Still smiling

This won’t be the best photo you’ll ever see.

Far from it.

Many (if not all) of the photos that I post on here won’t be the best photo you’ll ever see, but that doesn’t really matter to me. I’ve been trying to take a shot of some lightning for ages. Yesterday evening, it finally happened and I’m still smiling.

Look, this isn’t my life’s mission; it’s not like I go around hunting storms in order to take photos, and I’m not going to immediately retire from my non-existent photography career just because I took it [audience groans].
But after 236 attempts last night alone, I finally got lucky and got this:

Treat yourself to it bigger on black for the full effect.

Having given up round the back of the house (because this), I was actually just about ready to give up around the front as well as the storm moved off to the south. But I persisted, lying under a convenient shrub to avoid the worst of the rain. And when I realised that one of the closer bolts of lightning had (for once) coincided with one of my exposures and actually in the right direction, I was over the moon.

There are better photos of lightning. Maybe even better photos of lightning taken last night. But I didn’t take them.

I took this one though, and I’m still smiling.

Look North

What to do when your son is invited to a birthday party on that side of the mountain and you have a couple of hours to kill? Head down to the local beach and take some photos, of course.

It wasn’t the best day weather-wise, so the photos must reflect the drama and the moodiness of the prevailing conditions. White sand, grey skies, black mountains: it was almost monochrome, so that’s what I worked with. I’ve only had chance to edit and upload a couple of images so far, but this one defines the afternoon quite nicely:

See it bigger and better on black here.

I have ordered a new ND filter for the camera, but I won’t actually get it until June (it was 4x more expensive in SA than in the UK, so I’m picking it up when I get over there). In the meantime, I’m limited (even on grey days like today) to 1/8″ – so that sea should be smoother. Still, I do kind of like it.

I’ll pop a link up to the other images I took today once there’s something to actually link to.
Aaaaaand… it’s here!

On Flickr Explore

I’m on Flickr. I’ve been on Flickr for well over 10 years.
I have never made it onto Explore.

What is Explore?” I hear you ask…

Users who aspire to the ultimate level of recognition within the Flickr community will certainly become aware of something called Explore. Explore is a daily stream (viewed by thousands of people) of the top 500 photos as selected by Flickr’s “interestingness” algorithm.

Explore is somewhere I go to view some of the best photos uploaded in the last 24 hours. And it’s good that they cut them down to 500 because going through all 25,000,000 daily uploads would be a bit of a pain.

And there are some absolute gems in there, as there should be with a 99.998% rejection rate. But it’s clear that there is a huge difference between “bestness” and that intriguing but ultimately flawed “interestingness” algorithm. I mean, look at this from this morning:

Nine wonky photos of school buses? Is that really the best we could do?

Those images made it in to Explore simply because about 20 people clicked the “favourite” button on them. Evidently, the school bus spotting fraternity in the US had been waiting for something to get excited about for… well… quite a while. And then nine came all at once*.

How ironic.

I’d love to get onto Explore: photography, after all, is meant to be seen. And every view increases the potential of more of this kind of thing. I like this kind of thing.

There’s a good thread about Explore here, and there are plenty of sites around where people with far more time than me have looked at common features of Explored photos and kindly shared them with us. Apparently, things that can influence your chances include the time of your upload, how many followers you have, whether you pay $25 to be a member each year etc etc etc.

It’s taken me no time to work out that if I am going to get Explored any time soon, I need to make some fairly radical changes to how I use Flickr. I’m not there just yet.

 

* and there are over 5000 more where they came from…

A fire

I was heading back up towards the homestead from the magnificence of the Claremont CBD with the boy yesterday evening when we spotted some smoke (lots of smoke) billowing up from somewhere local. Well, we could have gone straight home, or we could have gone fire-chasing.

We went fire-chasing.

Since this had been a quick trip down to a local fitness centre, mostly populated by children, I hadn’t brought my camera with me. It’s just not the done thing. But that was a bit of a drawback when we inadvertently went fire-chasing. Still, I think my phone did ok, all things considered.

The fire was in Trovato Park, just above where the M3 goes over the top of Edinburgh Drive. There’s quite a population of homeless folk that live there, and the fire crews present were certainly of a mind that they were the cause of the blaze. It had taken on the dry grass and pine needles very quickly, and had leapt up the trunks of at least three of the trees in the park.

That said, it wasn’t much of a blaze and was already under control when we got there. The smoke was more of an “all mouth and no trousers” affair, although with the sun heading down over the mountain, it did allow for some nice shots through the trees, and prime Instagram fodder.

You can see my mini set of 9 very similar images* here.

 

* because of the nature of what I was ‘togging, it was rather difficult to get any other angles. I would have got burny feet syndrome. 

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!