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Monthly Archives: Sep 2018

Rogge Cloof Private Sutherland Estate Photography Workshop – August 2018

Rogge Cloof Private Sutherland Estate Photography August 2018 Workshop Craig Fouché Photography in proud association with Rogge Cloof Private Sutherland Estate, an upmarket, exceptional standards establishment reserve near Sutherland, presented their first astrophotography, landscape and wildlife workshop for 2018 at Rogge Cloof Private Sutherland Estate. Here we had the opportunity to photograph the night skies, landscapes and wildlife on the reserve. My photography workshop clients came from as far as Pretoria and Cape Town to learn Milky Way and night sky photography while exploring South Africa ’s finest and darkest skies in the Upper Karoo near Sutherland – South Africa’s premier night photography destination. The group ranged from absolute novice to professional. The main thrust of the workshop was astrophotography, with landscapes and wildlife as an added extra. The weather played the game with us, and in true style, Sutherland teamed up with Jack Frost and Ice Maiden and breathed their frigid, bone-chilling atmosphere upon us. It was bitterly cold and lenses frosted up at 01h30 in the morning whilst shooting crystal clear milky way compositions! A week prior to the workshop, Sutherland had been blanketed in a canvas of white, much to my delight, as I was hoping for Milky Way images over a snow-capped landscape. Since the workshop, we have since experienced three snowfalls in the region and surrounds! Cryogenic Reflections Day 1: Arriving at Rogge Cloof Private Sutherland Estate, it was frigid, to say the least, and there were clouds about. This is the last thing you need when shooting night skies. Clouds can, however, create interesting long exposure images during night sky photography. My experience with Sutherland weather is that it is always subject to change, one moment there may be clouds, a little while later it is bound to change. I was not troubled by this and shared that with my clients. As with anything, you can plan and prepare for all scenarios, but have no control over the weather. This is something you need to accept with and be creative with what's sent your way. At the reception, we had some coffee and snacks and a lovely large fire to warm us up; each client was given a branded Craig Fouché Photography beanie for the cold nights ahead. We were introduced and briefed for the evening shoot. André of Rogge Cloof Private Sutherland Estate enthusiastically and entertainingly shared information on their wines that they have on sale. A brief wine tasting was had, and guests each bought a few bottles of wine for the cold. We had to depart timeously for our accommodation in "The Village" on the reserve, to settle in and prepare for the sunset shoot and night sky photography that lay ahead of us. Locations were pointed out, camera settings discussed, and final preparations for the night shoot were put in place.  A few lovely sunsets were captured, after which we returned for some heartwarming farm style soup made in true Karoo fashion. Sunset Planning Milky Way Planning We later made ready to shoot the Milky Way where I was on hand to assist with either light painting or advice. Day 2: The following morning I was up early, and those that wanted to join, did so, and we captured some very interesting frosty images. The sun rose and it felt as if it was getting colder as it peeped over the mountains and Salpeterkop, a now extinct volcano in the distance. Jack Frost seemed to refuse to want to relinquish his icy grip over us, and Ice Maiden sighed deeply over the landscape! Crispy, crunching, cold snapping sounds resonated under the soles of our shoes as with each step we scouted out our photographic compositions. Ice Maiden's Breath Breakfast was at 08h30 at the Pear House. After breakfast, some editing was done, where I was on hand to assist or offer advice. Some of the guests opted to explore the reserve on a morning game drive. Editing (Cell Phone Shot) Lunch was served at around 13h00 and those that wanted an afternoon nap had one. For the evening, we prepared to have dinner at the Rogge Brood restaurant at reception. Our subject shoot was one of two windmills close to reception. This had to be an early shoot as the Milky Way was rather high in the sky. We shot from shortly into golden hour until after dark. Dominique Cook, an absolute novice, astounded me with an amazing panoramic shot shoot captured at that location. After helping her set up, she photographed the windmill and decided to look in the opposite direction towards the restaurant, and capture that scene before her. Die Burger - 17 August 2018 She ended up with a truly stellar image incorporating the Milky Way; the gegenschein (which is a faintly bright spot in the night sky, around the antisolar point. The backscatter of sunlight by interplanetary dust causes this optical phenomenon); Jupiter rising with the zodiacal light and a shooting star! She later went on to submit this 18 image stitched panorama in Die Burger; a South-African, Afrikaans national newspaper who was running a competition until the end of August 2018. We await the