On a Dust cloud in Africa

Images of how I Experience Africa

2013-09-17

How to improve your photographs

If there is one thing that stands out above all the other stuff  I've learned over the last  few years, its that creativity is NOT something you are born with, but it is a SKILL.
And  skills can be learned!
Unfortunately this is knowledge I've only acquired recently, and like all good things in life,  its going to be difficult at first, and take some hard work before it becomes second nature.

So where do we begin. 
Thanks to a good friend of mine, Jon Sowers, I have come to know something called a "Shot list".
In simple terms it is a list that you create of all the photographs you want to take before you go out to shoot. Because you have to think about what you want to achieve, you have to start thinking creatively. The added benefit would be the time you save when you are out doing the shoot. (But more on that later)



This example shows my firs try at compiling a shot list, and I know there is a lot of room for improvement. 
You can tailor a shot list for your own personal style and preferences, but I believe that there are a few things that you have to include for it to serve its purpose. 

1. Location:
Once you select your location for the shoot or only one shot, you can then start to think of all the possible photographs you will be able to take from that location. Again this can be very specific or very broad, depending on your preference.
Its good if you know the place your are going to shoot at, so it is better to do as much research as you can before hand. If you are shooting in a building try and get the basic layout so that you can create a route through the building ensuring you don't have to double back.

2. Shots:
Now you list all the shots you can think of to be taken from that location.
Remember not to limit yourself to standing still either. Move around, climb on objects(if that is allowed) or lay down on your belly.

3. What lens are you going to use.
This is where the time savings will come in! When you think of your shot, also think of what lens you are going to require. Group all shots at each location requiring the same lens together. This way you will not need to change lenses too often and therefore reducing the risk of getting dirt in your camera.

When doing events or even wildlife it is much more difficult to plan your photographs in great detail before hand, because the situation is much more dynamic, and not always under your control. It would be good practice to still plan some shots that you want to take, but you have to be aware of the surroundings to see the moment you want to capture before it happens. 
Know your subject! Be it animals or people.

Compiling your shot list can be great fun! See the photo in your mind even before you leave home or the office.

Have fun guys!!!
 

  

2011-01-19

3400km of battery charging

This calculates to 10km of charge per day for the rest of this year. 


4 years ago a friend and I did a similar trip down the east coast of South Africa to Knysna. This time I decided to do this trip solo and changed the route to include a bit more gravel and a bit more of the Karoo.

I had about 2 weeks of leave for this trip and used it to extend the travel time to 3 days down to Grootbrak and 4 days back. The routes I mapped were a rough estimate and I decided from the start not to be bound to them as a rule. I had a few places that I knew that I did want to visit, but the way to them was open to change according to the prevailing conditions, or my own whim. Highways are evil and will be avoided out of principal.

All packed and ready to go!!

Day1:

I set of on the 25th of December at 6:00 am, and 50km down the road I already started to get symptoms of “Ironing Board Butt”. A serious condition caused by the continuous introduction of soft body parts to the Iron Board like surface like a bike seat!! 

My parents were out caravanning at Meyerton, which was on my way, so I made a quick stop for a sarmie and bit of Coffee.

 Early morning Coffee.

After a prolonged greeting session with concerns (from parents) and assurances (from me) [Love you guys], I hit the road and immediately got in the relaxed, holiday mood.

My first day’s route took me from Pretoria to Smithfield via Koppies, Kroonstad, Winburg, Tweespruit, Wepener. The total length = 670km

 Route Day 1

As soon as I got going, I settled into a cruising speed of 120km/h on tar and 100km/h on gravel. To the people that know me you’ll realize that this is highly uncharacteristic! 
Who knew I was capable of traveling at, and maintaining a sane speed!  The only down fall to this is the slow and steady rise in posterior discomfort.

At Koppies I filled the bike, and had a bit of a break to stretch the legs and, yes the buttocks too.

Is this the Freestate or Switzerland?

