Friday, February 26, 2010

Graham Beck Winemakers

Now, those who have read my blogs for a while, might recall that I have a personal vendetta against "my secretary's got a nice camera we use here at the office and so she'll take my company profile pic for my website/blog/facebook fan page/twitter/publications/etc"-photos. Against the attitude I have an argument, but against the final product showing up in media everywhere, I can just say "tsk-tsk, what a waste".

Gladly, there are companies who take their image and profile seriously, and I'm especially chuffed when they contact me to handle the photography side of their profile. Especially the corporate portrait side, for which I have quite and affinity, actually. But corporate profiling is not what it used to be, as you'll see. Some corporates still require corporate serioustis, which is cool, but others are more interested in the message they send out, ie corporate lite.

Graham Beck's people called my people, in this case, myself, and we set a date for this shoot. They also wanted a shoot that would reflect the laid-back, down-to-earth, yet sophisticated nature of their winemakers, which in the wine trade, represents the public face as well. The viticulturist was also asked to join, as wine is famously known to be "made in the vineyard".

We arrived on a fairly hot day in Franschhoek, met with the subjects quickly, consulted with the PRO and marketing exec and we got to setting up our shots. Herewith some memories from the shoot.


The first batch of shots was taken in the road going past the winery. In the shade. So we don't burn.


I dunno, but when there are three or more people in a shot, I can't resist a Westlife CD-cover look as an option. Also, movement makes most non-professional models a whole lot more relaxed.


Even posy shots need to be relaxed and fun.


Ok, so I like some drama. When I shoot corporate shots these days, I always try and sneak in a pic or two that can be high-key, or high-contrast, or heavy lit, or cinematic or the like. Who knows who or what the publicist will approach with their images. The company might want to tackle a more drama-driven market like....say selling wine to Hollywood celebs (ok bad example)...(actually Barack Obama is the best known, and open supporter of Graham Beck Wines! He ordered it when he made himself available for election, AND on his inaugeration!).

Now, supplying this image to the local Hollywood Wine Drinkers Association Club Mag for editorial, might just work a lot better than a pic of a winemaker with a pipet in the cellar. Maybe not, but you catch my line of thinking. Options. BTW - the main man in the pic above is the viticulturist, Marco Vintrella. (Follow his cool tweets on Twitter @vinebug ).

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 20091211_0246i 20091211_0097i

Single portraits of staff members are in my opinion always a good idea. It doesn't need to be similar settings, but maintain the feel. In this case, Mr Vintrella, Irene Waller (Robertson GB Cellar), Erika Obermeyer (Franschhoek GB Cellar) and Pieter "Bubbles" Ferreirra (Cellarmaster GB Wines) who also tweets quite nicely on Twitter @BubblesFerreira. Somebody might get a promotion, win a prize or something and you'd want to spread the word in the media. If you don't have a pic ready, chances are you might become the focus of my personal vendetta.


With the amount of accolades these guys are pulling in these days, fun celebratory shots like this is well in order, and in fact, quite useful for press releases. Also, note, if your premises is off world-class architectural design, flaunt it, use it in pics, if it's not, we'll make sure your shabby offices are perceived as Park Ave Corner Suites.


Oh, and stuff still happens. In this case the wind came up and blew my perfectly well functioning non-waterproof umbrella into the pond. Pieter rescued it. While on his phone.

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Another tip: Have a joker, in this case Mr. Vinebug. It keeps the other people laughing and keeps me shooting. It makes for great lifestyle images if people can naturally interact. After everyone started sweating counter-productively, we decided to head for the swanky tasting room area, where more lifestyle images would ensue. Food, cheese and wine was set out for the subjects to consume, interact with, and interact by, for our next series of shots. Products were also used in the shots.





Philip was also allowed a glass.



After the tasting room, everyone headed to Pieter's house for a crayfish lunch, where I continued to steal shots for their use as lifestyle fillers. Soon we'll be returning to capture their harvest, so watch this space for updates.

