Summer Fairs – finally a large consolidated gallery of selects (250 pics)


IMG_2994 _Z4A1174 _Z4A7423 _MG_5457-Edit

I have been posting galleries the last few years of individual events’ imagery, but never made a ‘master edit’. Now, that is done and I am enjoying the overview of a fairly mature collection. The update to the projects gallery on my  fine art site is 2K px resolution, which looks great on a large high resolution monitor. There is a slide show button as well as a full screen on the top – if that helps.  (250 images)



Relax, it’s wine ‘out of it’s straightjacket’. We use CGI and imagination to tickle and industry largely based on ‘tradition’

For a special occasion, playful, illustration links the brand with Art and Surrealism.

For a special occasion, playful, illustration links the brand with Art and Surrealism.

The brief was to extend the normal/traditional wine brand vocabulary both in terms of image content as well as color palette. The details may not be apparent on the above – enjoy a larger version here.

CGI product image

CGI product image

The product image above is also exclusively a CGI rendering. Hopefully it impresses with a degree of style and atmosphere one expects from the best photographic studio capture. For a technical observer, it is impressive enough to achieved a a base ‘photographic look’ with CGI, although the viewing public cares only how good an image looks – not at all how it was produced.

Whereas, making technically perfect wine bottle photos is far from the straightforward process many expect it to be, creating the same thing with CGI has it’s challenges too.

With photography, apart from having to compensate for physical imperfections on real production wine bottles, it is often necessary to expose wine product images multiple times, with lighting suited to different parts of the bottle – and then to laboriously combine them later in Photoshop. For example – lighting which makes the label look good will be terrible for the bottle.

With CGI on the other hand – the tendency is to construct too perfect a wire frame model and to texture it such that the final image lacks many of the subtle cues which give it a tactile presence. One needs to work with the right level of imperfection to make the object feel real.

CGI may be coaxed to produce many of the lighting and textural subtleties which one finds in real life but mostly it is at the cost of massive computation. Simply turning up every possible quality option in the software is not an option because the image would never complete. Extensive experimentation was needed to find which quality parameters actually make a difference and which don’t.

CGI permits one to cheat in some ways which are physically impossible with real life photography. While this is an advantage it also requires extensive testing to find out what ‘cheats’ actually are effective in producing a better image.




Europe, 8×10″ color scans, from the back collection

Although in pre-digital  times I shot most of my personal urban and landscape work on 8×10 film and had my own E6 processor, I never took color seriously.

Well, it was easy to take that approach, because in the fine art photography world, prior to the advent of pigment inkjet technology, regular color photo prints themselves were not thought of as legitimate Art objects.

C prints would fade in no time and therefore were not really collectibles and Cibachrome which was fairly light fast was way too contrasty for many transparencies.

Black and white was my main focus. But I usually loaded 2 to 4 sheets of color film into dark slides when I went out. Once in a while I exposed a color frame as a kind of an afterthought when shooting B/W.

This gallery contains a mixed bag of 25 large format color images.

Most of the images have been scanned in monochrome and can be found on my fine art website

Here are some small sample images:

Midnight sun in Lapland

Midnight sun in Lapland



Scotland spring growth

Scotland spring growth

Hamburg urban scene

Hamburg urban scene




Mixed photo gallery – 1970’s Balsall Heath – Birmingham (UK)

Balsall Heath in the 70's

Balsall Heath in the 70’s

A recent spate of scanning old film images produced most of the pics in this small mixed collection from my student days in ‘Brum’.  (26 pictures)

Balsall Heath was being being demolished as part of slum clearance which is why it was cheap for students to live there.

I cannot pretend it was a happy period of my life. After the bright light of Africa to the slums of Birmingham – I may as well have been sent to a gulag. Wikepedia says: ‘By the 1970s the area was notorious for street robberies and drug dealing’.

I was never robbed or troubled but it was certainly the weirdest of places. Although I did not identify with it, nor felt it was my brief to document the period, at least I went out with a camera on a few occasions and made these few pics.

