Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Cellphone Camera.. is upon us

See this interesting blog post: http://blog.chasejarvis.com/blog/2009/05/iphone-art-graces-cover-of-new-yorker.html from photographer, Chase Jarvis, who is a huge iphone camera fan. Interesting for a guy who spends his days shooting with R350 000 Hasselblad HD39 and R100 000 Nikon D3x cameras, and on occasion R500000 RED cameras and R100000 i-frame movie cameras. Well, my gear isn't cheap either, and I must say, I'm really getting into my Samsung i600's 1 mp camera! It has no real photo applications like the Apple iPhone, but just the simple rough and ready look of the images are inspiring enough.

The cell-camera forces you to look at things differently, and as a commercial photographer, whose job it is by the very nature of commerce to please others, this allows me to capture the world like I see it. No commercial intent (because as commercial artists it's very hard to get away from this), no care, no worries about focus, resolution, output, color space or anything but feeling good about doing it. And no resizing.

It's not unlike shooting a SLR fitted with a Lensbaby, or shooting Polaroids, or those dreaded Lomos. It's cheap, it disposable, but special, it's portable and shareable. It's mine and I'm strangely proud of it.

Here are some of my recent cell moments. The challenge for you? Go ahead. Point your cell phone at something and make it last. Your efforts will undoubtedly be as good if not better. But that's the hell of it. No one is comparing!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Image of the Week

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Pierre van Heerden, at the studio, 15 Jan 2009.

I only got around to working on this image this week, after it's been sitting in a folder, for 4 months. Pierre is a well-known face on stage in South Africa (Cats, Chicago among various other musicals and various plays), and commercials (Toyota, Absa, breakfast cereals, Volkswagen, and whatnot).

I met Pierre through family about 9 years ago, while he was a drama student in Cape Town and selling braai systems on the side. Already he was an entertaining fellow, just having coffee with him turned out to be an interesting affair. So, for quite some time now I've been toying with the idea of doing a brief portrait shoot with him at the studio, as part of my continuing portrait project "Wax Lyrical/Profiler", started in 2001. (Watch my website - the whole collection will be going live soon!). I gave him a ring one day in January, and he just happened to be in Cape Town, for a show, and willing to pop in. He resides in Gauteng these days.

The great thing about working with actors in stills are their amazing ability to take direction, and "become" whatever they need to be for the shot. I simply shot off words like "paranoid", "happy", "pleasantly surprised", "neurotic", etc, and he would simply comply with an accompanying expression. Absolute magic for a photographer who's used to working with "I really hate having my picture taken"-people. Models tend to only be able to respond with looking good in requested ways. They're not good at looking genuinely paranoid. A male model doing a "neurotic" look, will undoubtedly be showing off his immaculate brow and smooth skin, while having a lifted eyebrow and pouty expression. A good actor looks freakin' neurotic when asked to.

I also wanted to go really hard with the lights, opting for 2 bare flashes, at acute angles for drama, and a dark background of 2 flat surfaces put together to create an Irving Penn "corner" set-up. My lighting was just way harder than Irving Penn.

After about 15 minutes of shooting, and close on an hour of chatting, I came away with a collection of images I can work with, explore and be proud of, after all.

Monday, May 18, 2009

The Social Media Revolution

...has reached me a long time ago, but I've only recently really connected my business to it. Here are some places you'll find me:


Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/danienel

Facebook Group: http://www.facebook.com/home.php#/group.php?gid=81726518268&ref=ts


LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/danienel

Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/people/25226507@N03/

MyGenius:  http://www.mygenius.com/DanieNel.Profile

To see a list of all the sites my music also appears on, go to: http://music.danienel.co.za/links.html


Now, I have to admit, I don't always get to all of them, but through Twitter, my Facebook and Plaxo updates are regular. I get messages through email from these platforms. Also, on the blog, down on the right hand sight, is Google Friend Connect, the future of social media, which allows all websites to become social media sites. Become a friend there.

So, see you soon on one of these!

PS - why don't you just subscribe to the RSS feed of this site (also on the right here), and get my blog in your mail-box! Internet Explorer users choose the "Atom" option, and click on "subscribe to this feed" just below the first paragraph on the new window.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Gavin & Mai-Li

I met Gavin probably about 12 years ago. It was a brief meeting. He handed me a pink pack of Ernie Ball Slinky's (guitar strings, not contraceptives - I know it sounds like that) and I handed him lots of small change, no doubt. He was working at "Musical Paradise" and I was still a first year student. I recall then briefly meeting some of his band mates from his old band "Elephant Sun", and then through my years of frequenting musical stores seeing him at different places, most notably "Paul Bothers" and then later on, the store he opened with his late brother, "It's Music". At the latter store, where I often just dropped my guitar off like a novice, pretending not to know how to string it (hehe), Gavin would patiently string my guitar for me, so I could come back and simply pay, leave and play. Anyways, one day we got a 'chatting and well, what do you know, we start talking photography (he played for artists like Natti Simone, who I also photographd) and we officially actually met after a decade of interactions. Then he mentions his upcoming wedding and he takes my card and well, to make a long story short, I ended up shooting it on a rainy 25 April, in Philadelphia, at the Old Mill. Rain? I always said, when life gives you rain, take better pictures.

