The Drive for Perfection

This morning on Twitter I had a caffeine inducted twitter exchange with Rob Yeo, a talented designer. We talked about hobbies and work and the balance when your passion is your work. As you know, I’ve been shooting since 2004, and never stopped. And this year I’m celebrating my 5th anniversary of being a full-time professional photographer. Each year, I’m reaching new heights, goals and whatnot.

Campaign image for Agentschap Wegen & Verkeer

Starting with a Sony Mavica .. oh god, not this origin story again. What is this, Spider-Man? Who cares about your stupid floppy-disks. Agreed, lets put it different. Each step I took towards my goals of bringing bread on the table by creating, I always was already thinking about the next step. How can I ramp this up, and go bigger. Not just something like more megapixels, bigger sensors and more powerful lamps, but also how to optimise things. How to make things more efficient.

However, we can quote Gretzky’s famous quote about “skating where the puck is going to be” all we want, and frame up motivational speeches attributed to Walt Disney “If you can dream it, you can do it”. That speech was written by Tom Fitzgerald for Horizons at EPCOT. Great guy, met him once. Terrific. Great. Huge. Hm. I wonder how my ADHD and Autism reacts to my second Flat White of the day.

So, where am I going with this? Well, coffee. It’s the perfect example of how my brain works. Or Tea. Or whatever comes into my visor. If I learn something new, I want to know everything of it. I want to master the skills and get the most of what I have. My girlfriend has this espresso machine, which I adopted. In the meanwhile, I have asked coffee masters, observed them doing their craft, and even got some one-on-one sessions on how to get the best out of it.

In my opinion my cappuccinos are already better than most places they serve coffee. But, they are a far cry from the ones served by master baristas on their La Marzoccos.  It’s the same with photography. I have been improving both skills and gear over the years, and this way, I know I have reached a certain level of photography, and being able to create special things. But I know there also is a long way up to the top.

Shot for Stad Hasselt

I can do a headshot, but I’m no Peter Hurley yet. I know my way around lights, but I still have a lot to go until I can get the amazing quality Joe McNally delivers each and every time. I feather my light and try to create a cinematic theatrical quality to my photos, but I’m not Annie Leibovitz yet.

But I aspire to be. 

Portrait in the Scottish Highlands.

I talked about this before, but the moment in 2012 when I went to Shanghai on a press trip and met Chase Jarvis changed my life. He told me to dive in, and use my fears as energy, which I not only did, I managed to use the momentum from the contacts to launch a career based on being different. I don’t do your typical photography, I’m my own category and type. Being different, and seeing things different make that I create different things.

Paul Smith for Modemuseum Hasselt

In these past years I have been in amazing places, worked for the companies that influenced my youth, but most of all, met so many brilliant people that just like me will never settle with the status quo.

I’m not Peter, Joe, Annie or Chase. I’m Kris, and I will always keep being Kris, and Kris will never stop learning, improving and creating. 

Portrait Mode

It’s amazing how a phone can create images that look more and more like they where shot with a DSLR. That and instant sharing .. It’s truly a revolution. Especially considering looking back at the original iPhone, it’s a wonder how far we have come. Pictures that can rival DSLR shots!

iPhone, 2008
iPhone 7 Plus, Portrait Mode
Nikon D5
iPhone 7 Plus, Portrait Mode

Disney Difference

Another Sunday, another morning on the train. While the sunbeams illuminate the compartment, it can be time to dream. To think of nice memories, but to imagine the future. Do you have a plan?

I’m no Cylon, so I don’t have a perfect plan, but all I want is for my life to evolve into the directions it has been for the past few years. Eleven years ago I first picked up a camera to actually capture something. I never let go, and I hope I never will have to.

In the past I’ve had many trades, from designing the web and print world, capturing or directing video, team management, online marketing, and journalism. Weirdly enough, I still do all of those. Perhaps not fulltime, but once I committed to one of those, it’s hard to ever let go.

A few years ago I decided to make the fulltime switch to photography, which is still terrifying when I think of it, but I never had such a rush going through my veins. The most insane is realising that when I started, it was just a hobby for me, but in the past years I’ve shot for a few online giants, international companies, and have my work published over 500 times. (I stopped counting two years ago).

