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