So you want to be a freelance photographer (part 5)

Originally posted on Journal of a lone walker:

I feel so angry this morning.

 

Sitting at my desk, checking emails and thinking back to this weekend’s shoot.

 

I had a Bar Mitzvah to photograph on Saturday night. Now, I really dislike events photography. Sometimes it’s fun, especially if it’s a corporate event – the people are nice, they treat you like a professional, the money is good and I leave feeling quite energized and positive. Often, though, people want your lowest price and treat you like one of the waiters … which says more about the people than it does about the waiters and about how waiters should be treated.

 

Saturday night was one of those events. I knew it would be like that, though, as I had worked for this guy before. He wants your cheapest price, then doesn’t pay on the night, and later pays in cash, a little bit now and a…

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Walking the Daisies 2013

Originally posted on Journal of a lone walker:

One of our various annual pilgrimages is coming up soon: Rocking the Daisies, our eco-friendly music and lifestyle festival, on 3-6 October. The line-up on the main stage includes artists such as Goodluck, Spoek Mthambo, Gangs of Ballet and Desmond & the Tutus. I would have liked to have seen TheCity have their own gig … but maybe next year.

Part of Rocking the Daisies is the Pick & Pay Walking the Daisies – a soul-lifting, inspiring two-day 50 km environmental hike from Cape Town to Darling.

Some walkers from Walking the Daisies 2011

Some walkers from Walking the Daisies 2011

I walked with them two years ago, and it was amazing. I applied last year, and didn’t make the cut. I found out later that some people who did make it, didn’t turn up, thereby denying others the opportunity to take part. This year, the Walking the Daisies organisers have wisened up: they’re separating the…

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Journal of a lone walker

If you have started following my blog because you are interested in blogs about health and fitness, or the New York Marathon, please follow my blog at Journal of a lone walker. I figured not all photographers are interested in fitness, and not all fitness types are interested in photography, so I am keeping the two topics in separate blogs.

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Preparing for the New York Marathon – getting my visa

So I decided to just do it: I have entered the New York Marathon.

My husband and his running partner have been building up to this event for a few months now, and we have been talking about whether I should stay home and send encouraging thoughts, go along for the ride, or go along and take part. I’m not a sidelines kind of person, but would have had no problem had he decided to take the trip without me. Once it was decided that I should go along, though, it was a no-brainer: of course I would enter the race.

I will be entering as a walker, though, not a runner – albeit a fairly fast walker. I have done a bit of running in my time but have never really loved it. I took to long-distance walking instead and taken part in the Discovery Cape Times Big Walk as often as I could. Besides, there is too little time between now and 3 November to become a runner who is fit enough to run her first marathon. The cut-off is eight hours, and at my current walking speed I should be able to complete the distance in about six hours.

It is, essentially, a runner’s race though and so I am starting to add some running sessions to my normal long-distance walking routine. It would be very nice to be able to run some of the way, and it would be especially good to run, rather than walk, across the finish line.

But first things first: I need a visa.

I completed the online application form for the American visa – all eight or so pages of it – had my very unflattering photograph taken (hair brushed away from forehead and tucked behind ears, no smiling), uploaded it, booked my appointment for interview, and read through all the requirements for a South African applying for a non-immigrant visa. I had heard that the American visa is quite difficult to come by and, since the 50% non-refundable deposit had already been paid, I started working myself up into a froth of worry.

Admin people like to be able to put things in neatly parcelled boxes. So, if you try to open a new bank account, apply for credit, a cellphone contract or a visa, the process runs most smoothly if you are employed by a nice big company. That way everyone knows you are a fully functioning member of society, not a waster, an anti-establishment hippie, a potential defaulter. I am a freelancer. This means I usually need to jump through some hoops before it is established that I can be trusted. I usually need to present at least three months’ bank statements, proof of tax payments, work orders, a letterhead, and whatever else the organisation can think of.

So, off I went to photocopy my most recent bank statements, worrying all the while that they are not looking quite as healthy as they did last year when I had a glut of projects (should I add some extra statements, maybe six months’ worth, I fret), as well as an IRP 5 and a batch of work orders.

