Monday, May 24, 2010

The Famous Tablecloth

A lot of my most serendipitous images occur at inconvenient times, like these ones for instance.  Supper was simmering away in the oven as I walked downstairs to put the car in the garage.  On the way back up to the house I noticed ethereal wisps of cloud just beginning to slip over the top of the mountain. 

Knowing what this heralded, I turned off the oven, grabbed my camera, and drove down to the reservoir two blocks below the house.  Luck was on my side for a change and I found a parking spot without too much driving around.  After crossing  the rush hour traffic road and climbing a steep flight of steps I set up next to the diamond mesh fence which runs around the reservoir, poked my lens through a gap and started to photograph. 

Alas, it was only then I discovered that in my rush to get down to the reservoir before the sun faded I hadn't checked which lens was on the camera and I'd come out with my 28-200 instead of my 17-40.  The second dismaying discovery was the wind!  Blowing so hard that I had to cling to the fence with one hand and try to steady the camera with the other whilst my shirt was being blown up around my shoulders will explain why the pictures may be a little less than pin sharp.  No panoramic shots either, I'm afraid.

"Table Mountain is flanked on the east by the legendary Devil's Peak. As the story goes Van Hunks, a pirate in the early 18th century, retired from his eventful life at sea to live on the slopes of Devil's Peak. He spent his days sitting on the mountain, smoking his pipe. One day a stranger approached him, and a smoking contest ensued which lasted for days. The smoke clouds built up and a strong wind blew them down towards the town. When Van Hunks finally won the contest, the stranger revealed himself to be the Devil (hence Devil's Peak), and the two disappeared in a puff of smoke. Legend says that the cloud of smoke they left became Table Mountain's tablecloth - the famous white cloud that spills over the mountain when the south-easter blows in summer.

The Upper Cable Station is the tiny building that can be seen on the extreme right of the flat table.

Of course, the phenomenon is also supported by a meteorological explanation. The moisture-laden south-easter blows against Table Mountain from over the False Bay and rises. At a height of approximately 900 meters the winds reach the colder layers of air and thick clouds form. These clouds roll over the mountain and down towards the City Bowl. The characteristic tablecloth forms when the clouds reach the warmer, lower air layers and dissolve once more."  *

The dying rays of the setting sun light up the clouds in multitudinous shades of apricot and amethyst, contrasting with the strong clear blue of the sky behind. 



rachel said... [Reply to comment]

How wonderful - no wonder you rushed off to capture it when you had the chance!

Susan said... [Reply to comment]

Hey Val, gorgeous photos and many thanks for the kind comments (from a fellow photo fanatic) xo S & les Gang


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