Archive for the ‘Bars’ Category

Craft Beer Calendar – July 2015 – LBQ

Wednesday, July 1st, 2015

Today is a new month on your Craft Beer Calendar and you’ve probably flipped over the page and exclaimed “What the…!?”. That is unless you are as big a Bob Dylan fan as Dan Hargeaves, bar manager at LBQ. One of Dan’s early ideas for their calendar shot was an homage to the cover of Dylan’s album, The Basement Tapes. I remembered the excitement in his eye as he suggested it. I nodded pretending to share his enthusiasm before heading home to google the album. What a mad cover. My enthusiasm became real.

It offered great potential for utilising the extended LBQ family. Dan spent six weeks pulling together props and costumes. Getting everyone together for the shoot proved tricky but at last, indeed as the last shoot for the calendar, we gathered in LBQ one Sunday morning in December – not a favourite time for bar staff – just in time to make the printing deadline.

Costumes were donned, furniture moved, camera positioned, people arranged, camera repositioned, album cover referenced repeatedly, poses tweaked until at last, the shot. And what a stunning array of characters. All the LBQ crew make great musos and assorted weirdos, and Matt’s years of keg lifting come in handy as the strongman. A well-trained pig instead of a dog. To make up numbers, a few regulars were enlisted. Shiggy from Funk Estate as an Inuit wearing a Funk Estate cap. Ciaran, from the Malthouse, lurks in the shadows as a sad clown. Wellington beer scene royalty, Ted and Frances, jointly occupy the throne, happy to be sitting as the photographer insisted on taking shot after shot to get the one that was needed. Hungover, Stacey would have loved a seat but was forced to pose gracefully as a ballerina over and over. Bar regular Sam dared to eat fire. Halena put her hair to good use as a beard. And Dan, where the hell did Dan find such a great cardy to match Dylan’s jacket?

It’s not perfect – I would have loved more space out to the right so the composition was balanced better, were we not constrained by calendar format and camera lens – but the wonderful people from LBQ make it shine.

I wish to hear this band play.

May the fourth be with you

Friday, May 1st, 2015

Today is first of May and that means you all will have been excited to flipp over to a new month on your NZ Craft Beer Calendar and see the Golding’s crew in all their Star Wars-loving glory, right?

An alternative version of the calendar shot.

If you don’t know about the craft beer calendar, I’ll bring you up to speed. Vague thoughts of producing a calendar of my photos has crossed my mind in past years, usually at the time of the year when you are thinking about buying a new calendar, which is always too late to actually produce one. September would be the latest I would consider starting to organise a calendar for the following year, and that would be using photos I already have rather than taking new ones. Last year on October 25th, the night after the first day of the Pacific Beer Expo, I received an email from friend and fellow beer-lover, Megan.

“So, at PBE today, a couple of us had the idea of a craft beer calendar, with the proceeds to go to a charity, probably Sexual Abuse Prevention Network. (They do work with Wgtn bars to identify and limit sexual assault.)

How would you feel about shooting it? We want to get it done so people can buy it for xmas. Thoughts?”

A wild idea for a good cause. I respond, “That’s a great idea. My only concern would be the short timeframe.”

Of course I had underestimated the production skills of Megan and Jess. Wrangling brewers, bar people, and photographers for photos shoots, handling the PledgeMe campaign, rustling sponsors, organising printers, and keeping Golding’s in business all at once is no easy task. I am in awe of their commitment and perseverance.

Originally I was hoping to use some of my existing photos to ease the load of making 12 photos in a month. But then bars and brewers started jumping on board with great crazy ideas. Photographers in other cities offered to help out. English photographer Nicci Peet, who had been travelling around New Zealand photographing women brewers for her Caught on the Hop project, volunteered to help out while she was here in Wellington. This all meant we could have thirteen new photos just for the calendar. People are awesome.

