personal work

themes & context in boudoir photography – on the streets of NYC

The model in this striking image is my friend, Jessica, a boudoir photographer. Her pose is intentionally this strong and assertive. The concept here (and other images that will be shown in follow-up articles), is part of an on-going project she had planned for a long while now. She had asked me to collaborate with her in taking the photos.

The main idea behind the project (and these are my words and interpretation of what we had discussed) – women are objectified in society, but there is a disconnect in how people respond (or don’t) to provocative posters and images of scantily clad women – yet, when an actual woman appears in the same context – scantily clad in public, but out of context, people react differently.

During this shoot out on the streets of NYC, where Jessica appeared in different outfits, people responded in an interesting way. This is New York. People have seen everything. Little fazes them. People easily go about their routine. Some are more bold, and stopped to look, and even comment. Of course, the Observer Effect kicked in in a big way – by observing an experiment, you affect its outcome. So the presence of my camera, and the lighting, as well as a friend doing a behind-the-scenes video, obviously affected people’s response … compared to that if Jessica had been there on her own, just wearing lingerie.

A quick note about the main image – the guys in the background were 100% a deliberate choice in this composition. As was the timing that they both look at their phones. With that in mind, this photo is one we both picked when selecting an initial image to show. Her narrative will come later in a post on her site.

Learn more inside…

{ 3 comments }

NYC cityscapes – infra-red black & white photography

After a long hard winter and a slow warming up to summer (and a busy schedule), I finally squeezed some time to wander around New York City again with an infra-red B&W camera. I tried it out once during winter, but it just didn’t work – without the sun and without heat, the images were dull and flat. Nothing there. Infra-red B&W needs bright light and contrast.

Infra-red B&W photography seems dominated by landscapes where the trees and grass turn white, and the skies darker. But what I like about using this camera in an urban setting, is that you are often surprised by the unexpected. Some areas which are brightly painted, turn out a dull grey – there’s just not enough contrast in the infra-red range. Other times, you have hot spots that flare, and odd pools of light that shape – especially with light reflected off the tall glass buildings in New York.

The image above is a roof-top view from the West side, looking South-West towards the Hudson River and New Jersey. I moved until I could partially hide the sun behind the building for just enough flare. The extreme wide-angle view with the Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS (affiliate) at 16mm, expanded this scene to include the dramatic sky.

Here’s a selection of the other images that also worked particularly well:

Learn more inside…

{ 8 comments }

an informal portrait with the 85mm lens – Sarah S.

Like pretty much every photo geek that I know of, I carry a camera with me wherever I go, for my personal photography. Now when the photography isn’t for an actual planned shoot or professional shoot, but just for fun walk-about – then the choice of gear somehow becomes more involved. What lens should I take – wide, normal or tele. Fixed or zoom. The bulk and weight become considerations – you don’t want to schlep around too much gear.

Creativity and motivation quickly dissipate when your back and feet start to hurt from a camera bag that is too heavy. Nowadays the Fuji X100s (affiliate) is my walk-about take-everywhere camera. The 35mm equivalent lens is a good choice for more scenic views. For example, during my visit in 2014 to South Africa, it is the only camera that I took. Here are some of the results from it: hot-air balloon ride

I tend to oscillate in deciding between 2 lenses for my own photography when I am just out exploring.
– 35mm for more scenic views in mind,
– 85mm when I have tighter perspective and portraits in mind.

I have a specific love for the 85mm lens. I believe this is the best lens to change your portrait photography. That short telephoto gives you some compression to your perspective, and the wider aperture allows you to throw pretty much any background out of focus.

When a photographer friend, Sarah Smith, visited New York, I met up with her and we roamed the streets of Manhattan a bit, exploring. With me I had the D700 that I owned at the time, and the 85mm f/1.4 lens on it.

On 42nd Street, there is a McD’s with this brightly lit ceiling to its entrance. Very New York glitz, especially for a fast food place. I knew that shooting up towards it with a tight composition, would make a beautiful background for an impromptu portrait. I asked Sarah to stop, and then asked her to turn her gaze slightly outwards to the light coming from the street side of the Manhattan sidewalk. I carefully framed the image in my camera’s viewfinder, using shallow depth of field. An interesting background, beautiful light and a very photogenic subject with the right lens. Sometimes it’s this easy, and this quick.