Balsall Heath in the 70's

Balsall Heath in the 70’s


Bill Brandt – Artsy and my early, quasi pin-hole experiments

Hybrid pinhole/lens nude in landscape - tribute to Bill Brandt

Hybrid pinhole/lens nude in landscape – an early tribute to Bill Brandt

I got an email from Artsy who were researching BIll Brandt when they came across references I had made to his work as a source of inspiration early in my career. This is their Bill Brandt page on him, by the way, and this is where I referred to him: Canis Lupus Familiaris.

Bill sparked an interest in me for strange perspectives and massive depth of field and that interest has been rekindled in recent times digital focust stacking techniques.  Whereas this finally permits photographers to exceed the physical optical limits  and produce crystal clear images with massive depth, I have not used it in a ‘landscape’ context in recent times.

Stacked images dont suffer diffraction blurring and artifacts which are unavoidable when using small apertures for depth of field. Bill Brandt’s famous nudes were shot with large format lens-less pinhole cameras. The degradation of the images due to diffraction is not at all upsetting in his work – in fact it enhances his chosen subject matter.

I never made or shot images with a pinhole camera. Instead I took apart a wide angle lens for 35 mm and had some disks made with tiny apertures (0.6mm) which I dropped into the lens substituting the existing aperture. The lens focal length defined the angle of view in this case but the pinhole defined the depth of field. Naturally very little light reached the film so exposures were very long and direct sunlight was required.  And diffraction limited the crispness of the images. I played around with this for a while and did not persist.

I include two very early images I made using the technique describe above.

With miniature fast sensors and lenses as found in cell phones, these extreme perspectives are easily achieved these days and they don’t shock as much as the perspectives in Bill Brandt’s work did in his day.

Hybrid pinhole/lens image - tribute to Bill Brandt

Hybrid pinhole/lens image – tribute to Bill Brandt




Trion Nemesis ahoy – check the road ahead – don’t look back!

Hypercar Trion Nemesis - front profile view

Trion’s hyper-car Nemesis (goddess of divine retribution)

Boasting a price tag of $1 million/2000 horsepower/8 speeds/270 miles per hour/ 0-60 in 2.8 seconds, US hypercar maker Trion wants the Nemisis to leave everyone in the dust.

The only time you will see  a front view of this ‘rocket on wheels’ will be a for a fleeting moment via you rear view mirror. Chances are you will be be transfixed, which won’t help your driving.

We made this photo so you can cognize the Nemisis’ amazing profile at your leisure without craning your neck, or drifting out of lane.


Fiat 500X – a performance car with the heart and soul of a toy

Fiat 500X - a performance car with the heart and soul of a toy.

Fiat 500X – a performance car with the heart and soul of a toy.

After a long absence from the US market, Fiat marketing can start from scratch. For the Europeans the 500 brand had to work very hard initially to shake off the ‘pile of junk’ image which the original vehicle undoubtedly deserved. In the USA, Italian flare and ‘Euro fun’ can be the start and end point.

This is a car which looks like a toy and should be enjoyed as a toy. A ‘boy toy toy’, or perhaps a ‘girl toy toy’.The photo is meant to make ambiguous references to street racing as well as to the cute ‘toy’ thing.



6 new images in the Familiar Objects series

Radioactive toilet cleaner from the Dollar store| 6 new super fidelity Familiar Object' images designed for large print display

Radioactive toilet cleaner from the Dollar store| 6 new super fidelity Familiar Object’ images designed for large print display (image on the right shows the detail of the original)   (6 new images)

With this set I set out to test a new equipment I had built. I wanted to reach the same levels of precision and super high resolution I was achieving previously using a view camera rig to stack and stitch. It seemed to work.

Meanwhile – when testing there is no substitute for ‘doing it for real’.  And when it comes to focusing on familiar objects I am always captivated stuff I have around which I want to present in new ways. So I went to town with the subject matter also.

When the majority of ones work is on screen it is easy to forget how laborious it is to construct mechanical things which are glitch free. The new technique has a few limitations, so it won’t replace the other completely. But the pictures offer evidence of the basic technical success – satisfyingly achieved without multiple ‘redesign’ iterations this time round.



