New Photography Website

Helo!!

I miss all of you who have kindly followed my photography blog, and I would love it if you would navigate over to my new, professional photography webite http://www.cathywagner.co.za and follow me there.

I will be posting all new blog and portfolio updates there, because, yes, I have quit my Financial Management position and taken the leap into full-time, professional photography!

I would greatly appreciate hearimg from you again, as I always enjoyed your comments and compliments on this blog (who wouldn’t?) and I can use all the encouragement I can get right now πŸ™‚

Yours creatively
Cathy Wagner
Cathy Wagner Photography

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Studio Portraits

I was very excited last weekend – I finally bought my first studio lighting kit. Two 300 watt lights with stands, a soft-box, some reflective umbrellas and a backdrop kit.

All pretty basic. I didn’t want to spend too much because I haven’t built my studio yet and I don’t have anywhere to KEEP all this stuff! (We have a pretty big house, considering there’s just two of us living here, yet there never seems to be enough space.)

Angela & Mike and their baby were visiting so I asked if they would sit for me so I could try out the set-up. Well, we were really just messing around – 90% of the photos are not for public consumption! – but the other 10% came out pretty well, I think πŸ™‚

The soft-box, set at a 45-degree angle to the model, and slightly higher than their head, plus a black backdrop – and there you have it. Beautifully modeled shots, so different to the effect you get with available light.

Angela for Web

Mike for Web

Daddy's Little Boy copy for Web

Angie & Carl for Web

I even managed to get Hubby to pose with Mike, wrapped in a bright pink feather boa πŸ™‚

Glenn & Mike for Web

I have a feeling studio photography is going to be FUN!!

Photography: Twisted Architecture!

 

I did a bit of a photo-safari around Sandton, near Johannesburg, and snapped lovely clear photos of the buildings from ground level. Being in a creative mood, I tried to turn them into “Planets” in Photoshop CS6. like I did with this photo of Dubai.

Dubai, from the viewing platform of the Burj Khalifa

This was taken from an extremely high viewpoint – most of the buildings you see are between 40 and 70 storeys high, yet they look like little toys.

This shot, of the Dubai Marina, was taken from a yacht at water level. I think it also makes a very acceptable “Planet.”

My Sandton photos, however, turned out VERY differently!

This one looks like a BUG’s head!

And this one just looks awesome! Like an alien machine or something…

I would like to sell prints of these images, and I have a few more that I haven’t included here. They are all over 80MB, so can be enlarged very significantly without losing the incredible detail.

If anyone is interested in purchasing a print, please contact me πŸ™‚

Photographing older couples

 

I enjoy photographing older people because their faces are not perfect – the lines of smiles and frowns are permanently engraved on their faces and, far from being ugly, those lines give them character.

Older couples are often not that comfortable in front of a camera (especially older men!) so you have to work at helping them to be less self-conscious, to just be themselves.

That’s where the wife comes in…. I find it easier to get the wife to do something specific – like kiss Hubby gently on the cheek – and wait for Hubby to melt a little.

THAT’s when the delightful expression comes out πŸ™‚

Some ladies are so beautiful and full of love for their husbands – even when they’ve been married for a lifetime – they make the photographer’s life so much easier!

 

(A little tip – ask the lady to just touch her lips to her husband’s cheek, she should not purse her lips.)

Portraits Revealed!

Here is a fantastic e-book, published by Michael Kryzer at Camera Career

Portraits Revealed will give you the knowledge and techniques you need to become an accomplished Portrait Photographer.

Michael covers everything from the types of portrait photography, the equipment, posing, lighting, backgrounds – and especially the business side of being a portrait photographer – how to price yourself correctly is essential in the competitive market we work in.

He even includes (for free!) a photography contract, a model release and a minor model release form, to cover the legal side of things.

I bought the book myself this week and I am impressed πŸ™‚

The book is very reasonably priced at UD$29, and once your payment has been verified (which takes only a few seconds), you will receive the link for the download immediately.

Quick, efficient, and very useful for photographers like me who are always interested in improving their skills.

Canon EOS 60D – F/3.2 – 1/640 second – ISO 800 – 50mm lens

Brothers in Arms……

I took this photo of Owen and his baby brother, Carl, yesterday before Owen’s Primary School Mini-Cricket tournament.

Carl was sleepy, but Owen just HAD to show his baby brother to his friends and their Mums πŸ™‚

The original shot had a very boring background of dark cement stairs, so I altered it in Photoshop CS6.

I selected the boys, inverted the selection, then applied a radial blur to the entire background, I played with the settings until I found the right effect.

