Western Cape Coastlines Workshop – January 2019

Western Cape Coastlines Workshop - January 2019 Seascapes of South Africa This is the first time that I am offering the Western Cape Coastlines Workshop, and more will certainly follow! Mark, my first client, came all the way from Perth, Australia to learn how to create entrancing and captivating photos of the sea under any weather condition! This workshop is for photographers of all levels: beginner, intermediate and advanced. As a beginner, he already had most of the camera basics under his belt when he arrived. We had discussed what type of images he was seeking to capture as well as the coastal destinations he would like to have visited during his three-day stay. The final day was dedicated to editing, which wrapped up and rounded off the whole process from pressing the shutter button to the final edit for printing. I was always on hand to guide, direct and offer advice when setting up a shot. Day 1: Arniston, Struisbaai and Agulhas Arniston Arniston is named after the shipwreck that took place on the 3rd May 1815, is certainly one of the best locations along the Western Cape Coastline. It is definitely a morning or sunrise venue when the tide is right and conditions favourable, whether it is capturing golden light reflecting off the rocks and waves, long exposures of the shifting seas and clouds, or powerful crashing waves pounding the shores, one can capture jaw-dropping images!  This is Mark had in mind for his one-on-one workshop with me. Mark Easterbrook © - Arniston That being said, you don't always get what you desire when it comes to the weather! That was an immediate discovery on day one! Leaving Worcester at 03h30 for a sunrise shoot in Arniston which was around 230km drive was filled with high expectations. On arrival, we were met with a vast, grey, drab blanket of cloud, which was lifeless and dead. All is not lost, as this acts like a giant softbox which produces soft muted tones, and no harsh shadows. As they say "Lemons to lemonade" and a visit to the historic fishing village of Kassiesbaai is exactly what we did to circumnavigate the disappointing non-existing sunrise. Kassiesbaai is a national monument and derives its name from the washed-up paraffin cases (“kassies” in Afrikaans) from the shipwrecks to build their houses. The wood from the paraffin boxes combined with lime and thatch from the area was used to build the now characteristic cottages of the coastal fishing village. True to the region, almost all the fisherman's homes there and the West Coast are painted white and usually have thatched roofs. Mark Easterbrook © - Arniston Built behind the rolling dunes of white sand, the cluster of lime-washed houses has nurtured generations of fishermen, some of whom who are sixth to seventh generation fisherman since some 200 odd years ago. Kassiesbaai is also one of the rare communities that have managed to hold onto their land and their traditions. It is the only fishing community in South Africa which still lives off the ocean in the traditional way. On windy days, the fisherman will not launch their boats, also called "chuckies". On that particular morning, there had been severe weather, which played into our hand as we had plenty of opportunities to capture their boats and homes in either colour or black and white. The locals were friendly and easily struck up a conversation on our photo walk. I showed Mark how to look for simple shots and to look for pictures within pictures as we looked for different compositions. Mark Easterbrook © - Arniston Having a look at the app Windy.com, we decided it would be better to move up the coast to Struisbaai and Agulhas and to later return to Arniston in the evening, as the low cloud cover would have dissipated by around midday. The evening rewarded us with some good images of The Blow Holes and The Cauldron which is much better suited to sunrise and the opportunity to free an entangled seagull from fishing line. Struisbaai This is a small coastal town to the west of Arniston and 4km from Agulhas. The town is an old fishing village which for many years sported a beautiful natural harbour. Some development has taken place since then but Struisbaai is still relatively untouched by the rigours of over-development. Many fishermen still reside in this settlement but it is now known better for its leisure activities, which include fishing, horseriding, hiking, paintball, quad biking and diving. Craig Fouché © - Struisbaai The exact origins of the name of Struisbaai, however, is still a subject of debate. The various historical stories uncover 3 different origins for the name of the town. The first being accredited to the thatch or straw (strooi in Afrikaans) roofs of the fisherman cottages scattered along the coast. Another is the ostriches ("struisvogel" in Dutch) that used to call this area their home, while others believe the name was derived from an old Dutch word meaning "huge" given due to the long stretches of beach. The last origin seems more plausible as Struisbaai holds the longest beach in the Southern Hemisphere which stretches for a total of 14 kilometres. The colourful, bustling Struisbaai Harbour is where visitors can see the traditional fisherman bring in their daily catch and buy fresh fish. As with Arniston, the fisherman had found