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  • The Grand Old Dame On Musgrave

    If you have lived in Durban for any length of time you will know that Musgrave Road is in one of its oldest residential neighbourhoods. It is home to some of the largest and most spectacular homes you’ll find in the city, ranging in style from old colonial to art deco to post modern, plus everything in between. It is an eclectic mix of history and a definite marker for how the city has grown up since its founding in the 1800’s. Musgrave road has seen everything Durban has been up to over the years as it looks out Eastwards over the city.


    I must have driven past this particular building on Musgrave Road a million times and it has always fascinated me. Today I finally got to photograph inside one of the apartments of what can only be described as a quintessential “Grand Old Dame” of Musgrave residences. According to the owner of the 2 bedroomed apartment I photographed, Apsley Court is around 90 years old, which would place it as having been constructed just prior to WW2. Walking inside is like entering a time capsule that transports you right back to that period of history. The old wooden stair bannisters, the moulded hand rails and black & white checkered tiles on the floor are all typical of the period. I can imagine men wearing spats and bashers, meeting ladies with parasols and long gloves coming and going from this old world building, conversing with alacrity about what the weather is doing as they go off to the races or the theatre. Imagine the stories each of these old homes could tell of all their previous residents? From leaving for war to New Years parties, the arrival of air travel, democracy, the digital revolution...


    The apartment itself is immaculately kept and beautifully decorated, obviously well cared for by its owners. Bourne gleamed wooden floors and stained glass windows carry the remnants of the old world construction elegantly throughout the apartment, where modern finishes like granite counter tops and subway tiles in the kitchen and bathroom blend seamlessly with this older charm.


    While I am now fully accustomed to life in the suburbs and couldn’t imagine living in the city again, this is certainly the kind of place that would have enticed me as a young buyer. If you are looking for something like this here is the official listing for sale by the owner, with the full set of images I took. 


    My approach to photographing property for real estate listings is based on efficiency and speed of delivery. These images were taken at 9am and the final edits were delivered to the client just before lunchtime on the same day, so less than 3 hours. I only had the one appointment on that morning.


    I use a very lightweight Sunwayfoto carbon fibre travel tripod with loose legs that come together easily when I lift it off the floor. I really cannot emphasise enough just how much more efficient this tripod makes me. Using a giant tripod with stiff legs in a tight space is going to frustrate you and slow you down immensely. I also make good use of the centre column when I need to adjust the height I am shooting at. Adjusting 3 legs every time you move to a different composition is really going to slow you down.


    While I do have a geared head that I use in my product photography studio, when I am shooting real estate I use the matching Sunwayfoto ballhead that came with this tripod. I have been using this ballhead for long enough to know by feel just how much to loosen and tighten it to get the camera level using the camera's built in digital levels. If I was to use my Benro geared head not only would I have 5x more weight to carry around, but I would also spend a lot more time adjusting it to get it level. 


    To get the speed in editing my shooting process is HDR and using Lightroom Classic only for processing. This is sometimes frowned upon by other property photographers who use flash and ambient frames and then blend these together in Photoshop with luminosity masks and other advanced editing techniques. Yes, you will get a richer result using that method, but do you need it? These are photographs that will have a shelf life of probably no more than 3 months (the average length of an estate agent's sole mandate to sell the property). If you can deliver aesthetically pleasing results with less effort in post production, why would you want to? Especially when it is going to cause your delivery time to be days and not hours. 


    I have been fairly quiet on the real estate side of things in recent times, not through any fault of my own, but fortunately I have been picking up more work in this niche recently and I couldn't be happier. Photographing lovely homes is probably one of my favourite things to do with a camera. 




    Unfortunately the weather wasn't great on the day but here is the exterior shot. 




    The entrance to the flat is just behind the ancient lift. 




    The entrance hallway. 



















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