Create Compelling Images... (Turn your snapshots into Masterpieces)

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Create Compelling Images... (Turn your snapshots into Masterpieces)

Some of the most frequent questions I get asked, especially on instagram are, "How do you make beautiful images?"... "What's the best camera to use?".. "What are the best settings for travel photography?" and "What makes a good photo?". 

There are times I have nodded my head in approval of a photo I took and other times (Oooooooowie... So many other times) I almost sold my camera and looked for a day job. Woosah!...so this post is my attempt at answering those and more ways to turn your photos from every day snapshots to epic masterpieces... Photos that tell compelling stories.

The 5 concepts I share here can apply to any kind of photography you'd like to do. All the images I've chosen here were taken under some kind of limitation/restriction/impediment whether it be time, space or equipment. In essence, these images could easily be snapshots, images that didn't require much (Work/effort/time) to create... and by showing them I hope to; 

  • Illustrate that the best camera is the one you have in your hand at the moment (I have used plenty of cameras including my phone(s) in the span of making these images). 
  • share some of the fundamental things you can focus on every day when you think about taking a photo.

So here goes. 

1. Take your landscape photos at odd hours...

Yes, I do mean odd as in "not even"... Let me explain. 

Wake Up Early

Waking up at 5am means you can set up either on a tripod or flat surface and capture the sky as it's transitioning from black to blue (Depending on where in the world you are and what time sunrise is). Sometimes that soft light from the rising sun (But before it comes up from the horizon) can be very flattering especially when you have bodies of water. The blue of the sky reflects well on water bodies and gives your photo a nice colour palette (Try bringing that up at the dinner table... Go ahead, Impress the peeps). I shot this on the Samsung NX300 with the kit lens. 

Shot On Samsung NX 300. f/11, 30secs, ISO 200 at 18mm

Shot On Samsung NX 300. f/11, 30secs, ISO 200 at 18mm

Get Out Late

In most places around the world, the sun sets from around 6:30 to 7pm. This is perfect for taking photos of cityscapes at dusk. 7pm means you have a fading blue sky and city lights in buildings as work comes to a close. I make it a point to find out if I can access at least one rooftop in whatever city I'm going to. If there is booking and paying involved, it goes in my budget for the trip. Just like above, the need of a tripod or steady surface where you can place your camera is necessary. In this case, my tripod was not allowed up the Top Of The Rock in New York. I had to improvise... Placed my camera on a book I had carried and used the camera's timer so as not to get a blurry image. 

Shot on Nikon D5000. f/11, 2secs, ISO 200 at 50mm

Shot on Nikon D5000. f/11, 2secs, ISO 200 at 50mm

Stay Up Late

When the sun goes down and we have clear skies, the stars come out to play. Sometimes it doesn't dawn on us to look up and marvel at the night sky. Best time being from around 11pm (Because the milky way usually has risen around this time and makes for interesting night photography)... There are a few limitations to shooting stars though... It requires you to be in a relatively dark area and for your camera to have raw shooting capabilities. For more on that, you can check out a tutorial I had put up here

Shot on Nikon D610. f/2.8, 30sec, ISO 2500  Set on 10Sec timer. at 16mm

Shot on Nikon D610. f/2.8, 30sec, ISO 2500  Set on 10Sec timer. at 16mm

 

2. Use Leading Lines

Humans are extremely visual beings... You draw the line, we will follow it (Or cross it even). Leading lines basically "lead" the viewer's eye to what they're supposed to see. And you, as the storyteller, decide what we see in an image. These are the two ways I've mostly used this...

Using Straight Lines

This is possibly the easiest and most common way to use leading lines...Straight lines are everywhere you look...roads, buildings, power lines.. everywhere. The farther the lines go away from you the more they converge, leading our eyes to a point.

Shot on FujiFilm X100S. f/4, 1/250sec, ISO 2500. at 23mm

Shot on FujiFilm X100S. f/4, 1/250sec, ISO 2500. at 23mm

Using Curved Lines

The potential of curved lines to be visually pleasing is high because they ensure the viewer's eye is travelling through the entire frame of the shot. Curved lines ensure we notice every other element in the photo that we otherwise wouldn't. For example in the photo below, it's easy to think that the tree is the main "character" of the story...Without the tyre tracks, that would actually be the case. The tracks on the sand let us know that there is a more "important" character in the story we should be focusing on... flinging the tree into the supporting cast of the story. I shot this through the window of a fast-moving car.

Shot On Samsung NX30. f/7.1, 1/1000sec, ISO 200. at 18mm

Shot On Samsung NX30. f/7.1, 1/1000sec, ISO 200. at 18mm

 

3. Isolate Your Subject

When your photo doesn't have a clear subject, a "star of the show", then the viewer is forced to look around to try and see what catches their eye first. It is vital that the star of your show stands out... There's a few ways to make sure of this.

