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.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Mad Dogs and Englishmen Go Out in the Pouring Rain - December Thanda Workshop



And so it poured. For the first time since I started with African Impact’s workshops, we had so much rain that we were only able to leave the lodge twice through the entire duration of the course. On that, I am truly thankful for the spirited and enjoyable company that I found in the small band of students for the December workshop. Only a bunch of nutters like them could be persuaded to brave the weather for their group shot (shown above). More on that after the jump though.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Karoo - Long Time Passing - a book review

Obie Oberholzer isn't as well known as some art photographers in South Africa, but is possibly one of the more influential with his work. This is especially the case having been the photography lecturer at Durban Tecnikon (now Durban University of Technology) and later at Rhodes University. As he points out, he has always been fairly apolitical, which has meant that he hasn't received some of the accolades as other prominent South African photographers who have. Cynically I also feel that to make a name in South Africa you have to photograph lions, politicians or naked women. Obie doesn't do any of those three, so he's relatively unknown internationally. This is shame as his work is unique and extraordinarily skilled.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Gardening a Tourist Trap - Some tips on shooting in crowded locations

As a general rule I try to avoid places where there are plenty of tourists. It's just easier to get the shot when you are not shoulder to shoulder with a thousand other camera-toting sightseers. The joy of photography is that everything is photogenic, so often I can avoid the usual tourist haunts. My personal love for the Drakensberg is a good case in point. It remains one of the relatively un-photographed majestic landscapes of the world. Compare it to somewhere like Bryce Canyon in the States and it means that you are probably going to find parts of the mountain to yourself, and any images that you create are possibly going to be new. Now try shooting a 'new' shot in Macchu-Piccu (Peru) or Dead Vlei (Namibia). Not that easy.So, here are a couple of things that can help.

Choquequirau in the early morning. My wife and I were two of five tourists in the entire complex, and the only two who woke for the (non-existant) sunrise.

Friday, November 29, 2013

The Importance of Frame


Last year I wrote about the ability to see inside the frame - the fact that “the photograph has edges, the world has not” (Stephen Shore -The Nature of Photographs: 1998). Of course saying this is easy whereas putting this into practice takes a little more skill. The problem is that as photographers start out they tend to be more concerned with the content and how much they can fit into the scene. As they grow more experienced the realisation dawns that less is more and the concern shifts to how little should be included in the scene.

The key word above is inclusion. Angela Farris Belt in her book, ‘The Elements of Photography’ explains that “even those photographers who know the basic rules of two-dimensional composition don’t necessarily understand how to apply those rules toward orchestrating content within a photographic frame” (6:2008). I dislike the use of the word ‘rules’, but essentially photographers end up ignoring one of the defining characteristics of the photograph, the fact that the image is an encapsulated reality within the boundaries of the photographic frame.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Lightroom Bootcamp - 7th December 2013

The Lightroom workshop is an intensive one day course on how to use Lightroom. We concentrate on the Library and Develop Modes so that digital asset management and RAW conversion can be effectively utilized.

The workshop will take place at Iphiti College in Gillits (same location as the Introduction to Digital Photography courses). Students are required to bring a laptop with Lightroom so that they can follow along with hands-on examples. Please also bring a packed lunch.

Time: 8:30am 7th December 2013
Cost R1100 per photographer (limited to 6 photographers)

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Dead Vlei Finale - Part 4 of the Namibia Landscape Workshop Recce.



It has to be one of the bucket list items for photographers from around the world. It ranks there with Antarctica, the Okavango Delta, Torres del Paine and Death Valley among others. It's instantly recognizable from screen-savers splashed across both Microsoft and Apple computers around the globe, and it was our last location. What a finale! Sossusvlei and the incredible tree skeletons of the Dead Vlei. 

