Saturday, October 31, 2009

My fav recent pic.

F1520022, originally uploaded by danienelphoto.

This is my favourite pic of the week. Taken with my Canon AE-1 last Saturday, on Fuji Superia 200 film... no work done on image, just straight 16-base Frontier scan.

I shoot film these days for fun on my K1000, Canon AE-1, and Yashica LM. It keeps me sharp as I guess all the light-readings (I don't trust light meters anyways). I simply use the f16 rule...

"In bright sunshine with no clouds at 100 ISO you should be exposing at 125/sec at f16. Deduct a stop for scattered clouds, 2 stops for cloudy and another stop for an hour before 10am or after 4pm. " - as for any other reflective surfaces, just use your guestimeter.

So, yes, my little girl and boy will always be subjects, because the intrigue me to no end!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Coffee for thought

Sometimes it takes coffee to get my creativity going. It's this weird phenomenon. When I have 1 cup, I feel generally good. If I have 2, then I get this creative urge. When I have 3, I find I get totally over-creative and can't keep my mind to one thought.

Espresso seems to spark me straight to the unproductive over-creative spin.

Now I'm looking for a coffee regime that'll keep me moderately inspired, without knocking my head or ability to focus to bits. But, alas, I haven't found it.

Espresso Strong And Rich Stock Photography

© Danienel |

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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Perks of being a photographer

© Danienel (Help)

In the past (I've been a pro photog for almost 10 years, starting at age 21), when people would say "Wow, it must be a cool job!", even though they imagined me standing taking pics at kiddies parties (commercial photographer doesn't say a heck of a lot to Joe Bogs), I would reply with a "Yah, well, it's not ALL glam, it's got a lot of hard graft and tough aspects as well", which isn't untrue, but I said it because I didn't want people to think I had it easy, and they hard (I grew up Calvinist and South AFrican...white...guilt is sort of built into default set-up). However, one day I came to the realization that I made the choice to do what I do when I was 12, pursued it since then and worked very hard to get where I am, and on any given day still earn the same or less than they do, BUT I have perks. And I love my job. I love the exposure. I love the business side. I love the hard times. I love the carrying equipment as well! I love sweeping the studio floor. I love having coffee with my assistant at weird and wonderful locations.

Here are some questions I get asked and I will answer now:

© Danienel (Help)

FOOD SHOOTS: YES, I always taste the food. Inedible food-styling is left for the TV guys, Us stills guy respect good food and what you see is what I eat. I have had Micehelin 3-star chefs (Giorgio Nava) have me eat at his kitchen counter. I have had from 1 star to 5 star. The above pick is Springbok (SA Gazelle) game from Savoy Cabbage. I have had the Cafe Royal Fat Bastard Burger in Cape Town Long Street, I have sampled 99% of the dishes in a Touch of Rooibos that I shot. Yes, I eat the food.

© Danienel (Help)

WINE: Yes, often times wineries are nice enough to give me a couple of bottles of the best. Currently I have a bottle of Waterford The Jem, Jean Daneel Director's Bin Chenin Blanc 2006, Graham Beck 1994 (2006 Degorge) MCC Brut MAGNUM (Nelson Mandela drank this when he became president in 1994), some fine wines from Iona, Rijks, and various other top notch SA wineries. I also have photographed the 1791 Vin de Constance at Klein Constantia, the very wine Napolean Bonaparte drank while in exile on St Helena, and Charles Dickens writes about in one of his novels.

CARS: No, I don't often drive the cars myself, but I always get to ride IN them. However, I have driven the Audi R8 V10 on a road outside Elgin, South Africa. Wow. Wow. Wow. See the video here: .I have driven in the Aston Martin DBS V12 (see for the video I shot on a cell phone in the car while the driver did his thing). I have driven in the Nissan GT-R. Around a race-track. I have driven in more insanely expensive cars than I can recount. The irony? I'm not really a car enthusiast, I just love the look of cars. Once you get under the bonnet, I'm a bit at a loss. I desire not to have one of those cars, which is a blessing, cuz I can simply enjoy them as works of art. I drive a Toyota Panelwagon and a Chev. I love my cars. Functional. Logical.

