The Rig
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The Rig: Tom McLaughlan

Who are you and what’s your profession?

Who am I?  Simple – I’m a lucky person. I have my family and some very special friends, I have a job and it’s one I love (I lead Accenture’s UK government relations program) and I have photography. So I call myself a photographer with a wonderful day job. I’m also a trustee of a London-based human rights charity, the Helen Bamber Foundation ( – a very, very special organization named after an extremely inspiring woman. I live in the south east of England about a 20 mile commute from London where I work. A few years ago I came up with the term ministract to describe my pictures because they’re sometimes minimal, sometimes abstract and sometimes somewhere in between. My hope is that my pictures might feed the viewer’s imagination and arouse a sense of curiosity; my dream is to travel the world, photographing the wonderful work of Santiago Calatrava; and my wish is to one day see my work in an exhibition.

What’s your rig?

Well, here’s where I declare I’m something of an interloper at The Rig – yup, I don’t shoot Fuji! I’m a Canon man (I use a 5d Mark III) although I’ve tried desperately to enjoy my Olympus OM-D E-M5 but it’s a struggle. The weight of the Olympus (or lack of it) is a wonderful thing but I just don’t feel at home with it in the same way that I do with the Canon. It just feels right in my hands and I’ve used it so much that I never have to stop and think about settings. Lens wise, I have a few Canon Ls. My two most trusted friends are the 24-105mm f4L IS and the 70-200mm f2.8L IS II as they’re perfect for my style of photography, which sees my pounding city streets looking for ministract perspectives, mostly of buildings. If I wander in to prime territory then the one I love the most isn’t actually a Canon – it’s the Sigma 85mm f1.4. The lens I’d love to have? Probably the one I sold last year… I love the Canon 100mm f2.8L Macro IS but it just didn’t get enough use and a friend was looking to buy one so I did the dirty deed. I have a few problems with my back, hence why I tried to get to like the Olympus. It’s also the reason why I don’t use a tripod – to heavy to lug around for 5 or more hours at a time – and it’s my excuse for buying lots of bags. At the moment I use a Think Tank Retrospective 7 or a Crumpler backpack but the hunt is still on for the ideal carrier. So if anybody has any ideas then I’m all ears! My requirements are for a comfortable backpack, as small as possible but big enough to hold a Canon 5d Mark III with 70-200 f2.8 attached (that’s usually the killer requirement) and the 24-105 alongside it. Oh, and a little pocket for the iPad Mini too. That’s all 🙂


What hardware do you use?

I use a 15” Macbook Pro Retina, have just replaced my trusty iPad3 with an iPad Mini Retina and once in a blue moon post pics to my Instagram account, taken with an iPhone 4s. The iPad Mini fits perfectly in my jacket pocket and is an absolute dream as I read like crazy on my daily commutes. Truly one of the best devices I’ve ever owned. I use a couple of Western Digital MyPassport external drives – one for a clone of my hard drive and another for all my pictures bar the current year’s shots (they stay on my laptop).


What software do you use?

I shoot in RAW, process in Lightroom (boosting contrast level and colours a bit), crop square (usually) and then export as JPEG. Sometimes I wish I knew how to use Photoshop but, on the whole, I don’t need it and Lightroom – with its friendly sliders – is so easy. Backup is via Time Machine and a Time Capsule, with clones done to a Western Digital MyPassport external drive. I also keep copies of all my images on another MyPassport. I’ve tried to complement all this with an online storage option too (Backblaze) but the initial upload took too long and during that time throttled my internet connection so much that I quit. I’m now looking in to using Amazon Glacier as the initial seeding can be done via an external drive. (The UK doesn’t have many options for seeding online backups and the major US backup firms won’t accept disks sent to them from here). My website used to be on WordPress (using a Photocrati theme) but it all got too complicated so I switched to Squarespace and have been extremely happy there. I just need to add to my blog a bit more often…


What would be your dream rig?

I’m pretty much happy with what I’ve got. Sure, a large retina screen would be great but that would require me to have a bigger house with a room I can use just for photography (at the moment my office is the dining table in the lounge) and one day – one day – I’ll find the perfect camera that combines the feel of the 5d Mark III and the weight of the Olympus. Until then I’ll just keep on with what I have 🙂


What’s your favorite photography quote?

Forgive me for cheating but there are two quotes that really inspire me in my work. One is by Robert Mapplethorpe – “I’m looking for the unexpected. I’m looking for things I’ve never seen before” – and the other, by Emily Dickinson, isn’t really about photography at all but it’s what I hope my pictures will one day manage to achieve – “Ignite the imagination and light the slow fuse of the possible”.


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