ROB DURSTON PHOTOGRAPHY

People

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.


I love the feel of real paper

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


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


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 😉


Anatomy of an Image – British Telecom Infinity Christmas

I worked with Matt from AV Browne recently on some billboards that are out right now. They were for BT and their Infinity Broadband service. The image was to be comprised of two little sisters staring up at the marvel of BT’s swirling broadband lightstream as it enters through a window and engulfs their Christmas tree and presents.
There is an unwritten rule in photography; don’t photograph kids or puppies and you’ll keep your sanity. Well we luckily missed out on the puppy but keeping two little under 10 girls attentive is a magic feat on its own. You can get one to do what you want, then the other is crying off looking for their mother. Keys, dolls, air horns, nothing really works consistently, you just have to hope one of the kids is good and then get a decent frame of the other to strip them into the final.
We were very lucky with this one. We got some decent frames of each of them, actually quite a few. So, those images along with some empty plate shots of the scene with a few variations would make it easy to comp the files. Dermott from Streetmonkey was there to advise on the compilation direction for the image and between Matt and myself we made short work of it all.
As far as lighting goes, to simulate the glow from the lightstream I tested a few different options. I tried softboxes at first but they were a little too soft and umbrellas were just too much all over the place. In the end I decided on a Chinese lantern with skirts on top and a small strip bank with a recessed front and barndoors on the bottom.
Below are a few of the images used in the comp.

Left stocking and background plate

Older sister

Younger sister

Final image with copy


Anatomy of an Image – Ulster Bank Farming

It’s time for another “Anatomy of an Image” series. This time I’ve chosen 9 images from a series I shot for Ulster Bank here in Northern Ireland loosely called “24 hours of Farming in Northern Ireland”. I’ve been asked by a reader to explain some of the techniques I used to achieve the look of the series. Its a good time that someone threw me a suggestion for a new post; I’m in between projects and my mind is slightly sapped at the moment.
The project came to me from Peter Higgins at Walker Communications. I met with him and art director Pete Hanlon at their offices in Holywood. Their brief was reasonably loose, creatively, except for one stipulation, the twenty or so portraits needed to be done in the next 2 weeks; no extensions. Well, to say the least, weather in Northern Ireland changes by the minute. The saying around here is that you get a 4 seasons in a day in Northern Ireland. I was hoping this wouldn’t be true for this projects. My hopes mean nothing to the weather gods.
I wanted to make the portraits to be iconic; to resonate that the subject is larger than life and is the master of their environment. I don’t think a lot of people appreciate farmers, they seem to be understated in most cultures, and even looked down upon in others. I have the greatest respect for them and at times I’m in awe of what they can accomplish. When it came to the style I need it to be big, I mean BIG. These images were to be printed 3 metres square. I delved into my past and I really liked the style of Dan Cremin, Russell Monk and Evan Dion; wide angle portraits showing the subject as the primary point of interest in the frame and all else is secondary. It is no surprise that each of these photographers did a stint with the master, Nigel Dickson in Toronto.
Okay, to start from the beginning, all these images are shot with available light; no strobes or artificial lighting what so ever. In a few of them I have used a silver/white reflector but outside of that, nothing else. All images were shot on 35mm digital, specifically a Canon 5D Mark 2 with a 17-40mm lens, used exclusively at 17mm.

Feed Man alt pick

The first image is that of a feed supply owner with his arms crossed. This shot is the alt to the pick image which is him with a shovel in front of one of the feed slots area thingy place. For the arms crossed image, my assistant turn the 42″ silver/white reflector to silver to grab anything he could of the sodium vapour lights in the ceiling; to can see the light touching him gently under his chin.

Feed Man – final pick

This location was by shear chance just feet away from what would be the pick image. Here on this one my assistant again turn the s/w to silver and came in hard and hot from camera left to reflect in the daylight pouring in from a south facing large garage door. For some reason his striped sweater plays off so well in both scenarios; it like a pattern that is not repeated at all in either environment.

Edgar the Farmer

The second subject was Edgar. While out at his place, Pete the art director, and I tried a few scenarios but nothing was really working. I really wanted to get across the feeling of a true farmer, someone who has spent everyday in the thick of it, rain of shine. He was wearing his waterproofs (trousers) when we arrived and an old blue sweater. I wanted him to stand off whatever background I situated him on, so in the end a slurry spreader was chosen. The orange of the spreader, half cropped into Edgar with the blue of the sweater playing off the sky and tin of the cow shed just all worked. Take a look at the size of the guy’s hands. You know he works with them for a living.

