Here it is – my next photographer interview, with Todd Hunter McGaw from Brisbane, Australia. Todd’s funny, I think you’ll like him :). His photographs are fairly smokin’ too, so read on, enjoy the wordy bits and feast your eyes on the picture bits.
I had a hard time picking out some favourite images to use (my first pass ended up with 61…), so to get a better feel check out Todd’s Blog but maybe do it at home, not work, as you may be there some time!
Hi Todd, as an intro for those who don’t know you, tell us where you live and shoot. Care to share what awards you have won?
I live in Brisbane, Australia – the sunny, sub-tropical capital city of Queensland.. Mostly shoot around south-east Queensland (ie. Bris-Vegas, Sunshine Coast, Gold Coast), but also getting some gigs interstate & overseas..
Artistic endeavour/recognition presented in the form of a competition feels a little weird to me, kind of like nominating yourself for an Oscar? but I’m running a business as well so… & it’s nice to be recognized I guess… I entered prints into the annual AIPP (Australian Institute of Professional Photographers) over the last couple of years & picked up around 20 ish ‘silver’ & ‘silver with distinction’ awards during that time, both at state & national levels.. I also won a drumkit in a lucky-door prize in 1999, and I won ‘player of the match’ playing beach volleyball in 1996..
What is Alyda’s role in the business?
Alyda is known by many names… ‘Queen of emails’, ‘2nd shooter from the grassy knoll’, ‘Retoucher of Destiny’, ‘jedi-master of being organised’, ‘chief list-maker’ ..
The new Todd Hunter McGaw website is super awesome and very different to anything else. You obviously wanted it to reflect your personality, so did you have any reservations about it being so different and how has the feedback been?
You better believe I had reservations!.. but the goal was always to do something different to a lot of other stuff I’d seen & really put myself out there personally as well.. About 2 weeks before launch, (after working on the new branding & website already for about 6 months), I had a major “what if I am way off the mark with this” moment.. It was scary considering the time + $$ already invested, but at the same time it felt pretty exciting to be at that point of no return & then to completely let go & see what happens..
The new little logo people – modelled on anyone?
It’s funny actually, we’ve had a lot of comments referring to the robots as Todd & Alyda.. they are hand-drawn by me, but the robots are modeled on couples in general.. they really represent relationships.. I seriously could write a book on the symbolism, concepts, & intentional design of our little logo characters… It’d be quite a short book – maybe 20 pages, but the greatest hits of it is that I like the contrast represented by the mechanical, unfeeling, cold, & clunky robots, being so closely aligned to something as human as love.. They are also very cute, & robots are generally pretty awesome..
So – you’re all architectural, symmetrical and stuff – why shoot weddings? Your style is very unique and different, was this a conscious decision or did you just do what you liked and hope others liked it too?
I really just photograph things as I see them.. I kind of fell into weddings.. When I started shooting them, people really responded to their pics & the word started to spread, so I booked more weddings.. I see lines, I see space, I see dead people*, I see symmetry, I see colour, I see people loving each other.. So I photograph what I see..
I just said all that & realized that I hadn’t really answered your question.. It was a conscious decision for me to try to stand out from the crowd.. I figured my greatest point of difference is that no-one else in the world sees things exactly the way I do, so I really wanted to develop my vision.. That was definitely conscious, but I didn’t seek to be all architectural and/or symmetrical & stuff – I just wanted to explore ..
* (may or may not actually see dead people).
I hesitate to ask this…. What goes through your mind when looking for a location during a shoot?
“calm-and-tranquil-seas, calm-and-tranquil-seas, calm-and-tranquil-seas.. I can smell garlic.. Is that me?”
We usually have a very specific shoot plan because we scout for locations before every wedding, even if we’ve shot there 50 times before – trying to make myself see with fresh eyes.. While on the shoot, I’m always looking for good light & interesting scenes while having a laugh with the clients.
How many times a day do you get asked about your gear? What’s the square root of Nikon plus Canon divided by Polaroid?
People do ask about my gear, post-production etc, but I’m not a huge tech-head.. I like to keep my tools uncomplicated. Current wedding kit =
2 x D700 (battery grip on main)
70-200mm f2.8 VR
55mm f2.8 MACRO (manual focus)
Alyda shoots on D700, 28-70 f2.8, 80-200 f2.8, & is always trying to steal my 35 1.4G..
SB900, SB800, 2 x pocket wizards, Epson P7000 dump drive, manfrotto tripod, Lowepro backpack, a swiss army knife, & a step-ladder
√ (nikon+canon)/polaroid = 42
If you could be a great wedding warrior and Hunter was not a cool enough name, who would you be and what super power would you have?