In fact, at this moment I’m on my way to shoot another assignment for one of the biggest content producers in the world, ranging from cinema, broadcast, broadway, theme parks and much more. The mouse himself.

I think we can all agree Disney is one of the biggest influencers of our time. I think there are very few people in the world who never saw a single Disney product. I think all my friends can agree that you are never too old for a Disney movie, and I’m sure that if I start to sing a Disney song, many of my friends will join in.

But what most impresses me with Disney is the talent behind it. No matter the position, they go the extra mile, the so-called Disney Difference.

It’s that effort that makes you stand out, and that’s what I have been doing for the past years as well. My clients know that if they need a photo, no matter how crazy, I will do anything humanly possible, and sometimes beyond that, to get that shot.

But looking at the future, I might have a plan, in the form of a motto.

“To infinity and beyond!”

This was Kris for Star Command. Out.

Stormtroopers invade Belgium for STAR WARS REBELS. Shot for Disney Channel. © Kris Van de Sande
Stormtroopers invade Belgium for STAR WARS REBELS. Shot for Disney Channel.

10 years of capturing memories

By the time I’m writing this, it’s already past midnight. So technically yesterday, I celebrated my tenth anniversary of photography. It was that day when I first deliberately took a camera somewhere and photograph something.

The day was a sunny school day in Februari 2004. It was exactly one day and two months since The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King was released in theatres. Just like any self-respected geek I was looking to do a creative project inspired by Tolkien’s masterpiece. The tiny town my school was located, Herk-de-Stad, had great potential. We had a park that could double as Hobbiton, the paths around it looked like Bree. The forest next to the park could double as a freaky Fangorn Forest. The grassy field next my school had potential for The Dead Marshes. I could go on and on, but it looked great. It went so far that my buddy from school ordered a working hobbit pipe to smoke in the breaks. In the end, the project was canned after a crazy idea to shoot fireworks in the park at night to see if Gandalf’s party in Herk-de-Stad would look as cool as it was shot by Peter Jackson. It didn’t. 

The only thing remaining from that period are a lot of pictures from school and the surrounding nature. 

They are my oldest pictures in my archive of over 120.000 images and I thought it would be fun to head back to the place I first took those snapshots with my dad’s Minolta DiMAGE S414 and capture what I wanted to shoot then now. So today I grabbed my bag with a D800, 14-24 and 85 1.8. Also, an iPad with the pictures of Day One. Some are exact revisions, some are things I encountered. Enjoy this rare bit of nostalgia!

PS: I’m sure you can see which pictures are the old ones and new ones. ;)

PPS: Here’s to at least 70 years more!  

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Relaunch!

I’ve been blogging since 2005. In web-terms that’s quite ancient. In total I have written over 800 posts on this blog. Some popular, well thought out articles, some .. of the lesser quality.

The biggest change that has happened with me, is that I have grown. As a photographer, but most of all as a person. Yet, unlike some people, I embrace my past. Even if it sometimes is with a slight blush. I have trimmed out all old posts, my teenage throbs, my frustrations, and countless movie reviews, and split those to a separate blog. These are now Ramblings by Kris

Starting today, this blog is about one thing.

Creativity. 

Mostly it’s about life through the lens, through the pixels, following me on my path, showing you how I did it, and why. 

From taking pictures for local politics till big assignments like Disneyland, until the hanging of the print against my wall. 

 

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I’m Kris, I’m a photographer, and welcome to my blog! 

Preserving History

As a photographer, your main job is to preserve history. A click with the right settings, and you did your job. It will live forever on paper. Sometimes you however make it your job to preserve a real bit of history in real life.

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© Google Streetview

When they started tearing down the building of a locally-famous photographer, something grabbed the attention of the project leader Raf. The beautiful, yet weathered, letters of ‘Portret Bartok’. The black cursive letters where the signature of the original photographer in the family, and that has continued over three generations. But the building had to be demolished, and fast too. Because the entire street had to be closed down, they only had two days to reduce the building to rubble.

