Here you can find updates on my photography that dont belong in other categories! If you want to keep up to date with me on social networks then please use the links on the left and follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Deviantart and ODP. Please visit the latest images gallery if you would like to see my very latest work.
In all genres of nature photography we often get far too obsessed with dramatic light. There’s nothing wrong with it and it does produce amazing shots, but in our obsession with golden light we miss many other opportunities. This week I’ll be posting my favourite ‘blue’ shots with no hint of dramatic colour. I’ll explain where, how and when I captured them and what the planning behind the shot was.
Getting really ‘fresh’ shots is a lot more challenging than most people imagine. You only think the sky is perfectly blue, the sea perfectly calm and water nice and clear until you want to take a photo of it all. In 2012 I was on a serious mission to get nice stock photography of Cape Town’s landscapes and many drives from Stellenbosch to the Cape were wasted on bad weather.
These two shots were quite a stroke of luck. I was headed to Chapmans peak on a forecast that looked promising for a sunset to the West. As I drove along the Macassar cliffs, I saw the water was crystal clear and lovely turquoise colour, which happens very seldomly. The clouds were looking amazing as I drove into Muizenberg so I decided to pull off and take a few snaps. I walked along the elevated promenade and took about 5 normal shots and one pano sequence, without much appreciation for the conditions.
Those couple of shots have now been made into two book covers, featured on several calendars and websites and it was recently licensed as the cover for a beach product. All I can say is expect to see Muizenberg all over the beaches of the U.K in the coming European summer. It probably wasn’t all luck, considering that I was shooting around the Cape for 75-100 days in 2012!
I’ll be posting a shot every day this week, so follow me on Facebook or 500px for more on how to get the perfect blue shots
One of the most difficult bridges that photographers have to cross is the one between passion and profession. Crossing isn’t quite the right word for it. I think a more apt description would be that you are never fully on just one side. As financial pressures mount (most of the time) you find yourself more on the profession side of the bridge. You produce what the market wants and you put your own dreams on hold for the sake of money. When there’s more money and time then you give a bit of your soul back to the other side and just when you’re about to have a creative breakthrough it is sucked back by a tornado of money driven ambition.
So the bit of you on the passionate side has to make do with what resources and opportunity are available. Amazing light on workshops, the odd few days in the year that you can escape the admin or a trip that you earned with blood, sweat and tears. When you do finally do these things and achieve these goals, your brain seldom has the time to realize that you just achieved a dream from two years ago. Ambition and impatience are best friends and the less results you see, the harder you work. I always find myself reminding myself that things take time and that I need to be more patient and give myself recognition for what I have achieved. If I don’t do this I end up hitting a low and feeling like I’m getting nowhere. So perhaps this blog post could just have been an argument with myself to show me that I have taken a few good photographs over the past 6 months.
It’s certainly difficult choosing, but here are 6 of my most sentimental photographs from the past 6 months. I say sentimental because a photo might be my favorite because it’s very popular, but that might be the only meaning it has to me. Sentimental photos are images that tell a story to me about achieving a creative vision or a goal. Not about satisfying market demand and earning money.
I’ve visited Blyde River Canyon 5 times over the past 5 years. That may not sound like much, but keep in mind that it is 1800km from home. It is one of South Africa’s most iconic landscapes and no matter what you have to say about it, it’s an amazing landscape.
If you want to photograph iconic locations then you better make damn sure that you do it better than everyone else, because you didn’t discover it and there’s usually no more space for originality in composition. Over the years the Canyon really screwed me with weather. It was always hazy and it took all those failed visits to realize what the ideal time is to visit. This year I finally visited in that time to host a workshop there. We had two amazing mornings in a row and I got more than just one image that I will be content with for a long time.
I know that 90% of the people who read my blog posts know my Magoebaskloof story. Searched the country for forests, got Malaria and tick fever, found amazing indigenous forests in Magoebaskloof, bla bla bla. I may have found the forests last year, but what is a forest photo without a fairytale-like stream flowing through it? I first visited Magoebas last year in May, which is the dry season. There was barely a stream and I never got anything close to a stream flowing through a forest.
