ROB DURSTON PHOTOGRAPHY

Editorial

International Business Machines or just IBM for short.

The phone rang one Friday summer afternoon. Brrrring, brrrrring “Hello Studio”.
“Hello Rob, we were wondering if you would be interested in doing some photography for IBM”
Um geee, let me think about that. . . uh ya, of course.

I was to photograph a couple of tech guys in Dublin who use one of IBM’s IT systems. It would also provide a good shakedown shoot for a new camera I had just bought back in the summer but hadn’t really used on a larger shoot. The camera is the Pentax 645z and for anyone who follows things in the imaging world, its sort of a break through medium format camera in the sense of price, tech and quality; it comes in at a fraction of the competition, Hasselblad and Phase. It uses a 50mp CMOS sensor, which in layman’s terms, means it is about double the resolution of most 35mm cameras and can give excellent results in very low light. As a couple of added bonuses, the camera uses a legacy mount so you can use almost all the medium format lenses Pentax has ever released and because of the size of the medium format sensor it gives you a relative shallower depth of field (less things in focus), giving you greater control over your image.
I was very curious to see how it stacked up against my faithful Canon 5D mk3, which is no slouch and has served me very well since I got it back in 2012. I love the Canon for ease of use, the excellent, tunable AF system and low light CMOS sensor.

The Pentax 645z
I had been following the progress of medium format cameras over the years, teasing myself that I would sometime test the waters and dive into a Phase system and mortgage my right and left kidneys. A camera like the Phase in 2013 would have set you back $30-40k depending on the options, bells and whistles. Add on a couple of lenses and you’d be up around 50k. In the fall of 2013, Phase announced they would be releasing a new camera back using the new Sony CMOS sensor; it would be a real break though for medium format low light capabilities. The down side was the price, $35,000 just for the back.
Then Sony did something cool, they sold the sensor to Hasselblad and Pentax. The Hasselblad came in at just under $30k with a body and the Pentax is a third of that.
When I first heard about the imminent release of the Pentax, I started scouring for lenses. I knew it was going to be a legacy mount so I could mount the older 645 and 6×7 lenses on the new body but I didn’t want to go too far back in lineage, just to keep any unwanted aberrations to a minimum. I found an older manual focus 35mm, a 45-85 AF and a 150mm f2.8 AF. Those lenses along with a brand new 55mm f2.8 are what I’m using for most of my work these days. It seems the only time I’m going back to my Canon is for the extreme wide angle view from the 17mm, the superior auto focus system or the lighter weight. Other than that, the Pentax has the Canon “pinned to the ropes”.
That being said, this is not a pixel to pixel comparison but more of a user’s conclusion after his first shoot, using them side by side.
Overall I would say that the Pentax files have a very similar feel to the Canon’s. They have good sharpness out of the camera. The Canon seems to be a little more sensitive, exposure wise, by maybe a stop and a third to a stop and a half. On the Pentax side of things though, at equivalent exposures, you’ll see a stop more in the highlights and at least a stop more in the shadows, a huge improvement. The Pentax is totally usable up to 6400 and 12,800 ISO and beyond. I wouldn’t hesitate to shoot at the upper reaches of the ISO range (without going into the 6 digits), especially if it meant gaining a stop or two of depth of field.

