I supplied many images to outfit the Blenheim Information Centre, and recently got the chance to view the final result.
It’s always great to work on a project that uses images that make you proud, and this is one of them.
Pop in if you’re passing through Blenheim – it’s a great building with nice interior and exterior design.
Images were from my wide Marlborough District collection. We do a lot of large image installations and murals like this. For example, you’ll see my images used in Auckland and Christchurch International Airports.
Yesterday Garry Glynn contacted me to photograph a family heirloom piece. Other photographers he’d contacted weren’t interested; I assume it being a small paying private job. I had a hunch that there was something more interesting about it, took it on, and luckily I was proved right.
89 year old Garry arrived and delivered to my hand a small simple heavy brass drinking cup similar to many I’d used in India. Nothing special except it had engraving around the outside. It carried a story that I’m still thinking about today; a story of history and horrific human bloodshed.
From the Battle of Mahajapore. Scroll down for result
Turns out Garry’s relative (Col Sgt J. Barry, 39th Dorestshire Regiment) was present at the Battle of Maharajpore, India, on the 29th December 1843. He was lucky to make it. 5000 people did not make it that day! In a nutshell, Central and Northern India had fallen to British forces in 1818, but Marathas in Gwalior saw the failed British campaign in Afghanistan as opportunity to regain independence. The battle ensued. It’s believed that nearly 800 Bristish soldiers and 3-4000 Marathans were killed; an unbelievable slaughter of human beings in one day. The significance of this event for the British is remembered with the Gwalior Star campaign medal.
Garry is passing this family ‘war trophy’ or heirloom down to the next generation and wanted a photo showing all the cup’s text to give to his relatives. My job was to attempt that. Given the circular object with concave face, and the highly reflective nature of the surface, the job wasn’t straightforward. But I love a challenge, and I reckon it could be done.
First up was to prepare the vessel. A good polish brought out a good shine, and a closely held candle flame sooted the surface up nicely, and another shine left a little soot in the engraving. Next was figuring out how to light the face of the vessel with even light. No problems there, get an Elinchrom studio light out and pop on a softbox, but trouble is that you can’t get a camera in there without interrupting the clean lighting. I tried a couple of tilt shift lenses attempting to shoot off the central axis, but this just distorted too much. Then I figured the concave front face would let me lower the softbox and shoot over the top without breaking the clean reflection – great.
Camera shooting over studio flash and softbox
Once a nice even light was sorted, next was to carefully rotate the vessel and photograph ovelapping images. Another lens base proved to be the perfect stage.
Photo slices ready to be worked up
I ran this through a panorama stitching programme and gave it a clean up. Garry just called around today and seems very happy with the result:
The final result
But I’ve been thinking about the cup since: what horrors and good times it has witnessed, and what route it has taken to arrive in my hands? Garry tells me that a number of ‘retired’ seasoned British soldiers were offered land in New Zealand in exchange for being willing to fight in the NZ land wars if necessary. They become known as ‘The Fencibles’, and this is the route in which the cup arrived in NZ.
I also found this gritty, stiff upper lip, description of the battle by Henry Man. It’s a short honest read that gives you an appreciation of how gnastly that day must have been. Please take a moment to read it if you can.
So, all in all, a photo job that paid for itself in not only in dollar terms, but that was also rich in knowledge, experience, and technical challenge.
Bianca Edwards doesn’t do things by halves. But her back was broken in halves. Her story is as remarkable as her attitude. Several weeks ago I shot the New Zealand Geographic Magazine article on ‘Happiness’. Bianca was part of this story. I enjoyed meeting her, and thoroughly enjoyed working together on an image that captured her remarkable spirit. On the drive back to the office, my assistant Aliscia Young spoke about the inspiration we’d both experienced. Let me tell you about it.
Bianca was a top athlete, competing in multi-sport events, and while training, was hit from behind by a van at 100km/h. Her back was shattered and she was lucky to survive. What followed is a remarkable recovery led by determination, optimism and, I think above all, the unwillingness to be a victim to her situation. The article by Dave Hansford focuses on how Bianca was able to readjust her expectations; from expecting to win events, to making simple steps, like wiggling a toe. A trait that some research suggests is key to being happy.