The shoots ranged from the stressful (most of them), the hilarious (again, most of them), heart-breaking (the loss of some beer from a barrel that fell from a fork lift while arranging a pleasant backdrop at Panhead), to the downright terrifying (photographing Taika Waititi, Cori Gonzalez-Macuer, and Stuart Rutherford from What We Do in the Shadows at Tuatara). The ideas seemed to grow more and more outlandish as the month went on as people heard what other bars and breweries had done for their. I expect they will be even more outlandish this year (and I hope they’re all making plans already, hint, hint).

May – Golding’s Free Dive

Each month that one of my photos appeared in the calendar I had intended to write a bit about the story behind the shoot. Obviously we are now into the fifth month of the year and I have missed two of my photos, January and February. I’ll tell you about those in my next installment. This month we’ll look at the shoot for May at Golding’s Free Dive.

In one way the shoot was a doddle. Sean Golding, bar owner, manager, and creator of the bar’s whole aesthetic, is also a great art director, drawing on his experience as a minion in Peter Jackson’s movie empire. Sean had pitched me the concept as Leonardo Da Vinci’s Last Supper with a Star Wars theme. Sounded good. When I arrived on the morning of November 25th it seemed even better. Trestle tables were set up, laden with beer, food (Massimo, the owner of Pizza Pomodoro, was taking part and supplying pizza), and beer. Sean had organised costumes for everyone and had printed out several copies of The Last Supper to use as reference. We tweaked the position of the tables to get the Beer is Love mural in the background and get the perspective right (one of the key features of the original painting is that all of the lines of perspective converge on Jesus’ head, drawing your eyes to him). I found the perfect shooting position. The Golding’s crew perfected their gestures and looks. Steve supplied incredible Chewbacca impersonations.

Then little things started going wrong. The light took some tweaking. Curtains and blinds were closed, flash power adjusted. I pushed the ISO a bit too high to compensate for the low light. In some shots the light sabre had turned itself off. The background could have been a bit darker than the foreground so the people would be more defined. Tom wore the storm trooper helmet in some shots, hiding his beautiful face.

This led lot of things being fixed in post. I removed a shadow from Owen’s face by grafting on a nose from another photo. The Millennium Falcon was also transferred from another photo. The most obvious problem were very uneven tablecloths. Somehow I missed this during the shoot but it was immediately obvious once the photos were on my computer screen. Praise be for Photoshop’s content-aware fill. I spent longer working on this photo than all of the other photos I took for the calendar put together, learning a lot about the capabilities of Photoshop along the way. The end result was worth it and I’ve learnt a few lessons. Next year I’ll use the force and get it right in-camera.

Spot the difference:

From this Sunday, Golding’s celebrate Star Wars Week (including May the Fourth). I hear seven beers with a Star Wars theme have been created especially. Get along there. You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy.

Thanks from Golding’s and the NZ Beer Calendar crew, Megan and Jess, to everyone who bought or supported the calendar.

A path is formed by laying one stone at a time

Monday, April 27th, 2015

Saturday was the second birthday party of Golding’s Free Dive. We headed along for a couple of drinks amongst friends and the Golding’s family. Among the staff favourites put on for the party I tried many good strong and intensely-flavoured beers: 8 Wired Super Conductor, Kereru Velvet Boot, Ballast Point Victory at Sea, and Wild & Woolley Silver Cat Angry Gummy Beer White Stout, but it was the beer I had from the handpull after Phil Cook’s favourite, Yeastie Boys Gunnamatta, ran out that I enjoyed the most: Four Avenues Half Nelson. The antithesis of the others, lower alcohol and subtler flavours, which made for an incredibly nice contrast.

Inexplicably I had left my camera at home, an inexcusable oversight on my part, but it did mean I could relax and enjoy the moment (and the Darth Vader melted helmet cake). That didn’t stop my brain from imagining photos. A man sat down next to me and I couldn’t help thinking he would be a perfect subject for a new series of photos I’d like to take one day, if I ever have any spare time outside of my day job and The Beer Project.

