EOS Mirrorless Battery Life Problem Solved (Podcast 790)

EOS Mirrorless Battery Life Problem Solved (Podcast 790)


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After buying my Canon EOS R5 I received several email from people asking if my battery life was shorter than expected. Because I had not been able to run my tours during which I shoot from dawn to dusk most days, I had no real baseline from which to answer with confidence that I saw no problems, but as I used my R5 more, I did start to notice that the batteries seemed to run down pretty quickly.

Initially, I put it down to the fact that a lot of the work I was doing was microphotography, during which I was running my R5 tethered to my computer, and I figured that was eating up the battery. I also thought that it might be down to the fact that I have not been using my cameras with a battery grip, and one single battery seems to run down faster than half of the shooting time we seem to get when there are two batteries in the grip feeding the camera.

Then I went to Namibia this summer and got my first chance to work with the EOS R5 in my usual way, out in nature, shooting as I always have, and it soon became very clear that my batteries were running down at least twice as quickly as they have always done. Much more quickly than my first Canon mirrorless camera, the EOS R. I started to think that maybe there was a problem with the camera’s design, as the batteries were running down too quickly for practical use.

I tried to monitor how I was using the camera over the first few days but couldn’t think of any reason the batteries were running down quickly from my usage. Then I noticed that the battery level indicators seemed to stay full until shortly before they completely ran down. They looked full one minute, then the next minute, they were flashing red in the electronic viewfinder, telling me I need to change the battery, and that indicates a problem other than the camera using more power than I’m used to.

So, that night, I figured I’d try connecting my camera to a USB cable and charging my batteries in the camera. I dislike doing this with a passion, as it takes a very long time to charge the batteries, and you can only charge one battery at a time. This is also the reason I dislike the standard Canon battery charger than comes with the EOS R5 and similar cameras that use the LP-E6NH battery because it only charges one battery at a time.

Then that same thought process led me to what I would find to be the cause of my poor battery life. Because I don’t like to charge just one battery at a time, I have for many years used a third-party battery charger and have otherwise been very happy with the two I’ve owned, but it turns out that my latest charger was not successfully charging the LP-E6NH. It was working fine with the LP-E6N that the 5Ds R uses, but the latest battery with the H appended to the end of their name was not fully charging, despite the battery charger showing that they were fully charged and the camera also reporting that they were fully charged when I initially put the battery in.

For the following two weeks, I put up with charging my batteries in the camera, and believe me, I was happy that I had this option, as I did not bring the standard Canon charger. When I got home, I sourced a new double charger that supported the new LP-E6NH battery, and once again, I have something that properly charges my batteries, runs on USB power, and takes two batteries at once.

Third Party Battery Charger
Third Party Battery Charger

Being a bit of a geek, I like the digital readout and the information this charger provides as it charges my batteries. It is also less than half the size of my previous charger, which was small. That is a very welcome change as we fight to get out gear onto airplanes with ever-increasing luggage restrictions.

The other thing I wanted to stress was the importance of troubleshooting technical issues. I am probably a little more optimistic than some about trusting that Canon wouldn’t make a camera that runs batteries down as fast as I saw. It was not a usable camera when the batteries ran out as quickly as they did. I also know, though, that some people love to find problems with gear and find some kind of twisted enjoyment in being in a position to complain about their gear.

I did find another problem with the R5 as I traveled, as Canon added a button to the LED screen that puts the focus point back to the center when you moved it away from the center. For some reason, though, they placed that new button over the histogram, as you can see in this photo as I started shooting in the Quiver Tree Forest on our first shooting day in Namibia.

Canon Return Focus to Center Button Issue
Canon Return Focus to Center Button Issue

I called Canon Support about this after getting back to Japan, and they kindly told me a setting that would work around this issue, but I didn’t want to use my camera in the state they recommended, and they did agree that it was probably an oversight that the icon was displayed over the histogram. I requested that they register it as something to try to fix in a future firmware update, but I have confirmed that it was not fixed in firmware version 1.6 released after I reported the issue. I mention this because I wanted to make the point that I don’t think Canon is perfect, but I tend to give them the benefit of the doubt until I have proof that they’ve made a bad design decision.

So, to finish, I want to leave you with some takeaways. Firstly, if you are having issues with short battery life and if you are using a third-party battery charger, please take a moment to check that the charger supports your batteries, especially if you’ve upgraded your camera since buying the charger.

Secondly, if you do notice something wrong with your gear, try to exhaust all of the possibilities before jumping to the conclusion that the manufacturer of your gear has messed up. As photographers, one of our strongest skills needs to be problem-solving. This goes for almost everything we do. In the studio, for example, when the light doesn’t look quite right, we must identify what is wrong and how to fix it. Everything we do involves cause and effect-related decisions, and that goes for problems such as the battery issue we discussed today as well.

Also, note that I will not provide a link for the actual charger I bought, as the same charger on Amazon.com does not mention support for the LP-E6NH battery. You’ll need to find something in your market if you are seeing a similar problem to that which I’ve described today.

Before we finish, I would also like to mention that we are currently locking in on the participant numbers for our 2023 Namibia tours, and we now have one space left on both the April and May tours, so if you would like to join us, check out our tours page and see if there are still spaces available. If the page says, they are available, proceed to the tour page and pay your deposit to secure your place. If you need more than one place, let me know and I’ll try to figure something out.


Show Notes

Check out our tours here: https://mbp.ac/tours

Music by Martin Bailey


Audio

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Creating and Maintaining a Photography Website (Podcast 789)

Creating and Maintaining a Photography Website (Podcast 789)


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A few weeks ago, in my monthly Patron-only question time event, I received a question about creating and maintaining a photography website. I pulled together my thoughts, and the talk went well, but a few things have changed since then, as going through my website and taking stock of some of the plugins I was using got me thinking about a few areas in which I may be able to improve the site even further.

Before we start, I should let you know that my site is built on WordPress on a dedicated server. I have used and recommended working with WordPress for many years, as it enables me to extend the platform almost endlessly. Although we’ll talk about the danger of having too many plugins, if managed well, it’s a very liberating and useful platform to build pretty much any kind of website on.

One of the questions during our discussion was about my theme and how I integrated it with the Elementor Pro plugin. The theme I was using until just a few days ago was called Bridge, and I have used it for many years without thinking of changing it, until now. The thing is because I have bolted on so many things, like the main menu and all of the sliders and other page elements, I realized that the theme itself had become quite easily replaceable.

On a copy of my website, I change temporarily to the standard WordPress theme, and there were only a few areas that looked really out of whack. I had also become somewhat dissatisfied with the Elementor Pro plugin because there was a critical error that occurred after every update when updating the database. Despite many people complaining about this for several years, it was never fixed, so I revisited a plugin that I used briefly a few years ago and liked, which was a different page builder called Divi.

I had forgotten a large part of the Divi proposition, though, probably because I was so happy with the Bridge theme that I simply ruled this out. Still, Divi can be installed as a page builder inside another theme or as a full-blown theme with a page builder built into it. I grabbed and tried the full-blown Divi Theme and was impressed with how far they’d come over the last few years since I previously tried this product from Elegant Themes.

I figured I’d give it a try and found that my reliance on the Elementor page builder on some pages made the migration to Divi very difficult, as backing out of the Elementor page builder back to regular WordPress pages rendered many pages in various states of disarray, ranging from a mess to a total disaster. Turning on the Divi page builder is less destructive. Most pages can be converted to Divi with a few clicks, but once using the Divi Visual Builder, the amount of control you have over the page elements is astounding.

I’m treading cautiously because I imagine backing out of the Divi Visual Builder will be as destructive as backing out of Elementor pages. So, where possible, I’m trying to stick with vanilla WordPress. Still, some pages are made a lot easier by the Divi Visual Builder, and I’m feeling pretty comfortable that I’ll stick with Divi, so when necessary, I’m flicking the switch. Besides, I also paid for the lifetime license, so unless Elegant Themes pull a swift one on their users, I should be set now for the foreseeable future.

It’s taken me the best side of a week to check all of my pages, though, mainly because of the clean-up and rebuilding that I had to do, so I haven’t yet made anything cool with Divi that I can show you, but as you visit posts if you are maintaining your site, especially if it has a blog, take a moment to check out the blog page, and the way the individual blog posts now look, including this one.

The featured image at the top of each post, the metadata, as well as the navigation is all coming from the Divi Visual Builder. I’m not sure if it will stay, but as you scroll down to the bottom of the post, you might also see a snazzy little animated divider between the post and the comments. That is created with the Divi Visual Builder and added as part of the blog post template created in the Divi Theme Builder, which is the place to create and assign templates to various posts and page types. You just create the template, and Divi ensures that all pages that match the criteria you select, such as all blog posts, are served using that template.

Divi Theme Builder
Divi Theme Builder

Anyway, a large part of the question I answered in the August Question Time was about the dos and don’ts of running a photography website, and as I came up with a chunk of advice, I figured I’d share some of that with you today. Please note, though, that first-hand discussion on these topics is a privilege of our kind supporting patrons, so if you want to get involved first-hand, please consider becoming a patron too at https://mbp.ac/patreon.

Photography Website Dos

Share Your Work

These aren’t necessarily in any particular order, but one thing you have to do if you are hanging your hat as a photographer is share your work. I can name numerous photographers that have built a pretty respectable name for themselves as photographers without really sharing any of their work. I’ve spoken to people about this, when people have said something like, “Oh yeah, I know said respected photographer, he’s great!” and I’d gone on to ask which of the photographer’s photographs are their favorite, only to be presented with a blank face. They don’t have one because they’ve never seen any of the photographer’s work. Can you call yourself a photographer if people can’t even recall any of your photographs?

Later I’ll share details of the Meow Gallery and Lightbox, which are the plugins I use to create my galleries, including all of the Portfolio galleries that you will find under the menu at the top of each page. If you decide to share various portfolios in multiple genres, as I’ve done, you can also create a tiled gallery of portfolios using the Divi Visual Builder. Click on the Portfolios link to see what I mean. Note that behind the scenes, these are defined as Projects to Divi, not Portfolios.

Portfolio Galleries
Portfolio Galleries

Show Large Images

Also, when setting up a photo gallery to share your work, try to share your images as large as you can be comfortable with. I’ve seen amazing photographers share their work in 500 pixel-wide images because they are scared of people stealing them. This, for me, is an immediate put-off. If I’m going to give someone my time to look at their work, I at least want to be able to see their work at a decent size. Sure, some people will steal your work, so go and get a lawyer and claim your fees and damages. The majority of the visitors to your website, though, just want to enjoy your work, so try not to hamper that process by sharing tiny images.

Stay Focussed

Another piece of advice is to stay focused. If you are running a business or just a hobby website, it’s important to share relevant work. If you are a wedding photographer and we are talking about your business website, then you should only be sharing wedding photography. In the case of wedding photography, of course, you will need model releases from your subjects, but staying on topic will help to keep your audience engaged.

Create an About Page

Ensure that you create an About page that tells your audience and potential clients all about you. Include some of the achievements that help to give you credibility. People sometimes need a little help understanding why they should be interested in what you have to say or your ability as a photographer if they are thinking of hiring you.

MBP About Page
MBP About Page

Many of the plugins I have used and those that I’ll recommend shortly come with example pages, sometimes multiple pages that help you to build nice looking About pages, and sometimes entire sites that look nice, so explore the templates and install a few to see what you can create.

Selling Online

If you sell anything online, I strongly recommend working with a plugin called WooCommerce, which is free, but you will probably need to pay for a plugin or two to make it work how you need it to. This is how they monetize their business, so don’t be afraid to pay for some of it. Note that if you are selling digital products, though, I highly recommend Paddle and have a section on this towards the end of the post.

Another selling tip I learned early on is if you are going to talk about a product or service that you are about to launch, ensure that you have your commerce pages up and running before talking. If you ask for the mail addresses of people interested in buying whatever you are about to launch, 80% of them will not buy anything. If, however, you have a buy or pre-order button, you will make many more sales because people will put down their money while they are excited. It’s human nature.

Build a Mailing List

On a related note, you must build a mailing list of people that want to hear from you. Whether you live in Europe or not, ensure that you abide by the GDPR because a proportion of your audience will almost certainly be in Europe, but start to build a mailing list as soon as you can.