Saturday, November 16, 2013

A Sho't Left to the Great White Place - Part 3.5 of the NamibiaLandscape Workshop Recce



We're here, so why not? Etosha Game Reserve in the north of Namibia is one of world's most famous natural reserves. Its enormous pan and surrounding arid lands are home to thousands of animals and some of the most startling photographic opportunities to to be had. Although we are in Namibia to recce for next year's landscape workshop, it seemed silly not to also take a look at Etosha. So, although the reserve won't be included in the 2014 workshop, it is an option for photographers to continue to after the workshop (which can be organized through Tailor Made Safaris as an addition to the workshop). 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Fiery Monolith - Part 3 of the Namibia Workshop Recce


Towards the west of Namibia's Kalahari, in the region that settles itself as the Nama Karoo but is spitting distance from the Skeleton Coast, is the Spitzkoppe. Rising some 600m from the flattest of landscapes, this incredible engorging of orange colored granite is like a giant beacon visible from dozens of miles away. It's immense folds of rock contort and wave around the pinnacle that is the Spitzkoppe itself, creating a Mountain that would not be out of place in a Martian Landscape. Meanwhile the heat of the dessert bakes the rock face so that moving over it is like walking across a massive stove top, searing your body if you dare to spend too long in the sun. 

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Through the Desert to A Ghost Town - Part 2 of the Namibia Workshop Recce


Leaving the surreal landscape of the Quiver Tree Forest we cut across the southern end of Namibia towards the coastal town of Luderitz. The landscape only gets more surreal as you journey along the B4 highway. Dolerite capped hills disappear and you find long avenues of short grassed sandstone hills that March along the side of the highway, forming a huge geologic avenue of sorts. The very occasional farmhouse stands out starkly against this semi-desert landscape. An oasis of humanity in a sea of emptiness. 

Thursday, November 7, 2013

From The Ocean to The Quiver Trees - Part 1 of the Namibia Landscape Workshop Recce


Namibia is a long way to travel if you want to start on the Indian Ocean. 2 days driving, not all of which was uneventful, and ..... kilometers from Durban to Keetmanshoop with a short stop in Bloemfontein on route. Clouded skies rapidly made way to limitless blue skies over a burnt horizon. Miles and miles of scrub and dust make for a harsh beauty in the dry landscape. 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Holding Back The Rain - October Berg Workshop


The last weekend in the Drakensberg was an absolute blessing of weather of in the end. I have now learned never to trust the weather report when it comes to the chain of mountains that is the Berg. Despite grim forecasts for the entire weekend, we had amazing luck with dramatic lighting, excellent cloud features when we needed them, and blanket cloud at the places where we needed soft light. It was as if the weather gods had taken up photography. 

Monday, October 21, 2013

FLM Centre Ball CB48FTR Tripod Head Review

Along with the set of carbon fibre legs that I recently reviewed, was a large ballhead also manufactured by FLM. Follow the link to the permanent review page on Limphoto.co.za.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Early Morning Shores Workshop


Last Saturday we ran a very successful landscape workshop on the coastline near Ballito. The day, which had been forecast to bring rain, wind and cold, turned into an absolutely perfect sunrise with beautiful cloud along the horizon, smooth seas and glorious warmth. So much for the weatherman. 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

FLM Tripod Review - Is this a worthwhile CF tripod?



I recently had the opportunity to test out the FLM CP30-L3s carbon fibre tripod on a workshop in the Drakensberg. The unit was loaned by Sunshineco. an equipment retail and rental company based in Cape Town. There's a full review of the legs on the Limephoto page at this link.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Carry Water! - October Drakensberg workshop


Samuel Johnson famously said, "when a man grows tired of London, he grows tired of life". In some ways the Drakensberg is a little like my London. I never grow tired of it. Right now as I write this I'm sitting with a group of the photographers at Didima Camp in the middle of a cloud. Tara (from African Impact) has just walked in and said, "what happened to the mountains? They're all gone." The vagaries of the weather is part of the joy of the Drakensberg. It's always different. From boiling cloudless heat to wet, dripping, cold in a matter of 12 hours. This is a dynamic mountain that always keeps the visitor guessing as to what's about to happen.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Paul Greenway's tips on panoramic stitching


Paul, with whom I regularly work, has recently published an excellent blog article on panoramic stitching. It's well worth a read and has some fantastic images to boot. You can view the article by clicking on the link, or pasting this url into the nav bar (http://paul3pphoto.blogspot.com/2013/09/panoramic-stitches-simple-10-point.html) . Give it a read, it's worth it I reckon.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Unleash the Creativity - Get Off Auto!


“Your photos look amazing, you must have a really good camera!” We’ve all heard this one before. The assumption that the camera does the work and all the photographer does is press the button. It irritates many, but the surprising thing is how many enthusiast photographers also believe that this is true. In the last few workshops I have run I have heard from a couple of photographers that when they have a problem they slide the mode dial back to the dreaded green square, thinking that it will sort out the problem that they can’t figure out themselves. Talk to seasoned photographers and they do the exact opposite - they slide the mode dial into manual when things get confusing!


Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Importance of Backup and the September Thanda Workshop


A long weekend of family reunions following a week long workshop at Thanda Game Reserve has meant that it's been a little longer than usual between blog posts - my apologies to the regular readers for this.

I spent my last week with a wonderful, if large, group of photography students at the Ulwazi Lodge on Thanda Game Reserve. Ordinarily we host a group of about 6-8 photographers, but this time we had a larger group of 11 photographers. 11 photographers of course means that game viewing is night on impossible in one vehicle. Happily, African Impact had two of their new vehicles on hand which meant that everybody on the workshop had great seating and ample space for their equipment. On top of this the new coordinator, Pip is one of the best qualified photographers we've had in years, which made teaching considerably easier.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

A Welcome Trend

It's an ever-present sight wherever you find friends gathering, tourists flocking, parents doting, travelers exploring, narcissists 'selfing' (maybe I didn't need to add that) and any other kind of photographic record keeping taking place. It's the two arm stretch that makes people look like zombies with their arms guiding their direction. That or some kind of new-fangled camera yoga. Yup, it's the LCD stretch!

When digital reared its head camera manufacturers rapidly excised the optical viewfinder from the compact camera to save cost and space. At first users found this a bit confusing, but soon the loss of the viewfinder was hardly felt by the majority of camera users. All except enthusiast photographers. By this I mean the kind of photographer who is doing more than just photographing his or her mates having a beer, Aunt Nelly dozing at the beach, or a quick 'look at where we are' shot. It was bereaved by the SLR - soon to be DSLR - toting few. The few grew however and now there are suggestions by some internet writers that most middle class European and American families own at least one DSLR. 

Monday, September 2, 2013

Beware the Fad

An early example of my HDR attempts (and a hideous one at that I now realise...the true horror was that I was paid for this cruelty to aethetics and at the time the client loved it...oh the ignominy, the embarresment ;) )

The dictionary on my tablet gives the definition of a ‘fad’ as something that has “an intense and widely shared enthusiasm for something, especially one that is short-lived, and without basis in the object’s qualities: a craze”. In the photographic world every once in a while there is a sudden glut in the production of a particular type of image to the extent that one could call the excitement over the style, a fad. The result of this glut is a lowering in the overall aesthetic quality of these images and viewers going from thinking the image style is fantastic, original and creative to thinking it is trite. A quick list of such styles in photography could easily be: High Dynamic Range Imagery, Star-trails, Lomography, Zoom bursts, Snapshots, Instagram filters etc. These styles cum fads usually begin with an individual trying out a new technique. The eye-catching result is then copied ad nauseam. What starts out as original, turns into a movement and rapidly makes it’s way into the banal and the downright naff.


Friday, August 30, 2013

Timelapsing in Thanda - A whole new ball game





For quite some time I have been looking at the incredible timelapses on various platforms ranging from BBC to National Geographic to individual photographers on the web. Mesmerizing is how I have found some of them. Then, some potential work came up that had me thinking even more seriously about it. The work never materialised (a long term timelapse of a development project) but the seed had been sown and I started experimenting with the medium. Unsuccessfully as it turned out. That was a year ago and coincided with meeting Paddy Bartram (see this post) who managed to truly excite me about the possibilities of timelapse.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Is digital film finally here?



Back in 2001 I spent many hours on the internet trawling over any details I could possibly raise to the magical (or so it seemed) Silicon Film. This was a device that promised to bring digital imaging to our old analogue cameras. In 2001 I was still a staunch (and financially reliant upon and unable to change) analogue photographer. The efilm by Silicon Film seemed like The Holy Grail to me. In some ways it still does. The basic premise was to replace the film canister with the necessary hardware for digital capture. The sensor would then be attached to this 'canister' via a thin surface that would lie over the focal plane in the same manner as celluloid film. Back in 2001 the hardware wasn't quite there however, and Silicon went bust in September of that year (read Oliver Duoong's recent blog post on the history.


Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Being An Assistant


 My name is Claire and I am a photographic assistant - Limephoto’s assistant to be precise.  Does that mean I am not a photographer?  Not at all!  For anyone who has aspirations of moving forward in a cutthroat industry, you might want to read on and drop the pride factor by a notch or two.

