West Coast Picnic by Izak Van Der Merwe

Exploring new areas from a place I have been to hundreds of times is always so exciting for me!

I got to share my latest discovery out at the rugged Muriwai beach on the west coast of Auckland, on this shoot with the lovely Rebecca and Ben. A few weeks earlier I had meet with Rebecca and we talked about doing a collaborative shoot. She was into the outdoors, fashion, food, and adventure lifestyle; that was right up my alley! When talking about how she loves picnics, I thought it would be a great chance to come up with an idea for a shoot that would showcase all our common interests and be an opportunity for herself and Ben to have a little picnic in a beautiful location.

After our coffee catch up, I starting to think of all the places that could work for this shoot. We has discussed the west coast, and I thought this would be a great chance for me to try a location I knew, but discover something I had never previously discovered there.

A sunny afternoon came up and I grabbed my camera, hiking boots, and picked up my dad for an explorative mission out to Muriwai. Knowing this place offered many great views, stunningly textured landscapes, and a large range of scenery, I was sure this would be the place to find something new.

The image above was the gem of the trip! The small stream that flowed out of the forestry land and through the sand dunes down to the beach, created this very interesting contrast between the dry and dusty scape of the sand dunes, and the lush vibrant green of the swampy reeds and grasses that grew along the streams’ banks.

As I was exploring this area, I developed the idea of capturing Rebecca and Ben going on a journey across landscapes and paths, to finding a stunning location to watch the sunset.

Having been to this end of beach before for a good friend’s wedding shoot, I knew the location had amazing views, simple compositions, and would most likely have stunning light. I was confident it would be the perfect place to set up the picnic.

Jumping forward to the day of the shoot, the locations were spot on! The breeze was a little fresh, but the sky was clear, the sun was beaming, and my subjects were having fun! The afternoon into evening light transformed what was a pretty landscape, into a pretty amazing landscape!

As the shoot started to draw to a close and the sun was nearly set, I couldn't help but feel very excited about how the shoot had gone. The light, the subjects, location, and wonderful assistant, my fiancé (Allie - Thanks so much my love!) all worked perfectly together and it made the whole experience so enjoyable!

If you ever want to find more great locations around and just outside of Auckland, Rebecca has a great blog where she shows some incredible spots that she has found. I strongly recommend heading over to her blog, by clicking on the link below, and seeing some more great picnic and walking spots!


Evening explore at Piha by Izak Van Der Merwe

To be completely honest until this little explorative trip to Piha with my lovely fiancée, I had only been out there maybe 3 times, in the whole 16 years I have lived in Auckland. Man, am I gutted it has taken me this long to appreciate its beauty! 

Starting our trip, we parked up at the south end of Piha and walked up over the hill to a very sweet little bay. Here we saw a rocky outcrop that I thought would offer some amazing north facing view's, if we could only find a way up. Scrambling up the very rough rock face, we managed to find a small little walking trail up and through the cutty-grass to get a spectacular view of lion rock, north Piha, and off into the great obese of the Tasman Sea.

The rocky outcrop starts right there.

The top of the little rocky outcrop. Wind blowing like crazy!

The view at the top of the rocky outcrop; what can I say!

Following this, we made our way up to the north end of the beach... stopping every now and then to check for a possible photo spot and also our little picnic spot for the sunset.

To sum up the little trip it was so much fun! The dozens of great spots we found and the beautiful sunset made for a very lovely and memorable evening.

A lovely afternoon with a lovely family by Izak Van Der Merwe

What an absolute pleasure it was to capture some precious and fun moments with a very warm and welcoming family.

The late afternoon shoot out at The Auckland Domain with this good looking bunch went down as smoothly as an ice cold chocolate milkshake on a hot summers day. I loved watching the way each generation shared stories and laughed together; grandparents and parents delighting in the joy of their children, and the youngest having fun making daisy chains to capture their summer dreams with.

First Dance Practice in the Woods by Izak Van Der Merwe

What a beautiful evening with amazing friends!

Over the last few months I have been watching these two prepare for their big day and last week I got to capture them practicing their first dance. As the sun was setting and the fields turned to gold, it could not have been any more romantic. Well, apart from having a camera in your face! It was a real pleasure to see their love and joy for each other shining bright.

From primary school friendships and mountain biking trips, I get the feeling these two will be good friends for very long time.


Weekly Adventure - Leigh Spot x Part 2 by Izak Van Der Merwe

Part 2 to the early morning adventure I had up to Leigh was trying some long exposures with the very interesting scattered rocks on shore front. 