PEOPLE: I have photographed NElson Mandela's wife, Graca Machel, in their Cape Town home. I have shot Faithless live, from the orchestra pit with Maxi Jazz almost stepping on my hand, I have shot Live Live, I have shot Ronan Keating live, I have photographer more CEO's than I care to remember, I have shot sport stars (Francois Pienaar, now played by Matt Damon in Long Walk to Freedom), Graeme Smith, Herchelle Gibbs, Marc Fish, Dingaan Tobela and many more. I have photographed writers journalists, thinkers, wise men and great woman, weird and wonderful people. Rich and unfamous, Poor and famous and a bit of both. I love shooting people.

HOTELS AND PLACES: I've slept in hotels that I'll never be able to afford, take my wife to hotels because of my job I'd never be able to do. I've seen amazing restaurants and places. My stay in Bushman's Kloof resort would've cost me my company's turnover for a month. I'm going, God willing, to Libya in November to shoot for Air Afrique.

I can go on and on. I shoot pack shots in studio - I like it. I enjoy the mundane parts of shooting. I shoot events still - I take a booking if I have the time - their money is as good as any other money - I hate idleness.

Are their bits that's tough about my job? Obviously. The creative industry is in my opinion other than full-time ministry the hardest place to make a living. But I CHOSE to. I put my head down and still take the knocks with the blessings.

I'm grateful to God I can be a photographer.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Shooting Cafe Cru

Cafe Cru ( is the new hot restaurant and wine shop in the new Cape Quarter extension. Jacques Castelein from Tasca de Belem-fame, returned to the market with this little gem. Having worked with him at Tasca, I was approached earlier this year in order to get some food and interior images shot for general marketing purposes. Jean Nel, also involved in the previous Tasca project, and partner in crime on a number of projects, was approached to facilitate food styling. Jean Nel is these days known as Weber-extraordinaire, food writer, stylist, consult, teacher at among others the Pick and Pay cooking school and runs a successful boutique catering concern.

2009_09_29_033820091008_0072 The wineflight is my personal favourite from the menu.

Some portraits, and general "feel" images were also needed, and we spent the initial part of our schedule shooting those.

2009_09_29_0503i  2009_09_29_0466i

Waiters were being trained around us, finding their feet around the really impressive wine list. I noted at least 10 of my favourite cellars on the wine list.

2009_09_29_0189  2009_09_29_0232

Getting the interiors right has proved a bit of a trick, as there is lots of ambient daylight, mixing with ambient artificial lights, and one can't go around killing all the atmosphere with flash, so we needed to do our thing carefully, and also capturing the whole place in one shot.


Technical things - food shot with flash, not available light. Cape Town available light in early spring is way too wish washy and uncertain for me, so I opted for consistent flash (much like Irving Penn).

General thoughts on shooting restaurants: food is king. Spend your money on good food photography. I want to gag when I see upmarket restaurants having amateurish images in their menu's and marketing material. Your food images can sell the location if it's properly done. Terrible food shots can totally destroy whatever amazing imagery you might have of your surroundings. Please don't skimp. On a industry as highly capitalised as restaurants, do not underspend or skimp on photography. Please.Spend on a good food stylist, as chefs are not stylists, most of the time. Don't skimp on preparation, either, as Jacques was prepped and ready for us. It shows. Do what you need to do.

Here is an example of a good team to use:

20090930_0472prThe Team: me, Philip, Jean, Cru Cafe chef, Jacques Castelein.

20090930_0475pr  The partners in creative crime. Jean realized again that you cannot attempt a food shoot without a tweezer.

20090930_0480pr The whacked out photography team.





Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Jimmy Dludlu: Shot from the past

Jimmy Dludluil watermarkedr

In 2002 or 2003 I was asked by publisher and then-editor of  Stage Magazine, Gustav Andor, to go and shoot jazz guitarist at the filming of "Backstage", a popular soapie at the time. He was to perform live, in a cameo appearance, and Stage wanted some pics to go with a short news snippet. I don't recall ever getting paid, or even handing the pics over for some reason, as Stage was a strange set-up at best.

I did get a great opportunity to sit in while Jimmy was warming up and played a bit with his guitar and even jammed very briefly.

