ROB DURSTON PHOTOGRAPHY

Tearsheet

Abbey Insurance BTS

Short and sweet, a detailed brief came my way for an insurance company’s new campaign for outdoor and print. two images of subjects in cars and one of a father/daughter in a home. The more interesting of the three were the car images.
Location photography is always more tricky than studio. Studio you have control over your lighting (ultimately) and your weather. On location, you’re subjected to whatever Mother Nature wants to throw your way and sometimes she can be damn brutal. The saving grace for our two car based images was that they were a very tight crop; we just had to have a “sense” of the environment without actually showing everything around them. Another factor to think about with the shoot is the trickiness of shooting through glass (especially the coated and sometimes tinted automotive glass).
Our first shot was on location in the parking lot of the agency. This allowed us to stay tight to the building for shade (lighting control) and any auxiliary power if we needed it. Since we were using the Profoto 600B’s, we didn’t need power for the lighting, just the laptop to keep it topped up throughout the shoot so we knew we’d have enough juice in it come the afternoon.

parking lot studio

parking lot studio

Now that we have the car in relatively the right spot (we will end up moving it slightly as the sun comes around a bit), we set up our lighting. For this image we are just using the one light, a single head off a Profoto B600AIR with a Magnum reflector and a single full CTO gel covering it.
The CTO will give us a full 2000 degree kelvin shift to the warmer end of the spectrum, that along with the fact we will be shooting in shade will give us a wide spread of colour shifting from the highlights to the shadows without doing it in post.

Camera & light positioning

Camera & light positioning

All we need now is a model. . . . . without facial hair . . . that’s blonde and looks happy (sorry Steve), enter Niamh.

Here is a raw image right out of the camera, with our model in position and looking her part.
RDP_20160509_01351

As you can see, when you backlight translucent materials they show off any and all dust, smudges and smears on the surface. So after some retouching and colour treatments in Photoshop the final looked something like this. RDP_20160509_01351-Edit

And the final artwork with the copy
Photo by Rob Durston ( www.durstonphoto.com )


Deloitte and the messy paint shoot

“Never work with babies or animals”
That’s what they always tell you.
Adam_Master_RGB

Deloitte_Phase_3_Adshels_Selects_v2-5

Seems that’s all I ever photograph. I love animals and kids I can relate to, but when you get a liquid flying through the air at speed, it might not always be the most persuasive subject.
Such was the case with this Deliotte campaign I photographed. Liquids demand a respect and a fast flash duration to freeze them in position. We luckily weren’t shooting in my studio but instead had rented a large room in a local football club house. Myself, my assistant and a video crew set up our own individual lighting set ups; mine being Profoto strobes and theirs were HMI’s for video.
I had the pole position for this day, the stills were going to run as a major campaign while the video was secondary. I brought along two different camera systems, a Canon 35mm and a Pentax 645z. The two mayor differences between the two were double the resolution with the Pentax at 50mp and a slower frame rate of 3 FPS opposed to 5 with the Canon. The Canon would give me a better chance to catch the moment but the Pentax would offer a greater depth of resolution.
We opted for the Pentax. I just had to release the shutter at the moment I needed.

Deloitte_Phase_3_Adshels_Selects_v2-9

Lisette_Master_RGB

After a few tests we were ready to test it on some unsuspecting Deloitte employees. We had Sean on one side and Mal on the other, ready with small plastic cups of thinned out latex paint. On my mark they would throw the paint towards the subject and I would catch the emotion as well as the paint as it hit the subject, sounds easy enough. We shot between roughly 20 images with each subject on the premise that we would probably comp together images to give us some more dramatic splashes. In the end it wasn’t really needed as most of the final images went un retouched, just simple colour adjustments and tonal curves.
It was a great shoot and I’m sort of glad I wasn’t around for the clean up afterwards (I was back at the office editing).
Scroll through to the end to see a slo motion iPhone video of one of the throws.


Lally the Scut – Behind the Scenes

Lally the Scut was written by Abbie Spallen and is the latest production to be featured at the wonderful MAC in Belfast. She is an award winning playwright and screenwriter, who is currently the writer in residence at the Lyric in Belfast.
I was fortunate to be asked to photograph the cast for their advertising media. The art director from the agency contacted me with his brief. He had attached a mood board of imagery he based the ideas on, my work showing the feeling and tone of the images as well as a few showing the composition. He had also hand drawn the overall character layout for the hero image as well as a couple of the individual actors’ direction.

