Rock music and portrait photographer Tom Barnes once described himself as the Bear Grylls of his craft. Barnes’ landscape is more urban jungle than the Alaskan plains of the British survival expert, but wild location shots in all their tattooed, graffitied splendour are his preferred patch.
"Thunderbolt is like racing a Formula 1 car against a go-kart. It’s a truly amazing standard and blows everything else out of the water."
Barnes works with UK rock bands, creating portrait shots for Bring Me the Horizon, Biffy Clyro and You Me at Six, as well as publications like FHM, Kerrang, Alternative Press, Loaded and Q Magazine.
Although Barnes says he never set out to develop a signature look, it’s scrawled all over his brooding images of visually fascinating rock stars. To study Barnes’ work is to be drawn into a world in which body art is as loud as the heavy metal of client band Bring Me the Horizon. The faces of Barnes’ subjects are recorded in gritty, granular detail. In every shot, the emotional connection with the bands’ target audience of raw youth shines through.
Although UK-based Barnes first clicked a shutter in anger at the age of five, destiny initially had other ideas. An uncle who produces TV commercials advised him against a degree in photography and, when Barnes graduated in Urban Land Economics, a career in commercial property beckoned.
But Barnes rebelled and found a cause in his passion for photography. At university, self-directed learning helped him transition from hobbyist to professional. It could be this autodidactic approach, a sense of getting down and dirty with the nitty-gritty of digital photography, that has made him picky with his technology.
Naturally, perfectionist Barnes is a G-Technology devotee and uses highly portable G-RAID mini and G-DRIVE mini drives, as well as high-performance G-RAID drives. His choices, he explains, are ideal for a life spent in transit: "Reliability, size and power supplies are my main issues. I travel a lot, so the drives I use need to be small and light but still tough. The G-RAID mini is perfect as it is compact and can live up to the struggles of life on the road.
"I can also fit multiple drives in my cases. I prefer to use BUS-powered drives as these reduce the amount of clutter/cables I have to take. This is especially useful when flying, when space is at a premium, and when working in remote locations where you would normally have no access to power."
As with any photographer, back-ups are critical. Barnes shoots while tethered to a laptop. This automatically backs up images to an external G-RAID mini. After the shoot wraps, he makes another copy to another G-DRIVE mini, ensuring he has three copies of the shoot on hard drives at all times until he gets back to the office.
Barnes keeps the hard drives in separate cases during transit, to minimise the risk of losing a bag or disk. Back at base, he clears off the hard drive and the files stored in the server, and tags, renames and proofs the files using Adobe Bridge CS6. Finally, he works up the images using Adobe Photoshop CS6.
Naturally, all this adds up to a sizeable storage requirement and Barnes gets through around 80GB per shoot with rough edits, keeping all images for one year from the delivery date. After that, he removes unused or discarded RAW files. This takes the shoot size down to 10GB. Capacity, he says, slowly creeps up: "I have four offsite 8TB drives and will have to look at getting more soon."
A move to Thunderbolt is planned imminently. Why? "The main thing is speed. Thunderbolt is like racing a Formula 1 car against a go-kart. It’s a truly amazing standard and blows everything else out of the water.
"In relation to my workflow, everything will be sped up. I won’t have to wait hours for transfers to happen – instead, the job will be done in a matter of seconds or minutes. I’ll be able to deliver projects faster and can get on with jobs at once rather than waiting around for the hard drives."
Asked to choose the three most-impressive aspects of G-Technology drives, Barnes plumps for size, reliability and price: "The drives look great, but they’re compact, so I don’t have to worry about them not fitting anywhere. My assistants no longer moan at me for lumbering them with heavy drives.
"The reliability – this has to be the biggest factor in anyone’s eyes. After a lot of research, it turned out that people had great things to say about the G-Technology line of products. People said they were reliable and solid and, after having a few, I have to agree with them.
"The price of the drives – they say you get what you pay for. This is very much true with hard drives but, at the same time, the G-Technology range is very good value for money for the build quality, size, capacity and excellent warranty you get. Also, not many other drives come with carry cases and all the cables for all possible connections."
G-Technology saves the day? Only in a quiet, unassuming, undramatic way.
Barnes speaks with awe at riding the success train of some of his rock clients all the way from pub gig to Wembley Arena, and he reserves a similar tone for his G-Technology drives: "The fact that I have never had a G-Tech drive fail on me has to be a silent success story. I’ve had drives fail from almost every other supplier, but G-Tech drives have lasted, which is obviously a massive advantage.
"I’m not sure if this is down to the enclosure design or the hard drives used but, whatever it is, I’m thankful. To be able to trust in your equipment is such a huge thing. It really takes a lot of pressure off knowing that, when I put data onto the drive, it will be safe."
Perhaps the finest tribute to the silent power and reliability of G-Technology is Barnes’ astonishing portfolio, roll-call of A-list clients and endless list of magazines, music labels and rock names queuing up to hear the sound of his shutter.
What gives him the greatest pride? "I’m proud of all my projects," says Barnes. "But shooting for Q is great, so each job there is an achievement. There’s also my work with a clothing company called Dropdead, which has been one of my greatest success stories, having been involved in it from the start. Other things to be proud of are working with bands and seeing your images help them get to where they need to be.
"One of my favourite bands to work with and some of my very good friends are You Me at Six. I’ve shot with them for years, from playing to 30 people in a pub to headlining a sold-out Wembley Arena to 13,000 people. Bring Me the Horizon have also gone from playing to ten people in a pub to playing to crowds of thousands all over the world. Seeing this transformation and being a part of it is very special."
For Tom Barnes, whose reputation keeps pace not only with the ever-evolving technology at G-Technology but also with the emerging gods of rock, the horizon is ever-expanding.