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Just on the eve of the demolishment I’ve got a call from the project leader, asking me if I had any interests in the letters. I knew the poor state of the letters, and I didn’t have any place for them

anyhow, but I did knew the perfect place for them. Het Stadsmus, the local city museum with a vast collection, including old signs. Having some very good connections there, I contacted Tessa, the registrator of the museum. And she would be more than happy to have the letters donated. A call to the demolition company and a quick visit to the site made some impression, so they did their best to cut down the original wooden lettering as careful as they did.

Early next morning there was a small press moment, just for me.

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As I was the liaison between two parties I got the scoop for my newspaper, and a visible piece of Hasselt was preserved both on photo, and in the museum.

Verkiezingsportretten

Sinds begin Juli ben ik hier en daar portretjes voor politieke partijen aan het maken. Toch wil ik hierin (voorlopig) neutraal blijven. Ik heb mijn poltieke voorkeur, en kom hier ook open voor uit, maar toch heb ik respect voor iedereen hun meningen en standpunten. (Buiten extreem racistische dingen natuurlijk). Na 14 oktober zal ik dan ook een galerijtje posten met politieke foto’s.

Bij een verkiezingsportret komt enorm veel kijken. Eerst en vooral, de kandidaat moet er natuurlijk op staan.

Een open houding doet veel. Mensen rijden voorbij, en zien een fractie van een seconde het gezicht, en de kleur van het logo. Dat blijft plakken, maar geeft ook meteen een indruk van die persoon. Staat hij er open en vriendelijk op? Of gewoon gesloten en arrogant. Dat doet veel voor een poster. Zeker als het gaat dat mensen je moeten onthouden over twee maand. En je beeld niet beu zijn.

Ook enorm belangrijk is dat hij op de foto staat zoals hij is, zowel van houding als kledij. Als iedereen je kent in een T-Shirt en een jeans, moet je plots geen strak pak aandoen. Of omgekeerd. Als je in pak rondwandelt, moet je er niet in jogging gaan opstaan.

Iets waar ik persoonlijk een hekel aan heb, zijn studiofoto’s waar alles artificieel is. Het licht, de locatie, de make-up. Alles is gecontroleerd om u zo goed mogelijk te overtuigen dat ze eigenlijk voor een lege doos staan.

Of nog erger, een foto voor een witte muur, duidelijk van textuur, gemaakt met een compact cameratje. Een halve lach, iets snel snel gemaakt. Klik, Print, Plak. Bah!

Ook de nabewerking is belangrijk. Een bepaalde partij heeft herkenbare gele achtergronden in hun foto’s. Enorm fel van kleur, maar als je iedereen voor een witte achtergrond fotografeert, en dan de randjes rond de persoon wit laat, stel ik me toch vragen hoeveel tijd er is gebeurd bij het afwerken van deze beelden.

Dan krijg je natuurlijk ook van die groepsfoto ideeën. Laten we allemaal op een klimrek kruipen, of iets ‘uniek en creatief’. Laten we de mannen allemaal in een foto inleunen, wat er meestal op neerkomt dat iedereen anders is afgesneden en onder een andere hoek staat. Uiteindelijk krijg je dan een kakofonie van scheve mensen.

En kleurgebruik dan! Sommige kiezen voor zwart-wit beelden, waar dan geen contrast in zit. Alles grijstinten, en dan een kleurrijk logo er op. Tot nu toe heb ik nog maar één foto in Zwart-Wit gezien wat werkt. En dat was voor een kandidaat van de SP.a in Zonhoven. Mooi contrast, zachte softbox, buitenlocatie. Had had misschien nog iets meer licht op het gezicht gemogen, maar dan nog. Een beeld dat spreekt!

Daarom, geef mij maar een persoon in een locatie. Natuurlijk is voor elke kandidaat een andere aanpak nodig. Voor de ene is een neutraal achtergrond kleurtje nodig, terwijl de andere echt specifiek in de omgeving wil staan.

Maar het allermooiste is en blijft natuurlijk avondlicht, met een echte dynamiek tussen de mensen op de foto. Een losse omgeving waar de persoon natuurlijk op staat. Een echte lach, niet iets gemaakt. Ik heb meer dan eens een kandidaat gevraagd om eens anders te staan, tot rust te komen, praten over leuke onderwerpen, en pas als het goed zit, eens op een knopje duwen.