On the same workshop that I got the Blyde shot, we had monster thunderstorm move over the escarpment on the last afternoon. The workshop participants were comfortable shooting on their own and I could wander off to a spot I had scouted earlier. The river was pumping with brown mud-washed water and the mist was thick below the canopy. I finally got a shot that I can happily hold next to a Columbia River Gorge shot by one of America’s talented scapers.
The Free State is one of South Africa’s provinces that have been eluding me big time. I have one great shot of Golden Gate, but I’ve never been a big fan of Golden Gate NP. The frank truth is there isn’t that much in the Free State that makes for great landscape photos.
For a great landscape photo you usually need a great landscape paired with great weather. Every now and then you’ll have a 3/10 landscape and 15/10 weather and the result is amazing. Exactly that happened on a trip to the Parys area and I got a shot of amazing low-lying mist over the Vaal River with a softly diffused sun on the horizon. I’m not quite sure what’s so special about this shot. It puts a Free State cracker in my portfolio and its nothing like anything else I have. For me it stands out amongst the rest.
I have three reasons for putting a Hole in the Wall image on the list. It’s not so much the specific image, but the visit as a whole.
The first thing is that just like Blyde River Canyon, HITW is damn far away from home and all my previous visits had been fruitless. This year I was there for three weeks and the weather played along very well. I have HITW images to feed the publishers for a good few years to come.
When I started photography the slightest heights made me dizzy. Many hikes and encouraging words from friends have helped my fear of heights a lot. While at HITW I climbed a cliff that I previously thought was not climbable, the weather played along and I plucked the fruits of years of small progress.
It’s obvious that if you ask any professional photographer if he/she enjoys teaching others they’ll falsely tell you that they do. It’s not necessarily that its not fun, its just that I’d rather be shooting by myself. I hit a turning point in this attitude on my Hole in the Wall workshops this year. It’s a great location, I had amazing groups of people and for the first time ever I really enjoyed teaching. If I look at the images that is what it reminds me of. I had an amazing time while teaching others, getting great photos and making a living. It made me appreciate my job.
South Africa may have amazing diversity, but it lacks scale in many areas. You can argue as you wish for the Drakensberg, but it just doesn’t give the peaks of Patagonia a run for its money. South Africa’s biggest lack is definitely proper snow-capped mountains and that amazing red Alpenglow that goes with it in the right circumstances.
Seeing that blood-red glow on the peaks of Torres del Paine more than an hour before sunrise was a moment of accomplishment for me. About two years ago I decided that I want to work towards visiting one of earth’s best mountain landscapes. I decided on Patagonia and I saved and worked my ass off to earn the time and money to go. While shooting that sunrise I was not only excited for the extra bit of exposure that image would give me, but it made me look back at the road that got me there.
When I criticize people that process excessively I always ask myself if I would have gotten where I am today without photoshop. The scary thing is that the answer is often no. Many of my best photos are dependent on digital blending, but I have to argue in my favor that if photoshop didn’t exist I’d use my filters a lot more. Every now and then nature gives you a little gift in the form of unbelievable natural light that you can capture in a single exposure. Those images make me feel liberated from Photoshop.
This is one of those images, just a touch of saturation and contrast from the RAW file.
The next six months may not be as productive behind the camera, but I hope they will be behind the computer. Long hours behind the computer are what make trips to places like Patagonia possible.
For some reason it slipped my mind that I should mention my new business venture on my own blog.
I’ve started a new company in partnership with a fellow landscape photographer to consolidate everything workshop-related under a new brand. That is also why I haven’t posted new workshops over the past 6 months. I can say a lot here, but it would be a lot easier to just go and check it out for yourself! I give you CapturEarth
There was great demand and many follow-up requests for my Guide to Namibia blog posts that I had about 18 months ago. I had to take them down because an over-charging Namibian lodge owner wasn’t open to opinions. The Namib Rand one is still to come, but the Sossusvlei E-guide is complete. It costs $10 and has much more information and images than the blog post had. It’s available for purchase on the CapturEarth website.
