ROB DURSTON PHOTOGRAPHY

Posts Tagged ‘Belfast’

Carrie Davenport – Commercial Photographer

Today I speak with Carrie Davenport in a very boomy sounding room. It was a riot. She talks to me about everything from kittens, favourite music, racism, photography and the business of photography
http://carriedavenport.com/


Shooting Polaroid/Fuji instant for the negative

Olivia in the Top Field

Olivia in the Top Field

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

Lonely stop sign somewhere in rural California

Lonely stop sign somewhere in rural California

Amarilylsis lit with window light in my home in California.

Amarilylsis lit with window light in my home in California.

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

Two surfers waiting on the beach in Carpinteria, CA.

Two surfers waiting on the beach in Carpinteria, CA.

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

Pétanque balls lying in the garden in the south of France

Pétanque balls lying in the garden in the south of France

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

Gorgeous Olivia in the Top Field

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

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

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

Red dress, blue sky

Red dress, blue sky


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


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.


Model test – Stuart

Been keeping busy with things around Lucy’s Trust and work these past few months. Before I post something from the advertising world, I figured I’d post a quick test we shot with Stuart. We are in the middle of vying for a pretty big catalogue shoot coming up and we’re looking for a late 30’s, or 40 mature guy.
Stuart came forward a few weeks ago so we quickly did a test in between shoots. We went up to Black Mountain overlooking Belfast and couldn’t have shot on a more drizzling day (you can actually see the rain in some of the shots). The fog was very heavy when we first turned up but we proceeded on, and sure enough it started to lift and give us some beautiful soft light.


It was a good quick shoot and the walk back to the cars was right on time as the skies started to open even more and pour down.


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.


BTS – Behind the Scenes Fall 2011

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


Losing the Paper – saying goodbye to the paper model release and embracing your iPhone, again.

I shoot quite a bit of photography that requires model releases; probably somewhere in the range of 90-95%. I’ve been using paper model releases for as long as I can remember. They are a constant bane on a shoot, always tracking down each talent for their signature, explaining every bit of phrasing and finally filing them away in some sense of order.

I’ve luckily never been asked for a release from the past. I know photographers who don’t bother just for that reason; big gamble. They better hope that their images never hit a larger, global market, especially with that new thing, the internet, out there. I know others who have everything covered in paper with filing cabinets full of the past ten or twenty years of redundant paper, forms and signatures.

I probably fall somewhere in the middle. I totally believe in the power of the model release and I’m scared shedless of someone coming back on one. It tends to be such a grey/gray area for many in the field who look after paperwork themselves. I imagine reps/agents/producers play it safe for larger public shoots and cover it off with a few different options. I’ve seen nightclubs in Hollywood hang posters outside stating entry onto the premisses equals signing of a release, then have a bulk pad of A4 releases on a podium. A real dark area I think for most photographers is the whole public area with models mixed with locals. They have releases for all the models but don’t bother with public since there are more than 20 people in a public place. Then there is the argument of art versus commerce and did it actually affect the individual’s standing. There are so many factors, its best to have photoattorney.com or your own lawyer figure out for you. I’m definitely no expert.

What I’m writing about here today are electronic model releases, specifically Easy Release and Release Me. Both of these work on iPhones, iPads and Easy Release also works on Android. Both were developed in conjunction with working photographers. Easy Release was devised by Washington D.C. photographer Robert Giroux while Release Me was written in conjunction with Joey Lawrence an advertising/commercial photographer from Canada. They cost just under $10 USD and offer much more than just free or $.99 apps out there.
I purchased them both through iTunes and were easy enough to install. Both prompt you after first opening the app to fill in some basic information that will become mostly default info for your releases; name, address and other contact info are inserted into standard app format. Release Me doesn’t always orient the keyboard when the device is rotated which can be a bit of a pain since I’m currently working off an iPhone and the text is small enough. No such problems with Easy Release. Easy Release it must be said also also includes translations for 13 languages in total.

After setting up your basic info, both apps ask for a project/shoot name to begin the model release creation. Easy Release allows you to sort your releases by project, model names, date or release status; I could see this being a handy option down the line after a couple of hundred releases, knowing the name of the person but not which project you worked together on. Release Me on the other hand only sorts by projects. Both work very much the same in all the steps leading to a signed release. Easy Release is a little more comprehensive with it a few more descriptive boxes like ethnicity and DOB. I found them both easy to work through which is good since neither has any instructions; Release Me have a Vimeo video that Joey L hosts, walking you through.
There are a few small things that bug me about each and there are a few more that I like.

