Friday, April 19, 2013

Flashes and Flashbacks

Amy van Wyk

A bright flash lights up the darkness, and I'm pretty sure that the neighbours must be getting more than a little concerned about the lightning that appears to the eminating from the garage. The fact that it is followed by thunderclaps of giggling fits can't be helping much. But if I'm being honest, I'm not too concerned by what the neighbours might think. I'm too busy having a blast with Amy

Since unwrapping the gift on the morning of my birthday, I've been dying to test out the new lighting for my studio and have been looking for any good reason to play around. And what better reason could there be than an eager volunteer and a good catch-up session.

Amy was one of my first friends in Grahamstown, and during my first year of varsity we spent many a night staying up together, talking late into the night, drinking and wandering down streets singing our own renditions of Kelly Clarkson or Gnarls Barkley tunes at the top of our lungs. She introduced me to the wanders of varsity life and she was beside me every step of the way. So, when I heard that she was back in town, my heart jumped for joy. It couldn't have come at a better time either - barely a month after Kath left me to start on her Korean adventure.

Since her return, there has been a lot of catching up to do with Amy - finding our what's happened in the years that we missed out on and reminiscing about the good old days when the dawnie was the biggest problem that we faced. So, when I had the chance to photograph and spend time with Amy in amidst our two very busy scheduled, I jumped at the opportunity.

It was the first time that I was properly able to test out the lighting, and it certainly did take some getting used to. There was a lot of fumbling and more than a little hmming and haa'ing taking place, but the photos that came out of the session brought such a smile to my face.

I have never been happier with the photographs that I have taken in my studio, and I have Grant, Jono, Robert and Sharon to thank for the beautiful lights. But it would have all been for nothing without a subject. So I have got to thank Amy for the amazing experience.


Thursday, April 18, 2013

Sprinkling of Magic

Erica Wertlen

“You know you’re still shining, right?”

I turn to my housemate, confused for a few moments and he just stares at me, a giggle hidden behind his lips. For a minute I think he’s finally lost it, an evitability when residing in the same house as me. And then it all comes back to me as I catch a glimpse of my reflection in the window, the small dots of glitter reflecting in the light.

How it didn’t dawn on me earlier, I don’t know. The stuff is everywhere – adorning my bedroom, my car and my camera bag; refusing to be contained by the laundry basket that houses my glitter-stained clothing. It only makes sense that a speck or two would have clung on harder than the rest despite my best efforts. After all, I’m practically sleeping in glitter-soaked bedding. If anything, I’m surprised there isn’t more of the stuff on me.

But what is a party without glitter? One that doesn’t doesn’t involve Erika, of that I’m fairly certain. Which is why it was felt by all involved that a party celebrating her growing a year older, a year wiser, and celebrating another year that we get to spend in her presence, HAD to involve glitter and tons of it.

So, when Erika arrived at her party expecting nothing more than a quiet night in with her friends, the surpise kicked off with a glitter bomb hidden above the door, with friends waiting behind it to welcome her into her latest year of life. Friends who were dressed to the nines for the carnival theme and friends who all wanted nothing more than to see the look of pure, unadulterated love, joy and awe on her face when she saw the gift that awaited her.

Being the presence of pole-dancing in this small town, it was felt that little could capture the essence of Erika more than giving her her very own pole to light up the stage with. Well, nothing material would have matched it in any case. The box filled with photographs and messages of love from all those around her came pretty close as well. But an evening spent with those that she cares about was the icing on top of the birthday cake of celebrations.

So, when I catch my reflection, the thoughts that come back to me are of an evening of fun, friends and freedom filled with beauty and dancing and sprinkled with the little bit of magic that glitter provides.

“Oh well,” I announce in response, and turn away, the glitter sparkling in the light and bringing a smile to my face.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Grad Ball 2013

An 8am wakeup call on a Saturday should never be the way that you start a weekend. But it is the way that mine started.

It was quickly followed by a 9am trip into town which lasted a lot longer than I expected, which in turn was followed by a rushed lunch before kissing Grant goodbye and making my way to the Monument for what was to be a very, very long day.

And yet, I soldiered on to the point where I found myself, without quite recalling how I got to be there, sitting behind a laptop at a desk, checking people into their Graduation Ball. The streams of people flew past me in a blur of glamour, beauty and alcohol as I assigned tables and passed along wine to those who were celebrating growing up while I was trying to slow down as fast as possible, my 25th birthday having just rolled around.

