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Archive for August, 2011

There’s no other way to say it, “Training matters”! I’ve been training with some of the best portrait photographers this country has to offer and it changes everything! Some people have a belief that photography is a simple case of getting a camera and pressing a button. I’ve had people criticise me for thinking I could become a photographer. Until you’re in the hot seat making pictures of people, you quickly realize how hard it is. I remember a time when I got somebody to stand in front of the camera, I was so excited that I could finally take a picture of somebody. But then it rapidly dawned on me that I didn’t know how to pose them or communicate with them to create something special. In the early days of my learning, I struggled with thinking and breathing the technical aspects of the camera. At the moment it clicks, it seemed like everything I learnt flew out of the window. You feel the pressure of taking a picture quickly. The people in front of the lens are waiting… with what seems like an eternity. When somebody thinks it’s easy to take a picture, I quickly explain that I think it’s amazing that human beings can take a photograph at all! Within a split second, you think about the right moment to take the shot, composition, lighting, focus, camera angle, focal length, aperture, shutter speed, white balance, how will you leave yourself options during post-production, etc… There’s a million calculations that go on in that split second, a brief moment before it clicks.

I’ve been fortunate to do training with Damien & Julie Lovegrove (link), Chris Hanley (link) and Martin Hill (link). These photographers are the real deal. When you’re photographing a wedding and it starts raining, you absolutely rely on your training! This happened to me not so long ago… Everything I had ever learnt kicked in automatically to make something wonderful.

Graham Law and myself have both been doing Lovegrove workshops over the last 2.5 years and we make a fantastic team. In fact, Graham and I work together with our clients whether it be a street portrait shoot, a pre-wedding shoot or wedding. We get to practice all the skills we learn with our model Hannah and have been doing this for about 18 months. Both of us constantly hear Damien saying, “Let’s make it happen” which spurs us on and we make it happen. My photographs from our practice sessions can be found on this blog; Industrial Portraits (link) and The Lead Mines (link). Both of these examples demonstrate how we take what we learn and apply the skills in a totally different environment.

A while back Graham and I had discussed creating some nice bridal portraits in an in-door location. We decided that we wanted use Mellington Hall in Shropshire (link). Graham arranged to meet the management and discuss the location and what we wanted. This was also an opportunity to scout the location and afterwards Graham and I discussed how we were going to shoot the various scenes. The next trick was getting a wedding dress to shoot with… Graham approached Celtic Brides (a local bridal shop – link) and offered a proposal of what we wanted to do. With all the plans in place, we booked Mellington Hall and worked with Celtic Brides. They lent us 4 dresses for the shoot of which we only had time to photograph 3 of them. We took all our toys, lighting gear, etc… and turned the venue into a full-on photo shoot. It almost felt like we were on a Lovegrove workshop! We accomplished a lot and we got what we set out to achieve. Some nice portfolio images for ourselves and for Celtic Brides.

Hannah our model was fantastic! Every shoot we do with her she is getting more and more professional. On this occasion her mother Sarah helped out with everything which made the shoot go smoothly. My mother helped out with tea and a few other bits and pieces and we all made a great team!

Watching and learning from the masters, Damien Lovegrove, Chris Hanley and Martin Hill, made it possible for us to make it happen and to create our own portfolio of images. Yes… Training matters!

Below is a small selection of the photos from the day…

This is the first dress of 3. I love the symmetry in the frame!

I love the softness of this frame. There was hardly any post-production required for this photograph.

I love how everything works in this frame.

I like Hannah's inquisitive expression.

I deliberately framed this so that the left side could be used for content. I could imagine a fade to white with a message like "thinking about your big day".

Continuing with how these images might be used... I framed this so that content could be placed on the right side. Perhaps a message like "Have you just started thinking about your wedding dress?"

Similar theme with content on the left side.

Then it was the second dress and to make use the stair case.

I love how the frame leads from Hannah all the way to the top of the ceiling.

Time to use another room at the venue and love how Hannah is surrounded by the dress.

You can tell that Hannah loves the dress!

There were so many wonderful compositions to be made here....

At this point the creativity was just flowing!!

I wonder what Hannah was thinking about?

Timeless... Peaceful... Beautiful...

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Back to the stair case...

I love Hannah's energy in this image!

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It was time to change into the 3rd dress...

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I loved the mirror and fire place and decided to take a few wide shots with these wonderful dresses.

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Always exploring for a different camera angle...

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The last frame in this set photographing wedding dresses.

For the last few minutes of the day, Hannah changed into a cocktail dress.

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And this was pretty much the last frame of the day.

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A man and his dog

Last week I did a quick photo shoot with my very good friend Ken and his lovely dog Lancelot. I scouted the location the day before and managed to get the whole shoot done in around 30 minutes. My buddy Joe helped and assisted on the shoot which made things move on much quicker than normal. Here are a few frames from the shoot:

I captured this frame half way through the shoot. I love this photograph!!

I went to the top of the sand bank to get a glimpse of the sea and the beach in the background.

You always need a frame like this on a beach shoot...

We all had fun filming on this shoot!

