Mar 16

The shifting of locations 

 Last week I posted about our recce to two locations, and my decision to shoot in the more dramatic of the two. That location was the mangrove wetlands in Bundeena, pictured above.

Unfortunately and frustratingly, the national parks came back to us yesterday with a firm no. It is understandable – they’re concerned that a mass of people walking through the wetlands could damage the root systems of those wonderful trees.
Thankfully, I have a backup. 
Changing shoot locations can sometimes be a simple matter of substitution. And sometimes, a different location will completely upend the narrative and tone. In this case, I’ll have to rework the narrative structure in some places but that’s all.

Such is the nature of filmmaking – endless problem solving.

Feb 16

Crafting performance and the nature of music videos.


Yesterday we started shooting the music video for L-FRESH The LION’s 1 in 100,000, which I’m directing.

The track is seriously awesome. If you haven’t heard it yet, I highly recommend you do! (It released everywhere last Friday.)

Anyway, yesterday was day one. Of four. Which is quite a long shoot for an Australian music video. The reason we’re doing it over 4 days is the scale of our narrative, which necessitates some relatively far flung locations that will need time to capture.

The narrative section will be shot later in the week. Yesterday was all about L and his performance.

Performing for clips is always a strange process. When you go to a gig and watch someone perform live, while they’re usually playing a rehearsed set, that set evolves as they react to the crowd and the conditions around them. That’s where the energy and power of gigs comes from.

Not so with clips. We have to create that energy from scratch.

The very nature of filmmaking also works against us – multiple takes, different shot set ups, the craft of where your marks are and how you can move, keeping time with the various speed changes needed to film it successfully etc – these can all take their toll and sap the energy of the artist. Thus you lose that vital connection.

It’s even harder when it was as paired back as was yesterday – just L by himself with a small crew. No extras, no set, no anything else really. Somehow I had to find a way to make his performance connect.

This is one of the most vital parts of being a director. My job is to make sure that his performance is as vital as any gig, fits both the overarching concept and the narrative, and perhaps most importantly, feels truthful.

I do this by setting a very specific tone on set, which is light-hearted and fun, but also focussed and very very determined. We do not leave until we have the performance needed in the can. So we play the track loudly. We cheer him on; give him an audience to react to, even if all he sees is a camera lens and some lights burning his retinas. I make sure to hold him to the boundaries set for the clip – narrative notes, guides to his character and the physical space within which he could move – so that his performance fits everything else. And then I just let him go. Do his thing.

An artist like L makes it easy. He is the consummate performer – ready for anything and able to adapt to everything. It is always a pleasure to work with L and I’m proud to call him a friend.

Feb 16

A love of lighting 

Here’s a behind the scenes shot of my lighting set up from Sunday’s beauty test with make up artist Kelly-Marie Waters and models Annette Melton & Tannie Tong from theright.fit.

Light. It affects us in so many different ways. Different light can make us feel happy, feel down, awestruck at the majesty of creation or fearful for our safety. And as photographers (and filmmakers), we use light to tell our stories.

Many photographers, whether starting out or highly experienced, are wary of lighting their work. Some prefer natural light. Some think it’s too hard. Personally, I feel it’s a skill one should learn, part of the craft of photography. And it can take many different forms.

To those who worry about it being hard, well, it is. But so is driving when you first try it. Lighting is just a skill, a set of techniques you learn just like you learn how to drive.

I’m self-taught and never assisted. I taught myself how to light – it look practise and many, many failures over years. And I’m still teaching myself.

I don’t just light to make something pretty, or dramatic. I light to tell stories. And there are many stories to tell. Sunday’s test didn’t need a narrative – it was a beauty shoot. So the lighting was about sexiness, about colour and about fun. The lighting helped tell that story, and then the models used the light to make the shot work.

All this technical stuff – lighting, focal lengths, framing, post etc All of it is irrelevant without a connection with the subject. Photography is nothing without an emotional connection. So the first thing before all else is to work with your subject, whether a model, portrait subject or a landscape. The best images have that connection. Then lighting pulls it all together.

