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

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.

Shooting Polaroid/Fuji instant for the negative

Olivia in the Top Field

Olivia in the Top Field

So as most of my regular readers know I love and still shoot a fair bit of film. Most of my personal work would be on 4×5 or 120 roll film in the Holga. Being born in the sixties, I grew up on film, learned on it, processed it, printed it and manipulated it. I’ve seen many of my favourite films disappear into the ether as digital became more and more prominent in photographer’s lives.
One film or the idea of it, has always captured my imagination and spurred my creativity; instant negatives.
Back in the 80’s when I first became aware of Polaroid t55 in school, the idea of a magical instant negative, that I didn’t have to process was a godsend for rushed class projects in school. Think about all the time saved by not cleaning film holders, loading film, unloading film and then the long journey of processing. Even running the film through the quickest process you could, you’d still be looking at around 10 minutes in the dark, then another 5-10 attempting to dry it as fast as you can (obviously not even thinking you’d have an archival negative after this).
I’ll never forget seeing a fellow student, pull the Polaroid apart, showing the print on one side then telling me there was a perfectly usable negative on the other side.
Wha wha whaaaat?
From that point on I fell in love with the look of black and whites, printed from Polaroid negatives. They were contrasty and more often than not had some sort of imperfection in the emulsion, roller marks or some other characteristic that just gave the image more life and a more crafted feeling. Not long after that I bought my first full frame Polaroid camera, the Polaroid 195. The 195 was the last of the line of folding Polaroid instant cameras that had adjustable shutter speeds and apertures. I ended up traveling a fair bit and only ever bringing the 195 with me, of course just shooting the t55 equivalent for 3 1/4 x 4 1/4 pack film, t665.

Lonely stop sign somewhere in rural California

Lonely stop sign somewhere in rural California

Amarilylsis lit with window light in my home in California.

Amarilylsis lit with window light in my home in California.

Type 665 or t665 was very similar to t55, its bigger brother though it came in pack form only, not sheets. That meant that you have to process the film before you take another exposure. With t55 shot in a 4×5 large format camera, you can flip the processing lever back to “L” for load and pull the exposed film sleeve/envelope out of the holder without processing it. This feature is handy if you want to process the film in a more controllable situation; closer to a proper fixing(for the positive) and clearing(for the negative) areas. While out on locations I used to shoot off a few frames of t665 and just leave the negs to bake in the sun in the production vans. When I would get back to the hotel, I’d clear the negs under normal tap water and usually hang it to dry on the trouser hangers in the hotel room closet.

Two surfers waiting on the beach in Carpinteria, CA.

Two surfers waiting on the beach in Carpinteria, CA.

Each negative would be unique; some might be in the sun while drying, some were in shade, some would be solarized and others would look normal. I just always left it to chance.

Pétanque balls lying in the garden in the south of France

Pétanque balls lying in the garden in the south of France

Okay, back to the present now.
I ordered a couple of packs of FP100c from Calumet a couple of months ago and finally got around to shooting some of it. Olivia and I went off to the back fields of the farm and with a wide open vista I took some photos of her with just available light.

Gorgeous Olivia in the Top Field

Gorgeous Olivia in the Top Field (excuse the collapsing bellows)

The important part of it all are the negatives though. Below I show step by step how to preserve them from the original “throw away” portion of the film.

I will post up the scans from the negs, once I make some neg carriers for the scanner.

Red dress, blue sky

Red dress, blue sky

Some black & whites from around the #furrycabin

For those of you who follow me on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, you’ve probably seen the furrycabin hashtag. It how I usually distinguish images from around our personal lives with our animals. We live in a little cabin on the side of an old orchard, here in Northern Ireland. We have a few animals here at any one time; we also run an animal rescue between Olivia and I.

We have a few permanents and quite a few available for re homing. Even when I working I like to get out as often as possible and walk the fields with a few of them at a time. Sometimes they are all up for a walk and then some early mornings, its like anyone, they want to sleep in.

This was one of those mornings. I found these images, jumbled into Lightroom between other projects. it was an early morning snowfall, one of the few this season and only Frankie Legs, the lurcher puppy was up for the walk this day. It was an especially quiet morning with hardly any traffic on the nearby road and all the other animals still snoozing away.
If you would like to see more of the animals available for re homing, please visit us at Lucystrust.

