Tuesday, December 14, 2010

2010 and whatnot


It’s one of those things we say every year: The year flew past! It’s the fastest year ever! Like this year the earth actually circumvented the sun faster. Much like the comments on Cape Town winters, or summers, for that matter. It’s always colder, hotter, drier, wetter, longer etc. Anyways, I promised myself I won’t say it…, but boy, 2010 flew past!

It’s not been the easiest year in business, in fact, it was was way up there with the tough ones, for instance; just today I received news that another publication closes its doors for good on Friday. Very good clients of mine. That would make it roughly 4 this year. That and all the PR agencies losing their clients, and thus me losing mine, and advertising…  So it’s been an interesting ride. But, I can report, that things are looking up and have been so for the last quarter. And I’m not one to complain, nor sulk. Life comes at all of us. I’m still standing, my business is going forward, and I love photography and our business more than ever. And I’m laughing a lot more than ever.

So it was not on account of just having fun that time flew, it was possibly also on account of me not sitting still, whether work is coming in or not, I work. Designing new light-shapers, sharpening my photographic sword, shooting stock, uploading, keywording…, and then oh, I forget, I completed my B.Tech in Photography (I got the diploma in ‘99). Because I really needed to research the stock image industry in some depth.

Herewith a quick recap on the year… in pics and videos.

We did some awesome creative campaign work for Anton Fabi at the Bromwell, in Woodstock.


We spent a lot of time at UWC shooting for annual reports, marketing material, PR material, research material and portraits.

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We finished up the beautiful catalogue for Continental China. Here with art director Nicky, and stylist Jean Nel, at Doppio Zero.

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I literally got stuck in the back of the Lotus Evora, the prettiest sports car in my opinion, with the most ridiculously small back-seat ever designed by a human being. According to the manual you need to be 1.4 meters or shorter to sit there. Am I only the one missing the obvious demographic/target audience problem here? Not exactly a family car?

I spent some time at Streetlevel Music recording music. Because I can and that’s how they paid me for work :) . www.danienel.bandcamp.com will get you all the music for free.


I ate bread. And photographed the bakers. Here at De Oude Bakkerij in Stellenbosch.


We photographed the menu and marketing materials for Cafe Cru.

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We photographed wineries in Darling area and popped in for some coffee at Evita se Perron.



We photographed Stellenbosch Wine festival images. It was fun.


We spent the hottest day in 2010 shooting wine and olives in Riebeek-Kasteel.


The studio had some mad moments of business.


We hung with our own celebs. Here Philip and Cyril Ramaphosa is keeping it tight. (At a shoot for Shunduka Black Umbrellas), hanging with Graham Beck (RIP) and Ruud Gillet.


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We were shooting wedding for overseas couples. Philip pictured right multi-tasking being a voice activated light stand and being the mobile DJ.



We photographed beautiful cars with Wiel, BMW and also General Motos.

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We fooled around. In all honesty, there are loads more images of me and Philip doing our thing, but they’re all back at the studio, and I’m burning the midnight oil here at home. In time – and if you go to www.facebook.com/danienelphoto and view the images and videos, you’ll see most of our exploits.

Unfortunately I end the year as a solo operation, having Philip move on. But let it be known that I was introduced to a more movie trivia than I thought possible, new music – Wolfmother among others – and some good companionship around everything.

Also, he helped set in motion the wheels for Black Studio Productions. The little video arm of Danie Nel Photography, responsible for such gems as this:

So, as we close of this post, I wish you all the best for the last 3 weeks of this 2010, do not think I forgot about the FIFA World Cup. Every single post by anyone in any newsletter mentions the World Cup. Well, we also had the spirit.

So, just so you know, I’m just in an out of Cape Town, but open for assignments through most of the festive season. Don’t hesitate to call. I’m in the office till Wednesday, and after that on cell phone and email.

So, to an awesome 2011, God bless, and all the rest.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Funny Photography Fail

Sorry, but photographers can sometimes be way too serious about what we do... and then you just need a good dose of reality check. Especially from Russia.

Lucky for him CF cards fare well around water... cameras, not so much. I can honestly say this has not happened to me yet.

Neither has this...boy!

and competitiveness get's the most of these two...

Ok, this has almost happened to me...

Anyways, I feel better about myself suddenly!

Friday, November 26, 2010

3 Weddings...And some Thoughts on Wedding Photography.

 Today I'm cramming 3 weddings into 1 post. The reason for this is that it was micro-eloper-weddings to start with, and I actually have a lot of other things I wish to blog soon, so I decided to combine these. First off, it started of with my usual German weddings (actually all 3 were German tourist weddings), at the beautiful Grande Roche in Paarl. It's a challenge to shoot so often at one venue, as you continually need to try and look at the same space in a fresh way.

The great thing is though, that times of day differ, and more importantly, the couple differ. And also, I like having lots of different tools in my toolbox, so that's why you'll find me going from full glamour, to country-style to reportage, all depending on the situation. And as much as I don't like sepia, if the client asks for it, I'll supply it, in my sort of way :) .

I've mentioned to some wedding photographers, and with mixed responses from them, that I foresee a sudden saturation in the market of the country provencal look, sported by open aperture shooting on modestly standard prime lenses. The saturation of a trend happens organically, but normally it begins with someone establishing a new technique or style. Then as more people cotton on to it, the stylistically enligthened then demands to have that as well. As the style continues to permeate the medium, acceptance of this style becomes mainstream, where now everyone wishes to have this particular style.

What's next? Well, the enlightened trendster has no interest in being like someone else, and soon they do not want the style they were demanding a season ago. And in steps the new trend creator. And the cycle continues.