I’m happy with Hunter (it’s my middle name), but if I had to change it, I’d change it to…. ummm… ‘the notorious T.O.D.’ ? my super power would be to have wolverine claws with unlimited self-healing powers.. not sure how this would help my wedding photography skills though, but it’d be handy for chopping vegetables..
How do you stay so creative – got any wild ideas you haven’t managed to pull off yet?
I cultivate & feed my mind.. lots of inspiration from artists, magazines, blogs, travel, movies, music, etc.. most inspiration comes from outside the wedding industry.. we’re all born with creativity & imagination.. I think I’ve managed to retain the ‘child’ in me, so my imagination is still very very active..
I have a book of ideas.. if I don’t write them down as they come & pre-visualize/plan them, they evaporate.. I have plenty of ideas waiting for action..
What would you change in the wedding industry?
I wouldn’t change anything.. It’s evolving super-fast so I’d rather change myself & hold on for the ride..
Is there still a place for film in the wedding industry?
Yes.. I’ve been shooting film again for the last 6 mths (ish), for day-to-day/personal stuff (not weddings).. I love the feel & the latitude that film gives.. I’m considering shooting portraits on film, & next time Alyda & I get our portraits done, I’ll definitely want it shot on film..
Whats the best and worst things about being a wedding tog?
The wedding environment is very dynamic – it’s an unpredictable event with a high probability for things to not go as planned.. this is what I love about the event… But I also love the diversity of people that we meet & places we see as wedding photographers..
There’s not really anything I don’t like about photographing weddings.. Things that I struggle with are usually to do with me – taking on too much work, self discipline with working long hours, separating work time with family time etc..
You recently renewed your vows with Alyda and you must have been to some amazing wedding venues and places, so where would you go and who would you use as a photographer if you were to do it all again for real? Who would you invite as a special guest from past or present.
We renewed our vows in Vegas while at WPPI this year (10 year wedding anniversary).. wooooo! It was very last minute & not overly planned but came off in typical Vegas style.. It was so RAD – but Las Vegas doesn’t really count as part of the ‘real world’ – it’s like a parallel dimension/twilight zone.. Our re-wedding was officially photographed by our awesome friends Jonas Peterson, & Dan O’Day.. Actually all our friends that attended were photographers.. Check blogs from Samm Blake, Vivid Photography (Richard), Ben & Caroline (Benoline) for some pics..
If we were to redo a ‘proper’, more traditional wedding (where we invite our mums etc), photographically, it’s a really tough question to answer.. Alyda & I talk about it a lot, but we’re always changing our minds.. randomly one of us will say to the other.. who would you get to shoot our wedding if we got married this weekend, budget = $infinity? Last time this happened, Alyda, “Jonas Peterson”.. Todd “not sure, but I’d like to have a chat to Jackie Chan (Sydney based)”.
I would invite Jesus to our wedding..
You can shoot a wedding anywhere, real or otherwise. Choose a spot and a couple!
Imagine Han Solo & Princess Leia got married (ok so that’s expected), but forget the whole Empire vs Rebel Alliance thing – what if they were all friends & Darth Vader offered the death star as the wedding venue.. (obviously the wedding would be pre-death star destruction).. Vader would walk Leia (his daughter) down the aisle.. But what a party that would be.. The ultimate galactic shin-dig! Jedi mind tricks on the dance floor! The tricky thing I guess would be photographing the ghosts of obi-wan & yoda (definitely no off-camera flash for that one).. I might need a 2nd shooter too..
Any software or invention which has made your photography life easier?
Nikon 35mm f1.4G
Do you have a favorite escape outside of photography?
Going on dates with my lady.. & cycling.. riding in the dirt with mates clears my mind.. I also have a steel track-frame fixed gear & loving it.. going on dates with my lady..
Your ship is sinking of the coast of a remote part of NZ. There is room on the life raft for your MTB or your camera gear. Do you take the bike to help escape to freedom or the camera to document the journey?
ummm.. (long pause).. preserving human life is paramount. If I knew survival was likely to depend on having transport once we reached land, I’d take the bike, & ditch the camera gear, (losing my 35mm f1.4 = ouch!).. But all my gear is insured.. I’d document our survival on my iPhone.
Tell me about fridays on foot – when’s the next episode?
Fridays on foot is a project I started about 2 years ago.. It was born from my desire to escape the slavery of my computer – to take a step back & just explore.. It’s very much a solo thing.. I enjoy the quiet – kind of like a meditation really.. Personal projects are really important .. not sure when the next FOF will be, I’m currently working on a new project but it’s ‘secret squirrel’ at the momento..
If people want to ask you daft questions like me, do you have a formspring, twitter, telepathic channel, etc?
Todd on Twitter
I can also be contacted via smoke signal, but it’s been quite windy here lately so really it’s just easier if you twitter or email me.. todd[at]toddhuntermcgaw[dot]com[dot]au
Thanks Todd – this was a lot of fun!