With a sky formation like this you just have to get more of it in the frame 🙂

I love how this frame almost appears monochrome...

A close up of Lancelot.

Finally back at base...

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Searching

I’m continually amazed at how photography can reveal so much about ourselves. In my last post I mentioned that my father had passed away and the importance of photography (link). Since that sad day a couple of months later, I went for a walk with my mother. As we’re heading out the door I decided to pick up my camera… During the walk we stopped every-now-again to take a photograph and then continued walking into town. It wasn’t till later when editing the pictures did I realize how there was a sense of searching.

A thoughtful moment...

This is a very powerful image to me...

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There are few things in life that measure up to the power of the “photograph”. I find it amazing how memories can be captured in a split second. A moment in time frozen forever. Photographs often tell a story or convey an emotion like virtually no other media format can. I love how a series of photographs take you through a journey and you get to relive happy and sad moments on life’s long road (although the road seems to be getting shorter as I get older).

Photographs are hugely important! At least to me anyway… I am fortunate that my mother took so many pictures of the family when we were kids. We have literally thousands of negatives of our entire history in Africa. About 13 years ago I purchased a professional negative scanner (Nikon Cool Scan III) to digitally capture our life’s journey. This was way before I took photography seriously, but in a sense, it was the beginning of the road I am now on. As I scanned the photographs, it was like watching a replay of our lives in slow motion. I can remember how home sick I felt when I scanned images of the farm that I grew up on as a kid. I could remember the happy days that we spent at Lake McIlwaine in Zimbabwe where I used to go sailing. I remembered what our lives were like during the Rhodesian war. I remembered the happy times spent with the family on our holidays. And I remembered the sadness at the loss of my brother Bradley.

Photographs like these are extremely precious and will never be relived again. Organizing a vast collection of photographs into date order quickly reveals huge gaps of time where there are no photographs at all! There were years where I didn’t have a single photograph of myself. I’ve learnt that you just need to keep taking photographs (all the time). For a lot of people we all know how it goes… you buy a camera, you take lots of pictures until you get bored of it; and then don’t take any more pictures until it’s someone’s birthday. Simply put, you just need to keep taking photos. Every time I take a photograph of a family member, I find myself saying how precious that image will probably become in time.

Since I’ve started on my photography journey, I’ve often come across folk who have little or no regard for the value of a photograph. There’s nothing wrong with this… each to their own… but a part of me does wonder if it will come back to bite them as time goes by.

Very sadly my father passed away in May of this year. As I reflect on the impact he’s had in my life, I’m glad I have so many photographs of the times we shared as I grew up. I’m glad that I became a photographer. I’m glad I have precious photographs which I will remember him by. Few people have achieved as much in their lifetime as my father did. He became a pilot, revolutionized commercial fishing in Southern Africa; and started a business on 60 Rhodesian Dollars and grew the business to the point that every milk bottle sold in Zimbabwe was milked with his milking machines. My father’s achievements in life are many — he did everything in life he wanted to. An achievement in its own right. But most of all, he was a loving father.

As I write this blog post, it reminds of a post that Joe McNally posted some time ago. Taking a picture of a feeling (link) and his feedback response (link).

I’m so glad that I became a photographer… I get the privilege to capture memories of loved ones…

Below are a few photographs of our family’s history.

This is a picture of my Grand Father at their home in 1931. My Grand Father and his two brothers were early pioneers in Southern Rhodesia. They arrived in 1901 from the Boer War, originally from London. They were part of the team to build the infrastructure of Rhodesia. The home shown in the picture was my mothers first home.

This is my Grand Father's car travelling with the family.

This is my mother when she was 18 years old when she was staying with her Grand Mother.

My Father at 23 years old when he immegrated to Rhodesia.

My Father next to his aeroplane getting ready for a trip to Mozambique to spend a weekend on Paradise Island.

The family travelling to Durban, South Africa for a holiday next to the sea. In the picture is my brother standing next to the car and there's me sitting in the back peering out the window.

Visiting my sister near the Zambian border at the Umfolozi river near Mushimbi Pools.

Me with my brother and sister. It was common during the war to carry a gun wherever you went.

My brother often travelled on company business to various farms. He attached the gun to the truck as a means to protect himself from terroist attack during the war.

The family was invited to visit the local chief and he gave us a chicken to take home for dinner. That's me sitting next to the chief...

A fly over the Lake Kariba dam wall. My father was in charge of the fishing fleet for what was the largest man made lake at that time.

My father inspecting a new milking machine installation that was manufactured by his business..

This is a photograph of me at 9 years old soon after my brother Bradley had died.

Me with my father at Lake Kariba.

Me a few years later aged 17 years old. Visiting Worlds View at Inyanga with a betamax video camera.

My father helping me test out a new lighting technique early during my photography study.

My father again helping me out by posing for a photograph.

This was one of my father's favourite photographs of himself which I took one Sunday lunch time.

Both my parents helping me out by posing for a photograph.

My favourite photograph of my father. This shows what he was like. He liked cooking in the kitchen and always wore his apron. The books behind him are also very fitting as he was always very studious.

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