Stephen from Crumlin

Next up was Stephen, a neighbour from the next town over from us. He was set to pose with his bank manager in one of his fields; simple and straight forward. This shot is where shooting in the raw file format pays off. I back lit the two of them with the cows sort of meandering around them. I positioned myself low, maybe a foot or two off the ground. With the lens set at 17mm I had the two subjects position themselves with their feet slightly apart, with one pointing back to camera, leading the viewer back into the frame. A random piece of wood on the left just adds to the dimension and width of the shot. With the sun being at their backs, I needed as much from the front as I could muster so I had my assistant turn the large 42″x78″ reflector to silver and aim it at the tops of their heads so the light would fall off their lower body.

Damien and his row boat

Most of these images were taken in the rain; some torrential, some just spitting. The next image of Damien in the row boot was a torrential one. This particular scenario was for farm diversification and Damien had a couple of small weekend fishing cottages on his land. Feeling that there was nothing that really stood out on shore for this I hopped in a boot with him and Pete (AD) hung off the dock, holding us with one hand and the boat with the other. Pete did eventually take the plunge and found himself up to his knees in the lake but nothing more than that. Again, I wanted the viewer to be led into the image, so his body position, feet and boat oars all draw you into the main focus of the image, him. As far as lighting, there was none. Just the available super diffused light filtering through the rain clouds. If you look closely at the water, you can see the rain splashing down.

The Milk Collector

The fifth scenario was “milk collection”. Again we tried a few different set ups in the short time we had (all the subjects gave us between five minutes to an hour) and ended up placing him at the tank door of the milking parlour. He was a character all on his own; with his shaven head, Dickies styled jeans and massive belt buckle. Once again it was a drizzling day and heavily overcast; nice light for photographs, we just needed a little fill and we’d be set. For this one the assistant backed out a ways on camera right with the large silver fill. The subject was very at ease and easy to direct, so I had him position himself in the doorway, leading with his left leg at the threshold. It melds with the collection hose and leads into the subject. The camera was mounted to the tripod, down low and centered on the doorway.

The Farmer, his cows and the banker

The sixth image was from a farm up near Derry on the north coast. The brief stated it was to include the farmer and his bank manager, I’ll let you try to guess who is who. This was one of the toughest ones. We were to show both guys in with the cows. We first tried to incorporate the farmer’s jeep but it was all feeling a bit awkward. We finalised on just having the two of them in the midst of a large herd. It wouldn’t be difficult since his herd was very tame and calm. I had no problems moving around and getting close to any of them. Although even with their tameness I wasn’t going to chance trying to bring a large enough reflector in to light the two, so we would just have to hope for the best. I locked myself off on a tripod and hoped for the best. As you can see it all worked out well. I was never happy with the original sky, being blown out but between then and CS5/ACR now, I got it almost all back. The power of a raw file. I love it.

Farmer and his new combine

The next image was shot close to the last one. It wasn’t the same day because I don’t think we ever got that lucky. We wandered around this farmer’s barn with his dad and him but never found anything that fit for the scenario. So I decided, for this one time, that I would do a comp on this final image. I did a few images of him in the combine and standing around it but I always came back to the symmetry; the balance of a centre weighted image. I shot him, proudly standing in front of his latest, his new combine. i locked off the tripod and had the assistant hit him as has as possible with the large silver, with whatever dappled light was seeping through the thick clouds. I then screwed on a thick ND ( I can’t remember what factor it was) and proceeded to expose for a few 30 second frames. I’ll explain the rest in the post production section.

Darren the fisherman

The final image is probably my favourite and it seems to be the favourite of most. Darren, the fisherman was very busy on the day we showed up. I think we had around five minutes so Catherine (from the agency) and I ran around the boat, playing out different scenarios but the one I always came back to was the one with the spools of fish nets. Darren was very busy that day, so when he showed up wearing his bright yellow overalls and his maroon shirt, it all just fell into place. His clothes along with the green netting and blue net motor, all complimented each other. To see the image large, blown up to 3 metres square is pretty magical. All the little tactile details; the chain in the box at his feet, the curling blue paint on the deck, the dirt on his face and under his fingernails, just add the immediate sense of reality. This image was light with available light, no reflector, facing south in the open shade of the second deck of the boat.

