Category Archives: “Old Glass” Lens

LX Celebrating 60 years at Scott Base

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“LX” 2017

“LX” is a limited edition set of sixty photographic prints commissioned by Antarctica New Zealand to mark the 60th Anniversary of Scott Base in Antarctica.

While working with an ice dive team at Cape Evans, Antarctica in October 2016 I visited the nearby historic hut, most associated with Captain Robert Falcon Scott’s British Antarctic (Terra Nova) Expedition 1910–1913 and his second, and final, attempt for the South Pole.

I found stepping into that hut was deeply moving. Totally silent and dimly lit it stands preserved as if you are the first person to enter since Scott’s team deserted the place. So I decided to capture the feeling of visiting that moment rather than attempting to accurately document the site and artefacts, as many very good photographers have already done (notably the outstanding work of Jane Ussher in her book Still Life: Inside the Antarctic huts of Scott and Shackleton).

To recreate the mood, I lit the interior with torchlight and used my modern DSLR camera fitted with the lens from a 100 year old Kodak pocket camera. The lens is very similar to one used by photographer Frank Hurley on Ernest Shackleton’s Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition which set out in 1914. It gives a wonderful soft quality to the images and adds a deeper connection to the ‘heroic’ era of Antarctic exploration.

For the commission I selected and crafted this diptych to form a stylised “LX” – the roman numeral for 60. An edition of 60 prints, to mark 60 years in the form of a roman 60.  They are to be gifted to key staff and strategic partners. Antarctica New Zealand also commissioned a special edition consisting of two larger prints of the same image. One will be hung in their office in Christchurch and it’s pair to hang in Scott Base in Antarctica.

Antarctica’s historic huts

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Shots of the historic huts in Antarctica – mostly from Scott’s hut and Cape Evans with a few from Shackleton’s Cape Royds thrown in. This is a working edit so will change over time.

Scott’s hut is the iconic base associated with Captain Robert Falcon Scott’s British Antarctic (Terra Nova) Expedition 1910–1913 and his second, and final, famed attempt for the Geographic South Pole.

I wanted to capture the feeling of visiting the hut rather than concentrating on accurately documenting the site and artefacts, after all, many very good photographers have done this already (including the outstanding work of Jane Ussher in her book Still Life: Inside the Antarctic huts of Scott and Shackleton). I found it quite liberating to know I could take a totally different approach. See her video from TEDx at the bottom of this page.

 

When we entered the hut it was very dark with snow covering many of the windows. We had to wear head-torches which created an eerie pool of light in the inky dark, revealing a small bit at a time. To try and get the feeling of the experience I shot with combinations of head-torch and snooted flash lighting and using my homemade lens on a modern Nikon DSLR. The lens is made with the element from a 100 year old Kodak pocket camera very similar to that used by the photographer from Shackleton’s expeditions, Frank Hurley.

This video of Jane Ussher speaking for the recent TEDx Scott Base gives a fantastic heartfelt context to the place, her work and then how my photos contrast to her work.

The Antarctic Heritage Trust has a very good website that goes into great detail about this and the other historic huts in Antarctica https://www.nzaht.org/explorer-bases/scotts-hut-cape-evans

 

Antarctica FridayFoto #4

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Shovel handles at Scott’s Terra Nova Hut, Cape Evans, Antarctica

A photo for all the Kiwis in the garden this summer: These shovels sit just inside the door of Scott’s historic hut at Cape Evans.

Scott’s hut is the iconic base associated with Captain Robert Falcon Scott’s British Antarctic (Terra Nova) Expedition 1910–1913 and his second, and final, famed attempt for the Geographic South Pole.

This shot is part of a comprehensive collection I took when we were with the dive team at Cape Evans. I wanted to capture the feeling of visiting the hut rather than concentrating on accurately documenting the site and artefacts, after all, many very good photographers have done this already (including the outstanding work of Jane Ussher in her book Still Life: Inside the Antarctic huts of Scott and Shackleton). I found it quite liberating to know I could take a totally different approach.

When we entered the hut it was very dark with snow covering many of the windows. We had to wear head-torches which created an eerie pool of light in the inky dark, revealing a small bit at a time. To try and get the feeling of the experience I shot with combinations of head-torch and snooted flash lighting and using my homemade lens on a modern Nikon DSLR. The lens is made with the element from a 100 year old Kodak pocket camera very similar to that used by the photographer from Shackleton’s expeditions, Frank Hurley.