It may come as a surprise, but the audiences you have spent years building on social networks will no longer see your posts simply because they follow you. You now have to pay to reach more than a few hundred of your most loyal fans, so unless you are prepared to pay to reach people you have already gotten interested in your antics, a mailing list is a direct link to their mailboxes and for at least a proportion of them, that will get their attention.

There’s often more than one way to enable people to subscribe to your mailing list. If you hit the Contact Us link under the Connect menu above, you’ll see a checkbox to subscribe to newsletters. If you turn that checkbox on, you’ll see the interest groups you can select so that you only receive newsletters on the subjects you are interested in.

Also, because I send my newsletters out via a service that uses a specific domain and email address, I used the same domain to host a sign-up and maintenance form for newsletter subscribers, which you can see at https://mbp.news. You must have checkboxes unchecked by default to be GDPR compliant and allow people to choose what they want to receive, not deselect what they don’t want to receive.

MBP News Site
MBP News Site

Include Images in Social Posts

Unless I have you running off to delete your Facebook page, when you do post to Facebook or any other social network, ensure that you have a featured image assigned to your posts, and even if you are just posting about something random, find an image that illustrates or compliments what you have to say. Simple text these days is not likely to grab anyone’s attention, even if they have been chosen from your wider audience to be presented with your post.

Photography Website Don’ts

Don’t Expect Any Visitors Without Doing Any Work

If you build it, they will not necessarily come. Just because you made a great-looking website doesn’t mean people can find it or even be interested in looking for it without a little push. You have to work in some way to build an audience and you have to work to keep that audience engaged.

As you know, I built my audience by starting a Photography Podcast in September 2005. The Podcast is 17 years old this month! At first, I didn’t expect my entire life to be changed by what I started, but I’m pleased with how things have progressed. I can’t say that it has been easy, though. A lot of work goes into creating a releasing a Podcast, including creating the blog post and also an eBook for each post for my kind Patreon supporters.

I have reduced my commitment from a weekly podcast to release at least three episodes per month, and that is still tough at times, but that’s mainly because I’m busy doing other things to forward my business. The decision to release the blog post for all episodes, including the backlog, was another part of my success. Having 17 years of blog posts helps with Search Engine Optimization or SEO.

Don’t Dilute Your Message

In general, I recommend that you stick to a consistent message rather than diluting it with various topics. Still, as you’ll have seen, I talk about many different photographic genres via the guests I’ve had on the Podcast over the years. My Photography work is mostly nature and wildlife interspersed with my travelogue-style episodes when I travel, so there is a general theme. The idea has always been to talk about photography through my own experiences in the hope that it helps you with your photography too. I’m super humbled and honored to have received messages of thanks over the years from people that I’ve been able to inspire, so I know I’m doing some things right.

Avoid Too Many Plugins

As I mentioned earlier I do recommend working with WordPress as your base platform because it gives you the freedom to add plugins to make it do different things, but I do recommend trying to keep the number of plugins you use to a minimum. This is ripe coming from me because there was a time when I was running over 100 active plugins. At the time of this episode, I still have 64 active plugins, which is a lot, but a lot less than 100. I am constantly evaluating whether or not I need each plugin. If I can remove anything and maintain all the required functionality for the site, I don’t hesitate to deactivate and remove plugins.

When you run lots of plugins, the risk of them conflicting increases, and conflicting plugins can cause all sorts of annoying problems. One of the most annoying things is that when you do get a problem, the first thing plugin developers ask you to do is to deactivate all other plugins and see if the issue persists. This is generally not possible on a live site, so you must clone your site to a staging environment to check.

Security Concerns

If you allow people to create accounts on your website, especially if you run something like WooCommerce and save customer details, you have to be especially careful about security. Many companies ask for access to your website when they need to troubleshoot an issue with a plugin. Although you can probably trust most of these people, I choose not to trust any of them because that’s the only way I can be sure that no one will steal my customer or user information and sell it to a third party.

Create a Staging Site

If you must provide access to your site to a third party, I highly recommend using a plugin like WP Staging Pro to make a copy of your website that will be accessible under a subdomain, and before you create an account to let the third party in, you have to delete all user accounts and all order information from your e-commerce solution. The only way to protect your users’ and customers’ personal information is for it to simply not be there.

I also change my admin password on the staging site so that the third party has no way to sniff my password and use it to access the production site. The important thing is to use your imagination, think of ways that could be potential security holes, and plug them up on your staging site.

Another good plugin is Shield Security which helps to fortify WordPress in various ways to help keep out the bad guys, and there are audit trails as well, so if something goes wrong, you have a good chance of seeing who got in and what they did.

Recommended Plugins

HollerBox is a great plugin to show email subscription forms or popups to alert site visitors to things you might be promoting. Keep in mind that people generally don’t like popups, but when you consider the amount of work that you put into your site, it’s fine to impose on your visitors to a degree. In many cases, if you promote things that you feel might benefit your visitors, you may find that people simply needed to be made aware of what you are selling or promoting.

The menu at the top of the MBP website is created with a plugin called Max Mega Menu, which enhances the standard WordPress menu system. It can be integrated into any theme, although some will take more work than others.

Meow Gallery and Meow Lightbox are responsible for creating most of the image galleries you see on our website and also for displaying the cool Lightbox that you see when you click on the images embedded into posts and the images in my portfolios etc. The Meow Gallery works with standard WordPress galleries, so you don’t end up with lots of proprietary galleries that leave you dead in the water if you decide to change plugins. There are many different styles of galleries to choose from and they all look great.

Meow Lightbox looks great and above all, I love the fact that it displays the EXIF shooting data for images that you upload to WordPress. You can also define a class that tells Meow Lightbox not to display when an image is clicked, say for when you have an image that you need the visitor to click to jump to another page or website. Just add the class you defined to the image in the WordPress interface, and Lightbox will ignore it.

As customizable as WordPress is, there may be times when you have to add some code to make additional features available. For this, I use Post Snippets Premium. This enables me to check the inventory of my tour booking products and display text either telling a visitor that there are still some places left or that the tour has sold out and offering a link to contact us to be added to the cancellation waitlist.

Slider Revolution is another plugin I would not like to be without. Although some of the sliders that you see on my website were made with Smart Slider Pro, for many years now I have preferred Slider Revolution and use it for most of the animation that you see on this website.

You can make your website compliant with Termly. I started using Termly for GDPR and Cookie consent compliance but now use it to maintain our privacy policy, cookie policy, and terms and conditions pages. This may not be necessary for a personal website, but if you are running a business, it’s worth looking into.

YOURLs Link Creator

Although there is a WordPress plugin to link the two sites, I also strongly recommend using a product called YOURLs Link Creator to create a server that creates short links for your WordPress posts and pages so that you can avoid sharing long and cumbersome links in your Social Media or verbally, as I often do in the Podcast audio. You’ll have heard me give a short link such as https://mbp.ac/789 to jump to this episode of the Podcast. To create that link I have set up a YOURLs server and I simply enter the keyword 789, which is the episode number for this week’s podcast, into a field in the WordPress post editor. Then when I publish the post, the YOURLs site automatically creates the link for me.

It’s important to get a very short domain for use with your YOURLs server. I was pleased when I was able to get mbp.ac for this purpose. I also recommend getting an SSL certificate for your server, and your main server for that matter. Running a site on plain HTTP now displays warnings to potential visitors, and search engines will lower your score considerably if you don’t run your site on HTTPS with a trusted SSL certificate. Ironically, the YOURLs team do not have an SSL certificate, which is pretty strange in 2022.

Zapier

One other service I’d like to recommend you take a look at is Zapier. Zapier is used to automate tasks and link online services that would otherwise not be able to talk to each other. It can be costly, but if you automate several tasks that would generally take up your time to complete, you will make your money back over the year. I have Zapier announce new MBP blog posts on my social media networks, and it also grabs user details for people that sign up for newsletters via my contact form, which otherwise has no newsletter integration. It can take a little time to put together complicated Zaps, but once they are in place, they start to save you time and money immediately.

Paddle for Digital Products

One last recommendation is Paddle if you intend to sell digital products online. International taxes on digital products such as software and ebooks are now so complicated that you need to sell through a third party that takes care of taxes for you. Some countries have put unrealistic requirements in place as well that just cannot be met by small businesses. I’m not sure if this is still the case, but a few years ago, India required that you hired an accountant in India to process your tax payments. When you sell just a handful of products in India a year, it’s not realistic.

Another reason that I chose Paddle, after several other companies that fell flat, is because Paddle correctly includes the Japanese Tax Registration number for companies selling in Japan into the invoice they generate. I asked FastSpring to do this more times than I can remember, and it was never done. Also, note that although FastSpring may contact you to show your WordPress website working flawlessly with their WordPress plugin, their plugin is a piece of crap, and they don’t support it. If you get stuck, you’ll be told you are on your own.

Martin's eBooks via Paddle
Martin’s eBooks via Paddle

If you sell digital goods via WordPress, Paddle is the way to go. Note, though, that Paddle also do not have a WordPress plugin, but they have resources to make coding what you need to sell products a breeze. I created several code snippets in Post Snippets Premium that I embedded into my product posts, and then each product is created with a WordPress Custom HTML widget.

OK, so that’s about all the advice I have on creating and maintaining a photography website for now. Note that none of the products or links provided in this post are sponsored in any way. These products and services are what I use daily and are recommended purely because they are great, and I hope you find this useful.


Show Notes

Check out Divi from Elegant Themes here: https://www.elegantthemes.com/gallery/divi/

WP Staging Pro: https://wp-staging.com

Shield Security: https://getshieldsecurity.com

Holler Box: https://hollerwp.com

Max Mega Menu: https://www.megamenu.com

Meow Gallery and Meow Lightbox: https://meowapps.com

Post Snippets Premium: https://www.postsnippets.com

Slider Revolution: https://www.sliderrevolution.com

Termly: https://termly.io

YOURLs: http://yourls.org

Zapier: https://zapier.com

Paddle: https://www.paddle.com

Music by Martin Bailey


Audio

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Download this Podcast as an MP3 with Chapters.

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Looking After Your Camera, Lenses and Other Tools (Podcast 788)

Looking After Your Camera, Lenses and Other Tools (Podcast 788)


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I can’t recall ever dedicating a post to looking after our gear, and I was reminded of this task a number of times recently, both after my return from Namibia and as I spoke with a member of the archery club that I’ve joined, when they noticed me wiping my gear down as I packed it into my back at the end of our practice session. They thought I was being very conscientious as I wiped the various parts of my recurve bow while dismantling it, and I replied that I always do this with my tools. I know that many photographers do this, but figured it was worth talking about a couple of points, so here we go.

I should say that one of the main reasons I am currently wiping down my archery gear is because I’m practicing in temperatures over 30 degrees Celsius or 86 degrees Fahrenheit, so I’m pretty much constantly perspiring, and I don’t want to leave the salt on my bow. When I first got my bow, I didn’t take a cloth, and the result was that I had to get it all back out again when I got home to wipe it down, so I started to take a cloth, and now I’m killing two birds with one stone by doing this as I pack the gear away.

I recalled when I was shooting in Antarctica and often came back to the ship with sea spray on my gear, and that can be corrosive, so no matter how tired I was, I would take all of my gear out of my camera bag, lay it out on the top bunk of my bed, and wet, then rang out a cloth leaving it just damp, and wiped my cameras and lenses down. If I’d used my tripod, or it had also taken some spray, I’d fully extend all the legs, wipe that down too, then leave it to dry before putting the legs away again. Of course, how I did this depended on how rough the sea was. In a storm, I’d just wipe things, then wipe them again with a dry cloth and put them straight back into the bag to avoid them from falling off the bed when the ship rocks. The important thing to note is the necessity to get the salt water off the gear quickly. Using a damp cloth doesn’t hurt the equipment and dries almost instantly.

In addition to salt water, dust is another thing that can gradually damage our gear, so generally, when shooting in places like Namibia, where there is a lot of dust and sand if it’s been a windy day, or I know I’ve gotten a bit of dust on my gear, I do the same thing at the end of the day, using a damp cloth to wipe everything down. Another thing that I wanted to talk about in relation to traveling to dusty countries though, is the necessity to one last clean when you get home.