This done, I proceeded to frantically turn the house upside down: I needed my current passport, as well as all previous passports. I had my current passport, but where were the others? After some panicked unpacking of drawers and boxes, flinging and crumpling of various papers, and an archaelogical find of vintage cellphones, I found a very old, chewed-up passport jammed at the back of a junk drawer. I rewarded myself with a few gulps of air (breathe – must breathe!) and a cup of tea. The other passport, a temporary one, which I  had discovered was expired on the morning that I was about to set off on a river rafting trip in Namibia (but that’s another story), was missing. If was definitely somewhere safe, along with a whole of other essential bits of paper that I really shouldn’t lose but haven’t seen in a decade.

The night before the interview I stayed up as late as possible. I knew I wouldn’t be able to sleep, and so decided to stay up until my eyes felt like hot coals. I went through all my bits of paper again and put them all in a neat, blue folder.

At midnight I realised that I didn’t have the most essential piece of paper: the barcoded confirmation letter. Not only that, but the printer was out of ink – completely bone dry; I wouldn’t even have been able to print out one of those ugly, irritating, streaky documents. Worse, the interview was scheduled for ten o’clock and the print shop opened at nine: not enough time to make it to the print shop, print the letter and make it to the American Consulate on time.

At least now I had something to think about while I lay in bed, wide awake, until morning. I got to bed at 12:40 am. By 3:40 am I was still awake, playing out various scenarios in my head. I must sleep, I thought, willing my body to shut down, I must sleep. Just when my body was about to surrender to sleep, my husband started snoring … perky and refreshed was not going to be the day’s look.

As soon as I crawled out of bed, I emailed the document to my sister-in-law, hoping that she would find the time to check emails and print the document in between getting two boisterous young boys ready for school. While driving my own youngster to school I received an email from her to say that she’d done it. Ah man! All those hours of lost sleep!

So, finally, I’m dressed in my interview finest and ready to leave. I go through my blue folder again. Everything’s in there. But where are my two photographs? I rush to my desk, shove items around, lift the keyboard … theres’ one … but where’s the other one? I rush back to my bag, pull out my wallet, rummage through it. Head back to my desk, dump all the receipts and pieces of paper from my wallet onto my desk … there it is! Right. I have both photographs (I need only one, and I already have two from my Schengen visa application in my folder – but you never know, you know!). I’m ready to go. As I reach for the door handle I remember: passport! Where is my passport! It’s not in the blue folder, it’s not in my bag, it’s not in my wallet, it’s not in my other handbag in the bedroom, nor in the drawer … where? Back to my desk I rush – it’s there, under the pile of receipts that I had pulled from my wallet.

I head off. At last. I’ll be on time. I hope.

I pull into the American Consulate’s drive with time to spare, only to be told that I must find my own parking. By this I understand that I should drive into the adjacent parking lot and find a parking space. This is a misunderstanding. I may not drive into the adjacent parking lot. I must drive past the parking lot, which has lots of open parking spaces, and I must drive back out, down the road, and park at the shopping centre. Luckily it had stopped raining, and luckily I had opted to wear flats, not heels.

I arrive back at the consulate’s doors, obediently on foot this time, and join the back of a queue. Who would have known you’d have to queue to apply for a visa! There must be something to this US of A!

We’re allowed to enter only one or two at a time, at the discretion of the strict security guard in charge of opening the door. I go through my blue folder one more time while I stand in the queue, and indulge myself in pondering all the reasons why I would be denied an American visa.

Finally the security guard heaves the door open and waves me through. I walk straight to the wrong desk and attempt to sign in. I’m waved away to the next desk where I am asked to hand over my photograph, my passport, my confirmation letter and my application form. I feel myself go cold … application form? The website specifically said I didn’t need an application form, just the confirmation letter. I decide to keep quiet and hand over what I have. It seems to be good enough and I’m sent back to the desk I went to in the first place.

‘Switch off your cellphone,’ I’m told. I hold the red button down and the security guard and I both stare at the LCD panel. I hold my breath. Why won’t it switch off? The light on the panel fades. I breathe. My phone is put back in my bag and everything is put onto the conveyor belt. I watch as it disappears into the X-ray tunnel and step through the metal detector without setting off any alarms, despite the many heavy zips on my coat.