When I was growing up, being the best in your field was the aim in life.  I did the tertiary education jaunt for a while, dabbling in a few courses before I decided that I wanted more out of life than academia was providing.  Read between the lines, I was a drop out.  The terms ADD and ADHD were not everyday conversation at this point in my life, and even though I had a fairly successful school career, I had always bucked the trend.  Life was an adventure, and still is. 


Monday, August 5, 2013

Drakensberg Workshop and a note on Whether or not to go pro.




I have just returned from another I fantastic workshop in the Drakensberg with a very enthusiastic group of 8 photographers. The weather smiled on us and the moon rose late, giving ample opportunity to do some star trail photography (genius workshop leader here even managed to do one with a lens cap still on. doh) Short tip though; make sure that the position you chose isn't anywhere near a party where curious drinking revelers keep shining lights out at your little group to figure out what on earth you are up to. That and curious, high-powered torch wielding security guards can be the death of any long exposure. Light polluting others besides, the weekend produced some lovely images from some very talented photographers (sadly I was only able to see images on the back of camera lcds in the end, but the images were there nonetheless and I look forward to seeing the finished results from the photographers soon).

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Lens Diffraction - Should you care?




light travels as a wave and when it meets an obstacle in its path it is affected by that obstacle. Passing through a transparent medium the light refracts and can diffract due to the different wavelengths of light travelling at slightly different speeds. This is what causes chromatic aberration in our images where the red and violet wavelengths of light become increasingly separated towards the edges of the frame where the light has has had to ‘bend’ the most. In physics diffraction it refers to and explains the apparent bending of waves around small objects or the dispersion or spreading of a wave past a small opening. For photographers diffraction is both inherent in the way that light passes through the glass medium of the lens and is refracted, and in the way that it must travel through a small aperture before it finally lands on the sensor or film. In optics diffraction is the limiter on the resolution of any optical device (camera, telescope, microscope etc.)

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Back to the Berg (at last)



It seems like an age since I have been back in the Drakensberg with a photography group. It made this last trip seem like a homecoming as I and a group from African Impact made our way to Royal Natal and Cathedral Peak sections of the Drakensberg Mountains. Cold clear skies meant stable weather for once (winter is considered the most stable time of year in terms of weather - barring the odd blizzard of course). This meant for less clouds in the sky sadly, but it did mean for star trails (for once - we've been thwarted by overcast skies of late).

Monday, July 8, 2013

Who Moved My Cheese (Shortened and adapted from the book of the same name by Spencer Johnson.)


Imagine two little mice with tiny little cameras who make a living out of photographing cheese. Place these two mice in a labyrinth and let them find a stack of really good Gorgonzola. Now their job is to produce excellent and varied imagery of that cheese and have it published via Cheese Weekly for which they receive the generous income of....more cheese (maybe this time they’ll eat it). Every day the mice come back to the same spot in the labyrinth and find a new stack of interesting cheese, Stilton, Emmenthal, Cheddar, Wensleydale, you name it. Every day the mice photograph the cheese and send the resultant files to Cheese Weekly and receive their usual and generous salary of cheese.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Of Elephants and Stars - Thanda Photography Workshop



It seems like an age since I have been at Thanda since Paul has been running the African Impact workshops there for the last two months. He'll be running next month's one there as well, so it was good to drop in and reacquaint myself with the people and reserve once more. To make things even more enjoyable I had a really good group of photographers this month and was also joined by my colleague Nick van der Wiel, who was seeing how the workshop runs in order to fill in when Paul or myself cannot run it. But on the week...

Monday, July 1, 2013

Making Things Move




I have recently been involved in a project photographing a cargo company where a number of vehicles have had to be photographed. Part of the brief was to show activity and action, basically that the company is an active company, in contrast to one which appears as slow and stagnant. The whole point is to show that goods to be moved will be done with efficiency and speed.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Ouch - Right in the Face!


Work has been a touch frenetic over the last few weeks so there has been a relative paucity of posts recently. Here's a quick image from shooting a soccer day sponsored by one of my clients near Kwambonambi in Zululand. This was the men's final. Lot's of fun to photograph as well as a good game to watch. Both teams played really well, but very aggressively. A relatively high number of fouls, but no cards given. This is rural soccer at it's hardest I suppose.

