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Monday, March 2, 2015

Shooting with Jason J. Mulikita

So it has been forever since I blogged and it seems like there is a lot to be said. I  hope that this posting today marks the beginning of some form of consistency into blogging.

Last year I had the pleasure of working with Oliver Olimix Mubonde, a top notch wedding and studio photographer based in Lusaka. The opening of this year provided another unique opportunity to work with another one of Zambia's (and the Sub Region) most sought after wedding, commercial and landscape photographer. I am sure if you have been following photography even remotely you know who I am talking about.

During the holidays, I reached out to Jason J. Mulikita of JJArts Photography to ask if I could shadow him on a wedding shoot when he had space for one more person walking around with a camera. A few weeks into January of 2015, I got a surprise phone call from Jason indicating that he had a wedding coming up and if I was still interested I could join him. He didn't need to tell me twice. I accepted the invitation to shoot with him and and the rest is history or at least the future that we are talking about.

In the lead up to the shoot, I kept asking questions just so I can know what would be expected of me. And the asking paid off. When we got together on the day of the wedding, Jason was a wealth of information for this enthusiast. He shared not only the secret behind his popping wedding photographs but also the secret to most of his clients.

If I forget all the technical information he shared, the one thing I should remember is this: "Build friendships/relationships". It is not just about getting the job done at all costs and walking away with your fee. He mentioned that most of his clients come from referrals by clients he has worked with in the past. Some even from the same family. I have endeavored to build bridges with those of my clients who hire me. And I know if I do a good job, I will get the referrals going forward.

So, the principle behind building friendships is this: clients are more comfortable with you and it shows in your photos. You are not just some stranger who has come there for a day to deliver some work. You are someone they can relate to and they will be free to be themselves around you. And I saw this during the time I spent with Jason. They were like family around him. I guess all the technical skill will count for nothing if your clients look grumpy and tense in their photos.

I also learnt that macro lenses work well best for weddings. You can get so much done with a 70-200mm f2.8 lens. And if you have a camera that can take high ISO settings, bump up the ISO. I learnt that with weddings, you reasonably know what to expect. You don't have to be clicking all the time. You know the moments that are to be expected. Another thing I learnt is that having someone assist you during a shoot is a good idea. They will capture some of the minutiae while you keep focused on the main event.

I am sharing an image or two from the day I spent with Jason. By the way, Jason will be conducting training from today for the next couple of weeks. I am happy I signed up for the training. I hope that my clients will get the best photography from our growing business with Lubumbe.

You can see Jason's work from his website here or on his facebook page.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Two Weddings & A Ball

November and December combined gave me the opportunity to cover two weddins and a Marine Corps Ball.

Earlier this year I started posting photos I had taken of my wife, sisters and niece, I had no idea that people would then be interested in having me take photos of their events based on those photos. I had covered weddings before, mostly pro bono and where people promised to pay, they would give me a measly fee that would not even cover my fuel costs to get round to their events.

I didn't complain, as that still provided me with an opportunity to practice and cover events from start to finish. I know Rome was not built in a day, and I also know that you must start somewhere by taking the first step. So I kept at it.and when I got my first DSLR, I got a lot more practice hours. It is still below 10,000 shots so every shot I have taken in that range, will count as my worst. But they have gotten way better.

So, after I posted a few photos I had taken, I got an interested person calling me through my sister to ask how much I would charge for a wedding. Full day, only shooter starting at bridal dress up through to reception. I was stunned! I had not yet thought of putting a price on the service I would provide and would have done it for next to nothing. After a bit of thought, I gave her what I thought my price would be. Considering this was my first enquiry, I threw in a lot of incentive for the low price. My thought was if I could get customers to spread the word round, that would be payment enough for me. So we had a deal.

And that is how I met Grace and Lekani. Grace had been in touch all the time because her husband to be worked out of town. She is the one that filled me in on the dates, and even when there was a change after President Michael Sata died, she kept in touch and informed me of the changes. The finally got married on November 23, 2014 and their day was beautiful. My first paying clients had a successful day. And from that wedding, I have gotten a few enquiries already and I know in due time a lot more will come.

Grace & Lekani

Grace & Lekani

Grace & Lekani

Thank you for being my first paying clients!!!
Around the same time that Grace and Lekani got in touch with me, my young uncle declared his intention to marry his long standing sweetheart, Julia. They met when they were little at Libala SDA Church and they intended to wed at the same church where they met. I had shared some photos of this couple when rehearsals for their wedding started in August of this year. You can find them here.

My young uncle was determined to have me as his photographer. He could have picked anyone from the group of other talented photographers, but he chose me. And I think it helped that my wife was their matron. On December 14, 2014, they were married at Libala SDA Church.