My bag comes out of the X-ray tunnel and I am told to remove my cellphone, wallet and iPad. The security guard opens the iPad cover and tells me to switch it off. I feel a small sense of panic … ‘I don’t know how,’ I say. ‘I never switch it off.’ She looks at me. I look at her. ‘You must switch it off, ma’am,’ she says firmly. ‘I don’t know how,’ I say again. ‘Do you know how?’

‘No,’ she says, though I am certain she does. This is not the first iPad she has seen in her life. I hold down a button until the screen goes dark. ‘Phew!’ I think. She lightly touches the button and it springs to life again. ‘It is not off. Please switch it off,’ she repeats. Now, if she knew to do that, then she knows where to switch it off, surely? I look around the room, desperately searching for someone who knows how to switch an iPad off. I see everyone staring at me. They look away. No one is going to make eye contact. It’s not their business. Another security guard comes over. They both watch me try to switch it off again. I do what I had done before: I hold the button down until the screen goes dark (what is that thing they say about a sign of madness … doing the same thing again and again, expecting different results?). The security guard does what she did before: she pushes the button and the iPad wakes up. Security Guard Number Two takes the errant iPad from me, feels along its edge and finds a tiny button. She pushes it. It goes to sleep. I feel a sense of surprise as air passes through my lungs.

Security Guard Number One takes the iPad, touches the screen with a funny raggedy little lappie, tells me she’ll be back, and walks away, out through the security doors, and is gone. I stand there waiting, feeling conspicuous. What to do? I fiddle with my blue folder, and look at the document the woman at reception had given me. It says I should write my passport number on it. ‘I’ll need a pen for that,’ I think, and reach for my handbag. As I rummage for my pen, Security Guard Number Two lunges at me. ‘Please leave all this stuff alone no, ma’am,’ she says, and moves my handbag and iPad away from me.

I am puzzled. The handbag has been X-rayed. I’ve been X-rayed. I am hiding nothing on my person or in the bag that they don’t know about. But clearly there are still criminal things that I could get up to, if only I had a more criminally adepts mind.

Obediently I fold my hands in front of me, put my feet together and gaze out the window until Security Guard Number One returns. Without a glimmer of a smile she hands me a small key with a tag attached to it, and tells me to lock my bag in number 24. I open the locker and shove my bag in. It won’t fit. Of course it won’t fit! Why would things start going well now? I shove again. I take it out, fold the handles over, turn it on its side, and shove again. Security Guard Number One and Security Guard Number Two keep stern, watchful eyes on me throughout my little pantomime. The receptionist turns to look. No, I don’t know what crime I could commit at this point either. Clearly I would make a terrible bad guy.

So, so far, my cellphone has been switched off, my iPad has been switched off and swabbed, everything has been X-rayed and, for good measure, everything has been locked away. Feeling suitably held in check,  I follow the next instructions: ‘Go out that door and someone will show you where to go from there.’

I step outside to where yet another security guard is leaning against a railing. Hesitantly I walk towards him, not sure if he is the person who was supposed to be at the door, waiting for me. ‘Does it all have to be so scary,’ I ask. He laughs. It’s a really, good, happy belly laugh that breaks the tension. ‘We’re very serious here,’ he says.

Another security guard opens the next security door and tells me to wait at the blue sign. There are three blue signs. Which one?

It makes most sense, to me at any rate, to wait at the same blue sign where everyone else is waiting. I sit down on the nearest chair.

‘No,’ she says, ‘please wait behind this sign and you will be called to Window 2.’

Feeling a bit of a fool (yet again), I get up and wait behind the blue sign.

By now I am so deer-in-the-headlights I can only focus on what is immediately in front of me. I see only the person behind the impenetrable glass of Window 2. I don’t see the instructions pasted against the wall and window. I step up to the window and slip my passport and confirmation letter through the small gap, almost expecting to have my fingers rapped.

The woman behind the glass looks at me. I look back. Now what? She raises her eyebrows towards my left shoulder. Oh! Right! Had I seen the instructions I would have known. I pick up the handset and she tells me what to do – I am to place the fingers of my left hand on the glass panel, place the fingers of my right hand on the glass panel, place my thumbs on the glass panel. Wait … Wait … All good. The system recognises me. I may go and sit down and wait to be called for my interview.