results of this submission and have wished her the very best. This just goes to show that anyone is capable of capturing amazing images under the right guidance and instruction and allowing the person to bring their own creativity into the mix. Dominique Cook has done just that! Zodiacal Light Over Rogge Cloof - Dominique Cook ©2018   We then returned to our accommodation, where I took my clients to another windmill which has great scope for capturing reflections in the water trough. Conditions had changed, and the wind had picked up. This did not afford anyone that opportunity to be able to capture that shot which I had previously captured during my preparation for the workshop. Clouds had started to roll in too. It's Raining Stars, Rogge Cloof, Sutherland, South-Africa I had a further look at Photopills, an exceptional app for all photographers, and one that you shouldn't be without, to see where the Milky Way would be positioned for the last subject of the night: The Shepherd's Hut. It was already cold, and some were feeling that and decided to call it a night around 22h00, satisfied with the images they captured. I was prepared for a final magical Milky Way and met Kim around midnight for the final night sky shoot. By this time it was already -6ºc, and later dropped to -10ºc, the clouds had all gone! We ended finding different compositions at this spot, varying from light painting to wide panoramas. Our lenses were icing up. Icicles on my moustache were melting and forming under each breath. It was still so bone-snapping cold, in spite of me wearing seven layers clothing!! The Milky Way and Mars Over The Shepherds Hut The rewards were so worthwhile as you can see from the image above. In the end, and I am so glad we persevered through that. I crawled into bed around 02h30, to wake up at 05h00 to meet with Nigel for a blue hour shoot. Day 3: The blue hour is a special time of the day. Most people are not even aware of the blue hour, yet focus on sunset and golden hour instead. Nigel and my wife Dominique joined me for this special time of the day. Just as well as the golden hour that followed was just as special. The previous morning was an appointment with Jack Frost and Ice Maiden; this morning they were nowhere to be found. Being at the right place and the right time, seizing the moment is what it is all about. You may not have that opportunity come your way again. Blue Hour Over The Dam Cottage After shooting this scene, we explored other subjects, and I was on hand to help both Dominique and Nigel with settings and advice. Golden hour was exceptional this morning. The glowing reds and oranges of the sunkissed trees and mountainside popped and painted a whole new scene before our eyes. This was truly a magical time. Golden Hour Over The Village As quickly as it came, quickly it went, and the morning transformed into day. We met again for breakfast at 08h30, and those that wanted to leave earlier did so. The workshop was a success as you can see from the images captured. It was very cold, and that adds to the experience and the quality of the images captured. Our next workshop is being held on 9-11 November 2018, seats are already been filled. There are still slots available, book now to avoid disappointment. I would like to thank everyone who participated in the workshop, my wife Dominique for her support and managing the unseen background essentials of the workshop and for assisting me. Everyone came away with something from the workshop. To Nikon South-Africa for the loan of the Nikon D850, what game changer and superb camera body! Thank you Rogge Cloof for such a superb venue!   Book Here For The Next Workshop The next workshop runs from 9-11 November 2018, you too can learn to photograph the night skies as above. You don't even need to own a camera, there is a 20% Outdoorphoto / ODP camera gear discount voucher available to those that book. There is also a further 30% discount on offer for the printing of your images on canvas from sizes A1-A3 at Kodak SuperFoto Worcester. T&C's apply. Click now on the button to book for this exciting workshop and for more information! BOOK NOW   Dominique Cook


Hantam and Roggeveld – Crazy Daisy and Bitterly Cold

Hantam and Roggeveld - Crazy Daisy and Bitterly Cold   Crazy Daisy - Willemsrivier Farm, Nieuwoudtville, South Africa Hantam and Roggeveld Crazy Daisy puts away her nakedness once a year and dons on her best ballgown of many colours for Spring. She fills the air with her perfume, if only for a while. She intoxicates, dazzles and bewilders us. As quickly as she prepares herself for the ball, so quickly does the evening disappear and she returns to be a Cinderella again, once the flower spectacle is over. She can be an icy cold woman, you also will feel her warmth and allure, and her angry heat too. She will certainly charm you in many ways and have you come back for more! The Karoo is a sun-seared, harsh and forbidding land. A hard, tough life are the words that spring to mind when confronted with the vast and forbidding landscape of the Hantam and Roggeveld Karoo. Africa is not for sissies they say, this area is a harsh region, one that shapes you and moulds you, and makes you its own. Change is a hard