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For IBM though I wouldn’t be needing any of those higher numbers since we were shooting in a modern office building with good available light as well as our own Profoto 600B’s. I did shoot up at 1250 ISO just for the convenience of being able to hand hold the Pentax while I wandered the space capturing still life images.
The 45-85mm Pentax zoom was great in this location; very flexible focal lengths. When I first heard about the Phase Schneider 40-80mm zoom I laughed. I thought was a ridiculous focal range, how could that be usable. It’s the equivalent of a 26-50mm on a 35mm camera. Although the Pentax is 5mm longer on both ends of the range, effectively its the same range and it totally works. I don’t know why but with this project and pretty much every one after it, this has been the lens of choice. It is quite hefty and it uses an older AF drive system that is much louder than the newer 55mm in the camera bag. It also has on of the worst designs for turning the AF on the lens on and off. You do this by sliding the focusing ring either away or towards you; therefore engaging or disengaging the locking mechanism on the AF drive. The reason it is silly to me, is that there are often times I want to grab focus using the AF system, then turn it off and then either leave it or do some focus bracketing while the subject moves. With this focus ring system, when you disengage it by sliding it, you inevitably turn the ring ever so slightly, therefore making that next image out of focus; painfully ill designed.
Its been a long time since we shot a serious work project on medium format. Outside of a couple of small simple shoots in the past couple of years, previously it would have been 2000 or 2001 when we really put on our thinking caps and used the size and benefits of the format to their fullest. Aspects like a diminished depth of field, razor thin focus and effective manual focusing on mid ground subjects, all started to come back to me again. Where you would have been shooting a portrait at f4 or f5.6 for a nice shallow focus but still holding it from the nose to the back of the head, now you’re dialling it up a stop on the power and giving yourself f8 or even f11 on the lens in medium format. It might not seem like much but it is the difference between all things being sharp and only some.
On this shoot we were dealing with a couple of computer guys, Niall and Krzysztof. They were really nice and gave us all the time we needed, all in all just over an hour. My assistant Richard and I scouted the location, an modern office building, amongst many other modern office buildings. They was nothing special nor anything ugly about it, the building was just vanilla plain. Some of the offices were vacant and there were random pieces of furniture in some of them. The brief called for 4 scenarios of portraits and a selection of still life and office images around the building. Sure it doesn’t sound hard but trying to make a banana split out of vanilla ice cream and only a bowl takes some creativity.
We tried a shot in the above room with the two lonely chairs, it was okay but we could do better. A couple of other scenarios we shot right in their work environments, behind the monitors, clicking away on the keyboards.

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Here is the set up for that image, along with my chatty assistant keeping the subject in stitches with his bad jokes, you can see the Pentax peeking in the bottom of the frame. We used one Profoto 600B with a silver Softlight.

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The Pentax lenses are nice, they are sharp (when focused correctly), decently contrasty but back lit, they remind me of a Hasselblad CF lens; just ever so softly flaring out at the edges against white. Still the king for backlit even after ceasing continuing to develop them, has to be the Mamiya RZ glass. It was near impossible to get edges to flare in the studio, when shooting on a white background, blown out a stop or two over the main. All in all though the Pentax optics are a solid 8/10, Only Hasselblad, Mamiya and Leica would have anything over them.
From the office scenario we needed a larger space, something to really let your eye wander around in and then pull it back to our main subjects. Remembering that this was a relatively new build office building, with no real “cool” aspects to the architecture, we searched the few floors we had access to. The kitchen area was large. It had an interesting countertop running mid height along one wall of windows. I thought maybe we could do something with it and the outside world.
As seen by the accompanying image, the location needed a little extra fill and a slight overexposure to clean things up a bit (nothing really could clean up these two ugly mugs)

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Moving on to our two subjects, I opted to go fairly wide, a little wider than the Pentax could do at 35mm. I shot with the Canon 5D mk3 and a 17-40mm set at 28mm. I’d love to get the Pentax 28-45mm F4.5 but it will need to wait a while until a few other necessities are purchased.
I love the cool, work environment tone of the portrait; cool green without muddying the skin tones.

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For the last image of the brief, I really wanted to get outside. It was a bright overcast day and I wanted something away from the office scenes. We had originally tried to go off site to the main server station but unfortunately we ran out of time to get the proper clearance (Clarence). So the next best thing, a street shot with one of the branded vehicles.
This is tough, creatively, trying to get an interesting image of two guys in button down shirts, posing with a heavily branded company car, in what can only be called an office building jungle. Whatever hope we had, holding out for some rays of direct or bounced sunlight would probably never happen. The thin, narrow corridor between the glass towers was facing the wrong direction to the shrouded sun. We would have to make do with the cool overcast light we had and I would supplement it with the Profoto 600B and the RFi 3′ Octalight. In tight with the grid installed its a really nice little light. In this case we were using it just as a little rim light, skimming across Niall’s right shoulder. I shot this on the Pentax with the 45-85mm at 45mm. It is set to f11 to make sure we have both Niall and Krzysztof sharp. The shutter speed was at 1/15th of a second to get a good blur out of the slow moving local traffic and ISO was set to 640.
I feel the subjects’ white shirts bring a focus point to the image; the strong repeating vertical lines of the background windows and the motion blur of the passing car are just eye candy.

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Here is the finished story using the last two images.

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Having a Laugh with Pat Ruddy #onlocation

As all professional photographers and most of the readers of this “blog” (damn I can’t stand saying that word) know, assignment portrait photographers get very little time with their subjects. Last year I shot one of the biggest personalities in Ireland and even though I was promised 15 minutes . . . I got five. No amount of preparation, research or moxie will persuade some subjects from deviating from their path of stubbornness.

