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Halloween was a rainy and dreary day on the islands of Malta, and the lovely Mdina did a vanishing act! I never saw such fog in this area, especially round 4:30pm on my way home. The chapel in the foreground is a chapel which I shall document eventually since its been on my to shoot list for way too long!
Today I wish to share with you the maternity photos that I shot last April for my close friend Anita. This is her second maternity shoot. For her first pregnancy I decided to play around an Alphonse Mucha themed shoot, whereby we used Anita's home entrance as a background for some of her shots.
However during her first pregnancy she was expecting a girl, whereas in the last shoot she was expecting a boy. Therefore we both decided that the shoot would have to be completely different. Being very creative herself Anita always researches extensively prior a shoot and she is one client whose wardrobe has infinite options to work with in terms of clothing, she is blessed with gorgeous hair that just stays put with not much effort, and she is also stunningly beautiful. Way before the day of the shoot dawns, Anita usually would have sent me quite a good number of photos for inspiration. Though this helps me focus and narrow down on what she wants, I do not linger long on these images and do not even try to replicate them. I love surprising Anita and showing her that other shots work well too. It is exactly this dynamic between us that helps us come up with different ideas for her shoot.
During her last maternity shoot we met early. Sometimes clients can't always make late afternoon shots, in fact we met for her shoot during the worse time possible....when the sun was high in the sky thus making it challenging to work with extreme shadows and highlights. We started with a few shots indoors, however when Anita put on this gorgeous baby blue dress, I knew that the shots had to be outside. We started off with a few poses against a rubble wall which worked pretty well (see below).
Then out of nowhere Anita brought out a Chinese paper umbrella, and that is when we got the great shots I was after. I got her in nearby field and directed her on how to hold her umbrella and move, something which comes very easy for Anita. What she did not realise though was that the umbrella served as the perfect light diffuser, so soft lighting fell on her face and most of her body, thus avoiding burnt out highlights for the photos as well as a squint free face for her.
For these shots to work though one has to shoot for post processing. It is not just the umbrella that made the shot, it is also shooting with care by envisioning in advance how you want the final photo to look like. I was after soft pastels so contrast was not high on my agenda, however I knew that I wanted detail in my highlights especially the parts of the skin exposed to direct sunlight. In such cases, one would benefit by metering under exposed to have all the detail available for post processing.
On another day we had our second part of the shoot, where we involved the whole family, so little MJ was running around and trying to get her to look for the photos was somehow a feat, however in their back garden they have a small field with happy yellow flowers, and there were beans ready to be collected. So we shot the family session outdoors, luckily it was an overcast day so they were no squinting at the camera. Kids, and how to pose them? Just don't try to pose them. Get them entertained but giving them something to do and touching mummy's tummy is a good way to get them aware of the new arrival. - (No photos to protect privacy).
I hope that by following this blog post you can get an idea of how you can approach a maternity shoot with more care, thus giving your clients, the best shots you can come up with. Do allow yourselves to experiment, to go with the flow and most importantly make your client feel comfortable with you. Remember pregnant mothers are going through body changes that can be quite overwhelming, so show them that with your work you are making them look beautiful. They cannot see their big belly as beautiful, but you can. So thanks to your work you are making someone else feel good as well as giving them lasting memories of their pregnancy.
Special thanks goes to Anita for always being so innovative during our shoots, but above all for trusting me with her family photos. Thank you dear, you are wonderful!
This year I only shot on a Friday for the Malta Jazz Festival. My arm is injured and holding a camera for long means days of pain. However I took the opportunity to play around with a 45mm tilt shift lens and a wide 24mm rather than constantly shooting with a long lens.
I did shoot up close the musicians and singers on the night that gave some fantastic performances. Angie Vella Zarb from The Blue Tangarine, not only mesmerized me with her amazing voice, but she was gorgeous to shoot too.
Following the first act were Christian McBride's New Jawn. These guys meant business and it showed from the start that they were there to give their all.