Most of the time in sandy or dusty countries, you’ll find yourself with a little sand in your bag. This may blow in when you open the bag, or fall off of your gear when you put it into the bag. Because of this, after I get home I take a little time to wipe the bag itself down with a damp cloth, and then I use a vacuum cleaner to clean the inside of the bag. I also at this point give all of my gear one last wipe with a damp cloth before giving it a few moment to dry and then put it into my humidity controlled cabinets, which is where I store all of my gear while not using it.

With sand, I also find that it can get stuck to the rubber weather seal on the mount of my lenses, so I use the damp cloth and run it around the inside and outside of the seal, as you can see in this photo from when I was cleaning my gear after returning from Namibia this year. You can also see a few grains of sand around the inside of the lens and on the back element. To remove them I hold the lens up with the bottom facing down and use an air blower to dislodge the sand. With the lens facing downwards, the sand generally falls away leaving the lens clean.

Cleaning Lens Seals
Cleaning Lens Seals

The same goes for cleaning the sensor of the camera. First, I hold the camera up with the sensor facing down, and blow the inside of the sensor chamber, to dislodge anything on or around the shutter, then I turn on Manual Sensor Cleaning in the menu, which opens the shutter exposing the sensor, which I also give a good blow while holding the camera with the sensor facing downwards.

I used to use a rubber plunger to remove stubborn dust until the heat got to the rubber one year, and I tried to remove some dust before a trip only to find that the rubber had perished, and I left a chunk of it sticking to my sensor. I was able to find a store in town that would clean it off safely, but it was a scare, so I threw the plunger out and never bought a replacement.

I have actually found though that pretty much from around that time, and especially with the Canon mirrorless cameras, I am getting very little stubborn dust on my sensors now. If I notice a bit of dust in a photo, generally just a blow with my blower is enough to dislodge it. I haven’t had my sensor cleaned professionally now for a number of years. I generally replace the camera every three or four years and have not had a sensor cleaned for that entire time for the last few cameras. With the mirrorless cameras I put this down to the option in my cameras to close the shutter when the lens is taken off the camera.

As I mentioned earlier, I do keep my gear in humidity-controlled cabinets, and that is very important if you live in a place with a lot of humidity. Tokyo is very humid during the summer, and I found myself with mold forming on my gear when I first moved here, so I have used humidity-controlled cabinets for many years now. I mentioned this in detail and covered what I use in Episode 744 of this podcast, so check that out if you are interested.

So far, I’ve talked about what I do after a shoot or trip, but I wanted to also add a few paragraphs about how I shoot. With me being so careful about cleaning my gear, you might think that I am really protective of my gear in the field too, and to a degree, you’d be right, but I am not overly protective. My tools are to be used, be it my cameras and lenses, or my new recurve bow for archery. The most important thing while working with these tools is to get the job done, making great photos in the case of photography. If this means I have to get a bit of dust or moisture on my gear, that is what will happen. If you are not using a weatherproofed camera and lenses, you do have to be careful to not allow them to get too wet or dusty, but in general, I find that in light rain or dusty conditions, draping a cloth over the camera, then periodically wiping off any water, is enough to keep it from getting inside the camera. With dust, I prefer to blow it off with an air blower while outside, then wipe it down later when I finish the shoot.

Also, don’t be fooled by the overzealous marketing blurb of camera manufacturers. Canon, for example, will say things like a new camera has “improved weather sealing,” which is entirely misleading. In the Canon range, only their 1 series bodies have ever been completely weather sealed, and only when using weather-sealed L lenses. Cameras like the 5D or the R5 etc. have limited weather sealing, which is what helps to keep them from breaking with the slightest bit of moisture, but they are not fully weather sealed, so cannot be used in pouring rain without taking any measures to keep them dry. The 1 series bodies can be used in the pouring rain because they are made to withstand that kind of use.

A Drenched Canon 1DX
A Drenched Canon 1DX

To prove my point about the none-weather sealed Canon cameras, I used my 5D Mark III in Iceland during a rainstorm, and sure enough, after an hour or two of getting drenched, it died, and I had to switch to my EOS-1DX that you can see in this photo. I did not protect the 1DX from the rain for the remaining few hours of the shoot, and it didn’t bat an eyelid. Not the most intelligent way to make a point, I know, but I had to prove to my partner over there that the 5D was not weather sealed, so I let the inevitable happen. Besides, three days later, after keeping it wrapped in dry towels, the 5D did come back to life and was fine for a few more years of use.

Another thing I wanted to mention is changing lenses in wet or dusty locations. Again, my priority is getting the shot with the right lens. When I can use two cameras, I try to guess what lenses I’ll need and put the two most likely candidates on the cameras. If I do have to change lenses though, and I can’t get into a sheltered location to do so, I will generally turn my back to the offending element, and change lenses anyway. I try to be quick, but don’t rush to the point that I might fumble with the lenses. I always check my images in the evening while traveling, and if I notice any dust on my sensor, I will try to blow it off with an air blower that evening.

Condensation

We can’t really finish without talking a little about dealing with condensation. Although people often recommend putting your gear into plastic bags and sealing then when going from cold to warm environments, I personally just ensure that I put my camera and lenses back into my camera bag, and zip it up, before going in from the cold. This is generally enough, even when going in from -28° Celsius or 2° Fahrenheit.

Note too that it’s not enough to simply check that condensation is not forming on the outside of your gear. The worst problem I’ve had with condensation was when I accidentally left my bag open with cold gear inside and condensation formed on the inside of one of my lenses. I also had a problem with the EOS R with condensation forming inside the viewfinder, making it almost impossible to use the camera. I haven’t shot with the EOS R5 in really cold conditions yet, due to the pandemic, but I’m hoping it handles the cold and moisture better than the EOS R did.

EOS R Fogged Up First Time
EOS R Fogged Up First Time

Anyway, the moral of this entire story is to use your gear practically in the field, taking care when possible, but with the priority on getting great images, then give your gear the love required to keep it purring along when you are finished. You should be rewarded with less maintenance fees, and if you sell your gear in part exchange for new gear, you may find that you’ll get a little more for your gear too.


Show Notes

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From Model to Photographer with Kudzai King (Podcast 787)

From Model to Photographer with Kudzai King (Podcast 787)


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Today I have the pleasure of sharing an inspiring conversation with Kudzai King, who started as a model in Harare, Zimbabwe, moved to Cape Town, and then on to New York, where he now works behind the camera as a photographer. I found it fascinating how the various aspects of Kudzai’s life have helped to form a foundation for his future endeavors. I have had our conversation transcribed, so will share that below, but I will also embed the video here for those that prefer to watch, followed by the transcription of our conversation.

Martin: So, Kudzai, I am absolutely thrilled to have you on the Martin Bailey Photography Podcast this morning. Welcome to the show.

Kudzai: Thank you so much. I’m delighted to be here. Excited.

Martin: I say this morning, but for you obviously, it’s this evening, you’re in New York. You are in New York at the moment, aren’t you?

Kudzai: Yes, I’m in New York. Right now, I am looking at the sun setting.

Martin: Ah, okay. Mine’s just come up.

Kudzai: Yeah. Yours has just come up, yeah.

Martin: Yeah. We’re going to talk about a lot of things. One of the main things about your story, which I found so fascinating is how you got from Harare, is it? In Zimbabwe.

Kudzai: Yeah. It’s a very complex name. It’s got a lot of Rs. But the way you pronounce words in Japanese, it’s literally quite similar. So, Harare.

Martin: Harare. Okay. It’s exactly the same. We were talking a moment ago before we started the interview. I’ve travelled to Namibia a lot, that’s a couple of countries over from Zimbabwe, where you’re from. I imagine, you lived in the capital, right? Were you born in the capital? Is it a really busy place or how is it there?

Kudzai: How is it there? Well, just to start from the beginning, I was born in the capital. My mother was born in the capital. My grandmother was born in the capital. But that’s from my mother’s side. From my dad’s side, my dad grew up in the village, and then their whole entire family educated themselves, and became professionals within the working world, and moved out of the city, and now, they’re spread all over the world, basically. Yeah. I was born in Harare in the capital. It is a busy city, but not as busy as New York is, but certainly, quite busy. It is the hub of the country, basically.

Martin: Wow.

Kudzai: Yeah. It used to be quite modern a while back. Obviously, politics and all that got into a mix of things and it is what it is now. But it’s a beautiful country nonetheless and it’s got amazing people.

Martin: Wow. Yeah. We were just touching on the languages, and I managed to get your– I didn’t get your capital city right first time, but I managed to get the pronunciation of your name, Kudzai, pretty on the target. I’ve spent a lot of time– At the moment, my only photography tour that I do outside of Japan is in Namibia, which is like we say, two countries across from Zimbabwe, sandwiched, I guess, by Botswana.

I love languages. Obviously, I spent 32 years in Japan. I learned Japanese quickly in the first few years. And I spend a lot of time trying to learn little bits of the languages, because I travel with people who are from the Oshiwambo tribes. One of them, he’s a Herero guy.

Kudzai: Oh, yeah.

Martin: So, I know little bits of each of those languages. Also, we visit the beautiful Himba people in Namibia as well. I have a few little words that I use with those. So, I understand enough to be dangerous. If someone speaks back to me, I have no clue. 

Kudzai: The languages that you spoke about or rather the countries that have the languages you spoke about, they all sound quite similar because they’re all in a group called Nguni language. So, even though they’re completely different languages, because of that particular dialect that they share, you find that there’s a language in Zimbabwe called Ndebele. It sounds very similar to what’s in South Africa, which is called Zulu. And Namibia as well, there’s certain words that sound quite close to the Shona language, which is what I natively grew up speaking apart from English. 

Yeah, they all share these dialects, and it’s quite fascinating because having traveled myself as well, bounce around them like, “Oh, I hear a word.” There’s a connection, and sometimes, the same word means the same thing in another language. But then, sometimes migration has intermixed people, and then within the spaces that they managed to dwell in, they curated their entire language and way of speaking, but still they share that dialect.

Martin: Yeah, wow. We’ll carry on with your story in a moment. But one other little fact that I want to throw in here, because it’s a claim to fame from a few hundred years ago. I don’t know whether you view this as a good thing or a bad thing. But one of the first people from England that would have traveled in Zimbabwe and Botswana and those areas is actually the guy who named Victoria Falls. And he’s my great, great, great, great granddad, David Livingstone. 

Kudzai: Oh, David Livingstone. 

Martin: Yeah.

Kudzai: Oh, yes.

Martin: When I was a kid, on my dad’s side, my dad’s mother’s name was Livingstone. And obviously, I then became a Bailey. But Livingstone on my grandmother’s side came down from David Livingstone. He was the guy that, again for good or worse, named Victoria Falls. There’s a statue of him there on– I think it’s the border between Zimbabwe, Botswana, and the tiny strip of land that comes over from Namibia.

Kudzai: Oh, that’s very fascinating. Very fascinating. One of the things that happened in my country, when we won independence in 1980 is that a lot of past sins are forgiven. And then, the people that added to the progression of what became Zimbabwe are people that are celebrated, and David Livingstone is actually one of the celebrated people in history that shifted and morphed the country into being what it is. I actually went to a school called David Livingstone.

Martin: Oh, wow.

Kudzai: Yeah. 

Martin: That’s amazing.

Kudzai: We’ve got schools called David Livingstone, and then streets named after him as well, and then obviously, you spoke about the statue.

Martin: Oh, that’s amazing.

Kudzai: Amazing having to meet one of his descendants.

Martin: Well, that’s brilliant. Thank you very much. I didn’t realize that. So, that’s a bonus for me.

Kudzai: When you visit, you have to really explore, because his name is really ingrained within history in Zimbabwe.

Martin: Brilliant, brilliant. I’ve only really just over the last few years started to look into his life and what he did. It’s one of those things that I’m also still very, very fresh at, but I’ll look into it more. Okay, well, thank you for that. We’ve got to where you started. When did you get into the modeling, you became a male model? Was that when you were in Zimbabwe or you moved to Cape Town, right?

Kudzai: I’ve kind of darted around different countries all around. But initially, I kickstarted in Zimbabwe. I was 16 and at that time– it’s only now this year that I’ve realized that perhaps I’ve had fashion roots for a long time in my life now. But at that time, I was 16 and I was involved in fashion. Me and a couple of friends had kickstarted a successful clothing label without us actually knowing that we were pretty successful what we are doing. At 16, we broke apart the business and we all focused on different things. One became a famous designer, the other one became a famous musician, and then I became a model, and celebrated my own right. 

