My 5-page portfolio has just been printed in Digital Photogapher Magazine’s Issue 94.
Glistening beads of snow begin to fall as the frost bitten bride makes her entrance to the chapel, its 15 degrees below zero yet she walks defiantly in her off the shoulder angelic white dress, elegantly and effortlessly disguising the many layers of thermals and snug snow boots hidden beneath. The wedding photographer steps up, clothed in dozens of winter garments to stave off the biting cold long enough to be able to do his job, yet in his hands the camera he uses operates alone, challenging the dark and shooting without the comfort of flash.
But this is no ordinary camera, nor is this an ordinary wedding and the person capturing it all certainly is no ordinary photographer.
The event in question is the matrimonial union between James and Claire Bristow, a Buckinghamshire couple who decided to tie the knot at the famous Ice Hotel in Swedish Lapland. To photograph the once in a lifetime occasion the couple needed a top flight pro for the job and opted for none other than Uzair (Oz) Kharawala; self made business man, notable wedding and portrait photographer, photography instructor and Nikon Evangelist. Never the type to let an opportunity go by Oz relished his ambassadorship of the brand and offered to trial Nikon’s full frame DSLR magnum opus; the Nikon D3S, in the challenging conditions. The low light power house is famed for its revolutionary high ISO performance of 12800, expandable to 102400 equivalent (Hi 3) making shooting in low or no light scenarios a breeze – ideal then for a Lapland wedding in January, where the sun sets at a premature 2pm. “The whole handling of the camera is simply amazing.” Enthuses the Pakistan born photographer. “The D3S is not challenged by low light so I am shooting in the dark at ISO 8000 to 10000 like it is the norm, I wasn’t even thinking about it and the images are all perfectly usable at full size without any noticeable grain.” Most photographers would be committing career suicide should they discover they had captured a whole wedding at this high sensitivity but not with the D3S and not Oz.
Oz has cultivated an admirable reputation for himself in photography circles as an astute entrepreneur who at every step of development in the digital camera’s evolution, has been there to cash in before the masses catch on. Oz’s passion for photography began during his adolescences but back then it wasn’t models that inspired his creativity. “I was mainly shooting landscapes and I really enjoyed the practice of capturing a beautiful scene. Slowly I moved away from film and began a gradual transition into digital.” Shooting digitally for the best part of a decade, Oz was one of the first converts to the format and his ability to spot new trends and move on them didn’t stop there. “I just seemed to be in the right place at the right time.” He laughs modestly. “I saw great potential in this digital technology. The first time I witnessed it in action I was mesmerised. At the time this method of shooting was very unique and a huge fascination for clients who were amazed that the pictures were printing right there in front of them. Before this the practice of sending of your roll of film to a lab to be processed meant clients were waiting weeks for their pictures. By being able to print images straight away I was able to shoot at all kinds of places like: dinner dances, corporate events, gymkhanas, weddings, etc, print the image then and there and sell it to the client and that became the business.” Working with his wife and fellow photographer Farzana, Oz had tapped into an exciting gap in the market and one that reaped financial rewards and notoriety, so much so the couple had to take on employees to satisfy the demand. The ventures didn’t stop there as Oz soon discovered the simplicity and effectiveness of off camera flash, way ahead of the competition. “When I first started using wireless flash people thought I was crazy. They said you need all this expensive and heavy equipment to take well lit shots, but when I showed them the results I was getting, it soon became a different story and before I know it everyone was doing it.” Today things haven’t changed much as Oz still favours the style of shooting. “I believe in keeping lighting simple.” He reveals earnestly. “I just use a Lastolite lighting kit which is very portable to use and I just put on my Nikon SB900 or SB800 flash guns and that’s all I use.” True to form however Oz is set to be one step ahead of the game, endorsing the potential benefits DSLRs like the Nikon D3S will bring. “Throughout this wedding at the Ice Hotel I’ve mainly been able to use natural light because I know the D3S can cope with it and the images I can get are amazing.” He presents the LCD as testament to the device’s great capabilities. “Natural light is so powerful in terms of capturing the ambience of the environment. It’s been between minus 5 and minus 25 so I have to work very quickly, I can’t ask my clients to wait for me while I set up a little light stand – they’ll freeze, the energy will go and poses will look flat. With the D3S I’m up and running straight away. The batteries can withstand the cold too as I’ve not had to change the battery once today, this is rare as below zero temperatures zap battery life much quicker than in moderate climates.”
Another testament to Oz’s foresight was his prediction four years ago that the photo industry would see a huge increase competition. “There are more and more individuals turning pro and it’s not surprising with the affordability of kit.” Rather than be usurped by new talent or become demotivated by the threat of change, Oz as always, turned the trend to his advantage; producing and retailing software that enables photographers to help their business grow. “Along with Farzana, I run a photography business called SF Digital. Our photography business was growing rapidly and keeping track of things was becoming a nightmare. We were using different software packages and dozens of spreadsheets to keep on top of things but what we needed was a database but could not find any off-the-shelf product or software which would meet our specific requirements as photographers.” Inspired out of sheer frustration, Oz decided to build a software product from the ground up. “It was a daunting prospect, but I knew that with my technical skills and experience running a photography studio, if I stuck to my task I could create an invaluable tool for anyone in the industry. I spent many years researching and developing my system and I’m very excited about the result; Foto SF. This is not another accounting package or sales presentation software, but a dedicated studio management app that can be deployed quickly and tailored to suit the requirements of the photography business exactly.” Oz now sells the software solution at £60 and is available via download from SF Photo School , with a pro version expected in the coming months. In tandem with this Oz’s SF Photo School site is now up and running, which is designed to guide and teach budding photographers tricks and techniques for perfecting their passion – a skill he has perfected whilst lecturing on a variety of course including many for Nikon UK . “Don’t give up, never ever.” Advises the pro. “Things are very tough out there these days everybody wants to be a photographer. There is so much competition out there that you will get some bad days, weeks or months but my advice would be to keep going and never ever give up.” With that, and true to his word, Oz continues shooting Claire and James in the frozen igloo fresh from a respite in the warmth of a nearby cabin. As he powers out seamless shot after shot on the D3S, you can bet Oz is already conjuring up his next big idea. To keep up to date with all of his products, courses and inspirational ideas visit SF Photo School .
You can download the PDF for you perusal here . Hope you enjoy the article. Thank you to Natalie Johnson & the Digital Photographer team for the article. Digital Photogapher is available at all good newsagents, WHSmith & other major book stores.
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