May 3, 2009

Digging deep into the archives, here are some of my favorite images from way back.  They were all shot on transparency film - Fuji Provia RDP being my choice of film at the time.  And as usual with personal photography, there are memories and stories attached to these images ..

[ Pentax Super-A; Pentax-A 35-105mm f3.5 // Johannesburg, South Africa // circa '88 ]

This is a candid image.  As the boy in front of me was watching a polar bear swim in his tank at the Jo’burg zoo, he lifted his hand up to match it against the polar bear’s paw.  There’s something magical about this image for me.  Pity about the crack in the glass – the image would’ve been even more enigmatic without that real-world flaw.

As was usual when I walked around, exploring with my camera, I had a habit of pre-focusing on various distances as I anticipated I might come across things to photograph.  And this meant that I only had to lift my eye to the camera, and the (manual focus) camera was already focused very-very-nearly correctly.

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 [ Pentax Z-1; Pentax-FA 28-105mm f4-5.6 // Johannesburg, South Africa // June '94 ]

To get this photograph of the DC3 flying over Johannesburg, I had to wind down the window of aircraft (an old Junkers) that I was in!  Incredible to think that you could just wind down a window of an aircraft in mid-flight!  And yes, we can actually see the air we breathe there. ; )

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[ Pentax Z-1; Pentax-A 24-50mm f4 // Johannesburg, South Africa // Nov '93

This wonderful and over-size mural  in Yeoville, Johannesburg, has long since been demolished when the building was updated and painted a staid colour of bland.  The entire character of the neighborhood has radically changed since then, with everything left to decay.  I'm not even sure if the No Parking sign would still be there anymore.  And as with some of the other images shown here, I used a polarizing filter to cut glare and saturate the colors.

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[ Pentax Super-A; Pentax-A 24-50mm f4 // South Africa // circa '89 ]

This landscape in Zululand is a loose series I was working on where I tried to reduce landscapes to basic geometric shapes.  A polarizer filter gave the deep saturated colors, especially in the sky.

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[ Pentax Super-A; Pentax-A 24-50mm f4 // South Africa // circa '89 ]

A polarizing filter punched the sky that deep a shade of blue.  I love the stark contrast that the polarizer gives to the white clouds and over-saturated sky.

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 [ Pentax Super-A; Pentax-A 24-50mm f4 // South Africa // circa '89 ]

Brakko, my lovable Dalmatian that I had.  I still insist that Disney didn’t quite do them justice in how adorable and companionable they are.  He looked quite apprehensive here at being photographed so closely.  I remember that at the time I was testing out my brand-new used flashmeter – an old Gossen.  Early days.

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[ Pentax Z-1; Pentax-FA 28-105mm f4-5.6 // Johannesburg, South Africa // circa '92 ]

I would often wander around with my camera, exploring, and looking for interesting and things to photograph.  This afternoon I was watching cars and delivery bikes swish past, and I was practicing panning with them … and then this colorful character zoomed by on his Harley.  I remember it was one of those moments where I just knew I had the shot .. and I also realized that nothing else I would get that day would match this .. so I just went home right after I took photograph..

 

{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jeanette May 3, 2009 at 8:35 am

These are absolutely brilliant!! I love the colours!
I’m sure that Yeoville wall isn’t there anymore, maybe I’ll convince the guys to go there for a photo excursion in a few months.

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2 Neil May 3, 2009 at 12:44 pm

Jeanette .. thank you for the compliment.

I do believe that Yeoville is a bit of a rough area by now, and not that safe.

Neil vN

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3 Rory Mole May 3, 2009 at 3:53 pm

Hi again there Neil,

Wow, quite a lot of history from your time in Joburg. I can definitely say that times have changed. It’s quite a challenge to go on a photo walk around Cape Town here which is a lot safer than old Joburg. I want to do one of those photo walks through a township area where there are a lot of classic African scenes from this part of the world.

Just wanted to ask a question. Were you born in S.A. ? With a surname like van Niekerk I would presume you to be Afrikaans speaking if you were born here and then moved over to the US.

Thanks for sharing these memories.