it prudent to remain in the harbour. Also not to be missed, is the resident stingray Parrie making an appearance. The water was not very clear on the day, yet we were still able to see Parrie from the slipway. Craig Fouché © - Struisbaai The waters off Struisbaai have traditionally been treacherous for shipping, with at least 30 vessels that have run aground since 1673. One of them was the Meermin that stranded in 1766 after a mutiny by the Malagasy slaves that she was carrying, while another was the French ship Jardinière which sank 28 years later. We were able to capture a few images of the harbour, and as I had been there prior to the workshop, the colourful water was not as colourful on the day as my previous visit. Agulhas L'Agulhas is the most southern coastal village and holiday resort in Africa, located at the southernmost tip of the African mainland. It is situated next to the town of Struisbaai and about 30 kilometres south of the regional centre of Bredasdorp. The name "Agulhas", Portuguese for "needles", is said to have been given to the cape because the compass-needle was seen to point due north, that is, with no magnetic deviation. The Agulhas Bank is reputed to be the richest fishing area in the Southern Hemisphere. Some of the older residents and documents refer to the town as by its former name Cape Agulhas or Cape L'Agulhas or simply Agulhas which were the names that referred to this town before it was changed to L'Agulhas to avoid confusion when the Bredasdorp Municipality changed its name to The Cape Agulhas Municipality. Mark Easterbrook © - Agulhas A visit to the Lighthouse with a view from the tower and a walkway along the seafront to the new most southern African monument and a place where two oceans meet at the foot of Africa. A little further along the walkway is the shipwreck of Meisho Maru. The Cape Agulhas Lighthouse, the second-oldest working lighthouse in South Africa, is at the southern end of the town. Designed by Colonel Charles Cornwell Michell in homage to the Pharos of Alexandria, the lighthouse was lit on March 1, 1849. Some 150 ships lay scattered along the South African coast, many due to the treacherous Agulhas Reef. It is in memory of the countless lives lost and to warn passing ships of the pending danger that the Cape Agulhas Lighthouse was designed and built. The lighthouse was declared a National Monument in 1973. Mark Easterbrook © - Agulhas This is where we spent the bulk of our day. The tide was high which is neither a good or bad thing. Usually one would not shoot at high noon, as lighting is harsh, and usually best reserved for infrared photography. This did not stop us from learning how long exposure works with both the LEE 10 and 15 stop filters. The wreck was our main subject for this exercise and Mark pulled off some really impressive images. He learnt how to use the exposure triangle: ISO, shutter and aperture to achieve the various results he was looking for. Day 2: Paternoster, Yzerfontein, Melkbosstrand and Bloubergstrand Paternoster Paternoster is one of the oldest fishing villages on the West Coast of South Africa. It is situated 15 km north-west of Vredenburg and 145 km north of Cape Town, at Cape Columbine between Saldanha Bay and St Helena Bay. The origin of the name remains unknown. Many people believe that the name, which means ‘Our Father’ in Latin, refers to prayers said by Catholic Portuguese seamen when they became shipwrecked. It appears as St. Martins Paternoster on an old map of Pieter Mortier. Other people believe it refers to the beads that the Khoi tribe wore that were called Paternosters. Mark Easterbrook © - Paternoster Paternoster is a sought after tourist destination and is known for lobster and the white-washed fishermen’s cottages. I am willing to call it the Pearl of the West Coast. The remarkable coastline of jagged cliffs and white boulders makes this one of the most beautiful beaches on the West Coast of South Africa. It was a little too windy for long exposures at the boulders near Cape Columbine, and no matter what we tried, we were unsuccessful in achieving the desired shots we were both looking for. We arrived here at 09h00 under similar conditions as the day before. Craig Fouché © - Paternoster The area is a pillar in the South African commercial fishing industry. The town itself has a lobster factory where we shot some lovely views overlooking the village. Yzerfontein Yzerfontein is a small harbour town with about 1200 inhabitants on the West Coast of South Africa about 90 km north of Cape Town. The name in Dutch means "Iron Fountain". The town started out when the farm 'Yzerfontein' was bought by the Katz-family in the 1930s. Then they started dividing the farm into plots. There are many expensive upmarket holiday homes to be found here, all jockeying for prime sea views. During our afternoon visit, I showed Mark the various locations I had scouted beforehand and we set off to capture a few of them. Mark Easterbrook © - Yzerfontein The sea was angry. It foamed, frothed and boiled as it crashed violently against the rocks, churning in gullies and exploded into fine seaspray when the waves impacted huge rocks with all that kinetic energy. Mark had the opportunity to try out my Nikon AF-S Fisheye NIKKOR 8-15mm f/3.5-4.5E ED Lens for some creativity, the result was