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Waiting in Wales

Waiting for wind in Wales.
Tricky stuff to film, wind, in that you can't see it. 
Only its effects are visible, its trace in the movement of sand, clouds or sails. These best captured in either slow-motion, or time- lapse.

Staying in Burry Port, the small Welsh bay where Amelia Earhart landed in 1928 to complete her trans-Atlantic flight. 
In the local hotel where she spent the night, I found this photograph. I love this image. The plane, the clothes, her posture, her assured expression.

"How lovely your country is. The stillness and the silence brings back again the almost awesome feeling which came to me as, hour after hour, we pushed forward through the thick clouds and fog. It was as if we were alone in the world. To think that 48 hours ago I was in America and now I am in Wales!"

Amelia Earhart 1928


The last time I filmed in Egypt was on the eve of the "Arab Spring". Now returning 4 years later the political landscape has changed radically. A transition in stark contrast to the singular, unchanging ancient landscape that the country is so famous for.

The literally 'awe' inspiring Karnak temple in Luxor is dedicated to the sun god Amon Ra. It is oriented so as to transmit the rising sun of the winter solstice through the temple. This architectural consideration of light extends through all of the art work, where the relief work is modelled through finely sculpted shadows... 'painting with light' on a monumental scale. 
The structure is still as imposing as it was intented to be, designed to house the completeness of power that was once identified with the Pharoahs person. This is art and achitecture as a monumental narrative of Power...and its enormous presence is a joy to film.

We moved on via Cairo to Alexandria to float above the underwater city of Heraclion, now 7 miles off-shore, which once housed an even grander pharaonic landscape. 

Heat, sand and salt water constantly conspired to kill the gear. 
As ever with these light and heat levels the Hot Mirror ND's worked overtime. On a typical day I utilised both a Schneider Truepol and a 1.2 HMND, reducing the 800 ISO down to a more workeable 25 ISO... whilst the hot mirror blocked the 'heat' from polluting the sensor with 5 stops worth of infra red light.


River Monsters Season 6

Great to see Season 6 of River Monsters has been such a hit with US audiences... setting new network records... ITV next!

Great memories of shooting 'Jungle Terminator' and 'Body Snatcher' with Jeremy in Peru, Brazil, Bolivia and Guyana. 

Diane Arbus

'The world can only be grasped by action, not by contemplation. The hand is the cutting edge of the mind.'
Diane Arbus

Diane Arbus 'Child With Toy Hand Grenade In Central Park' 1962

UK Skies

Shooting clouds, fields, lakes and skies across Devon and the Lake District.
I sometimes forget just how striking the British landscape is!

Red Epic with Angenieux zoom set, Helicopters, Drones and a spot of the Canon 150-600 to soak it all up. 

I find increasingly, given the extended latitude of cameras like the Epic MX, that I no longer make use of Graduated Filters for sky, once the mainstay of any landscape shooting. This tendency will only increase with the enormous latitude offered by the Dragon sensor.

C300 blues

I recently watched two of the films that swept last years Cannes. 'Blue is the Warmest Color' and 'Blue Ruin.' 

Both were fantastic independent films with inspired performances and scripts. 
Adele Exarchopoulos's extraordinary performance was particularly mesmerising!
And although I liked the differing photographic style of both, I did find that I was taken out of the experience of both by something about the quality of the image that I saw projected. 

I discovered afterward that both films had been shot on canon's C300 camera. Great films and great photography slightly compromised by the camera perhaps? Of course great films can be shot on any quality of imaging device. The granular, super contrasy Festen ( shot on consumer High 8 video) is still one of my favourite films.

I have just completed work on a docu-drama in the States which was locked into using the C300 and thought it might be an opportunity for me to test the camera. 

I had initially pushed to shoot on my go to 'documentary' lenses... The short Angenieux DP lenses (16-42 and 30-80). But this was deemed way to expensive. Understandable perhaps as these lenses cost around 3 times the price of the camera. 