By the time he got up to leave I had enough beer-fuelled courage to ask him what he did for a living (an important part of the future project) and if I could take his photo sometime. Thankfully I wasn’t too drunk or creepy enough for him to call security. He was a tattooist – Simon Morse. I remembered he was tattooing people at the Panhead stand at Beervana. I even have a photo of him doing it. He mentioned he also designs some of Panhead’s cool labels too.

While gardening yesterday I had a great idea (that’s where I tend to come up with a lot of good ideas. A lot of bad ones too, but if I’m still thinking about them while having a post-gardening beer I know they’re usually good ones). I should photograph Dr Morse sketching ideas for a new Panhead label. Then it would fit in with The Beer Project and I might actually find time to take them. Genius.

That night the mighty Facebook timeline algorithm decided to randomly show me a post from Simon: a pencil sketch of the designs for the new and beautiful Panhead Canheads. A quote from my favourite TV show popped into my head: “Gentlemen. When two separate events occur simultaneously pertaining to the same object in inquiry we must always pay strict attention.” It was a sign! (A sign that I was too late for to photograph those designs, but there will always be more labels.) Now to make it happen.

These events have also reminded me that I haven’t posted the photos I took of Mike Neilson at Panhead almost two years ago. My favourite photo from the shoot might be familiar. It was in my exhibition New Wellington Breweries at Hashigo Zake during Choice Beer Week in 2013, in my All Tomorrows Breweries exhibition at the Catfish bar during Melbourne’s Good Beer Week last year, and has appeared in a few publications and here on my blog of course. Here it is again, one of my all-time favourites.

It was a short shoot, just a couple of hours. I can get some great single shots on short shoots but to get a solid series about a brewery I prefer to spend a whole brew day or, even better, multiple visits, to get a much broader view and more inventive photos. Given that Panhead Brewery has grown considerably since then, it would be great to revisit them one day.

Here are some other favourites.

I love the rim lighting around Mike’s head and arms and the way the backlight highlights the water spray in this one.

Here I like the strong flash light being diffused by the malt bag.

Here’s a shot just for Dylan Jauslin. Mike pours a Port Road Pils (I think it was the first ever batch brewed in the new brewery). If only you could taste photos this would be a good one.

Check out the rest of the photos from the shoot.

Happy Birthday, Mikkeller Bar!

Thursday, May 5th, 2011

Mikkeller Bar, 10 May 2010

Today is the first birthday of Mikkeller Bar in Copenhagen. This time last year I was in Copenhagen for a few weeks of work. We missed the bar’s opening night but over the following two weeks we became their first regulars, thanks to the bar being 100m from our hotel and, of course the incredible beer selection. Fifteen taps (now twenty!) constantly rotating through the huge Mikkeller range and a few guests from around the world, plus many bottled beers, including my favourite: the barrel-aged Mikkeller Nelson Sauvignon.

One night two big Mikkeller fans, one from Denmark and one from the USA, made a short movie while we were drinking there. The Danish fan, “Dr Ericschon”, is famous in the Danish beer world for making so-bad-they’re-good fan adverts for Mikkeller. This one is my favourite. The American fan is actually a big fan of the fan, so much so that he re-makes the same ads. The movie below shows them meeting at Mikkeller Bar.

If you look closely at about 0:19 you’ll see my colleague Pete and I in the background, alongside Kristina Bozic, co-owner of West Lakeview Liquors in Chicago (They stock a good range of NZ beers, including Epic and 8 Wired, if you’re ever feeling homesick in Chicago).

Here’s a photo I took during rehearsals: Dr. Erik Schon meets Not Dr. Erik Schon, May 11 2010.

Happy birthday, Mikkeller Bar! I wish I could be there to help with celebrations and see what other bizarre things are happening. Maybe I’ll pop down to Hashigo Zake for a Mikkeller toast.