John Fulton: Clydesdale Randy

Apr 21, 2015
Photographer Spotlight

When John Fulton sent me his most recent personal project, I couldn't help but laugh out loud in the office. "Clydesdale Randy" is a concept image featuring a horse wearing furry boots (is that what we look like when we wear UGGs?) that John created using outtakes from a recent editorial shoot. What makes this shot even more interesting? After coming up with the concept, John was unable to source real furry boots to shoot in studio, so he decided to combine his good sense of humor with his learned CGI skills and model the boots in 3D from scratch.

John dreamed up the idea for the fashionable stallion after completing a shoot for Atlanta Magazine:

Eight months ago, Atlanta Magazine asked me to shoot a Clydesdale ranch outside of the city. I love shooting outdoor life and thought there was potential to get some new material for my book. I delivered a clean, straight-forward image of the Clydesdale for the magazine's needs, but didn't feel it was enough for my folio and the kinds of projects I'd like to be awarded. So I put the image on a digital shelf, so to speak, for some time and thought about a good concept.

The original, unretouched image.

At left, the model of the boots in 3D. At right, the finished CGI furry boot.

The setup in 3D space.

About 50 percent of the layers used to build the final image.

Although John had made a couple attempts during the last 10 years to learn enough 3D/CGI to "be of value," the learning curve to gain a real understanding of the programs and concepts is pretty steep. Over the last year and a half, however, John made good on his goal to render photo-real images using CGI. He found the skill to be incredibly useful, especially as an alternative to traditional retouching.

After 15 years of retouching, tedious "fix it" work in Photoshop has lost it's luster (if it ever had any) and CGI is allowing new ways to handle this and bring an image into what I think is it's most effective self.

For example, John shoots a large architectural series for a client every year throughout the Southeast. The shoots always fall in January and February, when the grass and trees are really lackluster. John says when he originally worked on this project four years ago, he spent hours retouching life back into the "dead" elements, but there's only so much he could do when the trees in the photos were completely barren. Learning CGI gave him a convenient alternative:

This year I moved to CGI for this task, completely replacing fields of grass and prominent trees which made for far better images and a more enjoyable time in post for me. Obviously, it'd be ideal if the shoot was done at a better time of year, but as long as the added post hours are billed and paid, it's a value to the client that keeps them coming back.

At left, a "before" shot from architectural series John described. At right, a final shot with the modeled tree.

The "Clydesdale Randy" shot took several months for John to finish (this was between client work, the holidays and a very time-consuming RAID crash), but is a great example of the kind of work he can produce and works well in his portfolio.

To view more of John's work, visit

Tags: 3d cgi john fulton