A Meticulous Craft
The story behind A TIMELESS CLASSIC, "Bonjour Akaroa"
It was April 2012, I was on my annual autumn south island photo shoot & had the company of my friend Siedel along for the trip. We were in Blenheim & after capturing some autumn vineyard scenes, couldn’t decide where to head next. Over eggs & coffee, I said, “Lets try Akaroa”. We were off. Arriving minutes too late for sunset that evening, we scoured the French settlement for any interesting spots that might deliver an image at sunrise & discovered this pier, Daly's Wharf. Immediately sensing the potential composition, I booked us in for another early start!
Next morning when we arrived, I was excited to see these seagulls lined up along the railing, “perfect”. But the light was still a long way off reaching the water. Time to get cunning & use our secret weapon: we had just 4 chocolate chip cookies left (Siedel’s mum bakes the best, so the sacrifice was huge!) I set up my equipment whilst Siedel was duly appointed “Chief Crumb Spreader” & rationed our bait along the railing. Of course there’s always one bossy seagull...he was a real pain & almost killed the show. During this time, a local said “gidday” as he rowed his dinghy out & we persevered with the gulls...at precisely 8:00:36am the sun’s rays hit the bottom of the peninsula & the seagulls finally settled down for what seemed like a second. I quickly seized 3 frames from left to right in order to capture this wide panorama & I don’t even remember seeing the man returning in his dinghy, but his timing was precise. Minutes later, the sun reached the pier & the golden reflections disappeared. Job done, time for coffee!
Click any image to enlarge slideshow
Capturing the scene is only a small part of the whole process. Once home, I download each file & then begin the all-consuming task of editing...this is not a quick process & is very involved. I guess I am my own biggest critic & only what I consider to be my best images, ever see the light of day. After capturing hundreds of images over 2 weeks away, I might only release 2 or 3 images to my collection. Less is more!
The task of dodging & burning an image’s hightlights & shadows is a critical part. Despite using very advanced photographic equipment (a Mamiya 645 AFD coupled to a Phase One P65+ 60Mp digital back or a Nikon D810 36Mp), no camera can match the dynamic range that we enjoy with our human eyes. This process is no different from the time honoured task I used to perform in the darkroom, except without the nasty chemicals! Photoshop is an essential tool I use to achieve this, but in no way is this quick or automated, I simply strive to recreate the same exposure that I witnessed at capture. Sometimes I can spend weeks on an image, revisiting it numerous times with fresh eyes, until I am finally satisfied that I have restored the exposure to the best of my ability.
The funny thing is that when I joined all three frames together, the bossy seagull seen on the railing in the left frame below ↓ got eliminated by the stitching software. Divine justice!
I produce all of my work as gicle´e prints, the preferred choice for fine art reproduction by the world's finest artists, galleries & museums. Reknown for their superior quality & permanence, each print is individually created (vs the mass production of a lithograph on a commercial press.) Only the highest quality materials are used, using HP Vivera inks (archival pigment), rated for 250 years indoors by American research company Willhem Research Institute, to my fine art paper (100% cotton-rag), archival canvas & varnish, all supplied by Breathing Color, an American company dedicated to producing the most advanced inkjet media in the world. This gives me the confidence to state that my work will endure for many generations.
I insist on doing all my own printing of paper & canvas, plus the varnishing & stretching of canvas. It’s the only way to ensure complete control, including the materials' quality & origin.
By definition, a “limited edition” is a strictly limited, numbered edition. Deciding on this number can be difficult, my aim being to keep the total number modest in respect of our (small) market. Artist Proofs are printed when testing any new images or new media & I retain only a small number of these (never more than 10% of an edition's number of prints are A.P's.) These are the last opportunity to purchase that particular print & are released once the edition is sold out. I'm amazed how many times have people asked "I see it's sold out, but will you be printing any more?" My answer is always "No, sorry!"
Overseas, the trend is for some photographers to have editions of almost 1000 prints & up to 5% of these again as Artist Proofs, asking 10's of thousands of dollars for each. Seriously? I keep my work affordable so as to reach a wide audience, but I do have to balance what I need to earn as a full-time artist. Capturing these scenes involves extensive travelling & I insist on using only the finest equipment & materials. My accountant raises his eyebrows sometimes, but I love what I do!