Category Archives: Low light photography

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 …


Long, dusty road to Tankwa Town, home of AfrikaBurn


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

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


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 …


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.


Campers scurrying to save their tents from flooding.


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.



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


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


But what a sky it gave us …


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.


Where’s Wally? Which one is Wally?


Everything is turned into art at AfrikaBurn



A spectacular giant aloe in the desert


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 …


A (velvet and satin) desert rose.

… and even my grumpiest friends managed to smile …


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).


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


An origami bird in laser lights?


And, of course, there were the burns …


Dancing polar bear, in flames.




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

Stranded fishing trawler

Our Cape coastline has a habit of luring seafarers to its shores. Our most recent victim is a 50 metre Japanese fishing trawler, the Eihatsu Maru, which beached itself on 12 May. No one knows how it ran aground, and none of the 30 crew members, nor the dog, were able to explain – a language barrier, apparently.

It has created endless photo opportunities for Cape Town snappers, though, and it must be the  most photographed item this year. Salvage attempts have been foiled by low tides and bad weather, so I suspect she’ll still be providing photo ops this weekend.

I went down there last night. I had a specific angle and mood in mind, but police tape forced a new plan. Maybe I’ll sneak up on it from another side tonight. The weather is cold and miserable, and so it might keep the crowds away.

Eihatsu Maru, a Japanese fishing trawler, stranded off Clifton Beach, Cape Town: ISO 100, Aperture f/9, Shutter 15 Seconds

My young assistant tagged along, causing much distraction, but I did get this shot of her:

Leaping on Clifton Beach: ISO 100, Aperture f/4, Shutter 5 seconds, off-camera flash at full power

And then there was the sunset …no Photoshop required.

ISO 100, Aperture f/4, Shutter 1/2

Winter unset over Clifton Beach: ISO 100, Aperture f/4, Shutter 1/2

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Filed under Cape Town, Flash photography, Low light photography, Photography

Low light panoramic photography

A fellow photo blogger, Abe Pacana, very kindly paid a visit to my blog and left an encouraging comment. Of course, I immediately clicked on his link to see what he gets up to. It appears he also has a bit of a thing for low light photography, landscape photography in particular … and panoramics.

His pics are really great. So great, in fact, that was inspired to head out with my tripod for a half hour or so before cooking dinner.

Here is this evening’s effort (click on the image to enlarge).

ISO 100, Aperture f/4, Shutter speed 1.4 seconds

This pic has an aperture of f/4, and was from the first set of pics I took – f/4 simply to get the quickest shutter speed, and fire off a few test shots. The other sets were shot at f/18, with a 30 second shutter speed – which is more in keeping with what I usually do.

The smaller aperture and longer shutter speed creates this kind of effect:

ISO 100, Aperture f/18, Shutter speed 30″

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Filed under Cape Town, Landscape, Low light photography, Panoramic photography, Photography

From a bridge over the highway

Another night shot – I have a bit of a thing for heading out with my camera and tripod at night, these days.

I arrived early, way before the sun went down, and positioned myself on a pedestrian bridge over the N2 at Woodstock in Cape Town. Getting there early meant that I could record the changing light, and be ready when those few minutes of perfect light smile down on photographers – you know, that light that floods the world while you’re either sitting in the office, or driving in your car, cooking dinner … anything but taking pictures. I took a lot of pics that evening; once I start, I find it hard to stop. Lost track of time, kind of lost track of where I live – i.e. in a  place where what belongs to you also belongs to those who want it.

This pic is one of my favourites, though.

I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before, but just in case I haven’t – I generally keep my ISO at 100 when I take low light pics. I know, I know … you’ve been told to up the ISO to make the sensor more sensitive to light so that you can take pictures in the dark. And, yes, this is true. But: the camera is being kept nice and steady on a tripod, and I want a slow shutter speed. So why, then, would I want to crank up the ISO? Sure, if I had no tripod and had to hold the camera steady in my hands, I would have to increase the ISO as much as possible. Try as much as you like, but there’s no way you can keep a camera steady for seconds at a time. The higher ISO would mean a faster shutter speed, which, in turn, would mean shorter light trails. A different picture entirely, in that case.

Similarly, if I wanted to photograph a person in low light, and didn’t want to use flash, I would have to increase the ISO. Why? Because the person would not be able to keep perfectly still for a few seconds, and would end up blurred – even if I had the camera mounted on a tripod.

So, unless I want a fast shutter speed so that I can freeze motion and/or avoid camera shake, I do not need a high ISO when taking photographs in low light.


Filed under Cape Town, Landscape, Low light photography, Photography