So, herewith 10 things I hate about your corporate pics (if the shoe fits scenario):

  1. Your secretary used your 12 gigapixel compact on small jpegs. 4000ISO. Noisier than a jack-hammer. And you wonder why publications reject it. It does not look right, right?
  2. You were made to face the camera front on, in a rugby team group portrait pose, covering your pelvic area. Only good if you have giant shoulders.
  3. Front-on flash makes you look flatter than a drunken tune. This technique isonly effective when using a ring-flash. Something not yet found on modern compacts. And only when well-executed does it work. Even by fancy photogs with fancy cameras.
  4. No theme, idea, or consistency with your brand shows in your pics.
  5. Overt use of branding in your pics. Except for your in-house publications and media, other press will simply reject images with branding in it. They'd rather sell you the right to show your branding. To get consistency with your brand, without showing logos is what we do.
  6. You sit behind your desk. Unless you're the Godfather, you should not be photographed behind your desk. It's a cliche, and not necessarily even for good reason. Point in case: George Bush really liked being photographed behind his desk.
  7. You insist on placing team photographs in your media. It's great here and there as a filler, but the press and media cannot identify with 75 smiling faces, badly lit, in blue overalls. And then they need to find the CEO or whoever you are underneath 75 hard-hats. It works well when you're doing your presentation to potential investors, or trying to show everyone how big you are - so don't neglect those images - but your CEO, MD and the like must be photographed alone. Especially when they're asked for their opinion in an article etc, you're gonna need pics of them alone. Imagine this caption: Here is Mr. Big Cheese, CEO of Big Cheese Pty Ltd, 73rd from the left, 12 rows up, in the blue overall, that is slightly more blue than the rest.
  8. You have a cell-phone pic of yourself on your Company Twitter page. Twitter is big media now. So is Facebook. Don't use sub-standard images there. The photographic profile needs to be carried through ALL media.
  9. You're wearing a check shirt. Do not. If printed or displayed small, it creates havoc on the eyes, dyes and pixels. On the cheaper camera you insisted on using, it also added another funky effect, called a Moyer-pattern. A really nastly looking rainbow pattern that looks like icicles on your shirt. Nice. Somebody just turned the page on you in Financial Mail. You had him with your insight, till he saw your pic.
  10. You insisted on having pictures ONLY in the company's reception area, with security camera-eyes, palm leaves, bits of desk and stray ambient light checking into the frame. Or, in a moment of manic inspiration, decided that you'd like to take a group portrait of your staff in the parking area. Or, how about we get everyone to sit around the board room table? Or infront of the fire-hydrant? Understand - all these options can work - when executed by a professional.

Please, respect your brand, use a professional! Also, try Graham Beck's Shiraz/Viognier - yummy.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Shooting an AMG...


Photography: Danie Nel

Post: Philip du Plessis/Danie Nel Photography

Driver: Deon Joubert

Location: Killarney race track

...with heat-seeking missiles and hand grenades. We're doing more and more "cinematic" treatments of imagery. With a host of skills, new lighting techniques and post-production work, we now go and shoot more and more for post as well. Unlike many people think it's not ideal to take a nicish image and just "pimp" it. Shoot for the final post effect. Before photographers and purists start crying foul, it's time you start looking around. Images are moving in a direction that calls for surrealism. I'm all for pure images as well, but I am enjoying the things we can do these days.

Many people argue that with post work, now graphic designers are acting like photographers. I say if you start with superior images and a great base, and then on top of that add amazing post work, the final product will be even better.

Not even portrait work is escaping our touch:




The latter portraits are more treatment orientated, but the initial image of the car fits more into the catagory of creation and sampling. Either can be achieved. However, bear in mind, that when we're shooting to that end, the final output of images is definitely less.

If you need cinematic portraits of your clients, products and scenarios, I think it's time we chatted. There is no reason why your corporate profile can't look like a Scorcese movie poster!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Some other books that I have worked on:

Ok, so after the success of A touch of Rooibos, I've had some queries as to some other books I might've worked on, and where to purchase. Here is a couple. This list is not exhaustive, as some have gone out of print already. I have done books on personal fitness as well, but I've restricted the selection here to cookbooks. Also countless books for distribution via corporate marketing, events based selling etc have been done, but these are the only ones commercially available still. Click on pics to order from or


Cocktail Book1

Sharp Shooters - David Biggs

Myself and the designer were responsible for the styling, and Bartender's Workshop did the pouring. Project finished 2006. This is a fantastic little book.

Cocktail Book7

Cocktails series: Part of a 4 book series, Classic Cocktails is but one - David Biggs.



