Oct 29, 2015

Student Protest, #feesmustfall

Rhodes University was not exempt from the wave of protests that swept the country last week. Many, now familiar scenes of protest, arrests, burning tyres etc graced the pages of both national and international media.

But what was perhaps missing from the context (indeed what might be missing from this post too) was the remarkable organisation and focus of national student bodies and the skilled deflection by Universities across the country.

Even in Grahamstown, things were volatile. There were reports of police hard-handedness even prior to the week long campus shutdown. As numbers rose so did tempers and concerns. That more violence was not witnessed, in Grahamstown if not nationally, is remarkable. Credit for this, crucial but subtle in its execution, has to go to the Vice Chancellor of Rhodes University, Dr. Sizwe Mabizela and the University management. The protest originally had the University in its sights but unity saw a saving shift to targeting national government instead.

This is what gave the #feesmustfall cry momentum. In a clever and honest move that demonstarted empathy backed by action Rhodes University (then other universities nationally) joined the protest, supported the shut down and made their way towards the barricades. So 'seen opposition' was removed or delocalised. Perhaps this is why Pretoria saw the brunt of the violence and why the bewildering absence of Blade Nzimande did little but provoke?

Aug 17, 2015

Picture a Week (PAW). Week 31. "Sentinels" - fine art exhibition by Taryn King, National Arts Festival, Grahamstown, South Africa.

"Sentinels" a fine art installation at the National Arts Festival, South Africa.
Canon EOS 7D, Tamron, 24-70mm at 24mm. f/22 @ 20secs, ISO 100. Hand held fill flash de-powered to 1/16th and fired twice slightly left and right behind the sentinel.

Aug 5, 2015

Picture a Week (PAW). Week 28. Vice Chancellor of Rhodes University, Dr. Sizwe Mabizela

Vice Chancellor of Rhodes University, Dr. Sizwe Mabizela

Picture a Week (PAW). Week 27. Rhodes University Biochemistry Innovation Centre (RUBIC) students

Rhodes University Biochemistry Innovation Centre (RUBIC) students 2015

Revelations at a Food Shoot

Decadent Hot Chocolate

A few weeks ago I was asked to do a food shoot at a local (and my usual) restaurant and coffee shop. There were a number of requirements, including speciality menu items. There were also a number of challenges so I thought I'd post a blog about some of them and how I worked around the challenges.

The foremost challenge was that the shoot needed to be done on location and during normal working hours. This meant working around customers, the kitchen and the staff. Like most restaurants space is at a premium so there was no back section to occupy or set up out of the way. Personally I would have liked the seclusion, preferring to work out of the public eye but not having that option didn't necessarily have to be viewed as a bad thing. For one it meant that a systematic approach (a preferred method for most of my commercial shoots) was required and would need to be clear cut.

I wanted to, in a sense, brand some of the images by incorporating the restaurants colours (black and red). Doing this too often would have taken the images back towards being visually repetitious so I chose to only photograph the hot drinks in this way, incorporating a red wall in the back ground.
Lasagne. The orange of the peri-peri bottle picks up on the roasted cheese of the lasagne and the plate's dominant colours (reds and yellows) is echoed in the plate at the back.

Guacomole BLT and The Works Salad. The green bottle of the salad dressing both matches the food type as well as connects with both plates through the colour of the cucumber/parsley and the avocado.
One of the problems of adopting a studio layout and setting it up for something like this where a variety of dishes and drinks are to be photographed, is that just a few dishes in everything starts to look the same, formulaic. Sure the light can be adjusted a little here and there, perhaps the 'props' can be altered but the danger remains. By shooting with what I call "assisted ambient light", meaning that the ambient light is prioritised first and foremost with external flash being used to accent or punctuate, not populate or pollute, it means that some level of variation is automatically achieved. In fact the majority of these images were achieved almost entirely with ambient light, at times reflected. When flash was used it was handheld, adjusted manually and diffused using a variety of accessories.

Chicken and Blue Cheese Salad. By simply pulling up a wickerwork chair towards the back of this plate I was able to create a different background to compliment the meal and could also disguise some distracting highlights in the background.
So as to further add variety 'table-turning' was adopted. This meant that careful background selection was needed for particular dishes without loosing the overall aesthetic thread of the shoot. By simply switching tables or turning round and shooting from the opposite direction with a new dish, different lighting could be utilised and backgrounds subtly incorporated. At times this involved matching colour with ambient light or colour of the food, or simply incorporating textures that compliment what is plated.