About 5km after Koppies, on the suggestion of Mrs. Garmin, I saw road closure board (on tar), but this did not bother me too much I am on the best off-road bike after all!!  Found the bridge over the river, but that’s fine with no signs of damage. Aaaaah! They have done the repairs!
2 km down the road I get the real reason for the road closure. New railway tracks where installed and no crossing has been constructed yet. The road I need to take lays just across the tracks and there is no way I’m going to ride back 20km to get it.
Due to the fact that no crossing has been made the railway tracks are quite high, and I therefore decided to rather walk the bike over with engine assistance.

Halfway across the first set of tracks the rear wheel slips off the concrete sleeper and the bike‘s frame hits the track, I stall the engine and thus get stuck halfway across the track.
I realize that I have to get this bike off the tracks as fast as possible, cause trains run fast. Luckily the track is in a relative flat area and a train can be spotted from quite a distance. But this does not get the bike off the tracks. Loaded as it was, I struggled for some time to get the rear wheel back on the rail sleeper, and I was knackered afterwards.

 Stuck between a rock and a railway.

Past Kroonstad and onto Winburg, I past the Allamanskraal Dam and its overflowing nicely.

Allamanskraal Dam.

From Winburg the road took me in a more southerly direction, towards sandstone mountains and green grass covered fields as for as the eye can see. The Freestate had some nice rain this year. 

All shades of green.

Purdy!!!

Green and blue, my favorite colors.

The original plan was to get a place to camp in or near Wepener, but since it was Christmas day, nobody was at the camping site and I decided to push on to Smithfield.
From Wepener to Smithfield is about 60km of awesome gravel road, and some 20km tar.

50/50 Green/Blue

I also crossed the Caledon river. The old steel bridge was build in 1926. everywhere you go the rivers are flowing full and strong.

Steel, almost a 100 years old.

Strong flow.

1926

In Smithfield I could not find any camping place and bit the bullet. I stayed in a guest house (Pula; Victorian Guest house), owned and run by an ex-French-man.
What a cool place.

Greenery everywhere.

Greenery everywhere.

In the dining room there are two pencil sketches that I really liked. It symbolizes the transition from France to Africa.

Meta more fish.


Day 2:


The second day took me from Smithfield to Jansenville via Gariep, Middelburg, Nieu Bethesda, Graaff-Reinet and then onto Jansenville for the night. The total length = 466km

 Route Day 2

The day started bright and beautiful with a nice relaxed first 100km tar ride to Ventersstad where some juice was purchased and some water for the rider.

Nice relaxing ride.

Gariep Dam looks good!

The next 100km to Middleburg are the most lovely gravel roads. And quiet! I think, I only past one vehicle in the entire 100km. Mind you it being Christmas Sunday, may also have had something to do with it. 

Beautiful Freestate gravel.

Grassland intermitted by pockets of trees.

On a side note:
Notice the pack I had strapped to the back of the bike. In there I had my three man tent, self inflating thermal mattress, tools, tripod and 4 sets of clothes. Apart from the tripod I considered these to be the bare essentials needed for this camping trip.

But more about this later.

Some twisty, rocky bits.

From Middelburg I took the R398 road and took the turn-off to Nieu-Bethesda. This portion of road is a little marvel as it winds through farmland that has limited fencing and some game can be seen every so often. I made a decision here to make work of getting my hands on a different exhaust for this bike. One with a much lower Decibel output that will not result in me having to use maximum focal length for photographs only to distinguish between cattle and antelope.
Into the hills.

Cattle or Game??

Deeper into the hills the road led, and an awe inspiring vista reveals itself around every corner. The piece or road should be enjoyed in a day on its own. There is just too much beauty to try and rush this section.

Never ending beauty.

Another one. (the bike too)

Riding through a green Karoo, I rounded a corner and, BOOOOM there is this green gem. In an amphitheatre of mountains lay the little town of Nieu-Bethesda.

Emerald in a ring of rock.

I have heard so much about this little town and the tourist attractions and beauty it holds, but still I had my doubts. I mean, its just another Karoo town, Right?

Wrong!!!
All the trees are green. All the lawns are immaculate. And almost all the houses are an attraction in its own right. The peace and tranquility of this lazy Sunday afternoon was unfortunately broken by this one lone biker on a loud obnoxious bike riding through the whole town. I seriously developed a complex about the noise of the XR, and felt really bad when I had to ride back through town looking for my one glove.