What does little Stevie see when he closes his eyes?

Steve the Amazing

Steve the Amazing, on location in Northern Ireland

Steve the Amazing, on location in Northern Ireland

What the Heck is in that Thing?

Besides my assistants, every now and then, someone random will pick up my camera bag. . . or should I say, try to.
I’ve had my LowePro Vertex 300AW backpack for a few years now and even after heavy heavy all weather use, it is only now showing some wear. The pack and all the gear inside comes in at a svelte 14kgs (30 pounds), add with it a Manfrotto 190XPROB lightweight tripod and an old style big knob ball head for counter balance and the whole kit isn’t too bad for hiking up the side of Slieve Donard.

Here is a photo of most of the gear.

an exploded view of my LowePro Vertex 300AW Back Pack.

an exploded view of my LowePro Vertex 300AW Back Pack.

Starting at the top left is a pack of AAA batteries, as well as those I also carry large supplies of AA’s, usually Duracells just for consistency sake but once in a while when I can’t find them I have to go to an off brand like these blue things. Luckily they are just AAA’s but I keep a plentiful supply since my crazy Chinese made radio slaves just eat them up. I have three sets of radio slaves; the “Chinese” brand that work pretty well and have male and female hot shoe mounts, a Pocket Wizard system for camera remote firing and a Profoto Air system for my Profoto gear.

Next up, to the right are the cables for the Pocket Wizard for camera, phono/Profoto sync and PC sync. The bottom cable is a Canon TTL cable for my Canon 580EX flash. . . . that someone borrowed from me almost, hmmm, two years ago . . Cef, you listening?

Beside the cables to the right are my media cards. I have a number of CF cards of different sizes and makes but lately I’ve been liking the Transcend. They are great for stills and fast enough to shoot video on the Canon 5D mk3.

Then we have a USB memory stick, business cards and a set of Lee ND grads. The grads along with the holder, under and to the right a bit, allow me to dodge an area of the frame from getting more light than another; its great for taking down overexposed skies to a closer ratio to the foreground.

Next up we have lens tissue, right beside the brightly coloured little colour checker (essential for quick and easy colour correction and calibration). Lens tissue always seems to be something I can’t do without considering I’m on location most of the time. However it never seems to fail that I just end up breathing on the glass and using the inside of my cotton t shirt to gently clean the surface. I then use a rocket blower (not pictured) to blow off any residuals and a little bottle of lens fluid, to say I have one.

The first of the camera bodies is a Canon 5D Mark III. I’ve had this body since September of 2012 and after about 60k images I really can’t fault it for too many things. Its a massive improvement over the Mark 2 (pictured below the Mark 3) with improved auto focus and low light capabilities. I do wish for more AF points but really I’d be just nitpicking. One nice feature is that it shares batteries with the Mark 2 (pictured to the right of both bodies), so I can keep one style of battery in my bag for both bodies. I use Canon and Energizer batteries; the Energizers being half the price of the Canon’s but sometimes being inconsistent with battery life. I therefore use them just as back ups after the Canon brand ones wear down.

The lens to the right of the batteries is a 50mm f 2.5 Macro lens that I use as a stop gap lens; when I need something in between my two main zooms and I can’t find my little nifty fifty 50mm f1.8 (Cef, I hope its still in one piece. . . ). The macro is a great little lens and I’ve had this lens since I bought it new in 1999 at Samys in Santa Barbara. I do wish Adobe had a lens profile for it in ACR but its not really a big thing and one day I’ll get around to doing up a custom profile myself for it.

To the right of the macro is a rectangular chunk of welder’s glass, framed up with think gaffers tape to avoid any cuts. I use this glass primarily on location shoots; I first use the glass myself, by looking up in the sky at the sun to determine cloud direction and coverage. This almost always garners interest from the client. At this point I show them what I’m doing and ask them if they want to be my “eyes on the sky”. Now I have a client who is more interested/concerned/obsessed with the local clouds than they are about what the back of my camera looks like. BINGO. Just keep that one between us would you.

