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• Nudes - with Hein Lass

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Photographer Hein Lass was born and bred in SA and started photography at school with somebody else's old twin lens reflex camera and black and white darkroom equipment. He took a couple of shots of his farm implements and dogs "and quickly changed focus to my female schoolfriends. I did my first nudes at 16, much to my mother's horror and sort of stuck to the subject ever since.

"I work from home and divide my time between mechanical and mining engineering, music and photography. I am self-employed for various reasons: I couldn't stand the hypocrisy of the corporate world (where I spent a good few years as GM for a mining equipment manufacturing company) and of course being a middle-aged pale male.
"As mentioned before I still shoot analogue (film) and a local lab does the processing for me. Whatever shots I think have potential are then scanned in via a Canon film scanner and all further work is done in PhotoShop (an old version but still good enough for me).

"My trade mark is probably the slightly detuned colour saturation as it fits the moods that I try to capture (too much colour distracts a bit from the feel and mood). I haven't made the leap to digital cameras yet although the latest Canons have sufficient resolution for professional use. I simply can't afford it at the moment and will have to wait until the prices drop substantially (heaven would be a sponsorship by Canon seeing that I use their equipment extensively and they get free advertising in articles such as this, ha ha)."

Finding models is a mission and is the question most asked by other photographers, he says. It seems that most local photographers think that he has this endless source of models but it is simply not true. "My shoots are totally governed by the availability of suitable models. At some stage I handed out business cards left right and centre, whenever I saw potential. The hit rate is about 1 in 10 and you have to deal with the occasional aggressive reaction.

"I have toned down on handing out cards as there seem to be some other guys out there using the same ploy but with different aims. One can thus not blame the girls for being suspicious. My shooting of the Goth band Silex has brought me into contact with the Goth scene and I find the girls much more willing as they mostly know my work and are not scared off by the Goddess theme (my passion).

"My website also helps as I get some models totally out of the blue (far more offers from overseas than local though). Oh and yes, I have used professional models but with mixed results. They mostly think that they know what you want and go through their standard range of poses. Mostly you end up with pics that looks just like anybody elses. I thus prefer working with models who do it for other reasons than money (i.e. passion, fun or some fantasy).

"Staying with models, a pretty face or stunning body does not necessarily translate into good photographs. My kind of mood relies on the model to bare her soul rather than her body. Good photographs are made when she lets you into her world and that special moment when you click (not necessarily with me as it can also be with the camera). I guess there is a big element of trust in there also. I have long since given up on shooting just anybody purely because they are available or pretty.
"Putting the model at ease ... mmm ... Firstly I choose interesting locations, mostly public but with a fair amount of privacy. This way she knows that there are other people around but with sufficient privacy not have onlookers gawking. I also promote the idea of taking a friend along (but one that will not make them feel self conscious).

"And then we chat for an hour or so before the shooting starts (this is mostly the driving time, fiddling with make-up and working through the wardrobe that she brought with). Sometimes I break the ice by doing a nude shot right at the start, but mostly start of clothed and work gently towards the nude stuff. This gives her far more time to get used me and the camera and probably work best.

"As for locations I often just drive around looking for interesting places. I am based in Pretoria and there is not much in the immediate vicinity. We either demolish older buildings and replace them with newer characterless ones, or the squatters move in, making it too dangerous. Obviously I do most of my shoots during the summer months (the current weather might be good for nipple stands but that is about all). Lastly I prefer overcast and rainy weather. This provides far softer and diffused light (you know, the type that studio photographers try and recreate with all kinds of reflectors and filters). Of course direct sunlight is a no no and I only work in the shade."

How does he describe himself? "First off, I would consider myself to be a sensual photographer, a little different to your normal garden variety glamour photographer. Glamour is mostly devoid of character and spirit and focuses on pleasing the visual senses only. I try to capture the essence of the subject, the body and the spirit.
"Whether I succeed at this is open to debate, but that is more or less the mission I am on.

"I use two very middle of the road Canon 35mm SLRs, one fitted with a 35-75 lens and the other with a 85-300 lens.

Someone once commented that that is more a lens for wildlife photography and my answer was "exactly", sometimes wildlife comes in the strangest of forms.

I really do not believe that the equipment makes the photograph and am of the opinion that a competent photographer will take a good photograph even with a "mik en druk". The rest just makes it a bit easier.
"My photography is all about natural light, an interesting location and an interesting subject. Of course one needs a handheld light meter. I use my computerized Canons in manual mode only as I don't trust "average" light readings. You have to decide on the mood of the shot and then take readings with the light meter accordingly.
"Only you can decide what parts should be exposed perfectly and what parts can be overexposed or hidden in darkness. Automatic cameras can never do this as they will always try to adjust for an average gray reading. Needless to say I abhor studios for two reasons. First off I find the clinical blandness totally uninspiring and sterile. Secondly I find flash lighting harsh and cold, amen. My advice to aspiring photographers would be to experiment until you discover your own style. Gary Player said that the more you practice, the luckier you get and I consider this to be a universal truth. Shoot lots of film and then some more with a variety of settings and angles and somewhere you will find something that works for you.
"As for making money? Forget all I have told you and invest in a studio and artificial lights. Get the setup right and shoot the next 100 girls according to the same formulae and sell it to the main stream press.
"I am afraid artistic value and commercial glamour photography do not have much in common, but that is only my opinion. The only stuff that I have sold commercially was for CD covers (local, German and American) and of course some stuff for guest house and trout farm brochures (natural light again but no girls, ah well).

I have since made peace with the fact of what makes me tick does not necessarily gel with the commercially acceptable. Commercial glamour is not there to make you think, only to enjoy.

"Should anybody care about my opinions? These shots are typical examples of my work, if it works for you then great, if not then by a glamour magazine. To each their own."

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