23 Jan Jozi’s bright lights: Instagram photography by Siphesihle Mmusane
Siphesihle Musane is one of the featured photographers in Liberty’s resplendent Igerbook. He delights in photographing Northcliff and the surrounding cityscape. For him, landscape photography is an emotive undertaking that, if done well, should transport the viewer to the precise moment he captured the image. We chatted to him about breathtaking views, twilight skies and how he uses light to tell story.
Tell us about your creative journey and how you got into photography.
I started out shooting in 2014 with my cellphone. I noticed that it wasn’t just your regular snapshots. With time and experience, it dawned on me that I was applying certain compositional elements and techniques out of curiosity without even knowing. I fell more in love with it and always had an urge to capture beautiful, frozen moments in time. Not every photographer lives in close proximity to beautiful landscape locations – I’m one of them who doesn’t. I live in close proximity to cityscapes and grew to love and appreciate the views that come with it. I was surprised by the opportunities and creative learning experiences that came from it.
In your opinion, what characteristics define incredible landscape photography?
This is subjective. It’s the great use of composition to convey a sense of depth and direct the viewer to the points of interest in the photograph. Photography is a two dimensional experience in a three dimensional world, thus I think the elements I mentioned above separates the ordinary from the extraordinary.
An incredible landscape image should evoke emotion. It should be able to make the viewer feel as if they were there admiring the view themselves and taking it all in the moment they view it. That is, most times landscape photography is all about conveying a sense of solitude and contemplation, wishing that one could escape the current moment, place and immerse themselves in that image to feel what the photographer was feeling at that moment. Well, that’s how I feel most times when I go out to create those images.
You’re a full-time photographer. How has Instagram changed your relationship with photography?
It has definitely strengthened the relationship even more, as a creative outlet for expression and source of inspiration from other creatives. It has allowed me to cultivate meaningful relationships outside of it and to learn even more from those who had similar interests with me. To be honest though, with experience and learning comes a bittersweet experience, which is both a blessing and a curse
What role does light play in your images?
Light is a tool to create photographs and tell a story. The main thing and difference from various situations, is how light is shaped to tell a story about a particular subject or to convey a certain look and feel or mood for the photographs. I don’t just light for exposure; I do it to tell a story.
Capturing landscapes can be challenging, especially when it comes to lighting. How do you get around these obstacles?
Well, shooting landscapes is not like having a controlled environment like in a studio whereby you can shape light with the right tools. You rely on the forces of nature – the weather. I plan in advance (very unpredictable, but I do it anyways) and the time of day matters for a particular type of light and scene, but you never know. When I’m on location I go with the flow. So basically, I use the available natural light to figure how best it can be used to make a particular image. Also, having solid fundamental technical knowledge of the camera gear helps a lot. This means I can work out feasible ways to best use my camera’s dynamic range, lenses and exposure settings in my favor for a particularly lit scene. In short, light is one of the ingredients needed to make compelling images, but there’s also composition, imagination and intuition which play a major role in getting around obstacles.
With regards to lighting, can you tell us what’s the most important difference to bear in mind when shooting during the day and night?
Generally speaking it’ll take much longer to expose an image at night than during the day. The reason for that is because at night there’s little or no light needed to expose, hence the camera’s sensor will need more time to gather enough light.
What has been your favourite place to photograph so far and why?
Photographing Johannesburg and surrounding areas from Northcliff. The location simply bridges the gap between traditional landscape photography (with rolling hills and stuff) and proper cityscape photography. I don’t live in close proximity to beautiful landscapes that most people consider “exotic”. That area is as close as I can get. The view there is breathtaking especially as the sun sets and during twilight and the sky has purple hues alongside the city lights coming on in the surrounding areas. Epic I tell you!