Friday, June 26, 2009

Image of the Week

This is not a particularly crazy, or creative image, but rather just of a style that I like, namely stitched panoramas. Shooting a panorama to be stitched seamlessly, is one of the beauties of digital photography, and it also leaves you with spectacularly large files.

Annie Leibovitz refers to this technique quite often in her book, On Assignment, yet she takes it a step further and applies it to group portraits, something I haven't quite gotten my mind around.

Anyways, this was taken from Signal Hill towards Cape Town, on one of the few moments of sunlight, 2 weekends ago. I only got around to stitching it tonight.


20090616_0157-0163 lores web

Now, in the picture there is little distortion, because undistorted images have been stitched together, but if you look closely (hard on a lo-res shot), you'll notice the new Green Point stadium to the left, the harbour in the middle, and the middle of Table Mountain on the right, 270 deg sweep. Now, that's pretty awesome in terms of wide scope. Widelux cameras could shoot close on 180 deg, but always with major distortion. This is the ultimate for me.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Rooibos Cookbook - The Making of PART 1: EMILY's

So, here we go, August 1, 2008. The first day of shooting on this big project for Rooibos, that has in the present already culminated into:

A touch of Rooibos:


14 Local chefs contributing to this phenomenal project, funded by Rooibos Ltd. In total, I spent about 21 days shooting for the book, spread out over six months, but at times, about 3 days per week.

TEAM: Gerda de Wet - Rooibos Ltd

EDITOR: Daleen van der Merwe

ART: Karen Hermans, Catapult Advertising

PHOTOGRAPHY: Danie Nel assisted by Jeremy Puren

STYLING: Kanya Hunt


DAY 1: Emily's

The shoot was scheduled for about 10am, since the restaurant had a function that carried on till about 3 in the morning. Arriving alone (Jeremy had to shoot some stuff at the studio), Johan Odendaal greeted me with his customary: "Jy't groot geword!".It's taken me some time to pick up on the innuendo in that.  Ignorance is indeed bliss. Well, it has been like 6 years since we last met. He was obviously in the mood for chatting and was on his who-knows-how-many'th coffee. I was also nursing a killer headache, and it turned out, so did Kanya, who rocked up shortly after. So I went to source some pills from the pharmacy while they started coffee.

The kitchen was still being prepped so one after the other latte followed to the point where my pupils was so small I could look straight into the sun without blinking. Finally the kitchen was ready and we could get going. Johan has his own ideas about food, and one can spend hours just mesmerized as he surmised, waxes lyrically, criticises, elaborates and talks non-stop about food, food experiences, who he cooked for, etc etc. What's clear is that this boytjie knows food.

We had a very open brief going into the book, and having to shoot in operational working kitchens, it became very clear, early on, that this book will happen on a trot. I created 2 set-ups. A Speedlight set-up in the kitchen for prep-shots - not step by step, but rather emotive shots of things blurring, falling, burning, exploding and all sorts of kitchen details. The other set-up was big mono-heads in the front of house area (and idea I abandoned by the second shoot and exclusively worked with Speedlights to keep me mobile). I seldom used a tripod.

Now, for those who have visited Emily's recently, you would note the rather pink assault on all things visual. The ceilings are pink, the walls are pink, the fans might've been pink. Now, if you're bargaining on some ambient light, that means all things white will turn pinkish. Luckily, the brief did suggest that the feel of each establishment needed to be captured, and I was comfortable with my observation that the feel is pink. (Also, they have a electronic toilet that does the wiping, cleaning etc for you!!! I didn't know how to bring that into a cookbook, so decided against it. Go there, even if it is only to remote control your toilet experience for once in your life.)

We soon found a rhythm of shooting in the kitchen, running to front-of-house and then shooting finals.This would become the METHOD. The cool thing about this book is that every recipe got a full page image plus supporting imagery. This meant I had to shoot like a mad-man. Top of head calculations suggest I shot 9000 images in the production thereof.

