The Beauty in the Beast.
~An Equine Tale.
A while ago I published a blog post that depicted my journey in to becoming a photographer. This journey kick started with my childhood love for horses and the adventures and companionship they brought me. If you haven’t read it, you can do so by clicking HERE.
Claire and I have been connected with each other via social media for around 12 years because of our shared love for horses. We even share a birthday! Therefore I was quite excited and honoured when she asked me to do a shoot with her and her horse, Olympic City aka BEAST.
Here follows their story:
A Childhood Dream Becoming a Lifestyle
I started riding at the age of about 11 or 12 years old. It was something I always wanted to do and my mom surprised me by booking me on a pony camp.
Horses are basically my lifestyle now. Living on our own property means you have a constant responsibility, and your priorities have to adapt. Riding was my one “happy place” getting through the terrible teens, and I’ve met most of my closest friends through horse riding. They also taught me dedication, perseverance, humility but also confidence in myself.
Their role is also for me to learn as much as possible. My intention is to compete my horses and I always have a desire to keep learning, keep growing and always achieving the “next level.”
A full time passion and responsibility:
I ride on average 6 days a week. Usually 2-3 horses exercised a day (ridden or lunged) but this varies depending on whether I’ve got injured horses or adhoc riding work. I have regular clients and offer adhoc exercising for some extra income to afford my lessons.
Sometimes if I don’t have a day off during the week, it can become difficult to coordinate them all in a day sometimes. I exercise 2-3 before work in summer or 2 after work.
In winter it’s a lot more difficult so I’d ride 1 in the morning, 2 in the evening and increase the numbers on weekends. I do work a full time job and I teach for the riding school half day on Saturdays.
The different disciplines explored:
I started out show jumping but it just wasn’t Beast’s thing, so we started dressage. Once I started understanding dressage and feeling the difference it made in Beast, I couldn’t get enough. I’ve dabbled a bit in eventing and loved it, but I’m now most ambitious in dressage and just play in other disciplines.
Inspiration behind a photo session:
I’ve wanted to do a photo shoot with Beast for years and have been putting it off because of costs. Beast is my first horse I’ve owned solely and we’ve been together almost 12 years. It was a real roller coaster of a time learning on him as he was actually way too much horse for me and I was way too much of a novice to know this. But we managed to accomplish and fail at enough things to get as far as we did by doing Elementary dressage when I had only ever dreamed of Making Elementary level with him.
Last year his age kicked in a lot and sooner than I expected. Instead of just retiring him from competition we made the decision to retire him to just hacking. I was devastated even though my gut feel knew it was coming. I knew it was now or never for a photo shoot as he started dropping muscle quickly and I wanted to remember him healthy and strong.
Location: White Hourse Stables
Riaan & Mardené
– A Thirsty Chapter.
It’s dry. When the sun is not scorching the earth and licking up the last bit of moisture with its flaming tongues of thirst, it is the wind that evaporates any traces of water in to thin air.
This is what the Western Cape is currently facing. With none of the regular lush green landscapes we are used to, we are now learning to find the beauty in what we once saw as devastation.
The dry, sandy banks of dried up reservoirs have become art. We see the bittersweet beauty of white dust reflecting the pink sky. A world transformed. A reminder that love will conquer our deepest fears. Love can florish where we plant it – we just need to believe. Here follows a story:
Stilbaai Beach Wedding
– A Sandy Chapter
I concluded my 2017 wedding season with a highlight trip to Jongensfontein. A small beach town a few kilometers from Stilbaai. Like most destination weddings, I arrived the day before and met all the close friends and family as we sat around a big camp fire eating barbecued ribs and chatting about the next day’s celebrations.
I think by now most people know that one of my favourite parts about being a wedding photographer is becoming friends with so many wonderful people. The journey leading up to these celebrations is one filled with excitement and hope and I truly feel blessed to walk this journey with so many new friends.
Here follows the unity of Chris-marie & Steyn Wessels:
Growing up as friends
We’ve known each other for most of our lives. We both grew up with our families camping in Jongensfontein over holidays. This is how we met. We only really got to know each other at the end of 2012. First it started as friends and quickly escalated to something more. It was his blue eyes that drew me to him!