I’m very open to critique and advice so if you purchase it I would be happy to listen to your opinion on it.
There are a number of improvements coming to my website within the next two months. Please be patient as my site might seem outdated until the changes come.
After months of planning myself and four other keen hikers were finally on our way to the Cathedral Peak region of the Drakensberg. Rian, Stephen and myself were driving down from Gauteng and we were to meet up with two Durban okes, Carl and Mark in Winterton. We made the mistake of taking Oliviershoek pass, or rather what’s left of it, and we ended up with a flat run-on-flat tire. Some kind folk in Winterton were happy to take in the car and see that it gets fixed by the time we come down from the mountains 6 days later. It was already 9pm, but nothing would stand in the way of our hike and we continued to Didima camp where we checked into the mountain register and one of their staff took us to the top of Mike’s Pass with the mountain taxi.
And so our hike started at 10pm on a Tuesday night in thick and cold mist. The group comprised one full-time photographer, 3 hobbyists and one victim of our passion who was just there for the experience. The plan was to follow the jeep track to a flat clearing where we could pitch our tents for the first night. After walking for about 90 minutes and obviously not finding anything other than jeep track, mist and darkness, we decided to pitch our tents in the middle of the road. Spirits and energy levels were high; we had dinner and retreated to our tents.
We awoke to the same thick mist and a soft rain the next morning. If Rian (our navigator) didn’t know the mountains as well as he did then we would have had no option but to stay in the tents, but we packed up and started heading uphill to get to the bottom of Organ Pipes Pass. Rian told us that two or three hours up there is a mountain hut in which we could take a proper break and have a solid warm breakfast, so we slogged up the little berg in the mist looking forward to a warm brew and oats. Worse than the physical effort of going uphill is the psychological effect that the mist and hills create in the little berg. You ascend a ridge thinking that you’ll see the Basalt cliffs in the distance, but the mist just reveals another blind ridge. Endlessly. As with the flat area the previous night, the hut was never found and by the time the mist cleared slightly we realized we were very close to the top of the escarpment. We had been hiking for 6 hours, everyone was soaked from underwear to socks and gatvol, to put it politely.
We had a good meal, mustered what spirit we had left and continued up behind the Organ Pipes via Tuthumi pass. It was another 2 hours from our break spot that the mist fooled us yet again on our way to the top. What we thought was the escarpment edge was the neck behind the Organ Pipes and we could see that it was at least another hour to the top. Everyone was properly exhausted, we had one member feeling slightly sick and having ascended 1200m, two of us had a headache from the altitude. We had been walking for 8 hours and the photo-opportunities to the North were amazing, so we made the call to pitch camp.
As we were putting up the tents, there was a slight moment of perfection. The mist pulled away from the escarpment and the upper clouds opened to let some light through. There were strong rain clouds sitting quite low and it felt as if we ad ascended into another world. Changing into dry clothes after 8 hours of walking was certainly welcome and buying thermal underwear for the hike was a good call. Carl and I went up onto a ridge in anticipation of the clouds giving us a break, which it did momentarily. He got one great photo of me standing on a ledge overlooking the mist and that was to be the only clearing for nearly two days.
The next morning revealed the same thick mist we had become accustomed to. While we were disappointed, we did need the rest and Rian said we could stay in our tents until it cleared. It rained most of the day and even put down a proper amount of hail. That day was spent sleeping, chatting and being optimistic about the weather. Hopes were high as night fell, but we kept a realistic mind and it was very possible to have another day in the mist.