After I had got my sunrise image I thought I would take a little wonder around the rocks and see what else I could find to photograph. Thanks to it being low tide, these large rocks that would have otherwise been covered by the tide, lay scattered around and really grabbed my attention. The way they were all different in shape and size and sat so isolated out in the water made me think, these could make some great black and white minimalist images! 

Upon finding these interesting group of rocks I thought I would have a play with a few different ways of composing them and see how the results would look side by side. The idea behind these images was to get a strong foreground element that would then lead the eye through the image and off into the distance. Choosing to use a longer exposure of around 20 seconds meant I was able to soften up the water around these rocks and really make them stand out. However this lead to some challenges; what you can't see in the images is the wind! And boy was it strong! Needing to keep the camera still for 20 seconds was a real challenge, resulting in the images not come out as crisp and sharp as I would have liked. Never the less, I think they turned out all right.

As you can see in the above images, they were very blue and needed some work on them. Therefore, I converted them to black and white and used a Photoshop technique called dodging and burning to create a little more contrast and put emphasis on parts of the image I want the eye to travel to.

Over all, I was very happy with this trip. The sunrise was great and I was able to walk away with a great self portrait (which you can see in part 1 of this blog post). To follow that with some decent minimalist landscape shots led me to feel that I learnt a lot and had fun doing it.

If you have any questions about the trip, the gear, or the editing techniques I used, feel free to drop a comment in the comment section below and I will answer them as soon as I can.


Weekly Adventure - Leigh Spot X Part 1 by Izak Van Der Merwe

Sometimes trusting your gut can make the difference between getting the image you were after or not.

During last weeks early morning adventure to spot X up in Leigh I was a bit uncertain if the the weather was going to hold out for a nice sunrise or not. The day before Auckland was giving it's usual wonderful display of winter weather, strong south westerlies with sudden down pores in between blasts of sunshine, some more wind and so the cycle continued! This type of weather can either bring you moments of golden light or just plan nothing. This can at times make the 5am start to get on the road and 1hr drive and small hike, a little less rewarding than one would have hoped. 

However on this morning the doubt was over come and the drive was worth it.  Finding a nice composition to watch the sunrise from, all I had to do was wait it out and hope that the big band of cloud that was sitting the horizon would be thin enough to let the morning raise do it's magic.

When it came to me figuring out how I was going shoot this scene I was met with a bit of a challenge. The very bright sky that was blowing out in the highlights because of the hazing cloud on the horizon, and then the black rocks were creating a dynamic range my camera just couldn't handle. So to get all the information I needed, I used the bracketing function on my camera. Setting my base exposure a third of a stop under exposed and then bracketing one stop above and below to get the highlight detail and the shadow detail. It was then all a matter of using photoshop to blend these exposures together to get the final result. Another way around this challenge could have been to use ND grade filters, however I am still to get my hands on some. Until then, bracketing works well!

If you have any questions about what techniques I use in photoshop or about what gear I use, drop your questions in the comments section below and I will be more than happy to answer them.

Weekly Adventure - Tawheranui by Izak Van Der Merwe

As a new semester starts and I do my little goal setting session, I thought it would be a good time to push myself to create more! 

I have come up with the challenge which I hope to transform into a habit; doing my "Weekly Adventure". This involves me finding a new locations, re-thinking and looking at old locations I have been at, or trying something new. By doing this every week I hope to achieve a few things. To be constantly pushing myself to create more work, to gain experience, knowledge, and also to fill out my portfolio. By doing this I think I will not only learn to understand my craft better but to understand where I fit into that space, where are my strengths and weaknesses are, and also giving me a clearer direction of where I want to go.

Below is a look at my raw images, a time-lapse of the editing process and then the final image. The location I went to on this particular weeks adventure was Tawharanui Regional Park. Only an hour out from auckland, it is breath takingly stunning! Not to mention the amazing wild life, crystal clear water, great surf spot, and from I've heard, a pretty epic camping spot.

If you have any questions about how I edit, the gear I used to shoot, the location, or anything else; feel free to drop a comment below or send me a message in the contact sheet.

Somber Romance by Izak Van Der Merwe

Another semester passed, and I have learnt so much! 

For me this image series was an opportunity to explore my capabilities both technically and narratively, as the brief for this assignment was completely open. The only expectation was to create a cohesive body of work that has an element of narrative. This freedom gave a rush of ideas!

Starting this image series I went into it with the idea to challenge myself, to create something with beauty and a great story. The ideas started to come from a walk in the woods and I started to see images of a love story, romance, and passion. However, the dark and moody atmosphere made me think of something very sad at the same time. From here I started to flesh out my idea and thus the image series was under way.