thing for some, the message it sends out is one of embracing me and I will embrace you, ignore me and I will overtake you! This is the way of the Karoo in an unforgiving landscape, the Karoo cannot be tamed. Northern Cape Tourism Flower Route Map The towns of this region are Calvinia, Nieuwoudtville and Loeriesfontein; Sutherland and Middlepos respectively, with Calvinia and Sutherland being the major towns of each region. We got to explore three out of the five in our recent trip to this part of the Karoo. This is a good thing, as it leaves us with an excuse to return to this beautiful region again. For this blog, I am only going to discuss Nieuwoudtville and Calvinia. Sutherland will be dealt with in a separate blog for good reason, as I held a photographic workshop there at Rogge Cloof Sutherland Private Estate. Rogge Cloof Panorama Nieuwoudtville Nieuwoudtville, locally pronounced ‘Nowtville’, is a tiny village in the Northern Cape province of South-Africa, a place internationally acknowledged as the bulb capital of the world. It really comes to life during the flower season. The Khoi San inhabited this area for many centuries before the first settlers arrived in about 1730, and local rock art in Oorlogskloof Nature Reserve and on farms around Nieuwoudtville bears witness to an ancient culture that flourished here. During this period vast herds of game periodically roamed the plains of the Bokkeveld Plateau (Antelope Plateau), after which it derived its name. To get the most out of the Bokkeveld, you must take your time, don’t rush along. It is not uncommon to find up to 50 different species within one square metre of Renosterveld! Believe me, it took us over 3 hours to travel 450m, and that was only to photograph flowers! Namaqualanders, Oorlogskloof Farm, Nieuwoudtville, South-Africa Approaching Nieuwoudtville one ascends the Vanrhyns Pass on the R27 between Vanrhynsdorp and Nieuwoudtville which was rebuilt in 1962. It carries heavy traffic from Cape Town up to the Bokkeveld Mountains and Calvinia. There are a few lookout points where one can stop along the way to absorb the spectacular view before you reach the summit and is best photographed in the evening. This is one of the ten major mountain passes constructed by the South African road engineer Thomas Bain, linking Nieuwoudtville to Vanrhynsdorp. In the space of 8km, the pass conveys the traveller across the Bokkeveld escarpment into a startlingly different world – from a semi-desert landscape to an arid plateau with trees and grasslands. One will witness the lifeblood veins of green coursing the Knersvlakte valley below, hinting at the existence of subsurface water below. Knersvlakte - Cellphone Image - Dominique Fouché © 2018 Knersvlakte - Cellphone Image - Dominique Fouché © 2018 During springtime, the stretch of road between Vanrhynsdorp and the pass, known as the Knersvlakte, is transformed into a colourful carpet of flowers. The Knersvlakte is a region of hilly terrain covered with quartz gravel in Namaqualand in the north-west corner of the Western Cape Province of South Africa. The name, literally meaning "gnashing or grinding plain" in Afrikaans, is thought to be derived from the crunching of wagon wheels as they moved over the hard quartz stones, or the gnashing of teeth for the hard arduous journey that was required over this terrain. The white quartz gravel reflects more heat than the surrounding regions and one will find endemic succulent leaf plants that are found nowhere else in the world. The Knersvlakte is Succulent Karoo and dominated by leaf succulents belonging to the Aizoaceae and Crassulaceae, with a variety of shrubs spread amongst them. The climate of the region is semi-arid with long dry summers, and rainfall occurring in the winter months. From the look-out point some 800m above sea level, you will have a sweeping view of the Knersvlakte, the Hardeveld and the Maskam region. The Bokkeveld Mountains contribute to the 180-degree panoramic view, the Bokkeveld Plateau is reached at the top of the pass. This Knersvlakte region is found north of the Olifants river and the towns are Klawer, Bitterfontein, Vanrhynsdorp and Kliprand. All Roads Lead To Home Evidence of the extensive sheet glacier that covered much of South Africa about 300 million years ago can be seen south of Nieuwoudtville where grooves formed by rocks and pebbles carried in the ice sheet were left behind on the glacial floor after the ice sheet melted. These glacial pavements tend to impede water infiltration and damp patches result, which are favourite habitats for some of the lovely local geophytic plants. With the arrival of European settlers in the early eighteenth century, the vast herds of wildlife were replaced by herds of sheep and cattle which belonged to the settlers. The settlers established themselves in the well-watered western edge of the Bokkeveld close to the escarpment and the village of Nieuwoudtville was established in 1897 on land that was purchased from H.C. Nieuwoudt - after whom the town was named. People now make their living from sheep, wheat, rooibos tea farming and eco-tourism. Nieuwoudtville Church Plain Nieuwoudtville’s public fame started, arguably, with a sheep farmer, the late Neil