Shooting Las Vegas landscapes
(upbeat instrumental music)
I'm not really a landscape photographer. But, however, I am a photographer, and I do love doing landscapes. And there's something very nice about that, and I've gone as far as to spend six weeks doing only landscapes. But I have to say, at the end of that six week period doing landscapes, boy was I happy to get a human being in front of the camera again. So I love the landscapes, and most excited about doing landscapes. Now, the landscapes in the Vegas project were obviously a pleasure to do. Vegas, as you probably know, is in the middle of the desert. So essentially I'm working with a desert background. In fact, just to cut away, the reason that I did the sky project, the island off the coast of Scotland, was that it's essentially a water place. So I was very happy to be in a desert place in the project (murmuring), and happy to be in the desert in Las Vegas. So the deserts basically in Las Vegas have a very raw nature to them. And, of course, I love that...
, because I'm Scottish and come from a really green Scottish background. So the desert landscape is something that I absolutely adore. I love the climate. I love the colors of the Earth, and just the endlessness; the scale of it. And going there, I had planned lots of different areas around. I didn't wanna go too far out of Vegas because there's some remarkable places, but I didn't wanna lose that connection with Vegas. So I stayed within about a 15 mile radius of Vegas. And I photographed the landscapes at all different times of the day, and I photographed landscapes sometimes with a 35 millimeter. Sometimes two-and-a-quarter. Sometimes 4x5; not so often. And a lot of times I did quite a lot of 8x10 shots. In fact, the God sign that we were speaking about before, that God sign was done with an 8x10 camera, which I felt was appropriate for that shot. Now sometimes, I mean, at that time, at that time I became obsessed with the pictures having gigantic resolution, gigantic sharpness, you know? I think a lot of photographers go through that. They want their pictures to be sharper, sharper, sharper. The whole of the Vegas project, the strip search project, was done on film. So I was either on 35 millimeter, two-and-a-quarter film, 4x5 film or even 8x10. So the landscape work, with this obsession of sharpness and quality and so on, I began doing these horizontal 8x10s. That's 10 inches across by eight inches high. And if you do the math on that, I would sometimes do three horizontal frames. So that gave me a negative size of 30 inches. Not quite but pretty close to that, by eight inches high. So it was a completely panoramic shot. (upbeat instrumental music) Now, at that point, I did that, but I was never happy totally with the sharpness, believe it or not, even with a negative that now at this point was close to 30 inches by eight inches. So I decided to then, when I do three horizontals, 8x10, 8x10, 8x10 that I decided to also pull the focus. So therefore I had a foreground focus and midground, so that involved every shot I wanted had nine 8x10 frames in it. So the thing got a bit ridiculous and that was a great exercise, and I knew that when I got back to New York that although this was a film job, I'd chosen film, that I could reassemble these things in the computer. And, of course, the files tended to be gigantic, like 50 gigabytes. But the downfall of the whole thing for me in the end why I hit a brick wall in all of this, and I always remember that there was in one of the frames of the landscapes, there was a white dot. Now, when I went into the computer and blew it up, you could tell that the white dot was, in fact, a cement mixer. Now, when we did the print of this shot, this landscape, and it was a large panoramic print, it was approximately something like 18 inches by eight feet, It still looked like a white dot, and you couldn't tell. Of course, if you blew the white dot up, you could tell it was a cement mixer. But at this point the prints couldn't really hold the resolution that I expected. And so the whole thing kind of hit a brick wall in a way. However, I was very proud of it as an exercise, and it really honed our skills in reassembling multiple frames into a computer. And it honed our skills for a later project, which I might speak about, concerning landscapes and nudes. So it was really, in the long term, beneficial. And as a discipline, it was worth doing. But the landscapes, once again, sometimes color, sometimes black and white, sometimes early morning. We always were up at 5-o'clock in the morning. Sometimes late at night. Sometimes even landscapes that were done after dark. So we were shooting the skyline sometime of Vegas well after the sun had gone down. (upbeat instrumental music) So landscapes were done you might almost say 24 hours a day. There was always the chance that we would do a landscape. So compositionally, if you're interested in doing landscapes then, like anybody, you have to do homework. Doing a project like this is a little bit like sitting in exam. So, as you know, that when you do an exam, you have to do homework, because they're gonna ask you things. And that's exactly what really happens. If you don't do your homework, you go to Vegas, and Vegas starts to ask questions of you and you don't know the answers. So preparing, again, is absolutely crucial. And some of it is inspiration. I've mentioned before that even looking at impressionist paintings, it can be an inspiration, to even going to a place like Vegas. People often ask me who my favorite photographer is. To be quite honest, I've got dozens and dozens of them that I think are wonderful photographers, and I draw inspiration from all of them. I'm not a brilliant copier, unfortunately. Sometimes I wish I was. But I've often started out trying to copy someone's landscape or nude or something like that and I always get lost in the middle of it and forget what I'm copying. So it's not a bad thing to go down that road as long as you end up with something that's yours and belongs to you. (upbeat instrumental music)