About this Blog

Photo Writing is the web version of the Photo Writing mini-magazine produced by Limephoto and Emil von Maltitz since 2010. As of 2015 it is now completely online. Feel free to browse through the articles and please leave comments in the comments section if you would like to engage with us.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Book Building

In the final quarter of last year I found myself working on a very exciting project – my first book. I was commissioned by Standard Bank to photograph an old industrial site adjacent to the Standard Bank headquarters in downtown Johannesburg. This property was purchased by the bank a few years ago for future development. As the buildings on the site were older than 60 years, the site required an historical assessment to take place. The recommendations that were made by the commission before any demolition or development take place, was that the building be properly documented. Standard Bank decided to take the recommendations a step further and produce a high quality large format glossy coffee table book to commemorate the old site. This is where I entered the picture.

I have been involved in book projects before, but only as a very small entity, providing necessary images, but never actually being more involved. This time round I was completely immersed in the process, also being required to write the accompanying text. I’m not an historian, so the research was completed by the very capable historians, Liz Delmont and Sue Krige. I then spent 10 days in Johannesburg getting to know the site intimately while photographing it from as many angles as possible.

What surprised me at the time was the level of security around the site. Standard, and the other banks in the area have turned this portion of down town Johannesburg into a safe haven. Walking around with upwards of thousands of rands worth of equipment dangling from my neck and shoulders, not once did I truly fear for my safety. On the occasions that I knew I would be peering intently through the viewfinder the remaining staff on the site were good enough to follow me and keep an eye out while I played with exposures.

Two series of images were particularly important one was a stitched panoramic of each street facade, while the other was images taken from the roof of the Standard Bank head office. The former was an interesting exercise in frustration. The shots themselves were fairly straight forward – as many straight on shots of the facades as possible while moving down the length of the street. The concept is simple enough. Plug them into Photoshop and stitch together to form a long skinny panoramic. The problem lies in the fact that the camera platform, i.e. me, is constantly moving down the length of the street. This means that perspective gets thrown out completely. It’s easy enough if the facades are all on one plane, but as soon as there is depth as well, all perspectival hell breaks loose. Judicious ‘art work’ was called for and ultimately I was able to create something of the feel for each of the facades. In retrospect I should have shot them all in the middle of the day though. The problem with trying to get good lighting was that building shadows got in the way. Ah well hind sight is always 20/20.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


At the moment it seems that almost the entire southern hemisphere is experiencing heavy rains. This is to the point that in both Australia and Brazil there has been catastrophic flooding. So far South Africa has been lightly hit with the worst quasi-flooding occurring over the last weekend. I say quasi-flooding as the rain hasn't caused nearly as much damage as in other countries and people are still not seeing this in the same light as the 1987/88 floods that wreaked havoc across the country. What has occurred is that the level of dams have risen to their highest levels since the 87/88 floods.

I took the opportunity to visit Gariep Dam, one of the largest of South Africa's dam walls, on the Orange river while in the Free State over the weekend. The site was pretty incredible for someone who is not used to seeing a dam at overflow point (it doesn't happen that regularly in this country and is certainly rare for the semi-arid interior). A great shoot all told. Now we all just hope that the rain is ultimately beneficial and that we don't have the same problems that Australia and Brazil are experiencing. We wait and see.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Inaugural Thanda Workshop

At the beginning of the year African, for whom I run a regular photographic workshop, moved their photography base of operations from St Lucia on the east coast of South Africa to Thanda Private Game Reserve. Last week was the first of what I hope will be a long line of workshops stretching into and beyond the foreseeable future. To say that it was a flying success would be an understatement. 

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Zulu Warrior display

Over the Christmas period I finally had a chance to see the Zulu Warrior display at the Bloemfontein National History Museum in which an image of mine is used as the background. To be honest I was skeptical of the final print quality considering that the long side of the print is 5 metres! Confusing circles to the rescue. Thanks to the slight distance from the print that the viewer is forced to stand, and despite the fact that it was printed at 180dpi, the quality is fantastic. Nary a raw pixel to be seen (I'm positive the same can't be said if you stand at nose distance of course).

The original shot is a panoramic stitch of two horizontal images from a D700 (so 12 megapixels in each frame, but with almost half an image overlap). Careful processing was required to enlarge the image without making the resultant print look 'digital' and pixelated. the premise of the confusing circles calculation is that the optimal viewing distance is the equivalent of the hypotenuse of the print, in this case just under 5.5 metres. However, viewers try to get as close as possible to see the warrior himself, meaning that they stand somewhere around 1.5 to 2 metres from the print at the furthest. Processing therefore had to 'trick' the eye into believing that the print was sharp. In the end a success.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Wedding Chaos - the wedding of Alon and Katherine Gordon

Weddings are always interesting to photograph. Whether you find yourself doing them on a weekly basis and as a regular source, if not only source, of income. Or whether, like me, you do them an occasional job in-between other commitments or as a favour to friends. To date, the weddings I've shot have been either Christian or non-denomination. This was my first Jewish wedding and was definitely the most chaotic wedding I've shot to date.