The night ended with Bokante who really made one want to dance and the stage lit up with the contrasting yellow and green lights was simply wow and great for photos!
Last but not least the lovely Sarah-Lee Zammit presented the acts along the night!
Moon rising yesterday evening over the Ta' l-Abbandunati Chapel aka Tal-Baruni in Haz-Zebbug. Image was shot wider to get the moon into the image too. Notice how light and weather conditions change the perception of a feeling altogether. Where is the genius? I can perceive it quietly, can you?
Oftentimes we find it difficult to explain a feeling that we perceive. It is all very subjective and one can't really explain it in its entierty through words. Visuals help the narrative, especially if one stops looking at images as mere productions stemming from a mechanical machine, and interprets them through visual literacy.
All around us there are signs and symbols that give meaning to all the images that are shot. Of course one may not necessarily know what something means to someone else especially if the person has no background on the place or knowledge of the buildings etc.
In an attempt to capture the spirit of place, today I shot this scene from my balcony. For the past 2 months I have been looking out of the balcony and telling myself that I have to shoot this scene, but somehow it was only today that I could. It was all about the flat morning and overcast lighting and the heaviness in the air that made me grab my machine and shoot this landscape. My motive here was not to test out my gear but to capture the genius loci of this rural part of Haz-Zebbug known as Tal-Baruni.
More to come about the genius loci and the power of visuals in the upcoming blogs...keep tuned.
#Haz-Zebbug #spiritofplace #photography #geniusloci
You meet people in life who's energy resonates with yours effortlessly. These are the people who impact your life, and even people whom you will have an impact upon. I met Reda in my class at University. Soft spoken and a good researcher, Reda's work is ethereal, intangible, explorative and yet so touching and real.
He was here on an Erasmus programme and before leaving we had a portrait session shoot, however a shoot that was not tackled from a commercial eye. We met but we planned nothing, everything you see in the images is natural and instinctive. He brought the flowers that I will always remember him by, the sun helped with the play of shadow and light, and I shot what I felt was him.
I would say this is one of those shoots that won't happen often. A collaboration between two humans who love and breathe art, who met at an intangible plane, forever drifting in the skies.
View the whole set here
Some moments are picture perfect. The feeling I get when I experience such moments is that of soft smiles and a feeling that 'sits' well within my chest..the heart.
Yesterday whilst shooting I looked behind me and did not hesitate to shoot this image above...and to top it all off the gorgeous soft clouds put a smile on my heart too.
What puts a smile on your heart?
I met Shantal and Marco last Thursday for a shoot in Mdina, and even though 3pm was not the ideal time for a portrait session, I did not hesitate to do this shoot. The golden hour lighting is hyped up, mind you I love golden hour lighting, but give me harsh lighting and shadows and then I will play!
Shantal and Marco were amazing though. The moment we met, we did not stop chatting and the more we got to know one another the more they fed my creativity. I must say that this was a shoot where three people collaborated effortlessly and the lighting made it all the more fun and dynamic.
Shantal is an Indian cardiologist working in Washington DC, and Marco is a German psychiatrist working in Berlin. They met last February in Berlin and decided to take a vacation in Malta in order to get to know one another better. I happened to be their photographer assigned for their portrait shoot from 'Shoot My Travel' website, and voila, it couldn't have worked out any better!
But let's get back to lighting. The harsh sunlight can be mean to work with right? Making your subject squint, sweat and generally get odd shadows on their faces. All correct. However if you use sunlight to your advantage and then play with the shadow areas to frame and play around your subjects, then you are in for a surprise! You can even use sunlight like one would use stage lighting as seen in the image below.
Technically shoot under exposed in order to be able to gain your highlights back in post processing. ISO leave it at 100 and if need be open or close the aperture to get the right exposure. When shooting in such contrasting light, one mainly always needs to post process the images in order to achieve the vision one had whilst one was shooting. Don't be scared of harsh lighting! In Malta we get this type of lighting all year round, and even though it can get too hot to shoot at such timings, the results can be worth your while!
