Wednesday, October 29, 2008

3 Ships Whisky


In the current issue of Wine Mag you'll find an article of Andy Watts of 3 Ships Whisky, pictured here in the barrel cellar. He is the distiller, master distiller, cellar master or whatever title one holds as creator of fine whisky, at the James Sedgewick Distillery in Wellington, South Africa. And lately they've been taking some awards home, specifically with the Bourbon Finish Cask which essentially is the whisky receiving its final maturation in old bourbon vats imported from the States (yup, mister JD himself's). In the States, by law, you're not allowed to mature whisky in second-use barrels. So they either sell'em or use em' for firewood. Here we can, and it ads a great smooth vanilla tone to the 5 year to create this beauty.

Normally one is not even allowed to answer a cell-phone in a cellar like this for fear of explosions, since whiskey vapour permeates the whole place, and they're busy filling vats with some alcohol of a high proof (% of alcohol/volume x2). Some years ago a brandy cellar went up in flames in nearby Worcester, if I'm not mistaken. If they only knew the wattage a pair of Speedlights put out and what would've happened had I dropped one and there was a spark! Well, I wouldn't be typing this to be sure. And this is no small cellar, it holds thousands and thousands of vats. Not just that, but the country would be in very short supply of whiskey and with the current upward trend in whiskey sales, that would be detrimental!


Strobists: Anyways, a dark cellar that size with no electrical powerpoints is a challenge for photographers, but luckily I had my Speedlights handy. ET-2 with 420 EX and 580 EXII. The 580EX II was keylight with a Gary Fong plonked on the front as a somewhat diffuser. Bare 420 EX. Ambient light was neglible. For the bottles I simply blew the 420 side on through a big diffuser and 580 somewhere in the corner of ceiling the tasting facility.

Cocktail fact: Whiskey vs Whisky. It is indeed an urban legend that "Whisky" is the domain of Scotland. Actually, "Scotch" is only allowed to be used by Scottisch distillers in SCOTLAND. However, "whisky" is distilled here in South Africa as well as the rest of the world, but "whiskey" is the mark of an Irish or American dram, for the pure and simple reason of  different spelling.

Monday, October 20, 2008

My hobby

Maybe not all of you might know this, but for fun I make music. Below is a playlist of songs as you'd find them on . Check out for my seriously DIY homepage for my music. I like music, it gives me joy, I can practice my faith using it, and I enjoy seeing people enjoy it.


Go have a listen at:

Friday, October 17, 2008

New Website

The new Danie Nel Photography website is up-and-running. Streamlined galleries and navigation, and a choice of html or flash viewing. Go and have a look right now!


Let me know what you thinks.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Sunu Gonera/Pride

Sometimes it's true. You just don't quite have a clue. I had such an experience recently.

Last year I photographed a young guy, Sunu Gonera, for O Magazine (Oprah SA) at Kennedy's Cigar Lounge in Cape Town. As is often the case, you're actually not briefed on who the guy is, or who he is becoming. I found out as I was shooting him, that he was indeed a film director. Now, in a city that spawns hundred and thousands of ads, music vids and features annually, that in itself is not a big deal. He did mention that he had just gotten a great contract in Hollywood and that he would be leaving for the US soon to go and direct a movie.

As I've often heard that type of story, I assumed it's a low-budget, possibly TV-movie, or at best, a seriously obscure art movie. Snotty and cynical, I know, and I repent! Anyways, if the guy is such a big deal, why get me to shoot him? (Ok, we all have a  bit of insecurity to deal with!) Also, he was wAAAAAAAAY humble, and cool. My experience of people on their way to going places, as opposed to those who have actually made it, is that they tend to be a bit arrogant. Not him. Really, if you ever get to sit down with this guy over a beer or a coffee, I'm sure time will fly. He is a Zim-born, South African resident. By the way, he has the most gorgeous little daugther and cool wife, they were at the shoot as well. Now that alone score points with me, 'cause I've got kids and have had my wife at a couple of shoots. I've used my daughter in 2 or 3, but that's a different story. Point is, I didn't think much of the big Hollywood movie idea. (Jeez, I'm really starting to feel bad.)

Anyways, the shoot came and went and I never even saw it in publication. Then, a couple of months back I get a syndication notice that the image of one Sunu Gonera has been sold somewhere else and some royalties was coming my way (yay!). In such instances you suddenly start remembering every single detail of said shoot, which at first glance I thought was a mistake, as I couldn't initially remember it. Then, about the same time, I see a trailer for the movie Pride and the name Sunu Gonera pops up. Now, I'm not John from a Beautiful Mind, but I can pick up the most basic of patterns. (Pattern by the way is a secondary principle or building block of visual perception according to the laws of Gestalt, a psychologist. Pattern is referred to as rhythm, and since 79% of our sensory perception happens visually, this is a big deal for any image maker...but more on that some other time...)

Getting back to the aha! moment. I realized this was the guy I photographed. Just to make sure, I checked the net and indeed, it was him. I then also remembered promising him to send him a pic of his daughter, and then somehow losing his email address. Well, finding that now amidst all the PR and Hollywood hooha is near impossible. Talk about going to the orthopedist to retro-fit your leg so you can give yourself a huge kick in the backside! 

By the way, Pride (, features the likes of Bernie Mac and Terrence Howard in the lead. Now, I really wouldn't mind to shoot either of those gents. And had I kept his email address, WHO KNOWS?

Herewith - shoot notes:

The book infront of him in the poker room,... I don't remember if that was the real script. Now, what I hugely respect in anybody I photograph is the ability to give me a hearty guffaw-laugh on command, and as this was for Oprah Mag, I had to have a couple of those. I wouldn't have minded just shooting in the serious poker-faces in the poker cubicle for hours on end in low light with ISO 1600, but hay, I want to get paid. The Danny  Devito poster in the back was just serendipitous, and I was really glad I could shoot him in front of it. The great thing about actors is that you can direct their expressions and speak in terms of "sense" and "feel" and "moments". Models are a tad plastic-y when it comes to showing real-life emotion and expressions. Another such an actor is Dean McCoubrey (Standard Bank internet web-cam ad guy), also a great client of mine. He'll actually step into the moment. When he's art-directing shoots, it's great, cuz not only is the model properly let into the idea, but also myself, the photographer, but again, I DIGRESS!!! Herewith - pics:


1 Visatec 300W head in the lounge, with 60x60 soft box. Poker room - 1 times 60W Tungsten bulb, at about 1600 ISO.

Sunu Gonera 0046i Sunu Goneralr

Sunu Gonera 0029lr Sunu Gonera 0038lr

Friday, October 03, 2008

I enjoyed this shot...

I was recently shooting a story on some current sushi-hotshots -and spots, and had the privilege to shoot Edwin Santa Ana at Chai Yo in Durbanville. I loved watching the chefs work and see their skills with knives.

Alas, I still don't like sushi, sorry. It's too jelly-ish, weird,....and raw. Interesting topic to cover though.

Find below the pic of Edwin.

Strobists: Speedlights only...


Ewin Santa Ana20080919_IMG_025

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