Street pics circa 1971, Salisbury, Rhodesia – 2 rolls shot and one interesting coincidence

Salisbury Rhodesia Street pictures circa 1971 (46 images - click image for gallery)

Salisbury, Rhodesia, Street pictures circa 1971 (46 images – click image for gallery) (46 pictures)

‘Street pictures from prehistory’ or so it feels like. in more ways than one. For a start, the technology: A recently scanned but otherwise forgotten set of 2 rolls of 35mm black and white film.

For those who forget (or only ever shot digital), a roll contained 36 images – – meaning that 72 exposures were made for this collection. Not a bad hit rate really (for spontaneous grab shots), I feature 46 images.

Two events were covered – one some kind of procession with crowds lining the streets (I have no memory what it was) and the other – just an hour or so down town on a normal work day. At the time it would have been considered extravagant to blow a whole roll of film on one event.

Pro’s have always covered themselves by shooting extra but even amateurs don’t count exposures these days. Back in the day, processing labs routinely processed film which contained seasonal images for the first few frames and ended with the following years’s ones at the tail end.

The cost of film and processing influenced the process significantly. These negatives were processed in a timely manner but they were never printed. They languished for 45 years before receiving any attention from me.

I wont go into it now but politics formed a significant backdrop for all these images, shot as they were almost half way into UDI. Interestingly, I shared a few of these with a former school classmate recently. I was not in contact with him at the time. I would have assumed he was out of the country when the pictures were shot (all of us were scattered around the globe by then). Seeing thepicture below for the first time, he said “that is me in my company car”.

Although Renault’s such as that was were ten a penny I thought it an impossibly long shot. The plate is not readable on the web image. But after a bit of promting he remembered the registration number. Sure enough – later when I looked at the high resolution scan, it confirmed that it was the actual vehicle he was driving at the time.

It reminds me of ‘Crash’ the movie where we the audience get to see how close separate lives can get without the parties being aware of it

The original crop - with the Renault disappearing down FIrst Street

The original crop – with the Renault disappearing down FIrst Street

On the full resolution scan the plate is visible

On the full resolution scan the plate is visible



Claude Shade in memory

Ad Age says a lot – Adage article.

It has been a few weeks and I still have few words – -except to say that although Claude had ‘a lot of past’, but he was the kind of a person who would always have had ‘a lot more future’.

Claude shooting on the Golden Gate for it's anniversary. I worked with him on some of the poster images.

Claude shooting on the Golden Gate for it’s anniversary. I worked with him on some of the poster images.

Cheers buddy.


Season’s Best greeting and 6 pics image gallery

Go big ...and go to town. We did! We riffed on an offbeat seasonal theme and created 5 more images for you to enjoy.

Go big …and go to town.

Caption: “Go big …and go to town. We did! We riffed on an offbeat seasonal theme and created 5 more images for you to enjoy“.

This is what I am sending out this year. Happy time to you too.


Drano is found, not lost.

Nice to know: you can you can ignore that blinding blizzard and forget about blocked drains, not matter what remote wilderness you are stranded in. Drano is always there for you when you need it most (and even when you don’t),

Nice too – that we can create your windswept Arctic wasteland right here in the studio. And as added bonus, our snow is pleasantly perfumed (laundry detergent).

Drano blizzard image  - from the comfort of our warm studio

Drano blizzard image – from the comfort of our warm studio



More precision images (7) of ‘almost’ Familiar Objects

Well this time one or two are drifting out my established banal form for the ‘Familiar Objects’. A couple of these have classic still life/food object pretensions, hence the ‘almost’.

In terms of presentation I must say I am getting a little tired of including ‘detail’ images in galleries showing images from this series. And yet a sense of larger than life detail is a main part of the attraction for this work. These images need to be seen as large prints and It seems a shame not to try to communicate a sense of that with limited web imagery. The good news is other promising presentation ides. Check out this link.

