Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Thinking

pics from phone 002i

I have gone without analysing my photography and style for months on end, then just to return with massive amounts of self-conscious analysis of my influence, my style and then my way forward. Then to find myself getting drowned by a flood of assignments, where the creative autopilot keeps me stuck in my own groove. Like a puzzle piece, the groove is designed around my strengths and avoids my weaknesses creatively, and it doesn't encourage further probing into my motives, review of my ways, or repentance from my bad habits, it simply forces me to creatively put my head down and get the job done. Which is fine, as long as that groove is current, creative, relevant and satisfying to your client. But then, it becomes unsatisfying to yourself and before you know it your work starts annoying you, and you start wondering if the compliments you're getting are false, or if those that do compliment you are just creatively deprived. Neither is normally true, but a lack of consistent growth causes all sorts of doubt, negligent behaviour and creative confusion in a mind like mine (I just reread this sentence and realised I misread "mind like mine" as "minefield" Interesting...).

Which is why I am happy to report that I have been consciously keeping track of my creative inclinations for the last couple of months, and although I have no pie-charts or flow-diagrams to point to a movement of my creative juices, I have come to this conclusion:

I am way more creatively aspiring than my people-(read: client)-pleasing work has been suggesting. Rather than subject my clients to a sudden swing in style they've come to trust, I've been taking my creative workouts regularly, on my own assignments, getting it out of my (or into my) system, and then, hopefully, letting the more successful experiences filter into my commercial work. So why am I telling you this, if you happen to be my client?

Because I want you to challenge me. There's a whole lot more here than what you've been seeing.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Rooibos Cookbook #4: Giggling Gourmet's Playground with Morne Botha

So, Morne was actually the first chef to be contacted regarding the book, even before he was part of Jenny Morris's fold at Giggling Gourmet. He was then still executive chef at the Bay Hotel. He's been know for his absolute passion for South African flavours, of which Rooibos is a firm favourite. A colourful character who'll wax lyrically about food, just doing it, having food talk to you, and generally experiencing food and not just cooking it, our shoot was filled with anecdotes, education and lots of passion.

Modern TV and celebrity chefs like creating the air of superiority and the idea that cooking is a lofty affair, best reserved for individuals with the proper respect for freshness, flavour and texture etc. That can leave Joe Everybody out in the cold, feeling inadequate, and honestly, like cooking is probably just a schlep anyways. Morne has a different approach, making you want to shout "Amen" every now and again when he starts going on about "en as jy uit stock hardloop, gooi sommer 'n koppie rooibos in!" (if you run out of stock, just add a cup of rooibos!).

Some of the most yummy and inexcusably sweet and unapologetically indulgent dishes came from his pen...pot? Not one for suggestion, if the food's meant to taste like something, it does!

As was the case on most of these shoots, our list of dishes to cover was the length of my arm. If memory serves me right, we had to get through 12 dishes, prep and finals included. Any foodie will tell you that you're pushing it with 8. Well, we were waxed in the "METHOD" by now, but it did get so late I had to come back early the next morning to do the portraits of Morne. Probably a good idea too, because we were both fresh again, and ended up chatting for hours, sitting on the floor, taking pics of his various gestures, antics, smiles and serious poses.

A short while later, we'd end up working together on another food book project, this time though a small pamphlet type one, with Morne's exec, Jenny Morris herself. Needless to say, once you add her into the mix, with an already Energizer bunny..., things got busy!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Rooibos Cookbook #3: Buitenverwacting with Justin Pillay

You know, sometimes you arrive somewhere, and everything is just ...sorted? Well, that was my experience at Buitenverwacthing, with Justin Pillay, cooking on behalf of Edgar, the contributor and executive chef. The only problem was that I was a tad late due to another commitment running overtime, and Kanya having a serious cold. Oh, and it was a day after my birthday, August last year. (For new readers, this is a retrospective of some of the shoots in the production of "A touch of Rooibos" cookbook.)

