Monday, 25 July 2016

BillBoards of Promise

BillBoards of Promise

It was a cold and windy Sunday evening and I had just been called to do some anaesthetic work. I gathered my things and took my camera along as it had just started to rain and maybe I could photograph some night scenes on the way back. The patient turned out to be one of the friendliest and easiest patients I had the pleasure of dealing with. By now it was raining harder and as I drove home I thought I should try out two spots in town which had long since been on my photographic wishlist. The first was the Black & White Bottle Store at an intersection between Bethlehem and Bohklokong. I shot from inside the Land Rover as not to get wet and keep the lens free from the rain. A quick look at the LCD screen and it appeared Okay and off to the the second spot.

B & W Bottle Store - Nikon D750 Tamron 35mm F1.8 1/20th sec x6 shots merged

The second spot was at the Bethlehem taxi rank which has this large shed with the promise of R15 Billion from the Lotto all lit up by a large light cluster high above. The place was deserted and with the rain I still decided to shoot from the safety of the Land Rover. I wasn't quite happy with the composition and drove forward to get a different viewpoint.

R15 Billion Lotto shed - Nikon d750 Tamron 35mm three shot photomerge

Bethlehem taxi rank and billboard - Nikon D750 and Tamron 35mm

As I drove forward I saw the large billboard however as it was backlit by the bright lights above it, all I saw at first was the FREE HIGH SPEED WIFI letters. Then I saw Julius smiling in the corner and then it clicked - what an amazing election promise! Despite the rain coming down this scene was definitely worth exploring on foot. In the rain and wiping the front of the lens clean every so often, a car drove past and made some great light streaks but at a quarter of a second there was just too much camera shake.

EFF billboard against the light and then with moving car 

There was still a photo lurking there and then slowly from the left hand side a police van arrived. As if perfectly on cue the lights of the police van lit up the red billboard and I carried on shooting trying to keep the camera still. Soon the police van was a lot closer and I realised how strange it must look seeing somebody taking photos in the rain of an EFF billboard. Sheepishly I waved at the police and they hooted unexpectedly - Julius was still smiling and it was time to go. A surreal series of events.

Julius smiling in the rain lit by passing police van - Nikon D750 Tamron 35mmf1.8 1/6th sec

 The night delivered a few pleasant surprises and despite all the rain and wind it left me with Hope. The very rain and wind changed the landscape transforming the grey urban scene into a shiny wonderland with light reflecting from so many surfaces. The gift of light on the billboard from ironically the police literally put Julius Malema in a new light. The seemingly empty promise of Free High Speed Wifi in All Public Spaces does indeed sound like a noble and uplifting idea. If Black & White can reconcile on a Bottle Store sign it is a start. If we as South Africans could start seeing ourselves differently, with new eyes of Hope. May the rain wash away the grey gloom of despair and restore our rainbow colour sparkle. May the Billboards of Promise be lit up brightly for all to see - our future is BRIGHT! God bless South Africa

Saturday, 25 June 2016

Vanilla Podcast

Vanilla Blessing

We gathered one evening in the home of friends to seek God. As we soaked in His presence one dear friend said that I was as the fragrance of vanilla to Jesus and she opened a vial of vanilla oil and placed it near my nose to inhale. My initial reaction was vanilla? - somehow in my spice rankings vanilla wasn't quite up there. As a child you chose lime or strawberry milkshake but never vanilla - it was colourlessly white and not particularly significant. As I inhaled in faith I thought good Lord this smells more like an intense detergent. In honour of my friend I thought well I trust Jesus finds my fragrance appealing. I later learned that essential oils have an overpowering smell on close inhalation.

The next day whilst working in theatre I was pondering the vanilla fragrance word.  My earliest recollection of vanilla was the small bottle of vanilla essence my mother used in cooking. I had also witnessed the now mandatory scraping of vanilla beans on every cooking show.  Phrases like Vanilla Ice and Vanilla Sky came to mind however I had no connection with either of them. I turned to Dr Google and facts like it is the second most expensive spice after saffron and that it originated in Mexico were interesting but not entirely convincing. Then another reference popped up.