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A touch of Rooibos - Gerda de Wet

Team: Kanya Hunt - Styling, Me (photography), Jeremy Puren (photography assistant)


Egg Curry

One-Dish Winners - Christelle Erasmus

Usual suspects: Jean Nel (prep-chef), Winkie (stylist assistant), Kanya Hunt (stylist), Me (photography).


Here we are: August 2007, on completion.



Healthy Family Meals - Christelle Erasmus


Here we are 2008 Team: Stylist assistant, Susan Bosman (stylist), Me

Friday, February 12, 2010

Rooibos Cookbook GOURMAND AWARD!!

It was with great excitement that I learned this morning that our project for Rooibos Ltd., a cookbook called "A touch of Rooibos" was last night awarded the prize of 3rd Best Cookbook IN THE WORLD, in Paris, at the Paris Book Fair and Gourmand Awards. What a blast! Read the press release here:



You can get the book from (click on the picture above).

It just goes to show that South African cooking and produce, and design and photography for that matter, need not stand back in the  face of international celeb foodies.

- Me handing the book over to Ainsley Harriot at the 2009 Good Food and Wine Show.

I was responsible for all the photography, Jeremy, my assistant at the time, being my absolute right hand. Kanya Hunt did the styling and Karen Hermans from Catapult, the beautiful design. Thanx to all involved, especially Gerda de Wet from Rooibos, who made it possible. For Rene and Karen, Daleen for copy, Kanya and Jeremy for making it a jol. Oh, and all the really cool chefs we worked with. Thank you Karen Armstrong & Co for the awesome PR we got in the process. Bottoms Up!

To see posts on behind the scenes goings on of shooting the book:

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Libya Day II Part 4

So we headed back from a buffet dinner at the Corinthia, Tripoli's best known, and oldest, five star establishment. And till the arrival of the Raddisson, the only one. As we arrived back at the hotel some of the party decided it was time for some coffee. Now, it being close to 11 at night, we were a bit concerned about transport back towards the inner city, but no fear, taxi's were lined up infront of the Raddisson  to take us there. We were about 9 or 10, so we squeezed into 3 taxi's. As fate would have it, our taxi was called on the radio and the others went ahead so long to the cafe. We were tipped of at the Corinthia of a really nice coffee joint and where the smokers could get shisha (fruit molasses smoked in a hubbly bubbly).

Our taxi driver arrived and we started what was to become a very long 3 km trip to the centre of Tripoli. Our taxi driver obviously works most nights, and has not heard of this establishment. Later, after having arrived, it was hard to see how a Tripoli native could've missed the coffee shop right next to the Green Square, but hey, many Cape Tonians have never been on the mountain. We drove past the coffee shop at least three times, the taxi driver phoning his colleagues from his cell phone, but getting none the wiser. It was hard not to start having some bizarre thoughts as we started heading for and entering the more slummy part of town, then going back towards the city, and then finding even more obscure back alleys back to slumland. At one point, one of the passengers suggested in Afrikaans that maybe we should simply get out somewhere and as these situations go, started giggling and everyone burst out laughing. All sorts of kidnapping jokes starting flying around. We wondered if we looked American. The taxi driver couldn't speak much English and simply kept on driving and arguing into the phone.

At the hotel I put my camera bag in the boot and at one point during out trip, the boot kept on popping open, exposing the valuable cargo to all who edged past the car in the street, busy crossings and various points of phone call-getting-Arabic-directions-that-makes-no-sense-to-an-Arab-speaker. I tried to explain to the driver that I needed to get out, but not being from South Africa, my request seemed very absurd. Who would want to steal a R100k camera bag?

Eventually he stopped infront of a very dodgy looking cafe, and we decided that we'd just get out regardless of the accuracy of our rendezvous. As we were about to exit another call came through and we were ushered, reluctantly, back into the car. I had quickly jumped out and retrieved my camera bag that was now sitting on my lap. Gratefully, the taxi driver only drove for another two minutes before dropping us of, better late than never, at the cafe.

20091104Libya0605 One of the streets in the Italian quarter we drove through and past, at least thrice.

20091104Libya0606 Green Square. The coffee shop/garden is out of picture to the left.


Coffee, as I've mentioned before, and social coffee drinking, is practiced at levels know mostly to Seattlians, Italians, Arabians and addicts. However, due to our delayed ETA, we missed the last round of orders and were reduced to sitting watching the others drink creamy, rich, fragrant and amazingly aromatic coffee and others smoking shisha. One member of our group who is a regular smoker of...., hmmm, grass, was wise enough not to try and smuggle any into the country, but was now after 2 days of abstinence sucking on the shisha like it was life-support. But due to the absence of nicotine, tar or any drug, I think it was to no avail. He sucked excitedly nonetheless.