Rian woke me very early the next morning and I was expecting to open the tent door and look at the same cold mist of the past two days. Opening the door revealed a star-filled night sky and a frosty breeze. As dawn approached the skies revealed mid-level cloud that was certain to make for a good sunrise, which it did. With some great shots on everyone’s memory cards and the sun climbing in the sky, elation was in abundance. The neck of Tuthumi pass looked like a squatter camp as everyone’s whole kit was spread out on the grass and rocks to dry.
With everything dried out and bags repacked, we set off aiming to get to the Cockade. It was a perfect day in the berg and we hadn’t walked 500 meters when the first amazing photos started presenting themselves. Just before the last ascent of Tuthumi you have Cleft peak on the left, the spires of the Organ Pipes on the right, and the cathedral spur in the distance. There was mist in the valleys and the clouds overhead cast fleeting shadows through the foreground of our images. Snap snap snap.
After taking too many photos, the cameras were packed away and the uphill started. Climbing a steep pass is never a pleasant experience and it isn’t made any more pleasant by a 25kg backpack. Add to that the altitude of just over 3000masl and it’s a physical experience you can compare to those school sport fitness sessions you had to endure when the coach was having a bad day. Nonetheless I had done some dieting and training prior to the hike and most importantly, I was motivated. To the rest of the guys it may have looked like I was dying, but as long as I maintained my 20 steps, 30 seconds rest pace I always got to the top.
When I finally did Rian posed for us on a ledge and we got some dramatic shots of him dwarfed by the scale of the pass descending into the mist. It was about 11am and the thunderclouds were building. Looking across the plains of Lesotho, we could see the neck behind the mighty Cleft peak that we had to go through. Conditions were lovely and we got going at a strong pace. After an hour we took a break at a stream to refuel and before we got to the bottom of the neck we had descended about 200m into Lesotho and it was time for another hellish uphill. 20 paces, 30 seconds break, 20 paces, 30 second break…and we eventually crested the neck at just under 3200m.
The wind was pumping on top, but we found a sheltered spot and took a break before heading down towards the Cockade. As we came down around the Northern side of Cleft we saw the Pyramid and Column sticking out of the mist. Upon seeing it there was just an immediate consensus that for photography’s sake we wouldn’t be carrying on to the back of the Cockade. The skies were thick with building thundercloud and below us was a carpet of mist cloud swirling up the escarpment wall in a cool mountain breeze. About 500 meters from the main escarpment wall was the pyramid and the column rising out of the mist like watch towers at earth’s edge. We hadn’t seen other people in 3 days, behind us lay the wilderness of Lesotho and the scene in front of us seemed like the frontiers of existence. That afternoon was one of my lifetime highlights.
After filling a memory card, we had to find a spot to pitch our tents. The wind had picked up and we were on an exposed plain, not the ideal place for a tent. We carefully selected our spots and set up camp. Tent pegs were weighed down with rocks, as were the edges of the outer sails, a small bit of extra effort that would prove vital later that night. It was about 5pm and the wind had pretty much died down. The skies were just getting better and we could hear the rumble of thunder from the hills of Lesotho. Far out from the escarpment the horizon over Natal was full of vast mushroom clouds. Most of the sunset was spent running around between compositions as the light peaked.
We gathered at the tents for a chat over dinner as butane flames whistled away, everyone was recalling what an amazing day it had been. The rumble was coming closer, but there was no wind and I mentioned how lucky we were with the weather, foolishly. Everyone was done eating and the first rain hit us just as we got into our sleeping bags. Softly at first with little wind, then as darkness fell the skies started lighting up and the rumble was getting louder. Within 15 minutes the soft drizzle had turned into hell, Stephen and I could barely hear each other as a torrential downpour rattled the tent sail. Gusts of wind bent the tent’s aluminum poles almost down onto our chests and the rumble had turned into a bombardment of deafening crackles. We were holding up the main pole with our arms in fear of the wind snapping it and in doing so the cold got to us very quickly. Luckily thunderstorms move quickly and we were waiting for it to let up any moment, but it was the perfect escarpment storm and it lasted…and lasted. After about two hours we decided to give up the fight and let nature do what it wants to. The storm died down somewhere between 11 and 12pm and I spent the rest of the night trying to get warm again.