MacGregor, who on his farm, Glenlyon, took down all internal fences and opened the area to his livestock. The livestock practically ate all the plants and trampled the seeds. He left the diggers, foragers and plant predators, especially the porcupines, to open the earth to rain. He was later rewarded with the flowering of an extraordinary biodiversity on his 6000ha farm. The sheep also flourished, botanists and even Sir David Attenborough came to visit. Tourists have not stopped coming since to view this spectacular event. His farm was later declared the Hantam National Botanical Gardens. The Garden comprises a vast area of over 6000ha which includes representative patches of Nieuwoudtville Shale Renosterveld, Nieuwoudtville-Roggeveld Dolorite Renosterveld and Hantam Succulent Karoo. Nine different trails can be followed covering the variety of habitats and soil types which make this Garden so unique and different. Namaqualand is the home to the richest bulb flora of any arid region in the world and more than a 1000 of its estimated 4000 plant species are found nowhere else on earth! It is so true when we read in the Scriptures and we see this flowering spectacle, how can we not say: Isaiah 55:12 "The mountains and hills will burst into song, and the trees of the field will clap their hands!" Psalm 65:12 "The pastures of the wilderness overflow; the hills are robed with joy." Glenlyon was sold to SANBI in 2007 and has now become the ninth National Botanical Garden managed by SANBI. 1885 Hulpkerk At Willemsrivier Lit by Moonlight, Nieuwoudtville, South-Africa   Geelkatsterte / Yellow Cat Tails Willemsrivier, Nieuwoudtville, South-Africa Quiver Tree Forest / Kokerboom Forest The kokerboom in Afrikaans, quiver tree in English or choje to the traditional San peoples of Southern Africa, belongs to the group of plants known collectively as aloes. Both the Afrikaans and the English names are derived from the San people’s practice of making quivers from the branches of the trees. It was a practice diarised by then Governor of the Cape, Simon van der Stel in 1685 while on an expedition searching for copper in the Northern Cape. Nieuwoudtville sports the largest Kokerboom Forest in the Southern Hemisphere. This tree is essentially an aloe plant reaching up to 9m tall and 1m in diameter at the base, it is thought that they can live between 80 and 300 years. It takes about 3 years for the kokerboom to reach 5cm,  another 15 to 20 years to reach flowering maturity at about a meter. It is rather obvious that these desert giants are slow growers. The existence of a naturally occurring forest with hundreds of adult trees at 3 metres plus, is therefore truly a sight to behold! The slow rate of growth has its downside and these plants are extremely vulnerable to various vegetation predators, birds and climatic changes. On The Road To Gannabos, Kokerboom Forest, Nieuwoudtville, South-Africa To find the forest, you travel north on the R357, past the 90m high Nieuwoudtville waterfall (which currently has an entry fee of R30 pp if you wish to visit before 17h00) on the Doorn River, you arrive at a turnoff to Gannabos farm. You will find the Nieuwoudtville waterfall, decidedly underrated despite it being one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the country. I was impressed by the sheer size of the waterfall, and the gorge that it tumbles into, even although it wasn't in full flow at the time of our visit. Nieuwoudtville Waterfall, Nieuwoudtville South-Africa On our previous visit to the Kokerboom Forest, the small bushes were in full purple glory, these being the Ruschia caroli of Rushia extensa, the local name in Afrikaans is the Beesvygie, and the Quiver Trees in yellow bloom. What a stark contrast this time, flowers everywhere else and in abundance in the district, but nothing here! Here, again the stark rawness and harshness of the Karoo reminded us that this is a tough region to survive in. In spite of that, I was not disappointed as I preplanned an evening shoot which went on little further into the night and included some star trails. Kokerboom Forest 2014 Kokerboom Forest 2014 Kokerboom Forest 2014 Milky Way and Star Trails During Moonlight over a Kokerboom Tree Quiver Tree Solitude and Barrenness Quiver Tree Forest / Kokerboom Forest at Sunset I also shot my new Shen Hao 4x5 large format camera here for the first time, this was a learning curve for me as it is slow, methodical and time-consuming to have all the ticks in the boxes completed before you fire the shot. It is so different from the normal 35mm format in many regards, I am however happy with the results and will be using it more often for various shoots that I have planned. If you don't know what this camera is about, think of the black-cape-over-the-camera and photographer in 1910 and wet plate glass images, except this is film and the results speak for themselves! I will let you decide and it would be great to have your feedback in the comments below. Kodak Portra 160 4x5 Kodak Portra 160 4x5 Crazy Daisy - Willemsrivier Farm, Nieuwoudtville, South-Africa Seas of Yellow - Nieuwoudtville, South-Africa So What Else Is There Besides Flowers? It is not all flower power in Nieuwoudtville, pedal power is the name