But at 16, I decided that I wanted to model. And luckily, my mom has always been quite supportive of me. As soon as she heard that I was interested in that, she found connections and then I was now in talks with a modeling agency, which taught me the ways of modeling. Back then, you had to do a class or a course basically with a particular agency to be acquainted with the industry. I did that and that carried me on until I was 21. That’s how I initially got into fashion. It’s an industry that taught me a lot. Most of the things that I know, apart from having learned photography from anew, they are inspired from my industry days in modeling.

Martin: Wow.

Kudzai: I did modeling in Zimbabwe. And then, our family moved to England. I’ve got two moms.

Martin: Have you?

Kudzai: Yeah. My stepmom and my sister moved to England. And then at some point, I joined them and did a little bit of modeling there. But then, I was always to and fro, because Zimbabwe was always home.

Martin: Hmm-mm. Wow. 

Kudzai: Yeah.

Martin: That’s amazing. What a story. When did you find yourself over– You went over to Cape Town. What age were you then roughly?

Kudzai: At the age of 21 is when I moved to Cape Town. I was in England. I did a little bit of school in England. And then, at some point after school, I decided that Cape Town was a place for me. I visited Cape Town once for a holiday. I fell in love with it so much. The very next year, I told myself I’ll move there and then I sure did move there the very next year, I didn’t know a single person. I didn’t know a single thing, but it felt like home. 

Martin: Yeah.

Kudzai: It felt like home. And I just melted into the spot, and I found my feet. So, 21 is when I initially moved.

Martin: Yeah, that’s strange. I find a lot of similarities between those in some ways, because I remember– I came to Japan in 91. So, it’s 31 years ago now. And I remember after six months or so, I went back to England for my first holiday, like time off. When I came back to Tokyo– not to Tokyo. I was in Fukushima where they had the nuclear power plant meltdown a few years ago. But when I was standing on the platform to get the train back up to Fukushima in Tokyo, I let out this huge sigh of relief. It was like, “I’m home.” It was the home thing. So, I can relate to what you’re saying how with Cape Town, it just felt right. And sometimes, I think that’s it. It just it feels right.

From there, you moved to New York. Tell us about the transition, because you were the male model and you decided to switch to the back of the camera. You became a photographer. And that is, of course, the main reason why we’re talking today, because the podcast is all about photography. I just love your story. So, tell us how you got from male model to photographer.

Kudzai: I believe at the age of 20, this is me being to and fro in England and Zimbabwe. There’s a particular photographer, amazing photographer that had shocked me when I was still doing modeling. At some point in my modeling career, I’d felt like I had exhausted the excitement that I could get out of it. I felt quite constrained because I couldn’t tell a story. Because I do believe that when you’re a model, you are the canvas. You are the blank. canvas. A very vital tool in creating artwork. 

What I wanted to be was someone who could come with a brushstroke and paint on the canvas and craft the art. I felt at that point that photography was my next best way of expressing myself. These are the days of Facebook. I reached out to this particular photographer. She was big and I didn’t know whether she would reply or not. But there’s a motto that I’ve lived with since I was young and that is, “The worst anyone can say is no.” Rejections and no’s are amazingly for me, because then I now can instantly recognize that there’s an obstacle. When I’ve got the intention, I just have to figure out how to get around the obstacle basically.

Tracking back to what I was explaining, I lost my train of thought there. But I reached out to this photographer. Her name is Michelle Fordham and she’s an incredible photographer. Less now a photographer and more a fitness guru. But then, she was doing a lot of photography. I reached out, she responded back, and we set up a coffee. In my head, the intention that I was seeking out was to be an intern. We spoke, had a great time, connected really well. By the end of it, I was hired as a full-time assistant.

Martin: Oh, wow, that’s amazing.

Kudzai: I know. Now, I was being paid to learn, which was pretty amazing. She taught me a lot of business skills, and how to operate certain things, how to be respectful to your clients. Yeah, I think if I’m to really pick the most valuable things she taught me was the business structure. I think with lighting and everything else, I bumped into it as I went about. But she laid out the foundation for me when I was working with her. Yeah, it was a great time. It was a full-year experience with her and got very lucky that I was very passionate during that time, and I was posting my work on Facebook each time I would shoot on the side. I started picking up momentum, and clients started booking me. I felt like I knew nothing, but people were interested on what I was making. Yeah, it was very appreciative.

Martin: Well, there’s a number of things that really resonate there. The first thing that you mentioned about what you were taught was the business side, and that’s so important. And something that a lot of people getting into photography don’t– Especially, you knew that you wanted to do it as a business, not just as a passion or hobby. But the fact that you were taught the business side first with most importance is incredible. Because a lot of people start out, they’re more concerned about, “Can I get the exposure? Are the lights going to be in the right place? Do I have the right balance?”, all of the technical things. I tend to be a technical photographer in many ways. But to be successful as a photographer, if you’re doing it professionally, the main thing is the business set. It’s great that you were taught that first. 

But you also talked about the lighting and things like that. I think that confidence as a photographer, the confidence to ask for money comes more from the business side, the business education that you’ve had than the technical side. Because a lot of the time, as you said, you threw together lighting, you bumped into it. It’s difficult, but it’s not incredibly difficult. Another thing that you mentioned earlier that resonated with me was the figuring out how to go around an obstacle. And obstacles, as a photographer, it’s all about obstacles, right? 

Kudzai: Yeah.

Martin: Okay, so this side of the face is too bright, what do I do? I want this side darker, what do I do? You are forever solving little problems. I think that you’ve touched on all of those things just in the last few minutes of what you’re saying there. It’s all great stuff.

I think you also mentioned that, again, about the confidence. We’re going to look at some of your work shortly as well so the listeners or the viewers will understand that you’ve got what it takes to do what you’re doing. There’s no worries now about confidence. But going through that, I think it’s also really humble of you to be able to say that as a working photographer. Some people try to hide that stuff, but you’re very vulnerable and I think that’s a nice trait to bring with you into the industry. I guess the fact that I’m saying all of this, you can tell I’m enjoying our conversation.

Kudzai: Same here. But to speak on what you just said, I do realize– I think why I’m so open as well is at the age of 24, I just realized that there was a very different way of living life. Having been brought up in the fashion industry since from a young age, I think there were a lot of things that I could have done better. And then having my friends in entertainment, we were very confident about what we’re doing. Some of those things were probably not things that we should have focused on during that time.

But after a while, I think when I was 24, I met an amazing friend who I admire his way of life. It was a peaceful way of living life, and it was just so beautiful and glorious. I met him in Cape Town. And from then on, I just decided to switch away from the past life that I was living. I call it the death of ego. Because I do believe that ego serves no purpose in my life, it has never put food on the table, and it has never connected me to more people. So, that created a playground for me where I feel all the things that I know, they’re all things that I’ve learned from other human beings, I came screaming and wailing as a baby with no knowledge. I didn’t wake up speaking three, four languages, or doing arithmetic, or anything. All the information I know is through friends, my community, school, through the internet, through every source of information I could gather around me to learn from. The more I learn, the more I feel I know nothing. And it’s an amazing place to start.

Martin: Wow. Yeah, I love that way of thinking. The death of ego, I like that. I’ve always felt as though– My wife often says this about me that I really have no real ego as such. Obviously, I don’t want to be belittled. I want to save my own space to a degree. But everyone I meet, I treat them the same way. I always say like I’m a mirror. I start off with everyone, it’s like flat, completely. I’ll give you respect, and I get some back. If I get disrespected, then I get disrespectful as well. But if someone is positive towards me, I’m more positive towards them as well. But I always start off with everybody on a level playing field. I’ve never had any kind of discrimination against people or anything like that, and my wife always says that’s one of my best qualities. And I guess it’s very similar to the death of the ego. So, I’m happy about this stuff. It makes me feel better about myself too.

Kudzai: Yes, it sounds like you’re on the right path. 

Martin: Yeah. At that point, you became a photographer, you started to work. Via Facebook, you were getting job offers. What took you to New York? That’s a big change. So, what happened there? 

Kudzai: Oh, yeah. I was in Cape Town, and this is years later, I’d done well for myself. I had created a whole entire community around me, and I was busy. I was working with big fashion designers in South Africa or rather in Africa to be precise, because I was traveling around quite a lot. I took it upon myself to learn Africa because I didn’t know so many countries. So, whenever a job offer would come through and it’s from another country, I would instantly snatch it. I did Nigeria, I did Botswana, Zambia, I did Ghana, and then number of other countries.

At some point, I felt I had a really nice life, a really comfortable life, a really, really comfortable life from the work that I was getting. But then, I felt I tapped the scene too quick. I’ve always been a very ambitious person within everything that I do. When I think of doing the stuff that I do, I never look at my peers as competition. To me, whoever is at the top of the industry during that time is what I’m competing with even though some of those people didn’t know me then. Some of them are friends now but then then, they didn’t know I was just a kid from Africa who just had a crazy ambition. When I tipped my ceiling too quickly, I felt I needed a bigger challenge. 

I think I was about to work with the city of Johannesburg during that time with the mayor. There was this looming project hanging around, and I had to make a decision whether to stay in South Africa or to come to America. And so, how that decision even came through to choose New York was, I asked myself, “Where’s the highest ceiling in the world?” To me, within my industry of fashion, it’s definitely New York. Because just when you think you’re at the top, there’s a kid in a tiny dark apartment concocting ways to take over the industry. And now, it rattles you to come up with a new game plan. And so, the world keeps turning and you keep improving yourself. So, progression.

Martin: Yeah. 

Kudzai: That’s how I decided to end up here, and I didn’t know any single person as well.

Martin: What? You came again without any… That’s amazing. Was there any culture shock? It’s a very different culture, I imagine. Did that hit you in any way?

Kudzai: Honestly, one of the things my mother was able to do was expose me to things. I owe a lot of gratitude to my mum, because she grew up in poverty, like extreme poverty. And she picked herself from her bootstraps and had me on her back when she was working and built her entire life around us. At that point, we were living the middle to upper class life, and she always made sure that I remembered my roots. Sending me off to holiday where she grew up, so at least I’ll have a view of both worlds. She made me try a lot of things. Weekends, we would do picnic. We would do things that she didn’t grow up doing. She had a nice tasteful life and she made sure that I tried things. 

The other thing is, apparently, when I was a kid, I was very, very troublesome. The only way they could stop me from crying or being naughty was placing me in front of a TV. So, I guess my love for pictures tracks all the way back.

So, New York was ingrained in me from a young age. I’m talking about comic books, I’m talking about TV shows, I’m talking about Christmas movies, I’m talking about everything. Because in Zimbabwe, we’re quite a modern country and one of the languages that we speak so well is English. So, I never felt the culture shift. I never thought the culture changed. Perhaps, who I felt it was more personal things like romance and whatnot. Then, that became quite specific. But then, it wasn’t a culture shock because I’ve also exposed myself, and traveled, and then took time to learn things. And even before I came through, I did my research. I easily switched onto the news that people are watching here so that by the time it came through, I would be acquainted with what’s happening. So, I prepped up and I guess that’s the essence of why I do like to prep up.

Martin: Yeah, that’s interesting. I guess my only thing that I can relate to that is that growing up in England, similarly, we watched a lot of American movies. And yeah, a lot of influence. The comedy shows, and all of the series and things that we get on the TV, a lot of it was from America. So, we learned not only a little bit about the culture, but also the language and the differences between English English and American English. And so, when I started working, before I started doing photography full time, which was 12 years ago, I worked for 10 years for a US-based company, and a lot of the people that I worked with were from America.

Whenever they visited– The first three years or two– No, the first year I worked in England for that company and then I moved to Tokyo. But we would have visits from the people from America. They would say– Especially when you go to a pub or something and all of the English people are speaking in their own local dialects and they’re using very condensed phrases, the Americans would say, “I can only understand about 30% of what you’re saying.” We’re speaking the same language, but the Americans couldn’t understand what English people were saying when they were speaking relaxed. If you’re in a business environment, it is slightly different. But we didn’t have that problem, because we grew up listening to the American dialect and various ways of speaking just through the TV. For us, it was really no problems. I guess, I can relate to the fact that you’d slotted right in there without having too much of a problem. That’s very cool. 

