Gavin Millar – the Sony lovefest podcast

Today I talk with Gavin Millar, newly appointed Fuji ambassador. Gavin is a respected fashion photographer, hailing from Belfast. Once shooting with Nikon, he has moved onto Fuji 35mm digital cameras and now has moved up to the GFX medium format system, using the Sony Exmor sensor.

You can also find us on iTunes at Agitate

Links from today’s podcast


Chris Whitehead – Serial Entrepreneur

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

You can also find us on iTunes at Agitate

Links from today’s podcast

Andy Yoong – New Media Entrepreneur

On this episode of Agitate, I’m sharing coffee with Andy Yoong. Andy is a media “jack of all trades” who directs, DOP’s, flies a drone and works his ass off on anything that comes his way. He did a feature length mountain bike film (check it out here). Today we’re talking about his travels, mountain biking and gear

You can also find us on iTunes at Agitate

Cinemagraphs, Cinegraphs, Plotagraphs and Dynamic Imagery

So by this point if you haven’t seen, heard or even created a cinemagraph then you’ve had your head so far in the sand, you’ll be coughing up beach for weeks.

Brief  (very brief) History of Cinemagraphs
According to what the web says, cinemagraphs were coined by Kevin Burg and Jamie Beck, more than likely in the same way as stitching multiple shallow DOF (depth of field) images together creates what is now called the “Brenizer effect” even though both were created years previously but were, let’s say, popularized by the aforementioned. Ryan Brenizer, Kevin and Jamie would probably some of the premier artists in their fields when it comes to these specialty techniques. Doug Richardson out of Texas was one of the early pioneers having applied for several patents and creating his first cinemagraph commercially for Land Rover back in 2005. As well Gus Mantel used the effect to great success with his exhibit of cinema stills animated back in 2013.

Some of the first cinemagraphs I remember seeing were back in LA, in 2004 or 2005. They were located in bus shelters and on electronic billboards, back then called “living billboards” and such, they had yet to have a trendy name given to the method of a still image with an aspect of it portrayed in motion. It was very simple motion included into the still image; things like blinking eyes, lights turning off and on or a waft of hair blowing. Today we can do just about anything within the confines of a “cinemagraph”, including water, clouds, time lapses, and even rotoscoping, a technique where we go in frame by frame and mask off areas for the desired effect. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Creating a Cinemagraph . . . Simply
So what’s the best way to create a cinemagraph?
Well you need to get some very good motion footage. From there you can use a few different Adobe products to get an end result but probably the easiest is using Photoshop (CS6 or later, including CC). So Adobe made Photoshop video capable back in CS6 in 2012, with that you can drop your video file onto the PS icon or select import and bring it into PS.

From there, basically, you’ll create a still frame from the video portion of specific time you want frozen. With that still layer on top of your video layer, you’ll create a layer mask and simply paint in the motion from the layer beneath. They are tonnes of tutorials that can show you how to do this on Youtube.

A second way to create a cinemagraph is solely from a still image. This involves animating sections of the image to create the illusion of realistic movement. There are a few methods to create these cinemagraphs, one is with the use of the “Plotagraph” app. Its not cheap though. If you are interested in this method you can also try tutorials using both Photoshop and After Effects; both methods will require you to be in your most attentive state (no red wine tonight) as they are quite complicated and intensive to create realistic results.


Example of an animated still image (Plotagraph style)

Example of an animated still image (Plotagraph style) gif format

One last method to creating this type of dynamic imagery is by layering a still file with a video file and simply changing the blending mode of the motion file. For example, in the image below I took an archived image I had from Glenariff Forest Park of a girl watching the rushing water fall over the rocks at Ess-na-Larach. I sandwiched this image along with a video file of snow blowing, changed the blending mode and voila.

— Example of a still image and motion file layered together

File Formats
If you do an Instagram search for cinemagraph, you’ll find tens of thousands of images with moving elements within them, some good, some not so good but all of them are video format files and usually mp4. For social media there are two formats of choice, gifs being self loading and looping while mp4’s require some finessing in whichever video player you want to play them through, on whichever platform they are located. For example, you won’t be able to loop a YouTube or Vimeo based motion file without doing a little bit of simple coding when you go to embed. Mp4’s will giving you a better quality(more colours & sharpness) in trade off for file size(sometimes) while gifs are self loading, looping can be embedded in just about anywhere; emails, web, etc etc.

Example of a looping mp4 cinemagraph
—– Example of the same scenario in gif format Example of the same scenario in gif format

Uploading to the Web
Obviously when exporting cinemagraphs for the web, you need to be thinking about file size; not everyone has broadband but hopefully the market you are trying to reach has something close, otherwise you’re going to be uploading some very small gifs and mp4s. Even though this blog post is hosted in the UK and the USA, you might see lagging and slow to play files. If you want to use them on Facebook they need to be in gif or mp4 formats; Facebook now supports gifs and any video file shorter than 30 seconds will automatically loop. Gifs need to be “linked” from a hosted site when posting on Facebook; sites like Tumblr, Giphy, imgur or your own site. With your video files when posting them on Facebook, remember to go into after you post it and change in the settings for the video, the default playing resolution to HD, otherwise they will play in SD unless the viewer changes it.

