In my bag

Well, not actually my bag, but that of Canadian photographer, vlogger and all-round nice guy Peter McKinnon. Last night, he released a video just ahead of a(nother) trip abroad showing us exactly what equipment he was taking with him:

I have to say that I’m a bit jealous. He has a lot of lovely kit. But then, he is a professional photographer. I’m not. I’m a professional microbiologist and yes, I have some great lab equipment. But there are times (many of them) when I’d much rather be travelling all over the world with my drone and some very, very expensive cameras and lenses than poking TB in the laboratory.

And, while we’re on this envy trip, can I just point out Peter’s irritatingly amazing abilities in photo and video editing? “Hashtag goals”.

I was busy writing this post when suddenly, as if to complete the trifecta of covetousness, he casually dropped this tweet this morning:

[6000 mutters several (or more) swear words under his breath]

Given his talent and that place, we’re likely to get some very special images in the near future. Something I’m really looking forward to.

It’s still sickening though.

We went to Theewaterskloof

Theewaterskloof being the biggest dam supplying Cape Town with water.
And we weren’t alone. Because Drought Tourism is a thing.

Some TWK stats for you from Wikipedia:
Total capacity: 480 406 000 m³
(for lovers of comparisons, that’s about 15 times the size of Ladybower Reservoir in the UK)
Catchment area: 500 km²
Surface area: 5 059 ha

Of course, that’s what it should be like. It’s not like that at the moment.

Theewaterskloof is divided quite neatly into 2 halves by the R321 bridge.

Most of my photos (link below) were taken from near the red dot (just left of centre) on the map above. Those of the dam wall and associated infrastructure were taken near the green dot (bottom right).

And while there is still some water in the Eastern (lower) half, the Western (upper) half is one big – very big – sandpit. Of course, we knew this before we headed out there, but it was still a wholly shocking sight and nothing (including my photos, I fully admit) prepares you for – or allows you to grasp – the sheer scale of what you’re confronted with.

What you’re looking at here is the only water in the “top” half of the dam. The water is about 100m wide at its widest point, and that sounds ok, until you realise that the far side of the dam is over 5km away. Aside from that 100m strip, it’s all just sand. And laterally, there’s almost another 6km to the left that should also be covered in water. But there’s none. Nothing at all.

And everywhere you look, dead trees. Usually they’d be submerged, but they’re high, dry and seemingly petrified. It’s weird: very disconcerting, yet also strangely beautiful.
It’s like every photo you’ve seen from the Namibian Tourist Board.

I’m not going to be like that “vlogger” and tell you how much water we’re “losing” through the outflow from the dam wall, and how the coffee and chocolate farmers of the region are “stealing” “Cape Town’s water”.
I’m not going to ask you how much water you’re using: if you’re in Cape Town, you should know that already, and if you’re not in Cape Town, then it really doesn’t matter to me.
And I’m not expecting my photos or words to effect any change in anyone. If you’re not panicking even just a little bit by now, too few blue pixels on a computer screen aren’t going to make any difference to you.

But even for a realist like me, it was a very sobering sight.

On a more practical note, photography was incredibly difficult. The light was completely overwhelming, there was nowhere high nearby to get a decent vantage point, and what should have been water is now just a wide open space with no landmarks to get any sort of scale or perspective.
Even the Mavic up at 120m struggled to take it all in. No wonder NASA used a satellite.

Theewaterskloof is very, very big, and it’s very, very empty.
Consequently, it’s my humble opinion that we should all be very, very worried.

Photos on Flickr here. Video to follow.
And hey, if you’re the guy who chatted to me on the dam wall this afternoon and asked where he could see my drone photos, you made it. Welcome!

Casey back in Cape Town

Celebrity vlogger Casey Neistat has been back to Cape Town, and in what I hope is merely a short teaser video ahead of a more thorough vlog, he documents his trip from NYC before sharing some typically astounding local (to us, anyway) video footage.

Yep. That’s Cape Town: moderately difficult to get to; totally worth it once you arrive.

 

P.S. Please bring water. Thanks.

No apology

I wish I was still on holiday. I’ve been back at work for 12 days already, but the vacation vibes don’t seem to be subsiding at all.

This weekend didn’t help. With well-publicised nonsense and criminality in the city and with the conversation revolving almost solely around the ever more likely appearance of Day Zero, the azure waters and sun-soaked beaches of Cape Agulhas seemed like a very good place to be. And to stay.

Sadly, of course, it can’t be. Our lives are here in Cape Town: home, work, school, dessicated garden. But I want to relive the morning I spent hovering 120m over the rocks and just watching my HD display.

And so I shall:

I’ll be honest, it’s not helping. And that’s mainly because when I look out of the window of the dull, grey laboratory, all I see is dull, grey skies.

Tomorrow evening I have to reset my alarm to basically the middle of the night so the kids can get to school on time.

The traffic will be back. Properly back.

And my front sausage has got a hole in its side – just from exposure to the sun and general wear and tear, I think.

So yeah, I make no apology for being a bit bleugh this morning and for attempting to live vicariously through this weekend’s aerial photographic revelries.

Right. Back to work.

[sound of faint sobbing continues]

Some more flight

Yesterday was an incredible day for flying the Mavic*. It’s now just about a year since I got this machine and the technology still blows me away every time I use it. I’ve flown over 140km in that time, in three different countries, desperately trying to improve my piloting and photography techniques each time I’m taken it up, and having a lot of fun along the way.

Here’s one from earlier:

What a day. What a place.

When I look back to the earliest photos I took, and remember how utterly terrifying those first flights were – very much like one’s first driving lessons – it’s almost amusing. I have much more confidence now (obviously) and measure my flight distances in km rather than 10s of metres. 🙂

Still room for improvement though. Always room for improvement!

Here are yesterday’s photos taken in and around beautiful Suiderstrand in Cape Agulhas.

 

* today may also be a good day, but I’m writing this yesterday, so I just don’t know yet.