Next is the Lee filter holder I mentioned earlier; a great little clip on/clip off system that allows for expansion; a must for anyone serious about controlling their final image in camera.

Next row under the lens tissue are a couple of fine and medium Sharpies. They are always good for marking things up, blacking out brand names etc. I usually buy them by the box and spread them around in different pockets and bags.

Then beside those is a Calumet brand 4x loupe/magnifier for clipping onto the back of the LCD screen on the camera. I use it mostly for fine LiveView focus and the small amount of BTS grab video I might do on a shoot. I have a few of these as they are made from very thin plastic and I never felt confident they would last; they have and I haven’t had any real issues bar one eyepiece element fell out just after purchase but the friendly folk at Calumet Belfast replaced it immediately.

To the right of the finder is ol’ faithful, a first series Canon 5D II that I purchased at Samys in September of 2008. Even though the camera was sold out and back ordered, I walked in off the street and managed to abscond with one (thanks Richard). This body has over 160k images taken with it and has never failed or given me an error code. That said the focus is horrible and the mode dial on the top left would always spin (non locking).

To the right of it is a little Lens Baby 35mm Composer, mostly for playing around with in video on the Mark 3.

Next is a Canon 12mm extension tube for decreasing the minimum focusing distance on most of my lenses.

Beside that, the white lens, is a trusty 70-200mm f4 Non IS lens. Why did you ever get this lens you might be asking? Well as photographer who doesn’t always end up in the best, cleanest, safest locations, I don’t see the sense in spending £1800 on a 2.8 IS lens when this will do me 90% of the time; the other times I do need a lens or two I always use LensPimp. Yes I have used the new 70-200 f2.8 IS II and it is an incredible lens but for me to tie up that kind of money in a lens, taking it into the locations I go, its just not worth it. On a tripod, at the same apertures, you would never be able to tell these two apart.

I carry an array of filters; start on the right and at the top, we have a step down ring 77-67mm, a 77mm skylight (for protecting the front element in very unsafe conditions only), a couple of close up filters, then right to left across the bottom area couple of polarizers and a couple of neutral density filters.

Starting on the next row are some simple tools, a screwdriver set and a couple of special ones.

Then we have a set of Pocket Wizard Transceivers that as I said previously I mostly use as camera remote triggers. They can also be used to trigger all my Profoto gear as well.

The next big item is another Canon body, a EOS 5 (or EOS A2e in North America). Its a kind of odd ball Canon film body they made back in the ’90’s with an eye controlled auto focus (when I get the time to set it up and try it, I’ll let you know how it works). Its nice to blow off a few frames on a job every now and then.

Now up, the big lens with the red stripe on it. My trustworthy and faithful 17-40mm f4. Again you are probably muttering under your breath,”Rob, why would you buy that when you could get the 16-35mm f2.8 II?”. Well to be quite honest and besides the same reasons I have the f4 Non IS 70-200, I use the long end of the lens A LOT. I find a 50mm lens too long for most portraits and the 40 just feels right there. Also seeing as how I rarely use the lens wide open, I don’t need the f2.8 end of things either. I’m in love with the 17mm length for most of my “blue collar” themed portraits as it gives me a great sense of environment and surrounding; it also doesn’t hurt that is it really close to the feel of a 40mm on a Hasselblad when cropped 1:1. Some of my friends might tease me about this lens but for me, its a real workhorse and regularly gets a check up and cleanings at Canon.

Beside that is the last of my regular “carry along” lenses, the gold striped 85mm f1.8 US lens; nice sharp lens and very compact. I can see the veins in people’s eyes that I photograph with this.

Last but not least on the bottom, under the Pocket Wizard and Canon 5 body, sits my Sekonic 358 light meter. Now don’t get me wrong here, everyone should have a light meter and know how to properly use it. . . . just not this one. I’ve owned Minolta FM3 and 4’s, Gossens and even a little trusty Sekonic 328F but this meter is a true lemon right off the drawing board. I’m not sure who designed it but it definitely was NOT a photographer. Simple things like being able to use it with one hand while changing modes or iso settings, or even trying to read the impossibly illegible type on the face of the meter; I actually had to write all of the modes and buttons out in Sharpie so that I could use it. This isn’t just the case for using it in a darkened studio, even in bright sunlight the white on grey background text just cannot be read.