Mood board for Lally the Scut

Mood board for Lally the Scut

Lally the Scut character composition drawing

Lally the Scut character composition drawing

Actor's direction drawings

Actor’s direction drawings

The next step is for me to sit down and think about the most cost effective and efficient way to shoot a dozen cast members in scenario, to make the files the easiest to work on. The image would obviously have to be “comped” or pieced together as the set would be impossibly large to accommodate everyone around an imaginary hole in the ground. I imagined the sun to be shining almost dead center, behind the type. This would make the individual images easier to stitch together as all the lighting would be similar for each actor. The actors would also have to be animated, leaning into the hole and possibly using their props. I would need to have something solid, for the players to be able to place their weigh against and lean down into. A couple of very sturdy ladders, clamped together with a plank of wood between the two of them that I had painted black.
For lighting I bounced two Profoto Magnum reflectors into the white ceiling above the performers heads, with enough light to bleed slightly over the edges of them but not too much that we lose the edges of them for the clipping paths later. Over their heads, hanging on a superboom would be a Profoto Silver Softlight with a full CTO filter on it, to resemble the over head sun shining down on them. From the camera side, just for a little fill on their faces, I used a Profoto Softlight White, without filtration to give it a slight bluish hue in the shadows. Two black negative fill boards then lined the set and black blackout cloth on the floor to keep any bounce down.

BTS lighting set up

BTS lighting set up

Here is a short time lapse iPhone video of the set up and quick test.
https://vimeo.com/123541923

So now that the lighting and set are all up, we’re ready to shoot some actors.

Untreated selected images

Untreated selected images

These are some of the selected images before they were gone through by the art director and his picks chosen. After that I applied my treatments and retouched the images to the point that I liked them. I sent those off for final approval.

Fork the Cat - A difficult recent history of cross community workshops

Fork the Cat – A difficult recent history of cross community workshops

Ellen - She calls a blade a blade

Ellen – She calls a blade a blade

Lally - No one is saying she's whiter than white

Lally – No one is saying she’s whiter than white

Owen - Bringing people the stories that matter

Owen – Bringing people the stories that matter

Bun McTasney - Everyone's eating his cakes

Bun McTasney – Everyone’s eating his cakes

Paths and final assembly complete the image looks like this.

Lally the Scut final

Lally the Scut final

Not too shabby
And with copy and graphics, it looks like this.

Lally the Scut with copy & graphics

Lally the Scut with copy & graphics


International Business Machines or just IBM for short.

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

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

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

RDP_20140731_1989-300x300

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

RDP_20140731_2065-600x600

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

RDP_20140731_0338-600x600

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

RDP_20140731_0358-600x600

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

RDP_20140731_2095-Edit-600x600

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

RDP_20140731_0478-Edit-600x600

Here is the finished story using the last two images.

IBM_pg_16-21_Case_Study-1-600x600IBM_pg_16-21_Case_Study-2-600x600


Absolut Vodka – Anatomy of an Image

Sometimes, a few times a year, a really nice project comes along that you can sink your teeth into; a project that has no real deadline, a loose brief, a laid back art director and the option to pick your own post production.

All I had to do was take the art director’s comps and transpose them to real life. As any advertising photographer knows, whats on paper in front of you at an agency project briefing might not be exactly what is out there in real life, beyond those agency windows. In fact, I can remember a quick little story where an art director sketched out a double page spread with a hammock stretching from edge to edge. It was shaped like a banana and felt like the invisible man was actually laying in it. It took us a whole day to prop the hammock with wire and hang it with fishing line to get a reasonable looking form from it for the spread.
Okay, let me get back to this project. So the idea was to convey the landmark Harland & Wolff yellow cranes, Samson and Goliath, against an industrial Belfast skyline and the classic Absolut bottle outline, nestled between the cranes. I’m going to build up a fictional Belfast landscape with different elements from the waterfront and surrounding areas. Once I compile all of those along with a clear and unobstructed sky to lay behind it, I’ll send all this off to John over at Needpost.com who takes it all and makes some sense of it. He works with myself and the art director to make sure we have all the landscape filled in and representative of the original idea the art director pitched to the client.
So without looking through all the boring original images, lets go straight to post and with the help of a little bouncy music, let’s watch John “build” Belfast for Absolut Vodka.

It was produced specifically for outdoor advertising but hopefully it will get picked up for other media as well

 

Absolut Vodka 96 sheet billboard

Absolut Vodka 96 sheet billboard

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Absolut Vodka adshell outdoor

Absolut Vodka adshell outdoor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fun huh?
I thought it was.
Come back and visit us again for more adventures.