Somber Romance_IVDM Narrative-3.jpg

Looking into the narrative I wanted the viewer to fall for the characters, to ask questions about them and what they are doing. Why are they there and what is their relationship to each other. Could this love story be of betrayal or an affair? These types of thoughts are what I wanted to put into peoples minds. Not for any other reason than to create interest, tension, and uncertainty. 

As the image series started to come together I began to see just how much I knew, but even more so, how much I didn't! From directing models, dealing with lights, and getting a crew together to assist me, to finding locations (which was actually the easiest part of this whole process). The list of things to do went on and on.  This turned into a lot more work than I originally thought.

When the series was all finished and done I have to say the experience was irreplaceable. Learning the things I did gave me a new appreciation for how much work goes into something like this; hours of planning, scouting, more planning, researching, looking for costumes, and even more planning! This whole experience has really inspired me to want to keep pushing and drive me to do better work.

I would like to give a huge thank you to my amazing models Jaimee & David (David played both male characters). I also want to say thank you to my great hair and makeup artist Ashley, from 'Head2toestylenz', who did an amazing job, to First Scene costume rentals for the costumes that made the whole look very believable, and to Alex, Siobhan and Rachel for giving me a hand to get the last shoots together. Finally I would like to thank Beth and her family for access to the incredible locations!



If you have any thoughts or comments or critiques, do feel free to drop them in the comment section below.

Our engagement at Welcome Rock Trails by Izak Van Der Merwe

I believe I picked out the most amazing place in the world to propose to my beautiful best friend!

The stay or should I say, adventure, of staying on the Welcome Rock trails in this amazing, history filled hut was an experience I will never forget. To start this trip off we climbed into a classic Toyota Hilux Surf with our host and guide Tom, who showed us all the amazing sights, and explained the rich history that filled this breathless landscape as we four wheel drove across the mountain side. The rugged landscape we passed, along the kilometers of rolling trail that he and many others had hand built, made the personal connection to this area feel every bit more authentic. 

When we arrived at the hut we were met with what every southern man and his winter beard could ask for. A clay hut with a tin roof and nothing more than a warm fireplace and bare essentials;  somewhere to cook, clean and a place to rest your head. This to Alex and I was a setting we both immediately feel in love with! The smell of the crisp mountain air as it filled our lungs and the sound of the wind rustling through the alpine grass created the most over whelming feeling of peace, pure and restful peace. 

On the first evening of our adventure we took a little walk around the side of the range to find a place to watch the sunset. This is where I was intending to ask my best friend the most important question of my life.

Upon finding this little rocky outcrop with a picture postcard view over Garston and the sun coming over the mountains on the other side, I realised it couldn't have been any more perfect for what I was about to do.

While playing some of our favourite songs in the background with the sun now in full glory, I handed Alex a note with the lyrics to the song "I can't help falling in love with you" by  Elvis Presley. As she started reading this I think she knew what was coming. When she finished reading I came up behind her, held her in my arms, and told her something I had never told anyone before. I told her about the moment I knew she would be my wife. With not a word coming from her and sunset kissing her skin, I stood back, got down on one knee and asked her to be my wife. Emotions flooded as we both became overwhelmed with joy, and the backdrop to this moment becoming even more spectacular. We both couldn't stop smiling at what had just happened.

The beautiful ring I designed and had hand made by Louis the Goldsmith, (http://www.louisthegoldsmith.co.nz/) was looking stunning in the south island evening light! Not to mention my fiancé too.

The start to our second day at the hut had the same breathless charm the previous day ended with. With the excitement of yesterdays events still running through our veins, it was time for us to go do some exploring on the trail, allowing our lungs to be filled with the purest air on earth.

While finally making our way to the "Welcome Rock"  we were met with the chilling wind blowing over the mountains and the stunning view! Hidden in a rocky outcrop of "Welcome Rock"  is a welcoming bottle of whisky and a shot glass that we used to celebrate our engagement and to also warm us up from the inside out.

This tin box looking thing is actually the most incredible outdoor bath you will ever experience. Hook it up to the gas bottle, wait a couple hours for it to heat up, and you will be gifted with a money cant buy view as you sit in a warm hug of pure alpine water.

To end the trip the drive back down into the valley was just as beautiful as the drive in. I am sure both Alex and I will be back again year after year to this place. The way the world slows down around you, the landscape and wildlife speaking their own words of peace. This really spoke into the depths of my soul. Leaving this place felt like leaving a family home, it made us sad to have to say goodbye.

