Ibali Photography Collective: Week 4 & 5

The last two weeks of the Ibali Photo Collective have been very intense, with a mix of theory and practice, the group is unveiling the secrets of photography.

– Text by Gaia Rovelli, images by Fernanda Hurtado Ortiz

Part I: Find the Balance, Week 4

Friday, September 10th. The fourth meeting at Muizenberg High school was dedicated to a  detailed study of light and the effects that a well-balanced shutter, aperture and ISO can achieve.

Dave asked the kids to look into their cameras, and experiment with all the different settings and buttons finding out their settings. Once they understoof how to modify them, the real challenge was to exploit their creative potential.

Specifically, the guys had to get familiar with the concept of depth of field: this determines how much of the photograph is on focus, and it is defined by setting the aperture. To make the concept clear, Dave showed some examples of different styles of photography. From sports to portraits, playing with this element can convey different meanings and help in achieving unique results. Play with the depth of field, and it will feel like you could almost touch things. Engage with shutter speed, and you will succeed in freezing motion in a single shot.

An afternoon of practice

After a brief theoretical kick-off, the students embraced their cameras and followed Dave in the school courtyard.  The kids had to deal with an prime factor: weather. Nevertheless, despite a constant drizzling, they began shooting. Protecting their tools with extreme care and attention from the rain, they started exploring their photography skills in unexpected corners, getting on their knees and bending their backs to reach the best perspective. Even though in this learning process the rain represented more an opportunity than an obstacle, it was great that the sun eventually came out. “Look, guys, the light is completely different now… experiment with it!”, said Dave with enthusiasm.
This variety of lights called for a constant readjustment of settings. Surely it was not easy to put all the lessons applied in practice, but Dave went around to ensure that the students got it right and handled all their doubts and uncertainties.

 

Freeze the movement

Other than light, the guys put their efforts in using aperture and shutter to capture motion and convey a peculiar depth of field. They started with some attempts in the garden, where some of them jumped and others captured their schoolmates moving quickly with their blue blazers floating in the air.

The application of the lessons learned was no straightforward process  for them. However, Dave went around to each of the students to understand what they were trying to achieve, and steered their ideas in the right direction.

Experimenting different shots

Even with the constant change in weather the students were busy at work experimenting different shots with different settings on their nifty devices. Ethan, Amy and Kyra played with rain drops falling from the leaves, capturing their movement and trying to play with the depth of field. Ebony and Merveille practiced jumping from some rocks in the middle of the courtyard. Joshua had asked Dave to explain how to adjust overexposure to achieve the desired effect.  Everyone was full of energy, and the workshop ended with a weak sunlight setting in the school courtyard, leaving the kids with the right momentum and confidence in their photography skills.

    

Part II: Photojournalism Insights from Week 5

Friday, August 15th. The Ibali Photo Collective had the honour to host a new guest speaker. Sophia Van Coller is a photojournalist, passionate in macrophotography and people photography. During the last workshop she joined the group to share insights on her career as a photojournalist, including many useful tips.

People and Environment

To begin with, she underlined the importance of people and their environment in photojournalism. Indeed, contexts and human traits need to be understood, and empathy is an essential element if one wishes to succeed in his or her reporting. She made the example of somebody who recently lost a member of his or her family: more than pointing a camera to their face, macrophotography and creative framing are the tools to rely on to convey an emotion in a shot. Particularly, environment is an essential part of human stories as it provides an instant inside look into people’s interests, lifestyle and values to produce a powerful environmental portrait.

Useful tips

Sophia shared several pictures and examples to the class. However, after a moment of reflection on some images displayed, she decided to leave a list of useful take-aways for the students.
To begin with, photojournalism is all about people. Hence, the first thing to be careful about are your subjects: spell their names right, get some information about their background and who they are.
Secondly, think about what you see: pay attention to your everyday scenery and see if there is something to find out about, be it a street or a person sitting on a bench. Third, this checklist cannot ignore some other points: be empathic, don’t be afraid to people and get in touch with them. Still, be careful with holding your camera all the time: you surely don’t want to loose the moment while your focus is all behind the lens.  One step back sometimes also allows to reconsider perspectives. She makes the example of portraits: a macrophotography on the hands of a 90 years old man who has been working his whole life will tell a much better story than a frontal portrait.  Reconsider perspectives, be creative and never forget the importance of their potential.

The Perfect Kit

To conclude, Sophia presented to the Ibali Collective what she considers to be the perfect photography kit. This included all sorts of items from the camera, lenses and flash, to more unexpected ones as a toothbrush and wipes keep lenses clean. She also recommended carrying a buff so to cover your mouth in case of photo reporting in fires or dusty places.
Finally, she talked more specifically to the ladies in the room. Being a woman is not always easy as a reporter. A  hat can at some point help hide your hair and make you look more impersonal and you will realize it is a good way to sneak behind the scenes much more easily!

Lastly, Sophia revealed some little presents she had brought to the students. Policemen hats, old fashioned sunglasses, coloured hair bandanas: a bag full of funny props that the guys will play with in the next workshops. These items will provide help when they will have to portrait their family and friends. Adding an element of fun, but always keeping in mind the precious take-aways from this workshop!

 

Are you ready to see the results? Stay tuned, the next episodes are coming soon!

You can still support the project with your old cameras or in-cash donations! Find out more about how to contribute!

Learn more about Sophia Van Coller’s recent work!