New year, good news!

Geez guys, happy new year! I hope your Christmas was filled with win! 

I've got so much stuff I can't wait to share with you. I did some shooting at the end of 2013 that made me SO happy, and I can't wait to get those photos up here for you to see. I've just finished up my holiday, and this morning has been my first little stretch of work. Some new work will be up for you to see soon.

In the meantime, I just thought I'd share something exciting that happened at the end of last year. Nikon South Africa announced their "Top 10 Images of 2013", and a photo of mine was in that list! The photo they selected was an image I shot at Louis & Meghan's wedding a few months ago. This image is probably still me personal favourite image of mine as well, so this was such and encouragement. Here's  the photo:

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You can actually view a whole stack of photos from that wedding right here in this gallery.

And here's a link to the rest of the Top 10 images that Nikon posted. Have a look!

That's all I wanted to share for today. Hope you guys have an awesome year, and I hope to take photos of you sometime.

Ett

Something a little different...

Meet two of my clients - Liz and Dyce. I had a shoot scheduled with them, and called them up a couple of days before and said "I've got an idea. Want to give it a shot?". They were keen, so I started planning.


Since I started taking photos, I've realised how I really just need to keep growing and doing a better job than I did at the last shoot. I decided to do this with engagement photos as well. I'm so tired of seeing the same shoots over and over all over the internet. It's time that photographers stop being lazy and start creating compelling photographs, not just "good enough" photographs.

Instead of dragging the couple into a pretty location and photographing them, I decided to make the location itself look a lot more interesting, and then spend a lot more time processing the images as well. So I called up my assistant and PA, Aubrey, as well as a good friend of mine, Bernard Brand (check out his work here), and after telling them my vision, I dragged them into this job with me. I hired furniture, I hired a trailer, and we even carried my own couch and lamp out of my house and loaded those onto the trailer for the shoot as well. Oh, and we did this at 4am.

Behind The Scenes

Here in Pretoria, we have trees called Jacaranda trees, and in October every year, for about 4 weeks, these trees bloom the most beautiful purple flowers. This particular street is lined with them, and had envisioned putting this furniture in a street lined with Jacaranda trees. Shooting at 5am was also a non-negotiable because I wanted the warm sun behind them, and I also wanted fresh jacaranda flowers on the ground.

Purple flowers

 

Liz and Dyce were freaking great as well. They drove a long distance to get to us that morning, and they were up for anything I suggested. They also had the most amazing chemistry, which is a key component in couple photos. 

  Big thanks to Aubrey for the awesome BTS photos. 

 

Big thanks to Aubrey for the awesome BTS photos. 

Here are the final images from this shoot. 

This sort of engagement shoot is something I've started offering as a different kind of shoot altogether. It was quite a bit of work it make this happen.


Hope you like the shots!

The Japan Expedition - Part 3

This is the 3rd and final post about my trip to Japan.  I'd just like to thank those of you that have read and responded to my previous posts, the response has been amazing!

For those of you that haven't read the first two posts, here are links to them: 

The Japan Expedition - Part 1

The Japan Expedition - Part 2

 

Anyway, let's get to the post! It's going to have some pretty "touristy" sections, and then some much more serious, thought provoking sections. Hope you like it!

I just want to get the ball rolling with this photo. This one one of my favourite street shots from Japan:

 

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Markets: 

Tokyo is probably more saturated in markets than it is Anime. I swear, you could close your eyes, spin in a circle, walk 100M any direction and find a market within 10 minutes. And they sell everything at these markets. Clothes, food, perfume, sex toys (yes really), and even fresh fish. What's also pretty fascinating about these markets is that everything is 100% legit. The DVDs for sale at the markets are 100% legit, non-pirated DVDs. Same applies to the designer clothes, the perfumes, and I assume the fish as well (I had to).

The Japanese are tired people... 

I've done some travelling in my life, and I've never, ever seen such a tired group of people. I've gone to South Korea as well, where the kids have school from 6am-11pm, and even there, the people didn't seem as tired as the Japanese. 

