a Contax 645 or even Mamiya RZ, full frame (hate to have crop factors) with modern electronics and a reworking of either line’s already amazing lenses. I already own a RZ with a few sweet lenses so if someone came out with a reasonable full frame CMOS back in the 36mp range I was ready for it; just not at $35k and not at a smaller than hoped for sensor size.
Then back in early 2014, Pentax of all camera brands, released the news that they were going to be updating/upgrading their 645 body to the new Sony CMOS sensor, basically the same as the one used in the Phase IQ250 but, get this, at about a quarter of the price, for the fixed body/back combo, crazy right? The difference being mainly the way the information coming off the sensor is interpreted and the fact that the back cannot be separated from the body (so no tech styled camera as an option). I thought it over in my mind; I had been a Pentax user in the early 90’s playing around mostly with the 67, shooting wind surfing with it and a 400mm f4 and a 2x tele converter. Then later I assisted a few photographers who used both the 67 and 645 together with lens adapters for fashion work. While I admired the robustness of the 67, I was never impressed with the 645, with its film inserts, plastic feeling body and constantly rotating spot on the Pentax repairman’s bench. That thing would fall apart in your hands literally. Now granted these bodies were well used but nothing any farther along than any of the workhorse RZ’s or Hasselblads in studios around the world. I felt they were always meant to be glued on a tripod, in some portrait studio, taking baby photos or some other non taxing job for them.
Then the Pentax 645D came out in 2010 and from all reports it was a worthy location camera; focused it seemed mostly on the portrait and landscape photographers. I did read up on it a bit when it came out and I might have even downloaded a few sample files but it really didn’t grab me, it wasn’t enough to make me sit up and beg.

Glass – Old and New

So, following the press release of the 645z, I decided to start stockpiling lenses. I kept my eyes peeled for some comparable focal lengths to my existing 35mm camera equipment; 17-40mm, 50mm, 85mm and 70-200mm. Pentax not being a large camera maker, didn’t always keep its lens line up to date so the lenses that were current for the 645z were few, I think at the time it was just the 55mm and 90mm. What they did keep though was a common lens mount so pretty much any lens from the past 30 years can mount on the “ZED”. Great and not so great at the same time; you’ll be able to find some real bargains of a wide variety BUT you’ll have to test the hell out of them to make sure they can live up to the resolution of the ZED’s 51mp sensor and not show off any unwanted chromatic aberrations of the older, less multi coated lenses.
So I immediately started scouring eBay and used camera joints for cherry Pentax glass, avoiding much fungus, dents and general abuse. I wanted/needed a really wide and the widest they made was a 35mm, which translated on the ZED is around a 24mm in 35mm format terms. I found the manual focus one on online for $200, which was a steal. I was slightly wary though, of it arriving and being a dog. It wasn’t, it was a fine example considering it was probably well over 20 years old. There was some slight discolouration on the edges of the front element but nothing that affected image quality.
After that there was the FA 45-85 for $286 from KEH, then a sweet FA 150mm f2.8 and finally the “kit” FA AW 55mm f2.8. The AW I should mention belonging to the 55mm, means All Weather, that’s right, this camera along with any AW lens, makes for wether proof system. I’ll talk more about that later.
After much initial testing all the lenses proved to be well worthy of the high resolution that the Zed can deliver.
So now armed with the body, 35mm, 45-85mm, 55mm and 150mm and a whole whack of batteries purchased on eBay for a fraction of the normal price I was set.
Here is a run down of my lenses and their characteristics.
The 35mm is a manual focus “A” lense, very sharp and contrasty but can be hard to focus on mid ground subjects.
The 45-85 is an auto focus “FA” lense, sharp around f8-f11 (the sweet spot). It is passable at f4.5 but much crisper at f8. Hard to get used to the AF/manual focus ring lock. You switch back and forth between the two by sliding the collar towards or away from you.
The 55mm is an auto focus “D FA” lense that is also weatherproof, completing the lense/body combination for a complete weatherproof system. It again is fine wide open at f2.8 but really shines around f8.
The 150mm is a “FA” lense with a very wide and fast f2.8 opening. There is slight chromatic aberrations but can be quickly cleared up in post.
I also just recently picked up a 135mm “A” LS (leaf shutter) lense. This lense allows you to sync with flash up to 1/500. So far it seems like a nice sharp, contrasty piece of glass, quite happy with it.