Learn more inside…

{ 25 comments }

personal photography projects & goals for 2015

With photography technology and trends changing more and more rapidly, something like a 5-yr business plan would be tough to draw up. Be successful and be awesome! That’s about as far as you can aim ahead of you as a photographer. Still, as we enter a new year, it’s as good a time as any to consider a forward-going path for personal photography and projects.

Still, looking back at a similar post I made two years ago, amusingly perhaps, most of the intended projects didn’t quite happen. Not yet anyway. This isn’t so much plans going awry, but rather things changing. I had planned to create video tutorials – but then Craftsy approached me to create video tutorials. The artistic video clip of Anelisa is still on a back-burner. The intended promotional video for a boudoir photographer was postponed, and then had to be paused until some future time.

All of these in favor of other developments that I hadn’t anticipated in Dec 2013 – such as finally getting my own studio space! This opened up many other avenues for me. It didn’t so much help me change direction, but really broaden what I can do as a photographer. So yes, plans change. As they should when other opportunities come up.

Still, I strongly believe that personal projects help keep creativity alive. There’s that forward aim with your personal photography, instead of just drifting along, directionless. I still have this intention to figure out a plan – a schedule where I work on several projects during the course of the year.

Learn more inside…

{ 47 comments }

infra-red black & white photography – urban landscapes

Funny how personal projects often work – there’s the initial enthusiasm, and then life and work takes over. Last year I bought a used Canon 5D mark II that had been converted to Infra-Red. I did take it out twice for walkabouts in New York – and posted the initial results. But then the work-load added up, and then a particularly harsh winter where it was just too miserable outside to go exploring in the city – and I never took it out again, until now. With the weather improving now and the sun shining, it was just a good time to go out and shoot for fun again. 

A photographer friend, Amanda Stevens, joined me with her Fuji X20 that had been converted to deep Infra-Red … and we went exploring in Manhattan. One trick that Amanda showed me that  should’ve been so obvious to me from the start – since you can’t really meter for infra-red, it made sense to view the scene via Live-View, and then adjust the camera settings until it looked good on the back of the screen. So obvious, and yet, I still worked within the old-school mindset of looking through the viewfinder, and trying to read the scene.

The image at the top was taken at Columbus Circle, NYC – the bit of green shrubbery started to turn white where the sun hit it. The sun behind the globe also gave a glow to the image.
Canon 5D mark II (converted for IR);  Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L II (vendor)
1/50  @  f/16  @  1600 ISO

Here are some of the other images that also worked particularly well:

Learn more inside…

{ 8 comments }

photography: the progression of an idea – Regal Portrait with a Ferret

While on a trip to Denver, I had some time free to meet up with my friend, Lynn Clark, one of the best boudoir photographers in Denver. I had asked her to be a subject for my next book, 60 Portraits, and she indulged me. I want each portrait to reveal something of the person I am photographing, and also have some interesting snippets of info for anyone who dips in the book, and of course, for anyone who follows the Tangents blog.

So while Lynn is an accomplished boudoir photographer, I didn’t want to go with the obvious idea of doing a boudoir photo session of her. I met up with Lynn, and our mutual friend, Petra Herrmann in Lynn’s studio. (You may remember Petra as a recent guest on Tangents – increase your sales in boudoir photo sessions.) Lynn’s boudoir studio is home-based, with two large rooms that had been converted in shooting space. I spent some time looking around, and figuring out angles and lighting and backgrounds. The usual things we need to juggle when we consider the setting for portraits.

I liked the one direction where I knew I’d be able to compress the perspective with a 70-200mm lens, and shoot from the adjoining room. Then I could use the red drapes in the background, and throw the chandelier and the rest of the room out of focus. So far, so good. This would be good for a basic portrait. Solid, but not engaging yet. Lynn and Petra and I bounced some ideas around.