The Japanese work really, really hard. They're not lazy like we are here in South Africa. They work. As such, they're generally a lot more tired than what I think they should be. I can't tell you how often I'd see people asleep on the subway. In fact, I often saw it in coffee shops as well. I'd walk through the shop looking for a spot and see a dude passed out, head hanging on his chest, at his table. This was not an uncommon sight, and it's not frowned upon or laughed at like it is here either.  

I mean, seriously, look at this guy. This was right in the middle of a public walkway: 

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Masks

This is just a short segment. I saw a lot of Japanese people wearing masks (for pollution, I assume). I only thought on my last day to get some good portraits of people wearing these masks: 

Full Scale Gundam

So this is one of those "Really Japan?" sections. I visited a man-made island in Tokyo call Odaiba, and what did a I see there? I full scale, life size Gundam model. Gundam is an anime series, so, you know, let's build a full size model. 

 

When I saw this thing, I could only think one thing: What the heck, Japan?

The island also has its own Lady Liberty. Weird. I saw this one by accident:

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Street! 

Some more of the stuff I went there for: 

Festivals

Man, the Japanese love festivals. Holy SMOKES. I saw 3 different festivals BY ACCIDENT in the time that I was there. And they're totally ridiculous in how they dress as well. That's a toilet in the first pic: 

 

The bystanders really enjoy it as well: 

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The cold, lonely subway... 

I can't help but feel like the subway in Tokyo is the loneliest place on the planet earth. It's a stack of people crammed into a box, and none of them say a word to each other, but bury their faces into their phone, checking tweets, emails, and playing countless hours of games. On the one hand, I understand social protocol, but on the other hand, it bums me out. So the next few shots just sort of illustrate that. 

My Favourite shot:

So I think I have a favourite shot from my trip. Let me first explain why I like this shot so much before I show it to you (you just scrolled down and looked at it, didn't you? :P ).

So I was on the train, and there was a kid sitting on the opposite side of this particular carriage. He was looking at me, and he was making weird things with his hands, like little characters and stuff. So I picked up my hands and tried to copy him. He eventually showed me slowly, from that side of the carriage, one finger at a time. I felt like I really connected with this kid. I think I connected with him more than I did with anyone else in Tokyo, even though I never spoke a word to him. His nature was just so perfect. So after trying and failing miserably, I picked up my camera and gestured to him that he make the characters again, so he made one, and this is the shot:

So that's it. These 3 blog posts do a pretty good job at capturing my trip to Japan. You'll see that I didn't do much of the touristy stuff - I don't have photos of a million temples, I don't have photos of octopus testicles (yeah, that's a thing they eat), I don't have much of that sort of thing. 

This trip was so good, and I'm glad I went. I got to shoot what I never get to shoot, and I got to see how I could never, EVER travel to a non-English country on my own again, purely because I'd get so lonely.  

These aren't all the photos, nor are they all the stories. That's all stuff I'll still share here and there in the coming weeks.  

I hope you liked this series. I really enjoyed putting this together for you, and the response has been amazing so far. 

Like I said before - leave a comment, drop me a tweet, heck, give me a call and let me know what you think. 

The Japan Expedition - Part 2

 I'm sitting in Dubai international Airport as I'm typing this, and I'm on my way back home. I'm sure I'll post this later, though.

I'll be honest and say that I'm sad to have just left Tokyo. Tokyo was incredible. As much as it was a bit of a struggle adjusting in the beginning, I'd do it a million times over for the experience it was at the end.

That being said, I'm excited to go home. I'm excited to return to my life, my girlfriend, my friends, my job, my dogs, and my pillow… 

Geez, I miss my pillow.

This blog post will have the same sort of structure as the first - all the cool, happy, photo stuff first, and then the personal stuff. I threw that into the middle this time, though. If you haven't read the first blog post about my trip, check it out HERE.

Okay, let's get right to it! First thing's first: Japan is a country that is absolutely saturated in anime and manga. Everywhere you look, you'll see little anime/manga style characters. Even the info boards all over the place have little anime characters on them. There's one specific part of Tokyo that's the home of all the anime, and that's a place called Akihabara. Akihabara has stores that are entire buildings, and all they sell is anime figurines. I went to a couple of these, and it was quite interesting. You'll see loads of this:

 

I went to get one of my friends a Danbo/Danboard figuring (and ended up getting myself one):

You can't go to Japan and NOT buy a Danbo...

