Winter has arrived in the southern hemisphere, and along with it, the cold, the rain, and the beautiful sunrises and sunsets. I camped in three locations in the southern Cape area, as I scouted for beautiful scenery and waited for the right weather conditions.
The first campsite was at the amazing Korintepoort Dam near Riversdale, and the two campsites near Swellendam.
Usually when I go on a photo trip, I consider myself lucky if I get one good photo over several days. Such is landscape photography - you can do everything humanly possible to take good photos, but you cannot control the weather!. But this time, I managed to get about a dozen photos that are worth putting on my website.
There were a couple of days during my week away when there were no clouds, and I don't bother going out with my camera. Instead I went for walks with my dogs, or simply stayed in my tent and read a good book.
On the last morning of my trip, I knew rain was coming, and I was really hoping for a decent sunrise shot. I put up the camera and waited for the sun to tinge the clouds with oranges and reds. And when that eventually happened, the rain came down too. I was soaked and my camera drenched, but I got the sunrise photo I had hoped for. Patience always pays... or so they say.
And with that, it was time to point the car into the rain and drive back home, with my two dogs asleep on the back seat.
I'm off to go camping in exotic places (to me they are) like Korentepoort, Swelledam, and a few others that are not even on the map. I've chosen a number of pet-friendly campsites with good photographic potential, where a man, his camera and a dog can go exploring.
Nearly all my destinations are off-grid and have no phone signal, which is exactly what I need for a digital detox. The daily deluge of notifications and messages and calls and updates and reminders can stop for a few days, and maybe I can reclaim my brain.
On this trip I want to focus on photographing unspoilt landscapes where there are no signs of mankind and his artifacts. The really worthwhile scenery is not found on the main routes... it is often tucked away behind a hill or in a valley, and you have to go looking for them on foot.
I will be staying in my lightweight tent and snuggling into a sleeping bag at night... winter has arrived in the southern Cape. Food will be all non-perishable, but I'll catch up on proper meals when I pass through a town.
The Journey to Ixtlan continues.
Look aroud you next time you're in a park or a garden. See all the flowers. Some are stunning, some are big, some have several colors, and some are so small you can hardly see them. But they are all beautiful and perfect. And they all exist for a while, and then shrivel and drop back to the earth from where they came.
And there are no contests in nature for the most beautiful flower. Or the one that attracted the most bees. Nature does not erect statues for the biggest or most colourful flower.
Nature knows no envy, or jealousy, or anger. Or love. Nature is neutral in all things, and nothing is more important than anything else. "Importance" is only a human construct, a label we attach to whatever we feel is somehow more deserving of time or money or attention. Pretty much like we designate some people to be more worthy, like kings and queens and presidents and popes. But in the eyes of Nature, they are just humans who are born, and live, and then die. Nothing remains of their great works, their proud words, or the fortunes they amassed and hid away in their bank accounts.
And so it is with art. Even the famous paintings in the galleries visited by millions of tourists in the Louvre will one day crumble to dust, or be crushed in some natural disaster. The music Mozart wrote hundreds of years ago will not even be a memory, one day. It will only take one extinction event to wipe the slate clean and restore the supremacy of Nature on this planet.
So... what remains for us to do? Only to follow a path with heart. Believe without believing. Do without having to do. And expecting nothing in return.
The weather in the southern Cape has been good, and I was able to take landscape photos in Mosselbay, Sedgefield and Heroldsbay. The challenge has been been to find new scenery in familiar landscapes, which is an esoteric art that takes time to develop.
The weather plays a big part in this - a misty sunset can make an old scene look completely different. All the great landscape photographers I follow recommend that one should return to previous locations, and attempt to get a better photo of something you already photographed. And there is wisdom in this... photographers sometimes say "My best photo? The next one I'll take".
It is so easy to make tiny mistakes when you are attempting the impossible - perfection with photography. I sometimes forget to turn off the VC (vibration control) on my favourite lens when using a tripod, which results in a less-than-optimally sharp photo. Or to change the light metering on the camera - which results in images that are too dark or way too light. Or, cringe - cringe, arriving at a location too late. That is possibly the worst beginner mistake a landscape photographer can make. But hey, it is really hard to get up at 04h00 :-)
Good or great art is not a destination. You can never arrive at it. The joy of artistic endeavour is to continually strive towards an imaginary ideal.
I will be camping in the week of 17 October, in a location where I hope to get good mountain and landscape photos. I will need to do a lot of scouting before I can start shooting, but that is half the fun - figuring out where the beautiful light will be, and finding interesting things to include in the photos.
Landscape photography really only happens at sunrise and sunset, and planning is essential. My schedule will be:
04h00 - Wake up, and coffee!
04h30 - Hit the road and drive to location 1.
05h30 - Start shooting.
06h30 - Finish shooting.
07h00 - Return to the tent and have breakfast.
08h00 - On the road to scout for shooting locations.
12h00 - Return to campsite and rest.
16h00 - On the road to location 2.
18h00 - Start Shooting.
19h00 - Finish shooting
20h00 - Back to the campsite. Dinner and sleep.
Repeat the next day.
Long days, insufficient sleep, inadequate food, mosquitos, heat, shockingly expensive petrol...what more could I ask for :-)
And at the end of the trip, if I can show just one decent photo, it would all be worth it.
I recently received some harsh criticism of my photography.
At the same time, I posted some of my photos on Facebook after a spell of refraining from doing so. The feedback I got, including from professional landscape photographers, was amazing.
I found this quote on the internet while researching what kind of personality enjoys giving destructive criticism:
"You're going to inspire envy and criticism if you’re super successful at what you do. That’s just par for the course. Criticism is the best proof that you're bound to be wildly successful. I learned early on that the more people bad mouth you, the more jealous they are".
We live and learn.
I recently had the opportunity to travel to Cape Town, and decided to photograph Table Mountain. Instead of taking the usual sunny, bright photos that adorn every tourist website, I wanted to show the mountain at sunrise and sunset. The results are at the bottom of the Lansdcapes page.
A good friend recommended the best spot from where to shoot the mountain, and instead of wasting my very limited time, I headed there (beneath On The Rocks restaurant) and took my time settimg up the camera and refining the photos. I am fairly happy with the results - a colourful sunrise and sunset would have been better, but we make do with what we have.
Every photographer is inspired by someone. Here are some of my favourites:
Erin is the queen of landscape photographers... her iconic style and insight into the technical aspects of light and composition are just amazing. Just look at the example below, which is my all-time favourite landscape photo:
Ryan has a magic touch - he finds the most beautiful scenery, and then photographs it to perfection. Have a look at the example below, his website is well worth a visit.
The Garden Route is currently enjoying some rain. That means that the tiny flowers that have been dormant in our gardens will sprout in the next week, which can only mean one thing - macro photography! So watch this space for new close-up images of tiny flowers and other wonders of nature.