Behind The Lens: GaryG’s Favorite Photographs From 2018
Wow! Another year in the books, and five – count ‘em, five – years since the launch of Quill & Pad. It’s been a great ride so far, and for me a big part of the fun has been the opportunity to share some of my images of both watches and the wonderful people behind them with all of you.
My rough estimate is that I’ve included on the order of 400 photos in my 2018 articles, in turn culled from thousands of initial shots. It’s been both enjoyable and a little difficult to select my favorites for the year, but I’ve squeezed things down to 24 photos, all taken by me and first shown on Quill & Pad during 2018.
In the light tent with favorites old and new
Some watches just seem made for photography; for whatever reason the light loves them, and pleasing shapes and contrasting areas of light and shadow catch the eye. For me, one such piece is my bespoke Masterpiece Chronograph II from Kari Voutilainen.
Other pieces present more substantial challenges, but with patience and a good amount of fiddling the result can be striking – as with the “mighty” A. Lange & Söhne Double Split. In this favorite shot, the color difference between the German silver subdials and platinum case and other white-metal details is clearly evident, and I never cease to be amazed at how well the Hasselblad X1D brings to life something as mundane as a strap.
While most of my staged photography is done against a black backdrop (note to self: change it up a bit more and go back to using more props!), I thought that the monochromatic dial side of my Hajime Asaoka Tsunami might benefit from a high-key shooting approach as seen below.
In March, I had the opportunity to travel to New York and photograph the prototype of the unique steel A. Lange & Söhne Homage to Walter Lange prior to its record-breaking auction. I brought along not only my portable tent, but also other watches linked with Herr Lange including my yellow gold Pour le Mérite Tourbillon.
A very different pair of watches featured in another group shot, this time the Joker from Konstantin Chaykin and “Batman” GMT-Master II BLNR from Rolex.
It’s not easy arranging watches, lights, and camera to pull off a two-watch image like this one, and for me the facial expression on the Joker as he swoops down on Batman makes the image good fun as well.
Another watch dial that creates its own interest is the “linen-textured” example of a Jaeger-LeCoultre 1970s vintage prototype that was featured in Why I Bought It: Two ‘Unsalable’ Jaeger-LeCoultre Caliber 906 Prototypes. Visual appeal isn’t limited to super-expensive watches by any means, as this piece illustrates.
I’m always pleased to have a chance to photograph any of F.P. Journe’s watches, and for me the early examples even have that little something extra. In the image below, my 2001 vintage Tourbillon Souverain shows its stuff, and we can see clearly how the white gold dial and crown differ in tone from the platinum case and silver subdial.
By his own admission, François-Paul Journe has never obsessed about perfection in finishing, preferring to focus on technical and aesthetic innovation.
My last “full dial” light tent selection of 2018, on the other hand – the Greubel Forsey Invention Piece 1 – aims for the trifecta of technical invention, visual interest, and finishing that stands up to the most highly magnified macro views.
While I enjoy shooting “detail” images that portray sub-areas of a watch dial, movement, or case, only three of these images made the cut for my favorites this year: two are dial details from Patek Philippe pieces featured in “Why I Bought It” articles, Reference 2526 “Gobbi Milano” and Reference 5170P.
The third detail shot is a dial-meets-movement image of one of the two double tourbillon cages in my good friend’s Greubel Forsey Invention Piece 2; see if you can count all the different finishing techniques used within this tiny space!
If I tried to include in this article every beautiful movement I’ve photographed this past year, we’d be here a very long time indeed! By and large, I’m guessing that the makers of the movements included in this retrospective won’t surprise too many, beginning with A. Lange & Söhne and the unique Homage to Walter Lange whose face you saw earlier.
I was especially pleased at how well this image turned out as I shot it on a tabletop in the Phillips showroom in New York using one small travel LED light and a table lamp that happened to be on hand.
Back at home, A. Lange & Söhne featured again in this dual image comparing the movement of the Double Split with the competing Caliber CHR 29-535 PS in Patek Philippe’s Reference 5370P. This is another one of those tricky-to-light images of two watches in one setting, and my goal was to portray both pieces as faithfully as possible in order to allow for a fair and direct comparison.
One of the great delights of 2018 for me was the opportunity to shoot a dear friend’s Voutilainen Masterpiece Chronograph II. And while I chose an all-rhodium treatment for the movement side of my own red gold piece, he (wisely, I think) opted for Voutilainen’s “standard” gilded plates and bridges, which really make the movement pop visually and provide a warm backdrop for the playful assortment of finely finished steel levers and springs (see Behind The Lens: Two Unique Masterpiece II Chronographs From Kari Voutililainen).