A Christmas Present:
On Christmas day 2016 we celebrated our 4th year anniversary. We spent the day with his family, but when we got back to Jongensfontein, we went for a walk on the very same beach we got married on. He dropped to one knee and asked me to marry him!
A Rustic Beach wedding
We decided on a rustic theme and got most of our inspiration from social media, pinterest, friends and family.
We wanted both a beach and a farm wedding. So we decided to get married on the beach where we got engaged and to have our reception on a horse farm, Jongensdal, just outside Jongensfontein. This venue fitted our ideas perfectly.
A dress tailored to her liking
I bought my dress on Gumtree! I took it to the very talented Esna Saayman from Riversdale, who changed the dress to my liking. I wanted an open back and a lot of lace. She made sure that the dress became a dream wedding dress to me. The veil was bought at Bride & Co and was a 5 meter long ivory veil with lace outlines.
Rings plain and simple
We both like a plain setting and that’s how we decided on our rings. My ring was made at Viljoens juweliers in Worcester and Steyn’s wedding ring was made by House of Kallie with a wood inlay. The wood inlay is something he really wanted. My wedding band is a Swarovski rosegold ring.
Stephanie Kamfer from “The Beauty Spot” and Natasha Henning, a cousin of the bride, did a great job with the make-up of the bride, bridesmaids and mother of the bride.
Mariaan Odendaal, the sister of the bride, and Verna-Marie Beukes, a close friend, are both employees of Scar Hair in Cape Town and took care of Chris-marie’s perfect hair.
Martelize Wessels created the wreaths for the bridesmaids’ hair with greens, folded flowers and roses.
Martelize Wessels created the wreaths for the bridesmaids’ hair with greens, folded flowers and roses.
Riversdale NG Church
Ds. Deon Beyers from NG Church Riversdale West officiated our wedding. This is the Chrurch I grew up in. He was very well prepared and gave a wonderful message at the ceremony. He also prepared us for the ceremony during a practise session on the beach the day before.
A Photographer with Experience
Landi from Organictales Photography was very professional and we could see that this was definitely not her first time taking wedding photos. She went the extra mile and tried to capture every moment of our special day. She made us feel at ease and was not just a photographer, but also became a friend. Pictures are all you have left after your wedding day and we wanted to make sure we had the best photographer capturing our special moments.
Videographer in motion
Henlu & Karin Cronje from “Cronje Productions” did an excellent job at recording our special day on camera. They literally think about every little detail. I would definitely recommend them to anyone that is getting married.
Memories with Friends and Family
For both of us the most memorable moment of the day was when we walked in at the reception and everyone waited for us with sparkles and something to drink. We could see everyone was having a good time which definitely set the mood for the evening.
A Cash Bar with Cocktails
Hansie Saayman Bar services made gin cocktails, cosmopolitans and had lots of ciders when the guests arrived at the reception. Red wine, white wine and grape juice were from Calitzdorp Wine Cellar and Champagne from KWV. Hansie and his team were very organized and had more than enough available for everyone.
Friends and Food!
Now this is a surprise to everyone… We didn’t have a caterer.
Breads and spreads were made by the bride, the mothers, and grandmothers of the bride and groom.
A close friend of ours did a Lamb Spit for the main. Our farm neighbours organized the kitchen, made the roasted veggies, potatoes and pumpkin fritters. My two aunts made the salad and tropical fruit sticks!
Everyone was so helpful and this was much so cheaper than caterers.
Snacks and a variety of breads and spreads
Sheep spit rolls with mozzarella and bacon inside.
Tropical fruit sticks
Wedding cake – Carrot cake
Ferrero Roche Tower
Take-away/eat-in portion deserts: Chocolate mouse, peppermint crisp tart, cheese cake and strawberry tart.
