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!

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.

Don’t crash

I’m hoping to get some flight time in today. The weather forecast is looking good (I’m writing this ahead of time so that I have time to get some flight time in today) and I’m hoping to have much of the local coastline to myself in the traditional pre-December tourism lull in Cape Agulhas.

I got an email from DJI today (this today, not that today, as mentioned above). DJI is the company that made Florence the Mavic, so they know what they’re talking about when it comes to drones.

The email was divided up into four different sections: each with a link to a relevant webpage on their site:

DJI Go 4 Manual: The Pilot’s Handbook
Not sure what all those buttons do in DJI Go 4? Dive into our DJI 4 manual to learn ins and outs of DJI’s powerful, multi-purpose companion app.

Helpful advice for what is (necessarily) a rather complicated app.

5 Great Third-Party Mavic Pro Accessories
Looking for new add-ons to make your Mavic even more powerful? Read this article to discover five great Mavic accessories. 

An attempt to sell you more very cool, but very expensive, toys.

How to Make the Best of Your Drone Photo
Struggling to take good-looking drone photos? Check out this article and get one step closer to becoming a master of aerial photography.

You know from reading this blog that this is a never-ending learning experience and any help is good.

And then… this:

How to NOT Crash Your Drone in 15 Easy Steps
Even the bravest drone users worry about crashing. Here’s an article that can help you prevent accidents.

I like the emphasis on the NOT, as if you were considering any other options. And look, it’s a good idea for an article (albeit that it is written about the Phantom Pro, rather than the Mavic), but are there really fifteen separate steps you need to take to avoid the fiery demise of your drone?

Of course, it turns out that many of them refer simply to following the rules and using common sense (which you were doing anyway, right?).

Presumably, this means that if you follow the rules and use common sense, you’ll be fine. So that’s what I’ll do today.

First try

Let’s run you through the timeline here.

In January, I got the Mavic. And when the South-Easter had subsided for a few moments, I flew the Mavic and I took some photos. And then I took a lot more photos. And taking photos was rather fun and editing photos was rather straightforward, because I had taken and edited photos previously.

Videos, though? Videos were much harder. Not only had I never really shot or edited videos before, but I also had to learn to try and fly the Mavic at the same time. And that was basically too much stuff for my small brain to handle in one go.
Thus, I was dealing with poor quality footage and basically no skill: really not a great combination. Oh, and to add insult to that poor quality footage and basically no skill, the Mavic’s output was so good (in digital terms) and so big that my computer couldn’t handle it.

And so, a new computer and a some new editing software was called for. And that’s how I ended up with a new laptop with more RAMs, and a subscription to Adobe Premiere Pro (“Pro”? Me? Lol!) CC 2018. It should be noted that I still don’t have much good footage to go with these sparkly new additions yet, because only now I have them do I see what sort of good footage I need.

So, with all those disclaimers piling up against the door so that I don’t have to face the slings and arrows of outrageous criticism, here’s some footage that I shot on our Orange River trip back in April, hastily cobbled together and popped onto Youtube. Do watch it in one of the 3 different HD options, because the Mavic does HD very nicely.

I’d like to think that my flying skills have improved quite a lot since I shot this back in April. And I’d also like to think that my editing skills will also improve with more practice and better raw material.

So this goes down as a benchmark. Something to look back on in n months or years and see how far I have come. To that end, please be gentle: I, more than anyone else, recognise that this is far from perfect. If it was perfect, then I would be wasting my time trying to improve, wouldn’t I?

Just an image

You’ve had almost 1000 words over the last couple of days, on subjects as diverse as a local sign and a local sign. Thank goodness Thursday’s post wasn’t also about a local sign. That would show a distinct lack of imagination on my part.

Awkward.

Anyway, it’s trying my keyboard and probably your patience, too.
So here’s something shorter and less signeseque.

It’s a different view of Beau Constantia, Constantia Glen and across the Cape Flats from several (or more) metres above Constantia Nek. See it better presented here.

We had a great time at Constantia Glen last weekend, with good friends, good views and superb wine.
The rest of the weekend was fun too – here are the photos.