Due to the nature of my work it can be a very, very long time between shooting a photo and it going public for everyone to see. This is one of those short posts where I get to show off photos I shot that have recently(ish) been allowed out in the wild world of the internet. If you like the look of what I shoot, say hello at firstname.lastname@example.org and have a look at more of my work in my Portfolio and Gallery pages.
The Dry Cleaner (Short Film)
It’s a huge shock to the system to get back into the swing of things after spending the entire Christmas period away from the computer, having one of these rumoured things normal people call “holidays” where your work brain switches off entirely.
Couple of things to show off! First off – New Large Format photo! Secondly – Exclusive stills from the next work in progress Chris Cronin film! Woo! Content releases!
Tech Hunt – Large Format
The first photo today is one of the successful Tech Hunt experiments from over a year ago! Originally shot as an examination to my critical focusing skills with a large format camera, it’s been decided that the photo is good enough for you, the wonderful public to enjoy! (Image actor – Michael Collin) – Click to embiggen!
Also, because I cannot get enough of it, a 1080p anamorphic crop!
I’ll be writing a follow-up article about the techie stuff behind these Large Format photos over the coming days – I didn’t want to clog up a sweet collection of photos with boring details.
Next up are a smattering of key stills from the next, mysterious Chris Cronin film, hinting at things to come! This first still really should be viewed as big as your screen can make it! Click and embiggen it up! Exclamation marks!
Did you like these photos? Want to tell me you liked it? Maybe you even want me to take photos for you? Give me a shout at email@example.com
So the last time I made a post about large format photography specifically, was back in March. Whoops.
Due to time constraints, it’s been a struggle to dedicate time to shooting with the Graflex. However, I did bring it to West Dean Gardens to do more than pose for me! I shot two frames, and I finally just got them back from the lab (due entirely to me being slow)!
So whatever went mysteriously wrong with the Tech Hunt photos has definitely vanished away, these ones came back flawlessly. I think it may be time to notch my large format photography up a gear. At some point I may even get round to scanning these things in!
Despite it’s unquestioned dominance, one thing that digital photography will never, ever be able to replicate is the physicality of negatives, especially huge negatives like these. Looking into a highly detailed 5×4 negative is like looking at a fine painting; there is just too much detail and sharpness to taken in without really taking the time to study it intensely.
Unlike DSLR lenses, the sharpness is also throughout the entire frame. The far edges of the frame are just as sharp as the centre, something most 35mm sized lenses dream of.
To celebrate this new photographic success, I’ve decided to add another wallpaper based on the negative above. Lots of pink. Almost a shame to think that this pink will all turn green when it’s scanned in and coloured properly!
This is part of the large format photography series of articles, where I am using my 70-something year old camera on a film set filled with stunts and dangers of every kind. Have any questions? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
It’s good to have a
spring summer clean sometimes.
Due to the outburst of really great work being produced and made public lately, I’ve decided that it’s already time to update my Portfolio, something that can take months or years to happen! It’s not the major overhaul that took place earlier this year, however there are a number of new images being displayed that will hopefully display the best of my capabilities.
Twenty pages is barely enough to cover a single film, let alone dozens of them! What happens to the poor pictures that were culled out by the brutal selection process? Do they just go back home and wait out the days, hoping to be seen again before they’re lost forever? It’s become so hard to pick portfolio images lately that I’ve felt it’s time to bend my own rules! Until today, I only ever made a handful of carefully curated images available on my site.
The savvy Marc fans out there might have spotted a new “Gallery” button on the top nav bar.
On this quietly glorious little page I’ve decided to make available many more images that while might not quite be portfolio suitable, is still definitely cool enough for everyone to see at their own pace. Unrestrained from the requirements of a formal client-attracting document, the Gallery page will be showing a much wider collection of photographs I have shot.
I’m still experimenting with the exact format and adding photos, mixing it all together in no particular order on purpose, shoving former portfolio pages next to behind the scenes shots, portraits of cast / crew and even the occasional magazine / newspaper clipping. Things will likely be added, changed and messed about with, so keep an eye out for new freshness!
Let me know what you think of what I’m doing at email@example.com!
A surprisingly chilly and gloomy Sunday outside the Royal Palace considering that the day before crowds of naked cyclists riding were riding by. On this day however, an exhausted Marc was dragging himself in the direction of Victoria Train Station along the wide roads that lace the palace grounds.
Ding ding ding ding ding!