. . . and then it opens up to expose a beautiful seascape

So when a subject comes along and after a few minutes changes their mind from giving you an hour to “whatever you need”, you don’t waste it.
That’s what happened when Condé Nast’s GolfWorld asked me to photograph Pat Ruddy, world renowned golf course designer. I am not a huge fan of golf, I admit it. I always took the Bill Cosby approach to golf; “you have the ball, you put the ball down, you hit the ball then you chase the ball, why?” I just never understand the passion some people have for it. Yes, I’m in the wrong country to be questioning “golf” but as far as I was ever concerned it was never a sport, more like a leisure event.

My personal edit of choice for story opener

Pat was a true sport; I’m sure he could see I had no idea what he was talking about at times, my eyes’ glazing over while he talked. However as he talked more and more about the history of the game I became more interested. He explained his methodology towards designing and constructing the courses based on terrain, water, trees, landscapes and enumerable other factors; I found it extremely interesting, much more so than current world standings or chit chat about shafts and balls.

Pat explaining the finer points of bulldozing earth

Our location was his own course, located about 35 miles south of Dublin, called The European Club. The course is a beautiful piece of land, personally designed and constructed by Ruddy with the help of his family. No detail was ever too small and the course exudes forethought; each hole has a view but you only ever get to see the view Pat wants you to see. He built berms and hills to make you keep your eye on the game and then in positions between shots, he’d open up the view to expose an awesome seascape or landscape. We spent hours in between photographs talking about the mysticism of golf and whats good and bad with the game today. It was a real eye opener to me. I will never look at the game the same as I had in the past.

Another favourite

So all this was for one of Condé Nast’s great magazine titles, GolfWorld, which publishes weekly, well did publish weekly. I was published in the second to last printed version of the magazine, ending a tradition that started in 1947. The magazine now is only published online.
I had made five or six portrait scenarios over the span of the day with Pat, far more than needed but it is always nice to have a few extras in case of a shift in the story or if a photo editor really doesn’t like something. I had one scenario, the setting below, all mapped out in my head days before we shot. I knew Pat had a large library of golfing books and memorabilia and I had pictured in my mind a small scope of daylight, streaming into the otherwise dark cavern. When we arrived and scouted the property, there it was, just like I had imagined it; a dark library with a small doorway leading out to a windowed in balcony area. The source of daylight was perfect for what I had in mind, seating him close to the doorway, lit with a bit of contrast from the overcast sky, with the rest of the library just hinting of the vast array of books and magazines.
Now I only remembered to do this, honestly, after we said our good byes, following a 7 hour shoot day. My assistant Richard and I were literally walking out the door, mind still spinning from all the mystical talk of land and sea, when I turned sharply and asked Pat for five more minutes of his time. We dropped all the gear at the door and I just took the Canon with the 17-40 zoom and tripod back upstairs. A few little art directing cues; some books on the floor covering unwanted floor plugs and a desk lamp adding a warm glow and the stage was set. All Pat had to do, after a long day of entertaining us with his stories and jokes was give me a few strong facial expressions and he had no problems delivering.

My second choice for for opener

Most people might think its easy to after the shoot, a quick edit, send the files off and then invoice the client, well not always.
I set my selects up in a gallery for the photo editor to download and the library shot was left behind. Hmmmmm, I thought it was strong and deserved a chance in front of the story. The photo editor challenged me on it, cool I thought, someone who actually is looking at the images as a cohesive story to tie in the writer’s copy. She wanted me to layout the image as I saw it in my mind, with copy for the opener. Cue Facebook and an available designer friend in California and a few minutes later we had a couple of roughs to send back to the photo editor to show her what I meant. Below is one of those roughs.

My second choice for for opener with copy.

Even with the added lengths, the image didn’t make the cut but it was still nice to see someone on staff really thinking and grinding the images to make sure they work with a story.
In the end it was a great day, one of those shoots you will always remember. Whether it was the jokes rolling out of Pat or the paparazzi scenario as he came over a berm, yelling and screaming at us to get off the course (so damn funny), it was all fun. I’d really like to thank Pat and his son for looking after us and giving us their time to make it all happen, thanks.