Thank you to Tom for being a great host and also to the many people who have put in the hard yards to help make this trail what it is today. The experience was one for our long term memory and a place to bring friends and one day a family of our own.


White Night by Izak Van Der Merwe

What an amazing experience!

Around 6 weeks ago I was asked by a couple of my uni lecturers if I would be interested in being a part of a group of students who would each create a piece of work for Auckland's White Night Art festival. With out hesitation, I agreed!

For me I thought this would be a great opportunity to create something that show-cased all my many hours of working with Photoshop and to use the creative tools and skills I have learnt in my first year of studying. So I embarked on this journey to create something that would have impact and make people stop and look.

Part of our "brief" we were given for this exhibition was to address a social issue. Being one who would much rather create something that is a caption of peaceful and beautiful moments of life, I found that figuring out how to address a social issue was a bit of a challenge. Never the less, I used the skills I had learnt and the handy doctor google to research all the social issues there are. In doing this I was shocked by how many I came across, and was a bit over whelmed on what I was going to pick? So I thought why not pick something that is close to home.

Home was never filled with smoke when I grew up, but I have always had a strong detest to smoking; the way it smelt, stained teeth, fingers and the general filth of it, not to mention how bad it was for your health! After talking to my family, I found out that smoking and it's effects on health had made it's horrible mark on some of our family members. Losing both my grandfathers to cancers caused by smoking, I felt that by addressing this issue I could hopefully stop someone else from losing their life and loved ones to the paper roll of death.

 - This piece bellow I built around the idea of conveying the destructive nature of smoking in a subtle yet “beautiful” way. Filling the viewer with a mix of emotions from the contrasting beauty of the model and the ugliness of the skull and smoke, I hope to evoke a more powerful response from the audience.

I have to say a huge thank you to Ashley for being a great model and hair and makeup artist! Was heaps of fun woking with her. Also to Calder Chiropractics for letting me use their skull for the shoot.

Check out Ashley's work here: www.head2toestyling.co.nz

I can highly recommend Calder Chiropactic, I have been seeing them for over 10 years now and trust them a lot. Find them here: www.chiropractors.co.nz

I have to also give a big shout out to my other class mates who did a great job on the live painting!

 Here are some images of the night.

Summer Families of 2016 by Izak Van Der Merwe

What a fun and smile filled summer this has been! Getting to share some precious, spontaneous and treasured moments with these awesome families was a real highlight for me over my summer break.

Looking back at these happy moments from the really young who are barely walking, to the young adults who are finding their place in the world and the parents who have been the guides on their journey; I see how everyone has a role to play in happiness and memories of one another. Family is a key cornerstone to everyone in who they are, who they want to be and who they will be.

Being able to capture the range of relationships within each of these families has been an awesome experience and getting to give them those moments back in a physical form, for them to hold onto and treasure is really rewarding.

First University Year Over by Izak Van Der Merwe

I can't believe that my first year of uni is over. It seems like the time between the first day where I was  nervous and unsure of where to go and what is happening, to my last day where it was a mad rush of countless hours of hard work and stress, all happened in the blink of an eye.

If I had to sum it all up in one word it would have to be crazy! It was crazy, scary, cool, exciting, challenging, and rewarding all at the same time. Being able to see what I could achieve by myself and in a group was so much fun! The challenges of having to stay on top of managing my time, the resources I had, money, and most importantly the time between meals was a great learning experience. Getting to take the things we were learning in class; how to create a story, characters and a world, then to apply that in creating a 2 min trailer, 5 min documentary, five A1 boards, and manual, while practising to be professional all at the same time, then on top of that develop our technical skills, was a huge task. I think that I have been very lucky that I had the support from all my group members from Paradigm Valley, friends and family. That support is what got me through it.

It was so much fun getting to work with my group on our second semester project where we got to create a story world Downfall-The Lucid Order. It has compelling characters, stunning environments, and an engaging story line to itIn this story world that we created we were able to not only create something that looked awesome, but also address a pretty big global issue; genetic modification and the ever lasting issue of power hungry rulers trying to control the world.

The video below shows some of the processes we went through in creating our story world. Unfortunately we aren't able to share the trailer we created on the internet, but hopefully from this video and the posters below people can get an idea of what I had a part in creating.

Paradigm Valley - "Downfall: The Lucid Order" BTS

We'd love for you to check out our behind the scenes video for our trailer "Downfall: The Lucid Order." This video is for educational purposes only.