Sometimes it seems that there are only a few ways to show off a watch, but I do like to mix things up a bit, as I was able to do with this view of Hajime Asaoka’s Tsunami partially hidden behind the watch’s handmade buckle and strap. In this image you really get a sense of the crisp finishing style that Asaoka has developed over the past several years, along with a view of the immense balance wheel that looms in the shadows.
We’re big fans of Agenhor’s AgenGraphe movement here at Quill & Pad, and as a collector I put my money where my mouth was by purchasing, and then of course photographing, the unique “Carpe Diem” clock developed by Agenhor and HEAD Geneva for 2017’s Only Watch charity auction (see Why I Bought It: Carpe Diem “Only Watch” By Agenhor And HEAD Genève as well as Carpe Diem By Agenhor And HEAD For Only Watch 2017 Is The Very First AgenGraphe Chronograph Delivered And The Only Agenhor-Branded Watch).
This last movement shot might just be my favorite photo of the year. For starters, it has an almost brutal realism that I just can’t tear my eyes away from; and perhaps important only to me, it depicts the “keeps on ticking” movement of my father’s trusty Timex, still functional after all of these years and obvious heavy use (see Why I Bought It: Timex Marlin Re-edition).
Seen in the wild
I do take wristshots, but they’re not my specialty and relatively few appear in my articles (see more of my thoughts on this in Wristshots: The Story So Far). One of these that stood out for me this year was of a watch that apparently lends itself well to photography: once again, the Tsunami from Hajime Asaoka.
The other “in-the-wild” shot on my list this year was posed atop a bench in the atelier of gifted artist and friend Alexa Meade and is Alexa’s version of my Audemars Piguet Equation of Time, painted atop the actual watch covered in a protective layer of plastic wrap (see the whole story on that in Becoming Horological Art: My Transformational Experience With Alexa Meade And The Audemars Piguet Equation Of Time).
It’s all about the people
Yes, there are watches involved. But in 2018 as in every year it was the people behind the creations that made this hobby the very special thing that it is.
For good cheer matched with fantastic horological virtuosity, it’s hard to beat Bart and Tim (shown below) Grönefeld.
Any moment spent with Philippe Dufour is a treat, and visiting him in his atelier, as we did in January of 2018, is an honor.
The “next Dufour?” I see Romain Gauthier as the creator who is faithful to the traditions of watchmaking while evolving manufacturing methods for the future (see Why Romain Gauthier Is The Logical Heir Apparent To Philippe Dufour), but when it comes to fully traditional hand-making all eyes are on Akrivia’s Rexhep Rexhepi (see A Collector’s View: Is Akrivia Bound For Glory?).
And it’s been a lifetime of achievement for Jean-Claude Biver, seen below at the 2018 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève ceremony during Aurel Bacs’ emotional introduction of his Special Jury Award.
And that’s a wrap!
I’m pretty sure that this final photo that I shot during the Monterey car weekend in August isn’t a technical or artistic triumph, but it does reflect my thanks to all of you for reading and commenting over this past year and my best wishes for a splendid 2019.
You may also enjoy:
Commissioning A Watch: My Journey With The Kari Voutilainen Masterpiece Chronograph II
Behind The Lens: Two Unique Masterpiece II Chronographs From Kari Voutililainen
Why I Bought It: A. Lange & Söhne Double Split
Why I Bought It: Hajime Asaoka Tsunami
Why I Bought It: Two ‘Unsalable’ Jaeger-LeCoultre Caliber 906 Prototypes
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Great photos! Thanks for all the photos in 2018 and all the best for 2019.
Thanks Richard! I’m very pleased you enjoyed the photos and wish you a splendid 2019.
Superb collection, Gary.
Using the tent seems to make for a very impressive result that gives a wonderful distribution of even lighting, yet prevents it from being flat. Although I guess some key lighting helps too.
You have really mastered the technique!
Now I need to find the time to emulate your work 🙂
Thanks, Joseph! Even with the tent it is all too easy either to blow out highlights or lose some details in the shadows, and as always directional lighting (and as you say, some key lighting from time to time) helps to avoid a flat result.
I also find that single images with the tilt-shift lens avoid the flat look that stacking sometimes gives — but of course if you want to have a fully sharp image and utilize a variety of image positions, eventually stacking is going to come into play.
Most of all, as you suggest investing the time to practice is a big part of success!
Thanks again for commenting, and all the best,
really fine, fine work. Some of them ( the Greubel Forsey, for instance) i would frame and put in my study if i could purchase the hi-res approx A4-sized print.
perhaps you could offer your services to Grand Seiko–phenomenal watches, but horribly photographed in their press kits, on their Site, etc.