If you want to upload to Instagram then the best format is mp4, that’s the way it is. Mp4’s will give you a better quality(colour & dithering) in trade off for file size and self loading while gifs can be embedded in just about anywhere; emails, web, etc etc. You can only upload video files from their mobile app, not the desktop version. So somehow you need to get the video file onto your mobile; email, AirDrop, iCloud, DropBox and of these will allow you to move that file onto your mobile device.

Optimizing GIFs
While there are some tricks that are only whispered about in back rooms about how to make crazy minimalised sized HD resolution gifs, you’re probably going to be stuck outputting through Photoshop’s web legacy “save for web” option or maybe experimenting with one of the many newly written apps for creating gifs like Gif Factory, GifRocket and one of the latest ones, from the makers of VSCO is DSCO. If not using one of these apps, you’ll need to use Photoshop’s “save for web” legacy option under export in the file menu. Saving a gif for web is sort of hit and miss; trying to get the file size down while preserving the colour and smoothness of the image. Too much dithering, colour reduction or compression can ruin the look of your image.

Optimizing Video
Video for the web can be a tricky one; you want it a small file size but you also want also the resolution, smoothness and saturation that the video gives you over a gif. Personally I use the mp4 file format, it gives me a small file size without compromising too much on all the other aspects. After I finish all my fiddling in Photoshop with the cinemagraph, I go File>Export>Render Video, then I use the default settings for a 2k cinemagraph (image below).

Render video settings

Render video settings



While cinemagraphs are still trending out there in interweb land, marketing and advertising agencies will keep ramping up their use. As long as the platform can support their files sizes, either in mp4 or gif formats, a dynamic image will almost always draw in a larger more involved audience than a static image.
There are several so called rules though to producing and distributing cinemagraphs to the public.

1. Does the image stand on its own? There are still random issues with gifs and mp4s on different platforms; gifs don’t render in MS Outlook, still the major email program for most businesses. All the end user will end up seeing is the first frame of the gif as a static image.

2. Keep them small and tight. The file size needs to be small for the platform to load it quickly and play. The motion in the image should be smooth and simple, nothing too busy or complex.

3. Following number 2, is it “Dynamic”? Does the image have a good use of colour and motion; does it draw the viewer into repeatedly watching it?

4. Be creative with it; make sure the content is intriguing and stimulating

5. Does it loop seamlessly? The motion needs to repeat itself without the viewer becoming aware of it.


To see more of my dynamic motion content(cinemagraphs) click here

Mags White – Self Employed Arts Consultant

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

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.

Deloitte and the messy paint shoot

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


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.



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.

Random thoughts? 1/5 Gregory Crewdson

It’s been five (5) years since I started writing down my thoughts about photography, work, personal projects etc.
Below is an unfinished post that I started writing coming up to the first year of the “blog” (never really liked the word “blog”, sounds like a made up word for something no one knew how to describe . . . how about journal(?). I’ve split the post into 5 separate posts now so its a little easier to read.

March 6th 2012

Well, I’m coming up to a year writing this blog thing now; it was something I didn’t want/think I could do for this long.
It’s been good to do; vent a little now and then, give a little insight into my personal as well as work world. I’ve had some positive and negative comments from lots of people. It’s not something I hold against anyone because I respect the fact that others have their own opinions and I also respect someone who can actually voice that opinion without trying to sugar coat it for the recipient.
I have never been a reader. I struggle to make it through a couple of paragraphs and the only time I ever find myself actually reading something in its entirety is when I’m flying somewhere and I pick up a Wired magazine or the likes at the airport. I wish I could sit and read like Olivia; to sit and read a book, a couple hundred pages in a sitting seems like a soothing thing to do. I get antsy after more than 20 minutes in one place unless someone has me genuinely interested in what they have to say.
I’m a visual and technical person as most of you can tell from my images and my ramblings about photographic mathematics and such. I admire other photographers who are keenly skilled in pulling off amazingly technical and visually compelling images, production value is everything. That said, I do like a few “street” photographers like Gary Winogrand and portrait photographers like Walker Evans who besides the fact that one shot on 35mm and the other on 8×10, both had a very candid atmospheres to their images.
I can go on and on about photographers I like; Jeanloup Sieff, Lartigue, Avedon, Penn etc but the ones that really inspire me are just a handful.