An alarm bleeped from a pocket in my jeans. A loving reminder that I had woken up 24 hours ago to start working on the Mr Happy set. Having only finished working and left location around 20 minutes beforehand, Marc was a tired boy after working what must of been a good 22 hour shift. Oops.
Considering how rigid the structure of command is in a film crew, and how quickly on-set weirdness can be normalised, one can still be surprised in how unpredictable and wildly varying work can often be when filming.
Working as the photographer on set puts you in a very unique position. The mix of being uncritical to the production of the film itself and occasionally having large blocks of waiting to be busy means that frequently I’m roped into helping with all kinds of things. I’ve operated booms, been an extra, helped block off roads, set up lights, plucked strangers off the streets to be extras, constructed sets, found information, found props, I’ve even been ordered to sit at a bar and drink to keep the location owner happy!
Being a camera guy I also tend to be close with the cinematography teams, who are almost always extraordinarily hard working and good people. I have huge amounts of respect for camera department, I’ve always said that they effectively do my job, but it’s 24 times harder. It’s not uncommon for my to provide some sort of assistance to cinematographers, if I’m asked for opinions or equipment I’m usually happy to oblige. It usually amounts to moving equipment, looking after the camera while the operator has to leave set for a short while, or even just lending my lens cleaning tools. In all my time however, I’ve not been asked to operate a video camera for production purposes, I’ve genuinely spent more time being in front of a video camera then actually using one.
All that changed when I started working on Eugene Magee’s Mr Happy short film. After shooting the main bulk of the film it was later decided that they needed to shoot some additional footage with a minimal crew to tie things up. This is frequently called shooting “pick-ups”. I was originally asked to just come along and take some pictures, because it never hurts to have extra coverage. When I saw that they were looking for camera people on Facebook the day before shooting it never even dawned on me that I might be asked to help.
Oh blissful naivety.
I’m frequently asked whether I’m considering a move into cinematography, by both new acquaintances and long friends alike, because the fundamentals of the job are clearly very similar, and because I’m constantly grumbling about the limitations of still photography as a creative medium. Every time I have answered with a resounding “No. I have too much respect for cinematographers to arrogantly think I can just swan in on set and do their job.” My job revolves around doing everything possible to prevent camera movement, not embrace and control it. I have zero training or experience with how to handle the moving image. I also lack experience in knowing how raw footage will end up edited, picturing how a series of different shots stitch together can sometimes take me a while.
My dusty, tired old brain doesn’t even remember being asked to operate their Red Scarlet camera, I just know that on this particular day my skills would be better utilised operating the Red Scarlet than by me stubbornly insisting on taking stills. Having spent countless hours working alongside highly qualified cinematographers, I was fairly confident that I could at least mimic their efforts enough to get by on a day filled with mostly pretty simple set ups.
The value of an image.
One thing you pick up very quickly as a photographer is that when you need to stop the crew to take some pictures of a particularly important or visually unique scene, time is your mortal enemy. I’m rarely given more than 5 minutes of free time with actors on a clean set. You can feel seconds burning away as the crew grow impatient, wondering why a photograph takes more than 10 seconds.
Within this small time frame I have to explore a full scene for the most suitable angles, let the actors play through their scene, or direct them myself. Fiddling with the camera to double check that the limited time I’m given isn’t wasted feels like I’m just gawping at my camera like an idiot. Rarely is time given to me to manipulate the location for my suiting, moving furniture out of the way can produce a groan from the crew, let alone a request to move lights or other equipment that frequently finds itself in my frame.
Operating the main movie camera on the other hand is a totally different ball game. It’s still bloody hard work, but for very different reasons. If the camera needs to go somewhere for a shot, it will go there. Furniture is moved, lights are repositioned, actors are shuffled around. Almost nothing is more important than the primary camera.
Operating the camera is also highly methodical, to use it otherwise is risking a total failure. In between shots I was vigilantly checking the batteries and storage cards, something I never have to do when shooting stills. Using the tripod for nearly every shot is also a huge shift in working style, surprisingly similar to shooting with my Graflex albeit much, much faster.
One thing I will say I didn’t like was being forced to use an LCD to focus. I never, ever focus using the screen on DSLRs, optical viewfinders are much easier to judge sharpness, even if they’re not totally accurate in extreme scenarios. The focus assist mode where the camera applies a crazy strong unsharp mask filter was pretty interesting (it makes sharp edges really stand out), though I felt that it made me complacent about the accuracy of my focusing.