Speaking of Danbo - there's an entire museum dedicated to Danbo in Shibuya. And entire museum. What the heck, Japan?

Black people, and the state of racism in Japan: 

Coming from South Africa, I'm no stranger to racism. Oddly, I even come from a somewhat racist family, so it's not new to me. But I discovered on my trip that the discrimination towards black people is crazy! I got off the train at Shibuya one morning and met this guy:

That's Patrick. He's in Japan from Ghana. He told me that some Japanese people are really horrible to him. If he gets on a train and accidentally brushes his arm against a Japanese person, that person would literally clean off their arm/shirt in a "dust off" sort of gesture. Some have come up to him and told him to leave and go back to his country. I was surprised, I wasn't expecting that from such nice people. Of course it's not true for all of them. While we were talking, this gangsta showed up:

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He was such a nice guy, and loved Patrick.

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Where my loneliness disappeared

So, if you remember from the last post, I was feeling pretty lonely. Well I got a text from my girlfriend - she said there was a chance we could meet up the following day. And that chance materialized! Goodness, I needed that so bad. I praise Jesus for giving me that opportunity. We met up outside a bakery in Akihabara and went to the zoo together. The Zoo in Ueno, Tokyo, is amazing btw. Anyway, I got to take some photos of Shan. How amazing is that? I got to shoot the girl I love in the country I've always wanted to go. Boom!

The big segment: Street Photography

Street photography in Japan is great. It's tough sometimes because often I either have to STEAL a portrait, or I have to ask, and I got shot down a LOT in Japan. I think I had 1 or 2 females allow me to photograph them, and maybe 10 males. And the males that were keen were mostly old men. Younger females in Japan didn't want me to photograph them, except for all the girls in Harajuku. So actually ASKING for shots from girls proved to be difficult. Here's a video of me trying to steal some shots, shooting street in a more traditional fashion. I talk the whole time through the video, so that you can get an idea of my thought process, and how I go about doing this:

 

 So I mentioned before that Harajuku was an awesome spot for portraits because of the way the people (primarily the girls) there dressed. I had been there but hadn't had the balls to ask any of them if I could photograph them. Well that all changed and I got some awesome shots. Shooting here was a bit of a challenge, though - here's why: There were almost NO guys that dressed anything as crazy as the girls. The only photos I got of guys in this area were guys that just looked awesome, dressed well, etc. The girls, on the other hand were a lot more interesting. Some of them dressed really over-the-top-japanese-pop-culture, and some dressed  more "normal" but then had some crazy makeup/contact lenses. 

These photos do a pretty good job at illustrating what I mean about the way they dress. 

And here's a video of me shooting some of these photos. This shows how I approached these photos, my attitude, etc. You'll see that I don't take 50 thousand photos of each person, just two or three. I don't want to keep them busy, but at the same time, I'm usually shooting at about F2 or even F/1.8, and on an 85mm lens paired with a full frame sensor, your DoF is razor thin, so it's SUPER easy to miss the shot.

 Contact lenses are huge amongst the youth in Japan. I can understand why - the Japanese have SUCH dark eyes, almost black. So the contact lenses just give something a little different.

Now one LAST thing about Harajuku, and this one will blow minds: The way most of these people are dressed is 100% acceptable in Japan. As in, it's not frowned upon, it's not weird, it's not something that people will turn back and stare at, nothing. This sort of dress, makeup, etc is almost commonplace. I must've seen hundreds of crazy contact lenses being worn in these 10 days. This one point still blows my mind.

I've got loads more to share, but I thought I'd cut it off here. The blog post would honestly just be far too long if I posted everything I want into this one post. 

In the next post: 

  1. A full size Gundam
  2. Festivals
  3. Masks
  4. The depressing world that is the Japan Subway
  5. Japan's markets
  6. The Japanese are so, so tired
  7. Some more street photography
  8. A book given to me by one of my favourite photographers
  9. And lastly: My favourite photo from the entire trip

Hope you enjoyed it! Leave a comment or drop me a tweet and let me know what you thought! 