Kudzai: Thank you. I just wanted to add to that. There is a difference between English English and then US English. Certainly, I think there are a couple of words that I had to change. Probably, the one moment of a culture shift that I felt was, when I went into a bodega, which is a corner store where they sell these express goods. I got in there, because my English is quite English from having experienced England and then having lived in Zimbabwe as well, we’re subscribed to the education in England. I went into the bodega trying to buy water.

Martin: Yeah. 

Kudzai: I’m trying to order water, and no one can understand me. I’m saying, “Water, water.” And then, something clicked in my head, I’m like, “Oh, right there. I know what’s wrong here.” I instantly switched it to ‘water’. And they’re like, “Oh, water.” If there’s one moment I recall as being a culture shift, it’s probably that. Then maybe overtime, a couple of words that have had to change, so that it would sound a little more American but as you can hear, my accent is quite still strong.

Martin: Yeah. You’ve got very nice accent. Let’s take a look at some of the images that you’ve sent me. What I’m going to do is, I’m going to share my screen. I will share this video with the audience as well but I’ll also put these into the blog post so people can come along. If you are just listening and want to follow along with the images, the blog posts for this will be at https://mbp.ac/787. So, the 787th podcast. I’m going to share my screen and I’ll put your images up onto here. Let’s see. For some reason, that’s very low on the screen. Let’s see if I can move that. There we go. I’m going to just open these in the order that– They’re in an order just in the folder, and I’ll just open them up. Can you see that over there, Kudzai? 

Kudzai: Yes, I can.

Martin: Okay. Tell us a little bit about this photo. What’s the story behind it? What were you doing here and things like that?

Copyright © Kudzai King
Copyright © Kudzai King

Kudzai: One of the most fascinating places that I got to experience when I came to New York, the outdoor spaces, was the Hamptons. I’d always heard about the Hamptons, and I didn’t know what the fuss was about. I went there for a photoshoot for a friend of mine who owns a swimwear brand. I fell in love with the place. I always make sure that I go there from time to time. It’s my summer little getaway. But then in this particular image, I worked with this girl named Katja. Katja is such an incredible human being and an incredible model as well. I was actually dying to create something that I had not done– or rather a version of a creation that I’ve not done in a while. 

I’ve gotten very lucky that in my career that when I kickstarted, there was just so many people that were very kind, and they wanted to work with me, and they believed in my vision. And so, it had been eight years since I LAST shot without a team, basically. Every one of my shoots always has– there’s a makeup artist, and they have their assistants, and then there’s hair stylists, assistants. And I also have digitech and then there’s me and my probably two assistants during an image shoot. I just wanted to declutter all of that and just focus on the fact that I wanted to capture something beautiful.

So, what I do from time to time is I create content that is used for marketing purposes. Sometimes, a piece of work that I’m creating might not have a particular client. But in my head, I’m shooting for a particular client, because there’s someone that I’m trying to aim to work with basically. And so, in this particular case, I did very much that. There was a particular swimwear brand that I was targeting. I visited my friend, Katja. She lives in the Hamptons full time with her husband. I just grabbed my camera, we rode out on a bike, and we started photographing. To me, it was the most joyous thing that I could do, because for the first time in a while, I didn’t have anything around. It was just me, the model, and the camera, how I started exactly. 

Martin: Yeah. That’s pretty cool in that I pretty much always work alone. I only do portrait work professionally, very, very seldomly. And when I do, my wife is my assistant. She’s great at handling my lights and things like that, but I’ve never worked with a big team like that. I can imagine that it’s so liberating to just get back to just you, and the camera, and the model. So, yeah, that’s pretty cool to think about that, just from my own perspective. So, she’s got the life– What do you call it? A buoy? 

Kudzai: Yeah, the buoy that they use, I guess, for lifeguards. 

Martin: Yeah.

Kudzai: The story behind this particular image is, it was around 1 PM and I never shoot at that time, ever. But I realized that I wanted to have something quite dramatic, something that felt very high velocity, something that was unique. And so, I looked at the angle of the lighting, and then I had a conversation with Katja, and then I told her like, “Okay, this is the way you need to pose, because if you look down, you’re going to have shadows on your eyes. And if you look this way, this way.” When we’re doing that, I observed a couple of lifeguards close by and basically, I walked up there, and I had a conversation with them. They were so cordial with me. They allowed me to utilize everything in their possession.

Martin: Wow.

Kudzai: We ended up having a full-on editorial shoot, people surrounded us. It was a beautiful moment. But yeah, I looked at the colors of everything that we had and obviously, the garments that were specifically chosen for her to wear. Because I was looking for– If you look at my work, my work revolves around certain colors. It’s your yellows, your oranges, your greens, your blues, basically. I’ve decided to keep that as a theme in my work, because I do tend to shoot outdoors and in the studio. And so, I always love a good connection between all of them in order for people to instantly recognize that, “Oh, this is Kudzai King’s work.”

Martin: Wow, that’s great that you’re conscious of that. I’m very interested in colors myself. I often take a color wheel, or I use a few applications where you can map the colors in photos and just find out why they work together. I don’t necessarily stick to specific colors as a way of branding. But I do enjoy looking at the relationship between colors and that’s great that you’re doing that and that you’re aware of all of that.

Kudzai: Absolutely. Actually, when I kickstart a year, I choose the theme for the year for myself.

Martin: Oh, brilliant.

Kudzai: It might not be the trend, but it will be something that I feel so strongly about. So, color is a great way to start. Yeah, I set up all the colors. When I’m working with stylists, I let them have a free reign of what kind of garments can work within the theme of a story that I’ve come up with. Then, they build a juggernaut around the structure that I’ve basically primed up.

Martin: Wow. I have a large body of work on a stock agency called Offset, which is a sister company of Shutterstock. And every year, they send out an email saying, “These are the colors for this year.” It’s like they decide what the colors for the year are. I don’t think it’s them deciding but it’s pretty cool how they do that. If you were really into stock photography, which I’m not, but if you were, trying to involve those colors in your work for that year, it’s an important thing, and I imagine it’s very important for fashion as well. I changed the photograph. Tell us a little about this next one.

Copyright © Kudzai King
Copyright © Kudzai King

Kudzai: This is still part of a series that I shot in the Hamptons. One of the things that I really love is movement. I feel creating work that is beautiful is important but also creating work that is unique is even more important. Because in this world that we live in where everything is kind of fast paced– Not everything’s kind of fast paced, everything is fast paced. It’s very hard to hold someone’s attention. With the work that we do as photographers, to grab someone’s attention for whatever fraction of time that you’ve grabbed it for, it’s highly important because if you’re doing it professionally, that’s the difference between you and a meal on the table. So, I’m constantly thinking about those things in the back of my head like, “Okay, so, I want to create something beautiful that feels like me, but I also have to create something that’s unique.”

I feel movement is very hard to replicate. You can try your best and then come close. But I feel movement, it’s quite unique in its own manner. Even if you take inspiration from a painting, from whatever the case it may be, and then you add some movement to it, I feel it instantly changes the image itself, the language of the image. With this image, we’re going through sunset time and the light was just purely beautiful. This is us having spent the whole entire day at the beach at this point. We’re shooting, and then we’re taking a break, and then I started to swim into the ocean, come back. We go grab lunch or coffee, and then we’ll come back to the beach. This was now at night and with this garment that I’ve been waiting to shoot. This garment was actually a great loan from, I think I maybe chopping the name of this designer, which is terrible, and he’s a big designer. They allowed us to have this garment in our shots. And so, I partnered it up with these– If you can see…

Martin: Yeah, beach sandals.

Kudzai: Yeah, exactly. But I felt I needed something to draw back the image. I didn’t want it to feel like fairy light. I wanted to keep it in within the realm of edgy fashion. I had one reflector to one side mounted on an impromptu rock situation that was happening, just bounce back light onto the model. And then on the very left, you can see sun peeping through. I was illuminating the face and then separating it from the background. This is how I created the image.

Martin: Yeah. The sun also, it’s got a really nice highlight on the chin, hasn’t it? To separate the chin from the neck, that’s a nice splash of light there as well.

Kudzai: Thank you. I never used to be a fan of lighting on the side as a way to separate someone from a background. But then, the more I’ve observed light– To me, observing light is within its simplest form. I simply look at a human being. Whenever I see something that’s beautiful in a human being, I always ask myself, “What is it about this particular moment that makes this particular human being appear beautiful to me?” Then, I start looking at the elements of color, and light, and whatnot, and I just observe where the sun is sitting. And so, wherever I am, I’m constantly trying to replicate natural light. Even if I’m using strobe lights or studio lights, I’m always trying to replicate that lighting that I’ve observed in real life. And in this case, I wanted that light, because I’d seen it somewhere. So, I wanted the face like that, and this is…

Copyright © Kudzai King
Copyright © Kudzai King

Martin: Wow, yeah. Beautiful. Okay, so, this is you. We’re going to use that in the blog post to show who you are. But the next one. Do you have anything to say about your own bio photo or shall we just skip to this one?

Kudzai: Sure. All my bio photos, they’re taken by me.

Martin: Yeah.

Kudzai: Each and every year, I’ve got a new photo that I take.

Martin: Okay.

Kudzai: I didn’t know it would be a thing, but I’ve done it the last five years now. Yeah, it’s a way to– I think it’s important for people to know who you are if you’re working. If you’re working as a photographer or any artist of any form, because yes, people love the work. But then, people want to know the person behind the work like, “Is this a person that can be trusted? Is it a person that fits the visual language that we’re trying to create? Do they represent their work, they look like they work?” basically.

Martin: Obviously, you’ve still got it as a model. You could probably go back to the catwalk or whatever it is that they call it. Do you find that your history as a model helps you in the fashion industry? People say, “Oh, yeah, that guy used to be a model and now, he’s a photographer.” Is that story something that you feel has helped you?

Kudzai: I think so. For a long time, I think, when I was starting out my career, a lot of the people that I was photographing were perhaps at the beginning of their careers, whether that’s in fashion or that’s in music, because I was also photographing a lot of musical artists. A lot of them really didn’t know how to move in front of a camera. And so, having been on other side of the lens, I felt that I knew exactly what angle to use for a particular subject to make them look great. And so, tell them, “Turn this way. Chin up, chin down. Hands out, one hand in pocket,” and all of that. 

It helped shaped the way my work actually looked as well but certainly, it helped that I’ve been on the other side. And even up to this day, I do tend to work with celebrities for various projects that they’re doing. Some of them are great in front of a TV or rather within the cinematic version. But then sometimes, still photos are quite a unique language to learn. And sometimes, they don’t know what to do. Or they’ve done something so much that they want something fresh. And so, this is where I come in with knowledge of being able to direct a shot to find the beauty within that particular being’s expression.

Martin: Mm. That’s something that I had not thought of until you mentioned that. But having been instructed yourself as how to behave as a model, that’s instant knowledge for you to tell people how to behave as a model. “Hand in pocket. Turn this way. Do that,” I hadn’t thought about that until you mentioned that. That’s a very valuable skill that you learned while getting paid for being a model that’s helping you as a photographer. Yeah.

Kudzai: Absolutely.

Copyright © Kudzai King
Copyright © Kudzai King

Martin: So, the next one, let’s see. Tell us a little bit about this one.

Kudzai: Most of the people that I work with end up being friends. I do take it upon myself to learn my subjects. Sometimes, even before I work with a model, I try and meet them, or call them, or text them, or at least just get the essence of who they are. This particular friend of mine, actually, I met in Cape Town.

Martin: Yeah, well.

Kudzai: I met in Cape Town once where we were both invited to a Christmas dinner. It was a fashion sort of Christmas dinner. When I moved, I didn’t actually know that she was here. And so, gradually, I discovered that she was here, and then we got in touch, and then we became quite close friends. She’s a really successful model here. She was born in Uganda, and she’s done a whole bunch internationally. She’s been in Paris, she’s been in London. She has worked for Balenciaga, Ralph Lauren’s, and whatnot. She’s done work for herself.

