I am in the middle of a book that has a somewhat surprising title: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*CK. While this book has significant ideas on how to improve your life and well-being, it also has great significance for every creative. Many of us determine that we will produce when we have the motivation and inspiration to produce work. This of course applies to any vocation. We use this as an excuse in a subconscious manner, not necessarily in an attempt to avoid work. The book challenges us to first take action rather than wait for inspiration and motivation. I've heard this before in a round about manner from writers or photographers that take action for inspiration. I remember one writer who has an office and sits in his office for four hours everyday, whether he writes anything or not. This is a habit in order to force inspiration. I would say the same thing for my photography. I have had a slump because I have not felt inspired and void of motivation. As a result, I took no action. Coincidentally, on the first day of 2017 I started a 365 project. A 365 project is committing to make and post at least one NEW image per day for a whole year. It's actually not easy as you have to search for INSPIRATION. The important thing is that you have the MOTIVATION to take ACTION. How fortuitous that both of these activities entered my life at the same time. Don't wait. Take ACTION
I attended a Little Havana walking tour that I used as a photowalk for my group. The tour was led by Miami Historian, Dr. Paul George. It started at the Tower Theater on 8th Street and headed West through many of the first neighborhoods in Miami during the turn of the century. I realized how new Miami is after walking through areas near 15th avenue that were Groves and Pineapple Plantations. West of 27th avenue was considered the Everglades. Imagine that. The area near the Tower Theater is not a new or modern epicenter of Miami activity. Many of Miami's most prominent families lived, worked and played in the area. The most colorful place I encountered was the Ball and Chain. The Ball and Chain was and is a Nightclub across from the Tower Theater that used to be a Gambling Club when Gambling was highly illegal. At first the club had doormen to ensure that only trusted people, and not police could enter. After a time, the "Wild West" attitude of Miami removed the need for doormen at the Ball and Chain and illegal activity brazenly thrived with the knowledge of the authorities. Here are some of my images from the tour. I encourage anyone seeking a more historical perspective to check out Dr. Georges walks.
Sarah RawRead More
Black Wedding Dress ImagesRead More
I had an engagement shoot with Marisa at Matheson Hammock park. The day was overcast and perfect for images. A beautiful bride, a spectacular dress, and an amazing venue. We were there to make great images. Luckily, many years ago I studied photography at Miami Dade College and FIU working strictly in Black and White film until my final classes a couple of years later. What you are seeing in this image is a woman with very fair skin wearing a black dress. This is a nightmare for the automatic control systems of most, if not all cameras and flash systems. These automatic systems default to trying to average the lighting in the image. So there you are, bright white skin, a dark black dress and a light but neutral background. The tendency is for the automatic exposure system in the camera to turn the entire scene a mid tone of gray. Not what we want here. The only truly effective way to handle this extremely contrasty situation is to manually meter your camera and flash exposure. This is easy if you know what you are doing, but most people claiming to be photographers do not. This brings me to my main point. Everyone is now a photographer, or at least claims to be. I love the fact that so many people are enjoying the medium, however, with that comes some risk and responsibility. Many people who claim to be photographers would love to charge you to make your engagement and wedding images. While they may do a fine job in the average situation, it is situations like this that shooting in auto is just not going to hack it. So my advice is to ensure you trust the making of your most important memories to someone who is familiar with the technical aspects of photography. Did I say this is an awesome dress!
I love my Granddaughters! I really do! Sometimes though it's a mission to try and make a simple portrait. On our way back from picking them up at Cape Town airport we stopped at Primi Piatti, a restaurant chain that you cannot really go wrong with. The stairs leading up had a beautiful brick wall to use as a backdrop for some nice quick portraits. So I thought. LOL! After many tries struggling with flipping hair and "two fingered puckered posers" and "duck faces". And, "my hair is not right." I finally got one image that I really like. The one you like is up to you so I posted them all.
I generally do not make images of the homeless or the downtrodden, as I generally find it too easy and gratuitous. When I do though it is to add to the story or the description of the location. Sadly, this man is representative to a large population of Cape Town and South Africa. I found it ironic for him to be walking in front of the Mercedes with the two guys sitting inside with the blank stare. The image was not made to judge anyone in the image, but just to give a complete representation of the people of Cape Town. All three in the image are therefore to this city.
