About Me

The Personal Stuff

  • I’m a 41 year-old South African traveling and working all over Southeast Asia.
  • I spend most my time in Hanoi, Saigon, Da Nang, and Chiang Mai.
  • I’m a part-time business consultant – here’s my LinkedIn.
  • I’m into music (mostly metal), reading and cats.

Disclaimer

I get asked a LOT of questions by folks on Instagram. For some reason my work is resonating with a part of that community and I’m simultaneously surprised and pleased.

The “advice” I provide below is a reflection of what worked for me. There are millions of paths towards taking pleasing photos and you need to find your own.

Gear

I get a TON of questions about my camera and lenses. This is understandable because there is an obvious correlation between gear and the quality of your photos.

However…

Equipment is not as important as MANY other factors. If you’re asking a photographer about their equipment because you want to improve or emulate them, you are asking the wrong questions.

In my opinion, here are things you should be doing instead of thinking about camera bodies and glass.

  • Learn how to operate the camera that you do own. Every single function.
  • Learn how to use light. Learn how to spot interesting light. Think in light. Light is everything.
  • Spend 90% of your time shooting or processing. The rest of the time learning about how to get better at these things.
  • Strive to create a consistent voice in your work. What is your objective with photography? What do you want to communicate? Do you want to tell a story? Do you want to evoke specific emotions? The more you shoot and the more you think about this, the more creative continuity will emerge in your work.

Having said all this:

  • I shoot with a Nikon D750.
  • I use two lenses, depending on conditions:
    • In a tight environment like an alley or narrow street, I use the Nikon 50mm 1.4.
      • To make use of the wider focal length.
      • These tend to be “patient shots”. When I find a spot where I’m pre-empting a particular shot, I have lots of time and can formulate the shot in my head before taking it. I tend to wait for an interesting person to walk into the frame. Since the optics on the 50mm is better, I’m comfortable to sacrifice the flexibility that the 80-200 gives me.
    • When walking around the city looking for candid moments, I always use the Nikon 80-200 2.8.
      • I used to shoot only with the prime, but recently made this relatively modest investment. It was worth it. The auto-focus is incredibly fast, which is my number one concern when candid shooting and the optics are excellent.

Processing

  • This is comfortably the topic I get asked about most. How do I do my colour grading? How do I achieve those tones? What presets do I use?
  • The most important thing I have done in my short journey as a photographer was to immerse myself in Adobe Lightroom. I have spent over 1000 hours working on it and studying it. This is not even remotely enough to render me an expert, but it has given me a solid understanding of how to be good at doing what I do.
  • I’m passionate about photography and wanted to constantly improve my skills. Simply applying another artist’s presets to copy a specific look didn’t appeal to me at all.
  • This isn’t to say that presets didn’t play a role in my education. But I used them as an tool rather than a crutch. Reverse-engineering the look to find out how it was achieved and modifying them to suit my own personal voice.
  • Most importantly, I used presets only after I learned how to apply almost every single function in Lightroom to a particular photo. If you love photography, use presets to teach you how to get better, not to achieve someone else’s look.