an image that looked like the tip of Africa with Madagascar to the left of it. It did not take long for heavy afternoon fog to close in and to put paid to our shoot there, as dramatic as it was. Mark Easterbrook © - Yzerfontein Melkbosstrand Named after the species of Euphorbiaceae bushes which grow on the dunes and give off a milky latex-like substance, it is commonly referred to simply as Melkbos. The town and its 7 kilometre stretch of white sand beach is situated on the Atlantic coast with the Blouberg mountain to the east. The beach is popular with surfers but also affords unobstruced views of iconic Table Mountain with rocks in the foreground. Mark Easterbrook © - Melkbosstrand Bloubergstrand Bloubergstrand is a suburb of Cape Town, South Africa, along the shores of Table Bay, 15 km due north of the city centre of Cape Town. The name Bloubergstrand literally means "blue mountain beach" in Afrikaans, and is derived from Blaauwberg, a nearby mountain. Bloubergstrand is mainly a residential area and attracts large numbers of visitors especially kitesurf enthusiasts. On the day the Red Bull King of the Air Kiteboarding 2019 competition was on where athletes will try to outdo each other with the highest jumps and most insane tricks in the ferocious Cape Town winds. When we arrived it was late afternoon as we had planned for a sunset shot, which was not spectacular, however, Mark thoroughly enjoyed the kiteboarding and landed a few good images. The beach at Bloubergstrand is a popular location for a classic view of Table Mountain across the bay and is one of the world's top kitesurfing destinations. Craig Fouché © - Bloubergstrand Day 3: Worcester Worcester My office is based in Worcester which is a lovely Boland town and a very central one indeed for my needs. After much travelling the previous two days, it was appropriate that a late start would be in order. We spent most of the day learning how to use Adobe Bridge and Photoshop, as these are the tools I use to edit my images. From the outset, it was imperative that we shoot in RAW, as this maximises the ability to capture and edit as much detail in one's images as possible. Sure, files sizes do increase, but when it comes to printing, there are no disappointments, as Mark discovered. Many people are quite happy to fire away and capture 100's of images a day, and possibly never look at them again, how many do edit and more so how many do print? Mark soon learnt that time is money and that editing can be laborious and time consuming depending on what you have to correct and enhance; the moral of the story is to get it right in camera first time, every time! Another valuable lesson that was learnt was how to see in black and white. Mark Easterbrook © - Agulhas Over To You If you have enjoyed this blog and would like to capture breathtaking, magnificent and powerful seascape photography with me while exploring some of South Africa’s finest coastline, the Western Cape Coastline near Cape Town – one of South Africa’s premier photography destinations, contact me here, and leave a comment below, I would like to hear from you! If you have not yet signed up for my NO SPAM email newsletter, please do so, and be the first to know what's happening. Acknowledgements Some of the historical information was sourced from Wikipedia. Gallery Craig's Images My workshops are easy going and my focus is on my client. I do shoot alongside my participants, but are not so engrossed in what I do and forget about the purpose of me being there. It is about helping my clients achieve the images that they have set out to capture. Here are a few images that I was able to take prior and during the workshop. Arniston Arniston Arniston Arniston Arniston

Large Format Photography In The Studio

Large Format Film Photography In The Studio Large format photography is both challenging and rewarding. The modern world goes on about pixels and the best camera and lenses out there. Well, let's step back in time, and slow things down a quite a bit! This form of photography is SLOW, methodical and precise. If you are a perfectionist and would like to hone your photographic skills, this is the door to knock on. As this is such a large negative, the final image is astounding, in the same breath, your mistakes can be rather expensive at around ZAR100.00 or US $7,50 or more per film sheet before development and scanning, and errors are just as amplified in the final image when it goes all wrong! 4x5in or 10,2 x 12,7cm scanned files are around 150 to 450mb each, and you see every detail! The price is around ZAR5500 or USD $405 for a ULF (Ultra Large Format) 20x24in sheet of film per shot, mistakes are not options here! Noleen - Foma Retropan 320 How It Began My good friend Christopher Hart is a camera repair specialist in Cape Town and the owner of Christopher Hart Camera Repairs. He is also a very talented photographer shooting both digital and film, who also has an affinity for Leica gear and has extensive knowledge in his highly specialised field. I had been to see him about a lens clean and service when he showed me his Shen Hao 4x5 large format camera and gear. I was so impressed by this, and that I asked that should he sell,  that he would offer me first option. Some months passed by and he did just that! I bought a complete system and only