Doing my best Happy Gilmore


Anatomy of a Shoot – Royal Bank of Scotland

We were recently commissioned to photograph a subject in the south of Ireland for RBS, by one of its London agencies. It was to be a cool environmental portrait of the subject and her fishing boat that she and her husband own. Of course time was of the essence since she also has a day job at the Guinness brewery.
We set up a time, between her dropping her children off to school and her work, as well as a location in and around the dock area where her fishing boat is moored. Since it was such a short notice, from the time I got the call from the agency to the shoot date, I didn’t have time to do a location scout. We would normally visit the location and take some wide overall images as well as some photos of how the subject and environment might interact and what simple props might be there. Today we would be winging it.
So with a shoot like this where we have very little prep or little time to shoot, I start by literally running around the location to get a sense of scale, angles, perspectives and any unique attributes. Here we have a normal looking fishing harbour, with boats docked; no one was heading out to sea yet but there were some nets piled up further down from the boat. I normally get my assistant to sit in for the subject to get an idea for body position and expression but today I got Richard to stand behind the camera and take a few of me instead.
I knew what I was looking for (that pre-visualization class in college always pays off) and how I wanted the subject to “come off being natural”. Here is the shot of me in the pose.

Rob as subject, slightly too bright and too much DOF

We have lit it with a Profoto 600B and a Magnum reflector. To over power the ambient we needed to crank the power up but obviously by doing that we are stuck with all this depth of field from using a small aperture to compensate. If we were shooting with a leaf shutter lens we would be able to play with the shutter speeds more and decrease the amount of ambient in the scene but since we are on a focal plane shuttered Canon we are locked in at 1/125-1/160th of a second, not really ideal for syncro sun or over powering the sun. So to take down the background a bit more, I put a 3 stop ND filter on the lens to take the light down and really focus your eye in on the subject; this is 9:30am and the sun is pretty high in the sky already.

Sharon as subject with better “mood”

I like this one of Sharon better than mine, the ambient is down those few stops and really makes the subject pop. If I was to use this as a final edit I would either take out the front light on the boat or crop it out and remove the distracting name on the side of the hull too.

We always need to do options for clients, unless otherwise instructed and this was no different. Since I was art directing myself, I wanted to really make the viewer feel like they knew Sharon and could relate; I needed a more intimate scenario. I did four more set ups but here are two of my favourites.

If you have seen some of my other work, you’ll know that I’m a fan of the square crop. A good square crop, some key colours and if you’re lucky a little bit of “graphicness” and you’ll make your job easier when it comes time to editing your picks. Further down the docks I found a steel cage container full of fishing nets, I had my graphic element. Sharon is wearing her bright yellow and blue Van Halen bib overalls and boots, so this all made it easy build the next photo. I attempted a few different focal lengths, angles and poses.

Different angles and poses

In the end I really liked the square on, square crop with a relaxed inviting pose.

RAW photo

And after a little post processing and some finessing, this is what we achieved.

After post

The last scenario I’ll show you involved having Sharon sitting, surrounded by nets. This one again is lit with just a Magnum reflector on a Profoto 600B. For this set up we just went syncro sun or just slightly over bringing the background down maybe half a stop. The Magnum reflector is great on location, helping to push the “little” Profoto 600B’s output into territory that its bigger brother the ProB 1200’s output would get you
I like the leading lines, the texture, the colours and her warm smile and natural pose. I think the orange life preserver compliments the cool colours and helps draw your eye into the frame.

Sharon amongst the nets


RyanAir CEO – Micheal O’Leary – Anatomy of a Shoot

Things have been ticking along quite nicely lately. We’ve been working pretty steadily and just completed a nice large project with NITB here in Northern Ireland. That mixed in with a few commercial clients and the odd editorial gig, has been keeping us on our toes.
So when I got a message from Barron’s in NYC, I got back to them as soon as I could, pronto like. Barron’s is a weekly out of the Dow Jones empire and its kind of the grinder when it comes to financials on a weekly basis instead of the super in depthness of the WSJ. Its much more hard hitting and cutting than Forbes and has the respect of many in the industry. It might not always be the most creative for photography but then those images aren’t there to represent that; they are there to tell a story albeit a quick one, usually just one image.
So I get the call, and who do you think they’d be looking for an image from in Ireland? Hmmmm, a CEO, someone who probably stands out etc etc….. Oh you know who . . .
Micheal O’Leary of RyanAir fame.
Well I think to myself, if there was ever a challenge, this would be it. You hear the rumours, the rumblings. . . short, sharp and sweet. I would have to go in with my game face on and never let it drop an inch.

