The Kalk Bay Photo Story

Since there were no World Cup matches yesterday, we made the bold move to go out for dinner in a restaurant without any big screens. Or even any small screens, as it turned out. Obviously, this wasn’t hugely important, since there was nothing worthwhile to watch on the screens and that in turn was great news because the screens weren’t there anyway.
The restaurant in question was Harbour House in Kalk Bay – housed in a building which is perched on the rocks at the dry end end of the working harbour’s breakwater – and the views from its lofty elevation are superb. Even at night, which it was when we got there. Harbour House was working tirelessly to use up what remains of South Africa’s meagre electricity resources by shining a 1500w floodlight onto some rocks. The practice of illuminating bedrock is an expensive luxury and it struck me that the upcoming 25% increase in electricity tariffs across Cape Town probably accounted for their rather inflated prices for prawns.
However, on the upside, the prawns were superb and one could see the waves crashing onto the rocks below while eating them.

It was beautiful. I was inspired to create.
And that’s where the problems started.

After a couple of beers and a banging double espresso, I felt suitably charged to step out into the night air, most of which was moving very quickly in a north-westerly direction. This is not an unusual phenomenon in Cape Town and didn’t trouble me greatly. Around me, more touristy types were being blown into the water through a lack of awareness: braving a Cape SouthEaster is a acquired skill and the learning curve is steep like a harbour wall.

Wandering down onto the quayside and ignoring the wailing and splashing, I set up the camera to grab a couple of shots of the trawlers moored in the picturesque harbour. I didn’t have a tripod with me and so I was relying on the numerous walls and ledges around the place to give me suitable vantage points.
Shooting at night can be tricky. When I say “shooting”, I don’t actually mean “shooting”; I mean “taking photographs”. In fact, I actually mean “taking good photographs”.
Taking photographs at night isn’t hard at all: utilising a similar protocol to taking photographs during the day, one merely has to press a button on the camera. Much like actually shooting (as in with a firearm) isn’t any more difficult during the hours of darkness either. Interestingly – in both disciplines – accuracy is key; although a lack of it may have drastically differing consequences.

Anyway, shooting at night can be tricky. This is mainly because it’s pretty dark and so you have to look very carefully to see what you’re actually about to take a picture of. I’m sure that there is a way round this (like Harbour House’s floodlight, for example), but I haven’t found it yet. This meant that I found myself leaning here, kneeling there and generally contorting my body into the most unusual positions in order to see what I was taking pictures of. At one point, I got seawater on my jeans and I rested my arm in a puddle from the rain earlier in the day, but that didn’t matter because dampened limbs or not, the alcohol, the caffeine and the cooling blast of the wind were fueling my creativity to new levels and I was shouting through the wind at the trawlers like some mad fashion ‘tog:

“Work it baby! Show me some more mast! OhMyGod!
Just LOVING that hull – give me more, give me more, sweetie!”

It was only when I joined my fellow diners in the car for the journey back to the relative meteorological sanity of the Southern Suburbs that it became evident that what I thought were puddles of water, weren’t.
They were puddles of fish blood complete with lumpy bits. Lumpy bits that were now all over my clothes.

Fish gut has a rather unpleasant smell which one really doesn’t notice when one is standing in 50kph winds, but which rapidly becomes very noticeable in a Renault Scenic. This leads me to announce an important scientific discovery: If you’re in a gale and you want to find out how you smell, get into a French car. (Further research into other makes and models will not be following).
Winding the windows down didn’t improve the comfort levels for anyone (9°C, 100 kph up the M3) and I was immediately unpopular. But was it really my fault?

Yes, Kalk Bay is a working harbour, but couldn’t the workers at least clean up after themselves a bit? Hose the place down before heading home? Do they not realise that the pretty harbour area will attract people wanting to get some nice photos for their flickr stream? In the dark and the wind? Where you can’t see or smell the danger until it’s too late?


I have showered twice – once in water, once in a 2% Domestos mix. All my clothes have been discarded into the washing machine and I threw my shoes straight into the bin as soon as I got home. So why is the smell of fish gut still haunting my nostrils?

I just hope the measly four photos I got were worth it…

UPDATE: Cape Town Tourism think so.