EDIT: Be sure to check out Part 3 of this series:

The Japan Expedition - Part 3

 

The Japan Expedition - Part 1

I'm in Japan! Holy what?!

Yeah, I'm in Japan. Specifically Tokyo. I was initially going to be coming out here with my girlfriend, as she was invited to give a talk at a Global Leadership summit here in Tokyo, but then we found out that there's NO way I'd see here if I came with (Security reasons). I decided "Screw it, I'm going anyway". The timing is actually perfect, as summer is coming up, and that's when portrait photographers like myself get insanely busy. In the winter time, though, we're a little more quiet. So I figured I'd grab a gap in this calm time before I hit the busy season.

Anyway. I booked a hotel and plane tickets, and boom, I was on my way to Tokyo in no time!

Here's a video of my mission there: 

Alright, so  I've been here for a couple of days, and it's been a really interesting experience. So much has happened to me, I don't even know where to start. It's been a photographic goldmine, a photographic challenge, and a real social/emotional revelation for me. This self portrait does a pretty good job at describing and illustrating how I feel and what my life has been like here, both in what you can physically see, and what it all symbolises.

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I hope you're sitting down and have a cup of coffee, I think this is going to be a long one. I'll start off with all the cool stuff, all the photo stuff, the touristy stuff, all the happy stuff, and then if you don't care about my personal life (which I don't expect you to) then you can close the tab after all the good stuff.

My trip started off with a visit to a Shrine called Meiji Jingu. Tokyo has little shrines all over the place. This one isn't so little, though.

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No idea what these are...

No idea what these are...

I'm not going to go into the details, but my visit to this Shrine was a disappointment. I mean, its really beautiful and all, but that's about it. One thing that I DID see at the Shrine was a festival! Not sure what kind but it was awesome. The Japanese have a bajillion dance festivals a year, and they're SO passionate when they dance. Look at these:

Check out the photographer pit. I feel like I got a better angle than all of these dudes. 

Next up was Harajuku. Harajuku is a really interesting place. The people there dress the way you imagine young, anime style japanese people would dress. The guys have their hair in such weird styles, points, etc, and the girls wear such crazy clothes, and they go all out on the makeup and hair as well. The main street that all this happens in is called "Takeshita". 

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Here's the challenge with shooting the people in Harajuku though: There are VERY few guys that dress up like this, and the girls always move in pairs or packs. So I can't just go up to 2 or 3 girls and ask to shoot the one that caught my eye, and I don't want to shoot the group of them, and it's WAY too dense to shoot anything candid unless you're using a wide lens (which I don't like). So getting a portrait in there is near impossible. I was back there again today and I still didn't get anything. 

This is the road at the end of Takeshita. There was a HUGE festival IN this road the next day: 

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This road is where I did my first real street photography on this trip:

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These two women are wearing Kimonos. Believe it or not, Japanese women wear these things often in the summer. How cool is that? I think it looks amazing... 

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Homelessness is not something I've seen much of in Tokyo. By "not much of", I mean that I've seen 3 homeless dudes. As a contrast, I probably see that many within about 10 minutes of leaving the house back in South Africa. 

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Like I said, Tokyo has a stack of little Shrines all over the place, and they're not far out of the way. In fact, they're usually right in between massive buildings. Look at this:

This is just a portrait I snapped of an old dude I saw sitting on a bench in the street:

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Next up - Tokyo Skytree. This thing is STUPID high. 634M. It's a broadcasting tower and a restaurant, and I'm really close to it actually. I can see it from my window. This is a shot I took of it from the bottom: 

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Now, see that building on the left there? This is a shot from the 31st floor of THAT building: 

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And here's from the viewing deck 350M up Skytree:

On my way home from Skytree, I popped in to Asakusa quick. This place is amazing. It's most well known for the Sensoji Temple. This is the temple with the path leading to it:

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The temple itself is so beautiful. Here's another shot of the path and part of the temple: 

I took a brief walk through parts of Asakusa as well. Lots of amazing little alleyways and shrines everywhere

Today I hit an area called Ginza. I'm not going to bother showing you the photos because it's boring. Ginza is pretty commonly known as the shopping capital of the world. High-end clothing designers have entire buildings there. No jokes. Bvulgari is busy with a new, entire building there at the moment. Any designer clothing you can think of, it's there. But I don't give a crap about designer clothing, so I wasted my time in Ginza. I had the best Sweet & Sour pork of my life there, though.