20091105Libya0992 20091105Libya0995 20091105Libya0996 20091105Libya0998 Our Libyan friend. 20091105Libya1006

This particular coffee establishment resembles a big garden with white garden chairs, a couple of tents and shisha waiters (they light your LD 5 shisha, keep it burning, make sure everything is fine, and are generally light headed from seeing to 100 shisha's all night long). Palm trees shoot out of the middle of it and although it was basically closing time, the place was still jam packed. Various different Middle Eastern, Arabic and North-African ethnicities were represented among the patrons, creating a Islamic cosmopolitan collage of cultures.  Umbrellas with Coca-Cola branding were standing around, more evidence that things are changing. The soft-drink itself is still not very popular here, but till recent years, only Pepsi was allowed in Libya. (Maybe American spies preferred Coke.)


I joined a table with Nash, who has taken a table with a Tripoli native, I'm certain his name was Muhammed, smoking a shisha. Although the red Indians gave birth to the practice of smoking a peace pipe, I couldn't but help and speculate whether the shisha was maybe the original incarnation of this practice. At our small table was represented myself, white Afrikaner, a Durbanite Indian Muslim, an Irishman and a Libyan (who works as an engineer in Abu Dabi but was back on holiday). Even as recent as five years ago, this would be unheard of, or at least very scarce, in Tripoli. Read "A mad world, My Masters" by John Simpson, and you'll understand.

20091105Libya1005 A shisha.20091105Libya0999 An Irishman and a shisha.

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Well, as luck would have it, shortly after arriving, we had to go back again. This time our taxi driver got us back to the hotel in the expected 2.5 minutes. After going through all the security checks, X-ray machines and luggage checking, I was able to enter the hotel, head up to my floor, shower and fall over into be, looking out over the awesome night view of Tripoli. The next day would be our last in Libya.


Friday, February 05, 2010

Shooting food and plates at Doppio Zero Mandela Rhodes Place in the Cape Town CBD

As part of a huge catalogue of work we have been shooting for Continental China (yes, your mom probably has a set, and they don't break!), we had to do a last add-on with food (we've done industrial images of their factory, pack shots and deep-etching, and styled food images). The images have always done at the studio, but at this particular day we needed to shoot quickly and the food stylist, Jean, happened to be consulting at this restaurant, so no lugging around of food was necessary.

There's nothing major to report on the shoot, except some behind the scenes imagery and us playing around with a 50mm 1.8 lens while waiting for the food. 

Here we are working. Philip filling (we decided that proper Afrikaans for a gaffer is Reflectoratus). Nicky from Traffic Integrated Marketing is directing (art director), and I'm shooting. Dah.


Jean doing his thing. 20100120_0097 20100120_0099

And this is how one of the dishes looked, but unfortunately I cannot post images of the final shots, showing the plates (the hero in all the shots are the plates and the china, not the food), as the marketing material has not been launched.


And while waiting for the steak with deep fried basil (yes - you read right - amazing flavour), we started playing around with the back-up body and a 50mm 1.8. Actually I was explaining something to Philip regarding depth of field vs focal length and fall-off etc, but ended up making these images while at it.

20100120_0100 Philip.

20100120_0103 Jean.

20100120_0104 Nicky.

20100120_0108 Me.

20100120_0056 Us.

Ag, while we're at it, I'll show you some pics from one of our studio shoots for Continental as well.

20091209_0442 Me and Jean deliberating. The client wanted the "Donna Hay" look.

20091209_0435 Shooting and being watched closely by the stylist.

The bulk of the styling for this project was actually handled by Susan Bosman, another really cool stylist I've had the privilege of working with often, but due to prior commitments she couldn't attend to the last day of shooting. Thus Jean, another old partner in crime, was called upon. Seeing the difference between them was great. Susan is the quintessential stylist, with her eyes looking way beyond just the food, and also have a keen eye for composition, whereas Jean has a knack of making food literally jump from the plate. In both instances the two stylists were perfect for the range of work we were doing.

Remember, my studio is geared for food shoots, and we can go on site just as easily.