Once the filming began I was ushered onto the soundstage/studio floor and wait for recording to begin. I noticed how dimly everything was lit, from a transparency/slide point of view, especially. I had only packed Kodak VC100 35mm for my Canon, as this was a bit of a rush commission.

In the end I had to hand-hold 1/10th second exposures at f3.5 or something. The result was images that was high in contrast of the transparency film, and full of energy, due to the slight blur of movement.

Only very recently did I come across these images as I was sourcing more images for my Wax Lyrical project that will be going live on my site soon. It's a shame that gems like that stays hidden for years, but then again, it makes the rediscovery so much more fun.

Untitled-5ilr watermarked

My assistant is actually a great model

stock photo : Man in bowler hat blowing smoke

Image ID: 36255610

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Danie Nel

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Monday, October 05, 2009

The Rooibos Cookbook #6/6


So, with this post I'll end my glance-back series on the Rooibos Cookbook. I have been very busy and not able to put up some decent posts on the really exciting things we've been doing, and the happenings of the current time. Wax Lyrical is alive and well and should go online shortly, I'm putting together a documentary/art series on restaurants, stock, amazing automotive shoots we've been doing (a Audi R8, Nissan GT-R and Aston Martin DBS in 1 month! Watch this space for pics and reports THIS WEEK) and other lank funny happenings..., like the GT-R being driven over my 430EXII (Strobists, not too much of a loss, think I'll replace it with a 580EXII when I have the money), computers crashing, building ring-flashes from tupperware, etc etc. Also we're currently shooting the catalogue for a well established and legendary crockery brand - watch this space. But back to our reminiscing.

To reiterate, the Rooibos Cookbook have been a fabulous excercise and well worth the effort to relate. Images from the project will also go into my food portfolio this week. We're covering 3 days today.


These guys are portable bar services, including a barman training academy. Having photographed Kevin Snyman before, I was exposed to this dude's encyclopedic knowledge of cocktails and it's history. He'll fill you in that rum was first drunk by this and that dude, on such and such a place, and by accident discovered the Mojito when he accidently did this and that in 1732 on a naval ship gone AWOL during this and that war close to the island of this that has since been blown to bits by the French doing nuclear testing and therefore no-one knows about it. And while stating these facts non-chalantly he'll work with swooping motions and controlled intensity, even in such mundane tasks as putting ice in a glass he'll swoop through the ice-bucket and accurately double back-summersault the glass crash-catch the ice and place it on the rubberised workstation and with the swoop of his other hand pour an EXACT (we tested him - he can pour exact tots without measuring. We're talking bubble but don't spill exact) tot over ice.While that happens his other free hand (when in motion he looks like he might have 3 or 4) scratches his ear before swiftly collecting a mix of some sort and pouring it mid-air while his 4th hand starts getting mint ready for garnish. Oh, and he's not really that into flair bar-tending. Oh, and while doing all that he makes sure he makes eye-contact with the woman in the room - they make a living off tips as well, you know.

Anyways, we had a startling start to proceedings when I was helping Kanya collect all her stylist thingies from her car and she smashed the hatch on my head giving me a mild headache and bump on my forehead for the remainder of the week. I binged on a couple of head-ache tablets and was able to see in focus after a couple of minutes. Then some dude got shot in some sort of weird drug related thing across the road while Jeremy was collecting stuff from my car. All in a day in Maitland.

Although I do eat food at food shoots, I choose not to drink while working, so I was on Coke for the rest of the afternoon, but did take a sip of some or the other mocktail. The cool thing about pro barmen is that they never drink on duty either, making for a professional atmosphere and work ethic. The designer and stylist did try some of the drinks though, but managed to curb their enthusiasm quite professionally!

Styling cocktails was a harder than we thought, since we weren't working in a restaurant with an atmosphere established with decor etc. We were in an industrial building, in a class-room of sorts, so we had to rely a bit more on things like trays and props. Also, cocktails are by default fairly styled as is, so it took for Kanya to really work her collection of surfaces and props, and did so admirably.

We ended up with fair collection of Rooibos cocktails and once we got our groove on we worked to a steady rhythm, all the while being entertained to interesting barman anecdotes and liquor knowledge.

At about 8pm we were on our way and ready for the next day of shooting.