Lynn and her husband runs a Ferret B&B in Denver, CO. They take care of ferrets when their owners are on vacation. Lynn and her family also keeps 6 ferrets. So there are ferrets … and they are adorable. In chatting with Lynn and Petra, they mentioned that Queen Elizabeth had been fond of ferrets, and there was a portrait of her with a ferret. And then the idea clicked!

Throwing the chandelier out of focus and keeping it in frame, we’d have a glowing halo of light above Lynn. The red drapes worked too. Then … the costume. We didn’t have anything nearly as ostentatious so we went for a tiara and some bling jewelry.

And then we added Elliott, the energetically curious ferret you see in the photo.

The final portrait of Lynn is whimsical. There’s an absurdity about it. Hopefully the portrait is also quite cute and amusing. I do think it shows that playful aspect of Lynn, though she insists she’s actually a serious person. This impromptu homage to the portrait of Royalty with a pet ferret, was certainly fun to shoot.

Learn more inside…

{ 6 comments }

photographers – when was the magical moment when you first got hooked?

I’m sure we all have similar stories – how we got hooked on photography, and it became less of a mild interest, and more of an over-riding fascination. A fascination bordering on compulsion, where you felt you just had to take photographs of everything around you. What was the moment where you realized you’re hooked on photography?

Let me kick this off then – My own interest in photography started somewhere during high-school years. I was an avid nature enthusiast as a child, devouring anything to do with animals and nature. From this I was also a keen bird-watcher.

My dad had a Praktica camera. In fact, it was the Praktica Mat model. Praktica cameras were made in East Germany. Solid in every aspect, and not as sweet and lithe as the Japanese cameras. But as a first camera, I loved using it. My first proper camera that was mine, and not just borrowed from my dad, was a Pentax ME Super, but I digress. My dad also had a Tokina 300mm f/5.6 with stop-down metering. This clunky old lens was my first step in trying to photograph animals and birds … and I soon realized that photography was far more interesting than passively observing animals.

That’s where it started for me. I steadily became more and more interested in photography, but there was one moment where I knew this is it, WOW!

I was kneeling on the bathroom floor, the windows blacked out with towels in a make-shift darkroom … and I was developing my first B&W print from the first roll of B&W film that I shot and processed myself. As that first image sprang to life and that white sheet changed into a black-and-white – an actual photograph! – that was it. Pure magic.

That first photograph I printed was of a Dalmatian we had as our family pet. I loved that dog! Disney had it right in how wonderful Dalmatians are. While I still have that original B&W negative, it is in deep archive. And by deep archive, I mean some random box deep somewhere in the basement. Instead, here is another photograph of another Dalmatian I had years later.

The photograph at the top is of Brakko, who was one of two dogs that I owned way back when we lived in South Africa. (This is from early 1990’s.) I used him as a test subject when I tried out my brand-new used flashmeter that I had just bought. The light is from an off-camera speedlight diffused through an umbrella that I lay on the ground.  Very simple lighting.  That guarded look on his face is because he wasn’t sure about an 80-200mm lens pointing straight at him.

Of the photos I took of him, I loved this very tight crop, with his eye the only bit of color in the frame .. aside from him not having had a bath in weeks and weeks.

Ok, your turn. Let’s hear about your moment when it just hit you that photography is something I just had to do.

 
Learn more inside…

{ 57 comments }

photographing a vintage motorbike on location, with Profoto lighting gear

I’m getting to meet so many people while photographing interesting subjects for my next book, 60 Portraits, that I was bound to meet some truly interesting characters. John collects vintage … oh, everything. His entire house filled with collectibles – it is like stepping out of a time-machine into a different era. I joked with him that the only two things in his house from the 21st century is his fridge and his dog!

Most impressive in a way, is John’s workshop where he maintains his two vintage era motorbikes and a Model A Ford. The tools in his workshop are all authentic to the era … and they work. The way John describes it, it actually makes sense in the way he maintains  everything with hand-tools and lathes and such.

His one motorbike is from WW1 era, and the other is this 1928 German-built Triumph. The sidecar was made by Hindenburg Metalworks. Yup, the zeppelin guys. John’s friend, Barbara, frequently accompanies him to shows and rallies, and came along for this photo shoot. After all, there is a side-car!