 I didn't quite expect this however this was more descriptive of my understanding of vanilla. The very mention of my name " I would ask mark to the drag show, but he is so vanilla" was uncanny. As a joke and as part of my external processing I forwarded this link to my friend who likened me to vanilla and her husband who in turn soon replied with a more positive link about vanilla below.

Okay I will choose to run with the more milky warm version! Two days later at work where as anaesthetists we receive a complimentary tub of unmarked yoghurt, I chose a yellowish tub expecting banana, pineapple or some other fruit. Back in theatre as I took my first spoonful I thought WoW this is an unusual and exotic taste. It was unfamiliarly familiar and it lingered unlike the usual raspberry rush ( more like banana or strawberry but raspberry rhymes more). After the second spoonful and more of this intriguing and mysterious taste I had to know what this flavour was and scratched in the rubbish bin for the foil lid - Vanilla flavoured it was! What a surprise and what a way for me to taste and see that what He made is indeed Good, very Good and so very God. 😍
He knows our language!

Sunday, 6 September 2015

Large Format Thinking

In March this year I had the privilege of visiting the beautiful country of Namibia with a group of fellow photographers. It has been a while since I had been on a photographic trip and this one was even more special as I was accompanied by my wife. We arrived at the Quivertree Forest  in Keetmanshoop and after a short rest delved straight into the new adventure of night photography. As much as I had tried to prepare by researching the web, the first night was literally a crash course. The sheer brilliance of the magnificent Namibian night sky was overwhelmingly beautiful and after a brief sleep we were off to Sossusvlei.

Quivertree Milky Way - Nikon D610, 16-35mm @f4 panoramic stitch

Sossusvlei was as breathtaking as always however this time we decided not to camp and the Sossus Dune Lodge accommodation, restaurant and pool were a real treat. The Deadvlei experience was surreal and never disappoints and although it has been allegedly photographed to death there is somehow always something new to see.

Our next stop was the Namibrand Family Hideout south of Sossusvlei where the vast plains and silence were manna to the soul. After a few days of hectic and intense photography my wife and I decided to spend our first evening at the house with these amazing vistas on our doorstep. The clouds were building and swirling and the promise of rain was soon realised and although it was a light drizzle, the experience was unforgettable. Everything happened so suddenly and there were incredible scenes all around. I was photographing frantically and was attempting many multiple panoramas to convey this overwhelming space.

Desert Rain - Nikon V1 panoramic stitch

Golden Light and Rain Clouds - Nikon V1 panoramic stitch

Glorious Cloud and Glorious Rain - Nikon D610, 16-35mm panoramic stitch

After a wonderful and relaxing stay at Namibrand we headed for Luderitz where Kolmanskop treated us to many treasures, almost like a large easter egg hunt. The trip was much more than a great photographic opportunity and it was a privilege to meet new and interesting people. A special thank you to Kobus Potgieter from Bethlehem for planning, booking and arranging such a great trip and to the Van Niekerks who transported us in luxury while inspiring us with incredible stories. Once back home the processing began and the Big Stitch.

Kolmanskop Corner - Nikon D610 50mm f1,4 panoramic stitch

The afternoon of rain on the plain yielded some very satisfying images and I excitedly shared them with my wife reliving that special experience. Despite the panoramic landscape the square format seemed to suit the images better. Soon my wife shared some of my images on social media and a friend of hers was keen to print the image of the Glorious Cloud. I happened to know the lady's husband who said he had bought his wife a printer and then provided them with the memory stick and some "tips" on printing. After they had printed the image they were keen to show me the result and arrived with a fairly large tube. I have my own Epson 3800 17inch printer but nothing prepared me for the unveiling of the 44inch canvas print on my dining room table. The print looked fantastic however I was totally humbled by my small minded thinking, wrongly assuming that they just had an average home printer. The sheer size and impact of the print which happens to hang in their home's entrance hall was something to be proud of but there was such a valuable lesson for me in all this. I really felt that I had to upgrade my outlook to "Large Format Thinking" and this event precipitated some far reaching consequences!