In this case, we were doing– It was a jewelry shoot. And so, I knew exactly who to choose for that particular jewelry shooting. It’s her. Her name is Akello. And I knew that she has a very amazing skin tone. When I set out to shoot, I didn’t know whether I wanted black and white or not, because clients with jewelry normally would request color. But when it’s a beautiful shot, there’s no resisting a beautiful shot. And so, I knew that I wanted strong highlights and then I also wanted very dark edges. I brought in a beauty dish from above and then I brought on two negative fills on either side, and we created that shot. 

Martin: Wow. Are you illuminating the background as well? Because it’s pretty white. Like you say, you wanted to contrast. Did you do something with the background?

Kudzai: One of the tricks with that is not to have the model far away from the backdrop. In this case, I didn’t have any backdrop lights. I knew that I wanted it white, but then I didn’t want it super white. That’s why you see her first before you see the background. It’s illuminated way much more than the background is.

Martin: Sorry. Basically, it spilled from your main lights than just going on to the background.

Kudzai: Precisely. And then, I angled it in such a way where there are no shadows on the background as well. 

Martin: Yeah, wow. Beautiful work.

Kudzai: This is a one-light setup. 

Martin: Really? Okay. So, the beauty dish is the single light.

Kudzai: It is the single light. Yes. 

Martin: Oh, wow. That’s so cool. 

Kudzai: I did have a reflector below her just to– or rather, a bounce board. I had a bounce board right in front of her just to fill in the shadows on the neckline. But this is purely a one-light setup.

Martin: Wow. That’s impressive. 

Kudzai: Hey, you can do a lot with one light.

Martin: Yeah. I’ve got a one-light t-shirt from– Zack Arias did the one-light course, the one-light video tutorial. It came wrapped up in a one-light t-shirt, which I still wear quite a lot. It’s a good philosophy.

Kudzai: Yeah. Sometimes, simplicity is beauty. 

Copyright © Kudzai King
Copyright © Kudzai King

Martin: Yeah. Absolutely. Well, let’s see– Tell us about this next one. This is very dramatic. I love the shadow and everything. But tell us about this.

Kudzai: Oh, thank you. This particular image was, I created it for Vogue Italia. Vogue Italia is very on the edge of creating images that feel a bit different from the rest of fashion. They focus on very dark images. Sometimes, light images that tell a story that you can instantly connect to nostalgia. Actually, just to track back a bit. One of the intentions that I had this year was to create images that felt a little moody, something that had shadows. Because the previous work that I created before that, it was very illuminated. You could see everything quite clearly. So, I wanted to experiment with shadows, and darkness, and highlights, and whatnot in different colors as well. 

So, when I got the opportunity to shoot for Vogue Italia, I thought out the concept pretty well. I knew exactly what I wanted out of the image, but I did not know how to get there. But then, when you have experience over the years with lighting, the same thing that you spoke about where you have one side illuminated and you’re trying to figure out how to illuminate the other side, you start getting all of that information in your head quite easily when you look at something or rather when you think of a concept or an idea. I didn’t know how to accomplish this lighting at all. But then, I started just planning it and experimenting with it. And I’m very lucky that whenever I have an idea and I have a big opportunity, I’ve got time to prepare. 

I worked with a model that needed pictures for her portfolio, and I basically experimented with the light. By the time I got to the stage of this image, I knew exactly how to execute it. What’s happening here is that this is a cove and there are two different lights. The spill is protected by two V flats that are blocking the light from spilling onto everything else. I had one light that had a yellow gel, and then I had one light that had a green gel, and they were all facing up. They were all facing up to the ceiling. And so, you can clearly see on the foreground that some parts of that background are a little white.

Martin: Yeah. 

Kudzai: So, I basically illuminated the background that way and the color merged in a very amazing way. And then for the front, what I did was I used a bare bulb, because I knew that I wanted harsh shadows. Where those shadows come from is from the body itself elevated. But then some of them I created using a second light, it was also a bare bulb. And the second light had black foil paper, basically and I crumbled it up in several ways, attached it with clamps, and step away from the light itself and so, it’s projecting the shadows onto the background. 

Martin: Wow. 

Kudzai: This is a very complex lighting system. 

Martin: Yeah.

Kudzai: But this is the way I figured it out and it worked beautifully.

Martin: Yeah, absolutely, it’s beautiful. The first thing that that came to me, but earlier, we talked about colors. And you may have noticed me looking over to the side here as we spoke a little there. But I’m going to just bring something onto the screen here. I don’t know if I can do this quickly, but if I go in and– Let’s see. If we get the colors from this image, I’m going to just quickly put these up. But if we open this palette, we should be able to see that, at least part of it, the colors that we’ve picked there are not so important. But if we look at the colors in your background here, these greens, if we look across to the opposite colors, it’s the purples in the dress.

Kudzai: Yes.

Martin: I don’t know if it was conscious, but you’ve actually got the exact opposite colors in the background and the dress. Was that something that you were thinking of? Because that of course becomes a complementary color. An opposite color on the wheel is always going to be complementary, but it’s through direct contrast. Were you aware of that or conscious of that when you designed this?

Kudzai: I’ve got a huge respect for people who make clothes, because I feel they do shape who we are or how we express ourselves. Whether you’re a simple guy or your fashion choice is quite extreme, fashion tends to lead to an identity of sorts. And so, within this respect is probably why I also learned color. I made sure that I knew my color so well that I never have to think about it, I never have to plan it so intently because it might just make sense. I’m like, “Okay, so, I have this background in and then I have this model. What kind of garments would work for this?”

Martin: It’s coming natural to you.

Kudzai: Yeah. At this point, it comes quite natural to me.

Martin: I see.

Kudzai: In the past, I would think about it more. But then these days, it’s become so natural and easy. When I chose that particular garment– because we had a selection of different garments. And normally, before we proceed on to shoot, when we’re doing prep up, the stylist always brings in the garments that we’ve spoken about that support the concept and then, they also bring in extra garments. Me and her have a final say on the day of the shoot itself. We go through the wardrobe and I’m like, “Maybe that actually wouldn’t work. I thought it would work, but maybe let’s check it out.” And then, I saw this garment and it wasn’t part of the pattern. I immediately fell in love with it, because I knew what I could do with it. I knew that I wanted volume, and we had a lot of garments that had volume, but then this one stood out to me the most compared to what we had planned. And then, it worked so well, because I planned the lighting in this particular way, and I saw that purple and I was like, “Okay, yeah. This will be great.” 

Copyright © Kudzai King
Copyright © Kudzai King

Martin: Wow. Beautiful. Okay. Tell us about this next one. This is another very striking photo. Tell us about it. 

Kudzai: Oh, this image. It’s terrible to have– I don’t have any kids, but I feel to choose an image and say, “It’s your favorite,” to me, it feels like having to choose your favorite children. It’s terrible, but I accept this image. This one-time shoot is probably– A lot of shoots take more time. Sometimes, half a day. And it’s probably the quickest shoot that I’ve ever had, this one. This was two hours of shooting entirely and with different looks.

One of the things that fascinates me about New York is the infrastructure. I’m definitely fascinated by the people. When I think of New York now, I think more of people than the infrastructure. But then, the infrastructure reminds me off a dream. It reminds me of the promise of what New York City has to offer. One of the things that we do as creatives when we move to New York City, a lot of us is that we’re so inspired by the city and what it has to offer. And then, we come into the city and then we go directly back to the studio. So, I fell into that trap as well where I went directly into the studio. When I was thinking about my New York work, in my work, I couldn’t find New York itself. I could find that yes, I’ve shot a lot of New York artists, New York models, New York designers’ work. But then, I didn’t actually have New York itself.

And so, it reminded me to also start looking up, because when you live in New York for quite a while, you become desensitized. In any particular place that is so incredible, whether you’re talking about London, or Milan, or Paris, or Dubai, everything becomes normal after a while. So, it was a wakeup call to open my eyes again and look around me and look up above me.

Before I shot this image, I knew that I wanted to shoot it, but then I went on a journey to discover the city again in a new way. So, I started looking around the very same process that I described. I was fascinated by meeting points of buildings and lines. My Instagram during those days, people were probably either annoyed or celebrating it by my Instagram stories. I was posting a lot of building shots, just very interesting angles on buildings. Because for the first time, I was now looking at New York as fresh as I saw it when I arrived. 

Martin: Yeah.

Kudzai: So, when he finally came to this image, I had a bank of images where I’d selected a couple of locations in New York. I knew I wanted to shoot on 57th Street and Seventh Avenue because of a building that’s behind there. On this shoot, there are about five people surrounding me, my team. I was literally laying on the streets and traffic was passing. Sometimes, when I do my work, I forget anything. I forget to eat, I forget to drink water. I always have to tell my assistant before I start working like, “Hey, please make sure I eat, please make sure I drink, and please make sure I don’t die.” Because to me, the shot is what matters the most.

Martin: Yeah.

Kudzai: When I was shooting the shots, I was laying on the ground and I was just looking for a particular moment in the people that are walking, because I had five people surrounding me. There was one light to one side. One light at a 90-degree angle, because I didn’t want the light to be in 45. I didn’t want the one site to be flat. I just wanted that kiss of light separates her from both sides. Because what’s to the left of her is the sun and then to the right is the light that I intended to put there.

Everyone’s waiting, traffic is passing, and then eventually, people start ignoring the fact that I’m there, which was what I wanted. People start walking past by and I’m just looking for that one particular moment where she’s the center of the frame, and then the people are walking by as supporting characters.

Martin: Ah, yeah. 

Kudzai: And then, when that moment finally came, I snapped it, and I knew I had the shot. Yeah, this is how this image was created.

Martin: Yeah. Wow. 

Kudzai: I love it, and it is my most viral image. On my social media, it has accounted to about 2.8 million views from LinkedIn, to Instagram, to Facebook.

Martin: Yeah. Wow. 

Kudzai: Right now, actually, it has resurfaced again.

Martin: Why is that?

Kudzai: It had another viral moment of itself.

Martin: Oh, okay. It’s just based on the merits of the photo.

Kudzai: Sorry?

Martin: Just based on the merits. There’s no external reason why it’s resurfaced, just because it’s a good photo. Is that what’s happening?

Kudzai: Well, this time, I’ve remarketed it. Before when I posted it, at some point, I was getting thousands of followers and clients who started– I’ve got a lot of clients just from this particular image going viral. But at some point, I just have to let it go. I was like, “Okay, I can’t explain this image. People just love it.” But then, I didn’t realize what it is people loved about it until much later. Well, people love New York.

Martin: Yeah. 

Kudzai: Everyone across the world is familiar with what New York represents or what it gives. And so, this is selling nostalgia, basically.

Martin: Wow. You mentioned the building behind. Is that the Trump Tower?

Kudzai: No, that is not Trump Tower. 

Martin: The bluish one, I thought it was, but that’s not– Okay. I remember walking around there. I was in New York a couple of times in 2012. I remember walking around that area. You look up and there’s always buildings. Use a wide-angle lens and all the buildings taper in. It’s an amazing city to photograph. 

Kudzai: Absolutely.

Martin: It’s great that you’ve got it so prominent in this photo. Beautiful work.

Kudzai: Thank you.

Copyright © Kudzai King
Copyright © Kudzai King

Martin: We’ve got a couple of last ones. So, this is your photo on the cover of a magazine, I imagine? Yeah?

Kudzai: Yes. That’s L’Officiel Lithuania. In my work, I tend to be cheeky from time to time. Pun intended. 

Martin: Yeah.

Kudzai: But I love the human form. I love the human form so much. I think before, I respected clothes a lot. But then, the more I shot, the more I started working with people that really understood their bodies. And so, separate to this conversation, I’ve had an art project that’s just centered around how we all connected through our bodies, basically. How we’re all a human, first of all. When it came to this image, I knew that I wanted form, but I didn’t know what image, where I wanted it. I was working with this amazing model whose name I can’t think of right now. But she works hard on herself, and I knew that. I wanted to celebrate the human form, the human body, and I wanted to shape around it. 

When I initially told my team, they were quite surprised, because they’ve not seen anything of that form in my work. But then, I’ve always been lucky that whatever vision I have, my team trusts me. And I told them exactly how I wanted to do the shot and it was all in studio and we captured it.

Martin: Wow. Yeah, the balance is beautiful. One of the things that strikes me, apart from the cheekiness as you mentioned, you’ve got the little, tiny triangle of arm in the top right. I think, without that, this to me, the eye would go straight out that top corner, because there’s a line of light leading you up there. But you seem to have everything, just a perfect place, to really keep the eye in the frame and the lines and everything. You have done a beautiful job of it.

