Tag Archives: 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

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.



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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Delayed by a caterpillar

There are some days during which one’s goals can quickly dissolve in the bog of ‘other things’.

Today I thought I would ‘just quickly’ keyword and upload some of the many caterpillar photographs sitting on my computer. I am determined to not upload any image, especially a nature image, that is not keyworded with its correct scientific and common names. This caterpillar was found on a tomato plant in my garden (as are most bugs – I sure do have trouble growing tomatoes) and, since many of its kind find their way into my small garden, I thought it would be pretty easy to identify.

Well, I’ve googled for hours and pored over every butterfly and caterpillar photograph in the Struik Field Guide to Insects of South Africa, and cannot find a similar looking fellow. The research led me to numerous websites with pictures of some amazing looking insects – very beautiful creatures, none of which I would like to find in my garden. How do you kill a big, squishy caterpillar that looks as if it has flowers growing from its body? Rather let it eat what it wants … decimate the garden.

My caterpillar looks pretty much like the Cherry Spot caterpillar, but the markings are not quite the same. I posted a pic here, so let’s see what happens.

Anyway, having spent some hours achieving nothing, it’s time to move on to some other work … like edit that novel of mine that’s also been rattling about my computer for some years.

OI-DH_8807_caterpillarLOW RES

This type of caterpillar is found quite often in my garden, usually on the tomato plants. I have no idea what it is, though.

OI09062745 WP

Mom caterpillar and baby caterpillar, feasting on some tender tomato leaves

I took these pics with a Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 USM Macro Lens and the Canon Macro Twin Lite MT-24EX Flash (still my favourite piece of camera equipment).

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Filed under Macro Photography, Nature photography, Photography

Online Images (reprise)

I will keep flogging that old horse – my image bank. Years and years of photography stashed on various hard drives. ‘Stuffed into’ would be more accurate, because the hard drives are so full, they won’t allow me to do anything to the photos languishing there. There are pics on PC and on Mac, and on external hard drives compatible only with PC and only with Mac.

I started up a photo library many years ago … could it be ten years ago? Longer. Fifteen, probably. I was still shooting on film and the first DSLRs weren’t even available yet (was there once such a world?). The notion seemed quite alien to web designers at the time, and it took some searching to find a company who thought they could do it. They were a large company, used to dealing with complex websites. Yet it took them a year and R80 000 (about US$8 000) of my hard-earned, long-time-saved cash to cobble together a cumbersome, rather unattractive site. It wouldn’t allow me to do my own uploading, and the site could neither resize the images nor allow me to keyword them.

First I had to scan each picture and resize it in Photoshop. Then I had to number each picture and then resize each one to three different sizes: small for thumbnail images, medium for larger view and high res for download. After resizing hundreds of images individually, I managed to work out how to batch process in Photoshop – it must have cost me more in Photoshop books than it cost me to buy my computer equipment. All I had to do once I figured that out, was to separate the portrait format and landscape format images, otherwise one of the two formats would be resized incorrectly.

Then I had to type the image numbers and keywords onto an Excel spreadsheet – making sure that I matched the correct image number to the correct keywords. I found it easier to work on two computers then: one computer had the images open and the other had the spreadsheet. Then, once I had a batch of no more than 100 pics, I saved the pics and the spreadsheet to a disk and drove across town to the web designers  – now the web hosts – to deliver my disk. Then I had to wait for them to find the time to upload the pics, which, apparently, took them a few hours. All this for a monthly fee of R600 (about US$ 60). 

As this was over a decade ago, my fiscal dedication to my craft was quite impressive .. or foolish. Probably foolish.

Eventually I realised that this was an inefficient way of trying to earn an income from my images and terminated my relationship with the web designers/hosts/whatever they called themselves. Online Images disappeared from the Internet and again took up residence on my computer and on a large pile of CDs.

Photography became the preferred mode of income for thousands of people over the years, and some clever people realised that need for ready-made, easy-to-navigate websites. Hobby photographers and pros began uploading their images to photo communities such as Flickr, JPGmag, MyShutterSpace, Whoophy and ePhotozine, These sites still are a great way of showing your pics while being inspired by the amazing work of photographers around the world.