I think it is safe to assume Luke got a little more than he expected when I arrived at La Colombe's quaint garden restaurant at Constantia Uitsig and suggested we shoot prepping in the kitchen. I might has well have asked to wear his pants. Initially it was out of the question (a bummer for us, as the trend for the book has been properly set now), but later on he agreed to let us into the kitchen for some mocked prep shots in the kitchen after lunch. Part of the reason is understandble: they prepped the food prior to the shoot and the kitchen is visible to all patrons dining there, so they probably felt it would not seem appropriate for us to be there.  For someone who has been Chef of the Year, that is all understandable.

Luke is well-known for his affinity for Foie Gras, and having photographed it at this establishment before, I was wondering if it would be on the shoot list. In fact duck-liver was, but not Foie Gras, as Rooibos felt that it would be unwise to have such a contentious dish in a book that would be going all over the world, including countries where Foie Gras is banned. However, we (Kanya and I) were nonetheless quite eager to test his duck-liver. In fact, we couldn't finish the dish soon enough before we dug into it...

.....and it was amazing. Wow. The best liver I have had in my culinary privileged life. But then Luke came out of the kitchen and was somewhat annoyed, judging by his expression, that we actually ate the dish. A first for us, as most chefs begged us to try and taste. He did offer some reason or explanation that it might not have been cooked properly, but it did make us somewhat apprehensive of tasting the other goodies. It's kinda uncomfortable overstepping some invisible line of protocol, but luckily it was soon forgotten. For the most part we were left to our own devices while Luke was tending the preparation and kitchen.

So when it came to the Creme Brulee, another little visitor was ignorant to the protocols of indulgence and ended up finishing up where we left off. If Jeremy was present I fear the squirrel would've become his pet, judging by his treatment of a pigeon trying the same thing at a previous shoot.

My arrangement for a Rooibos Martini... lighting set-up was to follow.

A set-up for portrait. This however didn't stay long as a slight breeze decided to take my lastolite for a swim. Glad it was not electronic equipment! After finishing up outside, we were able to go and shoot - quickly - prepping in the kitchen. Ready for the next shoot.


Don't believe every stereo-type. Andre, the executive chef at Moyo is French, friendly, a bit shy, easy to get along with, ego-less and calm. And we worked quickly! We were nearing the very end of the project and our chops were up, our operation and THE METHOD very efficient. At Moyo we were able to indulge in the amazing array of decor and atmospheric settings available to us for styling. We even ended up shooting a pear dessert straight on the mosaic floor outside.

The shot we were working on here, I was quizzed about later on on a radio interview for RSG about the book, as it seemed strange to them we would shoot on the ground. I spat out something sounding artsy and checks-like-creative, but in essence, it was a cool idea and it worked for the dish on some unexplainable level. Glad they didn't quizz me on Philipe Wagenfuhrer's version of a pear dish hidden under a brandy tumbler...


Due to a prior engagement, I had to send Jeremy to Johannesburg to complete that leg of our schedule. He shot at the Orient and the Mosaic at Forum Homini. I can't speak much on that other than the pics I got back (he did a sterling job!)...,but see these...

The guys in Jo'burg loved Jeremy, and after looking at these pics, how can you not?



After all the restaurants and food were shots, we needed a shot or two on Rooibos-preparation, storage etc, so I ended up shooting some shots in my fridge at the studio. After that, I was ready to just go and launch the book!


I was seeing Roobos everywhere, putting Rooibos in all my dishes at home, talking Rooibos, drinking coffee (?) and planning my own Rooibos recipes, of which a number has been tried out successfully on friends.

The book has received extensive publicity in the media, we've been interviewed for radio, TV spots and it's selling well everywhere, including the UK and Germany. Translation and adaptation for the US market is underway. It was launched at a great media event at the CPUT School of Hospitality and we all felt grateful to be part of this endeavour.

To quote Morne Botha: just replace water, stock or Mrs Balls with Rooibos. Go on, do it. And by the book while you're at it.


Gerda - Rooibos Ltd

Rene, Karen - Catapult

Kanya - Styling

Jeremy - Assistant Photographer

All the chefs

All the people working behind the scenes like Karen Armstrong, Daleen van der Merwe and countless others doing the unpublicised work.