Trial By Fire – The First Big Project

So, the first images I set off to create after my testing was a fairly large project for Failte Ireland(Tourism). It would consist of location shooting for 28 days in all sorts of conditions. I set the camera up to shoot DNG’s to the first of its two SD slots, with a EyeFi X2 SD card in the second slot. On the X2 card the camera was writing small 1920×1080 jpgs, that would be wirelessly transferred over to an iPad Retina for the client to observe from. For the most part this method worked well and occasionally would need to be awoken or reconnected with the EyeFi network. The project was actually based on a different camera using a slightly smaller sensor (7360 x 4912px) to the Pentax’s larger sensor (8256 x 6192px); that plus the extended dynamic range and low light/high ISO qualities of the ZED made for some really stunning results.

Couple at the Martello Tower at sunset in Sutton, Dublin

Couple at the Martello Tower at sunset in Sutton, Dublin

Couple visiting the Long Room at Trinity College, Dublin

Couple visiting the Long Room at Trinity College, Dublin

Couple having Champagne looking out on the view of the Dublin coast

Couple having Champagne looking out on the view of the Dublin coast

Couple talking to a local fisherman at Colliemore Habour, Dublin

Couple talking to a local fisherman at Colliemore Habour, Dublin

Couple at the National Concert Hall, Dublin

Couple at the National Concert Hall, Dublin

Three surfers at the Dollymount Beach in Dublin

Three surfers at the Dollymount Beach in Dublin

The final presentation of the images was to be displayed on a giant video (5m x 2m) wall in Dublin. As a bonus to using the ZED’s larger pixel dimensions, the client was able to add movement to the images, by panning, zooming and generally moving throughout the image.

RDP_20150219_0023

What did I take away from this first “dive into the deep end” project with the Pentax 645z?

Well the negatives, the little things and larger things that bugged me while trying to work on a tight schedule with a crew looking over my shoulder, started something like this. . . .

1. The AF zone is based on Pentax’s smaller cameras, not even a full frame 35mm camera but their cropped sensor cameras. This is just too small and confining for a medium format camera, to have a small zone covering about 1/3 of the frame vertically and a 1/5 of the frame horizontally. So whenever you have the subject outside that zone, you really need to be using LiveView to properly get an accurate focus.

2. I was having some very difficult times getting an accurate focus lock. This seemed to be a more serious problem with the kit lens, the 55mm, that came with the body. Since then the camera and lens were sent away to Pentax service in France for an obvious n/c servicing. Upon its return I haven’t had any more issues.

3. The lag between firing off a frame to the time you can change the SS or aperture. I’ll take this one as a user error issue. Me + new camera + heavy schedule = anxious. Since then I have adapted a much better cadence to my shooting as opposed to the ol’ blast ‘em off 35mm style.

4. This one is a definite design flaw, the grip is way to small and after 8 hours of shooting, even with down time, my hand was cramping. I love the idea of the second tripod mount for verticals but I think a second grip could be 3D printed or something to utilise this mount and allow the weight of the camera to be shared between both hands. I’m 6 foot and I would say I have normal sized mitts, but this was designed with a smaller, much smaller person in mind.

5. The camera has two SD card slots, thats great. However they are hidden underneath the mounting point for the camera strap. So every time you go to change cards, you’re fighting with the strap like a bad Laurel & Hardy skit.

6. On this all weather camera, there isn’t a cap for the PC sync connection, what gives there?

7. This is probably related to #3 as well, the wait time to view on the display after firing off a few frames. This might be cured with an update in firmware but I suspect it is more about the actual PRIME III processor speed.

8. Bracketing feature seems to change both SS and aperture. Since this I have found out online that there is a menu option where you can change the green button’s purpose to only change the SS during bracketing. It wasn’t very clear in the manual but I thank the online forums for this cure.

9. At present there are a handful of “new” lenses available for the ZED, a year ago that wasn’t the case and I had to purchase a few of the older styled FA lenses. The AF/MF collar on the FA glass is a real PITA when you just want to snap something in focus then turn it over to MF. The obvious cure for this is . . . . buy new lenses.

10. My last nick picky comment about the system is the tunnel like viewfinder. You really need to keep your eye centered to be able to see all four corners.

Now to be only fair, the positives I love about this camera system are . . .

1. Dynamic range, the Sony sensor is truly amazing and as much as the Canon 5D mk2 was a game changer, this sensor is the heart and soul of this one. Expose for the highlights and open the shadows up in post.

2. 51mp of resolution, gives the client lots of room to crop, down rez or just even hide some unwanted dust, shmedges etc

3. A nice, big, rear, flip up LCD monitor perfect for viewing on the fly or shooting waist level style.

4. Dual SD card slots; they let you set it up to record sequentially, mirrored or separate formats like RAW and JPG.

5. The vertical tripod mount is a super nice touch; I have a small ArcaSwiss styled plate mounted that I use to grab onto for extra support while shooting (see Con #4 above).