Technical details for those who are interested - Nikon D3x with a 80-200mm f2.8 ED lens. ISO 200, 1/2500 sec @ f3.5.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Factory Cafe - Modifying Flash Workshop

 
 We held our first flash workshop in the Factory Cafe last week, which was to my mind at least, a resounding success. Claire and I arrived early last Monday to cart the paraphernalia that is associated with a studio shoot up the narrow flight of stairs to the Factory Cafe's premises above Colombo Coffe on Durban's Gale Street. I have to admit that at the time while I was lugging the Epson R3880 up the stairs I was starting to regret the malarkey idea of running a studio lighting workshop away from my studio. It worked a treat though.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Can the ipad replace a laptop on location?



On my recce trip to the Tuli Block I decided to give it a go and cut the umbilical cord to my MacBook Pro which religiously follows me whenever I have to travel to shoot or teach. The trip was purely to shoot, rather that to teach, so I felt that this would be a better opportunity to experiment. The experiment was to see whether an iPad could replace the computer on certain trips. To put this into perspective. I am a rather late convert to the tablet scene. It was only recently that I decided to buy one, and am still trying to get to grips with the new - to me at least - technology. A number of photographers have written about how the iPad has transformed the way that they work. Could the iPad do the same for me?

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

What do I call myself? A photographer?

Below is a response by Paul Greenway to my original article 'Why I call myself a landscape photographer". His blog with more images attached to the article can be seen on this link.




For as long as we know, we have tried to classify things. Linnaeus is the name we associate, scientifically at least, with classification but when modernity got bored of its own dogmatic organization, post modernism was born. The trouble with post modernism is that it fragments and falls apart into individualism, reification and self-defeating senselessness (the proverbial snake eating its own tail). And what on earth has all this got to do with photography? 


Thursday, May 30, 2013

Wandering in the wilderness - photographic recce of the Tuli Block.


I've just gotten back from spending some time in the beautiful Tuli Block just north of the South African border in Botswana. I traveled through with African Impact to look at the possibility of putting together a workshop there at some point in the future. I'm really happy to say that having spent just under a week there, I can say that it isn't a possibility, it's a definite!


Sunday, May 19, 2013

Make sure to Modify

One of the first things you learn when you are working with flash is that you should never point it naked and straight at your subject from the camera. The answer is to get it off the camera and potentially bounced off of something.

The second lesson you very quickly learn is to put something in between the flash and the subject. This usually takes the guise of an umbrella, softbox or grid. It can, however, also end up being strange cookie cut designs or any number of weird and wonderful homebrew contraptions that are designed to bend and soften the light as much as possible. Every photographer has their own idea how this should be done so there is never a shortage of paraphernalia that you can buy to add to a truckload of modifiers that you already own but have forgotten how to use.

The last lesson you stumble upon is to change the colour of light. And it’s a doozy. I understand why it’s the last since it can be the most confusing and at times the least logical. Here’s the limited amount that I have learned, and hopefully it can help get to lesson 301.


Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Understanding Tripods and Heads - A new web article




I have finally had a chance to condense some articles on tripods and heads that were published in Photo Writing a while ago into a single web article. The article covers tripod legs and their materials as well as the various types of tripod heads that are available. Read the article by clicking through the website or by going to this url: http://www.limephoto.co.za/Tripods.html

Monday, May 13, 2013

Zen Zulu Wildlife Workshop - A note on keeping it steady


This last weekend I had my inaugural workshop at Zen Zulu Lodge in the Zululand Rhino Reserve Complex. This is a truly secluded little lodge that only caters to 6 guests. It is the epitome of 'getting away from it all'. It's still work - running a photography workshop - but I can think of far worse ways to spend the weekend than residing in the lap of luxury while spending time with avid photographers. Once again I need to pinch myself when I realise that I do this for a job.

Luxury besides, photographing in the rain can be troublesome at times and yet again we were unable to do any star-trail photography as the clouds seemed to have descended as we all arrived, and parted as we left (absolutely typical). Still, despite the rain we had some wonderful sightings of Giraffe and Rhino, as well as two of the reserves lionesses. Photographing in the rain also added something different to the usual sunny portraits of animals. It also meant for some spectacular sunrises and sunsets.


Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Location Portraiture and a Big Ole T-Rex


 Two years back I spent a day doing some creative portraiture at the Durban Natural History museum which I wrote about here. Turned out they liked the work that I did, so was invited back again, this time create some more images of the Director, Allison Ruiters and some of the Exhibitions Staff. Being a director of a large institution such as the museum meant we had to try and cram in as much shooting as possible in as short a period of time...naturally (not to mention the fact that state institutions - despite what critics would say - have rather limited budgets). Thankfully, shooting at the museum is always fun, with a wealth of 'things' to use in the imagery.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Jammin with Lynch - low light black and white



Band photography isn't something that I get to do that often, being known more for my industrial and commercial work in my home 'territory', but I grabbed at the opportunity to photograph Lynch as they go through the motions of recording an album. To start with we're just putting together some casual behind the scenes images that are likely to be used inside the CD jacket. Bevan, their frontman and I are stilling working through ideas for the cover, which no doubt I'll write about once we hit the nail on the creative head. 

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Why I Call Myself A Landscape Photographer


For as long as we know, humans have had an innate desire to classify everything. Despite modernism we have, since Linnaeus, rigidly set objects, ideas and things into neatly ordered boxes. Religions, world-views and beliefs have suffered much the same fate. It was one of my university professors, Chris de Wet (he went on to supervise me through my masters dissertation) who pointed out to me the human construct that is classification. There is nothing under the sun that we do not try to classify. So too, do we find ourselves dividing our photographic niches into this or that genre, ostensibly separating ourselves from other styles, movements and photographic specializations. Why on earth would I then throw my lot in with landscape photographers, one of the least likely groups to earn a sizeable living (when compared to some of the better paid niches of professional photography)?


Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Mountains of Mist - April Drakensberg workshop

A four image stitch of the Amphitheatre as the rain lessoned slightly and the clouds parted momentarily to allow a view of the mountains. No filters were used, but exposure was calculated so that there would be sufficient detail in the shadows if they needed to be lifted somewhat in post.

The weather forecast was not exactly promising as our group of photographers trundled up the hills from Durban to the Drakensberg last week. Heavy rain set in as we left the city and stayed more or less with us until we reached Royal Natal at the base of the Amphitheatre. Wet and cold drenched the mountains in a heavy cloak of cloud so that one wag commented that they thought there wasn't actually a mountain after all. Ha...ha...ha

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Smile!



This is not a post for photographers. This is a post for the people who have to stand in front of the camera. The poor souls who get told to look into the lens and smile. I feel for you. I really do! I hate being in front of the camera. No doubt it's one of the reasons that I'm a photographer. There's this great big hunk of steel and glass thrust into your face and you are then commanded to smile at it as if it were an animate being with which you were having a discussion. The sod behind this contraption then starts to fiddle with knobs and buttons and mutter strange incantations under his or her breathe. Then to add to the ignominy a bright burst of light blinds you momentarily so that you start to wonder if your eyesight has potentially been damaged. Is it any wonder that there are numerous cultures across the world that completely shun the camera being pointed at them? It's seen as stealing the soul by some and other forms of wizardry by others. So it's no surprise that the natural reaction when someone points a lens at you and shouts smile, that you do the exact opposite.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Simple vs Complex - The ‘Single Shot’ Approach vs The ‘Build It In Photoshop’


Two photographers that I really admire both write about the pitfalls of putting together imagery in Photoshop. I have to admit that there is a part of me that winces every time I look at potential image and think to myself how I’ll merge a number of images together to create my final vision. The photographers in question that I’m referring to are Joe McNally and Joe Cornish.

McNally admits in both his “Sketching With Light” and his “Hot Shoe Diaries” that he doesn’t like using the multiple images approach as it’s too much like hard work, can be inelegant, can look fake (for want of better words) and just over complicates things. Let’s forget for a second the feeling among some viewers that if it consists of more than one image it isn’t real to start with. In conversation with Joe Cornish there’s again this feeling that if you can do it one, you should.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Concentrate On The Small (Common?) Things - Thanda Photography Workshop

The Big 5. The  raison d'etre for many international tourists to visit Africa. Local tourists too actually. Everyone wants to see a lion, an elephant, rhino, buffalo and the ever elusive leopard. Try as I might I cannot get it into my students' heads that these 5 prestige animals are the lesser of the image friendly animals. Yes, they are incredible animals and, despite my claim that they bore me, every time I see a lion my heart does quicken. The same goes for elephants which I feel are the true emperors of the bush. Nothing quite prepares you for the first time you see one of these majestic creatures. They are truly awesome in size and appearance. Yet a quick glance through my wildlife portfolio presents only a handful of big 5 animals. Why is this when I get the opportunity almost every month to photograph these 'trophies'?

