There is a new welcome mural at the international arrival area of Christchurch International Airport. I was fortunate to do the portrait and the background photography, as well as the post-production to put it together. At 2.8 metres high by 17 metres long it’s pretty big and the images look really good at this large size.
Thanks to Hamish Southcott from Fountaine Design for the excellent concept; Steve from DT Signs for the superb printing; and the adventurous marketing team at Christchurch Airport. Also thanks to the very obliging models, and the helpful staff at Ko Tane Maori Cultural Experience, Willowbank.
The latest airbridge completed for Christchurch Airport is the Mackenzie night sky. This was one of the most challenging airbridge installations to date. Night sky photography pushes the capabilities of cameras and lenses to their limits. The images also needed to be good enough to be printed to 2.8 metres high. I enlisted the help of Fraser Gunn, a specialist astrophotographer from Tekapo, who supplied lens heaters (to keep dew from forming on lenses), telescopes and tracking mechanisms. Fraser was very generous with his time and expertise. If you happen to be travelling through Tekapo, I thoroughly recommend booking one of Fraser’s small group night sky photography tours: http://www.astrophotography.co.nz/html/lesson.html
Fraser Gunn and John Doogan near Lake Alexandrina
The photography was shot over two trips totalling around 11 nights. The phase of the moon, clear skies, and windless nights, were just some of the aspects that needed to line up to make the photography successful. Some things were hard to plan for – like the army sending up flares from behind Lake Alexandrina on one particularly clear night. No point in complaining about that one. One night we had a reasonable fall of snow, which meant the foreground was much clearer in the photographs for a few nights afterwards. I also hauled some gear up to Mueller Hut above Mount Cook Village for one night’s shoot.
Christchurch Airport airbridge 19 – aircraft end
The installation is over 30 metres long and includes many tiny lights in the ceiling to give the feel of a night sky. Jean Michel Jarre’s Oxygene Part 4 is the soundtrack that plays as you walk down the airbridge. I think I had that album back in the day (the 70s).
Last year I went along on a New Zealand Tourism video shoot as a stills photographer. The location was Marlborough and it was loosely themed around The Hobbit movies. It was an action-packed two days and a fun assignment. Horse riding, mountain biking, wineries … My wife Jacqui came along to help out and ended up doing everything from holding reflectors and monitoring traffic on a one-lane bridge, to making up the numbers on a horse trek and at a wine tasting. My job was to work around the video team to get a series of stills that could be used on the www.newzealand.com website. Thanks to Zaina from Tourism New Zealand for a well thought-out brief and superb planning.
The sheep farm-themed murals that run down the length of one of the Christchurch Airport airbridges.
One side of the airbridge features lush pasture and close ups of sheep, lambs, dogs and the farmer.
The other side of the airbridge features a day working with sheep and dogs in the yards.
Earlier this year the Canterbury sheep farm-themed airbridge was installed at Christchurch Airport. The airbridge features a panorama of sheep and lambs in pasture on one side; and the farmer and dogs working sheep in the yards on the other. I spent several weeks in late spring 2012 researching locations for photography and chose a farm near Parnasus in North Canterbury. I am very grateful to the farmer, Hamish Haugh, who was very accommodating during a busy time on the farm.
It was a fun project to be involved with, although I discovered sheep don’t take direction well! One of the biggest challenges was getting close enough to the sheep in the fields. The sheep would scarper to the perimeter fence after seeing me enter the paddock. The solution was to build a ‘sheep hide’ and give them time to get used to it. Initially, I didn’t allow for the sometimes fierce wind on the plains, and a couple of early designs went west so to speak. The final design featured a semi-enclosed lid which I could lift and rotate from inside the hide, allowing me to photograph a 360 degree view.
The installed murals in one of the airbridges at Christchurch Airport.
The airbridge murals featuring Marlborough wine country have been installed and they look great! Each side is 31 metres long by 2.4 metres high. Putting them together was the most challenging airbridge to date. Each row had to be photographed separately by moving the camera along one row at a time. In addition, each row required six exposures to provide sufficient depth of field and to capture the width of each row. It took 30 minutes to photograph from one end of the 15 rows to the other.
In the end, the most difficult thing to accommodate was the weather. The day of the shoot was the third attempt for a cloudless day. It was a relief to wrap it up, as I was required back in Christchurch the following day.
A lot of planning and testing went into this image. I am very grateful to the staff at Brancott Estate who helped out behind the scenes and acted as models on the day of the shoot. I am also indebted to Diana Dobson from Marlborough Falcon Trust who posed with Fern the falcon for the mural. Marborough Falcon Trust are sponsored by Brancott Estate and operate from buildings on the Estate near where this mural was photographed. If you buy some of the Brancott Living Land Series of wines, $1 of each bottle goes to the Marlborough Falcon Trust.
Enlarged areas showing detail from some of the rows.
Just before winter really set in I completed a landscape photo shoot for Westland Milk Products under the direction of Robert Jamieson from Q Brand Agency. As always, it was a pleasure to work with the team at Q.