I sit down and look around the room. There is something about being there that makes you feel as if you are doing something illegal, or that you are about to do something illegal. All around are posters of people behind bars – this is what will happen to you if you lie during your application! Ulp! I wasn’t thinking about lying, but still … I start looking up at the ceiling. There must be a camera around here somewhere, I figure. I twist my head around. Aha! There it is! Okay, hang on … maybe now I’m looking suspicious … eyes front …

Back to some more fiddling with the blue folder … Hang on! Where’s my key? I feel in all my pockets, rummage through the blue folder, unzip and rezip my wallet, feel in my pockets again, my movements speeding up … Ah man! It’s taken me less than two minutes to lose my key! I’m worse than bloody Mr Bean!

Whoever is watching me on CCTV is on his feet already, I’m sure, hand on stun gun, or whatever it is they use on crazies like myself … Where is my key? I was already picturing how I was going to be nose to nose with Security Guard Number One while Security Guard Number Two restrains me, their faces grim while I plead ‘Please, please, I need my handbag, I don’t know where the key is …’

Then I see its orange tag on the counter of Window 2. Now what? What will happen if I get up without permission? I’ve heard of Guantanamo Bay and I’m taking no chances. The person standing at Window 2 has completed her fingerprinting and is about to hand my key to the woman on the other side of the window. ‘That’s my key,’ I find the courage to call to her. Ah. The relief. Again. I put the key in my pocket, zip the pocket, sit back again.

Then I hear my name being called. I step up to Window 3. I unsnap the elastics of the blue folder, ready to pull out my race entry form, my confirmation of trip form, my deposit receipt, my three shameful bank statements, my IRP5, my selection of work orders. I poise myself to convince the nice young man that I have every intention of returning home to my sweet children, that I am the last remaining patriot, that I have no intention of deflecting to the United States.

‘What is the purpose of your visit?’ asks his voice through the handset.

‘I’m going to the New York Marathon,’ I say. I can’t make myself say that I’m running. I find it hard to lie at the best of times, and there are all those posters around the room …

‘You’re running the New York Marathon?’ he asks.

‘Well …’ I hesitate. ‘I don’t know how much running I’ll be doing.’

‘You’re walking the New York Marathon?’

‘Err … yes. The cut-off is eight hours, so there’s plenty time to walk it,’ I say.

‘Really?’ He sounds surprised and interested.

He asks me some questions about my work, what I do, how long I’ve been doing it. I never know what to say when faced with the ‘what do you do’ question. I write, I edit, I proofread, I project manage, I translate, I photograph … but, really, there is only one box to tick, one line to fill … what is the short answer? Which one is most truthful?

Don’t talk too much, don’t talk too much, I keep reminding myself. I tell him I edit school textbooks; have been for about 20 years. It is what I have been doing for 20 years. I have just also been doing all the other stuff for 20 years. But he doesn’t want me CV. He needs enough information to fill the allotted space.

His fingers fly across the keyboard, his eyes flick from my face to the monitor and back. He never looks down at his hands.

‘Have you been to America before?’ he asks.

‘No,’ I say. I’m about to say ‘But I’ve been to Peru’ but again decide against talking too much.

‘But you’ve been to Europe,’ he says. ‘Was that also for a marathon?’

‘No,’ I say. ‘That was for fun.’

‘And a marathon’s not fun?’

‘Not as much fun as drinking …’

Argh! I had wanted to say ‘Not as much fun as drinking chianti and eating pasta’ but the word ‘chianti’ wouldn’t come to me. Oh no! I’ve blown it! He’s going to think I’m going to piss it up all across America, cause trouble, pick up young men, end up in jail, get deported!

He laughs … the second big, happy, delightful laugh I had heard that morning.

‘But probably healthier,’ he says. He tosses my passport into a basket. ‘Go and speak to those people over there. They’ll tell you how to get your passport back!’

It’s done. It’s over. All those hours of lost sleep. All that agonising. All that worry, stress, panic. I can pick my passport up in two days’ time. My face feels weird as it breaks into a smile. I feel taller as I begin to breathe. I am going to New York.

Best I get serious about that training!

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Just go to gym!

Just get out there - it can only make you feel better!

Just get out there – it can only make you feel better!


‘Go to gym,’ I posted on Facebook this morning. ‘Go to gym. Go to gym. Go to gym. Just go. Go now.’