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Thumbs Up

The "Thumbs Up" photograph was taken at Ficksburg Cherry Festival 2010. I was using the Hasselblad XPan which fellow photographer Ian Van Straaten had kindly given to me! The XPan is a 35mm rangefinder panoramic film camera and the Cherry Festival was a great place for some people photography. Whilst wandering though the Amusement park it was wonderful seeing how the families were just having such a good time. There was this revolving jetplane ride and I was tickled by how the young kids were eyeballing their parents everytime they came around - seeking their approval. The XPan camera had a seriously wide angle lens on it and you compose through a external viewfinder, so you don't exactly know what your final image will look like (similar to a Leica rangefinder). This particular young boy in his jetplane was checking out his dad who was a huge black man. I moved towards his father and said something like "you are proud of your son" and took a photo as his son made eye contact with his father. The proud father just smiled broadly and didn't say a word.

Ficksburg Cherry Festival 2010, uncropped, Hasselblad XPanll 30mm lens, Fuji Acros developed in Ilford Perceptol

On returning home to Bethlehem that Saturday evening I developed the black and white film in my darkroom and hung it out to dry overnight. The next day I went to church and the message shared by Johan Smith was "the Father's Heart" and during the service a lady spoke of a picture she saw of somebody sitting on the Father's lap, just such a picture of intimacy. Returning from church, I cut the roll of film and scanned the negatives keenly anticipating seeing the image of the young boy. Lo and behold I saw this Big Thumb coming out of the left side of the frame! (having no idea that his thumb was included due to the nature of framing with this rangefinder camera). This was such a huge Thumbs Up and I know it was for me! It was like God the Father was saying it's OK, I know how much you enjoy photography, I love it when you look for Me and My approval - and you have My approval, I give you My thumbs Up! The photograph, the message, the Father's lap picture - so complete. Personal stuff and I was so touched by this: Can He really be so personal and interested in my life!!??!!

Today at church we sang an amazing song "No longer slaves" by Jonathan Helser and his wife Melissa from Bethel Music. We had such a strong sense of our sonship and I recalled my Thumb's Up experience from a few years ago. We are truly His sons and daughters, no longer slaves and no longer orphans.


Words to "No longer slaves" from Bethel Music

You unravel me, with a melody
You surround me with a song
Of deliverance, from my enemies
Till all my fears are gone
I’m no longer a slave to fear
I am a child of God
From my mother's womb
You have chosen me
Love has called my name
I’ve been born again, into your family
Your blood flows through my veins

You split the sea
So I could walk right through it
All my fears were drowned in perfect love
You rescued me
So I could stand and sing
I am child of God

  I am no longer a slave - I am a son of God.

Hasselblad XPanll and 30mm lens

Saturday, 28 March 2015

A Beautiful Day

On the 6th December 2014 my beautiful daughter Amy married her Prince, Ewald Nel. The wedding ceremony took place in Clarens in the afternoon with the reception at the nearby St Fort farm.  The morning was a time of catching up with family and everyone's nerves were surprisingly calm.

My Gorgeous Daughters - Kelly doing Amy's make-up. Glen Green capturing the moment.

On seeing Amy for the first time in her wedding dress!
Courtesy Glen Green

 As the pace quickened with busy bridesmaids getting ready and me being told the time has come to slip into my specially purchased suit, suddenly a whole bunch of butterflies burst forth.