Kudzai: Thank you.

Martin: Yeah, sorry, go ahead.

Kudzai: All right. I’m a former OCD. I wasn’t diagnosed properly, but I like things in a particular way. If I didn’t have that in a particular way, then I would lose it, basically. But over time, I’ve always been great at self-diagnosing and realizing I’ve got an obstacle. And so, I decided to get rid of that obstacle, and that got accelerated by having in the past, a roommate that was the opposite of me. But that worked out well. But parts of that me being quite particular still exists in my work. So, I’m very, very– 

I’m very terrible at shooting with an LCD screen. Right now, I don’t use that screen as the way I see an image. To me, looking through a viewfinder, and that might just me being old school, but looking through the viewfinder, I feel I’m observing every single thing within that frame. So, I’m adjusting as I’m shooting and I’m looking for that particular angle and those particular shapes that make sense and that gravitate towards you. And that’s exactly what happened here. I was looking for balance and I found it within this particular angle and that’s what you see.

Martin: Wow. Yeah. You just proved that you’re not old school by calling the R5 viewfinder a viewfinder, because it’s still an electronic viewfinder, right?

Kudzai: That’s true.

Martin: Many years ago, I use the R5 as well. I believe it’s probably still the best camera that Canon have made. But until this, my previous camera was the EOS R and that had a slightly clunkier electronic viewfinder. The R5, it’s so good. It makes you feel like you are looking through a real viewfinder. But the fact that you didn’t really think about that as you said that proves that you’re not old school. You’re in the middle of this.

Kudzai: You’d be quite shocked actually, because I didn’t advance my camera system not too long ago. I’m talking about two weeks ago. All this time, I’d been using a Canon 5D Mark III.

Martin: Oh, yeah.

Kudzai: And then, before that, I was using a Canon 50D, which was my first digital camera. 

Martin: Wow.

Kudzai: And then before that, I was using a film camera, which is what I learned on. 

Martin: Yeah. 

Kudzai: So, I learned the very hard way.

Martin: Wow.

Kudzai: If you messed up, you would find out next week. 

Martin: Yeah.

Kudzai: But I guess, is that a proper term to call it a viewfinder?

Martin: It is. Yeah, it’s 100% correct. You said that you don’t like the LCD and you prefer the viewfinder. I understand exactly what you’re saying. But they’re essentially now– with the R5, they’re essentially the same thing. It’s just like you’re looking at it through a viewfinder rather than looking at it on the back of the camera, and I understand that that’s what you meant. 

One of the things that I love about the R5 is that you do get the– Because you’re essentially looking at a two-dimensional version of the scene, it’s flat on LCD, but it’s much closer and the experience is very different. It’s just that you didn’t really differentiate between that and a physical viewfinder, where you’re looking through the lens. It just proves that you’re completely comfortable with the equipment that you’re using it rather than thinking too much about the past. I am intrigued though, which camera were you using when you were shooting film?

Kudzai: I was using a Canon T1, I believe. 

Martin: Oh, wow, yeah. 

Kudzai: Yeah, I was using a Canon T1. Yeah. 

Martin: And you cut your teeth on that?

Kudzai: Sorry. 

Martin: Oh, sorry. Yeah. So, you cut your teeth on that?

Kudzai: Yeah. That’s how I learned how to capture images before the Canon 50D, which I used actually, for a lot of campaigns and a lot of people don’t know. The only way I advance is when I have the need to. Otherwise for me, the tool is actually not the biggest thing. The tool is an instrument.

Martin: Yeah. I think that the just speaking today, that comes across a lot. We haven’t even mentioned the gear until now. That comes across in how we’re speaking about this. But at the same time, I think it’s also interesting to hear. Obviously, I’m probably a bit older than you, quite a lot older than you. And so, I myself for many years shot film. I used to shoot slide film, mainly slide film. And I’ve recently come back to that. I’ve got an old Rolly, a Rolleiflex camera that shoots big, square medium format film. I’m enjoying that immensely.

But it is interesting that someone that has– You were talking earlier, I got a hint as to your age, when you were talking about that in Cape Town, and you were using Facebook, and all of that. When I was first doing photography, there was no internet. There was no Facebook. There was no internet or not one that public people could use. And so, I’m aging myself at the same time here. In the years that you’ve worked, it’s refreshing to see how you’ve really used the social media pretty much, it seems very naturally. You’ve got your Instagram with the followers and all of the likes and things, and it all comes very, very naturally to you. I’m envious of that. Because for me, although I use social media, it came along so late in my life as a professional, but also as a photographer, I really don’t use it as naturally. I put out posts saying, “Okay, I’ve just released a new blog post,” and that’s really a lot. Just pretty much all I do each week. So, I’m envious that it’s so natural for you.

But also, again, it comes back to the viewfinder comment. It all seems so natural to you. I think that is probably one of the reasons why your work is so beautiful, because you’re not overthinking it. And yet, you’re coming up there with the results that are really powerful and dramatic. And so, it’s been an absolute pleasure looking through these images with you. We do have one more. Tell us a little about this final image that I’ve got on the screen at the moment.

Copyright © Kudzai King
Copyright © Kudzai King

Kudzai: Oh, God, this is very latest. This is one of my latest works. Actually, maybe not the latest, because I’m doing a portrait series right now. But speaking about this work, looking at the fact that I feel the worst anyone can say is no, I did a massive reach-out to a couple of people on my dream list, basically. One of the people on my dream list was Tom Ford. I’ve been observing Tom Ford since I was a kid, since I was all the way back in Africa, in Zimbabwe. It’s a brand that just captures the way I visualize life, because of its intensity, because of its creativity. Because it is quite a commercial brand, but then being commercial, there also quite edgy. They present themselves in that way.

I reached out to one of the creative directors of Tom Ford. And then, they wanted to see my work. They wanted to see my portfolio. I quickly realized that I did not have work that quite felt like Tom Ford. And so, I gathered my team together, they were so excited. And then, I’ve been dying to work with this particular model, because she just has the most amazing look. She’s probably one of the best models that I’ve shot thus far. Her name is Anna Koval. And my stylist overperformed, just amazing work. And so, I created a different range of works, basically. I created beauty work, and then I created editorial work, and then I created commercial work, all under the taste level of what Tom Ford represents. And this is one of the images.

Martin: Wow.

Kudzai: It’s work that I’m really excited about. And it looks like my audience really welcomed it quite well as well.

Martin: Yeah. Brilliant. Actually, I’ve just looked at my clock for the first time in an hour and 30 minutes. We’ve gone way– Are you okay to do another few minutes?

Kudzai: Sure. Let’s do it.

Martin: Yeah? Okay.

Kudzai: I’m enjoying it.

Martin: I’m going to stop sharing my screen for now. Obviously, you’ve made many bold moves. You’ve moved yourself around the globe. You’ve moved from in front of the camera to behind the camera. Lots of things in your life that you’ve made very bold moves. If you have one piece of major advice to give anyone that wants to do something similar to what you’ve done, what would you tell them?

Kudzai: Hmm, that’s a very good question. I think I would say pick what you love. Pick what you love, but not– I know people use this statement quite in a very frivolous way, but it’s important to have purpose. Because without purpose as human beings, we’re close to as good as dead. Purpose is what wakes you up in the morning. Purpose is what gets you out of bed when you’re like, “Ugh, not today, I’m tired. things to do and they have to get done.”

So, pick what you do and learn what you can do through any given source around you. There’s no excuse, especially during these days. We are quite privileged there. We live in a world that information is now all around us. You can open a book, you can open YouTube, you can open Instagram, you can open TikTok, you can open any platform, you can go to someone’s website and just observe what they’re doing. And so, pick what you do and then set out a clear goal for yourself. Sometimes, goals change. But without a goal, you don’t have a purpose. You’re not progressing towards something. So, pick out a goal, and that goal could be quite simple. It could even be a very complicated goal. But it gives you a map and a direction on how to move as you go about in your work career or even in passion that you’ve chosen. So, I think that’s probably the biggest one.

Martin: [chuckles] Absolutely golden advice. Sorry, you were going to say?

Kudzai: And then the very last is what I’ve been repeating all along. The worst anyone can say is no.

Martin: Beautiful. Absolutely amazing advice. I have had an amazing time for, sorry, an hour and a half, way over time. Kudzai, where can people find you if they want to come and check out your work or hire you? I know that your main website is kudzaiking.com. And so, that’s K-U-D-Z-A-I King, K-I-N-G dotcom. And is there anywhere else that you’d like– I guess, you have your social media links and everything on your website. Is there anywhere else that you’d like to send people?

Kudzai: At the moment, I just started with a new agency that I feel can take me to the next step of within the work. I’m constantly making sure that I’m progressing as much as possible. I feel at the moment– Not at the moment. They’re just amazing at what they do, and I feel together, we could do something, create some magic together. This agency is called Cake Factory. It’s cakefactory.com and if you want to reach out for press or to inquire about rates, normally that conversation filters through my agency. So, cakefactory.com.

Martin: Is that C-A-K-E, cake?

Kudzai: Yeah. Cake. 

Martin: Okay.

Kudzai: Like pudding cake.

Martin: Yeah. Okay. Excellent. Well, I’ll include a link to that in the post as well. And any closing thoughts? I think we’ve pretty much exhausted the conversation. But any closing thoughts from you, Kudzai?

Kudzai: Any closing thoughts? This is probably one statement that I live by since I was young that my mother taught me. It says, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” I keep that in mind. I realize that I am great at a lot of things, but I need people around me who are also great at what they particularly do in order to support this juggernaut that we’re trying to build and to progress forward. I think that those are my closing words.

Martin: Okay, excellent. Well, thank you very much. And thank you again for your time, for your wisdom, and for sharing your past, and a little glimpse into the future of Kudzai King. So, thank you very much and I hope to speak again at some point.

Kudzai: It’s been a delight being here and thank you for having me. I appreciate it.

Martin: Not at all.

See Kudzai’s work here: https://kudzaiking.com/

And Kudzai is also now working through https://cakefactory.com/


Show Notes

See Kudzai’s work here: https://kudzaiking.com/

And Kudzai is also now working through https://cakefactory.com/

Music by Martin Bailey


Audio

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Download this Podcast as an MP3 with Chapters.

Visit this page for help on how to view the images in MP3 files.


The Complete Namibia Tour & Workshop 2022 Video (Podcast 786)

The Complete Namibia Tour & Workshop 2022 Video (Podcast 786)


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Following on from the previous post about creating a slideshow using Boinx Software’s FotoMagico, although I was taken out of action for two days following my fourth COVID vaccination, I spent several additional days creating the background music for my slideshow, as I mentioned in that previous post. Slideshow music can be difficult because you don’t want it to be too prominent, but at the same time, it needs to compliment the images and content, so it takes more thought than simply sitting down to make a track just for the sake of it.

I’m not going to go into much detail, as this post is really at this point to point you to the video. Still, as the video starts, you’ll notice some simple Kalimba music, which is an African instrument that I have in one of my many plugins. I then spent some time finding chords that matched the subject matter, slightly sad sounding in places, mainly because of the feeling from the deserted diamond mines, and then I make it a little lighter with some flurries when necessary. We drop back to the Kalimba several times to break up the piano. After the initial Kolmanskop piano accompaniment, I switched to a hybrid traditional piano and electric piano played together. My wife thinks the flurries with the hybrid piano sound a little 70s or 80s, and she’s probably right because I was thinking Blade Runner as some of the notes and feeling of the music started to form.

Here is a screenshot of the final score in Ableton Live before I exported the music to embed into FotoMagico. If you click on the image, you’ll be able to see more detail if you are interested. Note that I designed the dark-teal theme for Ableton, as I don’t like the look of any of the actual themes provided with the software. The only additional thing to mention is that I also added some orchestral strings with brass and horns at various places, again, to add a little variation while changing the way I played some of the chords, hopefully making it a little less monotonous without having to compose and play each bar individually. This is to both save time and because too much variation can also get in the way of the slideshow if it starts to take the viewer’s attention.

