Playing at Kruger Park

What do you like to do with overseas visitors? We love to enjoy African wildlife together. So when our Swiss cousin Kevin recently popped out to SA with his family for a holiday, Naomi and I arranged a trip to Ngwenya Lodge at the Kruger National Park.

I deliberately took along only the essentials to take a couple of pics and probably no video. Yeah, right 😉 Kevin’s wife Anne had earned a reputation for finding big cats on her first trip to SA, when we saw 4 different Leopard sightings in 3 days! That was also at Kruger, many years ago, and if you know anything about the bush, you’ll know it’s incredibly rare. 2017 was right up there.

Anne was on form, and the family saw the Big Five in no time at all, including leopard. As we relaxed and shifted from Joburg mode into Bush mode, the trigger finger started itching and I really enjoyed shooting the wildlife we came across. A highlight was two Tawny Eagles (pictured above) battling it out in the sky overhead, which is tricky to capture because everything happens so fast.

I made the beginners mistake of not checking that I had spare batteries with me, assuming they would be in the camera bag. Wrong! They had been left behind on the desk in my studio. Plan B. Battery flat, great shots in the bag, so I capitulated and took one of our video cameras on the last evening/night drive just in case we saw anything special. Wow, we were spoilt for choice.

A pack of hyena hunting, hyena cubs in and around their den and lions mating right next to the game vehicles got our full attention. It was fun to see the reactions of the children and some Spanish folk we had met. They could barely believe their luck, but then I pointed out that we had “Annie find the Predators” with us, which contributed to much laughter and animated story telling.

To see some more photos, view our FB album: Kruger Park – July 2017, and here’s a short video of exciting highlights:

Early the next morning Naomi and I hit the road back to the ‘Big Smoke’ to do a shoot that we’d scheduled, leaving our cousins to enjoy a few more days in the bush. In true style, Anne spotted a leopard which posed proudly, allowing Kevin a chance to get some lovely pics of this magnificent, elusive predator for their holiday album. Pity we missed it, but there’s always a next time.

This trip reminded me of how important it is to get away sometimes with family and friends to places that feed the soul and allow us to truly relax and appreciate nature. I hope you feel inspired to take a trip somewhere special with your loved ones and recharge your batteries. Oh, on that note, don’t forget to take spare batteries for your cameras 😉

Aerial Image of Sandton by Dave Estment of OV&P

Night Photography – Not Always Easy

We’re often asked to do low-light or night photography, either in the bush, close to nature and the stars, or when our property development clients want to showcase their architectural creations, for example. The images above and below are classic examples of low-light photography, the first using a 3 Axis gimbal to stabilise the camera on an aerial drone and the second using a tripod.

The first thing that tends to pop into people’s minds when talking about night or low-light photography is that it’s difficult because the shutter speed, aperture and ISO settings are dramatically compromised due to the reduced available light. This can easily result in blurred images because of camera shake and not having enough shutter speed. In some ways they’re right, because it doesn’t matter how technically correct the image may be – if it’s blurred, it’s useless. Period.

Key Camera Settings

So, how do we produce perfectly exposed, pin-sharp images in near darkness? First, we need to stabilise the camera so that it stays rock steady while the shutter is open, sometimes for up to 30 seconds or longer. One of my golden rules when doing low-light photography is to use the lowest possible ISO setting, as this will minimise the graininess of the image. So if your camera has a low ISO setting of 100 and a high ISO setting of say 6400, ALWAYS choose 100 as your default when possible.

The second factor to consider is the depth of field you want to achieve in the shot. The larger the aperture, the shallower the depth of field, but the more light is allowed onto the sensor. What if you want a deeper depth of field where everything appears to be in focus? Simple. Use the aperture setting that will give you the depth of field you require. Then let the last setting that you need to consider compensate for the lack of available light, while ensuring correct exposure and depth of field. What’s this last setting? Shutter speed!

The Game Changer

Once you have stabilised the camera on a tripod or a three-axis gimbal in the case of a drone, you’re free to use the slowest necessary shutter speed to control how much light is allowed to reach the sensor. Stabilisation is the game changer. In general, it’s the answer to the problem, but there is another factor that creeps into the equation. What if you have areas of the image that are brighter than other areas, like a brightly lit lounge or bedroom in a house that is otherwise pretty dark by comparison?

Night Photography of Home by Dave Estment of OV&P

The Golden Rule

The golden rule here is to expose correctly for the brighter areas, because if you overexpose these, you will completely “blow” them, leaving no information there to “pull back” in post production. When you correctly expose the brighter areas of the image, which will in turn underexpose the darker areas, there is still a much better chance of brightening the darker areas in post production (since these tend to contain more information), provided they are not completely black.

The Next Level

It helps to use artificial light like a speed-light or studio lights to balance the available light in the darker areas of the image. This is where it can get tricky, and it’s probably a good idea to call in a pro in situations like this 🙂 The same principles apply whether you’re in the bush or in the “Big Smoke”. It does take more planning and time to execute a correctly exposed, pin-sharp low–light photograph, but if you use these guidelines, I’m sure you’ll be thrilled with the results.