Nothing really prepares you for this incredible day! Not that we had rehearsed anything other than the church ceremony however I knew that my amazing wife Andrea and Ewald's equally amazing mother Riekie had all things sorted. I was aware of endless phonecalls, plans, negotiations and arrangements that had taken place. The brilliant wedding coordinator Conrad was in fine form and had every angle covered including a last minute arrangement to supply a generator for the church. 

Amy was ready and as I saw her in her exquisite wedding dress there was such an overwhelming flood of emotions - my new suit suddenly felt too small! She was exceedingly beautiful - radiant - too beautiful for words! It was time to leave for the church - it was happening!

Amy and Andrea leaving for the church
Nikon V1

Beautiful Amy on her way
An over the shoulder shot - Nikon V1

I was now chauffeuring Amy to Clarens in our old Mercedes with its bright red leather seats. There she was quietly confident, anticipating the imminent events whilst I was pinching myself in the front seat, driving, photographing and just reminding myself to breathe. As a keen photographer I could not resist the temptation to have a camera at hand and managed to squeeze a Nikon V1 with 18,5mm lens into my pocket. I knew my friend and accomplished wedding photographer Glen Green had this special day covered and we had spoken how annoying the intrusive "Uncle Bob" with his fancy camera can be for the appointed photographer. But Glen wasn't in the car and I couldn't resist photographing these once in a lifetime moments! In keeping with the retro theme I also brought my old Rolleiflex along loaded with black and white film, my favourite. Being the ever consummate professional Glen captured the true essence of the day in his photojournalistic style giving Amy and Ewald a stunning collection of images that will be treasured for years to come.

Ewald lost in Love
Nikon V1 - front row seat

The bridal couple hearing Pastor Phillip whilst being captured by Glen Green
Nikon V1

 A Very Proud Mr and Mrs Nel emerging from the church being showered with Blessings!
Nikon V1

Shooting from the hip
Courtesy Glen Green


The Wedding Ceremony was Wonderful Beyond Words! Walking Amy down the aisle to her song "It is Well" by Bethel Music was out of this world! Shane Pretorius lead us all in passionate worship and Pastor Phillip Boshoff gave such an inspiring and personal message. All eyes were on Amy and Ewald and there was such a sense of overwhelming JOY.

The generator kindly provided by DJ Francois rescued the load shedding and there was a flurry of activity and well wishing outside the church. Frantic family gathering for photographs followed and thankfully Uncle Bob was polite and accommodating.

Classic Pose of Amy and Ewald outside NG sandstone church in Clarens

Amy and Ewald on Cloud 9!

Chauffeur steals a shot of the bridal couple entering the Merc with Kelly and the bridesmaids in blue
Nikon V1

Beaming Ewald and Amy - We are Married!
Nikon V1

Glen had the brilliant idea of driving up a nearby hill at St Fort for a stunning view overlooking the Eastern Free State with the beautiful late afternoon light. I struck a quick deal that if we went up in the Landy he would allow me a few shots with the Rolleiflex! The view and light was perfect with Amy and Ewald literally on top of the world. Our good friend Ronnie armed with another Nikon V1 took magnificent photos.

We did it! Ecstatic couple bathed in beautiful sunset!
Nikon V1

Amy and Ewald smiling for Dad!
Nikon V1 courtesy Ronnie

Magnificent setting - setting sun over Eastern Free State. Rollei time again
Courtesy Glen Green

Ewald and Amy in Blissful Embrace

Ewald and Amy on top of the World!

The sun set and we made our way down to the awaiting reception to experience an unforgettable evening. The celebratory atmosphere and the youthful exuberance of Amy and Ewald's friends was so contagious! There were inspiring speeches and then Ewald took centre stage. His groomsmen and friends provided some entertaining jesting as Ewald declared his unfailing love for Amy with many a tear shed. Ewald proceeded to deliver a heartfelt and rivetting speech which was more like inspired preaching where he had the whole hall hanging onto every word of his as he spoke about God and His Unfailing Love. We were all deeply impacted by the Truth and rather stunned. Shortly afterwards Ewald led Amy in an impressive and beautiful dance as they opened the floor. Many a young man was mesmerised by what had just happened.