needed to buy a few additional lenses that suited my style of photography. Shooting large format film is revolutionising my photography, in the way I think, the way I shoot and also the way I approach the shoot at hand. I now shoot to print and aim to make each shot count. I can strongly recommend Christopher Hart Camera Repairs to take care of your CLA (clean, lubricate and adjust) and any other camera and lens repairs that you may have at hand. Chris is one of the cogs in my photographic gears that keeps my business going without a hiccup. The Reasons For The Shoot The reasons for this particular shoot are of a personal nature which I am happy to share. It is very often that we get engrossed in other things, captivated by exciting happenings or just simply distracted by the goings-on of life in general. The adage: a mechanics' car is usually in a worse condition than his customers, simply as he doesn't have much time for his, can well be true. In my case, I often get so caught up learning new ways to edit, preparing new and current workshops, going on photo shoots, that I don't really have much time to photograph those that are close and dear to me. Early October 2018, I decided that I wanted to do something for me. On the 3rd November 2018, we made it happen! My mom is a renal failure patient in need of a kidney transplant, who has been on a waiting list since July 2009. I decided that life is too short to put things off for another day, as there may not be another day to capture these moments again. I flew my mom from East-London to Worcester, South-Africa to have a studio portrait shoot done with me in my home studio, by me and for us. This was a personal project, something that I have to cherish for now and when she is no longer with us. I can look back and recall the moments, and know that I was a part of the process in capturing those moments and memories. There was simply no better way, or no other way for that matter, other than to shoot this on film. I wanted a classic timeless feel for this shoot! I have previously shot medium format in my studio on film with a Yashica Mat using Fuji Acros 120 film with some fairly decent results. It was challenging as the ground glass was not very clear and I did not use a loupe to check my focus with. Based on the results from that shoot, I knew I needed help and called on Chris Hart for advice, direction and assistance; he excitedly accepted! YouTube does not offer much in the line of help when it comes large format photography in the studio. You need to understand that there are NO electronics in large format photography, think of cowboy movies and the cameras they used... or even the 1910's and 20's. Everything must be accurate and precise to capture these shots. This is 100% manual, ALL theory and mathematics. The Preparation For The Shoot I fetched Chris early that Saturday morning from Kleinmond near Hermanus, whilst my makeup artist Anne-Mart was getting my mom Noleen prepped and ready for us. I had already set up the studio the night before. The wardrobe was discussed, more so how colours would look in black and white film and which outfit would be best to wear for this shoot. I approached Anne-Mart Professional Make-Up Artist & Hair Stylist about the shoot and explained my intentions and reasons for it. I am so appreciative that she accepted the task at hand, as she prepared everything as I wanted it, my mom was not made to look 25 years old, she was kept true to age and that goes too for the hairstyling. There was a surprise twist in the shoot, something I did not discuss with her, I had her pose too and she owned those moments like a model! I simply love it when someone can pull something like this off unplanned and unexpectedly! Do show Anne-Mart some love and follow her on Facebook and support her business. Anne-Mart on Kodak Tmax 400 The Shoot We began with natural light, as my studio has lovely filtered light through a large sliding door. The light was metered, test shots taken on digital, the Shen Hao tested dry, everything worked, including the Elinchrom studio lighting on the Shen Hao, focusing set up and bellows factors are taken into account. Remember, I said this was SLOW! Finally, we were good to go, film was loaded and the different poses shown and prepared for each shot. The entire shoot was shot on the Shen Hao 4x5 using a Nikon NIKKOR W 240mm f/5.6 Lens. For natural light, we used f/5.6 at 1/8 sec and with studio lighting at f/45 at 1/125 sec which is also the fastest shutter speed attainable on this lens. In 35mm terms this would the equivalent of an 80mm lens at f/1.4 and f/11. The various films used were Rollei RPX 25, Kodak Portra 160, Portra 400, Kodak Tmax 400, Foma Retropan 320 and Ilford Delta 100. A total of 24 frames were shot, the whole shoot took about 3 hrs to complete. Everything is methodical, settings and frame numbers needed to noted and written down, extra film loaded into film holders as we went along. We were going to develop the negatives after the shoot but soon realised that we didn't have all the chemicals to do so. The black and white films were developed in Ilford ID 11 and the colour in C41 chemicals at Orms in Cape Town. The Scans Raphael Helman is my go-to man when it comes to scanning. His website is LabStudio and is able to do the following scans on an Imacon Precision iii Scanner. 