It's much like building a Tuscan villa in the early 90's. What style! Now? You wouldn't be caught dead in one, even in Tuscany.

So what is my answer? I take note of the trends, incorporating it in my style, but borrowing from all disciplines in photography to create my own, organically evolving style. Am I the only one noticing the second shooter phenomenon spawning heaps and heaps of clones of established photographers? In some circles, if you showed me the images of a new kid on the blog, and an established name, by virtue of style I couldn't tell the difference. So, for me to stay ahead of the curve I need to evolve all the time. So is f1.2 the rage? Certainly. However, I have a problem with treating all situations like nails when the only tool you have is a hammer. Instead of widening their skills, photographers seem to shrink them. Anyways, that's just my perception. 

Onto Wedding number 2, the following week at the beautiful setting of On the Rocks Restaurant, in Bloubergstrand. Again it was a tourist wedding, but this time two friends also joined, pushing the complete party to 6 (including me). The nuptials were concluded over a glass of bubbly in the restaurant, while a fairly raucus corporate party was raging in the rest of the restaurant. We then headed to the rocks, where the wind pelted us with fine mist and the temperature was rather low. However, when given lemons you make lemonade.

I tend to gauge my clients, and work around their personalities, traits and characters. There is a trend of "I don't shoot any posed photos", and with most photographers, I have to admit, I take that with a bit of salt.  Some treat it as photographically blasphemous to use the word "pose", or to accuse a wedding photographer of shooting a posed shot, is akin to accusing them of copyright theft. I understand that people are reeling against the old school of formal and rigid posing, but I do believe most good photographers direct and manage. There are very very very few photographers, who truly only shoot reportage, and bring group shots and the whole shebang home. In fact, I haven't encountered one. There is certainly a good number of photographers shooting with the fly-on-the-wall approach, or who claim they do so exclusively, but I choose to not leave everything over to chance or to be completely fooled! Rather than "pose", I choose the term "direct". I believe in creating a framework in which the couple can be themselves, and where they have trouble doing so (as not all people are emotionally so adept at showing passion, romance, intimacy, even when their guard is down), I will direct and create situations, complimented with styling and lighting, to bring the message across. In fact, in my opinion, of which I'm giving a lot here, the different techniques apply to different parts of the wedding day, but can be mixed and matched to create new workflows and styles.

A note on sepia toned images: till very recently I took a very snooty stance on sepia, claiming that I don't do sepia. I've since had to humble out and face the facts. I am there to give the client what they desire, and some more. If however, sepia images are stylistically preferred for the couple, who am I to judge that? Rather, I've decided to remember that the client is sovereign, not me. The wedding is for the couple, not for the photographer, and so are the memories. So, do I like traditional sepia tones? Well, not necessarily, but since opening my eyes to it, I realized that just as with all things in life, there is a place and a time, and then, it is beautiful. It has also openend my eyes, technique and Photoshop skills to new takes on sepia and toning. And since then, I've been using it steadily.

As a commercial photographer for more than 10 years, I have been doing the strobist thing for as long as I have worked. The "Strobist" craze and consequent Speedlight frenzy caught me by surprise, as I was under the false impression that photographers new about all this and just chose to shoot differently. However, I now take the same approach to using flash as to all other techniques. It's another tool in the tool-box. Don't get me wrong: I love love love cinematic style lighting, with strong rim-lighting and the like, but I realize also, the wedding images need a drama that is sometimes a bit different than the drama of a Nike Ad portrait. At one stage I was completely attached to the Speedlight style, but since it has become very popular, I have started toning down my usage thereof, and also using it differently, albeit, more conservatively.
Having said that, there are few things that get me so chuffed as a beautiful, cinematic portrait, with strong direction flash lighting, rim-lighting and film noir treatment!

Wedding number 3 happened the very next day after our cold and windy day at On the Rocks. This time around there was no real ceremony, but just a officiation at a hotel in Cape Town, after which they couple exchanged rings at the beach without much fanfare.

The "when in Rome" approach should be evident as you look at the differences in styles and techniques between these 3 weddings. Apart from being a flash-fan, I'm a huge fan of big landscape portraits, but have learned that when couples tend to print in jumbo sizes, the effect gets lost completely. So I do this sparingly, but when I have the right location, I endulge!

In this particular wedding the couple had very firm ideas about design in general (architects), so I new they would be open to some fresher ideas, and I could shoot and treat less conservatively, but, they could probably smell cheese a mile away.

Using textures in my images is something that I haven't quite taken to as much as I could've, but in this case I did let some loose. This wedding was more reminiscent of a couple shoot, so I allowed myself some different takes on the wedding theme. Having said that, photographers like Dror Eyal have used the textures very effectively for eons, although, for me it's been a bit like the fancy drill-bit that can make holes in steel, but that I haven't found a use for yet. So I tried it. I like what I got, but I will be very aware of the cheese-factor in it, or that my romantic idea, might turn into something that looks like a country-pop album cover. But if that is what the client wants...

One thing I do have to highlight amongst all my rantings and opinionated waxing here on wedding photography: every photographer shoots according to their character/personality/mix of the above. You ultimately do what comes naturally to you. Or at least when you've grown in confidence enough to start developing a thumb-print. Or a signature. I like variety. I like options. Hence, my style.

So, irregardless of what trends might be on, what styles might be the hottest, couples should choose photographers based on the compatibility of their preferences to each other. I realize that my style will not be every bride's cup of tea. Nor do I think mine is the best, or the most beautiful. However, I think more variety would do our industry the world of good. 

BTW - I didn't use speedlights at all in this last wedding. It was noon. Just goes to show, that one can do what you need to do, when it needs to be done. It'll just take on its own style.