Most of my Facebook and Twitter posts have the simple purpose of making other people smile. I know getting to gym is sometimes difficult, especially if you are feeling, like I was this morning, a little bit under the weather: it’s cold outside, I have just recovered from the flu, and now I have a tight chest and the beginnings of a cold niggling at me.

But a setback happens each time I reach a certain level of fitness, and then the lay-off means I’m back to square one when I strap those shoes back on again. So I decided that I just had to push on through: just go. Sitting on the bike for 20 minutes is better than lying on the couch feeling sorry for myself. Add just 50 sit-ups to that, some calf raises, a few squats and a quick walk around the park, and I’ve had a light work-out instead of doing nothing at all. A bit of body maintenance.

So, as I was talking myself up like this, a few friends posted some much appreciated encouraging comments to help me out the front door. Then one friend asked ‘Gym for weight loss or the other benefits of exercise?’ By the time I read this, I was at the gym and thought ‘Ah! Good question! I can answer that!’ Sitting on the bike, counting down the minutes vs kilometres, I started thinking about why I was at gym and devising a blog-type answer.

Later, the same friend posted another comment: ‘’Cos if it’s for weight loss don’t bother, exercise isn’t for that.’

And I thought, well now, I have to respond to that!

So, is gym for weight loss?

I think, to start with, it definitely depends on what you’re going to be doing there. I’ve seen people sitting on machines, not a pearl of sweat anywhere on their bodies, texting away on their cell phones. I’ve seen women in full make-up and colour coordinated Spandex sipping water and chatting away furiously, their well manicured hands and red painted lips moving faster than their feet ever have. I’ve seen bored people reading books while their legs make laborious rotations on the exercise bikes.

Chances are, but I can’t be sure, that these folk lament the ineffectiveness of going to gym. ‘I go every day,’ they say, ‘and look at me. Nothing changes. I just stay the same.’ Maybe they reach for a bun to go with their latté to help them commiserate. Of course, I’m making that last bit up. I don’t know for sure.

I have also seen people with pained expressions, eyes closed against the sweat pouring down their faces, lifting weights, doing squats, running on the treadmill, standing up on the bikes to attack those virtual hills. Usually they appear to have zero per cent body fat. Or thereabouts. I could be wrong, but I don’t think they say much about gym not working for them.

But what does gym do for me?

Honest truth is that I really don’t like gym very much. I prefer long-distance walking. I’m not a runner, either, but I try to maintain a speed of about 8 min 30 secs per kilometre when walking, and I try to walk at least 10 km at a time. I aim for 8 minutes per kilometre and, of course, a 15 or 20 km walk is far more effective. But it takes a great deal of time, which one does not always have, and some variation is good. This is where going to gym comes in. Because I don’t particularly like it, I do have to push myself to go. If I’ve already had a shower, chances are I won’t go. If it’s past one o’clock in the afternoon, I probably won’t go. If I’ve eaten something, I probably won’t go.

But when I do go, the benefits are enormous.

For example, while you’re focusing on completing 10 km in less than 20 minutes on the exercise bike, you really have no time for glum thoughts. Although one can multitask, and listen to various conversations at the same time, one’s mind can really only hold one thought at a time. So if you’re telling yourself ‘Only five minutes to go, speed up, you can do it’, you can’t also be telling yourself ‘Oh my word, business is so slow, I’m going to be bankrupt by the end of the year’. Okay, you could be so demotivated that you sit, catatonic, on the bike thinking only glum thoughts. But then you probably need some nice people to help you off the bike and into the psychiatric ward.

Once you’re there (at gym, not the psychiatric ward), and once you’ve started exercising, you tell yourself ‘Okay, I’ve done 20 sit-ups, why not do 20 more?’ It’s easier to talk yourself into doing more exercise once you’ve already started, than it is to talk yourself into starting – especially if you’re feeling a bit tired, down, overweight and generally just-not-into-it.

It's easier to push yourself into exercising harder than it is to talk yourself into exercising in the first place. So just start.

It’s easier to push yourself into exercising harder than it is to talk yourself into exercising in the first place. So just start.

