Key Art For Rationale by Gregory Nolan

Grand Canyon meets The Rockies... 

Grand Canyon meets The Rockies... 

If you haven’t heard Rationale’s first three singles, you should check them out. Seriously

I first heard this guy over a year ago, because some of the people I hang out with started getting excited about the music he was coming up with. They played it pretty coy, releasing singles but not his name for over two months. But he’s starting to announce live shows and is out there in the world now, so I can announce something I’ve been excited about for months:

I created Rationale’s key artwork.

The Rockies meet the Donnor Pass, Nevada.  

The Rockies meet the Donnor Pass, Nevada.  

I usually don’t do photo compositions. But I took some nature photos years ago that inspired me to mess around with a little more. There was a symmetry and repetition already to the raw photo. I started messing with mirroring effects, and with overlaying multiple images in subtle fades. I had a blast putting them together and getting really creative with the photos to create something that hadn’t been there before—skylines replaced by narrow shots of the Grand Canyon, and hillsides subtly highlighted by forest images.

I had no idea what to do with these images. I hung onto them for months, showing a few people and trying to figure out the right venue.

Then Rationale and the Best Laid Plans team was looking for artwork ideas...

Multiple photos of the Grand Canyon. 

Multiple photos of the Grand Canyon. 

I love what he’s doing with his song writing, producing, and collaborations. He’s got beautiful lyrics and a great atmospheric sound that’s already accompanied me on a couple of road trips. Seeing his play counts top hundreds of thousands within a couple of weeks is a real thrill.

And it is totally awesome to have my photos be part of that.

I’m looking forward to his first show, album and to watching how things progress between now and then.

Festivals 2015 - Reading and Electric Picnic by Gregory Nolan


Back-to-back weekends as offical music festival photographer was not an experience I’d had before. First Reading Festival, and then Electric Picnic in Ireland had me running off my feet for days on end, with just a brief pause in between to catch my breath.

It was a wild time.

I can’t believe the amount of musical talent I saw in such a short amount of time. I feel like I spent those days dashing back and forth between top performances and wild crowds. The two festivals had very different vibes, but doing both so close together was really a level of diverse photographic and musical settings unlike anything I’ve done before.

But first, Reading. An absolute highlight of that festival was the quality work that went into the production and lighting at that festival. Good production makes a massive difference, especially for a photographer. ESPECIALLY if we’re talking about an afternoon show, when you have daylight to contend with. But the lighting meant that I was able to capture some incredible photos of a ton of great bands.

The biggest stand-out performance at Reading for me was Slaves--it was an absolutely wild crowd and the duo smashed it. Vocalist Jonny Craig launched the show by casually perched at the front of the stage and watching the crowd. It was a bold move, and there was nothing quiet or casual about the rest of that performance. Absolutely immense. They are the kind of band you kick yourself for not seeing in a sweaty basement as they started their journey.

Another great moment was getting to catch up with Otherkin, a band I’d worked with previously on my Unmade in Ireland project. Since the shoot I did with them last winter, when they were unsigned and had yet to release a single… now they’re touring, playing the BBC “Introducing” stage at Reading Festival, and tearing up the internet with their single Ay Ay. I’m really excited about where these guys are heading.   

Overall, I’d say Reading was a top festival, hands down. Oh one more thing I got to catch up with this clown, clowning around. 

This was my third year at Electric Picnic Festival. Both of my previous two years working with this festival have been incredible experiences--a real chance to push my skills as a photographer, shoot a whole range of different kinds of crowds and bands, and to really engage with a fabulous festival. 

This year was another great experience at Electric Picnic 2015.

Florence and the Machine closed the festival out with an epic mainstage performance. I’ve really enjoyed her new album, and it was a joy to see her perform it live. The absolute last photo I took in this whole crazy string of events was this shot of an older woman, captivated in front of Florence’s stage.

Call me crazy, but I think it kind of sums up the whole festival experience. At least it does for me.

Another Road Trip by Gregory Nolan

A couple of weeks ago, I headed back out on the road for a good old fashioned American road trip.

It’s incredible what you see and experience on those wide open roads and big vistas.

Some of my favorite photos were taken in the Teton Mountains in Wyoming. That’s wide open spaces like nowhere I’ve seen, with these gorgeous mountains appearing in the surrounding flat plains. It’s been an unusually wet spring and early summer in what is usually an extremely dry part of the world. We could see that in the forests and farmlands, and in the tree-filled slopes of the lower Tetons.

But then you get to the Grand Tetons themselves, and those peaks are all rock and snow. That’s a stark, wild beauty if I’ve ever seen it.

The American West, even in a wet year, is a dry landscape. It was hot and dusty on those long days, and even though we stopped frequently for a quick photo or to stretch our legs, the wear and tear of the road got draining. But then we'd arrive at some extraordinary place and the miles would fall away behind us. Bear Lake in Utah was one of those places--a chance to cool off, wade in, and relax. Plus we caught some cheeky wildlife photos in the surrounding area.