The problem with shooting with chefs is that the presentation of food on a plate differs vastly from the presentation to a picture. Kanya was there to help facilitate this bridge, but at the same time, at the schedule we held, she could only really work with location and give input. Chefs do what they want to do. So often we ended up with huuuuuuuge white plates and small artsy food arrangements in the middle. This to me is the same as plating onto a white background,because trying to facilitate that food and the background, becomes hard. However, I wasn't there to complain, but to create. So, I decided to use hard shadows to fill white areas in plates and thus enable me to shoot slightly wider.

Emily's is known for highly creative styling, and we certainly weren't disappointed. Being a muso, the piano was obviously the first thing I noticed, and I suggested we shoot something at the piano. A minty/chilly/chocolatey thing followed (yummy) and the porcupine needle, another Emily's fav, as placed as a nice juxtaposition to the keys.

Several other dishes followed, and at about 8pm I was able to get back in my car, caffeine-poisoned, tired, well amused (you laugh around Johan), well entertained, creatively stimulated and simultaneously drained, and looking forward to shoot nr. 2.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Cover for MyWeek (R.I.P) of "co"-Idol: Sasha-Lee

So, 27 May we rock up at Canal Walk's "The Piazza" for a shoot with the initial, and then later co-winner, for Idols 2009 (South Africa). After having seen her perform just 2 weeks prior at the Table of Unity event on Table Mountain I was very impressed with her performance and singing. However, considering the hoo-ha about her winning and the botched count, and then her not winning but still.... I was more keen to just be part of the whole thing!

Well, she was very shy and quiet, and I've gotta say, the strain was showing. She was very cool to work with, very accomodating, humble, and obviously tired. Considering that just competing in the Idols contest is tough enough, then dealing with being crowned, the media, and then the furore, and more negative and hurtful press... I was glad we could offer something a bit more positive to her. She's only 18, so I'm sure having to deal with that rubbish is kinda hard. However, in Cape Town, it's pretty obvious that she's still champ. People don't even know what the other guy's name is. We had to schedule the shoot for early morning, because later in the day at a mall, it would be mayhem. At the TOU the kitchen staff practically swamped the stage when she performed, so on the demand of the agent, we organised it early. Also, I had another shoot shortly after in Gugulethu, so I didn't mind the early rise. My kids get my up shortly after 5 anyways!

After getting coffees (thanx Sean), sorting out wardrobe, setting up lightes, getting direction from Sean Robertson from MyWeek (if any mag people are reading - take your ques from this guy in how to direct photographers - he knows what he wants, but also gives enough space to photographer to co-create), and being told by a restaurant whose name rhymes with "mimi" that their loos are off-limits to us (?) - we got our coffee elsewhere! - we were ready to go. Since it was a regional mag, the cover had to show a recognizable feature of the Piazza, without looking way cheesy. We went for the dome in the background initially, although at this time the sun was starting to burn holes in our plan. Luckily my Lastolite was handy to keep the sunspots from Sasha-Lee.

Once we covered a couple of outfits, we went onto the next idea. The fountains had just been switched on so I opted to go shoot in the water. Everyone, except me, was a bit nervous about the proximity of a 1.2kj power source standing in a bit of water, but that's why you have art directors on a shoot - to keep the 15kg pack in the air. I'm sorry, but seeing a shot that entails some risk immediately attracts me, even if my Profoto head crashed spectacularly onto the wet ground and was saved only by the brolly. See our Bronx shoot to see what I mean. Also, by now, my shoes were wetter than a fish and I was shloshing around everywhere.

Having that shot in the bag, we just needed a wrapper. Something to tie it all together for option's sake. Sean directed us to the residential background, and we thought that might work, so we ambled over to the edge.  Having placed her on the wall's edge, we quickly got a couple of outfits shot, (thanx to Woollies for supplying the belt out of store on a moment's notice).

Ixesha limkile (Xhosa for "time has left us"), and I needed to get to Gugs fairly soon. We said our good-byes and off we rode into the urban sunrise.

What is the saddest part of this shoot? We won't see it published, as MyWeek was closed down shortly after, and all publications stopped immediately.

A thanx to all the really cool people I worked with, or even just spoke to over the phone, at MyWeek and assigns. Karen, Ilse, Sean, Asanda, Amanda (JHB), Terry, Igna and Candice. It was a GREAT mag, and it's a shame people higher up couldn't keep you going. See you around in the industry.