Gregory Crewdson is one, for his amazing attention to details and just for sheer volume of production; his works are complete masterpieces that need to be viewed in person to really appreciate the scale of work that he puts into them. There are so many little things going on in his images; each one reading like a small novel, a story of the location and its inhabitants.
Update, GC has just finished his latest body of work called “Cathedral of the Pines”. Its just finished its run at the Gagosian Gallery in New York.–january-28-2016

The Pickup Truck 2014

© Gregory Crewdson. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery The Pickup Truck 2014 Digital pigment print Image size: 37 1/2 x 50 inches (95.3 x 127 cm) Framed size: 45 1/16 x 57 9/16 inches (114.5 x 146.2 cm) Edition of 3, plus 2 APs

© Gregory Crewdson. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery
The Pickup Truck 2014
Digital pigment print
Image size: 37 1/2 x 50 inches (95.3 x 127 cm)
Framed size: 45 1/16 x 57 9/16 inches (114.5 x 146.2 cm)
Edition of 3, plus 2 APs

The repeating pattern of vertical trees, juxtaposed with the haphazardness of the broken branches on the ground.


The Haircut 2014

© Gregory Crewdson. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery The Haircut 2014 Digital pigment print Image size: 37 1/2 x 50 inches (95.3 x 127 cm) Framed size: 45 1/16 x 57 9/16 inches (114.5 x 146.2 cm) Edition of 3, plus 2 APs

© Gregory Crewdson. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery
The Haircut 2014
Digital pigment print
Image size: 37 1/2 x 50 inches (95.3 x 127 cm)
Framed size: 45 1/16 x 57 9/16 inches (114.5 x 146.2 cm)
Edition of 3, plus 2 APs

The almost perfect use of the Fibonacci spiral, focusing you in on the two girls and the outhouse but then letting your eye wander back out and to the right side with the broken down shack and eerie white fog behind it.


Beneath the Bridge 2014

© Gregory Crewdson. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery Beneath the Bridge 2014 Digital pigment print Image size: 37 1/2 x 50 inches (95.3 x 127 cm) Framed size: 45 1/16 x 57 9/16 inches (114.5 x 146.2 cm) Edition of 3, plus 2 APs

© Gregory Crewdson. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery
Beneath the Bridge 2014
Digital pigment print
Image size: 37 1/2 x 50 inches (95.3 x 127 cm)
Framed size: 45 1/16 x 57 9/16 inches (114.5 x 146.2 cm)
Edition of 3, plus 2 APs

The depth of the image and the use of curves and straight lights as design elements.

The Barn 2013

© Gregory Crewdson. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery The Barn 2013 Digital pigment print Image size: 37 1/2 x 50 inches (95.3 x 127 cm) Framed size: 45 1/16 x 57 9/16 inches (114.5 x 146.2 cm) Edition of 3, plus 2 APs

© Gregory Crewdson. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery
The Barn 2013
Digital pigment print
Image size: 37 1/2 x 50 inches (95.3 x 127 cm)
Framed size: 45 1/16 x 57 9/16 inches (114.5 x 146.2 cm)
Edition of 3, plus 2 APs

The subtle glow of the window light falling on the subject and the perfect balance of composition.


Untitled 2007

© Gregory Crewdson. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery "Untitled" 2007

© Gregory Crewdson. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery
Untitled 2007

The alternating light/dark of the subject matter and the use of long exposure to convey the passing of time


Untitled 2006

© Gregory Crewdson. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery "Untitled" Worthington Street 2006

© Gregory Crewdson. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery
Untitled 2006

The use of colour and leading lines to draw your eye into the centre of the frame and the car.


Untitled 2006

© Gregory Crewdson. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery "Untitled" 2006

© Gregory Crewdson. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery
Untitled 2006

The emphasis of vignetting, bring your attention to the centre of the frame and the subject.


Untitled 2006

© Gregory Crewdson. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery "Untitled" 2006

© Gregory Crewdson. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery
Untitled 2006

The beautiful use of lighting and snow to keep your eye wandering back between the moose and the man.


Gregory Crewdon’s photography for me, epitomizes the real essence of contemporary fine art photography. Its not shy, its bold, amazingly art directed and thought out and with enough wit and curiosity to keep the viewer coming back for more. Overall his images are based on composition, subject matter and lighting; you don’t find bold colours, excessive detail or texture, just whats there and what you need to see to be able to see the story within.
I have always taken influence from movies and cinematography; I love the idea of creating a story with moving image. This translates to Crewdson’s work by doing the same in just one, single frame.
For more on him, there was a documentary made on him here.

Pentax 645z- Mr ZED – One Year Evaluation

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

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

Sensor – Bigger is better

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

Glass – Old and New

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

Trial By Fire – The First Big Project

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

Couple at the Martello Tower at sunset in Sutton, Dublin

Couple at the Martello Tower at sunset in Sutton, Dublin

Couple visiting the Long Room at Trinity College, Dublin

Couple visiting the Long Room at Trinity College, Dublin

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

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

Couple talking to a local fisherman at Colliemore Habour, Dublin

Couple talking to a local fisherman at Colliemore Habour, Dublin

Couple at the National Concert Hall, Dublin

Couple at the National Concert Hall, Dublin

Three surfers at the Dollymount Beach in Dublin

Three surfers at the Dollymount Beach in Dublin

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

8. Matrix style metering is pretty accurate

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

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

Support – Everyone needs a shoulder to lean on

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

Media – Pick a card

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

Shooting Modes – Auto, Manual and all the rest

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

Operations – Basic Training

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


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

Room for Improvement?