Beef Curry. This was taken facing in the opposite direction to the Chicken and Blue Cheese  Salad above. Strong backlighting meant that fairly direct flash was diffused and de-powered to 1/16th, and flashed twice from slightly above and left and then the same from the right. This shot was stifled earlier by a dark car the pulled up in the background. Reserving the table then waiting for a white car to park, about an hour later, meant I could get on with other shots.

A location of this sort also requires a good measure of humility and professionalism since the last thing you want to do is impinge on the experience of the diners. Careful angles and perspective selection meant that people could be subtly left out without the need to interrupt and ask them to move, shift position or look somewhere else.

Breakfast Special

Bacon and Banana Breakfast Waffle. Warm hues in the background brickwork complimented this breakfast shot, bringing in the warmth of the honey, cinnamon and banana.

If you are ever in Grahamstown swing by Revelations. Its where it all comes together, especially food, photographs and tummies!

Jul 22, 2015

Picture a Week (PAW): Wk 26. Struthio camelus, Addo Elephant National Park

Struthio camelus, Addo Elephant National Park, South Africa.
Canon EOS 7D. Tamron 70-200mm at 200mm. 1/2000 @f4. ISO 100. exposure compensation +1stop 

Jul 8, 2015

Picture a Week (PAW). Week 21. Ebony: Syncerus caffer

Picture a Week (PAW). Week 21. "Ebony" Canon EOS 7D. Tamron 70-200mm at 134mm. f2.8@1/90th sec ISO 100.
Exposure compensation -½ stop

Picture a Week (PAW). Week 20. HOD Pharmacy, Prof. Rod Walker

Prof. Rod Walker, HOD Pharmacy. Chairperson of Rhodes Alumni.
Canon EOS 7D, Tamron 24-70mm at 31mm. 1/180th sec @2.8 ISO 100
Remote fired external flashes front and back.

Jun 17, 2015

Picture a Week (PAW): Week 17. Elephant Cell

Canon EOS 7D. Tamron 70-200mm at 70mm. ISO 3200. f11@1/250th sec

Picture a Week (PAW): Week 16. Cebolakhe of Bukimvelo, northern Zululand.

I came across Cebolakhe playing for an audience of one. We were both dawdling along a high, winding mountain road in northern Zululand, he on foot and me by car. We smiled and waved as we passed then both looked back, each intrigued by the other.

I drove around a few more corners then decided to go back. I had time to spare and it looked like he did too. We found each other and a difficult conversation ensued, each of us not speaking the other's language. Music unites and what better way than through South Africa's national anthem. Cebolakhe, perhaps not used to playing requests on his way to buying cooking oil, struggled with a few chords then broke into a recognisable anthem. We chatted and laughed a little more and admired the music and the view. We parted ways with a shaking of hands and another friendly wave, he jiggling over the stones as he played and me jiggling over to a different radio station. But it still wasn't as nice.

May 11, 2015

Picture a Week (PAW) : Wk 12. "3D Scene" photographic exhibition and workshops. SciFest Africa 2015.

“3D_Scene” is an interactive, education based, visual art exhibition conceptualised to coincide with SciFest Africa’s theme; "The Year of Light". 

Picture a Week (PAW) : Wk 11. Wessel Benson. Manager of the Royal Saint Andrews Hotel and Conference Centre, Port Alfred

Wessel Benson. Manager of the soon to be opened, Royal Saint Andrews Hotel and Conference Centre, Port Alfred, South Africa.

Picture a Week (PAW) : Wk 10. Thanda Lodge. March photographic workshop.

Thulani, "the quiet one".

Picture a Week (PAW) : Wk 9. MFA submission "I've always known this place, familiar as a room in our house".

Master of Fine Art submission by Kesayne Reed "I've always known this place, familiar as a room in our house".

Picture a Week (PAW) : Wk 8. Commemoration Methodist Church. Grahamstown.

Commemoration Methodist Church, High Street, Grahamstown. HDR blended image.