Hyper realistic image - vegetables - classic still life

Hyper realistic image – vegetables – classic still life

Hyper realistic image - shoes - Familiar Objects Series

Hyper realistic image – shoes – Familiar Objects Series

Hyper-realistic image -peppers - classic still life

Hyper-realistic image -peppers – classic still life


Hardly Strictly Bluegrass 2015 – the poster

Another year another fun gig doing photo-composition and retouching for the exclusive, collectible, ‘no one can buy it’ poster for the HSB festival. Traditionally it has been a gift – a limited edition print run for the participants. This year there were 100 acts and an estimated 750.000 visitors showed up to listen to a bit of music in the park (see a few of my quick snaps of the event).

Claude Shade (Goodby Silverstein Ptnrs) provided most of the brain/brawn for all prior posters, co producing with Olivia Hellman for the last 5 years. My part is never without challenge also, combining as ever at least 30 different images at extreme high resolution/fidelity (a couple of detail shots are provided to give a sense of that).

This year’s theme is Manet’s Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe only the park is Golden Gate Park and the subjects are from the Blue Grass universe.

Here is the finished poster and 2 detail snippets:

Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Poster 2015

Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Poster 2015

Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Poster 2015 poster detail

Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Poster 2015 poster detail

Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Poster 2015 poster detail

Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Poster 2015 poster detail


Hardly Strictly Bluegrass 2015 – 26 crowd pictures

This is how it usually goes – I help Claude Shade (GSPSF) and Olivia Hellman with photo-composition and retouching on the poster.  And we complete so close to the event there is no ‘gas left in the tank’ for cavorting in the park with all the other revelers, not to say anything about dealing with a typically impossible parking scenario anywhere near Golden Gate Park.

But, this was the year of the bicycle solution, even if it was also the year of tarrying somewhat (arriving at sundown and ending up with something like a mere 35 mins shoot time). That estimate, by the way was photo-metadata based.

Since there was not professional/commercial incentive to shooting the crowd, it would not have mattered a jot had the day ended with no images of value in the bag. It certainly felt unlikely that I had anything good at the time. But to my surprise my, a couple of images worked (I think). Here is a gallery of 26 images.

Hardly Stictly Bluegrass 2015 crowd pics.

Hardly Stictly Bluegrass 2015 crowd pics.

Hardly Stictly Bluegrass 2015 crowd pics.

Hardly Stictly Bluegrass 2015 crowd pics.


Late Summer Clouds – Bay Area

I shot for perhaps 2 hours starting with cloud patterns and the extraordinary clear light pre-dusk in Novato, finally ending up at Las Gallinas Ponds in San Rafael. This is a gallery of 22 images. and a couple of token images.

Moon over herring-bone clouds

Moon over herring-bone clouds

An extraordinary sunset at Las Gallinas Ponds

An extraordinary sunset at Las Gallinas Ponds


69 more Summer Fair photos – Sonoma County 2015

Hot on the heels of my last Marin batch another 69 images.

Sonoma County Fair 2015

Sonoma County Fair 2015

Sonoma County Fair 2015

Sonoma County Fair 2015

Sonoma County Fair 2015

Sonoma County Fair 2015




Summer Fairs project – update – Marin County Fair 2015 (55 new images)

Another year. another couple of  hours devoted shooting new images for my ongoing Summer Fairs photo project. (55 new images)

The predictable magic of a Marin sunset laced with strong smell of BBQ overlays a timeless tacky fairground theatricality, which has never respected cultural or physical borders.

And somewhere, somehow the guests inject a sufficiency of honesty, innocence and joy. Without these the whole thing would be soulless and crass. But with it, the mood resonates the romance of the sun’s passage over the hills to Pacific.

Marin County Fair 2015

Marin County Fair 2015

Marin County Fair 2015

Marin County Fair 2015

Marin County Fair 2015

Marin County Fair 2015

Marin County Fair 2015

Marin County Fair 2015


Mount Tamalpais – talking sunset and turkeys (18 new pics)

Yeah yeah – more sunsets! When you get bored go to pics 16 and 17 in this set

Tamalpais summit

Tamalpais Summit

What can I say – I only wanted to make up for a hard Sunday’s slaving at the keyboard with a quick outing and some wind up the nose, I race up the hill. Intent on frittering away the last minutes of the day at the top of ‘Tam’ I don’t expect much, But I wend my way round one of the last bends there is a veritable roadblock.

