I’m making 2018 my year of influence

So full 2 weeks of the New Year have come and gone.  If you are still holding on to your resolutions good on you!  If have already you broke them for whatever reason, well you only 2 weeks in so you can always wake up, shout “Mulligan!” and start over.  If you didn’t make any, you do you as best as you can, because you never know who’s watching and looking up to you!  My resolution for 2018 is actually something along those lines, but before we get there some background.

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2017 in rear view…

I know what you thinking. “Hold up, hold up, you can’t just be writing a year in review when the year is not yet over! Its not even Christmas!” But let’s be honest guys, as a South African the year officially ends on the long weekend of the 16th December and the new year begins after the 2nd January, maybe only officially the 8th January.  The two week period in-between is neither the old year or the new year, filled with the haze of balmy summer nights, sweet over-indulgence, instagram posts and stories and travel to local or exotic destinations; all the while surrounded by dear family and friends. We should really start a petition to get the South African Government to make the 16 December to 1 January summer leave for everyone. So, for me at least, the year ended a few days back already unofficially and therefore I can just!  So here are my two highlights of 2017…

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Getting over the hump…

I get asked quite often these days how long I’ve been so passionate about my photography, quite often I think, with the expectation of the answer being something like all my life.  And when I reply in all seriousness that it has been perhaps only in the last few years that I have really dived right in I get some surprised responses.  Photography, and in particular photographs, have been a part of my life for a long while.  My dad had various cameras, many of which I recently reclaimed and shot many rolls of film of us growing up and growing older.  However I didn’t really pick up a serious camera until about 10 years ago and only got my first DSLR about 6 years ago.  Even still I’ve never taken my photography seriously and probably still don’t because of a few significant reasons.

  1. I’ve never thought myself good enough.  Now this is not to say that I am someone who strives for perfection.  To the contrary, I’ve always been one for trying your best and if your best is not good enough then you can always wipe the slate clean and try again.  But for various reasons I’ve never felt my photography was good enough for me to call myself a serious photographer.  Perhaps it has been the influence of other aspects in my life that say that, yes while I am good, I come off second best more often than not, so why should it be any different with my photography.  And it’s always been the hardest thing to accept a compliment for me.  Like someone would say nice haircut and I would reply with a self deprecating comment about my big head (But seriously I do have a big head). So it’s hard to actually internalise good feedback when I do get it.  But its something I actively work on these days, finding the best way to accept that I may be good by first saying how I captured a shot, then what I like about it and only then saying what I think I could do better.
  2. Putting myself out there opens me up to criticism. Now to even get any good comments you have to learn how to handle the “bad ones”.  And they always seem worse when you are getting them.  But you have to learn how to weed out the good from even the bad.  And be willing to admit mistakes and failure when it happens and be willing to learn.  I’ve said it before on here I think, but no-one ever won anything by playing it small so you will have to put yourself out there as a photographer at some point, just so you can learn to get better.  Even then there will be someone will not like your work.  What has helped a great deal for me is joining a photography club and more recently joining my stock photography site.  That anyone is willing to pay for my photos is great positive affirmation for me that I must be doing something right.
  3. Photography means I have to will have to interact with people. Many photographers I know struggle when it comes to dealing with people.  They may love to take people photographs but the social anxiety of having to deal with people may just be too great and they tend to shy away.  For many, photography is an escape, a way to get out and do what they love for an by themselves.  So having to come back to reality and deal with people may well be a very limiting factor.  I am no shrinking violet when it comes to interacting with people, believing there is always some or other common ground you can strike with someone you have just met.  And I can spend hours talking about my photography.  But, for the two previous reasons I think I have tended to stay away from photographing people.  And many photographers go their whole careers doing just that, mastering other genres but eventually you will have to deal with people, even if it is to sell them your photos or share your photos on social media sites.  So sooner or later as a photographer you have to deal with people so you have to learn how to.  Even if it’s slowly over time.  I have started asking my friends to pose for me and mostly they are more than willing to oblige.  The feedback they will give you is honest and will also help with both previous points.
  4. Comparing myself to others is mostly a bad idea.  This one is a general life rule I think.  For the most part I avoid comparing myself to others in other aspects of my life, knowing that we not all running a giant race against each other but rather in our own lanes finding our way home.  Even when I run in actual races I use the same philosophy, running withing myself more often than not, taking time to enjoy the beauty of the run rather than pushing myself to do better.  I think I ended up last of everyone who did the 10km over the weekend in the local zoo trot.  But when it comes to photography there always seems to be someone better.  Someone who is doing brilliantly with the same kit you have, at the same places you visit.  And this is often the feedback loop to the first point for me.  Again I am learning to get over this, learning to ask questions and sometimes learning to be grateful to have seen something that simply astounds you.