Canon EOS 60D – f/11 – 1/200 second – ISO 400 – 180mm focal length

Street Photography: Vendors and Beggars

One of the MANY joys of photography is you often get to try out something completely new πŸ™‚

I have never really thought about “Street Photography” as a branch of the art in itself – I always assumed that if you took a photo on the street, and it included a person doing something interesting, that was just your good luck.

Street Photography requires deliberately seeking out interesting candid shots, composing, shooting and processing those photos in order to SAY something about my world….. I normally set up my photography quite carefully, pose people, think about exposure, depth of field, colour and light – with street photography I have to just shoot and hope for the best.

I only started this week. It takes me two hours to travel to work and back every day – a bit longer when I jump out to shoot a beautiful sunset – and now that I have chosen the theme of “Street Vendors and Beggars”, it’s taking me even longer than usual!

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The idea is to shoot people on the street without them realising it, so that the shot seems spontaneous. Ideally, they should be looking in your direction – that’s where the challenge comes in! Not too many people like being photographed by complete strangers. I find the best thing to do is to smile and give them a friendly wave, and drop the camera out of sight. When they lose interest in me, that’s when I quickly grab my shot.

Oddly, some people don’t seem to mind and will give me a lovely smile when they see me pointing my Canon at them – go figure!

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These pictures tell a story. Each shows a jobless person, trying to make a living by selling to, or begging from, motorists stopped at intersections. This is unfortunately a VERY common phenomenon in Johannesburg – and quite often these guys are the hi-jackers… This young chap, for instance, looks a little too well-dressed to be truly down and out. He is collecting refuse from motorists, in return for a few coins. That requires you to open your window, and makes you an easy hi-jacking target. That’s why I photographed him in my side mirror!

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This old man is obviously an alcoholic. He hangs out at the same intersection all day long. He used to stand and beg, but I see he mostly sits now. He’s as thin as a rake, can barely walk, yet manages to survive on the kindness of strangers.

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Taking photos on the street has really opened my eyes. I notice far more now than I ever did. Yes, this is a depressing subject – and yet there is a strange beauty in it too.

The photos work really well in black & white or sepia tones. Strong light, deep shadows and even some motion blur don’t detract from the story the picture is telling – they seem to enhance it.

This is a very interesting and fun way to challenge your photography skills!

ELECTROCUTED for my Art!!!

I have developed a habit of pulling my car over and jumping out to photograph anything I see that is beautiful / interesting / unique / strange.

Unfortunately, as I live in Johannesburg, it’s not exactly safe to stop the car when you’re on your own. So I’m pretty aware of what’s going on around me and who might be walking towards me…. so far I’ve been lucky. I haven’t been mugged, or had my camera or my car stolen πŸ™‚

Yesterday I was driving through an area near home, and I saw some beautiful bright red flowers we call “Paintbrushes” (scadoxus puniceus) growing near the fence of a large plot of land. They flower only once a year, from an underground bulb, and the blooms fade fast. So naturally I pulled over, jumped out with my camera, locked the car and put the key in my pocket. There was nobody around so I felt safe enough to get down on my haunches near the fence, trying to get a nice shot of the flowers.

Image

It wasn’t bad, but I thought I should move a little to the right for a better angle, and as I leaned forward to change my footing – ZAPPPP!!!! – I felt a strong electric shock through my entire body – I hadn’t realized the fence was an electric fence – I touched it with the back of my hand while I was looking through the viewfinder!

Man, was that painful!

Many South Africans protect their properties with razor wire and electrified fences (and vicious dogs, burglar bars, armed reaction, alarm systems etc) I had always thought the fences gave a mild shock because they’re pretty ineffective at stopping burglars. I was wrong – they shock like hell!

Fortunately there was no frenzied activity around the house, no-one came to see who was loitering at the fence, so I stumbled back to my car and drove off.

To top it all, when I arrived at my destination I noticed that the housing complex I was visiting had a whole bed FULL of Paintbrushes near the entrance! No electric fences, no guard dogs… just step up and take as many photos as you want!

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Photography: Army-themed Birthday Party

Owen turned 7 two weeks ago, and his Dad decided to throw him an Army-themed Party.

All the children were asked to wear the appropriate clothing (camouflage prints). a 12-meter long army-style jumping castle was hired for the occasion, and a “challenging” obstacle course was laid out. The idea was to have the Drill Seargents (the Dads) drill the kids, get them to march up and down, and then let them do the obstacle course. The “reward” was to have army stripes painted on their cheeks afterwards, and receive a pair of toy binoculars and a badge.

The party was such a success, the Birthday Boy forgot to open his gifts! He was having way too much fun!

Canon EOS 60D – f/9 – 1/200 second

It was a very hot and bright, sunny day with not a cloud in the sky (we’re lucky like that here in South Africa!), and I was struggling to get the exposure correct. Many of my shots were over-exposed, but a few minutes work in Lightroom 4 sorted them out nicely.