‘Strutting turkey’ in the middle of the road. Doing road maintenance, apparently. Sweeping it seems!

Well – not exactly part of a County transport program The racket produced by violently sandpapering an orchestra of wing feather quills on the tarmac is about as attractive to you and me as diamonds on glass, One assumes that it is a turn on for the ladies of the species.

Thank you human technology for enhancing an age old performance. But eventually –  sensing no interest from the row of idling vehicles – he moves away.

He may have been fabulous but at least he could ‘let go’. Not the pair of frisky ones I found hanging in the middle of the road a week or so ago. Somewhat akin to meeting elephant who wont let you pass on that remote road in Africa, these two saw my car as their deadly enemy and they ran head on at me , till I had to jam on the brakes and screech to a halt.

Eventually, having decided that pussy footing it was a bad idea I accelerated and passed them only to find them running at at least 25 mph next to the car for at least 50 yards, pecking at the door panels.

…Country ain’t going to the dogs no matter what they say  – it’s just those damned turkey town types undermining civilization as we know it.

Strutting Turkey

Strutting Turkey


Canis Lupus Familiaris – at the technological cutting edge



It is certainly a dog;s world .  (Similar images: click image for ‘narrative images’ gallery on

Just so you know – we are talking bokeh here now – not dogs or even baseball.

Breaking it’s tyranny – – bokeh, that beloved thing of both photographers and CGI artists alike. Of course there is almost always something mysterious in the vague mental impression which ‘out of focus’ presents. And it does truly add a sense of real life experience since we don’t routinely focus on everything we encounter in the visual world.

But you have to admit that including bokeh in everything is rather a cheap way of jazzing up ones images. After all the whole point of presenting a picture for others to look at is the implied statement that ‘this is something special’ and worth looking at’. How often can one suggest that an uncaring visual snippet of the day has special significance.  How often can one get away with suggesting that the most important part of the picture is the negative space occupied by “I can;t quite make out what it is – I will have to use my imagination and invent something”

Infinite depth of field is hard to achieve photographically and it does frequently look inelegant not to say present the viewer with the dilemma of deciding which part of the image should be the focus. We rarely look out on daily reality and see extreme depth of field – and when we do it is a construct which involves focusing the eyes close and far in quick succession and combining both views in the mind.

But a large part of photography is to present stuff that is out of the ordinary – and demonstrate ways of seeing which are uncommon. There may be a price to pay for the discomfort of an image with an extreme depth of field but hopefully there can be rewards  too. Bill Brandt thought so with his pinhole series.

Anyhow, whatever one says or chooses to think  – none of this should detract from the fact that it really is a dog’s world.


Seven new hyper detailed images of everyday objects

Burst baseball and detail - click image to see gallery

Burst baseball and detail  – constructed from almost 300 exposures – click image to see gallery

This small selection of banal images add to an existing personal project series of hyper detailed stacked pictures, which were created in the last few months. They were all created to be printed large and the overriding idea throughout has been to mess with one’s sense of scale.

The images were not shot to look dramatic or cosmetically perfect, as is the tradition in advertising. The very ordinariness of the backgrounds (and lighting) is crucial to contrasting the larger than life super detailed presentation.

It is not possible to convey the full effect adequately even on a high resolution monitor. I have included ‘detail’ close up images too  (such as the image above). This was a calculated strategy which I am aware does have its down sides. With such inclusions, the risk is that the galleries might give a sense that the whole project is no more than a dry technical exercise. Hopefully on the upside, it compensates somewhat  for viewing online rather than in a gallery and it sets the imagination free.

Here are blog entries and links to galleries of other work in this series.

Roadkill gallery

Familiar Objects 1 

Familiar Objects 2


14 Mixed recent snapshots – mostly snowy egret and stilts

Thanking the local population of wintering stilts and snowy egrets (among others) for their co-operation in posing for this set of mixed photos.