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


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

un corrected image straight from camera

un corrected image straight from camera

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

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

55mm f8@ 1/800 640iso

55mm f8@ 1/800 640iso

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

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

150mm f2.8 @ 1/4000 iso 800

150mm f2.8 @ 1/4000 iso 800

55mm f2.8 @ 1/8 iso 100

55mm f2.8 @ 1/8 iso 100

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

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

150mm f2.8 @ 1/200 iso 3200

150mm f2.8 @ 1/200 iso 3200

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

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

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

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

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.

Colin Davidson for Artists & Illustrators Magazine

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

Colin Davidson in his loft studio

Colin Davidson in his loft studio

Exit Stage Left – Deborah Samuel Interview

I’ve known about Deborah Samuel for over 25 years but I’ve only known Deborah for 10 or so.
Its a funny little world we live in. I went to the same photography school as she did; she even spoke to us on our weekly Monday afternoon lectures. I worked for years with people in her circle (Jim Allen, Larry Miller, Dimitri Mavrikis, etc) but I had never worked with her. An old school mate was her first assistant too. I remember talking to Deb (her assistant) on the phone a bunch of times, hoping she would need something rushed over to set, some emergency piece of gear so I could finally meet her face to face; that never happened.
Fast forward to 2001 and I’m now living in Southern California. I still keep in contact with her photographer brother Craig and he mentioned to me one time that she was living in Santa Barbara, about 15 minutes north of where I lived. I often thought about giving her a call but the chances of her remembering me, I thought, were small. So to my surprise one day in the parking lot of Starbucks, who pulls in beside me but Deborah. I laughed to myself and pondered once again what a small world it is. Then looking over I see that she is already out of her car and walking.
I quickly opened the Jeep’s door and yelled, “hey Deborah”.
She spun around and stared at me with a semi blank look, “Peter? . . . . Peter, how are you?”
Thats okay, I didn’t expect her to recognize me.
We chatted for a few minutes and I found out that she actually lived in my town and only about 20 houses away.
Over the years we have keep in contact and helped each other out here and there. I feel very honoured and privileged to know her as she is one of the great Canadian photographers.

Deborah Samuel is Canadian photographer currently living in Santa Fe, New
Mexico. Her photographs reside in many public, corporate and private
collections and her work has been widely exhibited internationally. After
working extensively as a commercial artist and winning numerous awards, she
now focuses exclusively on fine art projects.

RD – Hi Deb, its been a while. How long have you been in New Mexico?
DS – Been living in NM for nearly 10 years now.

RD – Is there something about the climate that gives you inspiration, gets you
creatively going?
DS – Yes, I like the isolation that NM offers. The landscape is vast here, where one lives within nature, which is a state of being that I enjoy. Find it brings up a lot of my core here and my work is transmuted by this environment. In NM time slows down, its inherent isolation within nature is in its purest form. The fragility inherent in the landscape gives me space to think, to create unlike a lot of environments that take this quality away.

Rush - Permanent Waves

Rush – Permanent Waves

RD – The first images I remember seeing of yours were of the Permanent Waves cover
for the band Rush. I was only thirteen but it made a big influence on me. What was it like doing covers for one of the biggest bands from Canada?
DS – I had studied photography at Sheridan College, Oakville with the intention of working within fine art photography once I graduated. Once I graduated, friends of mine who were in bands needed promo shots, which I was able to do so I started working commercially by doing these projects. Eventually these friends got recording deals, which meant they needed cover art. That’s how I started in music. I could see it afforded me a greater creativity in working within this genre. I eventually moved into fashion work for the same reason.
Hugh Syme who was the creative force behind the Rush Covers hired me to style the Permanent Waves Album Cover because of my work in music and fashion. There were already 2 photographers on Permanent Waves who had supplied the background hurricane shot and band shots. I ended up styling the model and shooting the newspaper(Dewey defeats Truman) while another British photographer,Fin Costello shot the Permanent Waves girl and Hugh Syme leaning against the pole waving on the cover. We then took the 4 elements-background hurricane shot by Flip Shulke, Permanent Waves girl, newspaper and Hugh leaning against the pole and printed the 4 negatives onto 1 piece of paper…a feat done before the invention of Photoshop…took all night to get one image where the register of the 4 images onto 1 piece of paper was achieved.
The work we did on Permanent Waves led Hugh and I to doing numerous album covers together. Working on the Rush Covers(I did Moving Pictures/Signals and Exit Stage Left) and band shots or bits of other covers was always fun and thought provoking. The Rush covers always had the best budgets so we were able to achieve a bigger production because of this fact.