The photo editor told me about the difficulties in booking the time with Micheal (he’s a very busy man) and that after three weeks of going back and forth they pinned down a date, a date I was available with so all good. I’ll have 45 minutes to set up and 15 minutes to spend shooting him. I knew a bit about him before but I did some more research and looked further into his career and life and came away impressed; smart man, makes money, no bullshit, no frills. . . . . . sounds familiar 😉 We arrive early hoping to get in and start setting up and working out a few ideas but to no luck, the executive board room we are booked in still has a meeting going on. Sure, no problem, we’ll wait and wait . . . . and wait. The meeting goes 15 minutes late and now we only have 30 minutes to haul all our gear in and truck it up to the second floor; its going to be a simple shadowless white seamless set up so we have a 9 foot and a square of plexi for under his feet. Steve, my assistant and I don’t even have the chance to pull out the light meter. We get it all roughed into this tiny 12×12 foot boardroom when the liaison tells us we can now open the dividing wall to get double the length out of the rooms, sweet. Now I don’t have to use the 17-40 on this poor guy.

The carpet in the middle is covering up all the A/V cables normally routed through the table. Plexi is there for a clean shadowless background.

RyanAir boardroom – a 12×12 foot room, see the 9 foot seamless. The carpet in the middle is covering up all the A/V cables normally routed through the table. Plexi is there for a clean shadowless background.

I throw the 70-200 on the body and with two lights on the white back ground and two lights on the subject, I pop off a couple of frames to see if we are in the ballpark. As I fire the third frame, in he walks. DAMN.

RyanAir boardroom – table top on the left and table legs on the right. Profoto Magnum on the right and silver softlight on the left, both running off Profoto 600B’s. Background is 2 Chimera strips, each powered by Acute 1200’s.

The first thing he says is, “this will not do”.
Uh oh, I better run for an interception here.
“Hi Mr O’Leary, I’m Rob Durston, and I understand I have 15 minutes of your time today”.
“Nope, you have five”.
Well that’s a nice introduction. From there it got even more complicated, in that our subject would “only” be photographed with a large model of one of his Boeing aircrafts.
5 minutes, silly model plane, unchecked lighting and the wild card himself, Micheal O’Leary.
Right from the first frame though he doesn’t lose a beat; every time the Profotos go off he changes his pose. Bang, bang, bang like a little pro model he just rhymes off various expressions and body positions. At around the 2 and a half minute mark I begin to plead with him for a few frames without the plane and a little more serious look; till this point, every frame he has put on a goofy face or silly smirk.
“Nope, nope, I won’t do it, this is what you’re getting. if I do a serious face that is the one that you and your editors will pick. No I will do what I want for this”.
Then through a couple of quick topic changes he asks me where I came from to do this shoot.
Without thinking (or maybe I was just a little subconsciously), I blurted out, “Toronto”. Its kinda true.
“Well in that case, I’ll let you use your stool as well”. I brought along a nice nondescript white stool to get him to sit on and sure enough he held onto that plane also. After a few more minutes he tells me, “okay you must have enough now”.
My first thought is to say no and push a little further but then I thought how much more is he going to give me and how much different will it be than what I already have? I keep talking, and scan through the images, exposures look okay and for the most part everything looks great. “Yup, you’re right Mr. O’Leary, we’re done here. I get him to sign a model release and bang. he’s gone.
Steve, my assistant, and I then sat down for a glass of water and a breather (the heat has been on the whole morning in the room and its close to 30 outside). I peered through the metadata; I was curious as to how many images we took and in how long.
We shot one hundred and twenty unique images in just under 4 minutes.
And here they are.

Here are three of my favourites.

Unretouched, this is my favourite image, serious and contemplating.

 

Micheal proudly holding a model of one of his 737s.

 

Micheal seated with his model 737, the RyanAir staple aircraft.

 

Many thanks to WonderfulMachine for consistently representing and marketing me.
Thanks guys


