The temperature in the Berg is rapidly descending as the weeks move on toward winter in the Southern Hemisphere. Climbing to to the top of the Amphitheatre (or Sentinel as was the case this time) was a chilly experience. Still, frozen fingers aside, the weekend workshop was a both exciting and fun for the whole group. Highlights for a number of the photographers was hte slight change in itinerary that had us marching up the Tugela Gorge on Friday (rather than Saturday) and then travelling on foot between Royal Natal and Witsieshoek Lodge via ‘Gudu Falls’ and the ‘The Crack’. The Crack is an amazing fissure on the sandstone rockface below Witsieshoek that allows walkers to summit the lower Berg via chainladders and a narrow gorge. The views at the top are breathtaking as you take in the length of the Northern Drakensberg between the Amphitheatre and Cathkin Peak in the south. A very pleasant walk along the grassy lower berg escarpment then leads to Witieshoek and their wonderful pub, ‘The Usual Place’.
A real highlight for those who summited though was the attack on Sentinel itself. Few walkers make it to the top of this imposing basalt peak as it requires a little more effort than the average trail asks for. Narrow rock bands are negotiated by climbing (relatively low grade, but it feels exhilarating and slightly terrifying due to the drop below), sometimes with the aid of a rope to steady yourself and for security. Fewer photographers have made this climb as most people drop all their equipment at the base of the mountain and spring up as unladen as possible. I would love to say that the view were amazing and the photographs mind-blowing. But we summited in a very cold cloud. The few glimpses we did get were incredible though, making the experience more than worth the hard work we put it, or as Chelsea, one of the photographers said while absailing the last rock band on return, “this is the coolest thing ever”!
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Which brings me to my point on photography. Take photos, take lots of them. Looking after the group I found myself not really peering through the viewfinder nearly enough as we made our way to the summit of the daunting Sentinel. It is sometimes difficult to remember, despite being a photographer, to lift the camera to you eye and grab a shot. And yes, I said grab. Most of time I’m harping on about being methodical, of carefully creating the image, but there are times when quick grab shots are better than none at all. This is one of my faults as a photographer. I am so concerned with crafting the image that I sometimes don’t try the shots that take a second to take. Here is where the beauty and joy of snap shot culture and post-visualisation really come into play. The spontaneous capture is sometimes far more valuable than the carefully crafted but relatively mundane photograph. Just look at the works of Gary Winograd as qualification on this.
Part of the problem is that digital photographers we just take so many images that we are almost daunted by pressing the shutter again as it means yet more work during the workflow later. As an example I am currently over a year behind on my personal and stock image processing. Having just entered the usual round of international photography competitions, I found myself struggling to find anything that was newer than 10 months, not because they weren’t there, but because they hadn’t been adequately processed (the images that go up on the blog are very often roughly processed during the workshop and nowhere near the final quality required of a major competition...the final processing comes much later for me than the workshop). The solution is relatively simple but very hard to implement; Be completely ruthless with your images when you are doing the initial edit and culling the duds. Where you used to cull 3, cull 10 instead. Keep the images that matter and ditch the dross. It’s the only way you can effectively more and still be able to process them. Saying this is a lot easier than doing it though (hard drive space ahoy!).
After a wonderful weekend it’s back to the world of clients and deadlines. I’ll post some images and thoughts on some of the work I have been doing soon. The lkast couple of weeks have been so active with different client shoots that I have barely had time to think about updating the blog, let alone actually doing it. But there will be a couple of pieces on painting with light and compositing final images based on the work that I have been doing for Lake Smit and Partners and Smeg in the near future. Until then, happy shooting!