The trip also took us to Logan Canyon, which is one of my new favourite places in the world. It’s in northeastern Utah, and is absolutely glorious. The road winds through the canyon, combining riverside meadows with forested hillsides and sheer cliff faces. We only had a couple of hours there as we were passing through at the end of a long day, and there was a place to stop around every bend in the narrow road. Watching the sun set on the canyon walls has got to be one of the best things I’ve ever seen anywhere (even though I was driven crazy by the fact that we weren't at a good vantage point for a photo).

Long stretches of northern Utah and southern Idaho are pretty desolate by any measure of the term. But there are hidden gems, including some we literally stumbled upon by accident when we got tired of racing along at a mind-numbing 80 miles an hour along the freeway. Shoshone Falls and the Snake River Canyon in southern Idaho were unexpected and startling, making a jaw-dropping detour and a chance to breathe in some deep beauty after a dusty morning's race across country. 

I have a particular fascination with places in the process of falling apart. This is not unique to the US--if you cross Ireland you'll see all kinds of half-crumbling homes and businesses. The thing is, though, they crumble differently. One reason for this is a simple question of materials--in Ireland and most of Europe, buildings are made of stone and therefore fall apart in a more ancient-looking fashion. But there's more to it than that. There's something about the wide-open American surroundings, combined with a quality of light and a sense of heat and desolation that makes disrepair feel different here. In any event, these American ruins certainly caught my imagination. 

In non-road trip parts of the trip, I spent time with my girlfriend’s family and friends. Her cousin was getting married, and I took some shots at a family brunch the day after, complete with her almost 96-year-old grandmother (who cooked the breakfast) and the newest addition to the family. I also popped along to a construction day with her mom's friends, who are building a common house together for community events. AND to her dad's Irish band performing at a great local bar.

So it was a busy non-road trip moment for a road-weary photographer.

The final day of the whole trip was spent descending the western slopes of the Cascade Mountains, crossing the Mount Hood National Forest amid startling views of the snow-covered peak and twisting forested highways. The morning started at the gorgeous Smith Rock, a favourite destination for hikers and rock climbers. All that last day we were returning to familiar territory--this was the area where I shot some of the wilderness photos in the current A5 collection. It’s wilderness and highway that’s beginning to feel like it’s in my own backyard.

Over the course of the adventure, we drove over 3,000 miles and made the whole trip in a week. That’s a long way in our adventure car, Spike, listening to podcasts and books on tape, scheming schemes, and watching the world go by.

My First Film Camera by Gregory Nolan

Photo taken with an iPhone camera. 

I was recently gifted a 1982 Nikon FG film camera by a friend of a friend’s parents. They no longer had a need for it--in fact it hadn’t been out of its camera bag in 15 years and weren’t even sure it would work.

I’ve tossed around the idea of a film camera for ages, but never actually took the plunge to buy one. I learned on digital, and shoot on digital, and know how to work with the digital both in shooting and in the post- editing phase. But I’ve always had an idea of wanting to try film.

So I got it home and did some research on the internet, which was interesting because the word internet was first used in 1982, the same year the Nikon FG came out and it would be a good few years before people were using it in their homes. The only youtube tutorial I could find about the camera, featured a guy accidentally blocking the view in the most important parts of the tutorial.So I tracked down a user manual and printed it out.

The camera came with a 50 mm 1.8 lens and two ancient roles of black and white film. It wasn’t until I had the camera in my hands that I realised I had no idea how to actually change film. At all.

So I popped open the first of the two rolls of film that came with the camera and with much excitement I began inserting it. I followed the manual carefully...Or at least I thought I did. On my first try, I accidentally rotated the film the wrong way and broke the film. Not that anyone’s counting, but that’s one roll out the window. Since I’m not one to be discouraged, I gave it another go and managed to not break anything in the process.

I love the camera. Everything from working with such small and light camera to the feel of the film advance lever as I prepare to take the next photo. I’ll even admit to having a romantic notion of heading out with that camera to seek out the greatest shots the world has ever seen--life-changing, earth shattering images of faraway lands...because with a film camera it’s suddenly all the more real, and somehow the dream is bigger.   

I’m not sure I shot quite to my dream of what it could have been. I will say that I actually managed to get the film developed, which in our modern day and my instant-gratification personality is no small feat. I’d literally never developed film before.

And if only 16 of the 36 exposures even turned out at all, well… everyone starts somewhere, and that is almost half after all.

A selection of 'moody' under exposed photographs. The 15:00 is the first photo I took... 

I don’t think any of these shots will stop the presses, but I’ve got to say I’m pretty pleased. Not necessarily with the photos themselves (although a couple aren’t too shabby), but I’m mostly excited about the depth and feel of the images. The way film naturally deals with shades and tones is something that I have always admired and rarely seen even in a beautiful digital image. There’s something special about film, and about having a small camera paired with the mindset that each frame is precious, and each shot is something to consider seriously.

I have a lot to learn still. The camera has some limitations that will push my abilities and I hope will push me forward in both skill and patience in both the film realm and in my digital work.

So I guess from time to time I’ll be heading around town with my new/old silver Nikon film camera along for the ride. We’ll see where that takes us!