The Antarctic Heritage Trust has a very good website that goes into great detail about this and the other historic huts in Antarctica https://www.nzaht.org/explorer-bases/scotts-hut-cape-evans

“See what I can see” exhibition

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Seachange (approaching Raoul) 2011

See what I can see: Discovering New Zealand Photography

Sargent Gallery, Whanganui. 18 June – 11 September

My Kermedec work Seachange (approaching Raoul) is part of a new exhibition alongside work from some of New Zealand’s leading photographers including Robin White, Bruce Foster and fellow Massey-ites, Anne Noble and Wayne Barrar.

This exhibition is a celebration of that remarkable, well-travelled invention, the camera, the New Zealand that it captured and the artists who wielded it. This exhibition is a companion to the 2015 book See what I can see: New Zealand Photography for the young and curious written by Gregory O’Brien and published by Auckland University Press. The exhibition, co-curated by O’Brien and Sarjeant Gallery curator Greg Donson brings together a selection of images from the book alongside examples from the Sarjeant Gallery’s rich photographic holdings.

http://www.sarjeant.org.nz/site/pages/exhibitions.php

More Kermadec Seaweed

 

A new set of raw shots from #projectweed studio.

Once again I am working with Pterocladiella – the only seaweed found in both the Kermadecs and Wellington.

I have taken these shots with the forthcoming Kermadec: Discoveries and Connections Exhibition in Wellington in mind. They are a slight departure from the rest of the “Weed” project because they are not shot underwater. Instead the algae is suspended in a small vial of seawater – A reference to scientific investigation of the region and the protection afforded the Kermedecs by the recently announced Kermadec Marine Sanctuary.

I love the the direct connection between the Kermadecs and Wellington it creates, as well as the reframing of seaweed into a fresh context.

The Kermadec: Discoveries and Connections Exhibition and science symposium will be at the Academy of Fine Arts Gallery in Wellington in April.

More on the Kermadec Project >

More on #Projectweed >

Project Weed: Lighting tests

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I haven’t been focussing on composition at this stage – just learning how various weeds behave and what different moods I can create with the lighting.

On the whole this have been pretty successful … well even failure is just discovering was not to do it I guess.

I can definitely  overcome the 15mm glass to make the subject look like it isn’t underwater if I want. Some weeds float and some don’t. I suspect I am getting more sinking because I am using fresh water. The large tank is at the university so it is impractical to fill it with 900 litres of seawater regularly. Some of the weeds cloud the water quite quickly so I need to change it regularly. I suspect some of the weed is behaving differently because of the difference of buoyancy between fresh and salt water.

It is amazing, but not surprising, how differently the weed behaves underwater. The humble Sea Lettuce (Ulva pertusa) goes from being like a clump of snot out of the water to being a delicate and translucent element in the photos (it’s the bright green one in  these photos).

Low environmental impact approach

I am trying to maintain a low environmental impact approach on this project. Gathering most seaweed off the beach directly after large swells and only taking what I need. Where possible all materials are returned to the source. Most will be collected in Breaker Bay Wellington and obviously nothing from the nearby Taputeranga Marine Reserve.

I hope to shoot some incidental marine subjects (e.g. anemones) and these will be shot in a small marine tank in my home studio (within 50m of the point of collection. These will be collected with great care and returned asap.

weed_goboLighting

I am using a set of Nikon Speedlights (flashes) to light everything. They give me complete control and help to keep reflections to a minimum. They have the added bonus of reducing the amount of mains electricity on what is a times a wet set. From previous projects (Lilly was a nice girl) I have developed a set of light modifiers and techniques that work very well on this project too. I have made a set of gobos and barn doors for the speedlights using card and straws. I get the best results if I avoid any lights hitting the front glass of the tank – if all the light hitting the lens is coming to it through the front glass there will be no reflections (he said crossing his fingers)

Some samples:

Remember I am not working on composition yet. Nice to see the ability to get dark a moody or white and contemporary. I have tested using my home-made lens with a glass from a camera that is 100 years old which give a wonderful softness to the shot.

More on #Projectweed

 

Surface Tension – video installation

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A new work that has just been installed in the Kermadec Exhibition at the Tjibaou centre in Nouméa, New Caledonia.

It is titled “Surface Tension” and represents the tussle between the ‘opposing currents’ of PEW/artists and the NZ Government as they meet at the line in the ocean that is the Kermadecs. The calls of the various proponents for and against can be heard over the unerring rhythmic beat of the ocean. At one stage the debate escalates and the waters redden but the ocean roars back and returns bluer than ever. It is deliberately left inconclusive.

The soundtrack is actually constructed from recordings I made when we were “hands to bathe” (swimming) on the Tropic of Capricorn – slowed down, layered and played backwards in an attempt to represent an inverted take on the moment (i.e. when viewed from below). The video was shot using my home-made lens.

Here is a sneak preview: