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Dallas

Looking Back

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I began my career in photography back in 2008 and I still have many of the shots taken from my earliest commissions. I'll share some of those with you here. 

 

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My very first paid commission to cover an event was a MoneyGram conference held back in 2008. Talk about getting thrown in the deep end! This conference went on for 5 days and during that time I did everything from one-light portraits, to massive group photos under strobes, and some team-building exercises on the beach. 

 

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A few months later I somehow got commissioned to cover a huge United Nations conference held in Durban. Looking back at the absolute rubbish I shot over 3 days I am surprised they even paid me. This is about the only shot from thousands that I might even want to be seen today. I was using a Nikon D200 and an 18-200mm lens for most of them in shockingly inadequate lighting, hoping that my little SB-800 would save me. It was rough! 

 

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Because I know a lot of musicians it was inevitable that some of them would ask me to produce some PR photos for them. This is one of the least cringe-worthy shots from my 2009 session with this duo (they were short-lived). At this point I had upgraded to the D700 and I also had the 70-300mm ED lens. 

 

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One of my favourite shoots from that year was a 2 day commission to photograph some farms and communities near the town of Kokstad which is on the border of the Natal and Eastern Cape Provinces. My client gave me carte blanche to photograph whatever I wanted as they were doing video work for their annual report. They really liked the work I did for them on this commission and I did a few other jobs for them in the years that followed. 

 

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In 2010 I was employed as a "fixer" for a 3D photography crew from Sony Japan who were commissioned to get 3D images of South Africa for the FIFA World Cup. Whilst it wasn't a photography job I obviously took my camera everywhere with me over the three or four days of shooting that we did. These guys were an absolute joy to work with, but none of them could speak English, so there was a lot of sign-language and pointing to photographs to convey instructions. Here they are inside the Moses Mabhida stadium and then on top of the arch. 

 

I'll dredge up some other work tomorrow. 

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Looking back at my early work I have come to the conclusion that I was a terrible photographer! Occasionally though I would get an image or two that I was OK with. 

 

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This image was part of an article I did for an architectural magazine. It was of a hotel that had recently been constructed. On this particular day the wind was absolutely howling, so I didn't have too much luck finding decent compositions up on the pool deck. This one point perspective is OK and I have had it in my portfolio for a long time. In those days (this was shot in 2012) I wasn't doing a lot of property work, so I didn't have much experience to draw on. Were I to go and re-do this shoot now I would definitely come away with much better work simply because I understand better now what clients like architects are looking for. This is why it's important for any aspiring professional to work for a more experienced photographer first to learn these things, or at least find a mentor who can guide them where they need it. An excellent case for meaningful critique forums (which sadly we seem to have lost in the stampede for Instagram and instant dopamine hits). 

 

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This image above is of international cricketer Imraan Tahir and his wife. I had been commissioned by a journalist to produce some images for a local magazine article she was writing about his private life. Being muslim and hailing from Pakistan, Imraan married a very beautiful local socialite, who comes from a far less orthodox Islamic family. I was extremely nervous on this job, to the point where I had forgotten to set my camera to shoot in RAW, so all I have from the shoot are JPG's. Ouch. Ever since then I have never set a camera to shoot in JPG again. The shots I got were kind of meh, reinforcing a strong aversion I have always had to photographing posed people. But jobs are jobs, I guess. Interestingly this image has been stolen and re-used on the web so many times I have lost count. 

 

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Back on the farm for the same client I mentioned in post 1, but this time in a different province (actually on the way to the Kruger National Park). These farms are part of a project to give back land to black South Africans and to teach them how to farm the way advanced countries do. Some of the project subjects have been very successful, but alas, most of them have failed. This shot is of one of the farmers who has been successful. We got up very early in the morning to get some sunrise shots. For this one I liked the idea of the farmer being in the middle of the fields looking towards the rising sun. 

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In 2013 I covered a number of conferences of various sizes. The biggest of these was the ICANN47 meeting in Durban. For those who don't know, ICANN are basically the people who make the internet possible by assigning domain names to IP addresses. The conference was held over a number of days and involved hundreds of delegates from all over the world. It was pretty hard to make interesting photos of this event because for the most part it was just a lot of talking and meeting going on in the conference centre. There were some outside events that I covered too, the only one that would have been good was at the aquarium but it happened on a night when we had once of our famous "Durban Dumps" - massive amounts of rain in a short period of time, so no fun. Here are a few images from the conference. 

 

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Outside the centre there is a huge sculpture of a rhino. It made for an interesting fisheye shot. 

 

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Lynn Lipinski was the PR writer for ICANN at the time and we had some interesting conversations in the downtime. She has gone on to write mystery novels and we still stay in touch via social media. 

 

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Fadi Chehadé was the CEO of ICANN at the time. Here he is discussing something with members of a workshop (one of many) that took place during the conference. 

 

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Hats are always interesting to me. 

 

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Who dat? 

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