First we were taken for a tour of the very busy kitchen - quick mental notes were made and we got cooking. This was the first kitchen where the heat was a bit of a problem for me. I was very glad when later on we were able to shoot in the air-conditioned pastry kitchen, that is nicely air-conditioned so the souffle's and pastry thingies don't flop.

Also, we were entertained briefly in a display of very efficient pasta making by one of the common chefs. They make it look so easy, but trust me, it's not.

No sooner had they started preparing food, and we started practising the method of running between prep shots and final images in the restaurant and outside. Occasionaly I would take the flashes out just to let them cool down, cuz they were standing over hot chafing dishes, baymarines, and hellishly hot stoves.

And then Kanya noticed....the lappies (cloths). The kitchen was littered with brown cloths. Everyone had them, they were being wiped, draped, worn and to the eye of the outsider, they were even more consistent than the great food prepared there. Kanya, ever the stylist, was ever fascinated with these little things, and wanted to encorporate them into all sorts of creative images, styled shots and detailed images. So enamored we became with the lappies (and possibly the insane heat had an effect), I felt it necessary to produce a video with my phone of these lappies....

 

Eventually, we got through all the dishes, and we were able to go home. As with the spirit of this project, we were once again encouraged by the excitement, willingness to co-operate and pace of each shot, in which case, Buitenverwachting was no different.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Ok - so this has nothing to do with photos

But here is a really neat little South African news service I've been following:

News Today

Go check it out - it's in my opinion uncluttered, concise, neat.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Stocking Away

Last week I got old faithful friend...and model-on-call, Ridge, in again. To date I must've used him for 10 different shoots. Those included a campaign for Indalo (Swartland Wines), Getty Images, Swartland Wines (some more lifestyle), Cellar Door Pass (Australia), REAL Mag, nelimages.com and a number of other small ones. Now I needed some microstock imagery and I called him again, along with Cliffdene, another friend from church.

Here are some of the results and where they are available:

ist2_9847608-man-showing-thumbs-up http://www.istockphoto.com/file_closeup.php?id=9847608

ist2_9846788-surprised-girl http://www.istockphoto.com/file_closeup.php?id=9846788

Surprised Girl has since been added to the "GEMS - istock's SUPER PORTFOLIO" Lightbox. See it here: http://www.istockphoto.com/file_search.php?action=file&lightboxID=52554

ist2_9846654-bass-man-getting-the-groove http://www.istockphoto.com/file_closeup.php?id=9846654

This image stands out as one of my favs, maybe because Ridge and I have come some way with music as well, as we've served in the music ministry together for a couple of years, and myself and his wife, even longer and even played and composed in a band together!

Some althernatives of these istock'd images are available at FOTOLIA and very soon Shutterstock as well. View the FOTOLIA collection here: http://www.fotolia.com/p/201210081/partner/201210081

Hayley Coxall, who I've been working with for about 5 years on different shoots, did the make-up.

Generic images of South African locals are in short supply, although the gap is being filled steadily, but I believe there is always space for more. Our online industry is growing at rapid speeds, and with the advent of agencies like istock and Fotolia, absolutely no one can claim not to be able to afford great imagery. Even some of you reading this have a use for these images.

Go and see my stock collections at:

Fotolia

or

View My Portfolio

or

nelimages logo web

or

logo_gallo

Since this shoot I've also covered the following topics:

Transport, smoking and health issues, mobile phones and communication, soccer supporters and a whole host of others. Our food image collection is growing daily, so watch these spaces!

Monday, July 06, 2009

The Rooibos Cookbook - The Making Of Part 2: 12 Apostles Hotel & Spa

Today we'll revisit our 2 days of shooting at the 12 Apostles Hotel & Spa with Roberto De Carvalla, probably the nicest guy I've met in yonks. The kitchen was so organised and well-run by the executive sous-chef, that we had Roberto all to ourselves, except for the the crunch lunch hour.

