Tuesday, March 30, 2010

My guest today

I'd like to share some of the pictures taken by my daughter Andrea, a post-grad student.  She has recently become an extremely keen photographer and these are some of the images she has submitted for a photographic competition.

This picture was taken at the top of Long Street in the city centre and shows the side of an apartment block  which is a hotly contested site for large scale advertising.  This time the yellow cellphone ad triumphed.  It's comforting to know that the installation here is being done by expert climbers!

Andrea has joined the Shuttercal site where the aim is to upload one picture each day for a year and so far she's done nearly three months.  I lasted for four days - too much pressure!  I prefer the pace of leisurely blogging.  This picture was taken when she had stopped to photograph a field of grapevines and happened to notice this reflection at the back of her car.

This picture is one  of my personal favourites and was taken at the Promenade, which runs along  the beachfront from the Waterfront to Bantry Bay.  The Prom is one of the most popular places in Cape Town, particularly at weekends, when joggers, walkers and skaters criss-cross the pavements and families picnic on the lawns.

A change of mood now and a sunset picture of Lion's Head.  I love the contrast between the bulk of the mountains and the fragility of the tiny trees, illuminated by the rays of light shining through the clouds.

This isn't one of the competition entries but it's an image which I really like.  This is an old stone fountain which we spotted on a wine farm where we'd gone for lunch after a morning of photography.  The water cascading down onto the basin with its chipped and peeling azure paint, formed these alluring bubbles. 

So, after all these years of hauling a camera around on my own, I have congenial company and it's wonderful.

Copyright A Palk 2010

Thursday, March 25, 2010

How one picture can lead to another

On Saturday everyone retired for an afternoon nap but I was reluctant to waste a windfree, golden afternoon on sleeping and, besides, I had noticed this pot planted up with dainty geraniums and dazzling cerise vygies.

Tripod set up and a small wooden stool placed behind it (there's no way I can lower myself to the ground, let alone get up again)  the vygies were first under the macro lens.

The contrast of the of the bright pink against the succulent green leaves was particularly eye-catching.

I was really losing myself in the inner depths and details of the blooms when the serpent in paradise arrived, in the shape of the gorgeous Cassie.  Grabbing the tripod and precious camera and holding them up in the air, I tried to fend off the total onslaught of a large German Shepherd dog determined to demonstrate just how much she had missed me in the fifteen minutes since she'd been closed up in my sister's bedroom.  This picture taken at the Palmiet Lagoon shows how big she is, so it can be seen that I was at something of a disadvantage in the scuffle.

Anyhow..... Cassie having been persuaded back to the bedroom I focused again on the flower pot and the shy, delicate beauty of the pale pink geraniums.  Could there be anything more perfect than this?

Looking at plants through a macro lens is so exciting; at first there's the multicoloured blur of colour and then, as you begin to focus, shapes and details begin to resolve.  Next comes the decision about which small area  to emphasize.  Often the subject that attracted you initially isn't what you end up snapping and in any event you find that you could go on and on, just moving the lens slightly every time.  Tiny details like the sea salt on these leaves and the speckles and dots on the surface of the pot are something that would go unseen under normal circumstances.

Red petals swirl like a flamenco dancer's skirts.

All this promise of potential beauty enfolded in a tiny bud.

Monday, March 22, 2010

African Blue

On my way out to Betty's Bay this weekend just past I must have pulled the car over five or six times to take photographs of the beautiful curves of the mountains sweeping down to the aquamarine and inky blue sea below.  The sky was that incredible shade of African blue and a fresh breeze was driving the fluffy white clouds across the mountain peaks, casting ever-changing shadows across their flanks.  This is Clarence Drive and it runs from Gordon's Bay, through to Betty's Bay and then on to Hermanus.  It's a beautiful road, similar to the spectacular Chapman's Peak Road and it winds around the base of the mountains, past low rock walls which enable one to see the view most of the time.  There are many places to draw off the road and admire the view, enjoy a picnic or just watch the sun set in the evening. 