I think the main attraction to Nieu-Bethesda still remains the Owl house.
The back yard is a cornucopia of concrete, glass and wire sculptures. I’m by no means a art aficionado and I don’t get the meaning of art, most times, but there was one piece in between all this that I got, and the message is so relevant in our modern times.

Turning back time!
As it was very early in the afternoon still, I decided to push on a bit, hoping to get a camping spot in Jansenville.

Ribbon of fruitfulness.

On the way to Graff-Reinet.

Arriving in Jansenville about 16:00, I quickly consulted the GPS to find a nearby camping ground, but no luck.
I asked around, but to no avail. Damn looks like I’m gonna have to make use of a guest house again tonight. At the closest one I have no luck with a place either as their family is visiting, but they are very helpful and phone a nearby farmer that is also a bit of a biker. Unfortunately he can’t assist either and refers me to yet another farmer. By this time I’m sweating, no really sweating. This jacket is hot.
This time I’m in luck and the farmer offers me one of his hunting cabins/wendy’s for the night. At R150 for the night, self catering, I could not refuse, and what a nice place it turned out to be. Really good facilities and a night sky that leaves you in daze.

The road to be taken tomorrow.

3 separate huts, ablutions, kitchen and bar facilities.

Even a cool down pool.

Dirk Louw, the owner even offered to provide me with meat for a braai, and some liquid refreshments. It’s really worth while to support them if you’re in the area. His contact nr. is 082 552 1838

At this point I started to get a bit annoyed by the fact that I have schlepped around this heavy tent and stuff for 1100km and had not used them yet. But yes, I still need to go back home as well.

Day 3:


Day three saw me reaching my destination of Grootbrak via Mount Steward, Willowmore, Uniondale, Knysna, George. The total length = 377km

Route Day 3

Soon after Jansenville the road became a smooth wide gravel highway that is in great condition.

By this time some of you may wonder what happened to the serious case of “Ironing Board Butt” I already contracted on day one. Well, it progressively got worse and turned into “Monkey Butt” by the end of day two.
Fortunately my butt must have fallen off early on day 3 as it can be seen running down the road in this picture.

Monkey Butt

Alternatively I must have been enjoying myself so much that I just did not care anymore.

From Mount Steward (which is an old railway station, and a church) the road slowly wound towards the mountain ranges that include the Baviaanskloof area. I would not be going through the Baviaans this time round.
As I neared the northern side of the mountains the road progressively got narrower and the presence of farm gates across the road more frequent.

At Kamferspoort I passed a house where the local kids came running up to the road waving and shouting, I waved back and continued down the road. But only a few kilometers further on it was clear as day that this road is not used by the public. There were no signs of recent vehicles using the road, and gates became quite regular.
And yet there were road signs everywhere. ??? I started to doubt whether the kids where waving at me or warning me not to continue.

Whatever the case, I was committed to this route now and pushed onwards, and this became the best part of the journey despite the multitude of thorns strewn all over the road. “Well, at least I didn’t pack all the tools for nothing.” I thought, as I was certain that I’ll be repairing a punctured tube within the next few kilometers. (It didn’t happen! The same air that was in the tires when I started the journey, is still in the tires 4000km later.)

Kamferspoort

Poort road.

Rock wall.

About 5km before the end of this road at Heuningklip, I saw some fresh tire tracks and knew the farmer was here this morning. As I passed the farm house, the farmer was walking from his bakkie to the house. I gave him a friendly wave, and he waved back. I must say he looked a bit baffled about this overloaded bike riding out of his farm. 

Towards Willowmore is some of the nicest gravel that this country must have to offer.

Highways waiting for some “stofstrepe” J

Color contrasts.

She's purdy Spongebob!.

My route then saw me to Willowmore, and on tar to Uniondale.

Uniondale; no ghost!!

I believe that you should always do the Prince Alfred pass when you are in this area, and this time was no different.
This pass has become quite popular in the last few years as there was a lot of traffic on the road. Road conditions was also not that good this time and I feared that I will break the carrier rack clean off with all the weight loaded on the bike.

