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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.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

I am still Here!!! Sorry for the Absence.

September is upon us! The ninth month of the year is here and that means we only have a few more months to go before this year ends. I have not blogged in a long while, only had one posting from August, but I am back now. And hopefully the month of September will be so blog-a-docious. That’s not even a word if you ask me, but what I am trying to say is, I hope I will blog more this month than I did last month.

I had a family shoot in Lilayi in August. It was my very first one and I was so excited. I managed to get paid for a home visit. It cost more for me to do than what I got out, for the simple reason that I was trying to be too accommodating. You can’t do that when you’re starting a business. I went out of my way to make the clients happy. In hind sight, I should have sold my package and anything outside of that should have been an extra charge. But it was all worth it. I managed to deliver what the customer wanted; even if it mean me learning to change backgrounds from white to black in Photoshop.

A sample photo from the home visit in Lilayi.

Aside from the home visit, I got up to no good with the camera making my favorite subject the most photographed woman in Lusaka. We had an outing just for the two of us, reconnecting and ensuring that the talents God has committed into our hands do not go to waste. I practiced on my wife and I must say the session was well worth it. I came out with some of my best images captured so far. And the best part of it is that we used natural light. It was a natural day of sorts. Natural beauty coupled with natural talent and natural light. What more can a brother ask for.
My natural beauty in natural light!

And then last week, I got the opportunity to photograph Wintley Phipps, renowned gospel artist and Pastor. He was visiting Zambia as part of the US Embassy’s Arts Envoys program and I was honored to be the photographer assigned to cover his visit for a few hours at the Embassy. I had a lot of fun with this assignment. I was spiritually edified with his music and at the same time, I got to take photos of his important visit. I must say my CV keeps growing and when I market myself, I will say I have photographed Zambia’s first president, Zambia’s white vice present and his spouse, U.S. Vice President’s wife and Pastor Wintley Phipps. If I ever get permission to share some of the photos from these assignments, I will post on the blog and the facebook page managed by wife and I.

Speaking of facebook pages, our page has grown to 300 plus likes. As I have said, it is not a popularity contest and I am truly grateful for the people who have taken time to like the page. I know that they will be the links that lead to more business. Through these 300 plus likes, God will open doors and we will have more business opportunities. As long as I continue to let God be my Agent, I don’t have to compromise in order to get business. The flood gates of heaven will open and I know that the ability to capture moments in time through photography will yield great results.

I am looking forward to my cousins wedding on September 19, 2014, a corporate function in November and a wedding in November. We are going higher and higher from this point forward.

Happy photographing! Ferzio C. Mampwe - Photographer
Lusaka City, my home!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

August is here!

My word, where has the year gone? It seems like only yesterday when we were in the month of July and now we are 12 days into the month of August. I have missed out on a couple of Fridays to blog since I only seem to get enough time to blog about my hobby on Fridays.

The facebook page has been growing steadily and I do appreciate each and every person that has clicked the like button. They are potential clients one day soon, some sooner than others but soon nonetheless. My wife and partner has been very supportive and is more business savvy than I am. She has been instrumental into steering the hobby in a business direction.

The last time I was here, I shared photos from a Gospel Music Concert I attended. Today, I will share some photos from a couple familiarization meeting I had with a couple that has booked me for a wedding shoot in December 2014. There have been enquiries from couples who would like for me to cover their weddings in my locality and some that a little further. I can't say I have arrived yet, I am a work in progress - but work all the same.

I continue to learn a lot with each day. And the forum of Zambian photoghraphers on facebook is a good learning platform. I recall asking a colleague from the group about pricing. Yes, pricing my services. It is good to know how you can make money out of a hobby and I am sure one day it will be a fully functional business.

Here are some photos taken on August 10, 2014 of Lweendo and Julia.

These do not need captioning, they tell the story of a young couple in love and soon to be husband and wife. The images were first shared on the facebook page which can be accessed by following this link.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

God's Envoys' #ThisMan2014 Concert

This past weekend found me shooting at a Gospel Music Concert at the University of Zambia (UNZA) Chapel in Lusaka. How did I get this assignment? I informally asked a friend who sings in the group as we sat at dinner if they had a photographer for the day. His response indicated there was no official photographer for the day and so I offered to go on God's errands with the group and capture some shots.