Gear: Canon 5D MKIII with a 35mm Canon lens and sometimes an 85mm Sigma Art Lens.
The full set here
This weekend has been mad...but in a great way! Seagate crew were here all the way from the US filming me whilst working. I was never the main person in front of a camera, so I thought that I would feel really self conscious. However these guys, Jackie, Deva and Phil, made the whole experience fantastic!
On Friday morning we were at Avantech (CanonMalta.com) discussing my photos on exhibition at the premises. Friday afternoon, they came round to MCAST to film me during a lecture with my students, Saturday morning we were at the studio and filmed an interview with me. I spoke about how I got into photography, my personal photographic projects, my studies, commercial work and my experience with Seagate recovery services (amazing engineers!). Then Sunday afternoon they tagged along with me for a portrait shoot at White Rocks complex and then later dined together. This morning, we visited my hometown, Zebbug, and I showed them around the village core explaining how I work, and the overall mundane yet fantastic life of the locals.
I can tell you one thing, its been an amazing experience and these guys were just fabulous!
Behind the scenes shot by Jackie!
Students often ask after portraiture. It is an elusive topic that when taken seriously it can offer fantastic results. In all fairness, portraiture has several meanings amongst them capturing the likeness of someone, however when I do portraiture I am after capturing that spirit that makes someone; the essence of the being so to speak. It is all a play of words at times, and quite difficult to explain however what does one do when one has an 7 year old (with an 'old soul' quoting her mum here) in front of him or her?
Well I threw my 8 year old subject in a field. It was a late afternoon in early May when I met Katie. I know her mother from my athletics days. Her mum is an Iron Lady nowadays, whilst I quit athletics ages ago, and my passion became this....taking pictures.
So Katie sat in my backseat when we were driving to the location I had in mind. But I could suss her out. She did not really understand what being photographed meant. Little did she know that my intention was that of literally throwing her in a field. However she obliged, and amidst a lot of laughter, teasing and grumpy comments about ants climbing up her legs, she ran, played and laughed throughout the whole shoot.
A bright and witty girl, takes after her mama, we conversed like no other, laughed and shot till finally Katie surrendered and came out completely to me. I was there behind the lens and shot, the shot. This photo for me sums up Katie. A defiant smart girl, who at such a tender age, is ready to take on the world!
The whole set of images from the shoot can be browsed here
Totally stoked! At present my work is hanging at Avantech's premises for all to visit. A talk will be announced soon about the exhibited work! Thanks to CanonMalta.co for your believe in me! Grateful!
The area of Sliema known as Lazy Corner is a popular haunt for me and on this bright sunny day, I went for a stroll with videographer Heba Ahmed so she gets a glimpse of how I shoot in the streets. On this Saturday morning, the streets were busy with old ladies out on errands or looking out from the balcony, people buying vegetables, the pet store owner was looking out his shop and as usual Sunny was at his usual place greeting people as they passed by.
We attracted more attention than I usually get with my camera only because Heba has her filming camera too with her so we were being asked if the footage would be shown on TV. Patiently I explained that it was just a feature on how I shoot in the streets. We had people who posed without being asked and others who were a tad hostile and as usual spoke in Maltese thinking we were foreigners.
We ended our little tour with a sweet cat who was interested in us but soon ran away chasing a bird!
TIPS on Shooting People in the street:
- Anticipate the scene ahead
- use on lens and no backpacks
- underexpose when you are shooting in broad daylight so that you do not have blown out highlights
- when people are hostile walk on
- when people smile or ask what you are doing be polite and smile
- when people say something rude to you just walk on as well
- do respect people who do not want to have their photo taken
Canon 5D MKiii
35mm f/1.4 lens
Yesterday I passed by Sunny's usual spot and he was there! So I stopped to snap a few photos and say hello! He wanted to pose for me yesterday, so he held himself up high, put his hands around his tummy and smiled! Such a character!
