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Photo Writing is the web version of the Photo Writing mini-magazine produced by Limephoto and Emil von Maltitz since 2010. As of 2015 it is now completely online. Feel free to browse through the articles and please leave comments in the comments section if you would like to engage with us.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Monotone Mountains - November Drakensberg Workshop

Getting back from Namibia I found myself hurled into commercial work - immediately photographing everything from windmills to recycled truck tyres. Reviews that were waiting in the wings also suddenly needed to be finished and my days were literally 3 hours too short to get everything done. Thrown into the middle of the end of year chaos, a quick Drakensberg workshop was like a visit to the doctor (or a zen garden possibly). My world found calm once more and I was able to breathe without thinking of deadlines, even if only for a few days.  2014 has been a hectic year with numerous workshops, a turgid financial start for most photographers I know and a sprint to the finish of December. As a result I found myself playing with image ideas that are different to my usual oeuvre - namely fiddling in monochrome.


Colour is how I usually perceive the world. Obviously this is how everyone sees the world, but I am talking about how colour manipulates our experience of the world around us. How it heightens our emotions when we visit a place. How, as a photographer I can be drawn to the interplay of colours and the way that light bounces off of them. Creating black and white imagery through overtly coloured interpretation of compositions is difficult for me. But, the end of the year is a time for introspection and in a sense this is my hitting the pause button and looking at work that I have produced to date.


I was joined on the workshop by four wonderful young photographers from the African Impact volunteer team up in Zululand. Together we visited the Cascades and Tugela Gorge while in Royal Natal, and then moved on towards Cathedral Peak to visit the always haunting Rainbow Gorge. The photography was wonderful and it was like a holiday being able to sit and talk imagery outside of the pressure of commercial photography. It's also incredibly uplifting talking to and seeing the images created by new aspirant photographers. I love job, but hearing other photographers also describe what they love about photography makes me love it even more.  

The weather wasn't always conducive to early mornings (maybe this was a blessing) as we found ourselves in thick cloud two morning out of the three. Thick enough that shooting in the early morning mist obscured so much detail that even silhouettes of trees were all but impossible. Each day the clouds burned off and we were able to shoot in wonderful soft light with misty drapes pulled over the peaks, but opening periodically to allow us views of the escarpment. 

It was on our second day that the mountains wreaked havoc with the plans of another group of walkers. Coming back from the Tugela Gorge an unfortunate hiker miss-stepped and broke her leg. Our group assisted as much as we could, so photography was sort of forgotten for a short while as we collected ice, arranged with parks board for ambulances and helped with the stretcher to get the hiker to safety. Events like this remind me how fickle the Drakensberg can be. Treat the Dragon with respect and tread carefully.

Playing with the black and white images may ultimately lead to something more fruitful. End of year introspection usually leads to the start of year slow down (here in South Africa) for commercial photography. Having the wonderful mountains so close at hand and being able to visit them with keen photographers is always an amazing salve for this period. Thanks to a great, and patient group, who joined me for an extremely enjoyable few days shooting the waters and peaks of the Drakensberg.

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