The photo session was at Southern Sun Hotel. It rained heavily on this day but we managed to get some good photos on location using what was available to us at the time. It was also the first time I had a couple coming in for Studio shots at home. My Neewer lights worked wonders and I am sure the studio skill will get better with practice.

I am sharing a few photos from our session with the Hamoonga's here.

Shhhh! Be quiet!

Julia and Lweendo

All I told them was to act as though they were talking.
They ended up with a deep conversation as you can see.

Wrestling the bride's maids for her husband.

I fell in like with this one.

The proposal all over again.

One final event I had on December 6, 2014 was the Marine Corps Ball. I was approached to find out if I could provide photography services for the Ball. I didn't know what to say. I am friends with the person who has provided photography services for as long as I can remember for the Ball and I was a little hesitant to give my fee. But when I got the enquiry more than once, I provided my fee and we had a signing.

The contract template I was given seems like a good idea for me to have with my wedding clients. It seems like the professional thing to do where the negotiated fee is indicated and I wont forget how much I am expecting for my hobby. I had a lot of fun at the Ball, both as a guest and as a photographer. I may share one photo here but the rest will be shared by the client.

Special thanks for the opportunity to cover the Ball.

As you can see, it has been a busy couple of months for this Enthusiast. I recal a discussion that got heated on the Photographers group about how much to charge. As well as other skilled photographers who were on the more realistic side, I do think you need to somewhere. Small it may be, but it is a start nonetheless. As word gets out and as your skill improves, you will be able to charge more for your services. I am learning that you do not need to rush into bigger prices; your liability is higher. As an enthusiast, I may not be able to stomach paying back a couple thousand kwacha, but I can manage what is at my level.

I read something last week that said "Every artist was once an amateur". Little by litle, amateur skill will fade and the art will become better. Compliments of the season to you all!!!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

The Nesting Turtle Dove Outside Our Bedroom Window

A couple of weeks ago, my wife and I noticed a Turtle Dove nesting outside our bedroom window. So, to put everything in context first of all, we live in a block of high-rise flats. We are on the third floor (British Standards) and some branches of the trees come close to the windows. The only wildlife we see up close are Pied Crows that roam free in the trees.

It was a pleasant surprise to see a different species for a change, a Turtle Dove (Njiba, Nziba). And to see one so close and in a nest was an added bonus. Being the enthusiast I am, I obviously took a few photos of the bird. The purpose of this Post today is to share some of those photos.

Nesting Turtle Dove
After two weeks of looking out the window every morning, to the point of that becoming a morning ritual, I came home this past Saturday to my wife telling me that our Nesting bird had been attacked by a Pied Crow (Chikwalala). My wife tried with all the energy she could summon to shoo the black and white attacker but at the time she saw the fight, the Pied Crow had already taken one of the eggs. I managed to take a photo of what the Turtle Dove was protecting, one of the eggs seen below.

The Egg that survived the first attack
This afternoon I came back from work hoping to see the familiar bird in site but found the nest empty. And the only surviving egg was also gone. I am not sure if it was taken by the Pied Crows or the mummy Dove moved it. I did notice that the egg looked cracked the last time I checked. And in hind sight, I think the nest has been empty since Saturday considering the eff was broken. It is a pity that we will not see the little hatch-lings come into this world. Thanks for nothing to the Pied Crows for robbing us of that opportunity.

A few lessons learnt from the Turtle Dove: Patience, Perseverance and fighting to the end.

We wont be seeing her any time soon

Monday, November 10, 2014

Meet the Awesomes (Elastus and Lisa)

I now pronounce you Mr. and Mrs. Awesome! Awesome!!!

On October 26, 2014, we had an opportunity to shoot a wedding for our friends. I say our because this is a couple that my wife and I are friends with.

Lisa getting ready to walk down the aisle.
We met Elastus some time back at church. He is a gifted brother who can sing. We would see him now and again at church and he shared music a time or two. We would keep an eye out some Sabbaths to see if he had a young lady in his life. Not that we wanted to match make, but just being curious.

Imagine our delight when we saw photos of what seemed to be an engagement shoot. A little speculation about what was going on and we finally got our confirmation. We had dinner with Elastus and his fiancee, Lisa. They were an interesting couple to sit and chat with. They are both lecturers at the University of Zambia and devoted researchers. You can clearly see they have so much in common and are in love.

Elastus catching a breath before the church service began.
We are glad to have them as our friends, and imagine how honored we were when we got not only an invite to the wedding but also a chance to cover their wedding from the sidelines and in the shadows. We came back with photos that would so easily be missed and were glad to have been a part of their wedding day.

Let me tell you about the hidden gem for their wedding venue. It was the first time I heard of this place and wondered why I had not heard about this place before. It is Ananda Wedding and Conference Venue. It is a tasteful wedding venue with a very intimate looking chapel. The furniture is classy and elegant (if I can put those two words together). Because the venue is so far out of town, they provide snacks before the reception. All in all, this is a very ideal wedding venue and I do believe it would be every couple's ideal location.