Post Production
I download the raw Canon files into my Mac using Lightroom. I try to cover off as many steps as possible with the download by key wording, converting to dng, backing up and renaming files. I bring them all in using a developing preset; usually one with a clarity of 30, vibrance of 30-60 and a saturation of negative 10-20. From here I run through my usual workflow in LR. Starting at the top and working down on the develop menu, I set each white balance, then tonal values and then presence values. I will often go into the tone curve and give it a slight tweak if I feel that one end of the spectrum is lacking. After that its pretty minimal as far as LR goes; a little messing with lens corrections but that’s about all. From here I will export it to PS CS5 where I take my flatter than usual image and crank in some contrast and depth. I use a multitude of layers and paint back in areas on the layer masks; save them back out as tifs and back into LR for a final wringing out of the last bit. I know this last step negates all the layers I would have created in PS but the UI in LR just makes for a quick and simple solution to some minor issues that might come up. As I stated earlier, only one image was extensively comped, the farmer with the combine. For that image I simply just merged the two images together and painted him into the shot with the clouds in motion. Nothing had moved, it was just him and the combine so it was simple.

Conclusion
It was an amazing job to cover off the 20 odd scenarios in 14 days, rain or shine. I have to thank Peter Higgins, Pete Hanlon and Catherine McKeown for all their guidance and help and my assistants Helen French and Cathal McGeown for sticking through it all. You are only as good as the people around you.


BTS – Behind the Scenes Fall 2011

I’ve been busy. Life is good.
Been working with some great people over the past several months. Shooting at every corner of the country.
Here are some images from some of the projects. Feel free to comment.


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


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.


Anatomy of an Image – NITB Cushendun

Here’s a short little anatomy of an image for some recent stuff hanging up on billboards around NI. It was a project I worked on for the Northern Ireland Tourism Board through AV Browne. It involved a couple of models, a Fiat 500 and some picturesque coastline of the north. I had scouted the shore along the Tor Head road overlooking Cushendun before and knew a spot where you could see the coastline as well as the village.

Cushendun scouting – NITB

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So now that we knew the area we got permission from the landowner to do an early morning shoot there. Below are some of the variations that happened in the wee hours of the morning at sunrise. You can see we had to spark up a 2.5 kw HMI early in the morning when we didn’t think we were going to get any direct sun.

Early morning light aided by 2.5 HMI

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A wide shot, it still hasn’t warmed up yet at this point.

Wide shot of set including lighting and random gels

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The sun is finally coming out in force.

Warming up, both the light and the models

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Luckily the sun did show its face and as it dipped in and out of clouds, we had Davey and his boys from Keylight scrim off any harshness on the models.

Davey and his boy diffusing some direct sun

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And this is what we ended up with in the end. Great thing about NITB is there is no trickery in the images; so what you see is what you get. The final image we choose didn’t have anything between the sun and the models, just a light haze to cut it down a bit so we didn’t need the 6×6 scrim out front. We did manage to keep some direct sun on the village and the rolling hills in the background.

 

Final printed 48 sheet for NITB

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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


Anatomy of an Image – Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue campaign

I have been asked by quite a few people in the past couple of months, about an image I created for Ardmore Advertising for their client NIFRS a few years ago. Its an image they are still using on 48 sheet billboards and Adshells. Most people ask me how I did it or how many layers is it?

Well to make a long story short, 26.

Now for the long story.

Richard from Ardmore asked me if I would be interested in a project for the NIFRS as he felt it would suit my style. I was traveling back and forth to North America on other jobs but told him when I came back to NI we could meet up. It was basically an outdoor campaign showing wild fires, firemen, a hero and a burnt landscape. All of these ingredients needed to evoke emotion; to the men and to the landscape around them. “Sure, no problem”, I said. We lined up a date to head out for scouting or as they call it here ‘ a wee recce’ to the Mourne Mountains around Newcastle. We wanted a good view of the town with a decent amount of trees and growth to portray the brief properly.

The first location was about half way up the mountain overlooking Newcastle. We had the full NIFRS Land Rover detail out with us scouring over the area, looking for a suitable spot. This shot of Richard above, shows how ridiculously windy it was at that elevation so we decided to move down the hill. We found a spot about halfway down from the previous one that was sheltered from the wind, mostly, and had everything else we we looking for, sort of, more of that though later.