Weather, Invest NI and Northern Ireland

I was contacted by Genesis Advertising a while back in regards to doing a couple of simple ads for Invest NI. As most people can probable understand however, shooting on location in Northern Ireland in January is never simple.
The first task was to photograph a golfer teeing up. It was blowing gales and raining for the weeks over the December holidays but one day the rain let up, the wind however didn’t. Darren the creative on the shoot told me of a tight and tidy greens over at a lawn bowling pitch near his place. I had been searching through all the golf courses and even football pitches for some short, well keep grass, no luck what so ever. Everything was soaked and muddy and soaked.
We arrived on the edge of Belfast Lough at our destination. My trusty Kato (aka Bubbles aka Cef) unloaded the lighting and cameras from the car while I did a quick scout around. We found a nice sheltered area from the wind with a decent non-descript background. Darren and his model arrived and we light the poor guy up. It was still quite windy and cold for the most part but the sun was on our side, giving us a tiny amount of warmth behind the hedges of the bowling pitch.
The idea was to back light him from up high with a Profoto ProAcute 600B and a silver softlight reflector, on camera left with we used a touch of warm fill from a California Sunbounce Pro, low on camera right. A super shallow depth of field was used to really focus your eye down on the ball itself. I think it worked out well and with a little tweaking in Photoshop, it fit the bill perfectly.

Golfer teeing up

Golfer teeing up

Our next subject matter was a lot less glamourous; a double decker London bus and unfortunately it was not located in London. We drove up to the manufacturer in Ballymena and were given ten minutes with the “special” bus in the parking lot, just where it was. Not too much we can do to make it “sing” so we lit it from camera left with a normal reflector on the ProAcute 600B, just giving the paint a little pop as well as the chrome on the wheel. I warmed it up a little in post and retouched out a few loose items on the ground and it matched up pretty well with the golf image.

Big Red London Double Decker Bus

Big Red London Double Decker Bus

This is the final ad

Invest NI "Driver & Driven"

Invest NI “Driver & Driven”

The final assignment was to photograph the Carrick a Rede bridge on the north coast. Again, this is January so its not exactly tanning weather. I don about seven layers and my parka, knowing full well its going to be a long walk in and a long potential wait for the right clouds and weather. It was cold and windy on the very edge of the bridge; there is really nothing stopping me from falling 50 feet down into the chilly water below except for me wrapping my arm around the ropes of the bridge and hanging on in the wind.We waited and shot intermittently for a couple of hours before I moved over to the near side of the bridge. Here I literally hung my lower body off the cliff to get the best angle on it; trying to make it as extreme as possible for Darren’s layout.
It ended up, that the choice pick was a layered merge of four frames with a nice blue sky and a slight wisp of clouds leading into the background of more dense mass. Some light retouching in Photoshop to clean up the foreground and that was that.

Carrick a Rede Rope Bridge

Carrick a Rede Rope Bridge

Here is the final for this one.

Invest NI "Beauty & Brains"

Invest NI “Beauty & Brains”

p.s. I did not take the image of the graph.

"Legs a dangling"

“Legs a dangling”

Hanging on the edge of the bridge

Hanging on the edge of the bridge

Balaclavas are a photographer's best friend

Balaclavas are a photographer’s best friend


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


WonderfulMachine strikes again

I have some more images over at WonderfulMachine. They are featuring me in the latest installment of their tearsheet section (you’ll have to scroll into it a bit). The images are some nice portraits I did for the Northern Ireland Cancer Fund for Children with AV Browne and Darcie Graham.

Darcie is gone from AV Browne now; she’s off doing a year at Hyper Island in Interactive Art Direction. I know some people might think that’s an oxymoron like the old military intelligence or Microsoft Works but Darcie will do great there.

Here’s a little more info on Hyper Island. It was started in 1996 with 32 students and was housed in an old prison. They now have almost a dozen long term courses in a variety of multimedia fields for around 260 students. They have two campus’; one in Stockholm and the other in Karlskrona. It is very much a real hands on school where students work on proper briefs and use real life experiences, both good and bad to come to the best results. The course run down looks like this:
Digital Media – 90 weeks, including a 30-week internship
Mobile Applications – 60 weeks, including a 16-week internship
Interactive Art Director – 45 weeks, including a 15-week internship
eCommerce Manager – 40 weeks, including a 14-week internship
Motion Graphics – 40 weeks, including a 13-week internship
Interactive Media Design & Management – 32 weeks, including a 12-week internship

They don’t have any photography classes so I probably won’t be seen in Stockholm anytime soon but the motion graphics class sounds interesting.
All the best to Darcie at school.
And thanks again to WondefulMachine for spreading the word

NICFC - Northern Ireland Cancer Fund for Children

NICFC – Northern Ireland Cancer Fund for Children

NICFC - Northern Ireland Cancer Fund for Children

NICFC – Northern Ireland Cancer Fund for Children


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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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

 


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.