PS and (C) - MyWeek is still owned by Media24 Magazines, so anyone looking to copy or distribute these pics, all kinds of voodoo, nastiness, laws and penalties will come down on you if you use these pics without my AND the express permission of the publisher. BE WARNED.

PPS - I have been ripped off by internet pic thieves, so this is a pet peev of mine. Piracy is a threat and it is real. While I'm on a roll - get off those bit-torrent sites and start paying for your music, videos and software, damnit! Just because a BMW is expensive, are you gonna go and lift it off hijackers? Piracy steals from millions of people, and companies, earning a living of intellectual property. It you need to start stealing intellectual property, it certainly doesn't say a lot about your own.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Trying out some Vids

Here are some behind the scene vids and pics - cell and 5D Mk ii, slapped together with Videothang, which it turns out, messes up the audio levels big time once exported, but its just for fun...till I get a decent vid application. Then it is Michael out!


Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Image of the Week



Why? Sometimes an image just sticks with you. This was at Groot Constantia recently for Wine magazine. The lines with the slight break at the left top corner just worked so well for me. I maintain that autumn is the Cape's best kept secret, especially just after the harvest, as leaves become yellow and start falling off the vines.

For all the photography/visual communications fundies:

First off:

Camera settings: you figure it ou - lots of depth of field, overcast sky, lo ISO.... f16 rule for the southern hemisphere reads: at midday in full sun 1/125th f16 on 100 ISO will give you a good exposure. Deduct 2 stops for overcast, another for a stop lower ISO.... Aspirant photogs get way side-tracked by settings instead of the images- go play! Figure it out.

Camera: 5D.

Secondly: visual communication specs:

  • This is a prime example of the secondary visual principle of RHYTHM.
  • Diagonal lines against the Western reading direction gives you: Dynamism
  • GESTALT's rules of visual perception utilised: the sum of the parts does not equal the whole (w.o.w. 24 diagonal lines does not equal a vineyard, or vines does not equal green corduroy pattern), proximity, similarity, any more?

Hahaha - now that we got all that out of the way - I took the pic cuz I liked it, and I composed it absent-mindedly till it just WORKED! Relax, just take pictures!!!!!!

Thursday, June 04, 2009

The Good Food and Wine Show - Cape Town

I was the official photographer for the Good Food and Wine Show in Cape Town this year, and what an experience it was! 4 days of festival with all the preliminaries leading up to this day, including a shoot with Marcos Giorgio, executive chef for Jamie's Italian (yup, all Jamie Oiver's restaurants - and he's a boy that hails from Plumstead), and likely one of the coolest human beings you'll meet in a long time. Also, as the photographer, I had VIP access to all the arenas, cook-offs, demos and behind-the-scenes access you could wish for! I saw 3 or 4 of Ainsley Harriot's classes, a couple of Marcos's, Brian Turner's, Giancarlo and his wife Katy Caldese etc etc. I tasted, tried and shot loads. I also bumped into lots of faces from the Rooibos Cookbook project...

but the best way to describe our experience there is just to post pics and to discuss what happens! A shout out to the awesome PR staff of GourmetSA, and all the cool people I met there.



Some technical high/low-lights:

I broke my 5D on Friday, just after a Brian Turner cook-off. See pic of realization lower down. I am waiting for a quote, but guestimate is R10 000 upwards for repairs. This put me in the desperate position to get a new camera, while Philip held the fort with a back-up. Thanks for the awesome guys at ORMS and Standard Bank who gave me the ok for 5D Mk ii in 15 minutes, so I could be roaring to go soon after. Will receive news RE my 5D today. That'll be my full-frame back-up then. As with all dark clouds the silver lining was indeed very silver, in this case me being forced to upgrade to a Canon 5D Mark II.

Selecting, converting, retouching and correcting 1500 images followed this week. That and press deadlines, emailing them out etc etc. Bit by bit it's getting there. Oh, and we've been shooting all week as well. Oh, and having to upgrade everything to facilitate the enormous RAW files of the new 5D Mk II... So... apart from the camera, I had to get a fast 16GB 30MB/s memory card, Photoshop Cs4 and hundred of megs of updates, but I'm not complaining. In a back-handed sort of way - I'm being SMUG!