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Thoughts on the EOS 100D

Recently Canon launched what is claimed to be the world's smallest DSLR, the EOS 100D, also known as the SL1 in the North American market. To me, this is an important announcement as it suddenly puts a big wall in front of the onslaught of mirrorless cameras against their bigger brethren. For the past year a number of photographers have been commenting on the abilities of the small micro four thirds subset of cameras, in particular the Olympus OMD-E-M5 and the Panasonic GF3. These small, tiny some would say, cameras are capable of producing images that very nearly match that of full sized APS sensor DSLRs at a fraction of the weight and size - although not of the cost it must be said.

The downside to the mirrorless cameras has been limited autofocus ability and the lack of an eye-level viewfinder. This has been changing rapidly though with Nikon's V1 and 2 having fantastic AF along with a decent electronic eye level viewfinder (EVF) - in this stable, although without the AF performance, can be included the Panny GF series, the Oly OMD-E-M5, Sony's NEX 7 and 6, and Fujifilm's XPro-1 and EX-1 (with the XPro-1 having an optical viewfinder, or OVF, as its party piece). Additionally some of the Sony NEX range as well as some Pannys and Olys that lack the EVF can have an auxiliary bolt-on EVF added, at a cost obviously. When one considers that a camera like the Sony NEX5 along with Samsung's stable of mirrorless cameras have APS-C sized sensors, suddenly mirrorless looks very attractive in terms of image quality and portability, even if the AF seems lacking.


Thursday, March 28, 2013

Try not to leave home without em



Camera bags are a little like a woman's handbag. Delve into them and you are likely to find all sorts of weird and wonderful paraphernalia that speaks to the needs of the individual and more than a little to their - maybe quirky - personality. I remember reading in a flying magazine in my teenage years (when I was besotted with anything that stayed off the ground for longer than 10 seconds) of the publication's photographers and how they literally spilled the contents of their Billingham bags out onto the editor's desk to see what trophies lurked inside. One of the chaps swore that he never left home without a barf bag (he did spend some time in the air to be honest). Pocket knives, small screwdrivers and various cleaning bits seemed to crop up regularly amongst the trio of snappers. One thing that was common though, was that of the bits and bobs that they felt were the most essential for a successful day shooting, hardly any of them were directly related to actual photographic equipment.


Check your equipment list - March Drakensberg Workshop

CHECK YOUR GEAR should be the the clarion call message from this post. For myself it was a comedy of forgotten bits as we headed toward the mountains. Thankfully I managed to remember most of the important things ( some of which I'll be talking about in next Monty's Photo Writing). However, inconsequential things like socks, of which I didn't pack a single pair, were left behind. There was more besides this. The point is that creating images more than just a camera and lens. There is a small surplus store of paraphernalia that goes along with the camera and its lens.

Like a tripod plate. As we were walking in the predawn to a shoot location ones of the photographers suddenly realized that she had forgotten to bring her tripod plate. There was no time to go back and fetch it without missing the dawn light completely. Thankfully I had my usual roll of tape with so we were able to strap the camera to the tripod head and she came away with some very nice images. I am usually of the opinion that your tripod plate an ever leaves the camera, but this is besides the point. Small, seemingly inconsequential, things can ruin the picture-creating experience. I make this mistake constantly. To try to minimize forgetting things, making a list that gets quickly checked before the shoot is often effective. Sit down at some stage and work out what exactly you need to have with you when you head out to shoot. Write it down if needs be. It'll probably be surprising how many 'things' you'll want in the camera bag.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Upcoming workshops for April and May

Introduction to Digital Photography (IDP) - 2nd, 9th, 16th and 23rd April 2013

This is an intensive 4 session introduction to the camera and the principles of photography. Classes are limited to 4 students and will take place in Hillcrest at Iphiti College). Students are expected to have their own DSLR for the course. The course covers basic to advanced camera control, understanding the sensor itself, aperture, shutter speed, ISO, metering, focus and a basic session on composition. After this course students should be able to approach digital photography with confidence and with a sufficient foundation to either teach themselves further, or understand more advanced workshops. Lessons take place on four consecutive Tuesday afternoons between 16:00 to 18:00. Homework and readings are given out.
Time: 16:00-18:00 2nd, 9th, 16th and 23 April 2013
Cost R3500 per photographer (limited to 4 photographers - students who have already attended IPPP receive a R500 discount)