The photography included locations in Canterbury, and the West Coast – as far south as Fox Glacier and north to Greymouth. Several trips and a helicopter ride were timed with an eye on the weather forecast, which is tricky on the Coast (there is a reason it is so green over there).
On an assignment like this, more time is spent researching locations than actual shooting. In fact, the success of the shoot depends on the research. When the lighting is good it pays to know the area, so you are at the best locations and can move quickly from one viewpoint to another; or have backup locations in case the first choice doesn’t work out. The middle part of the day, when the lighting is usually at its worst, is a good time to do reconnaissance.
I got to meet a few farmers along the way and, without exception, they were helpful and accommodating. I don’t envy their job, it’s a mucky business with awful hours. Talking of muck, with a noisy water pump causing concern I nursed my car back to Christchurch after the final shoot. The garage had to keep the car for longer than expected, so as to steam clean their way through the accumulated cow manure to access the problem!
Just before harvest in Marlborough this year I completed a couple of days of photography for Pernod Ricard at the picturesque Stoneleigh Vineyard. It is an unusual vineyard in that it is situated in an ancient riverbed, as evidenced by the piles of stones close to the surface. The stones contribute to the unique nature of the vineyard, reflecting and storing the heat of the sun while challenging the vine roots to dig deep. It has been a marvelous growing season for vineyards and Vintners are cautiously optimistic for a great vintage.
As usual for a shoot like this, much of the work is done before a single shot is taken. Watching for a weather window, marking off locations and times to return, establishing a shot list and so on. Even then the weather can put plans on hold, as it did a couple of times when the clouds rolled in. All images shot with a Canon 5D3 and a variety of L series lenses. Post processing in Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop CS6. Thanks to Claire Young from Pernod Ricard for great direction and Rod Brailsford from Stoneleigh for his help on the ground.
I recently completed an assignment for the Waitikiri property development on the outskirts of Christchurch. This is the second portfilio of work I have done for them under the direction of Robert Jamieson from Q Brand Agency. As with many property developments, it is being completed in stages. The challenge was to show the areas still being developed in an appealing way but also to show what has been achieved so far, to give prospects an idea of the completed environment.
A property development in progress includes a lot of flotsam which is rather un-photogenic – road cones, piles of dirt, skip bins, etc. By careful choice of lens and camera position, I was able to avoid the worst parts. Fortunately Waitikiri already has some nicely finished stages which make great subjects and backdrops. Lighting is also an important consideration, there is usually an optimum time of day and weather pattern to photograph a specific view. Consequently much of the time on the assignment is spent in reconnaissance and planning, then returning when the conditions are right for shooting.
Thanks to Robert Jamieson from Q Brand Agency and Hilton Smith from Smith Developments.
Fletcher Construction Ltd. Canon 5D3, EF100-400 lens at 285mm
One of the challenges of commercial work is constructing an appealing image in a busy workplace.
This assignment was a challenge, a narrow window of time, harsh lighting and not much room to move. The image needed to convey the activity but not be too confusing. It was more effective to take this image in parts with a view to compositing the final image in Photoshop. Firstly the models were photographed so they weren’t waiting around any longer than necessary. Next, I photographed the two workmen with the surveying equipment on the footpath. Lastly, the traffic was photographed with a slow shutter speed to illustrate movement.
I have found this to be one of the most effective uses of Photoshop – not for fixing mistakes, but for putting together an image which would have been difficult to do in a single exposure. A good working knowledge of Photoshop techniques can help overcome technical challenges in the field.
I recently completed work on two murals for an international air bridge at Christchurch International Airport. The murals are each around 40 metres long by 2.4 metres high. I have produced a few air bridge murals for CIAL now, but these were the most challenging. One of the challenges was shooting from a moving boat; it took some practice to get everything level and in focus. I am grateful for the superb piloting skills of Roger Williams of Whale Watch Kaikoura for keeping things steady. A big thank you is due to Whale Watch Kaikoura who were very supportive of the project and were ready to go out on the water at short notice when the conditions were right. I spent 11 days photographing this project. Much of that time involved reconnaissance and planning; still more time in waiting for conditions or timing to come together. Clicking the shutter is a bit like the final 100 metre sprint in a 10,000 metre race.
Post-production is a major component of an assignment like this. Some serious computing grunt is needed to handle the 2GB files this sort of work generates. Photoshop skills are also mandatory. Processing and merging of images was done using Adobe Lightroom 4 and Adobe Photoshop CS6. Each mural is made up of several 15-20 image panoramas merged together, a total of 45-60 images per mural. The images were shot on a Canon 5D3 using a variety of Canon lenses.
It was a very enjoyable project to work on and I was fortunate to have a good run of weather in May and June when the images were shot. Thanks to Emma Smith from Christchurch International Airport for having faith in the concept; Steve Thorpe from Dennis Thorpe Signs for a great job printing and installing; and once again to Kaikoura Whale Watch.
John Doogan is an award-winning landscape and commercial photographer based in Christchurch, New Zealand. Services include: rights-managed stock photography | fine art prints | commercial and advertising photography | workshops and tuition.