Once your heart rate goes up and you start sweating, you’re burning calories. Chances are you’re not eating a cream bun or drinking a beer while at the gym, so if you’re burning calories, you’re burning fat. I think the logical result of that is weight loss. You could, of course, destroy all that hard calorie burning by stopping off for a Big Mac, which you ‘deserve’ after all that effort. But that has to do with your mind-set, and not with whether or not you went to gym.

That little bit of exercise will have released a few endorphins and you will definitely be walking out of the gym feeling better than you did when you walked in – even if you’ve done only 20 or 30 minutes’ exercise. And if you’re feeling a little bit happier, you’re less likely to feel you need to lift your mood by snacking on a chocolate or some carb.
Simply not eating the chocolate is a step towards weight loss, I think.

After a few days of regular gymming, your mood starts to change. You’ll find that you’re generally a bit more optimistic about life, more able to wave off little irritations, and less likely to want to run bad drivers off the road.

This Pollyanna effect leads to fewer cravings for other things that make you feel good, like aforementioned chocolate, for example, or a glass of wine (or two) in the evenings. Without the glass of wine (or two) in the evening, you’re less likely to sit around, relaxing, and more likely to get on with doing other things. And, just like one drink leads to another, so one thing leads to another: you’re more likely to say ‘Yes, let’s go, it should be fun’ than ‘No, I don’t feel like going, it’s too cold, I’m too tired, I’m not feeling so well’. Happy Pollyanna has become Energiser Bunny. The more active you are, the more active you want to be; the happier you are, the happier you become.

So, so far, you’re burning calories, taking in less carb and sugar, drinking less alcohol and fewer energy drinks, feeling happier, and being more active … sounds to me as if you’re ahead of the game. You’ll also find your brain is working better – your thoughts are sharper and you’re more creative, which could mean that projects are easier to complete and problems are easier to solve (if they’re still as important as they appeared to be while you were horizontal on the couch). People pay a fortune to therapists, nutritionists, and various other –ists to reach this level.

If, at this stage, you get on the scale, you are likely to find that you weigh … oh dear … MORE! Yep. You will weigh more. A little bit. We all hate to hear it, but it’s true: you’re burning fat and building muscle. Muscle is denser than fat, and so weighs more than fat.

This could spawn the conviction that gym doesn’t help you lose weight, and that it makes you gain weight, in fact. Give up. Don’t go to gym. But wait! Step away from the scale – there’s more!

Boy-oh-boy – muscle sure is prettier than fat! Muscle also increases your metabolic rate. So, the more muscle you have, the more calories you will burn (therefore, the opposite is true: the more fat you have, the more fat you’ll make). So the weight gain shown on the scale is only temporary.

Muscle increases your metabolic rate. Once you have muscle, burning fat becomes easier.

Muscle increases your metabolic rate. Once you have muscle, burning fat becomes easier.

Ignore the scale. Stay off the scale. Throw it out. Wear clothes that fit well and make you feel slim and attractive instead. Your scale, the evil bitch, will tell you that you are gaining weight, which is demoralising (if weight loss was your aim). Your clothes, however, will tell you a whole other story. Where there once was a bump will now be a line … and lines make clothes look so much better than bumps do.

Motivation to change what you eat and drink? I think so. Weight loss to follow? Makes sense.

Sure, there are times when weight loss just doesn’t happen. Chances are you either need to increase the weights you push, step up the cardio, change your routine to avoid that plateau, and watch that you’re not eating so much of the so-called health foods (for example, energy bars, and handfuls of nuts and seeds), which often are very fattening.

If you exercise enough, often enough, and watch what you eat, you will lose weight – even if you have various medical conditions that could cause weight gain, even if you’re going through adolescence or menopause; it just means you have to work harder.

So, I figure, gym might not be for weight loss. It might be for increasing high-density lipoprotein (HDL) so that you can reduce your risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke and depression. It might just be for a change of scenery. It might just be so that you can use someone else’s shower and save on your water bill. It might be to check out the pecs ’n’ abs in the free weights section.

But it sure is going to take you a step closer to weight loss than not going is going to.

PS: Of course, the same goes for any form of exercise – walking, running, dancing, boxing, swimming …

Regular exercise improves not only your fitness and your health, but it improves your mood and gives you more energy!

Regular exercise improves not only your fitness and your health, but it improves your mood and gives you more energy!