Here is Owen, demonstrating the correct technique for the tyre obstacle course:

Canon EOS 60D – f/11 – 1/640 second

The children, saluting the Drill Sargents at the start of their drill….

Canon EOS 60D – f/7.1 – 1/640 second

….and marching up and down the driveway. (I think someone needs a lesson in gun-safety!)

Canon EOS 60D – f/7.1 – 1/640 second

After completing the course, they received their stripes. (Aren’t these two just so STUNNINGLY beautiful?)

Canon EOS 60D – f/5.6 – 1/640 second

Canon EOS 60D – f/7.1 – 1/640 second

And then it was time to play….

Canon EOS 60D – f/4.5 – 1/500 second

Canon EOS 60D – f/7.1 – 1/400 sec

So, if you’re looking for a fun theme for your child’s birthday party, I can recommend this one. We also had:

  • Black, grey and green balloons (army camouflage colours)
  • An army cake ( camouflage coloured and patterned icing, with toy soldiers, tanks, helicopters and crashed jets for decoration!)
  • The obstacle course consisted of the 12-meter long jumping castle with climbing rope (picture 1), and other “difficulties” for the kids to jump from or climb through, the tyre obstacles, and a belly crawl under ropes tied between poles. They ended the course with climbing a rope swing to touch a balloon tied just out of reach.
  • The “training” consisted of being (gently) yelled at by the Drill Seargents (” get back in line, Soldier!!), saluting, jumping jacks, and marching in “formation” up and down the driveway.

The children ranged in ages from 3 to 7. Some of the littlest ones needed a bit of help sometimes,so it’s handy to have some teenagers around as well.

I really don’t know how we’re going to top this party next year!!!

Photography: Monte Casino and The Pivot at Night

I am starting to LOVE night-time photography!

I was always under the impression it was “too difficult” and I would have to use a flash (which I hate) – but I tried it when I was in Dubai, and now I am thoroughly HOOKED!

Last night, I took my dear Hubby to a slap-up dinner at Monte Casino, in Fourways Johannesburg, in exchange for his body-guard duties and patience while I indulged myself in some outdoor shots of the beautiful Casino and Hotel complex (which Glenn was partially responsible for building about 10 years ago.) Glenn is a Landscape Architect and a Director of Landmark Studios. He was involved with the fountains, gardens and lighting of the Casino. I am very proud of him – the place is stunning πŸ™‚

The entrance to Monte casino:

Canon EOS 60D, f/5.6, 1.3 seconds, ISO 125, Canon 20mm Prime lens

Once inside, you are instantly “in Tuscany.” The complex is inside a huge warehouse structure, with buildings that imitate Florentine architecture to the “T” – right down to washing strung across balconies (even bloomers, bras and a g-string!), pigeons nesting on ledges, dozens of Italian restaurants, and a “sky” full of stars. The detail is truly impressive!….

My favourite part of Monte Casino is the outdoor (for real) Piazza, with its fountains:

Canon EOS 60D, f/5.6, 1 second, ISO 125, Canon 20mm Prime lens

Canon EOS 60D, f/5.6, 2 seconds, ISO 125, Canon 20mm Prime lens

On the hour, every half-hour, visitors are treated to the beautiful musical fountain, accompanied by Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody, or some other dramatic piece of music:

Canon EOS 60D, f/2.8, 2.5seconds, ISO 125, Canon 20mm Prime lens

We wandered back across the road to the Pivot hotel and office complex, which was another one of Glenn and Landmark Studios’ beautiful projects.

Canon EOS 60D, f/5.6, 0.8 second, ISO 125, Canon 20mm Prime lens

In case you’re curious about that tall glass and steel structure, here’s a close-up:

Canon EOS 60D, f/5.6, 2 seconds, ISO 125, Canon 20mm Prime lens

And, in an alcove, this statue entitled “Autumn”:

Canon EOS 60D, f/5.6, 2 seconds, ISO 125, Canon 20mm Prime lens

Getting good night-time shots is really pretty simple. Here are a few tips:

  • Use a good, sturdy tripod. Hand-held will not work at exposures shorter than about 1/40th of a second, and even then only if you have EXTREMELY steady hands
  • Exposure times should be between one and 10 seconds, if there is enough ambient light in the scene.
  • If it’s really dark, use your “Bulb” setting and a remote release so you don’t bump the camera during the exposure
  • Use a LOW ISO. to avoid graininess. You want the blacks to be black – not full of little coloured spots! Start at about ISO 100 and gradually increase it if necessary.
  • I tried to include some watery reflections in every shot to add movement and colour.