Feb 16

A snap and it’s forever 

 Again dipping into the archives, going well back to 2009 to behind the scenes on the Denim and Thread campaign.
What a fun job. More than 6 years later, it still holds pride of place in my folio. 
This is a funny business. Most of the work you shoot generally isn’t the most interesting (comparatively) – it’s a job and you’re paid to do it. And that’s a wonderful thing – getting paid to do what you love to do. It can feel a bit creatively bereft though. But sometimes, rarely, you’re allowed to make something special. 

That campaign was special. I put up the hero a while ago – https://www.instagram.com/p/_VuYEURG5a/. 

This is a quick snap I pulled off while we were setting up for another shot – we were all in the zone, so quickly – click! Another moment noted forever.

Feb 16

Build right.

Louis Issac

Louis, aka Kid Fiction, is a mate from high school. A truly excellent musician and producer; Louis spent years recording other people’s work, waiting to get the stems from other people’s work, yet more recording then rerecording of other people’s work, and then inevitably waited a hell of a long time to get paid for said other people’s work.

While of course gigging and working on his own music as well.

That all got a little tiring.

So for the past year, he’s only been focusing on his own work. Writing, producing, playing, rewriting, reproducing, mixing, mastering etc etc it all builds up and builds up. You lose perspective.

Before we shot this portrait, he showed me something like 11 EP’s he’d put together. Would he release any of them?

Well, no. Perhaps one… Maybe.

This is a good thing. Louis’s trying to make some special.

In the technology world, the culture often seems to be ‘build the product quickly, ship it, then iron out the kinks later’.

But as creatives and artists, we rarely beta-test. We tend to build once.

And if we’re any good, we want to build right.

Feb 16

Jagermeister in Archive’s 200 Best Ad Photographers Worldwide 16/17

For my first proper post, I’m going to basically copy from my insta for today. Further posts will sometimes be just the instagram work. Others will be completely separate.


…Let’s see how this shindig grows…


Jagermeister print ad in Archive's 200 Best Ad Photographers Worldwide 16/17, shot by Rebecca Riegger


So, last year I found out my image for Jagermeister was accepted into Archive’s 200 Best Ad Photographers Worldwide 16/17 from over 8000+ entries. This is a big deal, a major mark on any advertising photographer’s record. Something I’m very proud of. The above image, shot by Bec our stylist, shows the image actually in the physical copy.

When you shoot advertising, you normally get what’s called a layout – a sketch or a comp or diagram that’s been signed off by the client, illustrating the main elements of the shoot. This layout was truly special – it jumped off my mobile screen and possibilities started swirling in my head. This is always a good place to start.

Then the art director, Brad, gave me a fascinating brief. Since the concept was ‘Strange But True’, he wanted me to convey a form of merged reality. The image had to show EITHER animals in the forest wearing suits, or guys in a nightclub wearing animal masks. At the same time. You couldn’t be sure which you were looking at.

My immediate reaction was to do this in camera. Physical light and its various interactions are almost always more powerful than the realms of Photoshop.

Which meant finding a truly amazing stylist. Enter Bec, who stepped up to the plate in a big, big way.

The background? That’s a stock image she blew up to over 4m tall to fit the perspective. The couch, the log, the greenery, even the frickin moss – everything had to be sourced and/or built. The masks were hand built by props maker Charli Dugdale.

The entire week before the shoot I was out of town. We did all our prepro remotely, and usually around my mad schedule. Our incredible producer Tamiko somehow keeping everything going smoothly.

I drove back down to Sydney on the morning of the shoot at 4am. The lighting set up was going to be BIG, even for me. It took over 6 hours with 19+ Elinchrom heads going off.

We got the shot. And we had a very happy client and agency.

Yep, it was one of those jobs…

Client: Jagermeister
Agency: GPY&R Sydney
ECD’s: David Joubert & Bart Pawlak
AD: Brad Stapleton
Copywriter: David Barton
Producer: Tamiko Chee
Stylist: Rebecca Riegger 
Assistants: Dan Knott, Nick Fraser & Gary Friedland