So, knowing this, how do you approach a photo shoot that gives dignity to the subject, captures their spirit, and avoids creating another cliched photo of a disabled person toiling against obstacles?
Discussing angles on the phone with Bianca was a joy – full of ideas and keen to give it her best, we threw around ideas about the things that were important to her – fitness, swimming, study, Ducatis… Motorcycle riding was key, especially with her friends and fellow Ducati owners Carla and Fiona (friends like this that Bianca rates in her recovery) . Hang on….from not being able to walk, to riding big motorcycles?! The angle fast became clear. But, how to shoot a portrait that captured this story?
After the shoot. Carla, Rob, Bianca & Fiona. The Ducati women of the Wairarapa.
Bianca’s story in the happiness article for me is one of ‘freedom’ – freedom of movement, but also freedom of mind. So, it was important that we had a very dynamic image to portray freedom. We tried to accomplish this with an open face helmet, but the freedom died. With considerable care we took this without the helmet. I think we caught Bianca’s spirit in the image below. What do you think?
Bianca Edwards and her Ducati, with Fiona and Carla
TECHNICAL SPECS: We pottered very slowing along with a 1/8th sec shutter with ND filter, while using my aerial photography gyro stabiliser to maintain sharpness but achieve a blurred movement. I super-clamped and magic armed 3 strobes to the back of the vehicle, and shot from the rear hatch. Canon 1dsMk3, 16-35mm, ND filter, 3 canon flashes, Kenro gyro.
New Zealand Geographic featured a nice article about Rob’s TankCam, otherwise known as RoboCam (nice touch guys!). If you’re interested in a behind-the-scenes look of the Fairy terns shoot please check out the article here and Rob’s video here.
Let us know what you think, it’s always great to hear your feedback!
I’m doing a lot of commercial helicopter photo work at the moment, mainly for Tourism New Zealand. I want to take you along behind the scenes in Fiordland New Zealand, on a job I just got home from. Spectacular! Things don’t go as forecast so it’s an interesting day with some interesting sights and some interesting blokes. You have to watch this:
The day started in a run of perfect weather, but mysteriously a thick layer of fog/cloud filled Fiordland making filming tough for myself (stills photog) and the HD Cineflex video helicopter team to operate. What happens next?
TANKCAM (‘Rob-o-cam’). Tough assignment to film NZ’s rarest bird – the Fairy Tern for NZ Geographic Magazine. Less than 40 birds known, they nest in the open and human disturbance may stop breeding.
Solution was to build a remote control vehicle that I could very slowly inch towards the nest over an hour while we monitored the birds’ reaction and leave it set up to capture intimate scenes (very, as you’ll see below!). So that’s why I built TankCam. We’ve kept the highly successful assignment under wraps until now. This video tells the story and gives you an idea of three days worth of filming, behind the scenes. Please view and post your comments – it’s great to get your feedback:
Saw the new arrivals hall inside NZ Customs, at Auckland International Airport, when I got back. I’d supplied a special shot made of 10 high resolution digital files merged to make a very large photograph. To see a shot of mine welcoming us over the threshold onto NZ soil is a great feeling.
It was a privilege to work with the rare and little know native New Zealand Falcon this month… New Zealand Geographic Magazine were running a feature on the rare NZ falcon, but didn’t yet have the wow shot to sell the story, so asked if I’d have a crack at it. Knowing that these birds are amongst the fastest on earth, very cryptic, and not particularly large meant that a challenge lay ahead. I love a tough assignment that pushes thinking beyond the norm; the satisfaction of success is very sweet. Here is part of the result:
New Zealand Geographic Magazine Cover this month
The other part includes the next photo as an internal double page spread. It blows me away and I just can’t stop looking at the result below…MORE…
Got the mail this morn. Again the postie bought a nice surprise with several photos I’d done during a commissioned photo shoot for the Regional Council appearing in a discussion document on the 10 year Regional Plan. I’ve spent several days commissioned shooting recently adding to a series we’ve done with the Regional Council profiling their different operational departments. Very satisfying work meeting a variety of folks connected to the land and their obvious great pride in the jobs they do. > > > Continue reading : full post + comments > > >