Crafting A Classic
The story behind "Bonjour Akaroa"...
It was April 2012, I was on my annual autumn south island photo shoot & had my friend Siedel along for the ride. After shooting some autumn vineyard scenes near Blenheim, I 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 set my alarm for another early start!
Next morning when we got here, I was excited to see these seagulls lined up on 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 four chocolate chip cookies left (Siedel’s mum bakes the best, so the sacrifice was huge!) I set up my equipment whilst Siedel rationed our bait along the railing to keep the gulls in place. Of course there’s always one bossy seagull, he was a real pain & almost killed the show...
But we persevered with the gulls & a local said "Gidday" as he rowed out in his dinghy; at exactly 8:00:36 AM the sun’s rays finally reached the water, just as the seagulls settled down for what seemed like a second. Quick! I clicked three 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 struck the wharf & the golden reflections disappeared. Job done, time for coffee!
Click any image to enlarge slideshow
Capturing the scene is only the first step. Once home, I download each file & begin the intensive task of editing.
Despite using 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 take for granted with our own eyes. I will sometimes spend weeks dodging & burning an image’s hightlights & shadows, revisiting it many times, until I'm finally satisfied that I have restored the exposure as faithfully to the original scene as possible. A similar process to what I used to perform in the darkroom, minus all of the nasty chemicals!
The funny thing is, when I joined all three frames together, the bossy seagull - seen on the railing in the left frame below, was automatically removed by the stitching software. Divine justice!
I produce all of my paper prints & canvases as gicle´e prints, the preferred method 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). I use archival pigment HP Vivera inks which are rated for 250 years permanence (indoors), before any signs of fading or colour shift, by American research company Willhem Research Institute. 100% cotton-rag fine art paper, archival canvas & museum grade varnish are all supplied by Breathing Color who produce the most advanced inkjet media in the world. These properties confidently ensure the longevity of my prints, for generations to come.
I'm a tough critic & after shooting hundreds of images, I might release two or three - quality always wins over quantity!
I insist on printing all of my gallery paper & canvas prints (as well as all varnishing, stretching & framing of canvases). It’s the only way to ensure complete control, including the origin & quality of materials.
By definition, a limited edition is a strictly limited, numbered edition. Deciding on this number can be tricky, 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 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 released once the edition is all sold.
"I see it's sold out, but will you be printing any more?" "Sorry, but no!"
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 my earnings as a full-time artist. The pursuit of these scenes involves extensive travelling & I insist on using only the finest equipment & materials.
My accountant thinks I'm mad at times, but I think it's worth it in the end!