Introduction to Photographic Post Production (IPPP) - 2nd, 7th, 14th and 21st May 2013

This 4 lesson course looks at the fundamentals of photoshop and post-production. The initial session will also introduce the concept of digital asset management and Workspaces Following sessions will give an understanding of the tools available to photographers in Photoshop; Adjustment Layers, Layers and Blending and advanced selection techniques. Classes take place in Gillits starting promptly at 16:00 on the designated dates and ending at 18:00. Readings and homework are given out.
Time: 16:00-18:00 2nd, 7th, 14th and 21st May 2013
Cost R3500 per photographer (limited to 4 photographers - students who have already attended IDP receive a R500 discount)

Bridal/Wedding Photography Workshop - 4th and 5th May 2013

The bridal workshop is an intensive weekend workshop to introduce photographers to the difficulties and pitfalls of wedding photography and how to overcome them. The workshop starts on Saturday with a series of lectures on equipment, fees, setup and production. The afternoon and evening is spent with two paid professional models (our bride and groom) going through the ‘Creative Shoot’ as well as scenarios for the actual event. Sunday is then spent doing post- production and looking at the finished product. Snackes and lunches will be provided. It is highly recommended that photographers have been on the IDP or similar comprehensive introduction to photography and/or flash use. An understanding of Lightroom and Photoshop is also useful.
Time 9:30am-19:00pm on the 4th, 9:30am-16:00pm on the 5th May 2013
Cost R3250 for photographers who have attended the IDP or any two individual Limephoto workshops, R3750 for photographers who have not attended either of the former (Space is limited to 6 photographers for the weekend)

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Layering For Effect - Lighting The Side Of A Building



I recently did a shoot for a Ferrari dealership in Umhlanga. The brief was to photograph the dealership rather than the vehicles themselves (pity), but the idea was still to show off the cars in a small way. My idea was to shoot in the late afternoon as the light ebbed away, leaving a lovely glow in the sky while the street lights and the interior lights of the dealership would cast a wonderful light over the front of the building and onto the cars themselves.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Where's The Light- Wildlife Portraits and the March Thanda Workshop

Effective lighting in portraiture invariably adds drama and a sense of story to a good portrait. Portrait photographers hardly ever use a simple head on lighting approach and when they do it is through a heavily modified flash head. even the most simple of outdoor portraits taken with available light tend to be modified through shooting under convenient shade or by using reflectors or a well chosen wall to balance and craft the light that lands on the sitters face. So why should wildlife portraiture be any different?

It shouldn't. Yet so many photographers, especially those starting out in the world of wildlife photography shy away from difficult light. The reality is that the more dramatic the lighting the more effective the portrait. This is even more important since animal behavior in wildlife photography has become more of a photographic topic than portraits. Still, time and again, when approaching wildlife I see how the photographer or the guide that the photographer has hired will set the vehicle so that the sun is as much behind them as possible. The less of an angle on the sun seemingly the better. Not true!

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Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Inspiration in a Blade of Grass



One of the most valuable lessons in creativity that I ever leant was from Freeman Patterson’s book, “Photographing and the Art of Seeing”. It’s something that I have to keep reminding myself as it is all to easy to shrug off a scene as simply being not photogenic enough. The lesson that was repeatedly driven home in Patterson’s book was that everything has photographic merit...everything.

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Monday, March 11, 2013

Layering for Effect - (and) February Drakensberg Experience



I've been slack of late with the blog writing, trying to to catch up on things like paid work (someone has to do it) and workshops. At any rate the end of February was also the second workshop in the Drakensberg with the African Impact photographers. Apart from one dud morning where the clouds hung so low that we were unable to shoot the dawn we had absolutely splendid shooting weather. Of course the low lying cloud lent itself to macro work with dew laden grasses and flowers, so even that wasn't a problem.

It seemed the workshop was something of a 'layering workshop' this time round, so here are a few example images with a brief explanation as to the rationale behind them.

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