Here is the chosen location with Richard standing in as the “hero”.

 

 

 

 

With the location picked we now had to got about casting. That was pretty much taken care of by Ardmore and the NIFRS as they wanted to include men from the different stations. My next task was to concoct a lighting scheme and rough layout of how I wanted the day to go down. During this time I was in the middle of moving my studio over to Northern Ireland so I had to rent my lighting from the good folks at Calumet. Unfortunately they didn’t have anything I wanted so I had to make due with some Bowens mono “blockheads”. I lined up a genie to power everything but was told by the Fire Service that it wouldn’t be needed as they had one there. Cool, one less thing for me to think about.

When the day came, my assistant and I headed up the mountain with the crew, the agency and a couple of service appliances(fire trucks). The shoot was reasonably undramatic considering what we were dealing with. We couldn’t start any fires so they would have to be put in post. The crew had a smoke machine but the winds were so high that it all just blew away. I set the lights and asked the guys about the genie they had. Some guy came out from around the truck with this little neon green shoebox. “What is that?”, I asked. “That’s your generator”. Well, it was like nothing I had ever seen. It was a little two stroke compact genie that I don’t know what would power. My mind started to race, “damn, what now?”. Luckily a much larger one materialized after a few moments, phew. We sparked everything up and shot a few test images. It was all coming together.

There were a few little hitches that I knew would come into play with this project; one being the resolution for a 48 sheet and two, the physical dynamics of the actual landscape. The first point I knew I could get around by stitching or combining images together of the landscape and dropping the crew into it. I ended up doing four images, shot vertically.

     

You can see from those images that most of the elements are already in place, except I didn’t like the horizon above his head and to move the camera angle lower would mean we would lose the foreground field behind the ridge the hero is standing on. More to do in post then.

The stitched images look something like this.

 

 

 

Now time for some post production on this sucker.

First thing was to give the image some shape, stretch it out slightly and correct the distortion. I then proceeded to move the horizon line down so it was much lower in the shot. From here I started adding elements; smoke and fire that I created at the farm against a black background, and the rest of the members of the others crews who all played different parts in each crew’s images. So, no this isn’t just 3 or 4 guys cloned all over the hillside, they are all unique individuals who played specific roles in each others shots. I removed cables and stands, Added my own brand of treatments to the sky, trees and grasses. With me moving the horizon down, it started to crunch down some of the noticeable landmarks of Newcastle. With this I had to go back in and save certain neighbourhoods and buildings so that it anyone who looked at it, would know it as Newcastle. In the end, each element had its own layer and most of those had their own layer mask so I could tweak the living bejesus out them. Of those the fire were contained in a group as well as a group for smoke and crew. The sky and clouds had their own layer so I could shift it up or down or side to side depending on where I wanted everything up there to be placed in respect to the crew  and landscape. Finally I added some final colour and tonality treatments with separate colour mixer, hue/saturation and curves layers and cropped it to its final size.

All done.

26 layers and probably 26 hours in assembly time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and with copy.

 

 

 

Any questions?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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


Apocalyptic Calotypes

I had a little break in shooting so what should I do besides feed the horses?

Shoot more.

I had E.E. Kelly come into the studio, looking to do something different and I think I delivered. I was looking to create a more sinister, end of the world feel; maybe something like Sandra Bullock if she starred in Mad Max as Max.

We shoot a couple of frames in the studio, showing the starkness of the shaven head and the strength of her body with just one light and some negative fill. Then we went outside into the “zone”. Olivier had been burning some rubbish, like he usually does, and it made for a very moody surrounding. Dust, smoke and fire with all the rubble made the two frames we shot feel like we were in another time for a moment. That is until the locals started pouring in when they heard there was a girl being photographed. Both images were shot on Harman Direct Positive, wide open at f4.7 and process in standard b&w chemicals.


Calotype

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.


Northern Ireland Tourism Board Spring/Summer campaign

I’ve been working with the NITB for the past year or so. They and the agency have been great to work with; problem solving, location scouting and hunting, casting and oh ya, creating images that we feel are unique and cool. Here are some of the latest ones for the spring/summer campaign in different formats for different media.


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.