It was like breaking new ground for me. I have covered weddings and I know that people want to be photographed on the day so it is easy. I was not very sure if people wanted to be photographed at a Gospel Music Concert - especially the singers. I worried that drawing too close to the singers might disturb their singing - especially that I have not talked to most of them at church.

Sr. Mercy Chizuni singing with her siblings.
Undaunted by the task before me, I went about my business as usual. I remembered to borrow a flash this time and the shooting was great. In addition to using a flash, I practiced with different settings for the white balance. I was not willing to stay in auto this time around. I even worked with manual focusing with most of the images I took.

Sr. Faith Chizuni (correct me if I am wrong),
one third of the Chizuni sisters.
I am glad I asked when I did. And I have learnt the value of asking. The worst that could happen is that you will be told they already have a photographer. And the best that could happen is that you will get the assignment when you ask. I have shared a few images from the concert on the facebook page managed by my wife and I. I hope God's Envoys like the photos that I shared considering I didn't do any proofing with a member of the group.

I am sharing a few of those images for the blog also. You can follow the singing group on facebook by liking their page.

Br. Luyando Masenke enjoying a moment in song.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Facebook Page Opened!

Yes! I did it. I know it was long overdue, and maybe I dreaded the idea, but I managed to open a facebook page to share the photos I take. Especially my wedding photography. I do hope that I will get more clients like that as the days go by. I have a wedding shoot in December, a potential one in September and I have had a few enquiries from would be customers.

First off, it was hard to decide under which category I should fall. Photographer falls under the famous person category - I am not famous. I am an enthusiast, a hobbyist and so on. My work may get attention yes, but I don't think I would count as being famous. So I opted to use the brand category and created a page under website. If I only have two likes on the page, that is fine. I am listed as a website afterall. And yet I will share my work like the entire life of me depends on it.

I do hope, by industry standards, that my work is beyond average, and that as a customer pays me to do work for them, they will walk away satisfied and knowing that I have given them my best effort yet. The focus of the wedding photography I will provide will aim at giving brides and grooms an affordable alternative for their wedding while not compromising the industry standards and making sure that the bride and groom have fun with me as their photographer. Yes we will fit in those traditional wedding photos, but the bride and groom should remember their day and their photographer fondly.

I have a few wedding photos on the page. I just realized that I lost some of the photos I had taken in 2012 which I would have loved to share, but that is water under the bridge. I am looking forward to sharing novelle work that is current and fresh.

For those who would like to like my page, the page address is: https://www.facebook.com/FedzLi2. Please head over there and like my page if you would. I know it is not a popularity contest, but it helps to have a few more people appreciating the work you do!

Oh, and I am thinking of rebranding the name of this blog. Since the page links to the blog, I would like for my clients to know that I am a 'Self Taught' Photographer. You can only be the untrained photographer for so long. After that, you need to be confident in the skill you're learning and show people that you're on a path to continuous development.

Thank you for liking my page!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Lunch and Learn - 07.17.2014

So, it is lunch time and I am not moving away from my desk because my wife packed a yummy meal for me. I have decided to eat at my desk and do a little reading to improve my understanding of certain things on the camera I use. The first topic that came up was the white balance.

I have traditionally shot using AWB or Auto White Balance and have not changed this setting, even though I am now confidently shooting in Manual Mode. So when the topic came up, I embraced it and wanted to see the difference in the various modes on the camera. I have learnt that it is easier to manipulate the white balance in post processing if your images were shot in RAW or DNG or ... depending on the camera you use. Jpegs will be final products and you will not be able to change the white balance with vivid effect.

It turns out, you can get away with AWB but changing the settings lets you decide what you want the camera to do and not let the camera do it for you. I tried the tungsten white balance and also the daylight white balance. I must say the difference is amazing. From this day forward, I will make sure to change the white balance as I shoot. In any case, I can change it in post processing. But why not shoot it right the first time?

I took a photo of my pen with the tungsten white balance. This was at f/4, ISO 160 and shutter speed at 1/80 of a second.

Have a nice day and work that White Balance!

Manual Focus for some drama and
white balance set to tungsten.