I hope you give night-time photography a go, if you have never tried it before. It’s very rewarding πŸ™‚

Photography: Pilanesburg Game Reserve

 

The Pilanesburg Game Reserve lies to the north-west of Johannesburg, South Africa, and is very close to Sun City – our famous destination for gamblers, golfers and others in search of a good time.

The Game Reserve itself lies within an ancient volcanic caldera, and is richly endowed with wildlife. The best time for game viewing is around sunrise and sunset. Most of the animals are very inactive during the heat of the day – about 30 to 35 C in summer!

 

Fuji FinePix S9500, f/4.5, 1/320 second, ISO 80

 

I have been lucky enough to visit the reserve several times over the years. My favourite spot for photography is the hide on the largest dam in the reserve. I have seen crocodiles, hippos, big antelope, and a huge variety of bird-life from this vantage point. When the dam was built, many old trees were drowned. They make a safe resting perch for fish eagles and other large predatory birds, while they scan the waters for their next meal.

Fuji FinePix S9500, f/5, 1/340 second, ISO 80

 

Roughly the same scene, at sunset, with the Gibbous Moon overhead….very peaceful scene…

Fuji FinePix S9500, f/4.5, 1/280 second, ISO 200

Perfect calm, this time in the mid-morning:

Fuji FinePix S9500, f/3.5. 1/350 second, ISO 200

 

My tips for photography in the game reserve:

  • I found when I shot the same scenes in the middle of the day, they were overexposed and I lost a lot of detail. It is best to shoot in the hours around sunrise and sunset – unless you are deliberately trying to show the harsh heat of the African Bush.
  • It helps to use a polarising filter to bring out the deep blue skies and brilliant white clouds, as long as you are aware that it works best when you’re at right-angles to the sun. A polariser reduces glare and reflections, so you can photograph INTO water. The water “disappears” as you turn the filter.
  • A neutral density filter can also help to darken the sky, to prevent that washed-out look

 

 

Photography: Family Portraits

This morning, I took the latest addition to our family to meet my Mom-in-law.

Carl is two months old today, and Granny – well, let’s just say she’s a little older – but just as beautiful as ever.

I was very lucky to get these lovely photos of their first meeting. I used my Canon 60D with my 50mm f/1.4 prime lens, hand-held and only natural indoor lighting.

Post-processing was in Lightroom 4 – I adjusted the exposure slightly and applied a sepia-toned filter but left in a bit of de-saturated colour. I think this effect really brings out the beautiful skin tones of both Gran and Baby.

Can there be anything more wonderful than holding a bonny baby boy in your arms for the first time πŸ™‚

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Tips for photographing babies:

  • Pick a time when his tummy is full, his face is clean and he’s happy
  • If he’s VERY wriggly, use a faster shutter-speed – about 1/125th second, and a wider aperture setting
  • Try to capture his expressions, and those of the person holding him. You can see the tenderness in a mother’s/gran’s eyes – catch those moments if you can
  • Use natural light – a flash is likely to make the baby jumpy
  • Babies look good in pale colours – it brings out their delicate skin-tones
  • It looks great when both the adult and the baby are wearing similar toned clothing.

Photography: Lions

If you ever visit Johannesburg, South Africa, you should make a point of visiting the Lion Park. It’s near Lanseria Airport, to the west of the city. Children are especially fond of the place because they can go into the cage with the baby lions, pat them and play with them – it’s a great adventure for little ones. The baby lions don’t seem to mind too much either.

When you’re done playing with baby lions and feeding the baby giraffes, get into your car and drive over to the four lion enclosures. A word of caution – DO NOT get out of your car, or open the windows – the adult lions are NOT friendly! They are extremely dangerous, and more than one tourist has snapped his last shot, leaning out of the car window or getting out of the car. I’m not kidding.

The dirt road leads through all four enclosures in turn. We came across this group first. As you can see, they’re all fairly alert – it was nearly feeding time:

FinePix S9500, f/4.9, 1/210 second, ISO 200

Two of the lionesses got up to investigate our car. It’s pretty scary coming face-to-face with these big cats!

FinePix S9500, f/4.1, 1/400 second, ISO 200

If you have any doubts as to how big a full-grown lioness is…..

FinePix S9500, f/4, 1/320 second, ISO 200

The males tend to lie around under the trees, and let the females do all the hunting.

Canon 400D, f/5.6, 1/1600 second, ISO 400

Occasionally, the male will get up and go sharpen his claws on a tree – just in case he has to do any work later!

FinePix S9500, F/4.9, 1/80 second, ISO 400

We saw a rare white lion in one of the enclosures. He looked like a big, white, fluffy toy….

FinePix S9500, f/3.7, 1/280 second, ISO 200

until he opened his mouth!

FinePix S9500, f/3.8, 1/300 second, ISO 200

We also managed to snap a few close-up portraits. This little cub was quite happy to have his photo taken.