RD – How much of the art and creative direction came from you?
DS – Hugh was responsible for the Rush Covers, on other covers we did, the ideas were somewhat shared as we worked creatively very well together.

Rush - Moving Pictures

Rush – Moving Pictures

RD – I especially remember the cover for Moving Pictures, another one of my
favourites. You had a special role for that cover didn’t you?
DS – This I believe was the second Rush cover we worked on together. Seeing as Hugh had put himself on the Permanent Waves cover it was my turn to be on the Moving Pictures cover as Joan of Arc, in one of the 3 paintings that were being moved by the moving men. (Moving Pictures was a pun on the many facets of how the words Moving Pictures could be translated visually). In being Joan of Arc, I dressed in burlap, stood with my back to a pole with a shutter release cable in my hand, in order to take the picture, while Hugh squirted lighter fluid into a pie plate that was just in front of the lens and tossed in a match.

Rush - Moving Pictures BTS

Rush – Moving Pictures BTS

RD – It was so subtly lit and you get the great behind the scenes image on the back cover. How long had you been directing big productions at this time?
DS – This was probably the biggest production I had done at that point in my career. I set up my camera on the top of a truck which we had parked in place for the shot and brought in each element one at a time and placed each element to build the scene within the view finder. Exit Stage Left was an enormous production….and got completely insane by contrast.

Rush - Exit Stage Left

Rush – Exit Stage Left

RD – Oh ya? It must have been tricky getting all the elements together for that cover. You had to bring in props from eight previous album covers?
DS – Yes, that was the insane part of producing the Exit Stage Left cover. Paula Turnbull (the Permanent Waves girl) was living in Paris and a top model there. We had to bring her to Toronto from Paris for 1 night to shoot this cover. Her wardrobe, which I had rented from a vintage clothing store for the Permanent Waves cover a couple of years prior, had been returned to the store after the initial Permanent Waves cover shoot. To duplicate this wardrobe, meant either finding a duplicate of the wardrobe or having it made up for the Exit Stage Left cover. I contacted the vintage clothing store where I had rented it before and they still had the original sweater and the skirt in their inventory, which was a miracle really.
The man who had played the King on The Farewell to Kings covers lived in Alberta and had to be found, and brought to Toronto. He got off the plane the night of the shoot and became very ill meaning we had to find a replacement for the King character within a couple of hours as we had booked the Winter Gardens Theatre on Yonge St from 4pm-12 midnight to do this shoot. We were one of the last shoots in the Winter Gardens theatre as it was slated for demolition shortly thereafter. The power was very unstable in the theatre and because it was an enormous production, the draw on the electricity kept crashing the power source. At 11.30 at night with ½ hour to go we were tying my lights into exit signs praying it would remain stable enough to get the shot.
Back to the King. We had to find a replacement King, as the real King was unable to do the shoot. We only had 6 hours to get the shot done. Hugh went out on Yonge Street looking for anyone that resembled the original King character. He found a young man on Yonge Street, who agreed to be the King. In he came…got dressed up in a King costume and took on the role of the King in the middle of all this mayhem. I often wondered what was going through his mind during the shoot. It had to have been especially bizarre for him to walk into this production at the last moment.

Rush - Signals

Rush – Signals

RD – You did one last RUSH cover, Signals, which seems ridiculously LoFi compared to all the others.
DS – Very simple concept, courtesy of Hugh Syme. We rented a fire hydrant from the City of Toronto and repainted it the exact color desired. We had to find a Dalmation that would sniff on command. I got a 20×20 piece of Astroturf to simulate a lawn. We shot this cover on the rooftop, above my studio at the time. In order to get the dog to sniff the fire hydrant, we kept placing dog biscuits under the fire hydrant.

RD – I also remember in your talk to us at college, you showing us all these experimental images in fashion you were working on, where you would scratch and scrape the image using different items in the darkroom during processing. How did you come up with this?
DS – I spent so much time perfecting the negative that it felt it was time to take the perfection apart. Experimentation was always a big part of my work. Certainly, I made major mistakes in working this way. Instead of seeing the material as flawed when these mistakes occurred, I would take the process further to see where it would end up; a curious mind, set the tone for a lot of the experimentation.

RD – Shooting fashion, editorial and commercial images in the 80’s and 90’s must have been a fast paced world?
DS – It was a very fast paced world. I worked 7 days a week and loved my work immensely. I enjoyed the art of communication, visual problem solving for clients and capturing the essence of whatever I was photographing.
I traveled a lot as it was before the advent of photoshop and a photographers style was very much a component of being successful. I enjoyed this time but the 80’s and the 90’s now seem like another lifetime ago now. I had worked within the commercial arena for about 20 years. I was fortunate that because of my style, I was often given the difficult jobs but they were very rewarding jobs in that they desired my interpretation of a subject matter. I saw working commercially as problem solving somebody else’s concerns and saw my own work as problem solving my own concerns. Alongside working commercially, I exhibited my personal work throughout my career. In about 2002, I felt the pull to concentrate on my own work exclusively and move out of the commercial arena to do so.

