Press Photographer and Photojournalist

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Only four weeks to go…

Second blog post in a year…woohoo…go me! It’s been a long, four year journey creating this portrait project, but now I’m finally, nearly THERE. Only four weeks to go until the Kink portraits (all 12 of them) are exhibited at Brunswick Street Gallery (BSG) in Melbourne, Australia. If you happen to be in Melbourne between the 14 and 27 October, take a tour of the suburb of Fitzroy, and check out the many great exhibitions being hosted at BSG.

For all of y’all out there wondering what the hell ‘Kink” is (you’ll probably get it from looking at the pic below!), I promise to create a blog post about the project, along with all 12 images very soon, once I’ve finished prepping for the exhibition. In the mean time, here’s a shot of my mug with some of the exhibition prints:

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PledgeMe Photo Exhibition Crowd Funding Campaign

Over the past 4 years I have been working on a series of stylised portraits of Wellington’s BDSM sub-culture. A total of 12 portraits were produced and I have just launched a campaign on the New Zealand crowd funding platform PledgeMe to raise funds to support the costs of exhibiting these portraits at Melbourne’s Brunswick Street Gallery in October.

For further information on the project and the PledgeMe campaign, take a look at the following link: https://www.pledgeme.co.nz/projects/4660-kink-a-portrait-exhibition

Kink Portrait Kink Portrait

Mark Gilbert – Sky Sports magazine

I was recently given my first assignment by Sky Sports magazine NZ (sadly it was for their last issue) to produce a portrait of Mark Gilbert, the US Ambassador to New Zealand. When I first got the assignment I was a little apprehensive, knowing that it would be quite a pressured assignment. But simultaneously I was also quietly excited about the possibilities for a great portrait. The US Ambassador is an ex-White Sox baseball player and the crux of the story, at least as far as my part was concerned, was to tell the amalgamated tale of a sportsman-turned-ambassador.

I had two weeks to arrange a suitable time for the shoot and plan details for the portrait. It is very easy for your imagination to run wild with ideas for portraits (or photo ideas in general for that matter), and this assignment was no exception. The embassy’s press officer and I discussed possibilities of how to visually tell this story. Based on these conversations and further discussions I had with the journalist writing the article and the magazine’s editor and art director, I imagined myriad such scenarios including:

Mark standing, resting against a large, plush desk in his office at the embassy, while gently leaning forwards resting both hands on top of a baseball bat. A shelf lined with books in the background, and dappled, golden afternoon sunlight streaming through a window.

Or

At his home standing sideways-on to the camera, in front of a large mosaic of President Obama, a baseball bat resting on one shoulder, a catcher’s mitt resting in the other hand; cross-lit but with light shadows to create a subtle sense of drama.

Email conversations with the writer and the magazines editor and art director yielded more useful ideas for the theme of the shoot: Rolled-up sleeves CHECK. Casually leaning against desk CHECK. Pretending to take a swing at an invisible ball NO WAY (if you Google baseball portraits, this is probably one of the most common poses). Draping the American flag over one shoulder, or have it hanging in the back ground. CLICHÉ ALERT (or so I thought!).

To prepare for the assignment, I created a shot list of 4-5 variations of the shots I would like to use; from full-length shots to tight close-ups. I even tested the simple two-light set-up. When the day of the shoot arrived, I was nervous but prepared. All equipment was packed and ready. I’d taken the day off work so no time pressure there.

It took me ten minutes to have my equipment X-rayed at the security gate, handed over my iPhone (no phones or cameras allowed – at least they didn’t take this rule too seriously!). I then met the press officer and we entered the foyer of the main embassy building.

There we were confronted with an impenetrable wall of glass, with a US marine barely visible through all of that semi-transparent protection. Here I handed over my NZ drivers license (as a form of photo ID) in return for a clip-on ID badge. The marine, in all of his well-drilled-robot-like fashion, proceeded to instruct the press officer of the rules I MUST follow, all the while referring to me in the third person. I guess I was invisible through all of that toughened glass (must have been unable to see me due to internal reflection or something).

With a roll of her eyes, the press officer escorted me into their media briefing room where I was informed that this would be the sole location for the shoot. It was a featureless room of approximately four metres by four metres, stuffed with chairs, a lectern, tables, audio-visual equipment and other non-descript items for all your media briefing needs. Initially I was a bit panicked when I was told that this was it. More so when I was told that the Ambassador had an important guest arriving imminently and I would only have 20 minutes to do the portrait.

Luckily for me the media room had several backdrops (black/blue curtains were my background of choice), four LED panel lights and a spotlight mounted on rails attached to the ceiling, and most importantly, an AV tech that knew how to use them. They also had an American flag I could use as part of the background! All of this enabled me to mimic a studio-look to the portrait, and to hide the fact that we were in a featureless media briefing room.