Posted by Paradigm Valley on Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Forest Adventure by Izak Van Der Merwe

Last weekend I had an absolute ball photographing Anita and Jaco again. With their wedding day pouring with rain we weren't able to go out and shoot the post ceremony photos. A few weeks later the timing was right and the weather held back. Going into the River Head Forest just out of Waitoki was a lot of fun! Scouting this amazing spot, where in the middle of the woods was a stunning floor growth of ivy that created the perfect forest carpet for a stunning husband and wife to stand.

This was such a fun day as it always is with this lovely couple! I want to give a huge shout out to Ashley from Head To Toe Styling, who did an amazing job on Anita's makeup. Also I want to thank my lovely assistant Alex, for being a great support on the shoot. 

Uni Life by Izak Van Der Merwe

Its been a while since I have made a post on my blog so I thought it should be time that I let you all know what I have been up to. As the the title suggests this post is related to what my life at uni (the majority of my life at the moment) is like; and man uni life is a lot of fun! Hard work, but fun! This semester we have been given a brief: to come up with a story world for a video game. With me not being a gamer myself I have found this a very eye opening experience. I have discovered that video games can have  great story lines and trailers especially can look just as good as film trailers! After finding this I was amped to get stuck in! Getting to explore a lot of filming, character design, and plot has been straining at times on the old creative juices, but it has also been rewarding. Here are some images from some of the locations we have and will be filming at, and a few of our characters (actors) for our trailer.

New Born Shoot by Izak Van Der Merwe

Last Saturday I got the absolute privilege of doing a new born photoshoot with this little man. He was great little model & couldn't have been any cuter. Thank you to Alex for being a great assistant, also to Ariana for letting me capture these little moments of your little man.

Jaco & Aniita's Wedding Day by Izak Van Der Merwe

Thanks to my friend Ashley from Head 2 toe styling, I got the opportunity to capture the special day of Jaco and Aniita. The big day being my first time shooting a wedding I was running high with nerves and anticipation for how the day will go and how I will handle the full day shooting.

Lucky for me Jaco and Aniita are the loveliest couple, with big smiles and full cylinders in enthusiasm for life, they were a heap of fun to shoot and share their special day with. 

Here are a few images of the day, with the final shoot still to go, (as the weather really packed in and halted any further photo taking.) I can't wait to photograph this amazing couple again.

Also a huge thank you to my lady Alex, for her help as my assistant and second shooter. Also a shout out to Ashley from head 2 toe styling for her amazing job with Aniita.

Building 1 by Izak Van Der Merwe

The aged secrets of a historic building 

A week or two ago I grabbed my two film cameras and wondered around my university looking for images that would capture the aged secrets of the some what spooky building 1, at Unitec.

The idea came from my collective of creative friends who wanted to create a body of prints that would represent the "death of building 1". As we are all being moved from this stunning building across campus to a new building, we though it would only be appropriate to capture in our own interpretation this monumental moment of what you could call the "death of the building".

As I looked at the brick stacked building I wanted to find something that would show the airy spookiness of the building, (as it was once a mental institute). Focusing on not just the whole building but thinking that it is the the unseen details & corners that I could find the images that would capture the stories that are inside these walls.

I hope that I have been able to capture parts of the interesting elements that make this building the eye catching, hair raising and incredible place it is.

Tawharanui Morning beauties by Izak Van Der Merwe

Early sunday morning start to head up to the beautiful Tawharanui Regional Park to take some photos of the Christian Surfers competition. Expecting the swell to be really small and the weather report to be wrong, that the hour drive up would have been a bit short lived. I was blown away by what a perfect New Zealand winters day it was. The crisp cool air and later in the morning the warm sun made for some near perfect conditions. 

Alcohol Abuse by Izak Van Der Merwe

Through my first semester at uni I have found that the most common issue that keeps coming up is alcohol abuse. It isn't just a community issue but it also a national and international issue. We all seem to understand that alcohol abuse is something that affects our driving and behaviour. And because of this it is one of the leading contributors to the deaths on our roads and one of the key fuels for the violence that happens in our homes. 

In this piece I have tried to show that the bad habits of our parents, are the habits that our children will see and copy. If we can be aware that our actions do not just affect us but the people around us. That our actions have consequences that will echo through generations. If we take this into consideration we would become a better and safer community, nation and world.

Least we forget by Izak Van Der Merwe

The Auckland domain ANZAC service was one that brought thousands of people together to remember those who gave their lives for the freedom of others. 

These few photos I took at the service was a memorable experience. Seeing people from all the over, from different cultures, ethnicities and backgrounds showing their respect for their forefathers. I hope that in some way I captured part of that moment that was shared by so many people.