RD – Is this around the time a certain Joey Bagodonuts came into your life?
DS – The leap to working on my own projects came out of the death of my Labrador Retriever, Ernie. When he died, I only had snapshots of him and realized that I had never done a formal portrait. I got another yellow lab, a Boxer and a Rat Terrier in quick succession after Ernie. I was amazed by the way they each reacted to the same stimuli differently as a result of their breeding. I became interested in documenting the physical differences but more importantly the emotional breed differences between each breed group, each breed within the breed group and the individuality of each dog I worked with. I spent 10 years working with dogs.

RD – Were the dogs a welcome break from your commercial work?
DS – It was certainly a different way of working. All the dogs I worked with were adored by their owners and working within that mindset was always a loving place to work within.

RD – I have to say Deborah, your “Passing” series was something I didn’t really expect from you but also reflects your style from “Dog”, then takes it so much further with the whole passing of time aspect and the beautiful photograms. Where did the idea for this series come from and how many are there in total?
DS – Passing came out of the death of my Boxer, Jake. Jake’s vet had sent flowers when he died and I wanted to photograph the flowers to always remember.
It made me think about the progress of life and how it draws us towards a deeper understanding of the cycles of life. Cycles found in the waxing and waning of seasons, as in the life cycles of plants, animals and people.
Botanicals were a compelling and ideal subject matter suggesting this transience of life.

Passing is represented in three series: Root, Heart and Remains.
Our present is rooted in our past: our DNA, our childhood experiences and our communal influences. These codes shape how we experience life and respond to it. This is our foundation, our belief system.

Beyond the gifts and burdens of our history is our spirit. We are born with it. It sustains us. Ultimately, the root and heart intertwine, becoming a life force that moves us through our cycles.

What remains? The imprint of life translated as memory. Embodied in Remains is the essence of Root and Heart, but transformed and inevitable.

Life is navigated. It moves through Root, is joined and motivated by Heart and its progress is remembered in Remains.

Passing is a series of 30 photographs.

RD – The subtlety of the tones of images like Heart/Oak 1 and Root/Peony 3 are so intense. They have an Edward Weston feel but much more down tempo.
DS – I used Tri-X film to photograph the botanicals. Digital high res scans were then made from the negatives. I used the Piezography process to produce the prints. Piezography uses 7 blacks in its printing process which gives a much more extended tonal range over normal digital printing processes.

RD – Your latest project Elegy is remarkable, what events lead up to you coming up with this idea?
DS- Animals have always played a very important part in my life. I initially started work on Elegy using birds because of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. I was horrified by the spill ecologically, for wildlife, for the planet and for humanity. At the time, I had wanted to go to Louisiana to photograph the oiled birds, because the oiled birds were the iconic images that symbolized the destruction. I couldn’t find a way to photograph the birds as the government and BP were not allowing people to photograph them. So I ended up going to what would have been the final chapter, which was working with bird skeletons. As a result I became really fascinated with anatomy in how the skeleton itself informs every living creature in how we are able to maintain life and survive.
I think, too, because of my relationship with animals, I started to really question and think about how animals are in the wild, what relationships they have to each other, how they were disturbed by the disaster, how they stay together and how they look after each other. I became fascinated with that aspect of emotion, of bond and relationship. Apart from that, I had a number of deaths with family members and several of my own animals, so the life/death divide was very prominent in my mind.

RD – I have been buying back my old film gear from the 90’s; Mamiyas and 4×5 cameras and lenses. I’ve really enjoyed slowing the process down for my own personal work. Do you see yourself ever going fully digital or do you still “need” to have some analog in your life?
DS – Yes I like working between film and digital depending on what I am trying to say and utilizing the medium that best communicates the idea.

RD – I remember you telling me how long each of the dog images took to shoot, process and print. How do you personally feel about digital, I know you are a film person at heart and have those amazing darkroom skills?
DS – The dog work took up all my time as I was always searching out different breeds and shooting different dogs. I shot and continue to shoot on film with the dog work.
In large part, because I love my Hasselblad square format camera and can get the results working with film that I am used to. I enjoy the tactile qualities in working with film over digital. I have embraced the digital realm nonetheless and find the conversion to the new digital medium an interesting movement forward within the photographic arts.
It has its good points and drawbacks. Largely the good point is that I don’t have to smell darkroom chemistry endlessly. With digital I can work in the light but I do miss my going into the darkroom and being immersed in the quiet womb of darkness. I find when I work digitally in Photoshop that it is really only an extension of my work in the darkroom: spotting, burning and dodging. There is no question that working digitally opens the creative spirit to anything the mind can conjure up. There are limitations in film and I pushed at every limitation that existed working with film. Working digitally is ones’s endless movement forward. I think the biggest issue with digital is knowing when to stop. So to answer you question I think the digital realm is just another layer to an evolving photographic art form. As Ansel Adams said “The single most important component of a camera is the twelve inches behind it.”