Note: it helps if the bride is a model/ex Miss SA finalist, and totally not phased by a camera. It also must be the first time the marriage officer (yup, the priest dude), also happened to do the make-up, the bride's hair, the event decor and the actual sermon.

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The ceremony happened inside the Mill, while it was pouring away outside. All I knew is that we were off to a stud farm after the ceremony, and I might get wet. I packed plastic wrap (to cling-wrap my flashes) and black bags (to cover me and the camera gear) and hoped for a reprieve  in the rain.

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Arriving at the farm the rain cleared just enough for us to make it to the shed without too much spoiling of the hair, dresses and gear. Once inside all we had to do was dodge the horse caca-poo-poo everywhere and get stuck into some shooting while it was drizzling outside. I managed a couple of nice images there, and then the rain cleared just enough for us to head outside for some extras.

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At this stage I was still looking for horses, but didn't see any. I was keen to get to the stables for some equestrian matrimonial images.... The light was fading fast and I got the best man to hold my light for me, and being a graphic designer by trade, he was the best man for the job.


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I love shooting weddings with strobes, because it allows nice dramatic lighting effects, especially if the sky is just one massive soft-box. Now some people like that..., me I like the drama of directional light. The sky does help to create even back-light and opens the door for my creativity. At this stage we also found the horses and were able to capture a couple of shots where the horses weren't trying to eat the flowers off the groom's jacket.

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After about 40mins of frantic shooting we had to scramble to get back to Philladelphia for the reception, and the rest of the goings on.

Now a lot of photographers fear rainy days..., me? I don't know, it's always brought about something special. I've always like rain anyways.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Introducing Philip

You know when you're interviewing someone (for those of you who have had this arduous task), and you just feel uncomfortable and like you can't get the guy out of the office quick enough? Almost like the interviewee is really just there to see what they can get OUT of you and your company, and really not what they'll be contributing to the organisation(Organisation sounds grand - I mean to say: contributing to me)? Like that door-to-door-salesman that just can take a hint? Well, Philip's interview was nothing like that.

I was late for the interview (' suppose it's my prerogative) , and he waited patiently. From the moment go, as in seeing a guy patiently whiling away his time in the parking lot, I had a good feeling. He had no grandiose or inflated carry-ons about his skills, his experience or anything. His CV (lots of design and a stint in film school) fit the description well, and other than that he seemed very excited to be part of the make-up here (that's like, to hang with me) and he did really light up (he's a phlegmatic, really understated sort of guy) when I happened to mention "cinema". So he's really into movies. He's the guy to chat to about directors, producers, screenplays, feel and "noir". And he really digs my fascination with film and cinema lighting in stills (something I'm really leaning towards to lately). It doesn't hurt that we are able to listen to Metallica's Death Magnetic and catch up on some of Jeremy's left behind ELO.

Anyways, here is Philip du Plessis. You'll see him around. He might chat. He might not. He'll be friendly, cool, efficient and ready.


Philip pictured with the studio's Yaschica LM (circa 1970), lightmeter, and the studio gear in the background. He's frothing to go!

PS - he makes good coffee. He makes coffee often.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Image of the Week

I'm going to start posting some of the fav images I worked on in the week, or that was released in the week for publication. Surprisingly, for a commercial photographer, one of my favourite images of the past week is a wedding pic, from a mate of mine's wedding.

Andries and Sunet got married in Porterville, where, on his parents' farm, we decided to do the bulk of our stylised images. The great thing about Swartland and other Karoo type landscapes is the blank canvas effect that happens when you put 2 people infront of the camera on this backdrop. They just jump out at you. However, I felt like I'd like to pump the shots up a bit, almost cinema-style, so I added quite a bit of artificial light onto the subjects (I flashed them, wow.). This allows you to create dramatic lighting and isolate them from the canvas background.

More and more I'm studying film (ie movies) for lighting inspiration and a lot of my work, especially portrait work, is leaning towards that idea. I like to capture the feeling of "a moment that could have been a movie".

Andries's whole attitude conveys such a great feeling of 50's attitude - think Mulholland Drive - and I just love how the lighting came together, sunlight from the right, flash from the left. The clean net background just really made it easy.

Drop your thoughts...