Release Me
Pros
outputs to PDF
simple format
scale and crop model’s image
change model release on the fly (just make sure your model doesn’t do it themselves)
auto location with iPhone/iPad

Cons
hard to read some of the copy
flip orientation is not consistent
can only sort by project
very little info on website

Easy Release
Pros
outputs to PDF and JPG and print
13 languages
property and model releases
all releases show current status
sort by name, date, project or status
photographer AND model have to sign release

Cons
can’t change verbiage on the fly
can’t view large model image without going into edit mode

Easy Release model release

Easy Release model release

Release Me model release

Release Me model release

Both apps require you to get a signature if you want to go back into the release for whatever purpose, makes sense but neither of them really give you a large enough preview image of the model without outputting to pdf and viewing it there. It is best to make sure, just like on a paper release, that you fill in as much info as possible at the time; editing after the fact for any purpose requires new signatures so get it right the first time.

In conclusion, I like them both but if I had to invest in only one I would choose Easy Release($9.99 USD). It is far more robust and expandable over Release Me ($8.99 USD)and feels like a professional piece of software. Easy Release also have an extra Pro Pack module for an additional $3.99 USD to customize and add more fields ( I don’t feel its necessary for myself at the moment but I do like the “link to blank release template feature”. It feels like Release Me is a little too simple for a working photographer and has a few minor bugs (orientation) to iron out.
If you want to try one out for free to see if it fits into your workflow, try ID Release, be warned you get what you pay for.

A quick update is


Gone and pretty much forgotten – Tegna Golf

I was trolling though some of my archives looking for a couple of random beauty shots I did back in the film days and I came across these.
They are from a clothing company called Tegna Golf. It was a female specific brand for golf and leisure. If I remember right there was some pretty funky stuff.

Polaroid of a Tegna blue vest

Polaroid of a Tegna blue vest

It was an early morning start. My assistants Micheal Holmes and James Dewhirst loaded up the Cherokee with the gear, a background and prop/styling kits. We were a full load, so we actually had to bring the creative director, Joelle Hanna’s Jeep as well. So the crew from Carpinteria was myself, Micheal, James, Joelle and Lynda Martin. We were to meet up with the LA portion down on Abbot Kinney at some coffee shop. Well, people got lost, models got turned around in traffic and we all got to the studio a little late. I even remember the address 1332 Main Street
I took this photograph of one of the models, I can’t recall her name, outside between shots. I brought along my old Polaroid 195 camera. I used to use it all the time when I was shooting film to capture behind the scenes images on and around set. Today I had it loaded with Fuji FP100c.

1332 Main

Outside 1332 Main Street Santa Monica, between shots

Here is one shot on the Mamiya RZ with James the assistant standing in for one of the models.

James Dewhirst - stunt double

James Dewhirst – stunt double

It was a great day. I’m pretty sure we all had a great time and ate well since we were working in Santa Monica, right down with all the good cafes and restaurants.
We brought the film home to Santa Barbara and had it processed at Color Services. I remember the client asking for all the film as they didn’t know how each garment was going to be laid out on the pages. I reluctantly agreed but told them I would need the film back as I was the copyright owner of it and they could have it back as they needed it. I would have never done this before; they would have received a set of scanned contact sheets and chosen from them but with the timing and them being on the east coast, it just wasn’t possible.

You can imagine the rest of the story. They scanned the film, used what they wanted, stalled me for a year or so, then went bankrupt. In the end I was left with a pay cheque and around a dozen or so Fujiroids. It pissed me off to no end back then. I remember getting crazy poses out of the girls, whom two of had never modeled before. They were all very unique and not the normal looking California model types for catalogues. Here are the rest of the images I still have. Thanks again to everyone who worked on the shoot if I missed you name.