A beautiful inspirational video for artists from Paul Caponigro

Cow Parade – Day Two & Three

The second day for Cow Parade wasn’t any better when it came to the weather. A constant stream of precipitation from the sky greeted me in the early morning while packing up the van. In the end, it was only the time we spent trying to get into the Ulster American Folk Park that it didn’t rain.
Our first location was the Folk Park. They didn’t give us a whole lot of time to scout and shoot, so we arrived early hoping to get in a get ahead of ourselves a bit. We didn’t succeed but made our way in with our trusty cart and our full sized Clarice on board. The first set up was the old street scene. I positioned her at camera left, back lit and side lit her with the Profoto Magnum reflector and the 600B pack. I love using the 600B, its great to know you have power and light when you need it, where you need it without worrying about gennies or extension cords and its reliable when used properly (more on that later). We did a few different set ups in a couple of locations at the park but the one below is my favourite from there. A nice hard light to pop the colours on Clarice and bring out all the texture of the cobble stone street. Its just a simple file with only 4 layers in total.

Clarice taking in the UAFP

Clarice taking in the UAFP

Next up was yesterday’s location at Castlewellan Maze, where we were rained out from. Today was still raining but not the crazy downpour from yesterday. We bagged the Profoto, both the head and the pack to keep them dry. Steve loves the weight and heftiness of the Arri C-stands so he mounted the Profoto on it and dragged it around mounted on a 40″ grip arm and head. This set up gives us lots of flexibility to boom the light up and over subjects and obstacles and is heavy enough in most situations so we don’t need to sand bag it.
We started with a set up looking back towards the park itself; the clouds were a dramatically amazing deep blue and contrasted nicely against the green hedges of the maze. We positioned Clarice and Eunice in what I can only imagine is a common situation at the maze, both trying to look over the hedges at each other. I like the image a lot, it has strong leading lines and great contrast and mood.

"Clarice is that you", Eunice said.

“Clarice is that you”, Eunice said.

I like almost as much as I like the shot below, taken 180 degrees in the opposite direction. The feeling is a little bit more disjointed, separated from each other they are walking in different directions feeling the real thrill of isolation in the maze. We back lit Clarice and gave Eunice a kicker in the behind with the 600B. It was however around this time that we started having sync problems with the strobes. The Pocket Wizard receiver was inside the bag with the 600B unit and the heat of the unit building up must have created condensation which led to the pack not firing every time. After attempting to remedy this and continue on we have to give into the elements and call it a day.
I knew we had it all in the bag but like any photographer with a great scene I just wanted to keep on going. This particular frame has the mountain tops hidden by the clouds but the fields on the hillside are lit by sunlight, a break in the constant clouds that plagued us. This is probably one of my favourite frames from the whole shoot and I love the angry, frustrated expression on Clarice’s face. She’s wants out of there now.

Clarice yelled to Eunice, "get me outa here"

Clarice yelled to Eunice, “get me outa here”

That was it for day two and it was now a damp drive home with three soaked souls and one dry Larry dog.

Day three was to be just a short one. We needed to cover off the Marble Arch Caves in Fermanagh but Sunday was the only day we could do it and 9am was the only time we would get the chance to shoot without the tourists. We took Eunice with us since it would be impossible to get Clarice even through the door leading down to the caves. If you have never been to the caves its pretty interesting and has an extensive history. Eunice found it so interesting that she wanted to go for a boat ride, which is where we took our first photo. We back lit her, had a light on the wall and one on camera left in the water to pull a little definition out of the underground lake bed.

"Its dark and scarey down here, mooooooo."

“Its dark and scarey down here, mooooooo.”

The second shot for the caves was further down into the caves beside a swift moving underground stream. In this photo we had a couple of lights on Eunice but I also dragged the shutter for 30 seconds to burn in some of the available light into the background and the pitch black walls. The long exposure gave a dreamy quality to the water.

"Is this the way out?"

“Is this the way out?”


Anatomy of a Campaign – Sangers

Its coming up to a year since I shot this little campaign for Sangers Pharmaceutical. It was definitely a fun one. Chris from Fire IMC (RIP) approached me with an idea of different locations around Northern Ireland, showing the diverse landscape with one of their vans driving through it. He had a pretty good idea of which regions he wanted to use but that was pretty much it. He left it up to me to find exact locations and scenarios for the vans. Normally for a automotive shoot you would have lighting set up; HMI’s or in the least some big strobes but because of the budget and size of this production it was decided all of that would be staying at the studio and it would be just man and camera scenario, well with an assistant or two to spot for me so I didn’t get run over by any random traffic.

