Q&A with ANDREW HEWETT

 01.

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compiled by LIZAR VAN REENEN

We have all come to associate Kalk Bay with that of a picturesque little village always buzzing with locals and visitors from far and wide to experience this vibrant, yet chilled, bohemian fishing village.  Everybody “just loves” Kalk Bay.  However, apart from its peaceful appearance, it is rather synonymous for its impressive rogue waves.  CapeClick decided to track down local photographer, Andrew Hewett, whom within his own right, has become renowned for his images of Kalk Bay’s impressive waves and for which he has won 9 International FAA (Fine Art America) photographic competitions.

YOU ONCE HANDLED EVERYONE ELSE’S PHOTOGRAPHS AS A ONE HOUR PHOTO LAB MANAGER.  WHY DID YOU RISK LEAVING YOUR SECURE 9-5 JOB TO BECOME A FREELANCE PHOTOGRAPHER?   I really enjoyed those days and loved dealing with other people’s creativity (as well as the new cameras that came out each year).  It did however absorb a lot of my energy with other people getting the bulk of the rewards.  I thought to myself, if I could help others with their businesses, then surely I could help myself.  Life is a gift and one should be able to look back and say you lived it to its fullest.

YOU WENT FROM SHOOTING WEDDINGS TO TRAVELLING SOUTH AFRICA AS A PHOTOGRAPHER OF NATIONAL BANDS TO EVENTUALLY SPECIALIZING IN CAPTURING KALK BAY.  WHEN AND HOW DID YOUR “OBSESSION” WITH KALK BAY’S WAVES START?    About ten years ago, I approached Kenneth McClarity, owner of Olympia Cafe in Kalk Bay, about having an exhibition with my Digital Art on his Deli wall.  He was agreeable however told me that images of Kalk Bay tended to sell better.  With that being said, I grabbed my camera, went to Kalk Bay harbour and started shooting.  I showed Kenneth a few shots and he decided to use a selected few as Olympia Deli postcards.  Thus began the “Harbour” body of work  and the waves…naturally… just had to be part of it.

WHY ONLY KALK BAY’S WAVES?  WHY NOT INCLUDE SCARBOROUGH, SEAPOINT OR BLOUBERG’S WAVES FOR EXAMPLE?   I lived in Kalk Bay at that time which off course made it extremely easy and convenient.   Regarding the other places – I would have to obtain knowledge of the waves breaking there as well as making the effort to get there at just the right time.  I’ve moved to Clovelly last year but if I hear the waves in Kalk Bay are happening…I’ll definitely rush there at a drop of a hat.

I BELIEVE SOME FREAK WAVES CAN REACH INSANE HEIGHTS AT TIMES.  WHAT WAS THE HIGHEST YOU’VE WITNESSED AND WHAT GOES THROUGH YOUR MIND WHILE SHOOTING THESE GIANTS?  I have seen a wave reach at least 20m high and possibly a 70 to 80m long unbroken wave.   I have been hit hard three times and had a Canon 20D jam due to seawater damage.  Yes, it’s a definite adrenalin rush taking these shots (and still have many more images to post on my site).

LOOKING AT YOUR PHOTOGRAPHS, IT SEEMS LIKE YOU’RE AT THE RIGHT PLACE AT THE RIGHT TIME – EACH TIME.  PLEASE EXPLAIN HOW YOU KNOW WHEN IS THE “RIGHT TIME” TO SHOOT WAVES?    I wouldn’t say it’s a science one can perfect.  At one stage there were waves running for two years (and more recently), that were on the same days of a storm dating back 30 years.  I was very fortunate to be working from home that time thus I wasted no time to get to the harbour when the waves came.  In order to find  different  viewpoints and angles from which to shoot from, I went to the extreme of climbing onto as many rooftops, boat masts, etc. as possible.

WHEN STORMS ARE HAPPENING, CAN ONE BE GUARANTEED OF GREAT SHOTS REGARDLESS?   Not really.  Perhaps a good one.  A great one is another story.  There is so much spray that one is constantly cleaning lenses – a giant wave can come and go whilst cleaning your equipment.  It’s also hard when being told that the waves has just been pumping and I’ve waited for hours in hope of that one freak wave and ended up with nothing.  Getting a great shot means you have to put yourself out there to get it.  Once I shot until my batteries died, went home soaked, had a quick bath, downloaded my images, cleaned my memory cards whilst waiting for my batteries to charge and went out again.  You could also spend an entire day trying to get “that shot”…eventually decide to leave and as you are packing up, someone else just rocks up, whips out their camera and they got that awesome shot.  Murphy likes operating on big wave days.

THE IMAGES WITH THE WAVES FROZEN MID AIR ARE MIND-BLOWING.  WHAT ARE YOUR PREFERRED SETTINGS TO FREEZE THE WAVES LIKE THAT?   It depends on the day (and weather).  Most times I’m not too bothered about my aperture (I leave it wide open) in order to increase my shutter speed as much as possible.  I also want to ensure I shoot at a good ISO.   However if it’s gloomy weather, I have to sacrifice my ISO to 800 to get the fastest shutter speed I can.  I have seen an amazing photograph taken by another photographer making use of a Neutral Density Filter whilst using a slow shutter speed.  Being open to experimentation is definitely a good thing.

SO MANY VISITORS FLOG TO KALK BAY WITH THEIR CAMERAS TO EXPERIENCE AND CAPTURE THE WAVES.  ANY USEFUL TIPS YOU’D LIKE TO SHARE WITH THEM?   My biggest tip for them would be to ensure that they bring along enough dry clothes as the spray can get rather intense.  Look after you camera, do not get too close to the jetty and getting on a boat is not a smart move.  And if they don’t get the “one”…they can always call me.

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 ANDREW’S ALSO HAS A BODY OF WORKS ON THE CAPE TOWN MINSTRELS

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TO VIEW MORE OF ANDREW HEWETT IMAGES PLEASE VISIT www.hewettinsite.co.za

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