Using Colour

This is one of the simplest ways of isolating your subject. Especially if your subject is dressed in brighter, more dominant colours than the background. Something you wouldn't want is for your background to be competing for attention. Solid coloured backgrounds work well for this.

Shot on Nikon D610. f/2.8, 1/60sec, ISO 200  at 35mm. 

Shot on Nikon D610. f/2.8, 1/60sec, ISO 200  at 35mm. 

Shot on FujiFilm X100S. f/2.0, 1/500sec, ISO 800 at 23mm

Shot on FujiFilm X100S. f/2.0, 1/500sec, ISO 800 at 23mm

Using Frames

Frames could be anything from doors to pillars, leaves, windows, columns... Anything that pretty much surrounds your subject in a way that leads the viewer's eye to them directly. For example, in the first photo below, my friend Michelle is in frame within the small corridor...In the next photo, the trees in the background help frame the farmer in the center of the image.. and lastly, the students in the library become more obvious because the doorway leads our eyes to look inside.

Shot on FujiFilm X100S. f/2.0, 1/250sec, ISO 500 at 23mm

Shot on FujiFilm X100S. f/2.0, 1/250sec, ISO 500 at 23mm

Shot on Nikon D610. f/2.0, 1/200sec, ISO 100 at 50mm

Shot on Nikon D610. f/2.0, 1/200sec, ISO 100 at 50mm

Shot on FujiFilm X100S. f/2.8, 1/125sec, ISO 1600 at 23mm

Shot on FujiFilm X100S. f/2.8, 1/125sec, ISO 1600 at 23mm

 

4. Wait For It... Waaaait for it!

By far the most underrated aspect of making epic images...Patience. Sometimes the difference between OK and Great is the WAIT. In the photo below, after noticing the patterns of the flamingos (Walking in threes or more), I waited a few minutes after framing the shot I wanted till they walked to where I wanted them... then shot. It would have been a rather boring shot if I had only the flamingos in the distance. The three flamingos in the front give the photo more depth.

Shot on Nikon D5300. f/11, 1.250sec, ISO 100  at 300mm

Shot on Nikon D5300. f/11, 1.250sec, ISO 100  at 300mm

In this next photo... I entered the baseball field and sat for a few minutes watching the game. Walked around framing the shot in my head before I took out the camera. Then waited again to study the pitcher's movement and knew when he would raise his leg to throw the ball.

Shot on FujiFilm X100S. f/2.0, 1/250sec, ISO 2500 at 23mm

Shot on FujiFilm X100S. f/2.0, 1/250sec, ISO 2500 at 23mm

 

5. Experiment With What You Have!!

This is actually my favourite part. I just loooooove to experiment. There's a time when I had only a 50mm lens with my old Nikon D5200 camera. I shot so much with it I didn't think I needed another lens. Then I got a 35mm... same drill. It was like listening to that one song in the album till it scratches. Nowadays I shoot on my phone (Huawei P9) almost all the time. In fact, for a recent HungerFree documentary project I was on, I shot almost exclusively on the phone... With the help of an unlikely accessory... A selfie stick. Who knew turning a selfie stick the other direction (Away from you...no selfies, please) could create such magic... Here's one way you can experiment shooting on phone. 

Get Up High

The beauty of shooting on phone is that it forces you to think about your shot... The framing, the composition, the angle. In my opinion, your phone is the most powerful camera you'll ever have because you always have it... It's always ready to shoot. I used the Huawei P9 here on a selfie stick...I was standing on a crate, punched in the settings and stretched out my arm with the back camera facing downwards..

Shot on Huawei P9, f/2.2, 1/280sec, ISO 50  at 4mm

Shot on Huawei P9, f/2.2, 1/280sec, ISO 50  at 4mm

Sometimes the difference can be just a few inches. The image below was shot on the phone with my arm outstretched. The image right after was on the selfie stick which added just about 4 inches but made a huge difference to the shot.

Shot on Huawei P9 on Auto Mode. f/2.2, 1/500sec, ISO 50.

Shot on Huawei P9 on Auto Mode. f/2.2, 1/500sec, ISO 50.

Shot on Huawei P9 on Auto Mode. f/2.2, 1/240sec, ISO 50. Mounted on Selfie Stick with back camera facing outward.

Shot on Huawei P9 on Auto Mode. f/2.2, 1/240sec, ISO 50. Mounted on Selfie Stick with back camera facing outward.

 

That's about it for now. 5 tips that can make all the difference... Happy shooting!! 