Well, there you have it, all the stuff in my regular camera bag that I use for my work. Stay tuned and check back for more in the series of “What the Heck is in that Thing?”


White Horse

Some of you might follow me on Facebook and might have seen some recent images I posted of a few of our horses, Molly and Apache.

Before & After

Before & After

I’ve been asked by a few followers to show my workflow on achieving the look and feel of them, so I’m going to dissect one of them.
Here we have the untouched image.

Unretouched colour image

Unretouched colour image

Just sort of a foggy, dreary overcast sort of feeling; flat light and low contrast.

Then with a few global corrections and b&w conversion in Lightroom.

basic global corrections and b&w conversion in Lightroom

basic global corrections and b&w conversion in Lightroom

The boost in contrast along with the black and white conversion and some heavy vignetting, really begin to draw your eye in towards Molly. Her muscles and facial features start to stand out dramatically.

Now when I take it into Photoshop,

2nd stage retouching Photoshop adjustment layers and masks

2nd stage retouching
Photoshop adjustment layers and masks

I can selectively darken and lighten area using adjustment layers and layer masks. I boost the contrast some more while still keeping the highlights from totally losing it. I’m not too worried about the shadows blocking up because this was a very low contrast predominantly light image to begin with. At this point I’m quite happy with the image and it stands on its own fine.
Although if I wanted to play with it some more I could.

If I wanted to give this the feeling of an old Polaroid T55 negative that I might have taken on location then solarized it during processing, it might look something like this.

3rd stage retouchingCropping and Photoshop T55 solarizing effect[

3rd stage retouching
Cropping and Photoshop T55 solarizing effect[

Now in Photoshop I crop it down roughly to a 4×5 negative size. I then layer it with another image from a set of images I use specifically for this purpose. Then by using different layer blending modes I choose the desired effect. At this point I add a layer mask and continue to paint in or out with a Wacom, different sections of the layered image to further the effect.

I hope you enjoy the images and keeping shooting.

Please feel free to comment.

A quick one for TargetDry

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.

We’re back

We’re back to a new post, its been a few months and we’ve been super busy with both life and work. The new website and promo have both been paying off.
Enough of the business chat, let’s talk about some imaging.

We were called to photograph a project for the NITB, covering off the new launch of the Cow Parade in Northern Ireland. The Cow Parade is ” the largest and most successful public art event in the world since 1999, has been staged in 75 cities around the world and more than 32 million people have seen at least one exhibit.”

Now as most people know, Northern Ireland is never an easy location to shoot in; weather and terrain are always up against you in the battle of the “deadline” and this deadline was very much looming over our heads. With only 4 days to shoot in nine locations across Northern Ireland we needed to have a strong game plan and scheduling. Between NITB and the agency, they handled most of the scheduling and my assistants Steve, his brother Phil and I just needed to make it to each of them on time and be able to find an interesting angle and scenario to photograph the two cows we had. I should mention that yes, we did have two cows. It is not just one big full sized one, we also had a half sized “mini moo”. We nicknamed the large 98 lb full sized cow, Clarice and the mini was Eunice.

There were a few production issues with the cows at first, so we didn’t actually get them delivered until the end of the first shooting day. So that laid to rest any hope of getting it all done on time. However after a few phone calls we managed to get a couple of extra days thrown in here and there over the next week in case we really ran into weather problems.

The Kung Fo Komitee - Steve & Phil aka Fill

The boys are ready to light up a cow.

The next morning, early 5:30 am, I loaded up the few remaining items into the van which the boys and I loaded the cows into the night before, and we all headed to our first location, the Mourne Mountains and Silent Valley Reservoir. Weather is the Mournes is never predictable and we were supposed to be in store for heavy rains for a week in Northern Ireland. We drove south towards the mountains and the weather was “okay”. The closer we got however, the more solid the sky became with cloud cover; nothing too dark and ominous, just solid cover with no definition, a photographers worst case.