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4 Neil May 3, 2009 at 10:22 pm

Rory .. Yup, I was born in South Africa and I am Afrikaans. With a surname like ‘van Niekerk’, I don’t have much choice in the matter. ; )

We emigrated to the USA in 2000.
(My bio is up there somewhere in the right-hand pane.)

Neil vN

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5 Chris Ramsey May 4, 2009 at 8:00 am

Neil – love all of these shots and appreciate you adding the notes about how you captured some of them. I’m still working on steadying my hands for the panning shots like the one you’ve included of the motor biker. Did you use flash to freeze the biker? Or are your hands really that steady? :-)

Chris.

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6 Neil May 4, 2009 at 11:14 am

Chris .. practice, practice .. and burning a lot of film in the process. It’s one of the reasons I love digital so much – the instant feedback is the best learning tool.

Neil vN

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7 Stephen Blackmon May 4, 2009 at 12:06 pm

Neil, All of this are so excellent. I think the crack in the glass of the polar bear tank adds a larger than life quality to the photo (aside from the obvious)…almost as if the huge polar bear has cracked it while touching at the same moment the child did. I think its a little eerie and suspenseful. Nice work.

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8 Jonathan Williams May 4, 2009 at 3:24 pm

Neil, It is great to see such a wonderful selection of your landscape shots, something we don’t see all that often. I for one would love to see some more of your landscape photography.
Incidently, like Stephen, I think the crack adds something extra, whether you see it that the polar bear has done it or the fact that it’s just a crack that ‘got in the way’ it somehow makes the photo more real, sadly nowadays most people would photoshop it out!
Thanks for all the effort you put in to your site which is an excellent resource to so many.

If I may be so bold and make a request, a post on camera maintenance and sensor cleaning would be greatly appreciated.

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9 Neil May 4, 2009 at 3:41 pm

Jonathan .. thank you for the suggestion.

I’ll post something shortly about what I use to clean my camera’s sensor, and other maintenance that I do on my equipment.

Neil vN

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10 Herman May 4, 2009 at 3:50 pm

Neil, thanks for sharing these pictures.
You’re absolutely talented not only on wedding photography.
That shot of the polar bear and the boy is really inspiring.
Boy, that’s the kind of shot that makes photography so much enjoyable.

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11 Michael May 5, 2009 at 12:52 pm

The DC3 image is absolutely amazing. Thank you for posting that!

Best Wishes,
Michael

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12 Stephen May 6, 2009 at 9:48 am

These are incredible photographs. Do you still take these types of pictures in the US (professionally or not)? We see your portrait photography daily on this blog, but these types of photos are also worth showing.

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13 Neil May 6, 2009 at 12:44 pm

aaah, thanks everyone!

Stephen .. I would love to, but my schedule has just become more and more hectic, leaving me little time to just walk around and take photographs. I know I would want to do that more often again now.

Neil vN

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14 Pieter May 7, 2009 at 1:14 am

Neil, it’s great to see some of your work before you left South Africa! We have such a beautiful country, it’s such a pity that many of the suburbs (and indeed rural areas) have become so dangerous.

You should come visit us here sometime, maybe for a workshop! I’m sure there are many South Africans who would jump at the oppurunity! I know I would.

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15 SHAUN RAUTENBACH May 16, 2009 at 2:10 am

Hoe gaan dit met jou in die v.s.a.?

Small world we live in, Neil. I am friendly with a fellow photographer who knew you well in South Africa. His name is Athol Sheppard.

Best Rgds,

Shaun

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16 Neil May 22, 2009 at 7:40 pm

Hi there Shaun …

Aaah yes, Athol and I met while doing service in the army as photographers. Interesting times, euphemistically speaking.

Neil vN

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17 Roy Barnes July 27, 2011 at 7:22 am

Mm, Neil, not only do I love these images, but I also love what they represent: little snippets of the past that you have encapsulated for future reflection. And that, surely, is the core to photography – capturing what was in order that it can be transported into the future. It may only have been a moment (okay – 1/?th of a second) but in that instant of time we capture – if only by inference – something of life, culture, art..etc relevant to then. As a result…we are enriched NOW!
To quote you…’[you]…nailed it!’

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