35mm, 6x6, 6x7, and soon wider with the new scanning template, 4x5 100% or 50% 16bit files Retouching available as a separate service As mentioned earlier, the file sizes are very large, around 150mb for monochrome, and around 450mb for colour. The approximate megapixels at this scan is 81mp which I have seen in DXO Nik Collection, this allows for very large prints. The only way to get even bigger than this would be with a drum scanner and larger format like 8x10 inch film and above. Here too I can also highly recommend Raphael for all your film scanning needs, as he is also a photographer. The Gallery Do leave some comments below, I would love to hear your thoughts on the various films used and which you like best.  I have selected five of my favourite 4x5" prints to showcase the shoot. This was a very special shoot for me, a very rewarding and enriching one too. It is one thing to have a photoshoot done, but it is even better to print those images. There will be large prints made from this series which will be hung on the walls in our home to treasure for time to come.   Noleen - Ilford Delta 100 Noleen & Craig by Chris Hart - Kodak Tmax 400 pushed to ISO 800 Noleen - Kodak Portra 160 This is one of my favourite images, even although it is not tack sharp. The reason for publishing this image is to show you that when you get it slightly wrong, it is wrong altogether. This was a natural light image shot at the equivalent of 80mm at f/1.4, which means that the focal plane is a thin sliver. Unfortunately after focusing on the eye closest to the camera, my mom had moved back about 5-10mm when the shot was taken, and we were off on this one. Lessons have been learnt through this, and that is what makes film such a challenge to get it right every time. You cannot look at the back of the camera to know how your shot came out. Portra 160 and Portra 400 are lovely films for skin tones, I have some medium format (120) rolls of Kodak Portra 800 in the fridge which I am keen to test shoot on my next model. Unfortunately, Kodak only makes the Portra 800 in 35mm and 120, no sheet film. Behind The Scenes Gallery These images were taken on an iPhone by Chris Hart as behind the scenes shots. They have not been edited, except for cropping and to show the fun we were having whilst at work, and how we see things from our side of the lens. Finding The Focus And Composition Getting Ready To Load Film Digital Test Shot For Lighting Anne-Mart Relaxed and Posed Through The Ground Glass (rotated) Noleen In The Ground Glass - What We Actually See Under The Dark Cloth Having A Laugh During Composition Setting The Power On The Beauty Dish In Conclusion An enormous thank you to Anne-Mart, Chris, Raphael and my mom Noleen for making this happen, together we have captured a treasured moment in time that won't be repeated ever again!

Why Do I Shoot Large Format Film?

Why Do I Shoot Large Format Film? Why do I shoot large format film? That question can be also rephrased to why shoot film at all? The problem with the world today is instant gratification. Instant coffee, online buying, instant 24-hour support etc. This also crept into the photographic arena during the time of film photography when people shot polaroid images. The next question that usually comes up is: “Is digital better than film?” The answer to either way of asking this question is… no. Just as one might prefer the crisp, clean sound of a digital song, another may prefer a classic vinyl record for its depth, tone and warmth. In the same way, digital photography gives way to predictable, clean and precise results, while film brings in a warm beautiful imperfection that often times speaks to the romance of a scene. Grain is not noise, grain is film and in the right composition ISO 3200 pushed to ISO 6400 can produce beautiful images. Ever wonder why there were so fewer professional photographers in the days before digital? Photography was a skill, an art and craft to master. Today, every cellphone has a camera, everyone is a photographer, and anyone can walk into a camera store, buy an entry-level camera and announce themselves as a professional! Do they really know their craft, have they acquired the necessary skill needed for the task at hand? With 14fps and high megapixel cameras, anyone can fire away and hope to land 3 perfect shots in that second. Spray and pray they say! With 35mm, 120 medium format and large format film - 4x5" and larger, there is no back of the camera peeping to see if you got it right the first time, every time! You need to wait until the film is processed to know if you got it right in camera! Film slows you down, you need to think about your composition, make sure everything is 100% before you press the shutter button. If you shooting 35mm, you will more than likely have 24 or 36 frames to complete. On medium format, that is 12 frames. Large format and ultra large format film, it is 1 sheet at a time, which are not cheap, more so if you going above 4x5''. There is no delete button and try again, once the shot is fired that is it! It has to count, it has been exposed and you cannot under that, there are no second chances, more so in critical moments.   