These photo communities are in addition to a professional website, however, and although Flickr and JPGmag had become my new drug, I still needed a proper website where clients could see (and buy!) my work. Much Googling and numerous free downloads and trials later, I decided to start up an ifp3 website. The cool thing about the new websites (and the photo community sites) was that they allowed you to keyword the images after you had uploaded them – no Excel spreadsheets! The other very cool thing was that I needed only to create a low res (72 dpi) version of the pic and the website would automatically resize it to create a thumbnail and medium view image.

Hours and hours I spent, deciding on the design, uploading and keywording pics, creating galleries and categories, learning what I could about SEO and banging in more keywords. And then I kind of ran out steam … Okay, honestly, I ran out of cash … The site went dormant for a while and then, one day, it was gone. Just gone. Thousands of pictures and hundreds of hours just gone. The nice people at ifp3 must have sent me an email to say that they were going to nuke my site, I’m not sure. I know I never read anything that resembled a warning.

So I started again. But by now I had learnt about software that could be used to keyword my pics – that funny Adobe Bridge thing that came with my Photoshop CS, apparently, could be used for this. I had finally learnt about meta data and could bandy about acronyms such as IPTC. I bought Photo Mechanic and could, with one keystroke, add my name, web address and any other details to all my photos at once. Then I could type in all the keywords and they would become part of the image data … the same pic could be uploaded to Flickr, ePhotozine, Woophy, Facebook – anywhere – and would have to be keyworded only once. What sorcery is this?

I now use ACDSee to do the same job. The main reason for the switch is that I upgraded my computer and had to transfer all my software. I emailed the Camera Bits people to ask how I was to transfer their software to my new computer, but they never responded. So, since they weren’t going to support me, I moved on to a new product. This is always a risk when buying software off the Internet – there’s no disk that you can use when you need to reinstall, and the support guys are nameless, faceless and very, very remote.

The trouble I have had with ifp3, though, is that it doesn’t support high res images. I have also found the upload to be slow at times, and often I have had the ‘A script on this page is causing Internet Explorer to run slowly. If it continues to run, your computer may become unresponsive. Do you want to abort the script?’ message. Although the ifp3 support team respond very quickly, I have never been able to solve the problem. I have also grown a bit tired of the ifp3 design and, although it’s a great website, I have moved on.

Online Images has been resurrected for the fourth time. This time at Smugmug: http://onlineimages.smugmug.com/

I haven’t worked out the design yet – it’s far more complex to navigate than ifp3 – and am just focusing on getting my images uploaded. I am aiming at uploading 100 a day. It feels as if I am training to run a marathon. But if I chip away at 100 images a day, I should have 3 000 uploaded in three months, and almost 10 000 by the end of the year.

Wish me luck …!






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Memories of Rome

A collection of pics from my first visit to Rome.


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She’s free …!

So our stranded fishing vessel was finally pulled off the beach. I had still hoped to get to the beach in the evening to take the pics that I had in my head, but by lunch time I got the call from my daughter telling me that the boat was hooked up and efforts were being made to pull her back into the ocean.

I was supposed to be settling down to some work, but couldn’t miss the opportunity, so grabbed camera, two lenses and tripod and, on a completely empty petrol tank, made my way to where the crowds were gathering – no time to stop to refuel; I was going to have to rely on fumes and good thoughts to get me there.

It was an amazing sight. This tug boat out at sea, listing and straining, the fishing trawler stuck on the beach, resisting. the thick yellow cable between them, looking like a fragile thread, about to snap at any moment. It really was inch … by inch … by inch. And then, suddenly, a noise went up from the crowd … she was free. It is possible for a boat to look happy!

Farewell Eihatsu Maru. Be safe, and do no harm.

The tug that did all the work

The Eihatsu Maru, still stranded, being tugged and pulled at

She’s free!

Eihatsu Maru is accompanied out of the bay

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Filed under Cape Town, 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