I had to get over these mostly self thought up humps (and some smaller others such as technical know how) before starting to believe in my photography skills.  And like with anything you learn, I progressed through the 4 stages of competency from unconsciously incompetent  before I picked up my first camera to nearly the point of unconscious competence now. Personally I would add a fifth stage to the model – confidently competent.  Where you are good and willing to put yourself out there enough to make the most of your skills, photography or otherwise.  Just don’t jump the gun at the confidently incompetent stage!

P.S.  Why the cover of a Giraffe you may ask? Giraffa Camelopardalis – the leopard spotted camel (who have differing numbers of humps if they are named Sally)

‘Tis the season for reflection…

The year is quickly winding down to an end, with people here mostly shutting down, or like me shut down for a week already.  This time of the year everyone is rushing off to exotic destinations for what is the South African summer holidays.  Filling up social media with images of beautiful places and mouth watering food, living their best life…tempting even the most steadfast among us to give in to the wanderlust.  It’s easy to get so busy in the coming weeks that it all passes in a blur and suddenly you are back to the grind writing 2016 and having to correct it to 2017 without actually feeling like you took any time off at all.  But in all the hustle and bustle let’s not forget to find a few quiet moments to take time to reflect on 2016 and all that has been achieved in the year.

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Pelican low key

My guide to capturing low key nature photographs

I recently made a trip down to Durban and had some time on a Saturday morning to get out to the Botanic Gardens, one of my favourite places to visit when I am in Durban (see the previous post on the other places to see when in Durban: I’m coming home…part 2 of 2).  It was a clear, sunny morning, creating light that lend itself perfectly to shooting, unlike most of my previous visits that were mostly cloudy and on one occasion raining.  The large patches of shade on the small pond created by the trees that surround it and shooting indoors in the orchid nursery allowed me to try my hand at some low key shots of the birds on the pond and some of the orchids, resulting in some of the pictures in this post.  I got a number of questions on how I achieved these dramatic shots and so I will try to explain some of the technique behind the photos. Continue reading “My guide to capturing low key nature photographs”

Making the most of lens filters

Before you get excited, this is not a post about the type of filters one would use on Instagram or any of the other social media sites.  I know, I know, they are marvelous and I also use many of them and have a few favourites as well (Hefe, Lo-fi, X-Pro) but this is actually a post about the lens filters that go on the end of my DSLR lenses.  If you are not already using them I am hoping this post will convince you why you should be using them and what the best use for the different filters is. Continue reading “Making the most of lens filters”

Locked and loaded!

A few weeks ago I watched the Jungle Book with my mom and my sister.  Now I didn’t watch the original but in the opening scene already I knew what Mowgli would use to overcome Shere Khan.  How, you ask?  I’ll tell you but I have to warn you, it will probably spoil most movies you watch from this point forward so read on only if you are prepared to live with the consequences.  Also I am going to have to use a couple recent movies to illustrate the concept so there are probably a few more spoilers to come as well! Proceed with caution…

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A quick guide to photographing the Milk Way

After posting the pictures of my recent travels on my other social media sites I got a few questions on how exactly I got the pictures of the Milky Way that I had posted.  So I decided to quickly write up how I do it, hopefully to give some tips on how it is done and, if you do it differently possibly to also learn alternate methods myself.  For the most part I don’t think it is a very difficult thing to do, it just needs the right equipment and right location and just a little bit of technique that can quickly be learned.  I try to keep it simple and I am sure that there are many other ways to get these shots but I am still learning those myself.  I use a DSLR but with the control one can get on compact and even phone cameras nowadays I am sure most of what follows can be transposed to other camera formats. Continue reading “A quick guide to photographing the Milk Way”

My rich inheritance

5 Priceless things my parents gave to me

1.

Growing up, I can always recall there being rolls of undeveloped film lying around in their little round grey or black containers.  My dad was a film photographer you see, but he had a bad habit of taking photos and then not having them developed for months or even years!  When he did eventually develop the film, those little containers could be re-purposed, most often into storage for fishing hooks or swivels that would otherwise go missing. And the photos would go into one of the many photo albums that my mom kept, to be looked at over and over on the many rainy days we got in Durban. Repositories of memories of when we were awkward teenagers who didn’t want to be in photos; birthdays with a round cake with peach slices on the top (there were always peach slices on the top) and all the cousins behind the cake resulting in confusion in whose birthday it actually was; my little sister doing up my buttons even though she could barely walk; to before my sister was born and my brother and I being dressed alike even though we are born two years apart and to even before the children, to my parents wedding and my mother looking every bit like the teenage girl she was.  I somehow managed to escape any baby pictures that could be used to cause embarrassment later in life.  My brother was not so lucky…  Continue reading “My rich inheritance”