Derry/Londonderry – Of course we had to have the wall in the shot, to place it as being in Derry. We could have just had it running parallel to the wall but it would have been just too two dimensional. I would have liked a real “in yo face” image of the van driving straight for the camera, through one of the wall arches but we wouldn’t have been able to see the branding on the van and more so, I’m sure the PSNI wouldn’t have approved of me lying on the road, directing a 2 tonne van towards me with traffic and pedestrians everywhere. We ended up after scouting around on a reccy day, deciding on the Ferryquay Gate for the van to be coming through. On the day of the shoot everything worked out as planned; the van was backlit, we had a blue sky and traffic was low, making for a great contrasty image, really showing off the van and the branding on the side.

Sangers Pharmaceutical in Derry

Sangers Pharmaceutical in Derry

Glenshaine Pass – This proved to be one of the more difficult locations just for the sheer madness of the wind howling up and down the pass on any given day. It is also not any easy location to make the landscape shine as well as have your product in the foreground, attempting to be the hero. The beautiful rolling hills and valleys in the Glenshaine are all just a little too far from the road itself but we found a few locations that lent to a tidy compromise. As well as the two or three stationary set ups we also ventured to try some moving shots, car to van. I can’t say they were really that successful with all the traffic flowing through the pass, as it made it difficult to get a clear shot at any one time. It did prove humourous though when I spied off in the far right of the viewfinder a PSNI police car zooming up the pass towards our Audi A6 chase car; I’m guessing he didn’t spot me, hanging out the window with my upper body contorting out and over the white lines of the road and into the other lane. The image they ended up using was one of our static 15 foot ladder shots with the van passing in front of the rolling hills.

Sangers Pharmaceutical in the Glenshaine Pass

Sangers Pharmaceutical in the Glenshaine Pass

Fermanagh – The brief for this one was simple, show some elevation, the van and some water. All said and good but its near impossible, at least I never found a location on a road where you could place a van and still see the lakes in the background. Oops, I take that back, I did find one location like that, on a bend in front a farm, unfortunately though the client didn’t like it. I spent two days scouting around the area when I finally came up with a suitable option. Looking up and over a small dock area, towards a bridge where we could have the van drive over. At this point though we were starting to run out of time and acceptable days to shoot on. Taking what we could get weather wise, after the long drive out to the location we set up the camera, moved a few boats around and radioed over to the driver to make a dozen passes over the bridge, changing his lane positions slightly to give us a better view of the side of the truck.

Sangers Pharmaceutical in Fermanagh

Sangers Pharmaceutical in Fermanagh

Belleek – Here we are in beautiful Belleek. We end up with a beautiful sunny day for this one. Good too, since I didn’t get a chance to scout this location because we were picking it up as an option to one we had shot in the Mournes that didn’t really scream “Sangers” for the client. Since we’re in Belleek what do we have for landscapes or recognizable landmarks? Why the huge Belleek Pottery building of course. I tried a few different angles on the building, placing the van around its outer perimeter. The most picturesque was the van coming over the bridge. Again we waited for the sun to backlight the van slightly and had the driver make a couple of dozen runs due to the heavy spring traffic coming through.
I wonder if anyone can tell me geographically what’s wrong with this picture?

Sangers Pharmaceutical in Belleek

Sangers Pharmaceutical in Belleek

Belfast – Belfast proved to be the quickest and one of the most fun locations to shoot. Hanging out of the window of the A6, zipping around Belfast City Hall, first thing on a Sunday morning, swapping lanes and dodging early morning pedestrians we finished before the major church going traffic appeared. We didn’t really have a whole lot of options here. A static shot, even from the 15 foot ladder didn’t do anything for the van or the building. It needed some movement. Chris manned the driver’s seat and we sliced through those empty Belfast downtown streets, chasing down our van driver in a unrehearsed game of cat and mouse. No options when it came to lighting, sun position etc, so we just went for it, knowing that any changes or extras we wanted would have to be added in post. We were lucky that for the most part, the several selects were all spot on and the final pick just needed the sky brought down slightly.

Sangers Pharmaceutical in Belfast

Sangers Pharmaceutical in Belfast

So there you have it, another short and sweet campaign brought to you by Rob Durston Photography, thanks for reading.

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

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.

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.

Waiting for a something to say

I’ve been so busy lately. I’ll be getting to a new posting soon. Stay tuned.

The Waiting Room

The Waiting Room

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

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.

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.

Polaroid I miss you.

For a few years now I’ve been playing with composite portraits; taking several photographs of one face and them combining them seamlessly in post. Here is one of my latest experiments. I’ve taken 4 images with a long lense, wide open, with a Canon 5D mk2 and combined them to make one complete face. I’ve also given it a treatment to give the overall image a feeling of old Polaroid t55; it doesn’t have the rebates of a 55 but I feel it has a certain coolness to it. this image was shot in the studio using natural light.

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.