Liz Potter

The day we set aside for traveling to Donegall turned out to be a stinker of a day; a real Northern Irish winter day complete with strong winds and intermittent heavy rain. As we usually just travel light for most of these shoots, this one was much the same. A Profoto 600B along with a softlight reflector some stands and our trusty California Sunbounce were all that we needed to photograph Liz Potter for the Guardian.
Liz’s story began last year when she was riding along the shore by her house with her boyfriend. Her horse Clyde and Liz were terrifyingly sucked up by quicksand. You can read the story here.
We wanted to show the relationship of Clyde and Liz and portray it in a nice and simple, straightforward portrait. The daylight was very inconsistent because of the weather and it just wasn’t co operating with us. Steve, my assistant, “bagged” the Profoto unit into clear plastic garbage bags at the car and we set off across Liz’s fields to find a location. We took some photos of her and Clyde riding in the big field but the light was just too flat. I did a quick tight portrait of the two of them stationary that turned out nice but it didn’t have much zing.
Steve and I set up for larger shot, we were going to light Liz on Clyde, set against mountains and ocean. The clouds were rolling by very fast and we were getting hit by heavy rain, on and off, every few minutes. Liz’s face as well as our own were starting to get very rosy and raw looking. We would have to take what we could get and move out of the field soon. Steve cranked the light as high as it would go on the stand and dialed the power to halfway. I was getting f8 @ 100iso, not too bad. We took this photo and then a few more quick ones of Liz and her dogs, Red and Scooby. Here is a before and after with the final crop used for the magazine.

Liz Potter & Clyde

Liz Potter & Clyde

"Liz

This one of Liz, Red and Scooby is in the same field, using the silver softlight as well but this dialed down and brought to just outside the frame and close to Liz’s face so as not to light the dogs as much. You can see how Steve has feathered it off Liz almost entirely and it is lighting up the grass in the background, good job Steve.

Liz with Red & Scooby

The final image implements a technique I’ve been using for decades but didn’t really come into its own until digital made all the elements consistent. You take a longer fast lens than what you would normally use and basically create a panoramic or photo merge of the scene. You keep your exposure settings and focus consistent for all the portions of the image and later “stitch” it all together in Photoshop. What you end up with is a very high pixel dimensioned image (high res) that has an extremely shallow depth of field, that kind of emulates a larger format, shot wide open (shallow depth of field).

Liz with Red at the stable door

All in all it was a great shoot and it was very nice to meet a fellow animal lover in Liz and her partner Ryan.


Colin Davidson for Artists & Illustrators Magazine

We shot a small gig for Artists & Illustrators magazine from London. Our subject was none other than the extremely talented Colin Davidson. It was a simple shoot; just capture the man in his space with his tools of the trade.
If you get the chance check out his work, do it. He is speaking in Dublin, January 16th, 2013 at the RHA lecture series, here.

Colin Davidson in his loft studio

Colin Davidson in his loft studio


Mark Pollock

I photographed Mark Pollock for the Guardian recently. If you’re not familiar with him, he’s worth looking up. I read up on him and couldn’t believe his story of bravery and courage. I’m not going to try and sugar coat his life, go to his website and you can read it for yourself.
I keep my lighting ideas simple; simple for each subject and the intended audience. I don’t like to over light things especially for editorial subjects so to photograph this image of Mark its just a Profoto silver Softlight over camera and pointed more down for a dramatic vignetting on the background.

Mark Pollock about to stand and do his walking exercises with his trainer at Trinity College in Dublin.

Mark Pollock about to stand and do his walking exercises with his trainer at Trinity College in Dublin.

My assistant Steve and I were awestruck to see Mark walking across the floor; I can honestly say this is one of the few times I have ever got teary eyed photographing a subject.

Mark Pollock walking from rob durston photography on Vimeo.

I’m going to try to keep the posts shorter and more frequent instead of my long winded banter every few weeks, so hopefully another one is coming your way in a few days.
thanks
Rob


Lauren Millar for the Guardian Saturday Magazine

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.

Scenarios

1. Lauren in the backyard sitting on her bench against the backyard wall, simple blue sky behind her. Lit using a Profoto 600B with a Silver Softlight reflector.

Lauren Millar sitting on her bench in the backyard of her home.

Lauren Millar sitting on her bench in the backyard of her home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. Lauren standing in the living room; both full length and cropped with the wallpaper as a background. Shot using available light.

Lauren Millar standing in her living room, cropped version.

Lauren Millar standing in her living room, cropped version.

Lauren Millar standing in her living room, full length version.

Lauren Millar standing in her living room, full length version.

3. Lauren outside, standing in the middle of her quiet neighbourhood with a very suburban feeling to it. Lit again with a Profoto 600B and Silver Softlight reflector

Lauren Millar standing in the middle of the road in her neighbourhood

Lauren Millar standing in the middle of the road in her neighbourhood

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Simple one light set up with a Silver Softlight on a boom powered by a Profoto 600B

Simple one light set up with a Silver Softlight on a boom powered by a Profoto 600B

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.