Elizabeth and myself are social media friends and follow one another. She offers proof reading services and her business is called Proof Reading Malta. She contacted me for a shoot earlier this year and I was quite excited to take portrait shots for her, especially since she had three audiences to target: Students, Business and Mothers. So we set about preparing clothes to target all three audiences and Elizabeth was quite organised with that. Pinterest mood boards were set up and she sent me photos of the clothes she wanted to buy. It turned out to be quite fun actually!
On the day we met for this shoot, Elizabeth proved to be as organised as she was online. This really helps us photographers since then we are left for more room for creativity. We started the shoot in a small cafeteria in Rabat where Elizabeth was wearing a lovely suit in off-white. I shot her sitting down in the tiny balcony working on her laptop and it did not take long before we nailed the perfect shots!
Then we also shot a few shots inside the cafeteria which were more like head shots rather than getting the whole environment in the images. Whereas the outside shots downstairs, were more formal and included mid length images.
Elizabeth then suggested a change of clothes so she changed into more casual attire however still classy. The red top with dark blue jeans played a big part on the upcoming images. We found colourful doors that contrasted perfectly with the clothes she was wearing and we both had a lot of fun shooting, and chatting away how this shot will work etc. The shot below is one of my favourites, but maybe because I also love the window design, and Elizabeth posed so naturally for this shot that it just stole my heart. The sun was playing hide and seek through the whole time we were shooting and I find that the contrast in shadows and highlights really played well in this shot. We also shot some photos where we got the street showing in the background just to give a bit of context to our lovely proofreader.
For the setting against the yellow door, Elizabeth decided to add a neutral coloured shawl in order to conceal the red top, however we soon decided to show off a contrast and we got diverse shots against the yellow door with both the sun in and out.
We finished off the shoot with Elizabeth using her favourite book as a prop: Le Petit Prince! She is so natural, and so comfortable in front of the camera that I rarely directed her much. It was always me adjusting to go around her during our shoot and this made her feel more at ease thus giving me more to work with.
Last but not least I was super thrilled with the great design of her business cards, done by no other than the mighty guys from Panda!
First of all I am a big advocate of shooting right in camera, so during this shoot, I paid extra attention to light metering so that I get photos with the right exposure as much as possible thus decreasing editing time. I would rather spend time outside shooting than sitting down in front of the computer on hours on end trying to recovering some blown out highlights! Secondly I did apply my special filter, however just using a filter is not enough. I adapted it to first of all suit Elizabeth's soft pale skin tone, and also to match her soft and lovely character. I did not want to use a gritty edit which would have made her look tough and rough! Elizabeth is a lovely woman, mother of twins with a great passion for the written word, so soft colour edits suit her better in my opinion.
See more photos here!
Chitwan National Park is a fantastic unmissable destination if you are travelling in Nepal. We had a great morning tour on the canoes, floating through atmospheric fog, along the Narayani-Rapti river till we reached our destination and start our jungle trek.
The 45 min canoe ride couldn't have been more photographically productive....see more images here
Roxy (c. 1931 - c.1986) is one of the many cinemas that used to operate on our island. Alas it has been closed for quite a while. Recently it was on social media, were a considerable number of people, including myself, were putting in objections with PA to stop the upcoming demolition. Loosing this gem of architectural value for to its Art Deco style construction, would be a great loss to our heritage, especially when the new proposal is none other than the usual block of offices that recently have invaded every little crook and nanny on our already over developed island. True one could argue the fact that it is vacant and abandoned, however there are other ways of developing a property other than demolition and build non-descript concrete buildings.
The choices are endless. It was a cinema so it could become a film school, or an acting place or even a museum showcasing all memorabilia from the past cinemas in Malta. One could hold workshops related to film and acting in such a place especially if its sensitively restored and preserved with any interventions done with a reversible approach. And don't give me the usual "the facade will be retained!". Retaining the facade is not really preserving anything. It is just a way of shutting up those who complain. An objection has to consider the whole building holistically, because a building is not only valuable from the outside, but also from the inside. I wish I get permission to shoot the interiors. From the few photos available online Roxy looks glorious from the inside too.