In Cape Town, you can get anything and everything on Long Stret, including trouble if you're not careful. When I first got here two years ago I was walking down Long Street during the day and saw two guys across the street shadowing my every move. Not surprising considering that the camera around my neck could feed a small village for a year. I stopped and I just stared their way letting them know that I knew they were there and luckily they just moved on. That was my first hint that I should get a smaller camera rather than carrying this Canon behemoth, that was no problem carrying around in the States. My next experience was much more abrupt. I was with a photography group and we were walking some side streets when a Police van screeched to a halt next to me and asked what I was doing there. They proceeded to tell me that my throat would be slit for the camera I was carrying. That was my decisive moment. The following weekend I was at the local camera store picking out a small Fuji camera. It was much smaller, lighter, and much more inconspicuous. I've really stuck with my Fuji gear and even used it to photograph my son's wedding in addition to my Canon gear. Unlike my Canon stuff I don't need a recovery and rehabilitation period after carrying it for hours. Oh and the images are amazing. They rarely need any adjustments. So yes size does matter. I attached some images from Long Street taken with my Fuji XT-1. These are straight out of the camera with no editing.
Many people do not recognize the name Gordon Parks as being one of the great American photographers. He was not only a photographer, he was also an author, and a filmmaker. He did all of this in an era where it was nearly impossible for a Black Man to hold a position of prominence. Nevertheless Gordon Parks did just that and is an Ikon of American photography as much as any other. He was a principal photographer for Life magazine in it's heyday and was sought after by the most famous people in the world for his photography. He photographed Ingrid Bergman, Muhammed Ali, Malcolm X, and countless others. His success was partially based on separating himself from the politics of the individual he was photographing. Another interesting fact is that Gordon Parks wrote and directed the movie Shaft and his son Gordon Jr. wrote and directed Superfly. All very successful movies that crossed racial boundaries. The image that is shown was the image that made Gordon famous and landed him a job with Life magazine. He was depicting Black struggle in America and had the school cleaning lady pose with a mop and a broom in front of the flag. The movie of his life is free for viewing on Vimeo and you do not have to be a photographer to enjoy it. It's called "Half Past Autumn: The Life and Work of Gordon Parks."
Last weekend I headed over to Muizenberg to pick-up my surfboard after a repair from a mishap the previous weekend. The waves in Muizenverg were nonexistent so I took a drive to see some of the other breaks that I have not visited yet, namely Kommetjie (co-mick-ee) and Long Beach.
Well I never got to Kommetjie as I spent much of the late afternoon watching and photographing surfing at Long Beach. There were quite a few people in the water and as I was unfamiliar with that break, and recognize the territorial nature of surfers, I decided not to surf but watch and shoot. I titled this "Back to my Roots", because my professional photography career started out by photographing sports. I really like the action and the fact that you have to anticipate where the peak point of action will happen to get a good shot. Additionally, I've always preferred shooting sports in Black and White. I converted this and made specific adjustments to my taste. I like the overall drama of the image. The point at which you don't know if the surfer is going to make his turn and the dramatic sky and mountain behind him. I did not have my long lens with me, but I quite like how this wider shot turned out.
This morning I was thinking about the awesome experiences I've had while in Cape Town. When I dig deep though my most meaningful experiences have been centered around the people I've met. Two of these people are women and they competed against each other in the South African Longboarding Championships. They are Roxy Davis and Tarryn King.
Both of these individuals have become my friends and I hold them in the highest regard.Actually, if you've ever seen them surf, especially at the same time they are like Surfing Superheroes I am still amazed every time I see them in the water and see the things they pull off. And not just in a surfboard either. Also on Stand-Up-Paddleboards. On top of all that they occasionally throw some top tip my way. Whether it is a small detail from Roxy that changes everything about my surfing to Tarryn encouraging me to "commit! She says, you must commit to get that big wave!" It is rare that you have World Class Athletes giving unsolicited advice to a novice. I consider myself very lucky. I can say that whenever I do miss a wave I think to myself that, from Tarryn, I did not "commit", or from Roxy, that I am still looking down at my foot position too long. My most unforgettable and best lesson was by Roxy. I'd been bugging her for a coaching session. Then one day, out of the blue she asks if I'm busy the next day. I planned on surfing so that's what I told her and then she asked if I wanted to meet her in the morning before the shop opened for a private lesson. Without hesitation I said I would be there. I learned so much in that one lesson. I learned that I was looking down at my foot position too long. That my paddling frequency was not fast enough to catch bigger, faster, stronger waves, as well as other tips. It was small details, not necessarily big things, but small things that made a "big" difference. To give you some perspective here, Roxy is a 7 time winner of the South African Longboarding Championship and has represented her country on the International surfing scene. How many athletes have the ability to win something 7 times! She is foremost a Mom, a wife, an entrepreneur and an incredibly humble and generous person. She started out renting beach umbrellas on Surfers Corner as a teenager. Then progressed to renting surfboards after being sponsored by Roxy S.A. She eventually opened her store, now Surf Emporium in Surfers Corner on Muizenberg Beach. She is involved with charities and sits on the Board of Shark Spotters. But do not be fooled, this woman according to her husband William, is a fierce competitor and hates to lose. Not hard to believe from a professional athlete. Then there is Tarryn King, formerly Tarryn Kyte, who married a great guy and SA Champion in his own right, Thomas King. Tarryn is a really sweet woman and an unbelievable athlete who works at XpressionOnTheBeach directly next door to Surf Emporium. She was also a student of Roxy's and learned to surf at Surf Emporium. Tarryn as well, is one of those people that you would never guess is a professional athlete from her humble and welcoming nature. She is a tremendous surfer and is now touring with the South African Surf Team and competing in the SUP World Championship in Mexico. Tarryn won the Final at the SA Longboarding Championship in which Roxy also competed. Here lies the dilemma. Both are my friends, but both cannot win. I cheered them both on, and hoped that their trip to SA Champs would be filled with camaraderie, and good times. Alas, there could be only one winner, or maybe not? If you go back to the beginning, could there be one thing, skill, behavior, or technique that was passed on by teacher to student. What if the initial experience with surfing was so awesome that inspired the student to continue and achieve great heights. Frankly, I don't know how long Tarryn was taking lessons with Roxy, but I know that in my own experiences, I have always been able to take something from every lesson in whatever topic and apply it to future skills. Talent and a lot of hard work have paid off for Tarryn to become the Champion she is. She will be a Great Champion. I congratulate her in her achievement. I feel that the Women's South African Longboarding Championship will remain on that adjoining porch on Surfer's Corner between Xpression's and Surf Emporium for a long, long time. It matters to me not which way it goes on that porch. Just keep it on the porch! And I'm also sure that Roxy can look over with a smile and be happy. What better person to win against you than a former student and friend.
I just finished watching "Monk with a Camera", a documentary about Nicky Vreeland, Grandson of Diana Vreeland, former editor of Vogue magazine and Harper's Bazaar, and his journey from boy of privilege, to that of the Abbott of one of the most important Tibetan Monasteries in Exile. It depicts his struggle with being a devote Tibetan Buddhist and his love for photography. The documentary tells of how Nicky uses his photography for good by selling his prints to fund the construction of the Rato Tibetan Buddhist Monastery. This is a must see for any photographer!
Excerpt: This movie follows Nicholas who gave up worldly possessions to become a Buddhist monk. He meets a Master of this religion that is a teacher for the Dalai Lama. Nicholas uses his former love for photography to help the monks rebuild their civilization and further their teachings. The Dalai Lama learns about this and makes Nicholas the first western person to become an Abbot of the Monastery which is a very high position in this religion.
I flew to Salem, North Carolina from Cape Town, South Africa to photograph my son's wedding. I would not normally recommend this, however...Read More
I have decided to leverage my 20 years plus as a part-time professional photographer and make the transition to becoming a full-time wedding photographer.Read More
There are three very close breaks on Jeffrey's Bay main beach. Dolphin Beach is a beach break, meaning a sandy bottom and waves break randomly based on the days contour of the beach bottom. It's called Dolphin Beach because in the evening you literally see the Dolphins surfing the same waves you are on. Next to that is Kitchen Windows, named by an old timer at J-Bay because he could see the break out of his kitchen window. After that a restaurant opened in front of the break called, "Kitchen Windows." It is a point break, meaning the waves break the same way all the time as they are formed by a reef on the ocean bottom. Today Kitchen Windows was a bit crowded so my coach, Kelvin, decided we would go to Phantoms about 100 yards next door. Why Phantoms? Because while the waves are as good as Kitchen Windows, there are fewer people. You see the break is a lot farther out which means a long paddle. No worries, I'm very fit. Ha! My arms were rubber when I got out there. It was great though to surf a point break, knowing that the waves would generally break in the same spot every time. The tricky part is that you have to keep yourself in that spot. Harder than you'd think. Another first for me was surfing at night. It wasn't totally dark as we paddled in but all of the lights were on. You'd think it would be scary, but it wasn't. It was actually very peaceful and relaxing. What a great day!