Canon 400D, f/5.6, 1/1600 second, ISO 400

So, if you want to see Big Cats – REALLY big cats – come visit us here in South Africa!

 

Photography: Birds & Bees

I live in the middle of suburbia, between Pretoria and Johannesburg – a very densely populated area. And yet, surprisingly, there is still a wide variety of bird-life that manages to survive around here. All the more amazing considering I have two cats who regularly deposit an “offering” of dead bird at my bedroom door….

We have a small but densely planted garden – aloes, cycads, proteas, clivias, ferns and a few trees, and a pot with water flowing out of it that is a favourite spot for the garden birds to come and have a splash in the late afternoons.

The Aloes are flowering at this time of the year, attracting the sun-birds – we have two varieties that visit our garden almost every day:

Canon 60D with 300mm zoom lens, f/5.6 1/60 second, ISO 100

Canon Power Shot SX30 IS, 150mm, f/5.8, 1/80 second, ISO 400

The sun-birds have to compete with the bees – I’m very glad to see we still have a few bees! I haven’t seen any around for ages…. These two photos were taken with a macro attachment on a Lensbaby Double Optic lens. I really LOVE the very shallow depth of field – but it does mean you have to get really close… I was worried about being stung. The things I have to do for my Art πŸ™‚

Canon 60D with Lensbaby Double Optic & 10x macro lens,1/250 second, ISO 100

Canon 60D with Lensbaby Double Optic and 10x macro lens, 1/250 second, ISO 100

The Sparrows seem to be confused because it’s so warm – even though it’s mid-winter. I caught these two mating:

Canon 60D with 300mm zoom lens, f/5.6, 1/200 second, ISO 100

Our little Cape Robin is still waking us every morning with his beautiful songs – he doesn’t seem to mind the early morning Highveld frost at all.

Canon 60D with 500mm zoom lens, f/6.3, 1/100 second, ISO 400

This little guy is totally unafraid of humans – he comes around every day, asking for cheddar cheese! No wonder he’s getting FAT.

Canon PowerShot SX30 IS, F/5.8, 1/40 second, ISO 400

I was very fortunate to get this shot of an Ibis taking off from my neighbour’s roof and flying directly at me:

Canon 60D, 225mm, f/5, 1/8000 second, ISO 6400

In general, when photographing garden birds I use a zoom lens, and just sit quietly and wait for the shots to come to me.

Photography: Florence, Italy

In 2010, Glenn and I took our first overseas holiday together. I had dreamed all my life of visiting Italy, and especially Florence. I even tried to learn a little Italian, which came in handy when we were trying to find our way around airports and train stations.

We spent 4 days in Rome (see my previous blog) and then caught the bullet train to Florence. That was quite an exciting experience – the train travels in excess of 300km/hour and a LOT of the trip is underground.

We had booked a room at the L’Orologio Hotel, within walking distance of the train station. The hotel was wonderful – I can truly recommend it, if you’re not scared to spend a bit more for a luxurious double-storey suite, a marble bathroom, a beautiful pub, and a sumptuous breakfast every morning. As an added bonus, the place SMELLS so nice – cinnamon, cloves and a touch of tobacco…

The most prominent building in Florence is the Duomo, which is part of the most elaborately coloured and carved cathedral I have ever seen.It was built by Brunelleschi and completed in 1436, 140 years after work on it had begun.

Fuji FinePix S9500, f/4, 1/340 second, ISO 100

For a few Euro you can induce your own heart attack by climbing up to the top of the Duomo – a tortuous climb that gets steeper and narrower and seems to go on for hours. When you finally get to the lookout platform, it’s really all worth it (once the black spots in front of your eyes disappear and your heart rate returns to normal!) Do you see the people in the picture above? This is their view, looking straight down!

Fuji FinePix S9500, f/6.4, 1/600 second, ISO 200

Florence is full of beautiful buildings and incredible art, but my favourite place was on the Piazzale Michaelangelo, a hillside outside of Florence, across the River Arno, where visitors and locals congregate to chat, drink wine and watch the sun go down. Here is the view in the middle of the afternoon (at 7pm!)

Fuji FinePix S9500, f/8, 1/420 second, ISO 200

The sun stayed high in the sky and it seemed it would never set…. it finally started getting dark around 9 pm, and we were treated to this beautiful sight:

Fuji FinePix S9500, f/5.6, 1/2 second, ISO 200

We sat for hours on the steps, watching the city and the people, drinking Chianti out of plastic cups, and when it was dark we found a nearby restaurant and had pasta to soak up the alcohol before the walk back to the hotel. It was a great evening!