Green & White top

Green & White top – 7×7 Fuji FP100c

Holding the whites

White Top – 7×7 Fuji FP100c

Purple Outfit

Purple Outfit – 7×7 Fuji FP100c

Green & White outfit

Green & White outfit – 7×7 Fuji FP100c

Pink Top 2

Pink Top 2 – 7×7 Fuji FP100c

Pink Top

Pink Top – 7×7 Fuji FP100c

Check Jacket

Check Jacket – 7×7 Fuji FP100c


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


Lauren Millar for the Guardian Saturday Magazine

When I first arrived here, in Northern Ireland, I didn’t really know a single soul except for Olivia. If I planned on staying and making my living here I had to work. To work I would need to do what I feel I do best (well best besides making a pretty fine vegan chili), photography.

While working in North America I mostly shot products and beauty images for cosmetic companies. It was good work and I enjoyed it. It came relatively easy; work flowed and business was decent enough. I rarely needed to show my portfolio as most work came by referrals. That’s not to say I didn’t work hard on getting business. Every job I worked, I put my all into it. I made sure the client and the creatives were happy but most of all I had to be happy. I did some pretty nice work with some really amazing people. More and more over the years, the portfolios started gathering dust and the website got more and more hits. It seemed like the creatives were embracing the technology.

I moved to Northern Ireland, full-time, about three and a half years ago. Before that I was commuting between LA and Belfast for a little over a year. In that year I made the most of my time. I was visiting every agency that I could; making the rounds with my portfolio under my arm. I only had a couple of portfolios back then. They were custom made and not cheap all told in the end. I got some really good responses from everyone I met with. I didn’t have one “bad” meeting. I pounded the pavement for a few months, just getting my name around. In the beginning I didn’t have a car or insurance so I was renting one from a dealership who provided insurance. That was something like £75 a day so I had to make those days count. Learning Belfast, all the little streets and one way systems. It wasn’t long before I bought a GPS just to have for those days. I traveled down to Dublin and visited a bunch of agencies there as well. Good people, all of them. Some offered up promises they couldn’t keep, whether it was the collapse of the Celtic Tiger or forgetfulness or just a change of mind, there were a couple of sweet projects that just couldn’t be landed.

I often thought about a rep or agent. I had a couple previously in California. They didn’t produce much work but I thought they could be more effective for me in Europe, seeing as how I was new to the scene. I spoke with a few; almost signed with one but in the end nothing gelled. I’m happy for now, that I don’t have one (bar Wonderful Machine). I spoke with a few photographer friends but it was Deb Samuel who summed it up best, “you’re doing a fine job on your own now”. Yup, I guess I am, for now.

Enter an unnamed London photo agency a couple of months ago. They sourced me out (I think through Wonderful Machine as a matter of fact) to commission me to do a feature for The Guardian Saturday magazine. I was kind of weird, I’d never had an agent get involved in editorial work before, especially such a small feature. In the end they bowed out, there wasn’t enough pie.

The story was about Lauren Millar. Lauren’s story can be read here http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2011/aug/26/my-baby-was-stillborn-experience

It was a simple shoot; no scouting, no pre production, no assistant, just in a out with a few options. Lauren and I agreed that the best location would probably be her place so after a quick survey I decided on three scenarios.

Scenarios

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Lauren Millar standing in her living room, cropped version.

Lauren Millar standing in her living room, cropped version.

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As you can see by the link to the story, the image for the online version was cropped very tight and I understand the printed version was much the same. I’m happy with the images on a whole but I would have liked to have see them reproduced full frame.


Anatomy of an Image – NITB Cushendun

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

Cushendun scouting – NITB

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Early morning light aided by 2.5 HMI

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Wide shot of set including lighting and random gels

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The sun is finally coming out in force.

Warming up, both the light and the models

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Davey and his boy diffusing some direct sun

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

Final printed 48 sheet for NITB

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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

The client has decided to take the campaign in a different direction. I will be using the images in some form for a self promotion but I won’t be posting them up until the dust settles.

In the mean time, here’s a pretty picture to look at while you’re waiting.

The Giants Causeway - Morning Mist

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


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

Well, I’m going back to film.

I’ve had enough of digital.

We had a good run together.

But it’s over.

I’m going back to tried and true film; both medium format and 5×4 or 4×5 depending on where you are.

I’ve run the tests and I can’t see any advantage anymore to digital beside speed and I don’t want to be know as a “speedy” photographer. As well, I feel both photographers and the creatives that work with them have become lazy, very lazy. Gone are the days when you might shoot 40 or 50 rolls of 120 in a day. Now it’s not uncommon for clients to be looking at thousands of images from a multiple day shoot.