Music and the Ocean
Charles Du Preez from “Just For You” made sure everything went according to plan with music and sound at the ceremony as well as the reception. He did an exquisite job. One of my bridesmaids, Irma Du Toit, sang a beautiful song at the ceremony called “Far away” written by David Edwards. Jeandre Schultz from the band ‘Slow Jack” in Cape Town, played the guitar while Irma sang while we signed the register. This was a very special moment with the ocean waving in the background and all our friends and family witnessing our union.
Chris-marie & Steyn’s Advice to other couples:
Planning a wedding is a very big step. Be organized and double check everything. Get a good photographer and videographer, because this is all you have left at the end to keep as memories. It is important to have a DJ that knows what they’re doing. Sound and music can make or break a wedding. Don’t try to do everything yourself. Make use of your loved ones, friends and family for advice and planning. Our friends and family were very helpful and without them, our wedding would not have been the same.
Multiple Destination Honeymoon!
We had such a lovely Honeymoon driving from Stillbay to Mosselbay and spending the night at Nyaru Game Lodge. From there we went to PE and then to East London. We had a lovely time at Coffee bay next and had the privilege to see Hole in the wall. We were traveling along the coast till Durban where we got onto the MSC Sinfonia for a 3 night trip to the Portuguese Island.
Wessels Wedding in ONE sentence:
The best party we ever had!
List of Service Providers:
Caterers: Friends and Family
DJ: Just For You
Bar: Hansie Saayman Bar Services
Dress alterations: Esna Saayman
MAU: Stephanie Kamfer & Natasha Henning
Hair: Mariaan Odendaal & Verna-Marie Beukes
Videography: Henlu Cronje
Watch Chris-Marie & Steyn’s wedding trailer here. Filmed and compiled by Henlu Cronje Productions
110 Best Wedding Photography 2017
– A reminiscent chapter
2017 has been nothing short of one of my favourite, yet challenging life journeys yet. It definitely was not easy. After relocating to South Africa and setting up camp in Cape Town, it has been a non stop adventure.
I can proudly say that my first year back in South Africa, has been a big success. It was my most testing year of life to date with record amounts of challenges both personally and in business. Hours upon hours of hard work, late nights and early mornings. But the sweetest of all was hands down the fact that I got to meet so many beautiful, inspiring and interesting individuals – both as clients and as fellow industry trend setters.
It is the biggest honour when someone entrusts you with one of the most important tasks at their wedding. Documenting a love story so true and deep it sometimes leaves me heavily affected and love sick. After all, this is about love in it’s entirety. And as cliche as it sounds – what is more beautiful in this world than love?
After documenting the last love story for 2017 recently, I thought it a good time to look back at all my favourite wedding photography of the year. I compiled them all together here as my favourite 110 photographs in no particular order. Some of them are favourites purely because of the moment and story behind the story and other are favourites because of photographic appeal.
I hope you enjoy and if you do – please comment with which one is your favourite!
Cape Town Forest Maternity
The miracle of life will always strike wonder in the hearts of those who have been waiting, praying and hoping for it. The glow of this miracle is reflecting from deep within this beautiful mother – waiting on both her children to come in to this world and be welcomed.
A forest with all it’s natural beauty and wonder seemed like the most perfect and calm setting for this maternity photo session – and how how peaceful it was! With only the song of birds and the sound from a flowing river to give music to those who listen, we wondered the forest with all its magnificence. Stopping often to capture its art in our photo creations.
I cannot even begin to explain how much I enjoyed this session and the different aspect it put to my usual work. I truly think I should start doing some more of these maternity sessions in the forest! So much love all around!
ORGANICTALES WHERE IT BEGAN
“There are a thousand ways
to kneel and kiss the ground;
there are a thousand ways
to go home again.”
I remember like it was yesterday. Waking up before dawn; the farm, nestled in a valley still asleep. I would sneak out with a slice of bread and a bridle to fetch my pony, Ginger.
In the cold morning air we would be off on a brisk trot down the valley and finally up the hill where the sun was waving its good morning rays to the waking farm.
I grew up a creative. A love for visual beauty and harmonious sounds always filled my world with joy. When I wasn’t out exploring the farm or adventuring with my farmer of a father, I would draw my adventures and compose songs thereof while my mind never took a rest from creating images of beauty in my mind.