Snowy Egret alighting

Snowy Egret alighting


Out of the Storm – a photo/CGI hybrid illustration


Powering out of the storm in style in a Lamborghini Murcielago

The narrative:
After a score of miles, fighting your way through the worst storm you can remember – half deaf from the thunder of rain drops pummeling your vehicle (you were still straining to hear the radio all along) – the wipers finally begin to work again. You begin to take in the layout of the land. And there in front of you the clouds begin to break. You know the worst is over. Your transcontinental sojourn resumes though new light and new scenery. You are heading into the clear.

The brief did not preclude the inclusion of a very cool car, so the required sense of relief and optimism is tempered with a sense of exhilaration: powering towards the horizon ‘in real style’ for the occupants of the Lamborghini Murcielago.

The vehicle is a 3d CGI wire frame model. I shot the base highway storm photo using a regular rectilinear lens.

It is generally not possible to shoot multi exposure 360 HRDI VR environments on the hoof (or in a storm). It is always a challenge to work single image environments with CGI but we have worked out strategies which work in a lot of cases. These can work surprisingly well and produce accurate reflections from automotive style shiny CGI objects placed in a virtual scene.

Also, it is not trivial to photo-compose water droplets into a scene such as this as they refract the imagery behind them.


Robb Report Jan. 2015 Cover – Mercedes-AMG GT S

The very rare new Mercedes-AMG GT S super car for Luxury lifestyle magazine Robb Report.

180 degrees at variance to the average automotive brief:  “light and compose so the viewer is unsure as to the make the brand and model of the car (at first glance)”

Requirement: a touch of  ‘black panther crouching in the shadows’ with ‘uranium 235 glowing eyes.

Cover for Robb Report Jan.2015

Cover for Robb Report Jan.2015. 


112 new/old images in 3 galleries – recently digitized exhibition quality scans of early work

Zimbabwe gallery - 32 scans

Zimbabwe gallery – 33 scans

Digitizing and reinterpreting my early film based work is a long term project – but I used the holiday season to make a dent on the back catalog. The scans are extremely high resolution from 8×10″ or 4×5″ originals.

Gallery - 75 Scans (Europe)

Gallery – 75 Scans (Europe)

People who romanticize traditional film forget how time consuming it is dealing with dust and scuffs on negatives – especially those which had to be be loaded in primitive conditions far from a clean dark room.

Gallery -4 scans  (USA)

Gallery -4 scans (USA)

I don’t bother to keep count, but by the time one adds creative processing/tonal interpretation to the formula, a single image will routinely consume 4 hours of hands on attention.

Many of these images in the featured galleries are known by people who have followed my work, but a few are completely new. It was never possible to produce good traditional photo prints from some negatives. They languished in the reject pile.

I am pleased to have rescued some of them with careful digital processing . Some of the photos were taken in very remote places, and I always regretted not being able to use them.

Although a few of this set have already been featured on my fine art site, the jpegs were derived from photos of old finished exhibition silver prints, rather than directly from the negatives. Direct negative scans offer considerably enhanced quality and flexibility of interpretation. The scans in this new gallery are thus of better quality and incidentally, the full resolution versions are all good for very large highly detailed prints.

Europe (75 images)

Zimbabwe gallery (32 images)

USA gallery (4images)


Autumn leaves – 2 photo tapestries and detail photographs (8 images)

8 images in the following gallery:

Acer leaves

Acer leaves

High resolution sidewalk tapestry  image

High resolution sidewalk tapestry image (approx 8ft. print)

There is not much to say for about the ‘detail cropped images’, other than that, for centuries artists have appreciated and paid homage to leaf patterns in their work. The fractal arrays are as beautiful as they are hypnotic.

The  2 ‘tapestry’ images are stitched – shot, from cantilevered position above a walking path. They were seamlessly pieced together from many exposures, taken at intervals while moving down the sidewalk. The final image is an extremely high resolution record of 3+ meters of pavement. It would reproduce as an intimately detailed ‘wall print’ at approximately the same size (at 300 dpi).


Autumn Light ~ 26 Autumn Pictures

This is a mixed bag of images, mostly shot around the Bay during the last 2 weeks.

It includes a few images shot as part of my longer term suburban-scapes project.