Shen Hao HZX45-IIA When you shoot film, you are rewarded with images that stand out, knowing that you had to go back to basics to create that shot. You captured the moment on an old outdated camera, some nothing more than a wooden box with a ground glass, bellows, lens and no electronics! Large format is a totally manual shooting mode, no autofocus whatsoever the only external electronics is your lightmeter. Seeing the film image come to life in the darkroom before your eyes is something else to behold. Seeing the resolution in comparison to 35mm digital is astounding! This is why I shoot 35mm, medium and large format film, its the challenge of getting a 100% success rate for every roll or film sheet exposed, slowing down, thinking about what I am are doing, capturing images that I will actually print and most of all, to enjoy my photography. The rewards from large format for me is once you get it right in camera, the results are mind-blowing, get it wrong and they are amplified as much! Here are two images from a shoot recently shot in my studio. I had my friend Chris Hart fire the shot for me while I posed with my mom, the other I took of my makeup artist - Anne-Mart. Works like these get me so excited about film! Do look out for an upcoming blog regarding this studio shoot. Noleen & Craig Anne-Mart I began photography in 1998 on a Pentax MZ50 35mm camera after playing around with a few point and shoots. My foundation has been a solid one in film, and I am all the better for it. People with a discerning eye know that digital does not look like traditional film, even with the available film plugins or filters. Both can be beautiful in their own right. The artist needs to decide which method or combination of methods best produces the final work of art. What Different Formats Do We Get? The different size formats are as follows 35mm, medium format also called 120, 220 and 645, large format and ultra large format. 35mm or 135mm 35mm or 135 film, was introduced by Kodak in 1934. Individual rolls of 35mm film are enclosed in a single-spool, light-tight, metal case that allows it to be loaded into cameras in daylight. The standard image size on a 35mm film roll is 24 x 36mm with a perforation size of KS-1870. This standard ensures that the film properly advances eight perforations to allow a two-millimetre gap between frames and eliminate overlapping of images on the film. On my Nikon F5, I have an MF28 databack attached, which allows me to record various fields of information such as date, time, shutter speed, aperture and more between these frames. Nikon F5 Medium Format Medium format film is much larger than the 35mm counterpart and is usually preferred by many professional photographers - digital and film. Of course, due to the size of medium format film, a medium format camera will be needed to use it. Most often, medium format film is 6x6cm square or 6x4.5cm rectangular (commonly referred to as 645). In addition, there are also these following sizes - 6x7cm - 10 exposures and 6x9cm - 8 exposures; and longer if you doing panoramas. Each format creates an image with one side equal to 6cm. Today, medium format photography utilizes the 120 film format and, in some cases, the 220 film format. These formats are nearly identical except that 220 film is twice as long and allows twice the number of exposures. With 120 film, you can get either 12 or 16 exposures and double that amount with 220 film. So if you think that Instagram is a new thing, think again, these are generally square images. Why not give a try and upload these to your Instagram account? One Of My Two Yashica-Mat Cameras Large Format The most common large format is 4×5", which was the size most common cameras used in the 1930s-1950s. The 4×5" sheet film format was very convenient for press photography since it allowed for direct contact printing on the printing plate, hence it was widely used in press cameras. This was done well into the 1940s and 1950s. Less common formats include quarter-plate, 5×7", and 8×10" (20×25 cm). Large format film works a little different than both 35mm film and medium format film as there are no spools used. Instead, large format film is individual 4x5" sheets that are loaded into a special film holder that locks into the back of a large format camera. Film loading using sheet film holders must be loaded in complete darkness, or a dark space to load and unload the film, typically a changing bag or darkroom. The holders will hold two sheets of film on both sides. When loaded into the back of the camera, the light protective sheet or dark slide is removed and will allow you to expose the film, once the shutter is released. The protective sheet or dark slide is then returned to the holder before your film is removed. The film will remain in the holder until ready for development. In May 2017, I had seen a post circulating on social media where Paul Joshua was photographing Formula 1 with a 104yr old camera, a 1913 Graflex 4×5" View Camera, at the time he was on his 5th season of Formula 1. Here are the links to those articles and on PetaPixel, definitely well worth the read! If ever there was a sport that required rapid fire photography, Formula One racing is it. Which makes what photographer Joshua Paul does even more fascinating, because instead of using top-of-the-range cameras to capture the fast-paced sport, Paul chooses to take his shots using a 104-year-old Graflex 4×5 