Lastly, a couple more portraits I've taken: 

So that's all the happy, fun stuff. If you're just here to look at photos, then this is where you can close the tab. The rest of this post is going to be about a SERIOUS case of me learning stuff about myself and about what this trip has been like from more than just my eye and shutter finger, but also my heart and spirit.

 Tokyo has been a real struggle for me. On a pretty significant level. I'm pretty sure I've never experienced loneliness like this in my life. Here where that's coming from:

Those of you that know me personally know that I'm a super outgoing, social, loud, extrovert. Chatting to people, even complete strangers, is huge in my life. I don't think a day or two goes by where I don't at least say a FEW words to a total stranger. Then I came to Tokyo on holiday, where absolutely NOBODY speaks any English whatsoever, and I'm confronted with the reality of essentially never speaking, ever. And I'm serious when I say that. The extent of the conversations I've had since I got here has been "Hello" and "Thank you". I had one or two conversations with the reception lady of the hotel, but other than that, I've not spoken. I can't describe what that contrast feels like. It's so, so difficult adapting to that. So that's revealed a lot to me. I'm not really someone that can be alone comfortably. The reason I'm a PORTRAIT photographer makes even more sense now. Heck, even the subway makes me feel lonely and miserable. Look at this:

AND, I barely get to talk to my girlfriend. MAYBE half an hour a day if I'm lucky. I miss her terribly... She's doing an amazing job at this conference though, so I'm stoked for her.

Along with feeling like this, I feel like my confidence has gone to hell in this country, and I honestly don't know why. I mean, people can't TALK to me, but they seem to like how I look, at least. I've had a number of people compliment and ask me about the sleeve on my right arm, and I even had one dude ask me to be a model for something or other. Yet, I feel like I don't have the confidence to ask people if I can photograph them. 

To put that into perspective for you - in South Africa this isn't a problem for me. In fact, if I see someone in a mall that I think will photograph well, guy or girl, I'll go up to them and say "hey, this is going to be a little weird, but hear me out. I'm a photographer, and I think you'd really photograph well. Take my card and call me, I'll shoot for free and you can have the photos". I'd even tell them they look good/pretty if I felt it necessary. No struggle for me to do that at all. 

Now, I don't ALWAYS need to ask someone, but sometimes I do. The portrait earlier in the post - I obviously had to ask that guy if I could photograph him, and I struggled to. I have no idea why. The FIRST guy I asked, after working to build up that confidence again, shot me down right away. So this is something I'm getting sorted out. I need to do it fast, though, I'm not here for much longer.

So, the self portrait I posted earlier:

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It speaks so much of how I'm feeling at the moment, both in what you can physically see around me, and what it all symbolizes:

  1. I'm in a foreign, beautiful place
  2. I'm absolutely, SURROUNDED by people almost all the time, yet I'm lonely
  3. I'm in a photographic dream, a goldmine: I've got amazing gear with which to shoot - D800, D7000, 85mm 1.4, 50mm 1.4, Sigma's new 35mm 1.4 (that's a friend's), 24 2.8, TWO GoPros, and I've even bought some incredible gear since I arrived, and all this is with me, in Tokyo. Frikken Tokyo, man. What more could a photographer ask for?

 

So yeah, that's where I'm at. I'm feeling a tad better today, and tomorrow I WILL feel better. I'm speaking that over my life right now. I WILL be better tomorrow. 

Hope you enjoyed the read. Let me know what you think.

EDIT: I've since written Part 2 and Part 3. Go check those out!
 

The Japan Expedition - Part 2

The Japan Expedition - Part 3