I photographed a few sequences of John and Barbara with this motorbike, using different setups. I liked this dramatic series the most, with the light from behind casting a shadow in front of them. I wanted the light to etch the frame of the motorbike and side-car, without revealing too much detail – I wanted this to be a portrait of John and Barbara. However, I took a number of other images, where the motorbike is better lit. Just to have the variety. Such a unique opportunity doesn’t come along that often, so I had to make sure I got variety in the images.

Now, the techie details about the photograph:
camera settings were 1/250 @ f/14 @ 200 ISO

As always, the pull-back shot to show the lighting setup …

Learn more inside…

{ 19 comments }

Nelson Mandela / Madiba

To celebrate Nelson Mandela’s birthday – July 18th – here are two images from my archives. I had the pleasure of photographing Nelson Mandela, then president of South Africa, at a function in March ’98. I was one of several photographers covering the event where he addressed people attending a function.

The challenge with this photo-shoot was that no camera flash was allowed. Which is especially tough inside a dimly lit marquee tent in early evening. This no-flash rule was an attempt not to aggravate eye problems the president experienced. So all photographs were taken with ambient light alone. I remember being the only photographer there with a tripod.

date:  March ’98  –  Johannesburg, South Africa
camera gear:  Nikon F90x;  Nikon AF-D 80-200mm f2.8
camera settings: 1/15th @ f2.8
film:  Fujicolor 800 Super G Plus

Learn more inside…

{ 15 comments }

your personal photography – aiming for more than just snapshots

This just might be my most favorite photo of my daughter, Janine. It’s from 2003 when she was 9 years old. I was trying out my new Nikon D100, reveling in being able to instantly see any photos I took. We were outside in the garden area of the apartment complex we lived in at the time. With a long focal length, I concentrated on capturing her expression, and some element of who she was at the time – that interesting blend of confidence and shyness … and a fortunate dose of just indulging her dad with the new toy.

Simplifying the composition, the photo is all about her expression and those soulful eyes. She still has that. But she has grown into a confident young woman.

She’s currently (2013) studying to become a Chemical Engineer and doing very well at university. Yup, she’s bright. That obvious intelligence is also blended with an amazing confidence now. She always was independent; even more so now as a young adult. There’s an individualism there that I can see others are drawn towards. Magnetic. It’s astonishing at times to watch her interact with other people with an assuredness I didn’t have until much, much later in my life. I’m very proud of her, and in a large way also in awe of who she is. She’s an incredible person to know. Even more so as her dad.

It’s interesting to look over the older photographs now, trying to recognize traces even then of who she is now.

And if I sound a little nostalgic, I am. She moved out of the house when university started in 2012, and she has gained momentum with her own life. So we see much less of her now.

While all the memories are intact, the photographs I have of her have an even more powerful resonance now. And I wish I had more photos of her.

Like any new parent, I shot rolls and rolls of film of her as she grew, but this tapered off as she grew older. In a way , as the “newness” of the baby was shed, we became more used to her as being part of the family. She’s just *there* with us; part of us.

Now I wish I had many more photos of her taken during later stages. And not just camera-phone snapshots, but more carefully crafted portraits like this image.

I think there is a danger there – if danger is the proper word – that we reach for our camera phones more readily than before, instead of using a “proper” camera to record events. Make no mistake, I do value having a camera and video-camera as capable as the iPhone on hand, everywhere. In fact, this weekend I surreptitiously recorded a 10 minute video clip as she railed about something. The gestures are amusing. Not that I’d show her now, but to her mother and I, this is an incredibly endearing thing to have. It’s very much her.

While having an iPhone / camera phone on hand is just dandy, I think that as photographers we easily become a little too lazy over time. We gradually start to neglect to properly photograph those who are dear to us with better cameras than just our phones.

So this post is a touch self-indulgent as I reminisce, it’s also a gentle reminder to everyone that there is real value in taking the extra bit of time and effort. We shouldn’t stop taking careful, meaningful portraits of those who touch our lives. With time, we’ll be ever more glad we did.

 

To counter-balance the sweetness of the photograph at the top, here are a few anecdotes from the past year …

Learn more inside…

{ 33 comments }

123