The obligatory Price Alfred pass Photo.

From Knysna, I slabed it on the N2 to George and on to Grootbrak where I spend the week with friends. (To the 660 Tenere rider who joined me to George: Don’t know if you are a Wilddog, but thanks for the company)

Days 4 - 9


During the week I met up with a few “Dogs”. Trail rider, Dirt Copper, Pad, Dusty, Bermrooster, HPFreak and a few others who’s names and forum nicks I cannot remember. Sorry guys!! :oops:

Pad’s(Afr.) Pad(Eng.)

Doggies at the water bowl.
I also had an awesome view over Mosslebay during the New-year’s celebrations.

I love this shot.

The Whekas of the Fya!

During my time off, I started to question my ability to plan the packing for a trip like this. During more than a week, I have not had the necessity for a 3 man tent. I’m also sure I would have been able to make alternative plans for the few times I did use the tripod.

Due to the fact that I was halfway through the trip anyway, and I will use the tent on the way back, I decided not to courier it back home.

Day 10:


Today I’m back in the saddle. Destination Boknes, via back roads to Sedgefield, N2 to PE and an awesome gravel road to Boknes. The total length = 476km

Route Day 10

From George I took a back road (not sure what you ouks down there call it) to Sedgefield. This is such a nice road to get the morning started. Tarred most of the way, with awesome twists and turns, it provided ample opportunity for the more spirited rider to get into trouble.

Silver River Bridge

As I Entered Sedgefield I found some shelter at the Engen Garage to don the rain suit as the weather has turned a bit foul.
As a result I didn’t take as many pics and took the N2 for quite a way.

I did make a bit of a detour via Nature’s valley, but as I wanted to continue on that road North of the N2, I found that it has been closed down. Therefore it was back onto the N2 just in time to catch the toll gate!!! AAAAAAAGGGGGGHHH!!! They don’t play fair!!!!

The road through Nature’s valley is also a little Gem.

After a well deserved lunch in PE, I did some oil top-up at the garage and as I started the bike, it gave on all-mighty back-fire, just as the lady petrol attendant walked passed behind my bike. She and a few other patrons of the station let out quite audible exclamations of surprise, shock and awe, while clutching their chests!! 
I waved my apologies and made my self scarce in rapid fashion.

About 40km from PE I took the turn-off at the Weigh Bridge towards Alexandria.
The week’s rain and humid weather made this road quite interesting at times, but the slow and steady pace kept me out of trouble.

I could live here.

From George the same, old Suzuki Supa-bike, with pillion, passed me every now and again. In Alexandria I pulled in next to them at the filling station and we had a good laugh about it.

One of the best vacations I ever had as a child was spent in Boknes. It’s a very small coastal town north east of PE, and I’ve always wanted to go back there to see how it looks now. I was not disappointed.
Riding slowly through the town I saw a B&B and found myself way too lazy to find a camping spot. At R200 bed and Breakfast, I didn’t feel too bad.

Boknes Beach. Overcast but not overrated.

Close by (3.7km) a cross commemorating the journeys of Bartholomeu Dias. But 3.7km on the beach can be quite a distance, ask any 5 year old, and their parents.

The hub of good memories!

I bough a King cone and sat on the dunes photographing the seagulls on the beach. It was such fun watching them interact with each other.

Buzzing the tower like Maverick

I stick you for some sushi!

Aaaand Touch down!

Day 11:


The original plan was to do a few of the passes around Rhodes, but as the day progressed the weather worsened. So I ended up in Elliot, via Port Alfred, King Williams Town, Stutterheim, Tsomo and Elliot. The total length = 407km

Route Day 11

The day started overcast with a stiff breeze coming from the sea. For quite a distance I had to battle against the cross wind, head down trying to make as small a target as possible. This resulted in me missing a reduction in speed sign and got pulled over for doing 110km/h in an 80km/h zone. Initial fine was to be R1500, but after seeing that I’m not in an argumentative mood the officer wrote me a ticket for R250. Pheeeew!

