Alta is a Pretoria-based photographer who simply loves what she does. She started taking photos around 10 years ago as part of her family’s bird watching routine.

“I was happy to just take pictures of all the bird species we identified, but that changed quickly. I attended a few weekend courses and for the rest, I taught myself by watching videos and reading up a lot. Photography is my passion! The following is true for me: “Photography is not a job, nor a hobby. It is a way of living.”

Taken in Dullstroom. The perfect misty morning. A very minimalistic image with a calming effect

Taken in Dullstroom. The perfect misty morning. A very minimalistic image with a calming effect.

Taken in Arniston. A little forgotten house with magical clouds at sunset

Taken in Arniston. A little forgotten house with magical clouds at sunset.

Favourite genres

Alta sees herself as a very versatile photographer, digging into various genres, but landscapes and wildlife are by far her favourite. Being outside and feeling part of nature is the ultimate high for her. She also enjoys studio work like portraits as well as high-speed photography. “The more adrenalin I can generate, the happier I am!” says Alta.

An in-studio portrait. Once again breaking the rules to have some areas in the model’s face blown out.

An in-studio portrait. Once again breaking the rules to have some areas in the model’s face blown out.

Elephant Plains

Taken at Elephant Plains on a Tusk safari. What an experience: leopard mating without the cover of any branches and bushes.

Concept to result

Alta keeps her mind stimulated with new techniques and effects and, being part of a photographic club, she always has new and exciting set subjects to photograph for the next club meeting. “This is where my head gets into gear. I try and think of that image that nobody else would think of – either a different angle or a fresh interpretation of the subject. After thinking about the project, I discuss it with my best friend, my husband. Once I know what to photograph, I visualise the end result in my mind’s eye and try to transform that mental image into reality,” says Alta.

The key for her to succeed is planning, planning, planning. She thinks about the lighting she wants to create, props needed, post-production work on the image, and even the actual image that has been taken. She thinks of possible hiccups that might occur during the shoot and mentally formulates a solution in case it does happen. But as we all know, things happen when we never expect it and then she needs to make sure she can think on her feet and out of the box. Once everything is set up correctly, she starts taking the photographs, exploring all the angles and possibilities.

For her, another key to success is being dedicated and determined. “I will not give up until I see the image I had in my mind, on my computer screen.”

Thinking + Planning = being Prepared

Preparation + Dedication + Passion = SUCCESSFUL RESULTS

Wildlife turned into art. I call this a Dramatic Animal Portrait. The black background makes the animal stand out beautifully

Wildlife turned into art. I call this a Dramatic Animal Portrait. The black background makes the animal stand out beautifully.

High-speed photography in my studio. So much fun!

High-speed photography in my studio. So much fun!

Post-processing

Alta believes using a combination of Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop. The bulk of her RAW conversion processing takes place in Lightroom and then she adds the final touches in Photoshop. “Nothing beats Photoshop when you want to create some awesome artistic images,” says Alta. She uses plug-ins like Nik software and mixes it up with some filters to create a unique look.

Photoshop magic. I had a lot of fun doing this image. Message: you have to apply your knowledge and take action in life

Photoshop magic. I had a lot of fun doing this image. Message: you have to apply your knowledge and take action in life.

High-speed photography. The theme of this shoot was colour. I used paint powder to generate this image

High-speed photography. The theme of this shoot was colour. I used paint powder to generate this image.

Photographers that inspire you

Hougaard Malan is someone Alta looks up to when it comes to landscape photography, Brendan Cremer for wildlife and Annie Lebovitz for portraits. All of the above are fantastic at what they do.

Messages with your photography

“Being a photographer, you are in a unique position to speak to people without saying a word. The interpretation of the message I usually leave up to the viewer as two people will get a different message from the same image, just because of their viewpoints, perceptions and life phase they are in. I am a strong believer that the right message will reach the right person at the right time If I want to carry over a specific message, I do a formal project on a usually ‘daring’ subject. I then combine my photography and my writing skills. I will write a unique poem for each image to enforce the message,” says Alta. She recently did a project on the effects of emotional abuse and it is powerful. The free PDF is available from her website.

Click on the download link and read through “Visual poetry of the unseen scars”.

Another portrait. I love breaking the rules.. here is a faceless portrait

Another portrait. I love breaking the rules… here is a faceless portrait.

A portrait combined with Photoshop magic. What a wonderful experience to work with this model!

A portrait combined with Photoshop magic. What a wonderful experience to work with this model!

From aspiring photographer to a full-time career

“Being a full-time photographer sounds a lot more glamorous than it actually is. Living in the digital era where so many people have access to good photographic equipment and technology, it is not always easy to make a living as the competition is hard and sometimes harsh,” explains Alta.

Building a “name” is something that everybody strives towards. Alta shares some good advice on this:

  • Set your aim on being the best photographer you can be
  • Do not compare yourself to others
  • Strive to better yourself in every way you can
  • Be better than you were yesterday
  • Improve on your own best

In short, “compete with yourself” she says. “If you do this, building a name will come naturally. It takes hard work to become a better you. Even though you will encounter difficulties along the road, you must always dust yourself off, pull yourself together and try just one more time as your success might just come that very next try.”

The gear she cannot be without

“Oh dear, I need all my gear,” giggles Alta. “But if I must choose only a few pieces of equipment it would be:”

  • Full-frame camera
  • Wide-angle lens for landscapes
  • Long lens for wildlife photos
  • Mid-range lens for studio work
  • Speedlight

Her motivation

Alta’s passion for photography is her strongest motivation. “I am always open to learning new skills and techniques to better myself. I also see my photography as a tool to reach people, a tool to influence people’s lives. If I can summarise, I do not need anything to motivate me to continue taking pictures, photography itself is motivation enough.”

Taken in Clarens in autumn. The mist had just disappeared and the reflection in the water was just so beautiful. There was no wind, so the water was like a mirror.

Taken in Clarens in autumn. The mist had just disappeared and the reflection in the water was just so beautiful. There was no wind, so the water was like a mirror.

Hornbill

Taken at Elephant Plains. I am that photographer who does not mind getting dirty. Went down to lie on my stomach to photograph this Hornbill.

In terms of printing and mounting/framing, what do you like and why? What value does it add to your work?

“Printing just adds to an image; it gives an image something extra that a digital screen just cannot capture. Printing makes the image come to life. There is really nothing that can compare to actual print!” says Alta. When it comes to a printing medium, Alta says that it depends on the client and their budget. “Personally, I prefer fine art paper and of course the magical DiaMount®!”

Final words of wisdom

“Each photographer has their own journey; we all learn at our own pace and achieve goals at different times,” says Alta. Here are some final bits of advice from her:

  • Always compete with yourself. You are fighting a losing battle if you constantly compare yourself with others.
  • Do not be too serious and overly sensitive to what people say. If someone is giving you constructive criticism, do not take it personally. Listen to them and see what you can learn from what was said. You can always learn something, even from someone who has less experience than you.
  • Always stay humble and never think that you have “arrived”, as that attitude will be forever your downfall.
  • Last, but not the least, always remember why you took up photography in the first place:

“Love what you do and enjoy what you love.”

You can contact [email protected] should you have any questions. Thank you for joining us on the couch with Alta Oosthuizen.