I suppose technically it is winter, but ‘autring’ might be more appropriate. Most deciduous trees were still sporting their autumn leaves, while California poppies are blooming and the ubiquitous mimosas are budding, ready to explode with yellow blossom.

On ramp to the Bay Bridge with silvery autumn light

On-ramp on the Bay Bridge, with silvery autumn light

Frolicking in storm surf at Fort Cronkhite

Frolicking in storm surf at Fort Cronkhite

Bay Bridge with silvery autumn light

Bay Bridge with silvery autumn light

Dull suburban day

Dull suburban day

Alcatraz and the Golden Gate on a stormy day

Alcatraz and the Golden Gate on a stormy day



California storm – wet highway photos

It was quite an intense experience. I braved the drenching rain of our recent record setting storm to shoot some dusk pictures.

101 highway in the pouring rain. The photo does not reflect how much rain but it would not look the same had the downpour ceased.

101 highway in the pouring rain. The photo does not reflect how much rain but it would not look the same had the downpour ceased. Gallery or 7 images

High on the list – wet highways in heavy rain. We all have experience this from the comfort of our cars. Controlling a vehicle in such conditions can be a powerful and memorable experience but one which is particularly badly documented in photography terms. This is for a range of technical reasons, not least is that an exposed camera (even a waterproof one) would produce degraded images from water droplets settling on the lens. And also because it is hard to find a stable safe and legal place on a busy motorway to shoot thoughtful pictures from.

Wet roads are visually attractive especially at dusk in a downpour because a fresh layer of water on the road acts as a mirror. Vehicles’ headlamps play on the road surfaces and cars throw up spray which adds to the drama.

Roads and modern tyres are designed to shed water from driving surfaces. Even a short break in the intensity of the rain results in a rapid clearing of the mirror effect. So there is nothing for it – you need to shoot in the rain, the heavier the better. Then you need to shoot as it is getting dark – which is a stretch since the camera sensor produces best results when there is a lot of light around. And then you need to find a viewpoint which reflects the drama.

I found a good overpass on the 101 highway which permitted me an interesting vantage point. The umbrella I was using was not cutting it because the wind blew spray at me horizontally. I shot for a  few minutes till I was soaked a the camera had taken enough of a beating. I then retired, somewhat stunned to my car which was parked quite a distance away.

It takes me a while to digest images and thus far I cannot quite make up my mind which of them my favorite. So, here are 7 images, each which hopefully has a bit of that je ne sais pas.


Unfamiliar views – ‘Familiar Objects’ series: 6 new updates

A new gallery featuring 6 new larger than life banal images.

Broadly conceived as an extension to the Road Kill series from February, which  morphed into the Familiar Objects series, the common thread being ‘messing with the viewer’s sense of scale’.


A burned out oven bulb is full of sculptural detail


A grimy work worn lupe helps use see things larger, other than itself.

The way I have been addressing this is by producing extraordinarily high resolution images which have a powerful ‘larger than life’ quality when encountered as large prints. Not only that, the images are laboriously ‘stack processed’ from a huge number of capture files (sometimes 100+). What this means is that depth of field and are many times greater than is possible with any lens/aperture combination. The idea is to represent a small object as it would appear were we, the viewers to be shrunk to, say 2 centimeters tall.

It was technically impossible for anyone to produce images like these just a few years ago.  That said – it takes a deal of practical experience to get it to work. And even then, the time required to process a single image is considerable. But I am not doing this merely as a dry technical exercise.

In principle, there is definitely nothing new about the ‘scale thing’. Product photographers, tasked to make imagery of small objects, destined for giant repro on street posters (for example) have long sought to redefine scale using a number or cues. We are wholly familiar with slick scaleless images featuring jewelry, watches, cell phones and so on. A sense scale confusion leads to a sense of ‘larger that life’, which important to advertisers as it enhances the perceived  importance of their product. Scale confusion is possible with blemish free product renditions – which is also suits advertisers,  for obvious reasons.

