A new year….

Wow, this was a nice first three weeks of the year. 

I did some nice portraits for the magazines, a lecture in Apeldoorn in working with the autistic children in Peru and I had a fun weekend at Noorderslag, one of the most important music festivals for Dutch bands on the verge of breaking through or famous and important for the popculture.

One of the portraits was of Dutch actor Victor Löw. For the magazine it had to be color, so I’ve shot it with the M, but I really love it in black and white. It was fun and easy working with him. Even though we only had about 45 minutes to do a shoot of about 4 different settings, I felt comfortable enough to still use the Leica. With some of the shots I used a bit of fill in with a Lastolite reflexion screen, but that wasn’t really necessary with this one.

During the lecture I spoke a lot about my work in Peru of last month, but also about working with the Leica and specially about working with silver effex pro. Most people by now, know this monochrome plugin for Lightroom or Photoshop that converts your color photos into black & white beautifully or enhances the shots of your Monochrom. I get a lot of questions on how I post process my work, well this is it for me. And the best (general) tip I can give for this workflow is: Don’t overdo it (specially with the structure sliders) and use the control points to make local adjustments instead of processing everything as one. It sounds simple, but apparently I helped a lot of people by telling them this. 

Besides this I introduced my new idea, of which you can check a preview here. It’s only work in progress but I’m very excited about it.

Last but not least, some of the pictures I took at Noorderslag. This was a festival I was invited to. Not to work, but just to have some fun. Of course I couldn’t leave my camera at home and I loved using the Monochrom this weekend to get a few shots at the edge of the stage. If you like to see  more of them check my flickr page.

Contests…

Entering your photos in a contest; it’s supposed to be a smart move, but I really don’t like it. Of course I understand it’s a good way to reflect on your work, sharpen your selecting skills and it’s a great way to get some free publicity or great prices IF you win.

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Would this photo, taken during my stay in Peru, have a chance of winning? I haven’t submitted it yet to any competition.

But that’s the whole problem; I hate selecting my own work… It’s not that I can’t see one photo is photographically better than te other, but the “feel” of a photo is also important. If not more important. This is where it gets tricky, as a lot of photos have more feel to me personally than to most viewers… I was there, I know the story! 

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This shot taken in Mumbai actually got a “mark of excellence” in the I-shot -it competition.

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This shot makes my heart beat faster, was used by Transcontinenta as a cover for a special edition yearbook, but hasn’t won anything in a competition…. yet.

When selecting just one photo it’s still relatively easy… you just pick one that makes your heart jump or that others like and repost a billion times on social media. You can still talk about taste and preference, but that’s just what it is.

It’s the series which give me the hard time. Most of the time they give you a restriction of X photos. And for some reason I always end up with X plus some, to tell the whole story. I guess this also is just a matter of perseverance and practice… so I’ve started to enter some of my work. 

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These are shots taken during a project with autistic children in Peru. I didn’t select these three for entering this serie in a contest. To see all the photos check here and decide which seven pictures you would send in…

I’m mainly entering competitions where there are actual jurors and no “social voting system”. On the one hand because this gets me actual feedback on what I’m doing and on the other hand so I don’t have to spam my entire network. Also I’m entering some competitions that actually cost money… I look at this as “learning tuition” that I’ve never spend on an actual course, school or training. 

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This picture I’ve never entered in a competition… still it got me some amazing publicity…

As for the publicity side of things; It’s always good to have people notice you and even blog about you… as you can check here, you might end up in one of those “best of the year” lists that come out by the end of the year. Thanks a lot for checking out my blog this year, have a great new years eve and hopefully see you all next year!

Shooting video with the M240 is quite a challenge for me, as this is the first trip I’m really using this feature.

I try to approach it the same way as I do my photography- reportage style- as there is little preparation, I have no tripod and most of the time I only have about an hour to shoot it at a location I’ve never been before, with people I’ve never met before. Quite a challenge. This video of Vivian was even shot in 30 minutes. 

Vivian is a 14 year old autistic girl, that doesn’t speak at all. In the 30 minutes we were there, the therapist practiced making the bed and doing the dishes… just to try and make Vivian a little bit more self sufficient in the long run.