I long for the day when the nation wakes up from this hypnotic sleep we have been put into, or other succumbed to, and start uniting together and work to safeguard our heritage. This belongs to us, to the people, to the community. It might be developed by someone who bought the place, however such a remarkable building with significant historic and architectural value just can't be lost as if though it never meant anything.
When are we going to wake up and voice our concerns for real?
NB: All images by author. Do not use, copy and or otherwise manipulate without consent from author.
Around a year and a half ago, I had the opportunity of working with Jenny and her wonderful family. Her partner Manuel has 4 girls in the house. Jenny is an avid yoga fan, well she is an instructor so she is more than just passionate. Their 3 wonderful daughters are gorgeous and their individual characters shine in the photos. Here is a session I had done for them in July 2016. Sharing this now....
I have been visiting my hometown very often recently and rediscovering Haz-Zebbug has been a wonderful and unique experience. I also met a lot of people along my routes who were curious to know why I was taking photos. Haz-Zebbug is not a touristic place, so having someone shooting around made the locals question.
I was always greeted warmly, cordially and everyone had a story to tell. The lady above (I will eventually remember her name), was cleaning these big windows in Triq Sant'Antnin. She was shy at first because she was in her cleaning clothes, however she had no idea how I shot her, and she gladly continued about her chores whilst chatting with me.
Further down there is a shop called Mallia Bros, but also known as 'Ta' Marie Ros' (as far as my mother recalls), run by brothers Philip and Lino Mallia. I recall this shop since a young age, because I used to go to catholic lessons in the area, and that shop has always been there. Lino is also an actor and when I was there he helped this old gentleman go into a van that came to pick him up.
I also met Karmenu Attard, who spent quite a while recounting about the cotton industry in older Haz-Zebbug. He was totally helpful and so sweet.
In the other part of town close to Misrah Muxi, I came across this lady and her dog, and her husband in Triq Santa Marija. They were shy but still allowed me to take their photo.
Walking along the winding streets in the Tal-Grazzja in Haz-Zebbug, I encountered this small workshop at the cross roads of Triq Vilhena and Triq is-Sidtna ta' l-Angli. The man at the doorway caught my attention, since he seemed to be totally engrossed in his work, so I approached them at the door.
I present you Salvu and Charlie Dimech also known as Ta' Widna (the nickname is a long story which they did not tell because we got caught up talking about their skill); furniture restorers. Salvu (Charlie's father), worked as a carpenter prior focusing on furniture restoration. In fact he stated humbly that for them work never stopped. For Charlie, this is not his full time job, however he treats it with the same dedication of one.
Salvu, now in his 80s, was really keen to show me his workshop, and make me understand the importance of being a carpenter if one wants to restore furniture.
They both have Haz-Zebbug close to their hearts, and Charlie's words were the following, "minn hawn ma nitlaq qatt!" (I will never leave this place!). I loved this. These men love my hometown and unlike me never left the place. Salvu proceeded showing me photos of some work he restorored, and his pride was evident throughout.
They love their work, they love the town, and for them the village feast is what makes Haz-Zebbug so unique, however Salvu added that Haz-Zebbug is even grander because some of the best people were born here. "Ghandna lil Dun Karm Psaila, lil Mikiel Anton Vassalli....lil ....". (We have Dun Karm Psaila the national poet, we have Mikiel Anton Vassalli the father of the Maltese Language...}. However he added that apart from great people, Haz-Zebbug also had some great robbers too, and he mentioned a famous robbery done at the Dock Yard years back...
I made my excuses, but not without cheekily asking them why they had the statue of St Joseph on the facade and not that of St Philip, since they love the feast so much. Their reply was that St Joseph's feast was also celebrated in town, and for them it was important too.
I walked out from their workshop with a sense of pride...and I suppose it is the sense of pride that the locals are so famous for...and I smiled, walked on and continued on my journey of documenting this town's spirit.