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20 days to AfrikaBurn! (… thinking back to last year)

Only 20 days to go before we set off to travel the long, dusty road to this year’s AfrikaBurn. And a long, long, dusty road it sure is …

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Long, dusty road to Tankwa Town, home of AfrikaBurn

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Enter Tankwa Town, exit the Default World … the AfrikaBurn adventure awaits

Last year we travelled most of the way in the rain.

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A rainbow on the way to AfrikaBurn 2012

We were lucky, though, because the next day the Tankwa Karoo showed us what she was capable of doing. My daughter aquaplaned into the campsite in a car so caked with mud that she couldn’t see out the windscreen …

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Moments after she arrived, Tankwa unleashed the mother of all storms. Rocks of hail pelted down from the heavens, massive winds whipped tents from their supports, and angry rains fell so fast that the Karoo had no time to soak the water into her thirsty earth. Massive pools of brown water formed and those tents that had withstood the gale force winds were flooded. The men from the nudist colony had time only to don some wellington boots before heading out to hammer down the guy ropes and dig trenches around their tents.

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Campers scurrying to save their tents from flooding.

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It was easier to just pick up the tent and carry it, than break down and pitch again.

Miraculously, our tent – put up in the pitch dark the night before – stood on a patch of ground soft enough to absorb the water, and high enough – by mere inches – to avoid being flooded. We hulked down under our gazebo, watching the chaos play out around us. I made hot chocolate, popcorn and, later, a big pot of stew to feed the cold and (temporarily) homeless campers around us.

The storm left the site covered in water and structures smashed to pieces.

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The fire-breathing dragon, made of strips of balsa wood, was smashed by the storm

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Just when we thought it was over, the rains came down again.

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But what a sky it gave us …

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That night, Tankwa Town was dark and cold. It looked as if AfrikaBurn was not going to happen this year. Sculptures, geodesic domes, tents, plasma screens, all in pieces, ruined.

But burners are made of stronger stuff than Default World people. The next day the sun came out, the puddles dried up, and the desert was transformed into a fantasy world of colour.

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Where’s Wally? Which one is Wally?

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Everything is turned into art at AfrikaBurn

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A spectacular giant aloe in the desert

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If you’re not wearing a tutu at AfrikaBurn, you’re not properly dressed.

My velvet roses were attached to dry, prickly bushes around our campsite …

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A (velvet and satin) desert rose.

… and even my grumpiest friends managed to smile …

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And that night it was as if the storm had never happened. The party had started. The dragon breathed its fire and there were fairy lights and laser lights everywhere. It was bitterly cold, though, and most of the tutus were worn under coats. The nudists wore scarves (around their necks).

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The fire-breathing dragon, dressed up for the night.

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An origami bird in laser lights?

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And, of course, there were the burns …

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Dancing polar bear, in flames.

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This year we’ll be having our own theme camp. Only 20 days in which to create our own fantasy world. Best I get to it!

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Filed under AfrikaBurn, Festivals, Landscape, Low light photography, Nature photography, Photography

Venice by night

Photographs of the Venice Carnival here brought back memories of my few days there in the spring of last year. It was still biting cold at night, and the crowds of tourists hadn’t yet arrived – although, I do think Venice is never quite without tourists.

The shopkeepers were so friendly and I was fascinated by the elaborate masks that were for sale everywhere. The owners of a shop where I bought numerous items I didn’t need told me about the Venice Carnival. They were so enthusiastic about it, that I wanted immediately to book my hotel room for the following February. Then they mentioned how very cold it is at that time of year … and May was pretty cold enough for me already. Maybe I’ll look at other people’s colourful photos for a while longer.

I have long ago given up the argument about whether or not to travel with a tripod. It’s big, heavy, cumbersome and yet another piece of hand luggage to heft through security and find a space stow on board an aircraft. But it’s a small price to pay if you’re a lover of low light photography. I don’t think any city looks quite as pretty as it does at twilight, and if you want sharp images and lighting effects, you need a good, solid tripod. So my heavy Manfrotto travels. No debate.

These are a few of the low light shots I took from various bridges in Venice.

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ImageImageImageImageImageMaybe one day I’ll make it to Venice for Carnevale. In the meantime, I’ll stock up on some thermal underwear, diligently practice my conjugation of verbs, and polish my tripod.

These pics are some of the latest upload to Online Images.

 

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