There are 10 bridges in Florence.Β  The oldest is the Ponte Vecchio. It is built on the site of at least three preceding bridges, dating from as early as the Roman Empire. It doesn’t look too impressive from a distance, until you walk across it and find that it is lined on both sides by jewellery shops absolutely STUFFED with gold, platinum, diamonds… Completely unexpected!

Fuji FinePix S9500, f/3.1, 1/58 second, ISO 200

We walked for at least eight hours a day in Florence. There was so much to see, even though it is quite a small city. I caught this beautiful sunset, walking near the river one evening:

Fuji FinePix S9500, f/4.9, 1/320 second, ISO 200

We hung around on one of the bridges for a long time, waiting for the sun to go down, and the lights to come up, and I got this shot, looking back at the Ponte Vecchio:

Fuji FinePix S9500, f/2.9, 1/4 second, ISO 400

Florence was everything I hoped it would be, not least because Glenn proposed while we were there. I bought my wedding ring on the Ponte Vecchio, my wedding dress in one of the boutiques in town, and we were married four days later on a hillside overlooking the city, at sunset …

We are planning to go back to Florence for our third wedding anniversary next May – I can’t wait!

Photography: Rome, Italy

I spent an all-too-brief holiday in Rome, in May 2010. It had been my dream since early childhood to visit Italy, especially Rome and Florence. The ancient ruins, the art, the architecture and the Italian people have always held a deep fascination for me.

We managed to get accommodation in a family-run hotel within walking distance of the main train station, Termini, and right outside one of the entrances to the Metro. The hotel was also within easy walking distance of the famous Colosseum – so naturally that was the very first stop.

The Colosseum is one of the major tourist attractions of Rome – it’s architecture, its bloody history, its modern-day Gladiators who will act as guide and photographic prop for a few Euros… (Beware! Establish exactly HOW MANY Euros BEFORE you accept their offer to sneak you in past the endless queues!)

Once you’re inside, the scale of the place is overwhelming:

FinePix S9500 – 6mm – f/2.8 – 1/150 sec – ISO 200

Fuji FinePix S9500 – 10mm – f/3.4 – 1/240 sec – ISO 200

It’s a magnificent piece of history, and a lot of effort is going into its restoration – but it will never be a beautiful place again….Except at night! This photo was taken from a small restaurant across the road:

Fuji FinePix S9500 – 6mm – f/2.8 – 1/4 sec – ISO 800

A very short stroll from the Colosseum is the Roman Forum – a collection of ancient ruins, too amazing to take in all at once. I advise that if you want to visit the Forum, do some reading first. If I had gone in there with some understanding of the significance of the place, I would have appreciated it even more than I did.

The valley of the Vestal Virgins is particularly interesting. So many ancient buildings, and bits of buildings, so many fascinating stories…. Excavations are still turning up new and interesting finds.

This building has a green door that used to be at ground level – it’s now a good bit higher:

Fuji FinePix S9500 – 6mm – f/2.8 – 1/420 sec – ISO 200

The same building, from a different angle:

Fuji FinePix S9500 – 35mm – f/4 – 1/400 sec – ISO 200

There is a lot to see in Rome. Most people would visit the Colosseum and St Peters/Vatican – but you should also take time to see the Pantheon. It has the first concrete dome ever built – and it is simply magnificent! Even if they did forgot to close up the hole at the very top…. Isn’t it beautiful the way the sunlight streams in?

Fuji FinePix S9500 – 35mm – f/2.8 – 1/10 sec – ISO 100 – No flash

Of all the buildings in Rome, I thought the Pantheon was the most perfect – just look at these columns!

Fuji FinePix S9500 – 35mm – f/2.9 – 1/250 sec – ISO 800 – No flash

Unfortunately, we had to do the touristy thing and see St Peters and the Vatican. I thought the sheer, gluttonous opulence of both of these Catholic Church properties was just disgusting. There’s enough gold in there that, if it were put to better use, could feed and clothe and educate a small country.

So, fighting back my bilious outrage, I made up my mind to simply try to appreciate the art they have accumulated over the centuries… Michaelangelo’s “Pieta” is housed in St Peters, behind an inch of armoured glass, and is surely one of the most magnificent pieces of sculpture ever produced by a human being. (Apologies for the “softness” of this image – the piece is behind glass and I could not use a flash, so the shutter speed had to be quite slow.)

Fuji FinePix S9500 – 35mm – f/4 – 1/20 sec – ISO 800 – No flash

The inside of the dome of St Peters is also a wonderful piece of art and engineering:

Fuji FinePix S9500 – 35mm – f/3.4 – 1/17 sec – ISO 800 – No flash

There is so much priceless art inside the cathedral, so much gold, so much religious piety… I couldn’t wait to get outside and get some fresh air!