Remember Polaroids? You would shot a couple maybe per set up to show the client and creatives, then they would let you play with it from there; cover that off and then let your own creativity go and paint your own scene. Now they want to see almost every frame you shoot, just so you don’t veer too far from “their” original brief. Hold on though, isn’t that why we were hired in the first place because we are creatives ourselves and bring something of our own to the table? Has digital given them and us too much information? Are we processing all these visuals and coming up with better ideas on the fly? NO, we’re looking at the backs of cameras so we know we have covered off the needed and the client doesn’t give us shit. That doesn’t really breed creativity in my books. Well now they get to see just the Polaroids with me.

So I’ve got myself a decent little 5×4 hand holdable camera and a 6×7 medium format and I will be using this from now on. All my digital equipment is going up for sale. I’m covering off most of my usual focal lengths in medium format and just a couple on the larger sheet film. Film is just giving that warmer glow; that internal glow and feeling that digital lacks. It becomes a smoothness, both leading from the transition in tones to the actual grain. The grain on film is long imitated but never replicated. And the tones just act smoother when going from the burnt out highlights to those deep endless black shadows that always prove to be the bane of digital photographers.

Here is a 6×7 image.

As you can see, the tones moving from the highlights, down down down into the deep shadows on the right hold their own. The colour is accurate without being cartoon like. The contrast is pleasing without being so crunchy that you start to block up in the shadows and blow the highlights to the moon. You can feel the texture in the flaking paint on the walls. The skin tone is bang on.

I just don’t see the use for digital anymore.

Please feel free to comment.

btw 😉 😉

wink wink


Anatomy of an Image – Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue campaign

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

Well to make a long story short, 26.

Now for the long story.

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

     

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

The stitched images look something like this.

 

 

 

Now time for some post production on this sucker.

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

All done.

26 layers and probably 26 hours in assembly time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and with copy.

 

 

 

Any questions?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


PSNI and Northern Ireland

I’m not trying to get too political here but why does all this still go on? Almost everyone living here knows the answers to the rioting and violence and why they still happens but that still doesn’t answer the question “why?”. No one really wants it but they want to keep on marching and doing July 12th and of course people clash. I’m not going to get all heavy handed and start giving ideas or solutions; its too embedded in people.

The PSNI have had a tough time of it; being the long heavy arm of the law in the past, trying to work along side the army to keep the peace. Since the early 2000’s the PSNI have been responsible for upholding the law alone. They are ever changing their brand and becoming more public friendly. This is where I came in.

I was hired on by local agency Genesis Advertising to translate their brief into images. They were looking to create a bridge between the public and the PSNI, to show how the PSNI is committed to listening to the public and solving their problems and issues. The brief outlined about a dozen images, all on location, with a diverse cross section of the public, represented by models. Of course the beautiful Northern Irish weather that I love so much proved itself once again as being as reliable as a Lucas ignition. Many of the images were shot in the rain or blowing gales. It was on one of these days that I got a severe chest infection that had me coughing and hacking in pain for almost 2 months.

Here are some of those images, all shot on Canon using a Profoto Acute 600B systems and softlight reflectors.

Genesis Advertising and Rob Durston PSNI project

 


Derry and her new Peace Bridge

I like Derry.

Squinty McSquintsalot

id=”attachment_227″ align=”alignleft” width=”600″ caption=”Squinty McSquintsalot”

I’ve been there probably a dozen times in the past 3 years. this time we are here to grab aspects and details of the opening day of their new Peace Bridge. The £14.6 million bridge was funded by the EU’s PEACE III programme and constructed started back in January of 2010. It a pretty sweet looking bridge and I’m mighty impressed with the design that Wilkinson Eyre did on it.

The phone lately has been pretty much consistently ringing; quote/bids, confirmations and cancellations. I’ve been getting them all but there no complaints because it is all working itself out. I’m also in the middle of writing a large art proposal for the government here. It will be a year long project and then tour for another year. I’m hoping to shoot it all on 5×4 black and white film and print it myself on silver based fibre paper. I’ve been getting back into the darkroom, little by little. Taking it slow so all my past memories doesn’t come pouring down on top of me and make me feel overwhelmed. I used to do lot of darkroom work back in the 90’s and enjoyed it for the most part, till I started getting socially deprived by spending all my waking hours there. There is a feeling you get after standing/sitting in the darkroom for 10-14 hours by yourself, then going out in public and mixing in with all the daylight people.