Let me explain, photographers know only three types of sky.
1. Blue with no clouds which is okay to portray a summer day in the desert but never feels right anywhere else.
2. Blue sky with clouds which feels more realistic and gives the viewer something to look through besides the subject matter below (unless of course the subject is clouds, which in this case is perfect then).
3. Overcast with no definition, a barren whiteness of nothing, nothing for the viewer to latch on to, nothing for your eye to rest upon while it takes a break from looking at the subject material.
Today was a number three day.

All we could do was set up and hope that the sky would break for a moment. We climbed almost 300 stairs to the top of the dam at Silent Valley, an amazing view, when there is a sky. When there isn’t a sky and its just overcast and raining its hard to place where you are. There were times we couldn’t see the bottom of the valley and it felt like we were all sitting on the edge of a rock wall over looking a field or something.

Eunice at the top of Silent Valley

Eunice at the top of Silent Valley

Day one is completed, stay tuned for the rest of the NITB Cow Parade “Behind the Scenes”.

Seeing as this was our first day and I wasn’t too keen on falling behind schedule here, I announced that we needed to be out of there by 11am. We had the first shot set up and lit for 8:30, then came the waiting. We shot on and off between bursts of rain and cloud, hoping to get something. Then at around 10 am we headed back down towards the lower reservoir. We stopped off at the side of the road, near the most northerly point of the lower reservoir and I walked through the bog by myself to scout a site along the edge of the water. It was perfect and the clouds were starting to break a little. We might have a chance. The boys slugged it out with the gear and Eunice across the bog and we set up the shot. The only thing was that the wind was picking up and blowing poor Eunice over.

Eunice at the water's edge - Silent Valley

Eunice at the water’s edge – Silent Valley

I only managed to get 3 frames before it just became impossible to shoot anymore.
We packed up and drove down to the main area of the reservoir, set up for a few more images but nothing really became of them. The wind, rain and cloud cover just got worse and worse; 11:30 am, time to move along.

Larry the Lurcher helping to navigate

Larry the Lurcher helping to navigate

And worse, and worse, we arrived at our next location at Castlewellan Park and the rain was just pouring down. The three of us were camped out in the back of the van, Larry the Lurcher had the whole cab to himself, while we watched our first day’s second shoot stream out of the parking lot. After about 20 minutes I got on the phone and we organized a wild card location, Jonesboro and Slieve Gullion.
I was not familiar with the area and had never shot before here. We had a contact from the local council touring us around. We made it to 3 locations in the area luckily and two of them turned out really nice. One was of Moyry Castle and the other was of a burial tomb or cairn but I can’t remember the name. I’ll try to contact the council and get it.
We trundled up the side of the hill towards Moyry Castle. It was starting to dry out a bit as the rain had stopped and that deep, damp humidity was beginning to set in. Larry was loving it, running around the hilltop and bounding through the tall grasses. We set up some lighting and lit the front of the castle, inside and a couple of on Eunice herself, making her stand out a bit off the grass.

Eunice climbing towards Moyry Castle

Eunice climbing towards Moyry Castle

The last location of the day, and everyone is totally bushed. We arrive down this old lane in the back woods of Armagh; drive down a farmer’s lane and the gravel ends and then brand new pavement (you know the kind, “brand new government pavement”, meaning there is something of interest down here) where it opens up into a small car park. On the other side of the car park can be described as little more than a big pile of rocks. Our guide Darren explains to us that this is a 5000 year old burial chamber and bones and artifacts have been found within it. Okay, now my interest is really peaked. Its amazing to think that this was constructed by locals 5000 years ago, astonishing.
Below is a photo showing Clarice in the front chamber which is comprised of a circular room with a smooth stone wall leading into the first chamber, then out of frame, a second chamber. I know about the pyramids in Egypt, Mexico, Peru and Cambodia but this is really amazing that the locals had the tools, manpower and engineering to craft such a delicate and finished structure.

