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The Urban Lair Photo Book – Printique

Author: Libby - Printique by Adorama

Sometimes, keeping it simple is the most effective way to make an impact with your photography. This is the case with Printique member Robbie McRobbie. We recently came across his photo book in our Book of the Month contest. To say it is outstanding, is an understatement. By stripping away the color, complicated backgrounds and overprocessing, he has made a wonderful masterpiece. We couldn’t be more proud to show you Robbie’s photo book. We hope you find inspiration in his images and his words.
1. Tell us a little about yourself
I live in Sydney with my wife and three kids and work in a management role in a large organisation.  Photography is my passion and offers a release from the stresses of a busy profession.  I bought my first camera, an Olympus OMD 1 not long after leaving school, and added used lenses and additional OMD models as the years went past.  My first digital camera was a little Kodak DC20 with an add-on flash.  It was hugely expensive and took about 12 horrible, grainy photos, but digital photography was really just a gimmick back then, so I didn’t expect too much.  In my Olympus film days, I always longed for a Nikon camera as I often encountered serious photographers who used Nikon gear with great success.   My interest in wildlife and animal photography increased when I started to buy more powerful Nikon DSLRs and could afford longer lenses.  I found photography was a great reason to move through a terrain slowly, taking time to find hidden birds and animals, and in the process appreciating the beauty of nature.  I started to encourage my family to come on holidays to different parts of Australia, so we’ve seen some very diverse landscapes, from large islands with seal colonies, to mountain rain forests, and of course the Top End where crocodiles lurk and kangaroos are common.  I’ve made a number of  photo books of our travels with Adoramapix, but I still have thousands of vacation images on my hard drive which I intend to turn into books when I get the time.
Urban Lair 2015 Exhibition
2. Recently you won the Book of the Month challenge — tell us a little about your book
Earlier this year a selection of images in The Urban Lair project were featured in my first solo exhibition at Black Eye Gallery in Sydney ( www.blackeyegallery.com.au ). The exhibition was well received and I wanted to make a record of it as a keepsake. My book shows each of the photographs featured in exhibition as well as the artist statement and an image of the gallery as it appeared during the show. I chose Printique to make the photo book as the quality of the finish is so good. Limited editions prints of the images are still available through Black Eye Gallery.
Flying Fox twins_McRobbie
3. How did you come up with this idea
The Urban Lair project began with an abandoned wild duckling which we found in our backyard and nursed back to health. My kids called her Sage. One morning, I put Sage on a plain white background and photographed her using a simple lighting set up. I converted the image to black and white and liked the result. I then wondered what other animals I could find around the neighbourhoods of Australian cities and after about 12 months I had photographed roughly 65 different animals, from domestic cats and dogs, to snakes and baby crocodiles as well as many native Australian animals. I had also met many extraordinary people who cared for the animals.
Urban Lair 2015 Exhibition
4. Tell us what were some of the challenges
The biggest challenge was finding subjects to photograph. I found many animals through online classifieds, but I also found many interesting ones through word-of-mouth. When someone owns an exotic animal, there’s a good chance that they know other people with equally interesting critters. The other big challenge for me was having the confidence to go into the homes of strangers and take the time to capture the images I was after. And of course there was the constant challenge of getting the animals to stay still long enough for me to photograph them.
Urban Lair 2015 Exhibition
5. What was your studio set up and camera gear
My studio was always a makeshift arrangement, which depended a lot on the circumstances I was faced with when I entered people’s homes. I always photographed the animals on a plain white background, which could have been anything from a paper studio backdrop, to a piece of while vinyl. I also used portable lightbox studios which can be bought cheaply online. I generally lit the background with two strobes and then lit the subject with a single flash at the front. I used a combination of light modifiers and more or less experimented with the set up as I went along. My cameras were Nikons – D700, D750, and eventually a D800E. I used a variety of lenses, with focal lengths ranging from 105mm, 24-70mm and 70-200mm. For each image I spent quite a lot of time in Photoshop, cleaning up the (usually stained) backdrop and using plug-ins for the B&W conversions. The exhibition prints were made on Epson Hotpress Natural paper.
Urban Lair 2015 Exhibition
6. What is your next project?
I’m working on two projects, one which will be more challenging and long-term than the other. I’m currently concentrating on one particular species which I hadn’t photographed before but which has a form to it that I find fascinating. The bigger project will hopefully involve more travel around Australia. I would love to expand my Urban Lair project to cover other countries, as there are many animals found outside Australia which I would love to photograph.
Urban Lair 2015 Exhibition
Thank you so much for sharing your Printique photo book with us and inspiring other photographers with your work.