Nikon SA: You have such an array of genres in your portfolio, all of them spectacular! Which is your favourite to shoot?
Unfortunately the favourite genre is not the best paying one, that been said I would love to concentrate only on sport photography and maybe even Wildlife. But since this is a business the biggest paying and most popular jobs are portraiture and wedding photography. There is a huge need for any good solid family photographer worldwide. In other words if you are known in your area and community for shooting stunning portraits and wedding pics, then there will always be work for you. It does not mean that a sports photographer can’t make a living. It’s just very difficult to make it on your own, because most sport photographers are employed by newspapers and agencies.
Nikon SA: Most people say that to be a successful professional photographer you need to specialise in only one genre, what is your response to that and how have you managed to specialise across the board.
In some sense it may be true, but then there’s that old saying “adapt or die”. What I mean by that is, that I believe in the past film day’s speciality was the way to do it. But with the new digital era we all had to adapt to new trends and demands. The Digital photography era has made taking pictures more accessible to the normal man on street. Therefore it became essential to be able to shoot all kinds of things and do it well. You can still specialise in one or two things, but you have to be able to adapt to other trends and needs because of the worldwide economic climate. My Father has a saying, “The R1 in your bank account does not ask the other Rand, “Where did you come from?”. There is a fine balancing act between being an artist and a business man. I believe that to be successful in photography you must stand on 3 legs like a tripod.
Leg 1= being artistic.
Leg 2= having a business mind.
Leg 3= being able to produce in house.
Nikon SA: When starting out your career 24 years ago, what were the biggest obstacles that you had to overcome?
1. As with any other business finding work and clients. 2. Being so desperate to make a success I took on jobs which I had no knowledge of how to photograph and not having the correct equipment as well. as with all young starting photographers. Both these obstacles helped me gain experience to make better decisions in the future. It has also taught me not to take on jobs of which I have no experience. And I cannot stress enough the importance of reading, studying, and investigating the internet it is an incredible tool as I am a self-taught photographer. Not a day goes by without me doing some research, and that is why my iPad is one of my most valued tools.
Nikon SA: Having started your career before the digital revolution in photography, what was it like to experience the transition between film and digital in the professional realm, and would you say that the change was for better or worse?
Madness!!! And I had lots of fear. It was very exciting although it took many years to convince me that it will and could surpass the quality of film. And today using the Nikon D3X it surpasses any medium format cameras quality. Today it is so much easier for starting photographers and the technology has become cheap and easily available. I remember using the Kodak DCS 520 and 580 bodies which was a 3 and 6 megapixel cameras at R180 000 and the reality is that my IPhone 4 takes better pictures now than the Kodak DCS 520. And that was the camera of choice for sport photographers at the time. My biggest turning point was when I did a wedding and discovered that I had only packed my digital bodies, as I usually shot my weddings with film and was forced to do the whole wedding with my digital cameras and I have never looked back or touched film since that day. In retrospect being a gadget fanatic I can ensure you that the image quality I’m getting from my Nikon D3X bodies is way better than anything I’ve used before film or digital, and that includes the Hasselblad 6X6 medium format camera as well. So all in all I think it was for the better. I think that the changing technology in photography has kept me hooked.
Nikon SA: What do you love about shooting on the Nikon system?
It toke me 21 years to see the light, and then I changed my entire system to Nikon. Ranging from 14mm f2.8 up to the 600mm f4 lens. There are many reasons why I shoot with the Nikon system, and if I were forced I could probably write a book about it. But the biggest advantage for me is the incredible dynamic range I get from my D3S’s and D3X’s. Another big advantage is the amazing spot on results I receive with the Nikon flashes and I can state with proof that the Nikon flash system is in a class of its own. After shooting with the Nikon system for the last 3 years I can undoubtedly say that my image processing is much less. I find that the images are correct from out the camera. It sounds crazy but put one of these cameras in to an amateurs hand with a good lens and a basic understanding of photography and you will find your-self against some tough competition. And lastly one of the biggest reasons for me swaying over to the Nikon side was for the incredible people and staff, in particular the CEO Stefan van der Walt and Product Manager Romi Jacobs. Who has always treated me with the utmost respect and made me feel part of a team which I have never experienced with any other product or company in the country.
Nikon SA: Which lens could you not be without on a shoot?
This is a very difficult question and I hate to answer this because I love them all, but if I have to make a choice it would be the new 24mm f1.4 and the new 85mm 1.4 lens and just for a bit of sugar coating I’ll add my 200mm f2 lens and then I’m set.
Nikon SA: Thank you so much Johan, It’s been amazing chatting to you, we look forward to hearing from you in the future!
You are very welcome and I feel honoured and blessed to be associated with the Nikon brand and team in particular.