My Granddaughters have become accustomed to my camera being around and the constant clicking of the shutter in their direction. They are so cool because they love our portrait outings or literally in this case my seeing a great background and suggesting portraits. They loved the idea probably because I allow them to be themselves. We had so much fun. These are a few of the ones I really liked.
I've been trying to get a shot of the train pulling into Muizenberg for quite some time. I'm just not ever there at the right time. It's an old electric train, not very reliable, or safe, and quite run down, but very colorful, especially against the sky and the old buildings around the tracks. I like the fact that while some of the buildings have modern businesses, they've kept the old writingingnon the outside. The yellowish building at the side of the tracks has a surf shop and restaurant downstairs and a Backpackers (Hostel) above. This time I was approaching the tracks and the gates for the crosswalk closed.
The West Coast of South Africa has many great surf spots: Noordhoek, Long Beach, Llundadno, Big Bay, Melkbos, and many more. One of the best, however, is Elands Bay, also known as the Jeffrey's Bay of the West Coast. It was made famous in the surf movie, The Endless Summer. Well I will be visiting this weekend on a surf tour run by my friends at Surf Emporium in Muizenberg. We'll be leaving on Friday afternoon and coming back to Cape Town Sunday afternoon. Elands Bay is only about 100 miles North of Cape Town and a surf is planned when we get there. We're staying in a B&B on a real working ranch. Elands Bay is also known for its hiking, wildlife observation and pre-historic cave paintings. Our guide and Coach will be Karel Lewy, an ISA Level 2 coach and Naturalist. Really looking forward to the trip! Also looking forward to using my new board and making plenty of images!
I continue to post my 365 images as I get to them. It was tough enough to make the images let alone post them everyday. To that end I am still catching up and I plan to make a small book of all of the images. I'll have more information on that as soon as I get some information on details and possible publication methods. I want to get back to real photographs that you can hold in your hand and not just see on the computer. Nothing beats having an album.
I made this image one evening when I saw this beautiful fiery sunset and there were a couple of people walking on the beach. I wanted to convey how nice and simple life can be by just taking a walk with a loved one. I made this with my Fuji camera and I made three exposures and combined them to be able to get the bright light of the sun and the shadows in the same image.
So that means the majority of weddings are here also. Here are some things to think about when hiring a photographer. Remember a photographers website will only show the best, so if it doesn't look good, walk away! If you go for the $500 wedding photographer, that's exactly what you're going to get. GET AN ALBUM! You'll look at that a lot more than the video. Do you really need video? Most photographers can do video clips for you. Whomever you're hiring for video is not Steven Spielberg. Don't expect a Hollywood production for $3000. Not gonna happen. Remember that when the expensive meal, flowers, chair covers, DJ, and cake are gone all you have left are the images. If your photographer does not initiate a meeting or lunch or portrait session with you prior to your wedding, do not use that photographer. The first words out of a good photographers mouth will be to ask what you expect as a final product. When you hire a photographer you will probably not have a detailed schedule so you can't be very specific about time. Remember his time is money. The average time of a wedding from start to finish can be up to 8 hours so don't book the photographer for 4 hours. A good photographer will attend the rehearsal to meet the important people. The Best Man and Maid of Honor should actually help in keeping the Bride stress free. Let them know that they may be asked to be a trouble-shooter. Don't pick a drunk. Make sure the DJ knows to announce important points in the event and does not let those happen without the photographer present. Have the wedding planner organize as much as possible. That is why they get paid. And last but not least remember that if everyone at the ceremony jumps in front of the photographer with their iPhone when you are walking down the aisle, you images will not look good!