My mother, a teacher of life, strongly encouraged my artistic nature. Patiently enduring false violin strokes and monotonous piano scales. She taught me to appreciate and love Beethoven, Chopin and Mozart. She always made sure the art cupboard was fully stocked with different paints, pencils and art supplies, for this child of her who had no end when it came to the creative world.
My love for my ponies and my love for drawing finally intertwined and I spent hours upon hours creating pencil sketches of magnificent equine creatures featured in magazines. But, as a headstrong individual I soon grew tired of drawing other people’s photographs of other people’s horses. I wanted to create original sketches of ordinary ponies never before featured in glossy magazines. I wanted my own pony to be my muse.
I excitedly took the family point-an-shoot film camera and started snapping away at my ponies; Convinced that I was creating the same magnificent work that I’ve seen in the magazines. I remember my mom being upset when she discovered I snapped up an entire roll of film and when it came time to develop it, she made me pay for every single photo that was part of my “art.” School fees, some would say. Can you imagine how utterly disappointed I was when I saw my “art”? I couldn’t draw from those photographs!! So I took up another roll of film and so it continued in to the digital era.
I soon discovered that I haven’t drawn a single sketch in months, but instead I was determined and excited about creating art with a lens instead – my love for photography was born and blossoming quickly.
As life had it, one of my arab mares were up for sale and with the money I bought my first entry level professional DSLR camera and enrolled in a photography course. My world exploded as I started to learn more and more about this fantastic new way of creating art. I learned to grab a moment of life and forever keep it perfectly unique as it was at that moment. I started looking at the world in different angles, noticing shadows and light and colours.
My world transformed from an adventurous farm girl with a love for drawing and riding ponies, in to a creative adventurer who now sees life as a place with endless possibilities.
Below are some of my first DSLR images from when my love for photography was still young and fresh. These images have never been published and this will be the first time that many of them are made public.
A few months back, a friend of mine traveled up to the Free State with me where my old pony, Ginger is living out his last days in peace and harmony. A good old 24 years of age, he is being kept company by the very last foal born on the farm, Farah Anisa, a 7 year old Arab with a heart of gold and affection. I will forever be grateful for these images I have with my two equine companions. The bond I share with them cannot truly be captured in images alone, but here is a mere glimpse thereof:
So let’s talk about it. That big elephant in the room that makes people so uncomfortable they would rather just watch the weather channel on repeat instead.
(Pictures added to provide stimulation for artists who hate numbers)
Truth is – life really is all about the money. Sad to admit, but without a steady inflow in the bank people struggle to keep their spirits up. Money issues are one of the main causes of depression and divorce in today’s society and with the rising inflation and influx of expenses, it is hard to keep head above water. When you are self-employed and lack basic understanding of business and self-discipline, these stresses become even more intense.
What Do You Need To Survive??
So let’s look at today’s basic living costs per month in Cape Town in order to live fairly responsibly:
|Budget Living||Average Living|
|Rent (1 – 2 bedroom)||R5000||R10 000|
|Medical Aid:||R1500 (hospital plan)||R3000 (Comprehensive)|
|Life & Disability||R300||R500|
|Food (3 meals a day)||R1500||R2000|
|Total Costs:||R15 800||R27 300|
Sure, these amounts are variables and some are not applicable to everyone. Perhaps your car is already paid off. Or you inherited a house and don’t need to pay rent. Or you don’t plan to ever retire and want to work until the very last day you take your last breath at age 92 (good grief).
So what does this have to do with Photography?
I mean, Photography is Art.
It is a gift of Beauty.
It pays in “Exposure” and “Likes” on social media, right???
People in the Workplace vs. “Artists”.
Now let’s compare with people with “real” jobs (Since Photography is “art” and not a “job”).
People with real jobs work from Monday to Friday from 9:00 – 17:00 (160 hours a month) and get paid a fixed monthly salary plus a few benefits like pension and UIF and sick leave and weekends!