The biggest challenge here is that a 5-star hotel kitchen is busy, small, and more often than not, hidden in a dungeon somewhere close to the recesses of the earth, hotter than magma and lit with insanely powerful tungsten and neon lamps. This is a tad of an issue when you're shooting slow-exposures for movement, as all the colours become dirty and yucky. Some creative blocking, flashing and filling sorted out the problem though. (Sorry strobists, no space to discuss all that now).

_MG_1248i Jeremy earns his nickname for the rest of the project from Kanya - Mary (later Mark) Poppins, because of all his frolicking around with umbrellas.

Outside it was a tad dull, weatherwise, but we were spoilt for choice for surfaces, nooks and crannies to shoot in. We ended up with our first shot of an African pot with a dish I can't recall the name off, right in the water-feature outside the restaurant. The 12 Apostles is nestled right on the slopes of the ....12 Apostles.... of Table Mountain, in a conserved area (the Greens nearly went insane when it was built), so we were surrounded by fynbos, rocks and general well-being.

_MG_1335i However, shooting in and on waterfeatures always comes with the very real possibility of death, injury, disability, loss of property or making a fool of yourself. So I asked Jeremy to place the pot on the desired spot, while I eyed some stable looking outcrop of rock.

_MG_1349i Once that was secured, Kanya and myself proceeded to this very safe outcrop and planned our shot.

_MG_1256i Jeremy is a proficient multi-tasker. A proper voice-activated light trigger, rigger and boom stand. In the words of Bert Stephani: a BIOWIZARD. (If you don't get it - a Pocket Wizard is a light trigger, a biowizard is a human performing that function).

_MG_1337i One of our test shots. See the book for the final.

_MG_1411i Back in the kitchen - we were operating according to the METHOD - see previous post - there was some time here and there for lollegagging, but most of the time I was leaning over the pots shooting the goings on of the ladels, spoons and hands of the chef.

20080821_827i Roberto inserting a delish pie into the oven.

20080821_838i Jeremy and Kanya having having a funny moment.

20080821_857i 20080821_858i We were kept in fair solid supply of Coke for the duration of the shoot, and it does help to keep you cool, focused (caffeine) and generally happy. Like it goes with stylists, Kanya was fascinated with the bubbles as the Coke was poured. I was fascinated with how small, insignificant and totally unsatisfying  200ml of Coke really is.

20080821_879i Then there was the case of the Baked Alaska. We decided on a spot outside that overlooks the sea. Again, we were devoid of sun, but there was some shimmering on the water. However, it turns out, for this particular dish, we also got spectators - a room full of tourists and a nosy pigeon.

20080821_880i 20080821_901i 20080821_904i 20080821_905i 20080821_906

However, the rascal did not take into account that we have the SA version of Steve Erwin here, and with the sudden agility of a seasoned pigeon terrifier, Jeremy caught himself an unawares pigeon getting lucky with some baked alaskan (Note: we had the shot in the bag by now, so we wanted to see how the pigeon would react to our creation). With an explosion of feathers, the shocked gasp of greeny tourists and the frantic flapping of a terrified Alaskan thief, and the raucus laughter of yours truly, Jeremy caught himself a pigeon. However being the gentleman, he let it go fairly soon after it became apparent the pigeon will soon die of shock, cardiac arrest or choking. Jeremy let him go, and with that the pigeon let another couple of thousand feathers down and hairy bits loose on the 5 star hotel porch. Also accusive stares from the guests in the adjoining lounge.

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20080821_897i One of the test shots. We had a waiter hold the plate for us.

_MG_1523i _MG_1541i The team: Rob, Jeremy,Kanya,Me.

All of us were in agreement that the shoot at the 12 Apostles was one of the highlights of the book. The general hospitality, quality of food (I'm still dreaming about the Baklava Rob made....yemmmmmmm) and effective execution of the shoot left us ready for the next chapter.