With a handshake firm enough to cause a temporary disability in my trigger finger, the Ambassador greeted me, and we ‘shot the shit,’ as they say, and proceeded with the shoot. Mark had fun toying with me, pointing out the irony of an Englishman using imperial measurements to give directions……..can you just step back with your left foot a couple of inches……..

Explaining to the AV tech the look I was after and the lighting style I wanted to use (contrasty, cross/back-lighting on the subject, with a spotlight on the background) I managed to come away from this shoot with some reasonable portraits under the circumstances. Not quite what I had in mind originally, but the moral of this story is to always expect (and if you can plan for it) the unexpected!

Mark Gilbert US ambassador to New Zealand

Mark Gilbert US ambassador to New Zealand

Mark Gilbert US ambassador to New Zealand

Mark Gilbert US ambassador to New Zealand

Sky Sports Scan 1Sky Sports Scan 2Sky Sports Scan 3

Reciprocity Failure

I seem to shoot a lot of film these days (keeps me interested in photography when I’m not able to photograph the subject matter I’m actually interested in), hence all the film landscape shots!

Recently I discovered the Law of Reciprocity the hard way. Reciprocity failure – defined as the non-linear decrease in light sensitivity (speed) of a film at the extremes of very short and very long exposures times. In real terms this means for long exposures a correction factor must be added to the exposure time in order to correctly expose a scene.

I’ve been shooting a series of pictures of Wellington at night using Fuji Velvia 50. For Velvia 50, any exposures longer than 1 second need to have the exposure times corrected to reflect the Law of Reciprocity. So for a marina lit by a full-moon at f8 with a 30 second exposure, would need a correction of 1 stop. Exposures beyond 32 seconds are not recommended. Being a slide film, Velvia only has an exposure latitude of 1/2 stop meaning that if my exposure is off by more than half a stop, you end up with an image that looks very much like this:

Reciprocity Failure

Chaffers Marina, Wellington under a full moon. Velvia 50 (120 roll) with an exposure of around 30-45 seconds

 

I was so horrified after paying $50 or so for developing two 120-rolls of Fuji Velvia, I switched to Fuji Provia instead. Reciprocity failure occurs with Provia at exposures longer than 128 seconds. My second attempt at producing a moonlit shot of Chaffers Marina looks like this:

Chaffers Marina, Wellington under a full moon. Fuji Provia (120 roll) stitched panorama.

Chaffers Marina, Wellington under a full moon. Fuji Provia (120 roll) stitched panorama.

I will go back to playing with Velvia now I know what I’m doing!

Velvia Landscapes

Finally managed to get around to developing some slide film of images shot during semi-recent day tramps in the Tararua Forest Park. This is a ‘sister’ post from an earlier entry back in March on the Goblin Forest. These images are stitched panoramas (one day I’d like to play with a true medium format panoramic camera) from 3-4 frames of Fuji Velvia 50, using a Mamiya 645 medium format camera.

The gnarled and moss-covered beach trees of the Kapakapanui circuit in the Tararua Forest Park.

The gnarled and moss-covered beech trees of the Kapakapanui day tramp in the Tararua Forest Park.

Beach trees on the way up to Field Hut at the start of the Southern Crossing at Otaki Forks, Tararua Forest Park.

Beach trees on the way up to Field Hut at the start of the Southern Crossing at Otaki Forks, Tararua Forest Park.

Otaki Forks Panorama edit

Bridge Peak on the Southern Crossing of the Tararua Forest Park, Wellington.

 

Sinar F2 Portraits: Tribute to Yousuf Karsh

Well not quite a tribute but a first attempt to emulate his style! Shot again using sheets of Ilford HP5 film, and for all but two of these portraits, using a 300W fake Kino Flo from Amazon (Limo Studio) continuous fluorescent light source, a reflector, and some black and white filters. Having just recently worked on a film set producing some film stills and witnessing how film makers use continuous lights, my next plan is to add a second light using a 300 or 600W Arri tungsten light. There seems to be no end in sight for accumulating photography equipment!

Frankie Curac1

Frankie: Sax sensei.

Frankie Curac2 Frankie Curac3 Alice Maguire1

Alice. Seeing the complete image on the ground glass of the Sinar can be challenging as in this shot where you can see the fluorescent light creeping into the top left-hand corner of the frame.

Alice. Seeing the complete image on the ground glass of the Sinar can be challenging as in this shot, where you can see the fluorescent light creeping into the top left-hand corner of the frame.

Sinar F2: Portraits

I’ve gradually been experimenting further with portraiture using a Sinar F2 large format camera. This is a very slow form of photography and can take an hour or more to make two images (well until I’m more confident using the camera). The speed of using large format is part of the appeal! There’s a lot to think about and a lot that can go wrong. But when it goes right, it looks really good.