6. A fully comprehensive menu and button customisation let you totally tailor the camera to you. Saying that, it would be nice to have Nikon’s “Save/Load settings” feature on a camera like this that has such an in depth menu system.

7. On the huge rear LCD you have a 16x magnification LiveView that lets you zoom right into your subject and confirm a tight focus, indispensable.

8. Matrix style metering is pretty accurate

9. Long battery life, one battery lasts almost all day for me, around 1000-1300 images plus transmitting from the WiFi card

10. and the main reason I love shooting MF, the gorgeous DOF

Support – Everyone needs a shoulder to lean on

This a bulky camera, no doubt about it. I found my right hand would cramp up at the end of a shooting day. Saying that, a monopod or tripod would never be far away and take the weight off my hands. Even hand holding at lower shutter speeds I never found any shake in my images from mirror slap, something that one came to expect with some of the digital backs adapted on still cameras a few years ago. The mirror is well cushioned and the whole shutter mechanism has a good solid sound. On some occasions when a tripod/monopod wasn’t available I could also brace myself, line up the shot, and use mirror lock up for slower shutter speeds. Pentax even has two lenses, the 28-45 zoom and the 90 Macro with “Shake Reduction” (SR). I have used it on the wide zoom and have found it good for a couple of stops of lower than normal shutter speeds; however you need to be well prepared for the sheer hulk of it, as it weighs more than the camera itself.

Media – Pick a card

When I first received the camera, I was prepared with some shiny new media. I’ve been using Transcend in my Canons for a few years now without any issues. They have been fast enough for video with the Canon and its never displayed an error. So I had some middle of the road Transcend SD cards ready to go into both slots of the Pentax. When not using the WiFi card, I would write DNG’s to both slots (mirrored). I soon found though that the cards were dragging down my write speed, each frame was taking way to long to process, preview and for the controls to be released so I could adjust them. I then got a set of Transcend 400x class 10 SD cards. They performed better and lasted about 9 months before I started getting prompted by the ZED to “Format Card”. Strange, this was happening to begin with any time I took the media out of the camera, then progressively it got worse and would happen sometimes if the camera was just shut off, then turned back on. Major problem.
I’ve now had a set of premium Lexar Professional 64GB Class 10 UHS-II 1000x Speed (150MB/s) cards and haven’t had any issues.

Shooting Modes – Auto, Manual and all the rest

For the most part I always shoot in manual on the Pentax. The controls for both aperture and shutter speed are at your right index finger and thumb. That said you can also use the standard aperture ring on the lens as Pentax have kept that part of the design from older film cameras. Either way its quick and to the point. I follow along with the excellent meter in the viewfinder.
The ZED also gives you Program, Sensitivity Priority, Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority, Aperture/Shutter Priority (TAV), Manual, Bulb and X Sync. There are 3 user modes as well that you can preset for yourself and different shooting environments. Now the TAV is kind of cool. What it does is allow you to set your aperture and shutter speed and then the camera will set the ISO correspondingly. Since the sensor is just so amazing when it comes to low light etc, this seems like the perfect shooting mode when you are in ever changing lighting. I have tested it a few times but I haven’t used it in work yet.

Operations – Basic Training

It took me a while to get used to the Pentax way of things. It seemed to me to be a whole lot more difficult to work your way through menus, finding frequently used operations and remembering “what did what and which thing needed to be lit so the other thing works when you do that”. The on/off button is easy enough as well as some of the simple functions like ISO, apertures/SS and shooting modes but pretty much after that for me, I was reading the manual. After about ten minutes of bumbling around through the manual and the ZED on the table in front of me, I was able to do about 90% of what I need to use in my everyday work. Personally I find the AF system too complicated for a MFD. I don’t mind having all the options on my 35mm; zones, multi points etc etc. I can set all that up before time on my 35 but on my MFD I’d rather see a dead accurate single point AF, that can be placed all around the frame including the outer corners (especially for WA lenses). The fact that I have to use LiveView most of the time to focus accurately on subjects of the edges of the frame isn’t the quickest way to work. Hasselblad has their True Focus system that compensates for after focusing adjustments to your framing. Its a great idea and seems to work well but even 4 or 8 strategic AF points on the corners and on the edge of each side would be wonderful.
As well as the over complicated AF, it could do with fewer features. I don’t see the need for the RAW button on the top left of the body; it allows you to switch your file formats from RAW to RAW with jpgs, something that you can do in the menu. It does have an extra handy mirror up knob on the top right of the body, very handy when switching back and forth between long exposures and short.
There is a right index finger SS wheel in front of the shutter release and an aperture wheel, right where your right thumb would rest on the back of the body. Below that is a handy programable AF button and the magic green multi function to the left of that (it controls the reset values and auto ISO, but can also be programmed for other functions).
For most of my uses the ZED stays on manual with the focus going back and forth between manual and AF. The newer D FA lenses focus very quickly and even the older FA’s are no slouches. I haven’t run into any speed issues when it comes to focusing. I have the drive set up for single frame and very occasionally will shift it to continuous high. I have the picture style set to muted, my white balance is usually shifted to warmer than normal for most subjects and have the highlight warning on (which only appears in playback). The sync for flash only works below a 1/125. I personally don’t have a problem with this, using 35mm gear that has pretty much always been in or around that speed but I do know it bothers quite a few photographers seeing as how some of the competition are up to 1/1600th of a second. I use ND filters when needed and I also recently (since writing this post) acquired a 135mm LS (leaf shutter) lens that will sync up to 1/500th of a second.