Every month on the same day a fixed salary gets deposited in to their accounts. Nice, isn’t it?
Now here you are. Artist. Photographer. Storyteller. You get paid per assignment. Some months mean glory to all as it rains with weddings and other bookings. Other months it’s like crickets and you try to see how many cups of tea you can drag out of the last tea bag.
Does it really need to be like this?
No. Not if you price yourself correct and according to your worth and time.
How Many Hours Do You REALLY Work?
How much work really goes in to one wedding? Some of these things are generally not considered as “work” by clients. At least, not until their employers ask similar tasks of them in their off time. So Let’s see:
|Initial Marketing||1 hour|
|Responding to client inquiries and questions||1 hour|
|In person consultation||1 hour|
|Charging camera gear and preparing cards||1 hour|
|Driving to Engagement session||1 hour|
|Engagement session||1 hour|
|Driving home from Engagement Session||1 hour|
|Downloading cards & importing into software||1 hour|
|Culling of images||1 hour|
|Editing images||3 hours|
|Delivery of images||1 hour|
|Pre Wedding Venue Visit||1 hour (optional but recommended)|
|Timeline coordination for Wedding Day||1 hour|
|Charging camera gear and preparing cards||1 hour|
|Driving to Wedding Venue||1 hour (minimum – usually more)|
|Pre Wedding Prep and location check||1 hour|
|Wedding Day Photography||12 hours|
|Post Wedding Prep and camera breakdown||1 hour|
|Drive home in the dark with tired eyes||1 hour|
|Downloading card and Importing into Software||1 hour|
|Culling of extra images||2 hours|
|Editing Images||10 hours|
|Blog Post Image Selection, Writing and Blogging||1 hour|
|Album Design||2 hours|
|Drive to Printers to deliver Design||1 hour|
|Responding to constant inquiries from brides wanting to know when images are done||1 hour|
|Drive to printers to pick up album||1 hour|
|Drive to client to deliver album and images||1 hour|
|Total amount of work you’ve done||52 hours|
52 hours = That is 7 hours a week more than the average “normal” person who works an 8:00 – 17:00 workday.
Great. So now we’ve established that you don’t “only” work when you are holding a camera. Those hours add up quickly, don’t they? But now, let’s look at some more numbers (I know, we are artist, numbers break our heads and they are not fun to look at or think of, but really if you want to do this as a business you need to continue paying attention)
Your Direct Expenses Per Wedding
Your car has a running cost and maintenance cost. Tires need to be replaced, oil needs to be filled up, car needs to be serviced. Visit the AA website to calculate your car’s running cost
100km = R350 / R500
|Camera Insurance Per Wedding:|
Divide your annual insurance premium by your annual number of weddings.
|(R2000 x 12 ÷24)|
|Assistant (not to be confused with a second photographer)||R1000|
|Album Printing Costs. |
This will vary on the amount of pages and quality of printers you use and get as expensive as R6000+ for a decent 20 spread leather cover album.
|Total Expenses per Wedding||R5 200|
So that is the direct expenses per wedding, but what are the costs to run your business and market yourself successfully in the Wedding Industry – set up at Wedding Expos, advertise on Wedding Blogs and Directories and have a strong Online Persona?
Running Costs Of Your Business Per Annum:
(Roughly R500 per month minimum)
|Print Based Marketing (Magazines/Pamphlets)|
(Roughly R1000 – R2000 per add)
(Roughly R10 000 per expo)
|Website Initial build (once off)||R13 000|
|Website Domain||R 2 500|
|Website Hosting||R2 400|
|Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom||R 1 650|
|Blogstomping Software||R 700|
|Album Design Software||R 700|
|Total Annual Business Expenses||R72 950|
If you dIvide that annual business expense in to monthly payments, it costs you about R6080 per month.
That essentially brings your monthly requirement as an individual and a business to:
R15800 (basic living expense) + R6080 (monthly business costs) = R21880 (total monthly expense)
How Many Weddings Should You Do?