Well must start prepping for a project in Dublin, so I will leave you with this final image of the Peace Bridge.

Wilkinson Eyre Architects' Derry Peace Bridge

id=”attachment_228″ align=”alignleft” width=”600″ caption=”The Derry Peace Bridge”

 


Wonderful Machine

 

Wonderful Machine

I have been “repped” by Wonderful Machine out of Philadelphia for about six months or so now and we just got our first project from them. It’s a decent little gig for a Canadian news publication. Should be cool.

Wonderful Machine is kind of a strange critter in the whole field of photographer sales agents/representatives.

On one hand you have the usual reps; the guys who walk into agencies and push your portfolio across creative/art directors/buyer’s desks. These are the people who sell you or another photographer they might rep to creatives in the industry by showing off the best aspects of you to the client and how you fit in with specific clients or project imaging needs. The big ones in photography are Stockland Martel, Art + Commerce, Art-Dept and Jed Root to name a few.

Then there are the small boutique agencies; the ones that really offer up the service that some of the big ones miss out on. A little more personal and inviting, they don’t have the huge artist power necessarily that the above ones might have but that doesn’t mean their artists aren’t as creative. Over the years I have circled around these ones; I have had the orientation meetings and come close to signing paper but they have never come to fruition. Sometimes they have pulled out (like the time another photographer barked that I was too similar to his style even though we shot totally different genres) or sometimes it has been myself who felt the timing wasn’t right or the deal itself was slanted one way. I do love these guys, you can ask them questions and have meeting and show off work to them and they are always honest and genuine. I hold no grudges or ills against any of them. On the contrary, I respect their word and judgements over almost anyone else in the industry. They are almost always on the front lines; building relationships on both sides of the desks, helping the artists hone their work to fit with market demands while finessing connections with the agencies and the creatives who are making the work that the artists are looking to do. Some examples of these are Marilyn Cadenbach, Christy Deddens at Deddens & Dedeens, Anne Desrochers at Klax-On-Nez, Kate Ryan at KateRyanInc and the wonderful Andrea Stern at Stern Rep.

At the other end of things are the Alt Picks, Black Book and Source Book options. they allow for a free listing in exchange for a limited number of images and info to be listing amongst hundreds if not thousands of other artists. You can pay for a membership to the sites that offer you more image and enhanced features; allowing you access to other members contact info etc. I personally never found the benefits of being stuck in the middle of students, amateurs and potentially any no talent ass clown with a camera. You get what you pay for and I don’t expect anything back from the sites, even though I am listed there; web presence everyone. I can see the benefit to being in there publications, there are still some art buyers and creatives who look through the books and actually research artists before embarking on a big project but at the thousands of dollars the pages in the books command, I see my hard earned earnings going towards more immediate and discernible marketing avenues. Some of the better examples of the work book type of publications/websites are WorkBook, Black Book, Le Book, AltPick and recent new comer Adbase’s Found Folios.

Now this is where Wonderful Machine sort of twists the standard rep model and turn it into something for the 21st century. They don’t take a percentage of my work, instead they charge me a monthly fee to promote my business to their list of potential clients; a list much larger than I could ever produce from all my contacts. They do this through direct contact (email and standard post mailers), website listing (their own site plus all of the other “source books” listed above), portfolio events for clients, ads in industry publications and many other ways. They also off me a consulting service. If I need help with a big quote, perhaps in a location I’m not familiar with, they can help and give me a more realistic quote that has a better potential to be accepted by the client. Another service I have taken advantage of already is their photo editing consulting. When I have needed to pare down a set of images beyond what I have felt comfortable with (you sometimes lose touch with the images, looking at them day in day out until they meld together into one big inseparable mass of colour and shapes). They have been able to look at them with no bias and come to a judgement on the images that I wouldn’t have been able to reach.

I have to hand it to the dozen or so staff at WM, they have done a great job for me so far, lets keep this ball rolling now.

R


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.