of the game here too! Hosted on Brandkop Farm since 2015 by Nieuwoudtville Akademie, a small private school in town. The first and only one of its kind in the area, a professionally organised event with challenging tracks for the cyclists, high prize money for the winners, attract riders from both near and far alike. The 28th August 2018 saw the Hantam MTB Challenge offering a choice of  either 20, 40 or 80km in the saddle on a MTB, a tantalising ride that I have not done yet! Whether you looking for peace and quiet, this is the place to do just that! Other activities like photography, local sandstone ruins, the glacial pavement, the Oorlogskloof Nature Reserve and a myriad of activities that include bird watching, hiking and a lot of star gazing (light pollution in Nieuwoudtville is minimal) are some of the attractions to this region. Also visit the small towns of Loeriesfontein, for the windmill museum, and Calvinia. Calvinia Is that just a dot on the map you may ask, or perhaps you have heard it mentioned on the weather forecast? Or is that a platteland dorpie somewhere in the Karoo? This was our first visit to Calvinia on a going-nowhere-slowly drive in search of more flowers from the region. Calvinia is the principal town of the Hantam Karoo and lies at the crossroads to a number of towns and villages scattered across the wide open spaces of Bushmanland and the Tankwa, Roggeveld and Hantam Karoo. It is pleasantly situated and is dominated by the high ramparts of the Hantam Mountains to the north and surrounded by hills and mountains such as the 1 657-metre high Rebunieberg and the Keiskeiberge to the south. The town lies on the banks of the erratically flowing Oorlogskloof River over which one will cross a few times on the R27. It was founded in 1845 on the farm Hoogekraal which was purchased by the Dutch Reformed Church in order to establish a parish for the far-flung community of the Hantam Karoo. The original name of the region and the village was Hantam. The name Hantam has its origins with the Khoi people and it is believed that the name refers to "the hill where the red nut sedge grows". On the R27 to Calvinia near the Oorlogskloof River The town features a number of fine Victorian and Edwardian era buildings. I was pleasantly surprised at how neat and tidy it is. One of the oddities of the town is the giant post box, which was converted from a water tower in 1995 and is probably the largest post box in the world, which measures 6.17m high and has a circumference of 9.42m.  Calvinia was the terminus of the branch railway line running from Hutchinson through Carnarvon and Williston, which was completed in 1917. For many years the railway was the primary conduit for the transportation of agricultural products from this remote corner of South Africa to the main railway network linking Johannesburg and Cape Town. Sadly, so many of these little towns in the Karoo have declined since their lifeblood of the South African Railways gave way to goods trucks. We were a week too early for the annual Hantam Meat Festival, this is sheep country, and the last weekend in August in and around Calvinia, everything is in an uproar when the annual Hantam Meat Festival takes place. This year, it was already the 29th time that the festival had been run and its main purpose is still, as when it started in 1990, to promote the delicious, fragrant mutton of the region. Definitely a highlight on the calendar. Lovers of mutton and lamb will enjoy a wide variety of different cuts of meat, prepared in different ways, and all in "tasting" portions to enable more tasting. Your taste buds will experience meat braaied, stewed, curried, in pita, on sosaties, in potjies - you can even pick up a done-to-perfection sheep's head! ! Besides eating your fill of your favourite meat there are numerous demonstrations, farm products for sale and somewhere to have a coffee and take a break. In true Karoo fashion, there is all sorts of entertainment and things to do. Five Simultaneous Rainstorms on R27 Near Calvinia In Closing... The best way to explore the region is to get in your car and find a base to work from. Head out to the next town, tune into an unfamiliar radio station, meet and speak to the locals either next to the roadside or interact with them at the local general dealer or ko-op. Get to feel and experience the soul of region and the Karoo. The Karoo to many, maybe a sparse and empty place, to me, its a place of discoveries and memories waiting to happen and no doubt, we will return again to enjoy this very special region. So many discoveries, so little time! Acknowledgements Resource information found at the following websites: Karoospace, Nieuwoudtville, Africa Geographic, SANBI, The Great Karoo, SA Venues. Click on the images to view an enlarged single image. All my images are available for purchase as prints. Digital images can be used under license agreement. Should you wish to purchase or license my images, please click here for more information, so I can assist you with your needs. Newsletter Please subscribe to my newsletter which will inform you of any new workshops, activities, products and upcoming events. Subscribe


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