Accessories

Other than the ND filters, a polarizer now and then, the previously mentioned Mobi Card (WiFi) I keep things pretty simple. I do shoot tethered quite often and use the Pentax Image Transmitter 2 software, importing to a hot folder to Lightroom. I rarely have a problem with this set up and when I do, its just a matter of closing the programme and re starting it.

Room for Improvement?

Of course, there is always something that can be improved on and nothing is perfect, not even the mighty ZED.
For my style of shooting, I’d really like to have an improved AF system. While the current one is great when the subject is hovering around the center of the frame, most of my subjects in advertising are usually on the edges. Let’s have AF points out on the corners and on each edge at least.
Another point I think could be improved with some firmware twerking/tweaking, would be the buffer. In ten seconds, using two Lexar Professional 64gb 150mb/s SD cards, writing DNG’s to both, I can fire off 8 frames, 8 frames in 10 seconds. Now comes the kicker, it takes another 38 seconds for the buffer to clear. During that time you can change the shutter speed or aperture but you can’t view any of the images.
This is a definite improvement, that I’m guessing has just come from the most recent firmware update. Previously you couldn’t adjust your exposure at all while the buffer was working.
So we are half way there on that point.
The last thing would be the facility to create smaller, full frame DNG’s. The new Canon 5DS allows you medium and small RAW file sizes, Pentax should do the same.

Conclusion

With 24,876 frames on this camera, I’d say I’m quite happy with it. No camera will ever be able to do everything you want. As an evolving photographer, your needs are ever changing. That said, this camera is one of the best tools for my work I have ever used; huge dynamic range, low light sensitivity/high ISO usability, and sharp, high MP files.

un corrected image straight from camera

un corrected image straight from camera

altered in LR to give definition in the sky and open up the shadows

altered in LR to give definition in the sky and open up the shadows

55mm f8@ 1/800 640iso

55mm f8@ 1/800 640iso

100 % crop - 640 iso, no noise reduction, default sharpening

100 % crop – 640 iso, no noise reduction, default sharpening

150mm f2.8 @ 1/4000 iso 800

150mm f2.8 @ 1/4000 iso 800

55mm f2.8 @ 1/8 iso 100

55mm f2.8 @ 1/8 iso 100

28-45mm at 45mm f4.5 @ 1/1000 iso 1250

28-45mm at 45mm f4.5 @ 1/1000 iso 1250, tack sharp, at 1:1 you can see the rain drops on his glasses

150mm f2.8 @ 1/200 iso 3200

150mm f2.8 @ 1/200 iso 3200

85mm f16 @ 1/125 iso 320 - Profoto Silver Softlight

85mm f16 @ 1/125 iso 320 – Profoto Silver Softlight

150mm f4 & 5.6 @ 1/15 iso 100 - Windowlight

150mm f4 & 5.6 @ 1/15 iso 100 – Windowlight


A quick little shoot for Hewlett-Packard

I received a call a few months ago from an agency back in the US. They were looking to produce some photography for an upcoming “book” for Hewlett-Packard.
I’ve always liked HP; I thought their ads and marketing was bang on for most of the past 20 years and can still remember some of the campaigns. I always wanted to have the chance to do something with them. Granted it wasn’t showgirls, explosions and car chases but I think we produced some really nice images for the cover of the “book”. I keep saying the “book” because the agency called it that. I’m guessing it is a corporate piece meant for HP IT Systems dealers or something along those lines.
The idea was to photograph a local “hero” who will be singled out in the publication as well as being on the cover.
Seeing as how with 99% of these jobs I don’t get to scout the location, this one was no different. I was to go to the location/office and set up a clean white background (meaning easy for close cutting) and get some interactive portraits of our hero. Hmmmmmmm, just a small challenge.
Not really knowing how large of a room you will be given, we usually pack a 9′ white seamless paper that we can cut down to whatever size will fit in the room. Along with that we have a couple of lights for the background and a couple for the foreground/subject.
This is what all that looks like, less cameras.