Rental car review (hire car) FORD Focus

Ford Focus 1.6 Zetec Petrol burner
Well its time for another car rental review. Today I have a Ford Focus 1.6, not what I asked for but you can’t really choose when it comes to hire cars.
I ask my local for diesel pretty much every time but for some reason I keep getting petrol burning cars and diesel vans. I don’t mind the zippyness of a petrol car but at “only” 36 mpg for an average for a 800 mile trip, it can be a little costly; getting older, I don’t mind a diesel’s pokeyness over the zippyness.

The Focus drives like a much bigger car than it really is. It has great space for a 6 footer and a decent little back seat for some wee leprechauns but the seller for me is almost always “da booty”. This trunk managed to swallow up a Profoto 600B kit, stands, reflectors, camera bags and my 4×5. It would have taken our luggage as well but I didn’t want to cram it tight since we would be working out of the car for most of the shoot.

The suspension is good, tight and handles very well; you can see why this car makes a great little track day ride. It cruises along the motor way at 70, no problem. the only glitch is 3rd.
Come on Ford, what’s with that transmission? As I’m running up the gears with any sort of vigor, third jams itself out. You need to back off and ease it in, then back on the gas and up to 4th. It does not make for quick getaways let alone outrunning rampant stone throwing children.

My overall on this tight rig is a 6/10.

Decent for mom and dad alike.


Calotype

I have been asked recently to submit to about a dozen different photo competitions and exhibitions. The only thing is that since my last show two years ago, I haven’t really worked on any personal projects for myself.

Recently I’ve taken up going backwards in time. I’m ditching the digital and capturing images like we used to in the olden days, on silver based emulsions. Below are a couple of test images I created using the calotype method. It involves exposing photographic paper instead of film to create a paper negative. From that you can scan the image into Photoshop and play with it from there.

These images though are a little different. They are actually the positive prints right from the camera. The silver media is a positive print paper; very smooth and very very contrasty. By using a couple of different techniques I’m able to better control the contrast and lower it to a more natural feeling of a true black and white image. More experimenting to come and hopefully I’ll have something I feel is worthy of a new exhibition.


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.


Rental car review (hire car) KIA Venga

I rent quite a few cars/vans/trucks in my work. Whenever I need a vehicle that needs to do what my daily driver can’t, I rent. Most of the vehicles I rent are vans; to carry my gear, props, rental equipment etc. Since moving to Northern Ireland I’ve taken on a new view towards renting. Whereas in North America i would almost always just rent a Dodge/Chrysler/Plymouth (RIP) minivan, here I hire Sprinters, Transits, Trafics, Kangoos, Vivaros to do the job. I kind of miss the old Dodge Voyagers. They really were a little workhorse and didn’t look after bad doing the work of almost a full size.

Today however I’m just renting a car, something small, that will be fuel efficient and a comfortable drive for the day. Gavin, my Enterprise car hire guy, has hooked me up with a petrol KIA Venga (even though I really wanted a diesel). I was very impressed after starting it, on how ridiculously quiet it is when running. I have never been in a car that was ever this smooth, not even close. Pulling away however didn’t give me much confidence in the rest of the day; it has a jerky clutch and a touchy throttle. Acceleration is adequate, same day service on the 0-60. This car will win no drag races, except maybe against a bicycle, a bicycle in the snow, a bicycle in the snow with no wheels.

The interior is roomy and I have no problem with my 6 foot frame fitting in the luxuriously upholstered cloth seats. All the controls were where they should be and nothing out of the ordinary struck me as odd or confusing. The sound system is decent and has an iPod mini cam plug outlet as well as a usb plugin.

Okay, now for the not so good things.
The A pillar is almost impossible to see around; I found myself constantly stretching my neck around to look into right hand corners. It was a total pain in the ass. The back seat has an industry standard 60/40 split but you have to be a freakin’ octopus to pull the lever and push the seat down at the same time. It would not be easy if I had a large camera bag or stand bag, reaching in over three feet just to have my initial attempts of putting the seats down foiled by not having an extra set of hands to push and push hard down on the back seats, not cool. The final nit pick on of one day test living day with the Venga is the hidden front corners. I’m 6 foot, like I said, and I can’t see over the front fenders/bumpers to know where the car ends. I could only imagine a wee local trying to cram themselves out the window, straining to see where the wheel is in relation to curb.

All in all it isn’t the worst car I’ve ever rented, any GM front wheel drive takes that honour, but I wouldn’t buy a Venga or recommend it.
Close but no cigar.
4/10