I had the help of my test subjects Simin (in the throes of PhD madness), Tim (a colleague from work), and Simon and Cilla (my landlord and his partner).

The Good

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Simin in the throes of a manic PhD episode……..

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Tim: a fastidious collector of books and vinyl.   Tim_Jenkins1_small

The Bad and the Ugly

I usually aim to take two portraits of each person using a single film holder (to make the film go further in terms of the variety of images I can create with one box of film). One of the steps when using large format is to prime the mechanical shutter on the lens before taking the shot. I was distracted chatting with Simon and Cilla and could not remember if I’d primed the shutter at the time of making their portrait. It turned out I had……and I therefore did this step twice, creating a double exposure………

Simon and Cilla

Simon and Cilla

For the second shot, I had problems with the darkslide sticking after making the exposure and it could not be closed fully. Two weeks later I discovered that the sheet of film and fallen inside the camera! I learned the hard way that the darkslide has to be removed from the film holder in a slow and steady manner otherwise the darkslide can pull the film out of the rails which keep it in place inside the film holder.

Unlimited magazine – Linc Gasking of 8i

I was commissioned by Unlimited magazine to create a portrait of CEO Linc Gasking of New Zealand tech start-up 8i, who develop virtual reality systems and 3D technology. The assignment came in on a Friday and the shoot was scheduled for first thing on Monday, giving me the weekend to organise props for the shoot. As we were not permitted to photograph any of the actual technology, to visualise the story we decided to shoot the portrait in Wellington’s Opera House to create the impression of somebody watching a 3D movie at the cinema.

I managed to collect 10 pairs of 3D glasses from a film junky friend, and managed to blag some empty popcorn cartons and drinks containers from the kind folks at Reading Cinema for the other props. I glued a cardboard baffle into the popcorn carton to give the impression that the cartons were full of popcorn.

I was aware that I would only have a total of twenty minutes to shoot the images for the story as Linc had to rush off to a meeting at 9am. As the Opera House is a darkly lit environment, I had already visualised how I would light the image, so when I arrived it was just a question of quickly setting up the key light, and have a second light back-lighting the subject and the Opera House seating.

Sadly this was my last shoot for Unlimited magazine as they have now been absorbed by Fairfax Media’s Stuff website, who use staff photographers rather than commissioning freelancers. Shame really as I love doing this work as it can be very fun and challenging.

Unlimited magazine - Linc Gasking - 8i Unlimited magazine - Linc Gasking - 8i Unlimited magazine - Linc Gasking - 8i Unlimited_Mag_Linc_Gasking_8i_feature_Page_1 Unlimited_Mag_Linc_Gasking_8i_feature_Page_4

Unlimited magazine – Glenn Milnes, Ike GPS

Several months ago I was commissioned to photograph Glenn Milnes of New Zealand software company Ike GPS. The company creates software that allows the accurate measurement of geographic features within a photograph taken from any smart phone. As the company had recently launched onto the New Zealand stock exchange, the angle for the story was floatation.

The magazine’s art director had arrange for the shoot to go ahead at Wellington Regional Aquatic Centre in Kilbirnie, and luckily for me, Glenn was pretty flexible time-wise meaning I could schedule this shoot in the evening after work. Below are some of the images from the shoot:

Glenn Milnes of Ike GPS for Unlimited magazineGlenn Milnes of Ike GPS for Unlimited magazineGlenn Milnes of Ike GPS for Unlimited magazine Glenn Milnes of Ike GPS for Unlimited magazine Glenn Milnes of Ike GPS for Unlimited magazine Glenn Milnes of Ike GPS for Unlimited magazineUnlimited Cover - Glenn Milnes Unlimited - Glenn Milnes feature_Page_3 Unlimited - Glenn Milnes feature_Page_2

Unlimited magazine – Richard Francis, Spotlight Reporting

It’s been a while since I posted any of my recent freelance work, so it’s about time I caught up. Spotlight Reporting is a company specialising in software analytics for business, based in Petone, Wellington. I was commissioned by Unlimited to photograph CEO Richard Francis. These assignments can be tough when it comes to creating successful portraits as often there is very limited time with the sitter (as generally they are busy, working people) and generally there is little opportunity to plan ahead with the photographs you intend to make, and you never know what the location looks like before you walk into it. Thinking on your feet and using any available elements to enhance the portrait are the order of the day.

Luckily for me on  this day, the afternoon sun was shinning brightly and when I arrived I noticed that the sun was shining through a slat-wood fence and would be perfect for creating a star-burst which would help illustrate the story of a company called Spotlight Reporting.

Richard Francis - Unlimited Magazine Richard Francis - Unlimited Magazine Richard Francis - Unlimited MagazineRichard Francis - Unlimited Magazine Richard Francis - Unlimited Magazine