Peering out of the tent the next morning it felt like the whole storm experience was a dream. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky from Lesotho to the Eastern horizon. Breakfast was made, bags packed and plenty of jokes were going around about the storm. Rian and Mark had spent most of the night with their boots and rain gear on, ready for the tent sail to give in at any moment. We were all unharmed, rested (sort of) and it was another beautiful day in the berg. We were to make a call at the head of uMhlambonja pass. Head for Easter cave or go all the way down to one tree hill. We arrived at the pass eager for a good lunch, when Rian revealed that we had walked too far. We all took a 5 minute break, except Rian who immediately went off in search of the pass. Waving arms confirmed the correct neck and we all sat down amongst the cairns for a proper lunch before descending the never-ending pass.
The descent was done one careful step at a time, down zigzags in the grass, then over boulders. After an hour of boulders and zigzags we reached the river. We crisscrossed the stream over and over as the trail widened and narrowed from level paths to ledges along a gorge wall. At places we had to give each other a hand to climb up and down steep sections. The discomfort of the descent quickly trumped the beauty of the uMhlambonja valley and about 5 hours after starting we reached the bottom of the contour path. We had a wash and a snack, and we started the last section, our destination was a 30-minute walk at a soft incline away. Backs aching, we crested the hill only to see that one tree hill was at least another hour away along a deep cutback. Next to us was a large flat hilltop with soft grass and there was no deliberation about what to do. Backpacks were thrown off to huge sighs of relief after just over 10 hours of walking.
We were back down at a comfortable altitude; the air was warm and the breathing easy. The whole of the escarpment stretched out in front of us, we had the cathedral spur at the back and the previous night’s rains were still coming down every valley in dramatic waterfalls. For the first time on the hike we didn’t have to flee for the cover of a tent after having a meal. We made dinner one last time, reminisced about the storm and laughed at Mark who still had enough food to last a month in the mountains. The next morning was a pleasant 3 hour walk down to the hotel, but the prospect of taking the backpacks off for good set a motivated pace!
The car’s tire was fixed, we parted ways with the Durbanites and we headed back up to Gauteng relieved to be returning to our modern comforts. Make no mistake that hearts were heavy as Monday waited on us all and we wouldn’t be back in such nature for months. In the days after the hike it really hit me that despite all the physical hardship and horrible weather it was still one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. It’s the effort that you put in to experience it that makes you appreciate it. It’s effort that the absolute minority of people, even nature lovers are prepared to invest. It is thus an appreciation of nature that few people share, but it is certainly the most amazing one that I have shared. Of all the places I’ve seen and experienced in my search for the ultimate photos, hiking the Drakensberg takes the prize by a long haul. Hiking may not be for everyone, but getting atop the Drakensberg is something every South African has to do at least once in his or her life
Bookings for the 2013 Namibia workshop are now open. There is a slight, but very nice change from the last two years. We’re adding the spectacular Fish River Canyon lodge to the list of destinations, lengthening the workshop by 1 more night to 8 nights.
The workshop will kick off with 3 nights in the Namib Rand on the 16th of March. After that we’ll head South to the Fish River Canyon for 2 nights and then finish off with 3 nights at Sossusvlei.
Dates: 16-24 March 2013
Cost: R24950.00 pp sharing
Single Supplement: R3200.00
To book or enquire about more info, simply send me a mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me on 0762792202
As the new year kicks off and I look back on what I did or didn’t achieve in 2011 I certainly have mixed feelings. Some goals were achieved, some were surpassed and some were miserably abandoned!