Dress Assist!!!
We got to the wedding reception in time for the festivities to begin and it was amazing to see one of our favorite musicians, Abel Chungu, singing for the couple. The Awesome's did a great job with their celebration. It was nice to see Elastus and Lisa dancing to "Google". She did a Beyonce medley as she upgraded him whereas he pulled a "dibili" number on her.

In keeping with his passion for singing, he did an awesome rendition of John Legend's "All of Me". He sang his heart out for his bride. He broke a sweat and drove his wife to tears, happy tears I must say. He had told us he was a sucker for old music, we believed him on this day as they danced to an old song (new singer) that blended well with the beginning of a new life. "At last... du du du..."

It was a wonderful evening filled with love, laughter, happy tears and we do wish the Awesome's a happy life ahead.

She was officially handed to him.

The ring exchange.

Their first dance.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Salaam in Juba!

Hello everyone! Seems like a lifetime since I blogged and more so since I shared a photo on the blog. It could well be a lifetime considering I spent three weeks in Juba, South Sudan. The experience was awesomely different. It was the first time I went to a place expecting the worst and what I found was so much different.

This supermarket had brands I couldn't identify with.

I arrived at the airport bracing myself to do a little 'duck and cover' from flying bullets and launched rockets, sneak into someone's armored car and be whisked away to safety. The experience was so much different from my expectations. Instead of getting into an armored high-speed chase, I was welcomed by the smiling face of a local contact who ushered me through immigration, translating for me at every turn and helping me to get my buggage cleared.

After clearing immigration, I was taken to a waiting 4x4 and onwards to my accommodation. Talk about lasting first impressions huh! I immediately noticed that South Sudan is a country on a great development path if not for the disruptive effects of war/conflict. There were new buildings coming up everywhere, and the main street (Kololo Road) was being worked on to resurface what had been destroyed.

A view from the Base Nyama choma!
A lot of construction going on
I must say thought that it was the first time I was in a place where I couldn't freely take pictures. With a point and shoot or DSLR camera. It was hard not to, but I did get rare windows of opportunity to take pictures of posters just so I could remember the path I took when I walked around and didn't want to ask for transport to move short distances. It was a dangerous move I know, but I just had to. At one point I remember a random person honking at me when I took a photo - not sure if I was in his way or it was a warning not to take any photos.

I came back having experienced a lot of warmth from the South Sudanese people. They were very accommodating to me and I am sure I have come back with friendships to last a lifetime. I was introduced to their local cuisine at Mama Asha's (or Troika as the gentlemen I hang out with call it). I ate a lot of Kisra when I could because it was the closest equivalent to Nshima. Well, there was ugali too but it didn't taste so right the first time like Kisra did. I discovered that it would be easy to be vegetarian in South Sudan with all the "green" people ordered during lunch. They only had one piece of meat in a serving of vegetables.

Best source for goat stew. Eaten with chapati instead of Kisra.
My favorite, and undeniably so for most locals, was karkade (kerekede as pronounced by the locals). It is one of the edible hibiscus varieties and I absolutely loved it. I equally enjoyed casava leaves and many others whose names I can't remember because my host always ordered for me the special of the day.

I even got a haircut from one of the Kenyan barbershops. The barber was Nigerian and he gave me the best haircut since the Phiri Boys' haircuts in Kafue many moons ago. And he was on demand, with a number of patrons coming in to ask for him by name. And asking for the same hair cut (because their ladies [girlfriends and wives] loved it) as the last time.

Kalast? Ring a bell anyone?
From the stories I heard during lunch, this Dr. didn't do his
market research fairly well. Especially for bullet number 1.
People who think Africa is one country couldn't be mistaken in some respects. There are a lot of similarities in what we eat and what we do. Consider the presence of posters from traditional healers who want to enlarge something on your body, or bring back your lost lover/wealth, or even make you rich when they operate from a shack. But that's none of my business for now.

I managed to pick up a few words for greeting in the morning and in the evening. And I hope to use those some day when I meet someone from South Sudan. A few of the photos that were not too risky to take are shared here. I wish all the people of South Sudan peace and prosperity. This young country can accomplish so much.
I only got to see the Nile from the plane.
Didn't get a chance to go out to it.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Away in a Far Country

Baandaa? Alogbuti!

Today marks exactly one week since I ventured out into the unknown and travelled to Juba, South Sudan for the first time in my life. It is the first time I am in this part of the world and I must say my expectations for this visit were zero or non-existent. I am here for work, not photograpy but Human Resources work - the work that buys my family and I bread and butters that bread as well.

I volunteered for a three week assignment to coach the newly hired HR people at the Juba Office for the organization I work for. In my preparations for the visit, I read a lot of online reports about the country, took some online training about living in high threat areas and was geared for the trip. My expectation was that I would find military police at the airport, with the sound of guns and heavy artillery exploding all the time. I must say I braced myself for the worst case scenario, ever!