Without visual cues such as fingerprints and scratches It is hard to get a really accurate sense of the size of an object.  We may know how large a given object is based on familiarity. But we frequently also concede that scaleless product renditions are ‘larger than life’ simply because we are primed to the intention of the people ‘who plastered the image across the side of a  building’ .

Coaxing idealized levels of perfection into advertising images to make them ‘scale free’ has long been the task of photographers and retouchers who have gone to extreme lengths to achieve this.

Then came CGI and product prototyping. You might think this presented the perfect solution. Unlimited depth of field bypasses one cue for judging scale in macro photos. Given that we are extremely utilitarian in way we look at small ‘hold in the hand objects’ (rarely scrutinizing them) some feared that CGI would replace photography completely because no one would cross reference what the thing really looks like in the hand.

But CGI proved ‘way too perfect’ by default – and way to time consuming to make ‘imperfect’ to just the right degree. We always need some grime and yuk for a credible proper sense of scale, even if it is a manipulated or warped one.

The cellphones and diamond rings we see on giant street posters are ‘larger than life’ in some senses but the sterility of the image limits things, We accept the intention in good faith, but we never ‘really’ believe the scale and perfection.

My images in this series are full of grime and imperfection on purpose. And yet I choose to feature and contrast objects which have been machined to high levels of precision, as demanded in our modern world. We used to seeing macro nature photos and being awe struck by their raw naturalness  – but we are not used to dwelling on images which give mixed signals about technical objects .

We are used to seeing ‘parts of objects’ in macro and micro images, but we are not used to getting a sense of the ‘whole thing’ at the same time. I try to achieve some of that here. We are used to seeing small objects enlarged but we normally view them from a distance. Here I want the viewer to go right up to the print too.

I accept it might be confusing to be presented with all these things in one package. While I accept that my intention in dabbling with scale might be just as bemusing. I hope that exposure to these images goes some way to provoke questions and provide answers.

I can’t say that my only intention in this project is to present a ‘more convincing sense of scale’ than that which we are used to –  but it is certainly a large part of it. For me the fascination of seeing the objects anew and as ‘more real’ is sufficient.

But standing back and thinking about the following does make me laugh – the degree to which these images end up being  ‘not credible’ in some senses. A sloppy cell phone image would be believed as more genuine a rendition much of the time. What a shame that we have to factor in the disinterest of the viewer in the type of objects to give them credibility. “I don’t give a fig for ‘burned out bulbs’. I just throw them in the trash. If you want to convince me your photos are ‘real’ then don’t bother to be meticulous in your photography”. Taking as much care, the way I have with this series has certainly annoyed one or viewers thus far. Presumably the logic is that I am demonstrating seriously misplaced priorities.

Unfortunately, these images really beg to be seen as large photo prints. They don’t reveal their potential on a regular computer monitor. I have featuring some detail 100% views in the web gallery in the hope that this will compensate for the limitations. It would be interesting to shoot something along these lines for a poster campaign. Coupled with the right concept and seen on posters, it could turn heads and be memorable for one reason or another.



Photo-composing – the famous Hardly Strictly Bluegrass limited edition poster (2014).

First of all  – no, it is not merchandising and it is not for sale.

This large format (30″x 40″) limited edition poster has traditionally been printed solely for the benefit of the artists and others who made the free SF Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival happen.  Hardly Strictly Bluegrass (HSB) is the work of the late philanthropist Warren Hellman (1934-2011).

This thing came together – as usual – design, concept and photography driven by Claude Shade (Goodby Silverstein & Partners, whose participation in all the art for HSB – and beyond – has been crucial and is legendary) and Olivia Hellman.

I was happy to lend myself to the team again this year,  with their ‘as ever’ highly imaginative and ambitious  photo-composition and retouching brief.

Prior posters I worked on are here 2010   2011   2012

I have a reserved copy of the poster, for myself. Don’t ask  – It is not for sale.

Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Poster 2014

Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Poster 2014 (click to enlarge)

Thanks to ‘smart layers’ I was able to work 16 bit, non destructively at extremely high resolution. The image comprised a frightening number of nested layers till the sun rose on us on deadline day.

Mouse detail - Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Poster 2014

Mouse detail – Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Poster 2014