Once all were in, it was time to capture some of that magic, which I managed to do as best as I could without a flash and without the low-light saviour of my lens collection, which decided to give up the ghost when I needed it most.


I ended up experiencing my second graduation in a very different way to my first, from a behind the scenes vantage point. And it really made me see my own graduation in a different light. For once, I was seeing what went into making the night magical and spectacular rather than just accepting it as being that way. And so, even though I am not officially part of them, and probably because I am not, I think that the Round Table of Grahamstown deserves a giant THANK YOU for the effort that they put into making the night as special as it is for all of those involved, from helping out to taking part.

Thank you, on behalf of the year of 2009 who didn't have a chance to, and the year of 2013 who have yet to realise what it means.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

What's In The Bag??

I read a blog post today by one of the bloggers that I follow, and it was about what he carries in his camera bag. It was a long list, and it definitely got me thinking about things that I'd like to have, but also about what I have in my own camera bag, so I thought I would go ahead and give a little breakdown to show what I carry around with me. All photographs, by the way (with the exception of my business card), courtesy of Google searches for the products being described and none of which were taken by me I am sorry to say.

First of all, when talking about what I have in my camera bag, I suppose I should start off by talking about the bag itself. Until recently I have been carrying my gear in the stock standard Canon bag that came with my lens, which managed to fit my camera, the flash that I have been borrowing and three lenses (one on camera) at a squeeze. On my recent trip to Cape Town, my Dad offered to let me take his older Lowepro EX 180, and it has proven to be the best bag for me (for the moment anyway). It comfortably fits my camera, four lenses, the flash and all of the extra bits and bobs like batteries, charger, cable release, business cards and more. I have yet to find myself short on space, and it is barely larger than the bag I was using before and infinitely more comfortable. I am sure that in the years to come, I will be looking at getting something bigger, but for where I am now it is a perfect fit for me.

Next I'd better talk about the camera itself. I only have one DSLR that I carry with me everywhere, and that is my Canon Kiss X4, also known as the Rebel T2i and the 550D. It is a pretty mid-range, beginner DSLR, and it is the camera that introduced me to photography. I bought it back in 2010 while I was in Korea, and it has grown on me to the extent where I never want to put it down. It is one of the loves of my life, along with Grant and Puddims, and though there are better cameras out there, I am not looking at getting a new one anytime soon. My Kiss X4 is my baby for now.

On to the lenses! First of all, the lens that I use most often is my Canon EF 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5 USM zoom lens. It is a lens that was given to me by a good friend of mine in Grahamstown (or someone that I consider to be a good friend, though he may think of me as more of a leach on his talent), Mr. Paul Mills. The lens itself is not in top notch condition, the reason he gave it to me being that it fell at some point, breaking the manual focus ring. It still works, but with difficulty, and I have managed to master it in my own way to make it work for me. It has replaced my original 28-80mm lens, and I have never really looked back.

One of my favourite lenses is my Canon EF 50mm 1.8 ii Prime lens which I bought while I was in Korea. I was a little silly when I got it, because I should have splurged the extra cash and bought it new, but instead I chose to get it second hand, and over time the lens itself has started to give me problems. But that does not stop it from being one of the most fun lenses that I own, and one that I use to give me a new perspective on life. It is wonderful in low-light situations and a lot of fun to play with, a good reminder that feet are the best zoom that a person can have.

My new baby (when it comes to lenses) is the birthday present that my parents got me this year, which is my Sigma 10-20mm f/4.0-5.6 Wide Angle which I am looking forward to having lots of adventures with! A wide angle has been one of my wishes for so long that it feels as though a world of possibilities has opened up before me, and I can't wait to take a nice long trip just so that I can test it out the way that it should be tested, on the open road.

My fourth lens, and the one used least often these days, is my Sigma 70-300mm f/4-5.6 Telephoto lens... although technically I can't call it mine since it is still on indefinite loan from my father. This is the joy of having a dad who understands photography and the costs of starting out - lenses on loan. Though I do find this lens to be good for a bit of Macro photography, I don't get a chance to use it often considering that I take portraits for the most part. And though a telephoto can give you the advantage of being able to take photographs from a distance, giving your subject the space that can so often let them be more themselves, I find that I haven't had a chance to use it in my photo shoots... yet. I still carry it with me should the need arise, and I look forward to the day when it will come in handy to capture that perfect moment from a distance.