Alright, so now we have established how many hours you work and how much those hours cost you, so how many weddings do you need to do per year to support a basic, responsible lifestyle and a basic overhead business expenses?
We do it like this:
Yearly cost of basic living and business: R21880 x 12 = R262560
R262560 ÷ (profit per wedding) = Weddings Required to run your business and support yourself
|How much you charge||R8 000|
|Your Expenses for the wedding||-R 5 200|
|Profit||R 2 800|
|Weddings needed to support yourself||94 per annum|
|Weddings per month||8 per month (is this even possible?)|
R10 000 Wedding
|How much you charge||R10 000|
|Your Expenses for the wedding||-R 5 200|
|Profit|| R 4 800|
|Weddings needed to support yourself||54 per annum|
|Weddings per month||4.5 per month|
R15 000 Wedding
|How much you charge||R15 000|
|Your Expenses for the wedding||-R 5 200|
|Profit||R 9 800|
|Weddings needed to support yourself||26 per annum|
|Weddings per month||2 per month|
R20 000 Wedding
|How much you charge||R20 000|
|Your Expenses for the wedding||-R 5 200|
|Profit||R 14 800|
|Weddings needed to support yourself||18 per annum|
|Weddings per month||1.5 per month|
Looking more realistic when you work it out like that, right? And to think that I didn’t even calculate TAX in yet. That decreases your actual income even further.
So now you have to ask yourself the question – how many hours are you prepared to work in a year and what level of income do you need to support yourself? As the saying goes:
Work Smarter, not Harder.
The Free State. A piece of South Africa that will always be very dear to me. It is after all where I grew up and where my roots started growing.
Many people associate the Free State with flat plains and not much to do, but oh boy are they wrong! If you dare to drive off of the N1 highway, you’ll see that the Free State is a rich land of hills, grass plains, Achacia trees and animals. Children of the Free State all have a raw earthy connection with nature. So, photographing this little family was nothing short of an adventure.
A Wildlife vet, spending his days with beautiful, unique and also dangerous wild animals everyday, asked that I capture his family in the environment he spend most of his time in. And oh! What wonderful little boys! Talkative with extraordinary imaginations and their tales kept pulling me off in to wonderland stories of children’s minds.
We initially planned on finding the big, graceful Giraffes as a backdrop, but it turned out to be quite a hide-and-seek game trying to find these long legged grassland dancers. In our expedition trying to locate them, we saw many other wonderful animals including buffalo, zebras, oryx, wildebeest and even lions!
We finally found our graceful Giraffes just in time for sunset and ended off our session with a few yellow wildflower photos of the boys.
What a delightful, adventure this was!
I will always Fly South.
As someone who lived abroad for 5 years, I always held on to the words “Fly South”. South is where my roots grow deep. South is home. South is where my feet stay grounded to the earth like a Black Rhino’s heart.
I have so much love for this continent. The continent of stories. Africa. The place where wild animals roam the streets in the imaginations of foreigners. Growing up at the southern tip of Africa, I had quite a fortunate childhood. My deep love for animals was the original drive that pushed me in to photography. But not wildlife photography though. As a farmgirl on a cattle ranch my deep bond with critters started at an early age raising any and all orphaned baby animal.
As part of a personal project I wanted to photograph people with animals, so I was delighted when Tanya Myers, a talented ballerina told me that she and her husband own big cats! Could anything be more perfect?
So even though this is part of a personal project, these photos are sentimental to Tanya as well since her love for dancing and her love for nature and her animals are showcased together.
Tanya, you are so talented and it is always a blessing to meet someone who shares my love for animals.
Is it real?
A lot of people asked if these were composites and if the cheetahs and giraffes were added in Photoshop. I guess in South Africa many of us are fortunate enough to encounter these amazing animals so we don’t even think about why people would think these photos are not real.
So here are a few behind the scenes photos that Tanya’s husband took with a cellphone:
And of course there had to be a funny of me trying and failing to guide a real ballerina in to poses…. you can just see her in the background laughing at my Dance Attempt. Of course I blame my pants for the lack of flexibility. Haha
And one that was a test shot from my camera to check the light.