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Top 10 Instagrammers That Inspire (My) Photography

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Top 10 Instagrammers That Inspire (My) Photography

My travels and adventures over the past few months have reminded me just how important it is to constantly seek inspiration as an artist. However, as much as I love to travel, it's nice to be at home for a while (and to get back to regular blogging again – Did you miss me?! Haha). But sitting still doesn't mean the inspiration stops.

 

I recently shared some of my inspirations from around the world on Instagram Stories (A new instagram feature that lets you share short video and photo stories lasting only 24hrs... for more on that, you can click here) so naturally some of you missed it … But fear not, Here's that list again. These are my top 10 accounts to follow for inspiration from around the world. To be fair, it's more like 15 due to a few honorable mentions. The guys that I definitely have to check out every day I get on instagram... These guys keep my creative juices flowing. Here we go.

 

10. @rishad (Vancouver, Canada)

I love @rishad's edits and wanderlust-inspiring adventures. Most of the places he's been to have made it way up my bucket list.

Yosemite is horrible... Don't go.

A photo posted by Rishad Daroo (@rishad) on

 

9. @the_mentalyst  (Nairobi, Kenya)

I love @the_mentalyst's storytelling in his photos. His recent trip to Egypt was also one of my favourite feeds to watch. The overall look of his feed has a nice, warm aesthetic to it.

 

8. @nazyxo (Zanzibar, Tanzania)

I really love how she captures the essence of life in a place or person she photographs. Her photos give that "I'd like to go there" or "I can't wait to meet that person" feeling. Her edits are great too. They have a bright and clean aesthetic to them. 

Octopus hunting with Bakari. #folksatsea

A photo posted by Nasrin Suleiman (@nazyxo) on

 

7. @osborne_macharia (Nairobi, Kenya)

It probably goes without saying that Osborne is one of the most interesting and sought-after photographers in Kenya. I love how he's always pushing boundaries with personal projects. Like this recent one he dubbed, "Melanin-0 (Zero). His edits are always eye-catching and the lighting in his photography, well thought through. 

 

6. @bryanadamc (Tuscon, USA)

I love the simplicity in his photos and how he experiments with light. He uses props in most of his portraits very well to add interesting elements to the story. His landscape photography always makes me want to travel somewhere.

a sense of hope.

A photo posted by Bryan Adam Castillo (@bryanadamc) on

 

5. @lafrohemien (Nairobi, Kenya)

I love how she brings out the beauty in dark skin and being African. Her photos are always emotive and capture what it means to be African in such a dignifying way. 

I wish dishwashing would be this joyful in my house. #lifebythelake #Onetouchlive_mfangano #Kenya #makeportraits

A photo posted by Sarah Waiswa (@lafrohemien) on

 

4. @dorukseymen (Istanbul, Turkey)

I call him "The Light King". I absolutely love Doruk's experimental style and use of light in his portraits. I also love how he uses moody edits to emphasize the awesomeness of the light. He recently shared a few tips with me which I'm eager to go out and try.

 

3. @dennistheprescott (All Over, Canada)

Yes, really. He's from all over, sampling and making all kinds of food from all over the world. Nothing gets me hungrier than seeing Dennis' food photography (I call it art). I love how he uses lighting in his photos and enjoy how he puts colours together. Especially after meeting him and working with him on a recent #HungerFree project.

Surf & Turf and a wicked gorgeous Maritime day got me all 🎉. Happy Wednesday friends.

A photo posted by Dennis The Prescott (@dennistheprescott) on

 

2. @truthslinger (Nairobi, Kenya)

By far one of my favourite photographers in general, I love how Mutua can see and turn even the most mundane things into epic masterpieces. I love his eye for interesting architecture and people... His edits are always very well thought through.

 

But FIRST... A Few Honorable Mentions

Before I conclude, here are a few honorable mentions that make this list a very difficult one indeed to compile (Oh, you have no idea) 

@bobpixel (Accra, Ghana)

I love the storytelling in Bobbie's photos. Especially because most of what he does is in line with what I do (I aspire to be like him one day..Fingers crossed).... His use of light is exquisite and interesting. Always showing his subjects in a strong light (No pun intended)

 

@helloemilie (Australia)

Emilie's trips and photos always inspire wanderlust. I absolutely love the clean, minimalist style of storytelling in her photography. Just goes to show that little is sometimes more. 

What dreams are made of...✨💛 Hello Dubai @visit.dubai. @flightcentreau @royalshaheen #openmyworld #mydubai 📷 @jasoncharleshill

A photo posted by Emilie Ristevski | Australian (@helloemilie) on

 

@thanabster (Nairobi, Kenya)

Speaking of minimalist, here's someone that takes it to a whole new level. I love how he can tell a visual story using the least amount of elements in frame. 

The winds & turns will set your soul free.