Namibia 2022 Slideshow Score
Namibia 2022 Slideshow Score

I changed the timing a little, so although I’d say this would be around 18 minutes, the final video is 16 minutes and 30 seconds, which is still very long for a slideshow. This essentially represents most of my “keepers” from the trip, as the slideshow is designed to show you how much can be achieved during my 17-day Complete Namibia Tours. If you have time, do try to watch to the end, but I doubt with the number of images, it will be a video you’ll rewatch many times. Either way, though, if I can get my message across, that’s great. I hope you enjoy this. You can see this and over 100 other videos on my Vimeo Channel.


Show Notes

See the video on Vimeo here: https://vimeo.com/737475715

Check out my Vimeo Channel here: https://vimeo.com/martinbailey

Music by Martin Bailey


Audio

Subscribe in iTunes to get Podcasts delivered automatically to your computer.

Download this Podcast as an MP3 with Chapters.

Visit this page for help on how to view the images in MP3 files.


Building My Namibia 2022 Slideshow in FotoMagico 6 (Podcast 785)

Building My Namibia 2022 Slideshow in FotoMagico 6 (Podcast 785)


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I’ve spent some time over the last week building a slideshow of images and videos from my Complete Namibia Tour 2022, and today share some of the main things you might want to keep in mind when using Boinx Software’s FotoMagico 6 to build slideshows of your own. I’ve been using FotoMagico for many years since I switched to the Mac OS full-time in 2010, as my old slideshow software was for Windows, and I needed a good Mac alternative. FotoMagico was the obvious choice, and they have made some nice changes over the years, but in essence, just a very easy way to make powerful slideshows.

In preparation for starting to build my slideshow, I opened Capture One Pro, my raw processing and asset management software of choice, and I selected all 320 of the images that I selected from my Namibia images. I don’t intend to use all of them, and this initial selection does include some groups of similar images, which I generally will only need one photo of. Still, on occasion, I build out an image using variations, and so to start with, I want to see all images at my disposal. Note too that FotoMagico will use just about any image type with any color space, so for ultimate image quality, you might want to go with Photoshop PSD or TIFF files, but I like to use uncompressed JPEG files, as it makes FotoMagico lighter to use, and reviewing your slideshow as you build it can be a little smoother. Note too, though, that I generally don’t resize my images for the slideshow. I export full-sized images. This allows me to zoom in on parts of the images and pan around them etc. If you resize your images to 4K resolution, you can’t zoom in on them without the image quality degrading.

I exported my 320 images into an images folder inside a folder that I called Namibia_2022_Slideshow. Then I went back to my original shoot folders and started to select the various videos that I wanted to include. Some of the videos were in the Apple Photos app as well, as I shot them on my iPhone, so in the FotoMagico Preferences, under the Libraries tab, I turned on the New Media Browser which is currently still in beta. I left just the Photos App checkbox turned on. If you are not going to share your slideshow publicly, i.e., it’s just for private use, you could also enable the Music App to look for your background music, but if you are going to post your video online, you need to steer clear of using any music that you downloaded from Apple Music, etc. as it will result in a copyright strike. I’ll talk more about options for music later.

New Media Browser (beta)
New Media Browser (beta)

All of the videos were shot handheld, and some of the footage needed to be stabilized, but I also waited to see which video clips I would use before taking the time necessary to stabilize it. After starting FotoMagico, and applying the most recent updates, we are now presented with a new dialog. Then I entered the title Complete Namibia 2022, and my name is already saved as the Author. For the format, I selected 16:9, and the grayed-out words 3840px x 2160px (4K UHD) appeared to the right of the Format selection pulldown.

FotoMagico New Project
FotoMagico New Project

Once FotoMagico is open, I recommend selecting Animation Assistant under the Slideshow menu and confirm that your settings are in line with your expectations. Here are the settings that I use. We’ll set the slide length manually in a moment so you can ignore the Animation Speed slider. It would be nice if this could be set to a specific length, but with just slow to fast and no seconds displayed, this slider is pretty useless.

Animation Assistant
Animation Assistant

The rest of the options are probably self-explanatory, but the important thing, at least for my taste, is that the pulldown for the Horizontal, Square, and Vertical Images options is set to Alternate. What this essentially does is alternates the Zoom affect that is automatically applied to your slides when you add them to the slideshow. With Alternate selected, if one slide is set to gradually zoom in on the image, the following slide will zoom out, and then repeat this pattern for all following images.

Once I’ve checked the Animation Settings, I generally insert all of the images I want to include in the slideshow. I then click the Timeline icon above the bottom toolbar because I prefer to work in that view, and then click on any image, then hit Command and the A key on my keyboard to select all images. You can also select all images from the Edit menu. Once you have all images selected, click on the Options icon to the right, just above the Timeline, and under the Slide options, click the number for the Duration, and type in the length of the duration you want to use for your slides. And while you are there, type in something like 1.5 seconds for the Transition Duration as well.

Deciding Your Slide Duration

You can change these durations later, but it will save you time if you think about the slide duration before you start. The easiest way to do this if you already have some music for your slideshow in mind is to listen to the music and find how long each musical bar is. A bar is usually the length of four beats, although it can be different, so listen, and when you find the transition between chords or a natural looping of the drums, etc., use a stopwatch or something to time the length of the bar. If it is a fast-tempo song, you may need to use two bars for each slide. Your goal is to use somewhere between 3.5 and 5.0 seconds for duration. More than five seconds can make the presentation drag, and anything less than 3.5 seconds with the transition overlap will start to feel rushed. I’ll get into the music more later, but I found that for my music, I needed to run with a 3.8-second duration for my slides, so that’s what I entered. If you do already know what music you’ll use, you can drag that into the timeline too, and ensure that it starts where you want it to.

After that, you can start to play your slideshow and see how your images look as they appear one after another and ensure that the timing looks right if you already have music inserted. I use this phase to remove the images that I feel don’t quite match the set. Depending on the purpose of the slideshow, you may need to restrict the length to a specific number of minutes. In the bottom status bar in FotoMagico, you should now see the number of slides you have in your presentation and the total length of the slideshow in parentheses. My original show with all of my images was around 25 minutes, so I tried to remove as many images as possible, but I also added some video, so I’m probably going to be looking at a final presentation of around 18 minutes. I’m going to live with that, although it is quite long because the purpose of my video is to show what is possible in my 17-day Complete Namibia Tour. Plus, on showing it to my wife, who initially frowned when I told her it was 18 minutes, she was surprised when it ended, saying that she thought it was 18 minutes? When I told her 18 minutes had passed, she said it felt more like 8 minutes. That’s the kind of response we’re hoping for.

Productivity Tips

Of course, as you remove images, you will start to notice some places where your zoom doesn’t alternate. A zoom-in may be followed by another zoom-in, and that can look a bit clunky. Ignore these while you remove unnecessary images. Once you are relatively happy with your selection and the flow of your presentation, select all images again and then reselect the Animation Assistant and press the Apply button again. It should reapply all of the zooms so that they alternate again. If you have already started to adjust the duration of some individual slides to match tempo changes or pauses in the music, you can select smaller groups of images and Apply the Animation Assistant more selectively as well.

Also, if you delete images and just have a relatively small number of images that need to switch their zoom direction, you can right-click the images that need changing and select Reverse from the shortcut menu, as you see in this screenshot. This will switch the scaling and position of the Start and Finish points for the slide or slides that you have selected.

Reverse Scaling
Reverse Scaling

For one-off adjustments of the slide or transition duration, you can simply drag the lines at either side of the slide in the Timeline or adjust the durations under the Options for individual slides. Another option I use a lot as I tweak the size of my images is to right-click them and select Fill Stage or Fit to Stage from the shortcut menu. This is much faster than trying to drag the image nodes in or out, and it center aligns the image at the same time, so can help to avoid a number of possible alignment issues.

Quick Image Fitting Options
Quick Image Fitting Options

Also, note the small circle in the center of the previous screenshot. If you move the start or finish image position, you’ll see that circle move around the image. It’s indicating a focal point in the image so for example, if you zoom in on an animal’s eyes, it can be very effective to adjust the position of the image so that the circle is over the eye. That way, as the zoom progresses, the viewer will see that the focus of the zoom is the animal’s eye rather than, for example, the center of the image.

Adjust Animation Start Speed
Adjust Animation Start Speed

Note too that if you have a video or a large panorama image that seems to start and stop very abruptly, you can adjust the ease-in and ease-out of the animation by selecting the video or image in the Timeline, then select Options to the right, just above the Timeline. You should see an Animation Speed option. Open this and drag the node at the start or end of the Animation Speed, and you’ll see a second node appear as you drag the first away from the edge.

You can then drag the new node down, causing the speed to gradually ramp up or ramp down if you are adjusting the end speed. The further away from the edge you move the first node, the longer the ease in or out will take. Note too that you can see the boundaries of your selected slide transition in yellow as a reference.

Adding Music to Your Slideshow

If you have not yet added some music to your slideshow, you probably will need to think about that, as a slideshow without music can be pretty boring. I’m not going to go into much detail on my first recommendation, but essentially, you need to search for some music that you can either use for free or can buy a usage license for at a reasonable price. Check the terms and conditions and ensure that your intended use is covered. For example, if, like me, you will have some commercial messaging in your video, you must buy a license that includes commercial use. Be warned though, that if you upload your video to YouTube, even if you have a license, you will probably still get a copyright strike unless they have changed their policy over the last few years.

I stopped using YouTube years ago because despite presenting YouTube with a license for my background music, signed by the CEO of the company from which I licensed the music, I could not keep YouTube from slapping copyright strikes on my videos. Every time I fought and cleared one strike, the robots would reflag my video, and I had to go through the entire process again. Eventually, after clearing a copyright strike, I immediately deleted my videos, before the bots could reflag anything.

I have since then uploaded all of my videos to Vimeo, and although they do have a copyright strike system, they have humans remove strikes and keep them away. And that has only happened to me once on Vimeo, not continuously, as it did with YouTube. So, I highly recommend Vimeo if your videos contain commercial messaging and licensed background music. The problem there, of course, is that YouTube has a much larger audience, so if you want people to find your videos in searches, you’re going to have to deal with YouTube, and then, my next recommendation becomes almost essential, although I know this is not for everyone.

What I do for all my videos now is create my own music. This is time-consuming and takes a lot of skills and software that you may not already have. If you are not already making music as a hobby or for work, this is probably unrealistic, and therefore I’m not going to go into much detail. For my Namibia video, I started by getting the basic rhythm from the clapping of the Himba people from a video that I include in the video and built on that, using Ableton Live, which is a DAW or Digital Audio Workstation software. I also use a lot of plugins, and some MIDI hardware, namely a Komplete Kontrol S61 keyboard and a Maschine Mikro, both from Native Instruments, and a Seaboard RISE 49 from Roli.

I’ve already spent a number of days trying to create something I feel fits, and although I now have what I think is a very simple and effective introduction, using an African instrument called a Kalimba, I’m stuck for how to proceed to the rest of the piece, so although I wanted to release my slideshow video along with this tutorial, I’m actually going to release this now, and then I will follow up with my video next week, after hopefully completing the music to complement the images and video that I captured.

FotoMagico is available as a free trial if you want to try it before paying for it. They are now running on a monthly or yearly subscription payment rather than a regular license purchase. I know this doesn’t work for some people, but this is how a lot of software is sold now, so as they say, if you want to dance, you’ve got to pay the band. If you don’t see yourself using Fotomagico regularly, you could save money by opting for the Monthly subscription and stop your subscription when you don’t need it. I don’t recall seeing anything about any penalties for doing this, and that is why I opted for the monthly payment.

OK, so I hope the tips I’ve provided today are useful. I’ll embed the video to this post when I’ve finished the music and probably release the video itself as next week’s episode, so please stay tuned for that.

Before we finish, I have decided to unlock the posts on the Martin Bailey Photography website, so you no longer need to be a Patreon supporter to see the content. I did want to add, though, that the Patreon program is still in place, and I very much welcome anyone that finds value in what I’m doing here to support us via Patreon, starting from as little as three dollars per month, which is just $1 per episode, as well as unlocking all previous 784 episodes.


Show Notes

Check out FotoMagico here: https://fotomagico.com

Music by Martin Bailey


Audio

Subscribe in iTunes to get Podcasts delivered automatically to your computer.

Download this Podcast as an MP3 with Chapters.

Visit this page for help on how to view the images in MP3 files.