To my shock, the landing at Juba International Airport was quiet. We came out of the Bombardier 400 and quietly made our way to the Ebola screening area. I filled out my paperwork, went to the screening line and was out of the screening tents in no time. I must mention that the screening threw me off. Considering I had been screened in Addis Ababa and no one made me sign any forms or pointed a gun like thermometer at my forehead. I was greeted by the smiling face of the person assigned to help me clear with immigration in this country. I was glad to have him with me - he made things work so much faster and I spent 30 minutes only from place through customs to the residence that would be my home for the next three weeks.

The first night went by so fast, I couldn't sleep because I half expected things would go south at any time. My ears were listening in for any sound of gunshots, or explosions, or even commands on the two way radio indicating I should pack up and head back to the airport to leave the country. That didn't happen. What happened though is I showed up for work exhausted from a long trip and lack of sleep. But I managed to work through the day.

I quickly learnt one thing that I have always known. Africans are very warm people. I don't speak the same language as the people here, our cultures are different, but we are warm in character towards visitors. The person I am working closely with has gone out of his way to make sure we get to do a good job and to make me comfortable. Each time we go out for lunch together, he explains the food items that are selling on the day and makes the orders. The first couple of meals he wouldn't have me pay for my meal. He said I am his visitor and when they receive visitors in this country, the visitor does not pay for food. I have had to insist that I share at least in paying for part of the meal even if it is a little payment. And he agreed - I only hope I have not overstepped my boundaries as a visitor.

Being a country that recently went through civil war, they are very weary of visitors taking pictures. In my preparations, I made sure to leave my reasonably priced Canon and carried a Panasonic Lumia point and shoot. I still haven't had a chance to use it even. I am between places - office and residence - for most of the day with little or no time to visit other places. And you can't go out in the evening - it is not safe. It does seem like I will come out of Juba without any photos to share. I have been using the iPod to take some images, but they may not be what I want to post at all.

I have tried the local food a time or two. And it is great. I do miss my wife's cooking. And properly sliced bread. I walked into one of the recommended supermarkets for bread and found that the definition of sliced bread is someone working the bread with a bread knife. No wonder people say "This is the best thing since sliced bread". Now I understand. I find that people eat baguettes a lot but I find them hard.

For the next few weeks, I will have a limited supply of photos to share with you. But when I am back home, I will have a couple of weddings to shoot and one Ball to cover. Until then, I will just posting my thoughts on the blog with less or no pictures.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Taking the Risk!

Show me your shoes Mr. & Mrs. Mwape!
I have not been very consistent with updating this blog over the past couple of weeks, maybe slightly over a month now. It has been near impossible to find time to blog even during lunch owing to the day job I have. I wouldn't want to jeopardize the job that puts food on the table and butters my bread. That notwithstanding, I have been well and keeping busy to sharpen my photography.

This past Friday, September 19, 2014 provided an opportunity for me to practice some more and increase my learning. I covered a wedding, not as the second shooter but as the main and only shooter. Well, if you count the kids carrying tablets and phablets, the number grows. But I am sure you get what I am saying, right?

I was asked to cover a family wedding and it was an intimidating challenge for a start. I was called a week out from the wedding and I had very sketchy details about the location of the photo shoot and the reception. I knew the church venue at least and anticipated the challenge of very high ceilings and blue walls that are further from the couple and from the priest. A day before the wedding, I found out the venue of the wedding and on the day of the wedding, I was told the venue of the photo shoot.

Made sure to capture their rings as well. In a pinky swear.

As I was preparing for the wedding shoot, I had in mind one thing. And one thing only, taking risks. My wife gave me a book by Dr. Ben Carson to read. And it talks about taking risks. Based on the little bit of reading I had done, I decided it was time to take some risks and shoot like I have never shot before. Google was my best friend as I researched to prepare for the wedding. I decided it was time to use some props for the the shoot and found some broken frames that I could use.

All in all, I am glad I took some risks. I came out with some good images. Remember, I am untrained in the photography school sense, but I am sure my images are getting better. This blog might even have a name change at some point.

That's how you spell love.
Lessons Learnt:

  • Investing in good glass is a must. Time to start saving!
  • Investing in a proper flash with a diffuser is a great idea.
  • Being courteous and introducing yourself before taking a picture is nice. That way the guests wont mistake you for the shoot and print cameramen.
  • Risk taking yields great results. But, take calculated risks. Otherwise you will botch someone's wedding irreparably.
  • Stick to your philosophy. I want the couple to have fun on their wedding day, and that is what I will set out to do.
I am sharing some images from the wedding I covered last here. For more, please visit our facebook page. I say our because this is something my wife and I are doing together.