Thursday 19 November 2009

The Kalahari - where your tired soul can find rest, red sand and respite...

Hi everyone...

As promised, I've got a lot of catching up to do on trips I've done in the past year!

In September 2009 we were fortunate enough to go on a marvellous 8-day trip to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park in South Africa. This unique National Park straddles the border between South Africa, Namibia and Botswana, and you can actually enter it from either of these countries.

The Kalahari is a funny place...if you've never been there, you wonder what makes people go back there time after time and can't figure out what the hype is about. But - if you've been there - you keep finding your heart aching to get back there, gaze upon its red sand and endless skies, and drink in the thundering silence.

The sunsets were just fantastic - glorious splashes of light falling onto a piece of earth that reflects it beautifully.

The first clouds of spring rain were building up during one morning of our trip, but unfortunately for the fauna and flora it never really rained that week - although the turbulent clouds made for some dramatic contrasts against the red sand and golden grass...

The cornerstone of life in the Kalahari is the Camelthorn tree...this tree provides life and sustenance and much-needed soil minerals to many of the animals which call this arid semi-desert home. You will see it standing solitary against a dune in the photo above, and also in the shot below as the road leads you between two of them.

As you can see in these photos - the clouds can be really something in the Kalahari...and as a landscape photographer this really helps you fill the frame with elements that engage the viewer's eye, and in some cases, serve as leading lines to lead you through the image.

At sunrise and sunset the clouds also help to capture and reflect that sweet golden light that every photographer hunts after. This sunrise shot was taken early one morning behind our tent:

The beauty about HDR photography is that it's not limited to only landscape shots for example...I have and am still continuing to explore new ways to apply this to the kind of shots I find myself taking. My first love photographically has always been wildlife - and it was only obvious that I should start dabbling with wildlife HDR shots.

As an example - here is a shot taken on the dunes in the Kgalagadi one evening as the sun set behind a herd of grazing oryx.

As this blog progresses I will show you more of what I mean when applying this to different areas of photography such as wildlife photography...

Thanks for reading, and keep watching this space...! :)


Monday 16 November 2009

Storms on the Highveld...

Most of you who've been to the Highveld of South Africa know what it's like. Endless rolling plains and knolls - green in the summer and brown in the winter. Lots of power lines, pylons, smoke stacks and eucalyptus trees (which is an intruder species in South Africa by the way).

But what you can also find on the Highveld, especially in spring and early summer, are enormous thunderstorms. And I do mean some mean storms.

I happen to live in a town called Secunda on the Highveld region of Mpumalanga, and went out to a nearby farm the other day to do some landscape photography amidst the brewing of another belter of a storm.

This particular farm offers some respite in terms of just seeing the power lines and power plants on all sides on the horizon, particularly since there are old ruins standing there. As the rain started pelting me (I had to keep wiping the lens clean), I had a great time trying different compositions and takes on the scenery around. The grass is already quite green from the continuous rain.

The clouds opened for a brief respite in the distance, and I took my shot:

I love how these ruins stand against the storm, weathered and worn, but withstanding for another year, until gradually the elements take their toll and all the man-made clutter starts to fade away.

I've always said that if I had a farm, it would be in the bushveld or the Kalahari...but being on this farm made me realise - any darn ol' piece of land to call my own outside of the confines of a town or city would be just FINE!!

I walked around some more since the rain was only coming down in spontaneous droplets crashing into my face every 10 seconds or so...(made me think of Forrest Gump, the legend, talking about "big ole fat rain"). There was a cattle pen nearby in which a lovely whitish-grey horse was trotting around listlessly, with its reign (made of nylon ski rope) dangling loosely in the sweltering wind.

As I saw this beautiful animal within the small pen - the wires around it being easily clearable with a single jump - and its reign flapping in the wind, it made me wonder how comfortable we've become in our 'cages', knowing freedom is just within reach, yet being fearful to take the 'leap' because we do so love the comfort of our chains and boundaries...hence this photo was born, one of my favourites - entitled FREEDOM...

I will leave you at that for now...some more interesting shots to be seen from this location, as I continue to explore Southern Africa in High Dynamic Range.......

Welcome to SAFFAscapes...


Hi everyone, and welcome to the SAFFAscapes Photo Blog...

I find myself constantly traveling to various parts of Southern Africa, either on holiday, on business or for the heck of it...

My fascination with photography in general, and more recently with HDR photography as a medium, has spurred me to start this blog to showcase the awesome natural beauty of God's creation as seen in Southern Africa, conveyed through the art of HDR photography.

Now you might as...what is HDR photography??? Quite simply put, it is a modern technique in digital photography whereby we attempt to convey a scene in a way that more resembles what the human eye would have seen if you were there with me. Oftentimes you stand with a lookout on a magnificent vista, taking it all in and being awed by it - but when showing the photo to your friends after explaining the grandeur of it all, they just don't seem as awed as you would've wanted them to be....which is understandable given that the human eye can take in considerably more light and dynamic range than a camera can with just a single exposure.

Onto the scene comes HDR - High Dynamic Range - photography. Now, you take a few different exposures of the same scene (read TRIPOD or STEADY HAND ;)), exposing each time for a different part of the scene (e.g. the sun/sky, the background, the foreground) to get the most dynamic detail out of each section of the scene. Finally, you blend them together to create a combined picture that brings together the best parts of your different exposures.


Let's take an example.

Me and my wife and a couple of our friends were very privileged to be able to hike the Fish River Canyon in Namibia earlier this year (May 2009). Before starting our hike, we set off to the main view point to take in all we can of the magnificent view of the Canyon.

I took a photo of the scene we saw. It was quite hazy, and it was raining over the far reaches of the canyon. The colours and textures of the rocks were amazing. Somehow, the single photo just doesn't do it it is (with some basic tweaks in Photoshop):

Now, you can see just how hazy the camera made it look - but in fact we saw much more than that - our eyes allowed us to see fine detail in the canyon and also cut through the haze to see into the distance.

Here is the final result of my HDR blending (and some other tweaks in Photoshop)

I'm sure you can see the difference. There are actually many ways to produce an HDR image. Many people prefer doing manual blending using gradient masks in Photoshop, while others prefer Photomatix, an app specifically developed for HDR imaging. I tend to use both, depending on the shot and the end-result I envisage. In this example, I used Photomatix to create a full-blown surrealistic HDR, and blended this back with the original shot in Photoshop to enhance the details and colours of the brooding clouds and the eroded earth.

Well - that's an overiew of what I want to accomplish/share with this blog. There are some developments coming up (which I'll share later) which will allow me to travel much more and hopefully make many interesting additions to this blog.

I already have so many images and experiences to share from our trips during the past if you would like to read and view some more, please subscribe and go on this journey of our wonderful part of the continent with me...

You are especially welcome if you currently live/work abroad and just need that intermittent reminder of where you come from...:)


Morkel Erasmus