To add a little spice and a little fun to my lens collection, while I was in Korea, I bought a set of extension rings to add to my collection. Though I don't use them nearly as often as I used to, with it being so much easier to flick the switch to Macro on my telephoto lens than dismantling the rings and changing, taking off and putting lenses onto the rings, I still find them a lot of fun to play around with and I've written a few blogs about them. I still carry them in my bag because, as I found out at a wedding last year, they can definitely come in handy.

With the lenses out of the way, it is time to get down to my other gear, or at least the gear that I carry with me. First of all is the flash that I have on loan as well (have you noticed how I have amassed most of my gear through borrowing, loaning and just pure luck? Because going over this, I have!) It is a beautiful Canon Speedlite 580EX which is on loan from my boss at work, and which works particularly wonderfully together with my new studio lighting (another birthday gift that I am looking forward to practicing with). With a tilt range that is practically perfect, it is the ideal on and off camera flash, and is an item that I would love to own for myself one day. For the moment though, I am just happy to get to use it on occasion and keep it in my camera bag until Dianne needs it.

Speaking of my birthday present, part of it is my new Elinchrom EL-Skyport Speed Transmitter which will live in my camera bag from now on rather than in the studio itself. It is what ties the flash to the new lighting system, and ties the new lighting system together overall, and though I have only played around with it so far, it is what is going to bring my studio photography to the next level. I can just tell.

Next up is my Aputure Shutter Release Cable that I bought for myself to try and attempt some astral photography, which I have only gotten around to once since the purchase. But this little device has been used for self-portraits and random odd-jobs that I would never have expected, and is one of the cheaper, but more useful purchases that I have made.

Along with the pieces of equipment, there are one or two other bits and bobs that I store in my camera bag, and this includes 3x memory cards, a second camera battery, a charger (not going to be caught without with that again!), camera and lens covers and, finally, some business cards (which I am also now storing in my wallet and my handbag since being stuck one too many times without them and looking a real fool talking about being a photographer and not having a card to give out.

And that is it! That is the gear that I have on me at all times, and next time I may go into talking about the equipment in my studio, particularly once I have given the new lighting system a real try instead of the playing around that I did on Sunday.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Teasing and Timid

Rudi Gerber and Roxanne Delport

“Look forward, man! Cross your arms. Don’t look at me, look at her! Now look at me.”

Rudi looks at me as he issues the instruction, a wide smile plastered across his face and a sparkle in his eye. His good mood is infectious, and Roxy takes his teasing in her step as we giggle away in the studio under the hot lights. She seemed nervous when she first arrived at the doorstep for the shoot, quiet and shy as always, but those nerves are gone within the first few minutes as Rudi’s teasing commences. He has that effect on people, and it’s only gotten stronger since he met Roxy.

I still can’t think of Roxy without the words “lady friend” popping into my mind. It was the way that I was first introduced to her, before I met her in person – mentions around the office of a mysterious lady friend and hints that she might end up being more than just a “friend”. From the moment she started being mentioned, I could see a change in Rudi. It wasn’t anything too big or noticeable to begin with – a skip in his step and a goofy grin crossing his face when he thought no one was looking. But as the months passed, the little things stuck around, and the “lady friend” would be slipped into conversations more often. I would often catch him staring at his cellphone, waiting for an SMS or staring at the computer screen waiting for an IM from this as yet unmet friend of his. We all teased him a little for being so smitten, but none of us knew just how right we were.

As they walk hand in hand through the Botanical Gardens, I can’t help but think what a perfect couple they make – loud, teasing, fun Rudi and quiet, shy Roxy bringing out the best in each other. Whenever I have spent time with Roxy without Rudi around, I have been shocked by how reserved she is, maybe a little nervous around new people. But when she is with Rudi, she comes to life and I can see her fun side shining. And with Roxy around, that goofy smile never leaves Rudi’s face.

“Let’s try the bridge,” I suggest, starting off at my usual spot, my go-to for garden portraits. But it doesn’t take long before the three of us are exploring elsewhere, finding spots more suited to the couple that Rudi and Roxy are. They aren’t the kind who likes to pose for the cameras or to put on a smile. Instead, they are comfortable sitting on a bench, climbing onto branches and walking hand in hand. They are most comfortable being together, doing everyday things with each other, and that’s the kind of love that tends to last.

As I watch the two of them walking ahead, I smile to myself and start looking forward to my next session with them, or a couple just like them.