Clarice in the outer chamber of the burial mound

Clarice in the outer chamber of the burial mound

We all walked around and over the mound for what seemed like forever, trying to find an angle or a good view of it. The problem was all the stones were covered with lichen and moss and were in effect camouflaged against each other. If was difficult to figure out the depth of the place. I finally decided to try a different view; down low from the front with Clarice walking past the camera. I’d light the outer and first chambers and try to give it some depth that way, by creating some contrast between rooms. I lit Clarice from overhead and back lit her to stand off the background and we pooled the light in front of her on the ground for effect. A graduated blue filter was used on the bleached out sky to give it some life. All in all I think it is one of my favourites.

Clarice visiting a 5000 year old burial chamber in Armagh

Clarice visiting a 5000 year old burial chamber in Armagh

A short little test with Fuji film and Canon digital

I haven’t been in the studio for a while so I thought I would do a little half day test with Sophia Taylor, Ashley Morhej and Lee Stinton. Lee couldn’t make it to the studio so Sophia went to his place to have her hair done and Ashley touched up on set as needed. Sophia had an idea of what she wanted from the day and so did I.
Sophia had an image that she liked the style of, that she wanted to try for herself. It was a simple lighting with a little back light and a small amount of flare in one of the corners. Not too difficult but her image had hours if not days of retouching on it and for our purposes we weren’t going to be putting in that amount of time for such a simple shot.

What I felt were the more exciting images were the beauty images we did on white as well as a couple of impromptu grabs while meandering around the studio. I should state here that I was flipping back and forth between digital and film. The digital was pretty straight forward; a Canon 5D Mk2 with a 70-200. The film on the other hand was Fuji 400H colour neg and Fuji RMS (which was to be cross processed). I had my faithful Mamiya RZ with a 90mm F3.5; I like to handhold the Mamiya as much as possible, cradling it like the monster it is in my hands. Youcef was there to help me, passing cameras and lenses back and forth as I swapped as the need arose. I like the images that we got out of the couple of hours in the studio. Below you can compare for yourself which you like better. They are retouched in Photoshop but they are not direct copies of each others style and feeling. Each medium I feel has its own style and I try to let that show through in the final result.
All the lighting was with Profoto ProAcutes

Sophia 1

Simple lighting with a Profoto Silver Softlight and Canon 5D Mk2. Small amount of retouching in Photoshop.

Sophia 2

Simple Lighting with a Profoto Silver Softlight and Canon 5D Mk2, retouched in Photoshop.

Sophia 3

Simple Lighting with a Profoto Silver Softlight and Mamiya RZ on Fuji 400H, retouched in Photoshop

Sophia 4

Simple lighting with a Profoto Silver Softlight on a Mamiya RZ with Fuji RMS cross processed and retouched in Photoshop

Sophia 5

Simple lighting with a Profoto Silver Softlight on a Mamiya RZ with Fuji RMS cross processed and retouched in Photoshop

Sorry I had to pull the last post down . . . .

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.

The Giants Causeway - Morning Mist

The Giants Causeway, County Antrim, Northern Ireland, under a shroud of morning mist.

Film vs. Digital . . . . good bye digital. . .

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.

btw 😉 😉

wink wink

Just for fun

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.

Rental car review (hire car) FORD Focus

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.

Rental car review (hire car) KIA Venga

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.

The Kernvale Eight

The Family

The Family

Olivia and I with our permanent eight dogs. I’m holding Richard, then from left to right it’s Bonzo, Ernie, Polo, Sophie, Betty (eating Olivia’s right hand), Flo, and Suuki. We’re sitting on the old field roller under a blossoming apple tree in our front yard/field/orchard. It doesn’t get to be a finer afternoon than this.

Draining the Batteries

I had to drain the batteries on some of my portable flash gear so that I could give them a proper charge. So instead of just hooking them up and firing them off into space I figured I would shoot some quick images around the homestead.

A quick painting of the studio floor.

Three pails of two part industrial floor paint and around 4 hours of my time. It’s hard keeping a white floor looking clean. My last attempt with floor paint worked reasonable for about 8 months before the sheen wore off and it became very difficult to get any luster back into it.

Looking Way Back

This is an image from one of my many road trips across the south west. This was the landing gear of one of the warbirds at the Pima museum outside Tuscon. if you are ever anywhere near it, its worth a check out.

Baring the weather for art