We first took notice of Jacques Crafford on Instagram and after further inspection realised that he’s a well-rounded landscape and travel photographer whose work can very well be printed and displayed on your living room wall. His videos also take you on a journey which makes you wonder if you should go ahead and make that loan to go travel… I mean #YOLO! If you had to join this pro traveller on a road trip you’ll find yourself listening to bands like Mumford & Sons, Noah and the Whale and Radical Face. So, we took the time to learn a little bit more about this talented, free-spirited documentarian.
Please tell us a bit more about yourself and how your photographic journey took flight?
I’m a freelance videographer specialising in tourism, travel and adventure films. In my final year of studying towards a BCom degree, I picked up a video camera and immediately fell in love. I started making videos for my hostel and eventually for my varsity so that by the end of the year, I knew it was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life! I finished my degree and immediately pursued a career in video. My entry into the industry was through wedding films, which I did for seven years until I transitioned to the world of tourism and travel. Apart from video, I also do photography specialising in landscapes. I’m a huge fan of the great outdoors and I’m at my happiest when I get to work in nature.
What is the first thing you do when you get up in the morning?
Definitely make myself a good cup of coffee. I try not to check the news, social media and emails before I had some quiet time while getting into the right headspace. I believe that if you start the day on the wrong note it will influence your whole day until the moment you put your head down. I’m an optimistic person and I aim to take on every day with gratitude and excitement.
How did you progress from motion to photography?
I never saw myself as a photographer and even though I used a DSLR to shoot video, never took a single still until I switched to Sony. I was living in Jeffreys Bay at the time and developed a strong interest in surfing. I really wanted to make surf films and bought a camera housing. Then one day I “accidentally” took a photo and was so surprised at how it looked when I opened it on my computer. I was captivated and started taking more photos (in the ocean) than videos. This quickly translated onto land and it wasn’t long before I found myself constantly taking photos. I started getting some photography work through Instagram and soon felt comfortable enough to call myself a photographer. Today, I still focus on video work but will, from time to time, take on photography jobs.
What are the biggest challenges with shooting motion and stills?
For me, with video, it’s really just to get smooth, stable footage while keeping the subject in focus. Having shot video for so long made photography feel relatively easy. Although I had to learn a few extra skills with stills especially when it comes to working with alternative light sources.
Gear isn’t everything; you need an artistic eye and raw talent. But all photographers believe in the gear they use. What gear and accessories do you use when shooting stills compared to motion?
I’ve been shooting with Sony Alpha full-frame mirrorless cameras for over four years now. The Sony bodies have a wonderful feature called IBIS (In-Body Image Stabilisation) which enables me to shoot by just using my hands. For video work, I will sometimes use a gimbal for effect but some of my biggest jobs were shot entirely handheld (I hardly use a tripod).
The same applies to photography: A lot of landscape photographers use tripods but my approach to landscapes is more focused on the lifestyle aspect which is why I always try to incorporate people into my shots. This requires me to be able to quickly frame composition and get more shots compared to someone who just sits in one spot with a tripod waiting for that perfect moment.
What would you say is South Africa’s top (secret) photographic destinations?
I believe that to be the Drakensberg and Cape mountain ranges. There’s so much beauty up there in the mountains; much of it that still hasn’t been done justice. Although South Africa has somewhat of hiking culture, we don’t have a lot of photographers who combine the two. Some of the best spots in South Africa require a significant amount of effort so if you want that epic shot you have to do that epic hike. I started hiking for this very reason and now I’m totally hooked on exploring those hard-to-reach spots.
What are your favourite international photographic spots?
First on my list has to be the Italian Dolomites. Not only are they extremely beautiful but super easy to photograph – you simply point your camera and press the shutter! Next would have to be Iceland. One might say it’s been “over-photographed” but there’s a reason the masses flock to it – it’s so photogenic! It also happens to be the first place I saw the Northern Lights. Third on my list is Nepal. I recently hiked the Himalayas and was blown away by its diversity. I made a video about it, all shot handheld with my Sony A7R III.
I don’t know if you’ve seen the TV series Breaking Bad? Anyway, the cinematic brilliance of every scene is hypnotic and although I’m a big fan of the story, I really enjoy the technical genius behind it all. I was wondering if there are any series or movies that you find yourself enthralled by the cinematics?
Oh yes, I totally watched Breaking Bad and I agree with you 100%. I love how they use angles to enhance the story and bring across a certain feeling. I feel like I learned a lot from just watching it! On a cinematic level, I’m really inspired by the Sherlock Holmes movies and the Revenant is also at the top of my list.
If you could travel back in time to shoot anything or anyone, who or what would that be and why?
I would definitely want to go back to the early days of surfing when Kelly Slater and Andy Irons were going at each other with their legendary rivalry. This is something I still read up about a lot since it was before I was ever aware of the amazing world of surfing.