Between King Williams town and Stutterheim I took some gravel, but the rain has made the going slow and my average speed plummeted.

Little Snotty road.

I would love to come do this road when the skies are clear.

A kaleidoscope of mud.

In Stutterheim I decide to rather stick to the tar as the rain is more constant now. However just out of Stutterheim I make small detour to the R352, taking me just far enough out of town, to prevent me from turning back once I discovered that the R352 is also a gravel, or by now, mud road.
Being the pig headed person I am, I continue onward and the road condition continue downward.

A bridge too nice!

A few times I encounter some serious, clay/mud, but I manage to get through without having to put my feet in the slippery stuff. Not that the awkwardly overloaded bike inspire much confidence in these conditions.
Then, near a village I hear enthusiastic commentary from next to the road, but I’m concentrating quite hard on the road, and just nod my head. As I rounded the corner, I realized why. One big, churned-up, clay pit, about 50m long.
Making a split second decision as to the possible courses of action, I see that putting my feet down will result in a 100% chance of muddy showers.

I saw the shoulder of the road to the valley side of the road is a bit higher and therefore firmer, and chose that as the best route. About 15m before the end of the mud pit, the shoulder is obstructed by branches and I had to move back onto the road proper.
I managed about 10m before the clay completely removed all possible grip from the tire and the back-end stepped out too far for me to prevent the inevitable.
I promptly put my left foot out, and was promptly brought to my knees by a combination of gravity and snot.

5m!!!! Just 5m more and I would have made it.
Standing on my hands and knees, I tried to get up gracefully in front of an ever growing crowd of kids and parents. I only managed a slight bent stance when I went into an almost slow-motion decent back towards the mud. If this happened further away from help, I would have been stuck there for some time, trying to get out.
An army of kids and a few adults then helped me get the bike on its wheels and pushed the further 5m. After a bit of laughing I thanked them and got going again.

From Tsomo to Elliot the rain became noticeably heavier, but decided to try for Zastron at least. The Rhodes area will have to wait a few months. I’ll come and do these passes on a long weekend later this year. Maybe in winter time. Bwhahahaha, I crack myself up some times.

10km out of Elliot and the rain is becoming rather bad now. I’ll try for Barkley East then, only 50km away, but through these mountains it’ll take some time.
Then suddenly there is this hotel next to the road. Mountain Shadow Hotel ***

I still don’t know what happened as the next thing I know I’m off the bike and at the door to reception. 

I’m way too wet to enter the hotel, but manage to attract the attention of the staff that assist me at the door with a room, where I can at least get into some dry clothes before I booked in for the night.
R420, Dinner, bed & breakfast, is a bargain in this weather.

Day 12:


After some more continues rain the night before, the morning dawned with bright sunshine. What a welcome sight.

Dew on grass shines like silver.

Rain still draining away.



My last stop over before home is at my parents’ place in Reitz.
My route took me via Barkley east, Lady Gray, Sterkspruit, Zastron, Weppener, Hobhouse, Ladybrand, Clocolan, Ficksburg, Fouriesburg, Bethlehem Reitz. The total length = 569km

Route Day 12

Unfortunately this is normally the part of the trip where I get these bees in my bonnet, and therefore did not make any more stops for photos.

The day remained slightly over cast but at Fouriesburg I caught a thunder storm. In the 40km from there to Bethlehem I got soaked to the bone and back to almost dry.

I then made a quick stop at Hochland BMW just irritate Hentie a bit with the BMW riding suit on the Honda

But he’s way too diplomatic to be bothered by such trivialities.
We had a quick chat and the coffee was much appreciated. Thanks Hentie.

Day 13:


Back home took me via Franfort, Villiers, Balfour, Nigel, Eloff and Home.
Total distance = 285km

Route Day 13

Most will know the largest portion of this route, but I did stop at the Liebenbergsvlei River bridge near Frankfort to check the river in flood.

Mighty waters.
And yet again I have not used the tent.
I’m now of the opinion that traveling solo anywhere through South Africa, I will rather make use of B&B’s as the total cost for my four nights’ accommodation only amounted to R1200.

And I’ll leave the tent and tripod at home next time.





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