Photowise commercial and wedding photography Pretoria, Gauteng

Roush Mustang Road-Trip – By Maryna Cotton

yello-mustang-gt-in-smokeWhen a girl drives a supercar such as the Roush Mustang, it is not about how it looks, or how fast it is, nor pretty much about any of the petrolhead talk the guys get in to, it is all about how it makes her feel.

Being automotive photographers, my partner Sarel and I were loaned the Mustang for a few days, in order to shoot it on location, or as we like call it: “to make ‘car porn’”. As a girl photographing cars, I have to know just enough about this 6th generation Ford Mustang to make the right sounds and noises around the guys….so, I know it is a very powerful Roush supercharged 5.0-litre V8 and that the 500kW output and 800 N.m torque makes it an all American muscle car. I know it is fast enough to take my breath away and to make the monotonous Freestate roads I drove on more fun than I ever remembered them being. I know it sports very cool racing stripes, which the guys called “go-faster stripes” but, incidentally, I know too that it was Mustang who first sported racing stripes on a road car back in 1965. I also know that automotive journalists writing about supercars use adjectives such as “adrenaline-pumping”, “pulse-racing”, “sublime”, “thrilling” “engaging” “innovative” and “edgy” but as I am neither writing about the Mustang’s performance, nor about anything involving engineering or mechanics, I get to ignore those and focus on the sensory, albeit girly, experience of driving and photographing this car.

yellow-mustang-side-view-with-smokeIt is not unheard of for car manufactures such as Lamborghini, Bugatti or Mercedes-Benz to team up with fashion designers nor of fashion designers finding their muse in car designs, bringing super cars right into girl territory.

Of all the super cars I have driven, from a cat-walk-curvy Maserati, to blistering fast screen-siren-lipstick-red Ferrari, from the sporty-boho-elegant Porsche to the classy-cultured-haut-couture Aston, none has made me feel so much a woman, as did the Mustang. “Why on earth?” you might ask. Well, it is common knowledge that every girl loves an adventure and getting in behind the wheel of the Mustang is an adventure in every sense of the word in a tom-boyish kind of way. The no-fuss lack of finesse in the trim, the brushed metal on the dashboard and the masculine dials, even the Mustang badge on the car, filled my mind’s eye with images of rough and rugged cowboy-types ready to whisk me away on an adventure involving open spaces and wild horses.  This car is bad-ass and every girly fiber in me loved it!

yello-mustang-gt-in-approaching-stormWhen I realized that the cop who pulled me over somewhere en route to Bloemfontein, did so just to hear the decidedly magnificent sound the not-so-inconspicuous yellow Mustang made on a pull-off, my usually elegant good-girl driving style was momentarily replaced with a pull-off of such awe inspiring unladylike proportions that even Sarel was impressed. Definitively one of the most exhilarating moments of my life. My mother would be horrified…

My creative gypsy soul has incurable road tripping wanderlust and driving the Mustang made me wish the road would never end. It might be a supercar, but it is a surprisingly easy, comfortable ride. Even more surprising is the relatively good fuel economy despite the fact that all those untamed horses under the bonnet inspired less economic behavior from the girl behind the wheel. I wanted to let my hair down and drive with the windows down.

yellow-mustang-gt-in-low-light-1Every pitstop along the way was a crowd-pulling adventure in it’s own right. I had to smile at the newly found diligence of petrol pump attendants. Everyone wanted the opportunity to admire the mustang while filling her up and poor Sarel was drawn into conversations usually starting with “how fast is it?” and then the inevitable ” can I take a selfie?”. The biggest kick for me was a little more self indulgent… I loved the split second shocked-horror on the faces of the Freestate “ooms” when they realised that I was driving this unruly car, and the “tannie” holding on extra tight to her man’s hand…just in case. In all honesty, I might have just once or twice turned the knob thingy next to the gearshift to Sport-mode before the grand exit for a little extra noise and show! This girl was on fire and regretting not owning a pair of cowboy boots.

Photographing a beautiful car makes me happy. I can get lost in the subtle play of light on curves and lines, the boldness of a badge on an aggressive grill, or the magical reflections in a headlight. yello-mustang-gt-wheel-detail

The Mustang is a beauty, but in a butch kind of way. My favourite is the line over the back wheel arch seen in the driver’s side mirror. It is the perfect mix between masculine, strong, angular and bad girl sexy curves. The fact that this Mustang had been modeled after the classic Mustang Fastback means that even the smallest detail or subtle line is easily recognizable as a signature Mustang look. I was head over heals after the second or third click.

Finding the right location and light for a photoshoot of a specific car is often a challenge for automotive photographers. The Mustang however, was equally photogenic next to a country road, in a soot-blackened coal shed or on a suburban driveway and our custom made soft lighting made highlighting every curve and line in true fashion model style a breeze. It is impossible to make a bad image of this car.

yellow-mustang-gt-in-scrapyardAfter three days of adrenaline-pumping, pulse-racing, sublime and thrilling driving in this engaging and edgy car, we were all photo’d out and I settled into the passenger seat for a comfortable meander home. Reflecting on whether I want one?  Yes, please – although I would drive it on the open road, far away from city lights, where at just about every intersection, everything with two wheels or more, invites you to a drag-race. But then who can blame them?