After a delightful lunch and a glass of red wine, we made the mistake of joining a “guided tour” of the Vatican – which consisted of trying in vain to catch the commentary of a short lady holding a stick with a big red fabric rose on the end of it; trying to spot her and her stick bobbing up and down amid the throngs of tourists being herded through the hallowed vaults of the Catholic stronghold… The commentary was being fed to us through headphones which did not work 80% of the time, but we did catch quite a bit of the OTHER commentaries going on around us! We eventually gave up trying to hear her, or see her, or find the rest of the group, and just went our own way.

I would never recommend the “guided tours ” as a good way to see the Vatican – take your pain, stand in the endless queue in the sun, until it’s your turn to be herded inside. It will be worth it to have some degree of independence. You still won’t be allowed to take any photos inside the Sistine Chapel, you will still have priests yelling at you to be Silent! inside their precious chapel. One guy dared to take a picture and they pounced on him and made him delete the shot – can you believe that? What gives them the right to deny ordinary people the pleasure of sharing photos of Michaelangelo’s beautiful masterpiece with others?

I found the whole Vatican experience nauseating, to be honest! The only moment of joy was when I “accidentally” fell behind a large group, and turned around looking for something to photograph without people’s heads getting in the way – and saw this totally stunning statue hidden in an alcove, catching the sunlight in a most attractive way!

Fuji FinePix S9500 – 35mm – f/3.4 – 1/350 sec – ISO 100

Clearly the Catholic Church doesn’t object to naked young men gracing their alcoves….

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You may have noticed that all these photos were taken with a humble Fujifilm FinePix S9500 camera – a relatively inexpensive camera with a fixed lens. In spite of that, the colour and clarity of the shots, even in very low light, is very acceptable!

  • Anyone can take lovely photos with this type of camera – the trick is to make sure you learn to use the manual settings. Don’t leave it to the camera to do the work – take control of exposure, aperture and the ISO settings.
  • When you’re in crowded situations, you won’t be able to safely use a tripod, so it is important to keep the exposure above 1/60 second, unless you can rest the camera on a support of some kind.
  • Use a polarising filter to darken skies and reduce glare and reflections. But, be aware that a polarise works best when the camera is at right angles to the rays of the sun.
  • Look for unusual angles, and photograph the LIGHT!

Photography: Dubai UAE – Architecture and the Marina

I’ve just returned from a week’s holiday in Dubai, and have chosen some of my favourite photos to share on this blog. These are mainly of the modern buildings around the Dubai Marina – most of which are less than 10 years old.

When you walk around this area, you notice that the buildings are all in shades of pale khaki, blue and grey. It’s surprising how beautiful high-rise buildings can be!

Canon 20mm lens – f/9 for 1/400 second at ISO800

We walked around the Dubai Marina quite early in the morning, having caught a bus to the Metro station, and the train from there to the Marina. The Marina is full of luxury yachts, as you would expect. I didn’t see many people around – it was pretty warm, about 30 degrees C by 10 am.

Canon 20mm lens – f/5.6 for 1/250 second at ISO250

A closer look at some of the yachts – dream on, guys! We will NEVER be able to afford one of these babies…

Canon 20mm lens – f/9 for 1/400 second at ISO 1250

Now here’s something you don’t see every day – this brand new building TWISTS a full 90 degrees between the base and the top – I’m dying to see how they finish it off… it just begs to go around at least another 90!

Canon 20mm lens – f/11 for 1/250 second at ISO1000

We took the ferry from the Marina out around the Palm Island, at sunset. I took this shot on the way back. The light was just right….

Canon 20mm lens – f8 for 1/125 second at ISO400

Back on solid ground, we took a walk around the gardens of the magnificent Royal Mirage Hotel. This photo was taken from their private beach, looking towards the Palm Island, with the causeway between the mainland and the Island on the right.

Canon 20mm lens – f 2.8 for 1 second at ISO1600

And finally, because I can’t resist it, here’s a photo with my crazy Canon 7-15mm lens. This is the Palace Hotel, near the Burj Khalifa – at the other end of town from the Marina. (See my previous blog of photos of the Burj and Downtown Dubai for more photos of the Palace Hotel at night.)

Canon 7-15mm lens – 8mm focal length – f/10 for 1/400 second at ISO200

Next time, I will share photos of the Dubai Creek, the Souks and some little ocean-going Dhows you won’t believe people are brave enough to sail in all day πŸ™‚

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P.S. If you’ve recently been to Dubai, or if you live there, I’d love to know what you think of the city’s modern architecture. Please feel free to leave a comment.

Photography: (Lion)sex – Rated PG

Okay, I know some of you may have found my post (Lion)sex in the city(zoo) a bit of a let-down in the end – a bit of an anti-climax, you might say πŸ™‚

I’m sorry about that – I didn’t want the blog to be in bad taste.