Later in the afternoon once I'd arrived in Betty's Bay, mist began to creep over the mountains to veil the setting sun.

One hundred and ninety photographs later I am back in Cape Town, feeling that I can once more cope with the building work and the DUST for a little longer.  A weekend spent photographing scenery and indigenous flowers is the one of the best pick me ups I know.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Farewell to Deja Vu

Alas and alack, my favourite antique shop in Harbour Road is no more.  An excursion for coffee and cake (and an unplanned but rewarding detour which resulted in the acquisition of sparkly gemstone earrings) revealed the sad sight of the beautiful gable at Deja Vu being covered in bright yellow paint.  It appears that the little shop has new owners.  I'm sure their new business will be interesting but to paint out that beautiful gable as the first thing before you move in just doesn't bode well for the future. 

I always felt that this display on the verandah of Deja Vu had many of the elements that I would like in my perfect studio - a sweeping view of the glittering dark blue sea; large tables on which to spread out my cameras, lenses and papers; assorted pictures and frames with space to arrange and think about their framing; plentiful supplies of fresh flowers; all against the perfect off-white tongue and groove panel wall.  The only items missing are the large screen laptop, shelves and shelves of books and a comfortable chair.  Perhaps a state of the art sound system as well? 

The chicken and eggs sign at another of the antique shops went some way to lightening the gloom.

Small businesses everywhere are taking such strain now that the holiday season is over and it is sad to see so many of the quirky and interesting shops forced to close their doors after starting up with such enthusiasm.  Crystal balls are badly needed right now.

As we left the harbour we took a turn through a semi-industrial area and I noticed these eye-catching orange doors.  Although the building was just a drab hangar-type warehouse, I admired the business owners who had used a little imagination to brighten up the drab surroundings.

When we arrive back at Betty's Bay the pale blue afternoon suddenly takes on this exquisite pink glow.

The sun makes its molten descent into the sea and the waves begin hurling themselves onto the rocks in front of the house.

And, just as you think evening is finally falling, one last show of vivid light sets the gossamer seaspray alight with sparkling and shimmering radiance.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Building Inspector

When I emerged from the back door and cautiously picked my way over the piles of sand, gravel and cement on our building site this morning, the building inspector was already awaiting my appearance rather impatiently.  He had been waiting since sun up, he said, and did not like to lose productive hours at the beginning of the day.

Fixing me with a severe look he introduced himself as "Scratch, just Scratch".

He added that he had some tough questions for me :

No 1  :  Why were items of clothing being left on site overnight?

No 2  :  Did I not agree that the dignity of the workmen was being damaged by providing them with pink and orange drinking cups?

No 3  :  Why were wheelbarrows being left in poses that resembled (whisper it) fierce dogs that could scare an unwary inspector in the dim light of dawn?

No 4  :  Did I think that it was in order, to venture out every morning to photograph the progress of the building work, brick by brick?  Did this not imply a lack of trust in the builders?

I soothed his ruffled feelings with a chilled saucer of milk and and after another spinestretching roll on the grass, he fixed me with a level stare that left me in no doubt that the next inspection would be extremely exacting.

 Inspection over and without any further ado, the building inspector sprinted off to his next appointment.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Sunset Hike

The weather has been unbearably hot in Cape Town for the last week or so.  Temperatures reaching 40 degrees in the city and no cooling down at night.  So to cheer myself up here's a post from last week in Betty's Bay when sea breezes were better than air conditioning and nights under star saturated skies were spellbinding.

We went on a hike that I've never done before, on the opposite side of the Palmiet Lagoon which I've posted about before.  We started walking around five in the afternoon to avoid the worst of the heat and get back before it got dark.  Let me say at the outset that if I thought I was hot before, relaxing on a patio chair,  I had yet to experience real heat.  The narrow path rambled through fairly tall fynbos on both sides with nary a breath of wind, but we were rewarded almost immediately by this sight.

