Painting with Light and Composition
Welcome to the second edition of our extended Safrea Cover Showcase. Although the Showcase is used to exhibit our photographers’ work, I also want to tell you more about the people behind the lens, because without them; well …
Today’s conversation is with Sam Basch. Sam’s career in communications included time in the diplomatic service and corporate communications, and he has been a freelance journalist since 2007. Photography is a serious hobby, enabling him to complement his editorial material with quality images.
I just love the ducks, Sam. Do you prefer to shoot early morning or late afternoon?
Sunrise and dusk are the golden hours because that kind of light adds so much atmosphere to your images. The strong orangey light of the late afternoon is lovely for wildlife and landscapes, as I recently captured in the Valley of Desolation near Graaff-Reinet. After sunset – or before sunrise – one could get images in the so‑called blue hour, which is actually shorter than an hour. The morning light is also great because I’m shooting as the sky brightens and the landscape, seascape, cityscape, whatever – even wildlife – is bathed in a new and atmospheric light that constantly changes.
Of course, this does not mean daytime, or even rainy conditions, is not suitable. Keep the camera ready for any time – even in wet weather, a storm or snow – or you’ll miss interesting opportunities.
What was your biggest challenge during this specific shoot?
The sun rises and sets much faster than you can imagine. If you are not at the right spot on time, chances are you won’t get what you’d hoped for. In this instance, I wanted to be near the water’s edge, where I photographed the ducks, but I got side-tracked by the flocks of birds flying over the bird hide, so I was lucky to get the duck shot at all and that it turned out well.
How much editing do you do in general? What would have been the role of Photoshop in these shots, for example, if at all?
All my images are edited in one way or another. I use Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop, which is the modern equivalent of processing one’s images in the old photographic darkroom! That entailed a labour-intensive amount of work to lighten or darken the image, or parts of it – which I did in my youth. In these images, I tweaked the shadows and added some vibrancy – the equivalent of using a filter on the old film camera.
If it’s the equivalent of using a filter, does that mean you don’t use filters and suchlike any longer? Or is there other equipment that you have now that you didn’t have in the old film cameras?
For a warm tint, one used to fit an orange filter on the old film camera, especially if the scene was bathed in cold light, like in a snowy landscape. Filters are still used today, such as neutral density filters, especially to make longish exposures where, for instance, the lighter sky could result in a washed-out area in the top part of the image. One needs a perfect balance, so these filters are still useful. In the old days, it meant having to work at the exposure in the darkroom.
What inspires you to shoot every day, even throughout the pandemic?
Photography is a creative process, which I’ve enjoyed since childhood. It gives me a way to look at the world around me differently – and to capture a sliver of that reality to share with my viewers. All artists, be they painters, sculptors, graphic designers, even dancers or actors, have the innate urge to share their skill, their talent. There’s no point in doing any art in isolation. I can’t draw or dance, but I can paint with light and composition.
I’ve featured your work before, and you’ve done lots of travel photography. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be, and why?
Thank you for giving us the exposure. Yes, I love travel photography – once again, to share my experience with others. Having lived in South America and Portugal, I’d opt for any of those countries at any time. Not necessarily the large cities, which have by and large become similar, even aggressive, no matter where in the world. Smaller towns and villages tend to retain the distinctive character of a place: of the culture, architecture, language, dress, food, the friendly spirit, if you like.
A big thank you to my editor, Gudrun Kaiser, for her sharp eye.