Please feel free to contact us for your low-light projects and any other video and photographic requirements that may call for more experience. In the meantime, SHOOT SHARP.

Amore' Vlok, 2017 IMTA Contestant, photographed by Naomi Estment

Modeling Portfolio Magic

Do you or someone you know need a professional talent or modeling portfolio? Or do you simply enjoy beautiful portraits? Either way, you’re in the right place! If you’ve followed our blog for a while, you’ll know that personal portfolios are a specialty of ours, that I particularly love to shoot. This time of year is always exciting too because models, actors, singers and dancers all over the world are preparing for the IMTA (International Modeling and Talent Association) convention, which takes place next month in New York.

International Model of the Year

I’ve recently had the privilege and pleasure of photographing three stunning contestants from Figures Models Randburg. Above is a photo of Amore’ Vlok, who won the Figures Models SA International Model of the Year award, including an all expenses paid trip to the convention. She wanted some versatility in her portfolio, including indoor and outdoor images, so we set up a special portable lighting scenario in our garden, which is adjacent to our studio. This made it super quick and easy to incorporate natural, shallow-depth-of-field shots, as well as co-ordinate changes of outfits and backdrops. Here are a few more photos from her shoot:

Modeling Portfolio of Amore' Vlok - by Naomi Estment

Capturing Personality

As you can see, Amore’ brought along a hat, which really suits her. This is something that I suggest clients do for their individual portfolios, so that we can try it out and include a few photos with a hat in their final selection. Without fail, I find that it helps to bring out personality and inject a bit of fun into the shoot. We generally include a mix of casual and more formal clothing, which we go through together in order to match different outfits, hairstyles and make-up with various backdrops, props and lighting arrangements.

Talented Young Stars

It was a treat to photograph Amore’, who brims with talent, both on camera and in person. She is fabulously tall, giving her a great advantage on the ramp as well. To see more of her photos, view my Facebook album Amore’ Vlok in Studio. While you’re there, have a look at the albums featuring modeling portfolios of two more gorgeous contestants: Mwila Masongo and Nicole Morgan:

2017 IMTA Contestants, photographed by Naomi Estment

Each has their own signature brand of beauty, which I’ve no doubt will shine in New York just as it does here in Johannesburg.

Please join me in wishing all three of these talented young stars everything of the best for their trip!

Aerial Photograph of Construction in Progress

Time Lapse – It’s Just A Mystery

Time lapse photography is a genre of video work that uses still images shot at pre-determined intervals to create the illusion of a high speed ‘time warp’ for the viewer. It’s a popular method for creating another perspective on the progress or timeline of a project, event or natural scenario. Imagine shooting the night sky by depicting the stars and satellites appearing to scribe perfect arcs in the sky as the earth rotates, or creating a video to illustrate the progress of a skyscraper, where the building appears to go from its foundations to completion in just 90 seconds, with tiny people scurrying around at warp speed like ants building a nest!

We at OV&P have created a variety of time lapse sequences ranging from the erection of a record 13,000+ sq.m of Nomadik tents that seemed to pop up from nowhere in preparation for the epic annual 702 Walk the Talk event at Marks Park in Johannesburg, to a 19 month time lapse project of a 15 story building being constructed in the Sandton CBD – changing the suburban landscape forever to match the frenetic business transactions also happening at warp speed in the prime office space of the financial capital of Africa.

The variety of applications for time lapse video is unlimited, but we prefer to focus primarily on specific industries in order to specialize and serve our clients best by developing techniques and processes that give them the edge in their marketing. We often combine different elements of video into a project because we find that the more interesting we can make it, the more engaged the audience is, and the more success our clients enjoy. Below is a sample of the collaboration between Action Gear and OV&P in creating lasting relationships with developers like FWJK, whose 3 month progress on their Illovo construction project is depicted in the video:

Using a property construction project as a time lapse example, we utilize traditional ground based video to capture the close-up and panning shots required to emphasize the quality and attention to detail that’s so important to investors who demand the best bang for buck. We then add exciting high level aerial footage shot from our hi-tech drones. As a SACAA registered and qualified pilot, I use different techniques to fly through, circle upwards and away from the site and to get really creative shots not possible before the advent of drones. During all of this, there are strategically placed time lapse rigs quietly doing their jobs, perfectly positioned to capture the required compositions in order to illustrate the magical way that the building grows from day to day.

We highlight important stages of construction by using shorter intervals between shots to feature more detail for viewers, and then contrast this with the warp speed illusion which is so dramatic. We feel that using multiple disciplines to convey the story creates the most compelling end result, ultimately ensuring that we exceed our clients expectations and maintain a competitive edge in the market place by utilising the best gear, the best people and the best techniques available to ‘get the shot’. When we at OV&P call it a ‘wrap’, we go home and sleep well knowing that we went the extra mile to secure a win-win for all concerned.