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Multiple Exposures in Camera – April 2015 – By Maryna Cotton

“Double and multiple exposures allow you to indulge in fantasy, but one of their strongest uses is the intensification of reality” – Freeman Patterson – Photography for the joy of it.

The drive through the Eastern Freestate this past week-end has left me with memories that are distinctly pink and white in colour. For most of my life I have waited for the happy Cosmos to bloom every year– their appearance signifying the end of summer and the happy occurrence of the Easter holidays. Over the years I have photographed the little flowers from every angle and this year the challenge was to come up with something new, with the added challenge to tell the story of these pretty little weeds authentically.

On contemplating exactly what that story was, I was again struck by a few truths. Cosmos are pretty and simple in their design, but rather disorganized in their scattered groups. They grow very tall on rather thin stems, resulting in the tendency to dance in the slightest of breezes. The combination of pink and white is perfectly set off and intensified against the blue skies and as if this is not intense enough the collective of the vast numbers scattered over the country side is breath taking.  If I could be allowed the cliché of humanizing them, I would say they are humble and despite the fact that they are mere weeds growing in the most inhabitable soil, they always appear happy.

The challenge of telling the story of happy abundance, simplicity, intense colour and organized chaos made Multiple Exposures the obvious choice.

Multiple Exposures are images where two or more exposures (images) are superimposed in a single frame (image). Granted in the old days of film these were more complicated to make or at least we had to think harder, unlike the “shoot and see what you get”  of  the digital era. One had to have an understanding of negative and positive values, where black in an image represented no exposure at all and this created the perfect conditions for overlaying a second exposure.  Also one had to consider the actual exposures, as the combined exposures could result in the over-exposure of highlights in the final image. This resulted in the need to under-expose each exposure in order to end up with correct exposure for the final image.

Most of the modern digital cameras can do Multiples exposures in camera – ranging from 2-9 exposures overlaid. The good news is that the compensation for the exposures is done automatically. Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 1D X, and 70D; most Nikon DSLRs; Fujifilm’s X-Pro1 and X100s; and the Olympus OM-D E-M5, among others can do in-camera Multiple Exposures. In the event of your camera not able to do Multiple Exposures all is not lost. Multiple images can also be overlaid in Photoshop. The motivation for including Multiple exposures in-camera was actually for a whole different reason that the creative expression I intended. It is used widely for White Balance tweaks in Commercial Architectural Photography, or to create the effect of long-exposures despite bright light conditions.

I set my Nikon DSLR to 9 shots and started playing.

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Moving the camera between exposures creates dynamic images and each one is unique. Do not to get caught up with the technical aspect of Multiple Exposures, experiment and gain understanding from experience and trial and error.

Very little editing is needed  – I usually only make level adjustments.

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How to check a DSLR’s shutter actuation count

DSLR cameras have only a few moving parts. The two largest of these are the main reflex mirror (which enables one to look through the lens via the viewfinder and which swings up and out of the way when one takes the photo) and the shutter (which consists of two curtains opening and closing to allow light to fall onto the sensor. The hard-working mechanical shutter is delicate and can be prone to failure over the life of the camera.

01 - How to check a DSLR’s shutter actuation count IMAGE1Much like the odometer on a car, a shutter actuation count can be especially significant when considering buying a second hand camera. It indicates how many times the shutter on a particular camera has been fired.

Camera models are released with an actuation rating (how long the shutter should last). Take the shutter actuation rating on face-value though, as firstly, they are computed to be statistically accurate. While there are always exceptions in any set of statistics, and you may end up with a shutter that lasts half as long or twice as long as its rated lifetime, but generally speaking they should last for as long as they are rated. Secondly, statistical ratings tend to be pessimistic, rather than optimistic. For example on the Nikon D3 the shutter is rated for 300,000 shutter actuations. That doesn’t mean the shutter will fail within one or two shots past the rating. It’s just a guideline, but a great indication of how hard a camera has worked.  Shutter actuation count ratings are usually available on the internet for most DSLR models.

There are several ways to check the shutter count of a camera and all of them rely on either having access to the camera, access to an image created by the camera, or both. Fortunately many manufacturers embed the number of shutter actuations in the EXIF data of the pictures produced with that camera so you can examine a recent photo taken with a given camera and see the actuation count.

The easiest way to check is with

Using the EXIF data this website works for many camera models. You can upload a picture (Jpeg) to the site, which will read the EXIF data, and will give you the shutter count and also the life cycle of the camera (based on the manufacturer’s estimated shutter life for the camera model). (Other sites: and

But before you panic and start making funeral arrangements for your work-horse check out This is a crowd-sourced database of camera shutter actuations and when the camera died (or if it is still alive). The database has been running since 2007 and will give you a good idea of your camera’s real life expectancy.

If you look up the stats for the Nikon D700, for example, the camera is rated for 150 000 actuations, but the real world data on this website indicates that 86% of the 200 cameras sampled are still going at 250 000 actuations.