Lighting and grip

Lighting and grip

In amongst those bags are two Profoto Acute 1200’s, four Acute heads, Magnum and softlight reflectors as well as a variety of stands and booms and clips and clamps.

Here is the set up roughed in.

Lighting set up

Lighting set up

And with Richard, my assistant, holding a colour checker, its just the wee one.

Richard and the colour checker

Richard and the colour checker

After this I do a little flagging and a little of some of this and that and this is what we end up with.

Great shoot and great guy, had a blast,
Thanks HP


I love the feel of real paper

I love the feel of real paper like I love the sight of real film. Watch this.


The new website is up

The Farriers

The Farriers

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.

thanks


In Addition . . . . Model Releases Update

I just wanted to give everyone a little update to the model release post I wrote last month.
It has been several weeks and a dozen or so projects since I purchased and reviewed a couple of iPhone/iPad apps for creating model releases on the fly and paperless. I can honestly say that while the better of the two, East Release, is still on my phone, I haven’t used it for anything except the odd time I was left without my metal release folio. As commercial/advertising photographers we tend to work with a wide range of models and talent; young and old, tech savvy and not. We try to organize releases before they actually step in front of the camera but it all comes down to time. If we get those few extra seconds they seem to fleet away with chit chat or hair and make up. So when the shot is down and they are trying to get the hell off set, it’s like pulling hen’s teeth to get them to do a paper release let alone try to fumble through an electronic one. We were finding ourselves having to explain every step and point out the obvious, even to the tech savvy twenty somethings. Unfortunately we don’t have the time while on location. So paper is going to be staying with us for the foreseeable future.
On the other hand, in studio it is a nice little gimmick to keep people intrigued. So often people feel like they are just the “meat” in some corporate ad lunch; add a little mustard and a few slices of bread and we’re done. To give them a wee something to play with, to see their name and the client’s name on the same screen is a good connection to help them feel that they are apart of the whole sandwich, an important ingredient.
I see an iPad in my future, at the studio, tethered to the desk 😉


Losing the Paper – saying goodbye to the paper model release and embracing your iPhone, again.

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.

Release Me
Pros
outputs to PDF
simple format
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

Cons
hard to read some of the copy
flip orientation is not consistent
can only sort by project
very little info on website

Easy Release
Pros
outputs to PDF and JPG and print
13 languages
property and model releases
all releases show current status
sort by name, date, project or status
photographer AND model have to sign release

Cons
can’t change verbiage on the fly
can’t view large model image without going into edit mode

Easy Release model release

Easy Release model release

Release Me model release

Release Me model release

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.

A quick update is


Gone and pretty much forgotten – Tegna Golf

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.

Polaroid of a Tegna blue vest

Polaroid of a Tegna blue vest

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.

1332 Main

Outside 1332 Main Street Santa Monica, between shots

Here is one shot on the Mamiya RZ with James the assistant standing in for one of the models.

James Dewhirst - stunt double

James Dewhirst – stunt double

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.

Green & White top

Green & White top – 7×7 Fuji FP100c

Holding the whites

White Top – 7×7 Fuji FP100c

Purple Outfit

Purple Outfit – 7×7 Fuji FP100c

Green & White outfit

Green & White outfit – 7×7 Fuji FP100c

Pink Top 2

Pink Top 2 – 7×7 Fuji FP100c

Pink Top

Pink Top – 7×7 Fuji FP100c

Check Jacket

Check Jacket – 7×7 Fuji FP100c


WonderfulMachine strikes again

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

NICFC - Northern Ireland Cancer Fund for Children

NICFC – Northern Ireland Cancer Fund for Children

NICFC - Northern Ireland Cancer Fund for Children

NICFC – Northern Ireland Cancer Fund for Children


PSNI and Northern Ireland

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.

Here are some of those images, all shot on Canon using a Profoto Acute 600B systems and softlight reflectors.

Genesis Advertising and Rob Durston PSNI project

 


Derry and her new Peace Bridge

I like Derry.

Squinty McSquintsalot

id=”attachment_227″ align=”alignleft” width=”600″ caption=”Squinty McSquintsalot”

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.

Wilkinson Eyre Architects' Derry Peace Bridge

id=”attachment_228″ align=”alignleft” width=”600″ caption=”The Derry Peace Bridge”

 


Wonderful Machine

 

Wonderful Machine

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.

R