view camera. The photographer clearly has an incredible eye for detail, because unlike modern cameras, which can take as many as 20 frames per second, his 1913 Graflex can only take 20 pictures in total. Because of this, every shot he takes has to be carefully thought about first, and this is clearly evident in this beautiful series of photographs. Shen Hao HZX45-IIA Shen Hao HZX45-IIA Ultra Large Format Above 8×10", the formats are often referred to as Ultra Large Format (ULF) and may be 11×14", 16×20", or 20×24" or as large as film, plates, or cameras are available. These cameras are extremely heavy, and usually made of wood. There is an article on F-stoppers where an  8x10" large format photographer - Ben Horne captures an astounding 709-megapixel image! His 150mm lens is referred to as a wide angle lens! Ben ends up with a digital file that's almost 30 000 pixels on the long side and weighs in at an astounding 4 GB for the *.tiff file, but it appears the unwieldy size is worth it. This image was shot on Velvia 50. The YouTube video is worth watching. What Gear Do I Need? Camera I shoot a Shen Hao HZX45-IIA 4x5" format field camera as pictured below. These cameras new at the time of writing, retail for around $1000 or more depending on where you buy. The tripod in this set up was seriously expensive, more than the camera itself; together they do a very good job as the camera is by no means light. Although the camera is a Chinese make, the quality is very good and I am well satisfied with mine. Shen Hao HZX45-IIA at Nieuwoudtville Wildflower Reserve Specifications: • Made from Black Walnut and black stainless steel. • Format: 4X5" • Movement: Front Rise - 37mm Rear Rise - 45mm. • Fall 32mm • Right Shift rear - 40mm • Left Shift rear - 40mm • Swing 17° +17° • Front Swing 20° +20° • Rear Base Tilt: 90° • Front Base Tilt: 90° • Rear Center Tilt: 10° +10° • Rear Back Front 40° • Back Rear 20° • Forward Rear 70mm • Bellows extension from 50mm-360mm. • Dimensions: 17X17x10cm • Weight: 2.54kgs Tripod And Head The tripod that I am using is the Gitzo GT3542L Long series 3 Carbon Fiber Tripod which is designed to securely support professional cameras with 300mm lenses (up to a maximum of 400mm), and to reach eye-level when fully extended. This professional tripod features Carbon eXact tubing with larger leg tube diameters. Its top leg-section diameter of 32.9mm and high modulus carbon fibre lower leg sections make this tripod stronger, more rigid and more lightweight than its predecessors. The Gitzo GT3542L weighs just 1.95kgs, reaches a height of 178cm and folds down to 59cm. This tripod is the perfect choice for professional photographers who want highly resistant, reliable support that is light enough to carry for hours while exploring the great outdoors. Large format gear is far from light, and this is a great tripod for my digital long primes too. The tripod’s rapid centre column is easily removed, transforming it into a ground level set enabling photographers to capture the broadest range of perspectives. It also has a reversible column mechanism. The Gitzo GT3542L four-section legs are secured by G-lock Ultra twist locks, with a built-in O-ring that keeps dirt and dust out of the leg mechanism. The tripod’s top spider is newly designed for extra rigidity, and large leg angle selectors provide broader grip-area for leg-angle adjustment. The tripod features a stabilizer hook on its centre column to add weight and increase stability when required by terrain or equipment weight. Its removable feet enable it to adapt to any type of surface. A wide array of heads and other accessories can easily be added via the 1/4" and 3/8 attachment on the upper disc. It can support 21kgs. Gitzo Tripod Mountaineer Series 3 Long, 4 Sections The Gitzo GH5381SQD Systematic Series 5 Quick Release D Ball Head is a low-profile tripod head that fits into the upper casting of any Systematic Tripod or attaches to any tripod via its 3/8” thread, providing an ultra-stable platform. The D-profile head is supplied with an Arca-Swiss compatible plate, enabling the included Quick Release plate to be snapped into the head from above, which is faster and easier than sliding it in from the side. With the GH5381SQD, cameras can be mounted very close to the top of the tripod for optimal support. It tilts up to 28° in all directions and features a hydraulic locking system for fast control and smooth locking speed. A ring adaptor (GS5300S) is included and is required when using this head with a Series 5 Systematic Tripod. This tripod head model also features the new Systematic safety catch: when used together with the latest Systematic tripods equipped with the safety button, the head is held safely in place until the release button is pushed, so that it stays safe, along with any camera equipment attached to it, even if the tripod’s top casting is inadvertently left open. The tripod head is made of high-quality, resistant aluminium, weighs 930g and secures an impressive payload of 30kgs. It includes a built-in spirit level to facilitate flawless framing. Gitzo Systematic Ball Head Quick Release  - Series 5 Cable Release I am using the Nikon AR-3 Threaded Cable Release, this is a standard type cable release plug for cameras that have a threaded shutter. This screws into the Copal shutter that you using with your lenses. It can be tightened at the trigger end to facilitate long exposures beyond the lowest shutter speed supported before using B and T. There are no electronics on my Shen Hao.   