About this Blog

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.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Winter Wonderland...well not quite.

It snowed. Tons of the fluffy white stuff landed on the Witteberge mountains. Sadly it dusted, or rather completely whitened, the landscape a good few days prior to the winter mountain photography workshop near Barkly East in the charming Millard Lodge. A few of the peaks still held their scattering of snow, beautifully highlighting the mountain tops at dusk, but the primary load was already soaking into the ground by the time the photographers had arrived and unpacked their gear (some of us did manage to see a fair amount on Barkly Pass though).
The winter mountain photography workshop, an inaugural workshop organised by the highly professional Wild Mountain Adventures, was meant to be as intense a workshop as can be found. This it most certainly was as we braved the icy chills of the Witteberge in order to be in place for the rising sun each day. This meant predawn wake-ups followed by curses as warm bodies felt the below zero air (Friday, minus 10 Centigrade, Saturday minus 3 and Sunday minus 5). Friday morning was so cold that the diesel in our car froze! Numerous locations allowed for some great photo ops around the mountainous valleys of the Witteberge, for as long as we could manage the icy conditions. It was with some surprise that we noticed that small puddles froze solid during the course of our star trail shoot on Sunday night.
Icy shoots were mixed with post-processing sessions where limbs could thaw as images were imported and tweaked for the photo crit sessions. Some wonderful images came out of the shoots, with just about everyone walking away with some quality imagery.
A quick word on some of the locations: At the top of Lundean’s Nek on the old Transkei border, a wrecked blue Valiant became a fantastic subject for a painting with light tutorial. The thawed snow had soaked into the ground to make the small hollow where the car-cass lay an icy bog. Tripods shifted gently in the mud as we pranced around the old hulk with bright LED headlamps. Eventually the cold and wet drove us back into warm cars and the drive to a piping hot supper at Millard Lodge.
The early morning rise that found us watching the sun rise and light up the flanks of a mountain above Glengyle Farm tested therigidity of all the tripods present. Gusting wind cut through multiple layers of clothing and shook the aluminium legs that supported the cameras. Miraculously a large number of the 2-10 second exposures came out crisp and sharp. The stone monument to the generations of Glengyle farmers that lay around the sandstone outcrop created a fascinating landscape study for the lenses that were trained on it. The image here used a combination of long exposure, neutral density grads and a burst of LED headlight to paint in the rocks in the foreground.
The astounding view of the Karringmelkspruit gorge (a secret location so if you want to take a look at this beauty you’ll have to contact Kate at Wild Mountain Adventures) meant for yet another early morning rise in the frigid cold so as to complete a 1 hour drive in order to get into position in time. Golden light striking the orange and yellow sandstone gorge makes it all worth it though.
Many thanks for a great weekend workshop to Julie, Heleen, Kobus, Kenji and Mike.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Gone with the wind – June Drakensberg Experience

Howl it did this last weekend in the Drakensberg. Weather forecasts put it as “winds gusting at 30-40km per hour”. It certainly felt like more clinging to the icy rungs of the Chainladder, some 20m up a vertical face of rock. However, my maxim proved itself once more...horrible weather makes for great pictures.

This month we had 5 photographers taking part in the Drakensberg Photography Workshop. 5 cold photographers hailing from England (Helena), Malaysia (Mei), Germany (Carolin), Israel (Bar) and France (Sonia – who was only really disappointed by France being thrashed in their rugby game against South Africa on Saturday). Thanks to an early arrival in Royal Natal on Friday morning, we were all able to hoist camera equipment onto our backs and head straight out towards the Tunnel at the end of the Tugela Gorge.

Thanks to unseasonal rain and a good deal of snowmelt, the Tugela River was flowing strongly from the mountain. So much so that the river in the tunnel was a good 5 inches higher than last month. This meant stripping boots and braving the icicle like water to capture the light and flowing water inside the smooth sandstone walls of the Tunnel. Whoops and shrieks met the bone shatteringly cold water as the photographers waited out their 30 second long exposures. Despite this Bar, explaining that Israelis as a matter of necessity because of their sheer lack of it back home, took a dunk in the water. The rest of us went practically hyperthermic just watching her!

The star attraction though is always the last day as we wend our way up the steep zigzags below Sentinel Peak to the Chain Ladder and beyond. Icy winds buffeted us as we donned headlamps and set out in the dark to make it to the Witches viewpoint for sunrise. Halfway between the summit and the gorge below, waiting for the sun to peak over the horizon is a magical experience indeed. The little sliver of red slowly grows to an orb and then almost flashes into a blinding orange. Light seems to flow like water as the valleys below gradually change from black into golden browns and greens. The inky silhouette of Devil’s Tooth and its Toothpick take on detail as the sun throws shafts of light into their craggy gullies. Fingers numbed by the cold warm up instantly. Occasionally I enjoy sitting back and just enjoying the moment, but as a photographer I get as much joy working the camera, allowing the rising sun to paint it’s magic onto the camera’s sensor.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Orphus, the Greek God of testicles...ummmm

Not really, but this is what one of this month’s students explained, the orchid was named after. This is one of the things I love about teaching photography through workshops. The extremely diverse range of people that I meet enriches not only my time as a teacher, but actually improves my photography as well. There’s nothing like being stimulated by photographers who have only just discovered the joys of this incredible pastime...hobby...calling...vocation – whatever it happens to be for them. And of course there are always bags of humour to temper the intensive learning atmosphere that often characterizes a photography workshop.

As is usual at the beginning of each month, I shot up to St Lucia to do a beginners digital photography workshop for African Impact. The photographers are usually from outside of South Africa, and once more I found myself surrounded by a veritable security council of photogs – Israel, Germany, Britain, France and even my first student from Malaysia (thanks to all for yet another fantastic week of photography).

Unseasonal weather this month followed by a day long power outage (right during the post-processing portion of the course) kept the photographers on their toes. Although longs spells of rain dampened some of the photography, clouds meant for some fantastic cloudscapes and golden light in the early and late hours of the days. As per usual, my feeling that horrible weather has what one might call a photographic silver lining rang tue.

Something that I noted though, was the lack of tripods. This seems to always be an issue, so I am taking it upon myself to start a campaign in aid of our three-legged assistants. If you are reading this and have already received ‘Photo-Writing’ Newsletter then you are forgiven and are already on your way to tripod enlightenment. If you haven’t please subscribe on my website and I’ll send you the first section of a multi-segment piece on choosing a tripod (eventually I’ll post it as a full article on the website).

The point being here is that not enough photographers use their tripods, or worse, don’t even own one. Almost as bad, they might have one in their possession but it happens to be the type that gets given away in Christmas crackers (the photographic variety ;-) ). If I look at my successful stock photographs, the ones that put food in the pot, about 60-65% percent of them have been taken with the use of a tripod. In my opinion this should be one of the first steps toward improving one’s photography, getting the support necessary for your camera.

Back to the workshop – my little diatribe on tripods obviously rang a bell as this month’s St Lucia photographers ran scurrying for tripods (some are fedexing them from home). Considering the material that presents itself to be photographed these are just about essential. The campaign has begun...today St Lucia, tomorrow the world.