A photo posted by Visual Orator (@thanabster) on

 

@zenography (Johannesburg, South Africa)

The Portrait Guru... His portraits are always interestingly composed and beautifully edited. I like the dark, moody but well lit feel of his photography. Some of the elements he has mastered in his craft and that I admire a lot.

Power . #zenoshootsred

A photo posted by Zeno Petersen (@zenography) on

 

@worduuup (Nairobi, Kenya/Minsk, Belarus)

Photographer, blogger and avid traveler. Polina's photos need no explaining. From the desaturated to the somewhat minimalist approach to the wanderlust inducing sites she visits, she places herself in her photos in a way that makes you want to be there... This is a must see feed for me when I am looking for inspiration. 

Sex with gods, you can't beat that! 🏄🏼 #PointBreak #WorduuupGoesToZanzibar

A photo posted by Polina K. (@worduuup) on

 

FINALLY... We Made It

1. @marcogrob (Olten, Switzerland)

As a documentary photographer, I look up to Marco Grob a lot. I especially loved his South Sudan portrait series. Mainly how he used artificial light and balanced it well to create the mood of the portraits.  His head-shots are also very nicely done. 

 

So there we have it. My top 10 list of inspirations from instagram. What do you think? And who are some of your favorites? Thank you for stopping by and feel free to comment below. 

 

 

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Happy New Year, Nairobi: 2016 City fireworks display

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Happy New Year, Nairobi: 2016 City fireworks display

Happy New Year guys... I hope your 2016 is going easy so far. What a year 2015 was, ey?

Since it's my first blog post of 2016 I thought it would be great to start with a bang... No... not in reference to the idiom that means "to begin with considerable excitement"... I have to admit that I am pretty excited about this year though... 

I'm not one to make resolutions but I would like to shoot more and post more this year... And so I did.. At 12:00am on January first 2016 I was up and ready (Not really) to start the year on a high note.

The event of the year was happening in the middle of the city and it was Totally Sold Out. It's a gospel event held by Kubamba Crew that happens every year to cross over from December 31st... With it comes the biggest fireworks display in the city.

By 11:00pm I was set and ready with a few friends, waiting for the countdown (Which I missed). They really went big from the start with all types of fireworks designs (From birds, to disco balls to the usual palm tree design)

Here are a few of my favorites from the show. I obviously had to remain in the same spot not to miss a beat but I rather enjoyed the show. 

Enjoy. As always, feel free to comment below with your thoughts. Happy New Year.

Aaaaaaand the first few fireworks were lit.. They went big from the start

I loved these particular sparks.. I called them dancing birds

The unforgettable and classic palm tree sparks


I called these ones "The Boomerangs"

I called this one "The Sparkling Dandelion"... Haha

By this time of the night things were quieting down...

Then BOOOOOOM... Out of nowhere... The Grand Finale was over our heads

And we said thank you NAIROBI... What a show... Happy New Year 2016

And this was from the 2014-2015 Finale

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Tutorial: How To Shoot (And Edit) Stars.

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Tutorial: How To Shoot (And Edit) Stars.

Welcome to this tutorial on shooting stars. We all love the night sky (At least I do... Haha). Stars are inspiring, breathtaking...romantic even. I have always loved looking at photos of stars and staring up at the night sky. Now we get to shoot stars. In this post you will find two videos showing you things you will need to consider before shooting...And after shooting, how to edit your shot. I have also posted the same RAW  file used in the tutorial HERE... Please feel free to download it and edit as you watch the tutorial. But first, an overview that may help you out as you shoot your first Milky Way shot. 

Things To Consider;

  1. Use a camera that has manual settings and can shoot RAW. (Shooting in JPEG just won't do for this kind of photography because of the adjustments that must be done after)
  2. It's better if you're shooting in a (fairly) dark place. Artificial light can ruin your shot but can also be used artistically.
  3. Shoot on a tripod because you will be shooting long exposures.
  4. Bear in mind the focal length of the lens you will use (14mm, 24mm, e.t.c) and crop factor of your camera (full frame = x1, Nikon Crop = x1.5, Canon crop = x1.6, e.t.c) because it's what determines your exposure time value. (More on that in the videos)
  5. Pay attention to your composition for context. Memorable shots almost always show context. (For example, have a tent in your shot)
  6. Have fun. Enjoy the tutorial.

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Meet Sarah Marie... On "Perspectives" With Joe Were

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Meet Sarah Marie... On "Perspectives" With Joe Were

"Better late than never" said a wise man. Sorry for the delay..Haha.

Without further ado, meet Sarah Marie Waiswa (You may know her as  @lafrohemien on instagram)... Or you may know her from the multiple features she has been given on various websites. An inspiring and creative photographer from Nairobi (And Kampala).

I got to hang out with her and this is how it went. 

Enjoy the video.

 


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