On the photography side I feel quite stoked though. I saw and photographed many amazing places in S.A and Namibia. Good business removed any doubts I had about pursuing this career. I got a 4×4 vehicle which has opened many of Southern Africa’s very best landscapes up to me. I was planning to leave on a 5 week trip at the end of this month, but I’m involved in certain publishing projects that require a lot of shooting close to home.
I also came to the stupidly obvious realization that I live in the cradle of one of South Africa’s most amazing mountain ranges. A treasure chest of towering granite peaks that have barely been photographed. I feel extremely ambitious to get serious about hiking this year in an attempt to create a portfolio of the Cape’s mountains that might some day be compared to John Hone’s work of the Drakensberg. There are many places on my destination list this year, but my top priority is to find my way around the Cape mountains’ best hiking routes so that I’m prepared for misty Autumn sunrises, Winter snow and Spring flowers. Other places I long to visit are the Richtersveld, Drakensberg, Kubu Island, Pondoland and Lesotho. I’ll be spending About three weeks at Namibia’s best locations again this year hosting workshops and some shooting by myself.
I’m excited to announce that I’ll be working with the legendary Chris Fallows this year to offer his clients landscape add-ons when they come to shoot great white’s sharks with his company. There is still one spot left on the C4 Namibia workshop from 18-25 March. It’s truly the ultimate landscape photography experience in Africa. We’ve got special access permits for Sossusvlei and the whole of Excelsior farm in the Namib Rand to our self.
If you can’t take 10 days off to make it to Namibia, check out my seascape workshop for Cape Town in April. An easy and convenient learning experience with some of the best seascapes in the country to shoot while learning. I will advertise a similar Gauteng workshop shortly, but a lot of the learning lies in shooting a photogenic landscape, which Gauteng doesnt have. Coming down to Cape Town for the weekend will be a much better learning experience. I would appreciate if any people interested in a Gauteng workshop similar to the Cape Town one would be interested? Just mail me or comment here!
Part two of the Namibia guide will be published next week. I’ve run dry with ideas for tutorials so if there’s a specific field or Photoshop trick that someone is interested in then they’re welcome to shoot with suggestions! Just comment below
The whole photographic industry is on the edge of it’s chair to see the the 1Dx and D4 in action and for the release of the D800 and 5D III. Technology is advancing and I can’t wait to get one of these new cameras and see how they will help me improve my photography! I’ll end of with some recent images from the Cape.
For the next 3 weeks, until the 25th of November you can buy any two prints for the price of one.
Simply purchase your print of choice using the print order system in the gallery. Once you go to the cart you will see a ‘comment’ field at the bottom of the page. Just add the gallery and image title of your 2nd print choice and I will confirm with you via email that it is the correct image. Please read the prints page section for information on the paper options and order process!
My recommendations for prints
The interactive map is the most obvious change. There are some galleries with 35 images and some with only 3, but the existing galleries aren’t a finished product. My personal favorite galleries are those of The Namib Naukluft Park, The Wild Coast, my 617 photos and the Drakensberg. The Overberg and Namib Rand galleries aren’t quite complete, they will be next week I will add images to them over time and new locations will also be added as I travel to new locations.
You will be able to purchase signed and certified prints of any image on the site using a credit card or paypal. Buyers will be able to choose between either canvas or a Hahnemule etching paper, as well as a wide variety of sizes. There will also be a small selection of my personal favorites available as limited editions prints. We are just finalising the payment system which should be ready within the next week.
My blog is now fully integrated into the site and it has been tidied up considerably to make it easier to find what you’re looking for. The news feed you see on the front page of the site is the latest posts from the blog. Expect a ton of new content throughout the month of November including videos of captured scenes, downloadable actions, new tutorials, tips and tricks to enhancing your photos.
Image licensing – For Publishers
Up until now purchasing images was a drawn out negotiation process requiring many mails to finalise the deal. I now have private galleries with hundreds of images and all info you require is provided in the galleries. You simply add the desired photos to your lightbox and hit request to purchase. What used to take weeks and a bunch of emails can now be done in less than 5 emails and 2-3 days.