These are the Cape Everlasting flowers (Phaenocoma) popular name Rooisewejaartjie (little red seven year old) which are exported extensively and widely used in dried flower arrangements. 

 These dainty little flowers with their papery bracts vary in colour from pink to red and, as their name implies,  are literally everlasting.

Then we emerged into the open plains  and saw to our delight that the veld was studded with these pink beauties as well as a scintillating blue flower that I hadn't seen before.

Although I had borrowed a walking sticking from my brother in law I didn't think I would be able to get closer to the flowers but, joy of joys, we came across this little group growing at the side of the path.  This Bush Iris (Iridaceae Nivenia) has sword-shaped leaves and tube like flowers which vary from pale to deep blue or mauve shades.

I wasn't able to get more than one good picture of these beautiful flowers as most had been affected by the intense heat but the following landscapes made up for that.

And then, a flash of deep pink amongst the green, I saw this magnificent King Protea and this time I just had to bushwhack my way into the veld.  The fact that I nearly ended up like a beetle on its back is beside the point.  I was so thrilled to get my picture, especially in the golden light of the setting sun.

The beautiful, gleaming Cassie, my sister's black German Shepherd, somewhere off in the distance, my sister and her husband a short way behind her and me, bringing up the rear and holding everyone up.   I know it's very tedious to take me anywhere with my camera.

Finally, a view of the ocean.  This had to be the end of our walk as the sun was rapidly sinking behind the mountains and I would be unable to manage the rocks and uneven ground down to the lagoon mouth.  My sister told me that she and her husband had walked down there before and discovered that the memorial referred to in the link above was erected by his grieving parents to the memory of a nine year old boy who was swept off the rocks some years.

The town of Kleinmond in the distance. 

Making our way back and trying to photograph into the sun, in the direction of Betty's Bay.

The end of the walk, gasping for water, knees aching, wanting to rip my walking shoes off and sink into an icy  rockpool.  It's the longest distance I've walked for a long time but my goodness it was fun.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Fire on the Mountain

The white smoke drifting up into the china blue sky didn't seem like anything to get unduly worried about, but bitter experience in the Western Cape during these searing hot, dry summers has taught everyone not to ignore any fire, no matter how small.  Minutes later I heard the clatter and thud of helicopters overhead.

That's Lion's Head in the background.

The fire was between Lion's Head and Signal Hill and two helicopters were working in relay, orange buckets attached, scooping up water from the reservoir one road below my house.  My camera is always ready at the front door and in three minutes I was down at the reservoir, standing on tiptoe to reach over a wire fence and get a clear shot at the action.  Luckily, my husband came with me because it was quite a circus changing over from wide angle to zoom lenses, as the mood took me.  His training as a photographic assistant is coming along nicely!

Hovering over the reservoir, the blue and yellow helicopter scoops up a load of water ...

... work requiring the utmost skill, precision and concentration.

As the bucket fills up and the helicopter rises, the rotors send a spray over all the keen photographers clustered around the fenced off reservoir, quite refreshing in view of the 40 degree heat.  In the background can be seen the red and blue helicopter making its way with a full load of water towards the fire.

And we have lift-off.

Water squiggling from the bucket ...

 ... over the trees ...

... and across the face of Table Mountain.

Fire nearly out, the last trip of the morning.

And back to base camp.

We have experienced so many deadly fires this summer, exacerbated by intense heat and very strong winds, but some possibly due to arson. Lives have been lost, people injured and thousands of hectares of forest destroyed.  We owe so much to the courage of all our firefighters, in the air on helicopters and spotter planes, on the ground right at the face of the fires and in fire engines driving in a dangerous and desperate race through never ending traffic.

Latest note :
I have just heard on the radio that it is suspected that this fire was the work of arsonists.    One is left with a feeling of despair.  What is there left to to say?


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