The festive mood continued and sometime later I was frantically called to the hall by my daughter Kelly. I thought there was a medical emergency but what I saw was nothing short of a miracle! There before me was my whole family, my wife, my daughter, my parents, my brothers, my sister in law as well as my beautiful nieces dancing in delight! I joined the circle and we continued to enjoy the evening and all it had to offer. Later that night suddenly my musical request "Beautiful Day" by U2  (a very special song Amy and I share) played over the speakers - what a way to celebrate one of the best days of my life! Amy and Ewald you are truly blessed!

The First Day of their rest of their Lives Together

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

The Sign of the Cross

At the tender age of seven I was a Catholic for two weeks after commencing standard one at Christian Brothers College in Welkom. CBC was an excellent boys school and was run by the Catholic Irish brothers to whom I will forever be indebted. School started with religious instruction where the Catholics went to a large class and not knowing what to do I simply followed the masses but was soon found out and sent back to the non-Catholic class. I might have been exposed by my clumsy execution of the sign of the cross but it was probably when asking my parents those awkward and difficult questions that I discovered who I was not and that I was actually part of the minority group with the strange name of Protestants.

In the hilarious British film comedy "Nuns on the Run" where two fleeing bank robbers disguise themselves as nuns, the large nun demonstrates the sign of the cross to his ignorant accomplice by following the memory aid "spectacles, testicles, wallet and watch". Recently this mnemonic took on a whole different meaning if one takes it quite literally!


Do you have the vision?
Do you see where you want to be?

Cape Town - Rayban Wayfarers

Do you have the b@lls?
Do you have what it takes to endure?

Spot the Fly on the ball

Are you willing to pay the price?
Are you willing to put your money where your mouth is?

Digging Deep

Do you have the time and patience to see it through?
Are you willing to finish the journey?

DIE - German for Tuesday
written Tuesday 16th December 2014

The Lord works in mysterious ways and He will speak through any form He chooses! This is one incredible journey we are on and it could be the disappointing story of the immaculate deception or the totally outrageous story of the immaculate redemption!

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Two Weddings and a Farewell

Due to a series of fortunate events I had the privilege to photograph two weddings of friends and the matric farewell of a colleague's son. Once I had agreed to commit myself I knew there was no option to back out and started to prepare in earnest. Fortunately I had help from some friends who are experienced wedding photographers and then of course the wonderful web was full of very helpful videos and other resources. Despite a wealth of information and advice there is no substitute for first hand experience!

Chris and Zandra had an intimate wedding and Zandra who loves purple had a right royal time whilst Chris relished the day. 

Cornel and Armandt were married at the beautiful Barbersbaai and had to deal with wind and rain however their unforgettable day was blessed with a stunning rainbow.

Boeta and his date Anja who were both immaculately dressed for the farewell had great afternoon light at the Bethlehem Railway station and were very relaxed in front of the camera.

As someone who enjoys the technical side of photography and who is prone to tweaking or shall we say fiddling with equipment, one thing I soon found out and that is that there is no time to faff with your camera. Thank goodness for the forgiving latitude of current digital sensors including my Nikon D610 however there is no remedy for camera shake and poor focus technique. With a pair of Nikon flashes, some newly acquired Yongnuo radio flash transmitters and an octabox there was scope for different lighting options. Before the one shoot whilst trying out the flash with radio trigger in the octabox I had inadvertently forgotten to tighten the flash properly and suddenly the flash went crashing down some stairs with batteries flying everywhere. Thankfully the Nikon SB900 still worked faultlessly and a lesson was learnt.

Two weddings and a farewell isn't a great deal of photography however I take my hat off to any professional wedding photographer. One needs a cool head, steady hands and fast feet to catch those special moments but that rush when one sees an image or two that works back home on the screen is hugely satisfying.