Photographing ‘The Voice’

‘The Voice van Vlaanderen’ (#TVVV) has been my fiancé’s TV date for friday-evenings for the past three seasons now. Funny enough I have photographed every judge so far for the Flemish edition, so it was time to dive into the archives and post some pictures! 

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Also Season 2 Finalist Bert has been photographed by me. 

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The Voice Of Holland coach Marco Borsato has also been before my lens.

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Also I’ve been present at The Voice UK judge Tom Jones’s concert at Suikerrock, but strict limitations forbid photography except a lucky few. Alas. To close this blog post, a picture of The Voice In The Sky event in Hasselt.

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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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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.

Framed

Two years ago I had an assignment to shoot many people that received government support. The idea was that they would give them a frame and let me photograph them. Making them the star of the day.

This is one of those shots from the archives.

D800 Follow-up

After a month with the D800, I can only say. There is no such thing as too much resolution.

The camera performs great in low light situations, gives me sharp and big images, which are a joy to edit. Still good enough for the run of the mill action, unless you really can’t handle a camera, and need to take 40 shots of 1 action.

I love it!

On Assignment: The Rat Pack

For the City of Hasselt I’ve been asked to photograph city workers on their job. I took the assignment a bit wider than the street workers, and also visited the steel, wood and fabric departments. Another person I shot was Paul Vanhove. His job? Catching rats, cats and pigeons. In an ecological way he tries to keep the city clean on his own way. This is not always in the city streets. For this location, we had to wade ourselves through the plants, nettles and blackberry thorns. And past a creek.

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Every three weeks he visits every of the over three hundred locations around the inner and mostly outer city. He has many,many years of experience, yet a few months ago they talked about a rat plague in the media. He was on holiday, and quickly nuanced that it was just one family having some problems. Yet he still loves his job!

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It’s always great to meet passionate people who still love their job after many years. In eleven months he retires from his day job. I wish this hard worker a long and prosper retirement. Enjoy!

Technical: Shot on a D800, with the 14-24 and 24-70.

More soon!

D800: First gig and Impressions

After long consideration I bit the bullet, I ordered the D800. While it wasn’t advertised as a concert camera, I felt confident it could be perfect for my needs, and as of now, I’m still convinced of that. 

The Good: 

First of all, when I got it, it feels more ergonomic, and while the shutter speed is only 4 fps, the speed between the pressing of the button and the moment the shutter hits is amazingly fast. Even so fast that I need to adjust my timing. The 100% viewfinder makes me fall in love with my 14-24 all over again, and the 36 megapixel really bring out the details in the people. I could see myself in the reflection of the eyes of a girl I shot at a few meters away. Wow! 

The ISO feels around the same, which is an amazing feat.

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The way I will deliver for the paper will not change at all. Chances are that I will just give them a 15ish megapixel image. Still more than enough for printing. Magazines, they might get the bigger versions, I have more than enough.

The Bad: 

The higher file size however, will change the way I store images. Everything that is not good enough will be deleted, and only the best images that are published or used, or important, will be saved and copied to my archive drives. While that isn’t that bad at all, since it means I have to step up my game again. 

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The Ugly

Counting the pores in the skin. Eewwwww. ;) 

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For real now, having a much more detailed way of seeing what you captured really shows when you missed something. Something that looked sharp on 12MP looks blurred on 36MP. So, another reason to make even better images. A camera for parties this aint. If I will get another assignment for a party, I will set it to small JPG. Also, a 8 gig card holds roughly 150 pictures, so while shooting this might be an obstacle while trying to work your way to the look you are searching for.

Another sad thing, my amazingly fast MacBook Air now feels like a year old computer trying to handle the 50 MB Pictures.

Conclusion: 

It’s a BEAST! Sharp, fast, but big. If you can’t handle riding an elephant, and have no place to store it, stay away from it. If you think you can handle this, you will love it!

Fireworks: behind the scenes

A bi-annually tradition in Hasselt is Theater Op De Markt, a festival of the motion arts. Be subtle art like a moving weelchair in the streets, or a full-blown production of Macbeth with puppets. Even Virtual Reality and live-bluescreen performances will make you stop and marvel the creativity of these performers.

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Another type of performance is the big fireworks show to open the festival. Following the percussion artist and the fireworks people I managed to get access in the safety zone, and observe these people, and shoot a bit of fireworks.