The other interesting thing was how I struggled with both tracking (pushing the camera along a mini rail system) and follow focusing (refocusing during recording to follow the subject). Tracking I found hard simply because I lack the experience to know how the speed of my movements relate to the footage, and how that ties in with the directors expectations. Similarly, manually follow focusing and being 100% accurate is bloody damn hard!
Would I consider a career in cinematography?
I’ll admit that I found the job pretty damn fun, I wasn’t anywhere near as stressed as I thought I would have been. If a brave Director of Photography asked me to give them a hand on their camera team I would struggle to refuse the job, with the caveat that I would need some on the job training, and that follow focusing and general camera movement is beyond my current skill range.
You never stop learning on a film set!
I like politics I do, I find myself frequently listening to political shows, debates and the various assemblies at Democracy Live when I’m working at my desk during the day. It’s a great way to learn about all manner of subjects which might not otherwise come into your consideration, it also helps keep my analytical and critical thinking skills on the ball, never a bad thing.
Despite my interests, talking about politics publicly is generally something to be avoided by me, especially on the blog. The risks of angering a future client is far too great if I’m seen to be taking sides on a particular issue. I’m also far too humble to espouse a particular position, especially since there are far more educated and qualified people who are capable of discussing any political / legal subject far better than me. The likelihood of me buggering up a legal/political topic is high.
However sometimes things happen which directly affect my work and my colleagues that need to be raised.
Today, it came to my attention that the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill is effectively guaranteed to become law.
Without commenting on the bill as a whole, I want to discuss one particular part of it that concerns content creators, both photographers and filmmakers alike. Orphan Works and Extended Collective Licencing.
Before this bill is passed, the UK followed the Berne Convention, an international copyright protection agreement. Copyright in all the signed countries are counted as equals under the Berne Convention. Under the Berne Convention, orphan works, copyrighted material where the creator / owner cannot be contacted, are not available for use. This, while arguably heavy handed, totally protects the copyright holder.
The UK’s Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill changes all this. Orphan Works can now be used by commercial entities providing that they performed a “diligent search” for the owner. What diligent search means legally is entirely unclear and thus totally open for abuse. Is it checking the EXIF info? Is it simply a reverse Google image search? How many pages of results does a company need to look at? 1? 10? 1000? Asking camera manufacturers the contact details for everyone who’s bought a camera ever? Emailing every known photographer in the world? Searching Bing for images with keywords?
The point is hypothetical situations like this can easily occur:
I could take a photo for a film, a relatively unknown film. No-one cares who I am nor do I own the copyright (that is handed over to the production company), so I don’t have a watermark on the image, and the filmmakers didn’t want to put the films title on the photo for various reasons.
Someone thinks the photo is cool, saves it to their PC and re-hosts it somewhere, stripping it of all meta data. Meanwhile the production company have altered their marketing campaign and decided to take the original image down, maybe for contractual obligations. It can no longer be found via search engines.
Any company could now find and use that re-hosted image for whatever purpose they see fit and never be sued for it. Even controversial organisations will be free to use this image without me or the production company knowing about it. As a result, no longer can I be ensured that my work will be used properly.
Fortunately, the vast majority of my work comes from production companies, and it’s much harder for films to disappear out of record, however other photographers will be utterly open to abuse. It has already been bad enough for photographers who have frequently had their work used without permission or payment by less than honourable news paper companies, this law will only encourage papers to pretend that they found no contact details in order to lower their costs of operation.
I understand the intent of the bill, which was to allow libraries to digitise old books without fear of a legal reprisal, however the way it has been handled is less than stellar and really can cause a lot of damage to creative industry workers who’s incomes are already highly squeezed as it is.
How do we as content creators handle this? How much will this affect every day life? What are the exact repercussions? Honestly, I have no idea, I’m a lowly cameraman. However I will admit that I am annoyed at myself for not doing more to try and stop it from passing. I heard rumbles about this law a long time ago and did nothing to assist the people and organisations who didn’t want it to pass.
I want write about this further, however I feel that I would be rambling too much about wider points that don’t strictly pertain to the topic of the blog, so I will leave it short but sweet.
I welcome any and all discussion on this topic whether it’s private or public, especially if you’re someone who understands legalese and can make educated points. Feel free to make comments below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. If I feel it’s necessary, I might make a follow up article on the subject.
Highly recommended reading about the bill itself from the Dept. of Business Innovation & Skills blog. Read the comments too.