However, friends and family who have seen the photo of the lions actually doin’ it don’t think it’s so terrible…. and I don’t want to be accused of false advertising!…..so here goes….

(if you have a six-year-old sitting next to you, perhaps you should put your hand over his eyes about now….)

Naughty beast!

Photography: (Lion)sex in the city(Zoo)

blogger once told me that if I wanted more hits on my blog, I should write about sex!

Does writing about a couple of lions having sex count? If I include pictures?

We have a lovely Zoo here in Johannesburg; Sunday was warm and sunny, so we took the kid, the camera and a couple of sandwiches and had a pleasant day wandering around, looking at animals and of course taking photos.

I hope you will like these. Yes, there are some (tasteful)photos of lions having sex πŸ™‚

Not this one – this is an alert suricate (or meerkat),Β  guarding his burrow. These are sociable little mammals found only in southern Africa. The name “meerkat” is Dutch for “lake cat” – strange, because they don’t live near lakes, and they are not cats!

Canon 60D, 70-300mm @ 225mm, f/6.3, 1/800 sec, ISO 160

Meerkats are quite comical – their expressions can be quite human… I wonder what those two on the right are thinking?

Canon 60D 75-300mm @ 300mm, F/6.3, 1/800 sec. ISO 500

A pair of ducks:

Canon 60D 75-300mm @ 275mm, f/6.3, 1/800 sec, ISO 320Β 

What can you say about a couple of ducks….? Not much really…. I liked the symmetry of the photo, that’s why it’s here πŸ™‚

Canon 60D 75-300mm @ 300mm, f/11, 1/1250 sec, ISO 5000

Nile Crocodiles. Very common, very dangerous. It is NOT a good idea to take a dip in a river in many parts of Africa – these 5 to 6 metre long reptiles are infamous for leaping out at the water’s edge, grabbing an unsuspecting animal (or human) and dragging it down into the depths, never to be seen again. They wedge the dead carcass under a log or stone, wait for it to rot, and then tear it to pieces…..They have very strong jaws, but they can only bite, not chew….

Canon 60D 75-300mm @ 225mm, f/10, 1/800 sec, ISO 6400

A much happier picture! This old female African Elephant has been at the Jo’burg zoo for many, many years. She is one of the main attractions.

And now, as promised, the sexy lions!

These two were “playing” under a bush…

Canon 60D 75-300mm @ 200mm, f/11, 1/1250 sec, ISO 3200

When they walked out into the open, the male was nuzzling the female’s hind quarters, and then he took her tail in his mouth. I had never seen or heard of this behaviour before…. but it could obviously only mean one thing…

Canon 60D 75-200mm @ 220mm, f/11, 1/1250 sec, ISO 1000

Note the huge scratches on his nose! The lady must have put up a good fight at some stage….

I believe lions mate up to 40 times a day for the four days the female is on heat, so it’s probably just as well eachΒ  mating lasts only about half a minute.

Canon 60D 75-300 mm @ 165 mm, f/11, 1/1250 sec, ISO 1000

Magnificent beasts!

Photography: Clarens, Free State.

My family likes to holiday in Clarens, a small town in the northern Free State, in South Africa. It’s a lovely little place, jam-packed with art shops, family restaurants, quaint curio shops, antique clothing shops… all the stuff I love to look at. As an added bonus, the town in nestled in the mountains, and is a stone’s throw away from the magnificent Golden Gate National Park.

Oh yeah, they also brew their own beer – a delightful light lager you can drink all day, and then still find your way home without falling in a ditch.

The place we normally stay in is on a golf course. They have the most beautiful little dam where I love to go at sunrise and sunset, and am often rewarded with quite special shots.

I was up before sunrise, taking photos in the very soft pre-dawn light. As the sun was rising, I was facing the other way…then turned around and saw THIS beautiful sight!

 

This is taken later in the morning – a favourite spot for a bit of lazy fishing….


Image

Six months later, in the same spot. Taken in the evening. I love the colours of the sky and water!

Just to the south of Clarens is the magnificent Golden Gate National Park. Absolutely pristine Drakensburg area, and a wonderful place for photography.

I’ll show you those pics another time πŸ™‚

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For those who enjoy the technical details:

  1. Fuji Finepix S 9500Β Β  f/3.1 1/70sec ISO200Β  8mm focal length
  2. Fuji Finepix S 9500Β Β  f/3.1 1/150sec ISO200 8mm focal length
  3. Fuji Finepix S 9500Β Β  f/3.4Β  1/100sec ISO200 11mm focal length
  4. Canon PowerShot SX30 IS f/4 1/400sec ISO160 4mm focal length