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First of all, when they say Safety zone, that isn’t a joke. While I was relatively safe, surrounded by professionals, I still got covered in debris during the entire show. Just like the drummers who stayed on the stage during the show, it was interesting to be so close. Also, I’m so happy that I’ve got custom earplugs. I put them in at the beginning of the drum show, and only took them out after the fireworks was done. 

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First of all, it’s amazing to see how rested the firework people look, confident, sitting down, looking at everything, even smoking a cigarette. One person, I take the leader of the project, was checking the order of fireworks going off on his list, and the wireless detonator. 

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However, the moment something goes wrong, they all shoot in to action and make everything work.

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True professionals. And one hell of a show.

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My 10 minutes with Chase Jarvis

I had the very fortunate and unique chance for a small sit down with one of the big current photographers out there, Mr. Chase Jarvis. As this was more of a talk than an interview this will be more of an impression rather than a transcript.

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First of all I showed my portfolio on my iPad. And on several moments he was kind enough to compliment my pictures with words like “wow”, and “amazing”. And I must say, if you hear things like that from such a celebrated photographer, you get goosebumps and just feel humbled.

Basically, what he did say to me, was to get external input. Get rid of any personal attachments. While some shots are absolute top, and some are just okay. So basically, I should go to a professional editor and let him make a good selection. Better 3 great pictures than 3 great and 5 mediocre. He did tell me that I had a great eye for what is good and not.

Also, camera wise, he did recommend a D800 for me. (and a D600 if it would be released). So that solves that problem.

He was also in the same position as I am. Will I become a fulltime photographer. And while it is scary, if you make the step, the survival instinct will kick in, and you just keep working hard and go for it.

“Keep shooting, keep doing what you are doing, and keep getting paid.”

Thanks Chase, from the bottom of my heart. If you ever are in Belgium, I will show you some great places, and beer is on me.

More soon!

The picture that sums it up

Everything is well in photo-land. A lot of opportunities and big projects are coming up for me, whom I can not yet reveal. This is a blogpost about opportunities and dare to be different.

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This picture was made today at a local museum, and it shows exactly how I work.

The statue is Don Christophe, a big spanish giant who helped Hasselt. Once every 7 years he is shown to the public for the Virge-Jesse Procession. The other 6 years and 8 months he is kept in a museum room, hidden from public except some small peeping holes. You can only see some details, like a leg, a knee.

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But that shot of one of the youth mascots of Hasselt was not enough for me. I wanted something special. I wanted to see the statue. Show it IS real, that it sits there waiting, only divided by some plywood and 2×4’s.

So I looked around and saw that there was a way to get on top of the crate and see how it looked. I then bargained my way in a closed-down bit of the museum, and got the shot I wanted.

If I see something (as in, see a special angle, something worth photographing, a special way of photographing something has seen a thousand times before, …), I will try and get the shot. No matter how complicated. It might not always work, but when it does, it’s great.

Again, it takes a pair of brass ones and a way with words at times.

Like that time I snuck into the Red Carpet premiere of Harry Potter in Ireland.

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Or got permission to shoot both in the National Library of Ireland and Marsch Library on the same day. Both strictly prohibited to photograph.

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It’s like urban exploration. In 2008 I was planning my new website skyline, and as a research I managed to gain access to the attics of City Hall, city buildings and some churches. Even a police tower. Back then I only had my point and shoot, so I didn’t make amazing pictures, but I did get the data I was looking for, and a lot of contacts and memories.

Last february when I got asked to do a special wedding shoot, I knew just the spot that could give it the extra punch for these amazing people.

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I think the moral is, dare to dare.

Be crazy enough to let yourself have the crazy ideas. To Paraphrase my favorite quote:

“Because the ones who are crazy enough to think they can (…), are the ones who do”.

Be yourself, and don’t let anyone stop you from become what you want to tell people. Your vision is yours alone. Nurture it, and let it grow and flourish. But don’t make the mistake of thinking you are the top. You are not. I am not.

If you look at old images, it’s only natural to think ‘WTF was I doing back then”.

And that’s good. It doesn’t mean you sucked, it means you’ve learned. Keep analyzing yourself, finding your mistakes

“Stay hungry, Stay Foolish”.

Stay open for opportunities. The biggest things evolve from small and unimportant things. A tweet can be enough to get you in the national news. A picture at the right time and place can be enough to launch a career. A friend at the right spot can lead to big things.

If I told you how everything in my life came to be, you wouldn’t believe me, and call me insanely lucky, or crazy. Or both. And I guess I am.

It’s time for me to wrap this one up, upload some pictures to the site of the newspaper, and go to bed.

‘night.