To shoot documentary on a budget with this camera, I learnt, typically means to shoot on Canons L series zooms. 16-35mm F2.8, 24-70mm F2.8, 70-200mm F2.8

And I hated these lenses. 
Soft until 5.6, ugly flares, no focus hold across the Zoom ( but then few stills zooms do) awkward focus action, ugly Bokeh, darkening as you zoom, and no iris so a menu wheel to click the camera jarringly through in-motion 1/3 stop exposure increments.
The difference between these 3 zooms and the cinevised Nikkor primes I occasionally utilised (135mm f2, 85mm 1.4, 35mm 1.4) was enormous.

With the primes I was briefly back in the world of precision optics. 
But then you do really need zooms for documentary work!

Ergonomically the camera is not bad, the rotating pistol grip is easy to use, the focus tools work well, all of the industry inputs and outputs are present. Its low light performance is stellar. I was quite comfortable with the cameras performance at 1600 ISO.

After 2 weeks of shooting I would have to say that I remain disappointed by the camera. It's main attraction might be its price, delivering S-35mm motion imaging for under 10k.
But it's the picture that I can't get away from. It seems that try as you might you can't get enough picture into a 50MB, 8 bit parcel... There's just not enough data there. Even in its latitude extending Cinema Log mode it seems unable to hold an extended highlight range. At its worst the picture looks like granulated plastic with metallic highlights, frequent banding and compression artefacts. 

Perhaps I have been spoilt with more robust imaging choices and at this price point I'm sure it's an attractive ready to roll tool. But since an EOS mounted Red Scarlet would be a similar financial prospect I'm unsure why it's enjoyed its popularity. Perhaps its the simplicity of its workflow? Which of course is price in another language. 

Despite my slight discomfort with the lenses and the look... I always love shooting in the States. It's a landscape steeped in the iconic history of imagery I've grown up with in the movies. I worked with a fantastic team and in truth everyone loved the images that were produced on the camera.

(these courtesy of my iphone)

I will have to maintain a lonely distaste for its 'look'.


16oz studio



Dziga Vertov

" I'm an eye. A mechanical eye. I, the machine, show you the world the way only I can see it. I free myself for today and forever from human immobility. I'm in constant movement. I approach and pull away from objects. I creep under them. I move alongside a running horse's mouth. I fall and rise with the falling and rising of bodies. This is I, the machine, manouvering in the chaotic movements, recording one movement after another in the most complex combinations.
Frees from the boundaries of time and space, I coordinate any and all points of the universe, wherever I want them to be. My way leads towards the creation of a fresh perception of the world. Thus I explain in a new way the world unknown to you."

Dziga Vertov 1923


Red Epic Dragon

My first shoot with the Epic's new Dragon sensor and I am blown away!
Enormous latitude, deep colour space and yet more resolution. 
Operationally the bigger sensor size is a joy. 
That 16mm lens looks even wider, I seemed unable to blow any highlights and could comfortably look to higher ISOs than I would traditionally have imagined.

It's the only camera to break the 100-point DxOMark sensor score barrier to date... With their 'highest colour sensitivity ever measured'

High praise, particularly when it's a motion camera going up against the best imaging from the stills world.

The rushes look spectacular... Some low light testing next.

Cross processing

My first shoot involving film for some time. 
I shot a few rolls of Kodak Ektar 100 for a fashion shoot, cross processing this in E6 chemistry and pushing the process by 1.5 stops. The results were quite striking. Colour shifted, contrasty transparencies.
It was amazing to see how responsive everyone was to the physical appearance of the positives... Handling them like some lost relic. 
I chose not to shoot on my Nikon film kit but in honour of the seemingly antiquated process looked to my Pentax Spotmatic with its wonderful SMC Takumar lenses... A set older than me. 

Beautiful, organic, celluloid triacitate results!