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Composition: Beyond the labels – Seeing Part 1

I have had the incredible privilege to photograph with and learn from Freeman Patterson on visit to Namaqualand some years ago. Freeman was one of the main catalysts who started my photographic journey and I keep on finding inspiration in his books and photographs.

One of the main subjects of the conversations I had with Freeman was that we as photographers should learn to look at the world around us, without attaching labels to things.

Our first words spoken as babies are nouns aka “labels”. We name things – we describe by attaching labels when identifying objects and in our conversations, thoughts and dreams. Labels often act as the filters, which determine how we will use our senses to experience something, often excluding all but one or two of our senses. Stopping to connect and interact with something, experiencing it honestly enough, to get beyond the “labels”, is where we need to go to really see……we then think in terms of shape, lines, balance, rhythm, repetition etc. It is in this “alternate reality” where waves ebbing and flowing over rocks can be captured as “passing time” and frozen in a single exposure. Or where a range of sand dunes can become a collection of repetitive lines or shapes – almost abstract in their simplicity.

During some pre-dawn moonlit walks, I was struck by how hills, rocks and trees, stripped from detail, colour, form and texture – reduced to mere flat shapes – allowed my senses and imagination to experience them as anything but what they actually are. Two strong lines of repetitive shapes formed by a rocky ridge in the moonlight, had completely disappeared when I went looking for it in daylight. Yes, they were there, but the brownish mottled colours and varying textures had now completely “overwritten” the repetition I had seen in the moonlight. The lines and beautiful repetition had now been reduced to very uninteresting rocks. The strong formidable upright, almost authoritative, monochrome silhouette of Helmut’s tree, became a rather feminine Akasia, decked in pretty yellow blossoms in the morning light.

I was set an assignment at Bokbalbaai – a stretch of coastline approx 1km long, consisting of nothing but pebbles, rocks and kelp of varying colours and shape – to photograph anything but pebbles, rocks, kelp and sea. I sat on a rock feeling a lot of despair, looking at millions of rocks and pebbles…..

Remembering what I had taught so many of our students, I knew I had to simplify the scene in front of me, in order to make any sense of the assignment. Using the viewfinder, I limited my perspective to what could fit in the frame and deliberately deleting the labels “rocks” and “pebbles”, I started seeing shapes, curved lines, shadows repeating the curves and patterns to create form and repetition. It comes as no surprise that “simplify” is the first “rule” first composing great images….

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Vision – “Passionate stories, told passionately..”

David duChemin wrote in one of his books: “Vision is the beginning and end of photography”.

I agree. Vision is that something , the je ne sais quoi, the inspiration that moves you to pick up your camera to photograph it. It will determine how you photograph and why, the settings you choose and the angle you use. For me it is not only the journey of the making of every photograph, but also my journey to discover, define and often redefine my own vision. Often I am defined by my vision.

I get stirred to photograph a particular scene, often not knowing what it is that I am “seeing” or why, only to discover the elusive vision when I look at my images later and then discover exactly what it was what I was feeling at the time. The camera becoming the tool of self-discovery.

DuChemin points out that our vision often grows to meet our skill. I believe we become better equipped to express our vision. I love looking at my older images. I can often clearly see what was going on in my life by looking at what my vision was when I made the images – what caught my eye then…what stirred me. I can clearly see how my technical skills improved with experience, but I am often amazed at how my ability to express grew. There have always been “common” elements in my images, that identify them as my work, but I am just better at expressing my creativity and myself…my vision. I am learning every day how to photograph what moves me, but also how to express what I feel. The more passionate I am about the subject, the more I have to say and to get across to the viewer. Du Chemin worded it so aptly: “Passionate stories, told passionately..”

“Knowing what you love to photograph, and what you do not, is the first step in the recognition and refinement of your vision”. So what happens if I have to photograph something I am really not that excited about? Here, I believe, learning the tricks to communicate through light, colour, camera angles etc can often save the day. I often draw from my love for photography in general – the chance to spend time with my beloved camera – to draw passion back into my vision.

Freeman Patterson summed it up so beautifully: “Photography – both the craft and the art – helps me to be. It allows and enables me to live creatively, which is to honour Creation and my own existence.”

This past week-end the Photowise team was privileged enough to be part of a lovely couple’s special day. All was just perfect and the resulting images reminded me why I photograph in the first place…. I love people and I love telling stories!

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Cover shoot for Devoted Magazine

Sarel  recently had the privilege of photographing the absolutely lovely Janet Potgieter for the cover of the Devoted Magazine. Janet is the reigning Mrs Africa Globe Classic. Follow her on Facebook

Good luck in Las Vegas, Janet!

Devoted Magazine on-line:

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N4 Gateway Industrial Park East
Willow Park Manor, 0184
Cnr Solomon Mahlangu and
R104 Bronkhorstspruit Rd

Location Inside the Park:
49 Sneeuberg Street
Unit 3

S 25°45'16.358"
E 28°21'51.222"

Contact Us

For General Enquiries:
012 803 1370

Sarel van Staden:
082 4150 474

Maryna Cotton:
082 8570 479