Enduro Motorcycle Riders photographed by Dave Estment

Capturing Hard Core Racing

Not for the faint hearted, the 3rd round of the 2017 Enduro World Cross Country (EWXC) series was held last month at Serendipity, about 2.5 hours from Johannesburg. Our OV&P team was there to capture the action with our cutting edge filming gear, including 2 aerial drones to add a spectacular perspective for the riders and supporters to enjoy.

This year, Gary Franks and his Enduro World team set a new course that offered demanding terrain for the competitors to negotiate during the 3 hour test of their riding fitness and skills, as well as their physical and mental tenacity. My good friend and colleague, Chris Duys, was my right hand cameraman, each of us armed with a pro drone and a Panasonic DVX200 4K camera. We recce’d the course together early in the morning to select good vantage points to film from and create a compelling video.

Racing started at 8am with the Pro and Expert classes being the first to blaze a trail through the challenging terrain. The first serious obstacle was about 300 metres in, so Chris covered the start then ran to join me there. It was a steep, rocky, slippery climb which saw riders strewn over every possible line, being helped to manhandle their machines until they reached the top and had a slight breather before tackling the rest of the course. An exhausted rider described it as having been set by someone with sadistic tendencies, namely Igor Baleta and his team, who have earned a reputation for setting awesome but tough courses.

There were some ‘chicken routes’ for less experienced riders, who opt for an easier way around specific obstacles, which takes longer but is less exhausting. Chris and I stuck to the interesting and challenging parts of the course, clambering over rocks and running from one vantage point to the next, toting our cameras and setting up before the riders came through. It’s funny to watch their antics as they approach a camera, either putting on a great show or stopping to chat with us and catch their breath.

Being competitive souls, not too many riders take the easier route, which often results in bottle-necks. This can be very entertaining for spectators and the film crew, watching riders of different skill levels use each other for traction, if necessary, to conquer rocky river beds, steep climbs, water hazards and what seems to be a never-ending roller coaster testing man and machine to their limit. We caught some classic action on camera and with the drones, making dramatic manoeuvres through the trees and rocks to shoot some great tracking and panning shots as the riders negotiated the course. Watch the video below to see for yourself:

Three separate races were held for the different classes, ranging from the Professional and Expert riders to ladies who never cease to amaze their male opponents at how well they ride, all the way down to the youngest riders on their little 65cc and 85cc bikes. They really steal the hearts of the spectators and parents who shout and scream to encourage these little tigers, our future champions. At the end of a hot and well organised day of racing, we filmed the top 6 riders in each class being awarded their trophies at the prize-giving, happily celebrating their achievements to cheering from their rivals and spectators alike. After the formal proceedings, the story-telling and banter began amongst this tightly knit community of athletes comparing stories, hardships and experiences.

It was gratifying to be included in the banter, sharing our day of filming and running around like headless chickens to get everything covered. As the sun set, everyone loaded their battered bikes onto trailers and headed home for a relaxing evening before returning to the hustle and bustle of Jozi on Monday. Since my own racing days seem to be over, this is a great way for me to stay involved and give something back to a sport that has been such a huge part of my life. Well done to the organisers for yet another successful leg of the EWXC Championship which will definitely be the talking point until the next race. We hope to be there to capture the action!

Dave and Naomi Estment - Co-owners of OV&P

View From The Top

Standing at the top of a 50m tower is definitely not your average angle on life, but all in a day’s work here at OV&P, as part of the ongoing capture of a 15-story construction project by our valued clients at FWJK. The skinny, temporary tower has been erected in Illovo, Johannesburg, in order to provide a platform for Dave to create a time lapse video that combines spectacular aerial perspectives shot from our drones with vibrant ground-based photos and videos.

I joined him under some duress last week, since our fabulous freelance cameraman, Chris (pictured below) who usually accompanies Dave up the tower, wasn’t available. Can’t pretend I wasn’t stressed . . . and frankly scared! It took longer to climb with me, thanks to stopping a few times for me to rest and reinforce my courage. Apart from moral support, two people are needed to carry kit and complete various tasks like downloading images, replacing memory cards, as well as setting up and repositioning the camera.

Cameraman Chris Duys on 50m Tower

The innovative time lapse setup – provided by Action Gear – utilises a GoPro camera mounted inside a mini, all-weather pelican case that includes a tailor-made cutout to accommodate the camera lens. A small solar panel is attached to the outside of the case, powering the camera battery to facilitate taking thousands of photos over extended periods, with intervals selected as required.

This can contribute a special element to an ongoing visual legacy that showcases great work. It is particularly powerful for long term, large scale projects that involve expansive perspectives – and height really helps for maximum impact. How about your legacy? A 50m tower is a rare exception to the rule, but what do you do to share the story of your work and how it serves your market? To discuss ways to do this via compelling, creative photos and videos, give us a call. We’re standing by to help.