Denilson is a six year old, autistic boy who’s learning to deal with the excess amount of input he gets when he leaves his hill house to go to the market. A long walk down hill, a bus ride into town and the overwhelming amount of  noise, people, music, colours and textures are a challenge to cope with for him…

Parents association

Yesterday we had a gathering of families with an autistic child. They came together to get to know each other, talk, drink hot chocolate milk and have their kids play together, including the non autistic brothers and sisters. The idea behind it was to form a parenting association (I have no idea if that is te proper English term for it.)

It was a great afternoon and besides documenting the event, I was asked to make some family portraits in the tradition of Peru… very posed. It’s not what I normally do, but I loved the challenge. Especially as some of the autistic kids didn’t want to stand still or stand there with their parents. Therefor sometimes I had to improvise, but it all worked out.

In the mean time some of the kids decorated the place, making beautiful chalk drawings on the floor. Others played a game on the phone, or just sat in silence in a corner.

Lucas from danielmaissan on Vimeo.

Lucas is a ten year old autistic boy who lives on the third floor of a nice house in Cuzco, Peru. He loves to draw his own comics and on the drawing board he explains quite well how his own head works from the inside. The most importent exercises the therapeut did this session were about winning and learning to loose. As he had explained his head has no problem when he’s in his happy world… but with an input overload, it can result in dramatic and uncontrollable rage outbursts. Most of the games they played, Lucas lost today… still he managed to control himself and explain us how things work.

Happy Holidays

It might be a bit to early… but at least I won’t forget… also I can take this opportunity to thank all of you people checking out my blog, today number 600 hit the follow button. Thanks, without you guys it would be a lot less fun to write down my adventures.

 

Cuzco mental hospital

As I’m here for this special project, I do have some free time as well. Of course I roam the city and villages around, to do some street photography, but I also like to take on some projects for myself on the side. As I did an extensive project in Malawi on a mental hospital a few years ago, I wanted to make some sort of sequel by visiting one in Peru as well.

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Of course I didn’t have the three weeks I had in Malawi, but the two hour escorted tour they gave me here was enough to get quite a good impression. Shooting in Peru is quite a challenge as the light outside, even with rain, is so bright I often have to close down to f4 even when using the Monochrom at ISO 320. Inside on the otter hand I find myself shooting at ISO 1000 with a shutter speed of 1/60 on f2. The difference is huge and it’s a pain, when something happens outside while I was just shooting one of the bedrooms, I still forget to switch sometimes.

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Here in Cuzco they make a clear difference between ensured people and people with no money at all. Still they help everybody that needs the help of proper doctors and nurses. Just as in Africa it’s hard to see the rough conditions they live in. But for some reason the patients were very open and friendly. Also the staff tries their best to give the people a proper schedule for the day. Because of the rain, most activities were inside today. Making christmas cards, decorating the rooms for the holidays… that kind of things. Not everybody joins these activities (a lot of them don’t actually) but you can see the effort the staff makes.

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Because there was only little time, I’ll probably head back there somewhere at the end of this week to do another hour or so, joining the medication round, some meeting or anything else that I will bump into. In any case I’m quite happy that my own special projects can still continue while I’m doing my job.

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Jeferson, a five year old autistic boy.

These weeks I’ve joined the Abrazos foundation, visiting several families with autistic children in Cuzco- Peru. This foundation strives for awareness and education about autism. My job mainly consists of photographing the families, the work this foundation is doing and of course the children. Only to show contributors what the foundation is doing and of course to try and get some more contributors.

As I have brought my Leica M240 besides the Monochrom, I can suddenly also capture some of their work on video. As this is quite new for me, I noticed how I can lose myself in filming as well as in editing - even though I edit in Imovie instead of one of those fancy programs. 

Two days ago I’ve spend about an hour with Jeferson, his mom and Cusi, who is one of the therapist of Abrazos. Jeferson is only 5 years old. During this therapy session they worked on concentration, numbers and reaction.

 

Prepared…

So I’m preparing for my next trip. A month in Cuzco- Peru, to make a reportage on autistic children. I’ve already told you a bit about it here…

But I thought it would be nice to show you what I bring on a assignment like this. With some wonderful help of Transcontinenta, this is what’s in my camera bag while traveling…

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A Leica M 240 and a Leica Monochrom
A Summicron 35mm
A Summicron 50mm
A Summicron 75mm
A Leica SF 58 Flash
A 13” retina macbook pro
Two 1TB hard drives for backup (and some movies)
Extra batteries
Extra SD cards
A sensor cleaner
A notebook
Headset for some music or movies
An e-reader
and some cigarets.