Nikon AR-3 Threaded Cable Release Lenses Nikon Lenses All of the Nikkor large format lenses are multicoated. Nikon never made any single or non-coated large format lenses. Nikon SW Series The SW-series lenses feature wide covering power and a wide image circle. Maximum apertures of f/4 and f/4.5 assure fast and pin-point focusing and bright images, corner to corner. Covering power can be extended to 105° ~ 106° by stopping the lens down. SW series lenses deliver high contrast and resolution, reduced flare and excellent colour rendition, thanks to Nikon Super Integrated Coating and strict control of aberrations. SW-series lenses with a maximum aperture of f/8 are compact and well compensated for distortion. Nikkor-SW 65mm f/4S The Nikkor-SW 65mm f/4S can only be used from f/16 as the image circle is too small at f/4 on the 4x5 format at 110mm. At f/16 you will get an image circle of 170mm. The f/4 allows you to focus better under low light conditions. This is a wide angle lens which is the 35mm equivalent of a 20mm lens. The rule is to divide the focal length by three to arrive at the 35mm format approximate equivalent. The Nikkor-SW 65mm f/4S is excellent; it weighs in at 370g. The f/4S makes it easy to compose, focus and make camera movements. It has a 67mm front filter thread with 7 elements in 4 groups. The shutter is a Copal № 0 T, B, 1-1/500 which is also the sync speed in the studio. Of course, you don't actually shoot at f/4.5, where it's a little soft due to coma. This is the same as other f/5.6 lenses; stop down to f/8 or smaller for the best performance when you shoot. For landscapes, you generally shooting at f/22 and f/32. Nikkor-SW 65mm f/4S Nikkor-SW 65mm f/4S Nikkor-SW 65mm f/4S Nikkor-SW 75mm f/4.5S The Nikkor-SW 75mm f/4.5S can only be used from f/16 as the image circle is too small at f/4 on the 4x5 format at 126mm. At f/16 you will get an image circle of 200mm. The aperture of f/4 allows you to focus better under low light conditions. This is a wide angle lens which is the 35mm equivalent of a 25mm lens. The rule is to divide the focal length by three to arrive at the 35mm format approximate equivalent. The Nikkor-SW 75mm f/4.5S is excellent; it weighs in at 420g. The f/4.5S makes it easy to compose, focus and make camera movements. Like the Nikkor-SW 65mm f/4S, it has a 67mm front filter thread with 7 elements in 4 groups. The shutter is a Copal № 0 T, B, 1-1/500 which is also the sync speed in the studio. Of course, you don't actually shoot at f/4.5, where it's a little soft due to coma. This is the same as other f/5.6 lenses; stop down to f/8 or smaller for the best performance when you shoot. For landscapes, you generally shooting at f/22 and f/32. Nikkor-SW 75mm f/4.5S Nikkor-SW 75mm f/4.5S Nikkor-SW 90mm f/4.5S The Nikkor-SW 90mm f/4.5 is both huge and excellent; it weighs in at 600g. I had the opportunity to buy the f/8 version (which weighs 360g), but chose this faster lens instead, as the f/4.5 makes it easy to compose, focus and make camera movements. It has an 82mm front filter thread with 7 elements in 4 groups. The shutter is a Copal Copal № 0 T, B, 1-1/500 which is also the sync speed in the studio. The image circle is at f/4 on the 4x5" format at 154mm. At f/16 you will get an image circle of 235mm. The aperture of f/4 allows you to focus better under low light conditions. This is a wide angle lens which is the 35mm equivalent of a 28mm lens. The rule is to divide the focal length by three to arrive at the 35mm format approximate equivalent. Of course, you don't actually shoot at f/4.5, where it's a little soft due to coma. This is the same as other f/5.6 lenses; stop down to f/8 or smaller for the best performance when you shoot. For landscapes, you generally shooting at f/22 and f/32. Nikkor-SW 90mm f/4.5S Nikkor-SW 90mm f/4.5S Nikkor-SW 90mm f/4.5S Nikon W Series Covering power of the W series Nikkors is an ample 70° ~ 73° when stopped down. Lens construction of six elements in four groups in the series gives these lenses an outstanding degree of freedom from distortion, field curvature and chromatic aberration. And Nikon Super Integrated Coating applied to each lens assures high contrast and overall faithful colour rendition. The W series lenses are recommended for a variety of subjects, including landscapes, portraits, architecture, and table-top photography. I am in the process of acquiring these lenses in this series, to complete the large format lens range that suits my style of photography. Nikkor-W 135mm f/5.6S   Nikon NIKKOR-W 135mm f/5.6 S The Nikkor-W 135mm f/5.6S has an image circle of  156mm at f/5.6 and at f/22 it is 200mm. The aperture of f/4 allows you to focus better under low light conditions. This is a standard angle lens which is the 35mm equivalent of a 45mm lens. The rule is to divide the focal length by three to arrive at the 45mm format approximate equivalent. The Nikkor-SW 135mm f/5.6S weighs in at 200g. The f/5.6 makes it easy to compose, focus and make camera movements. It has a 52mm front filter thread with 6 elements in 4 groups. The shutter is a Copal № 0 T, B, 1-1/500 which is also the sync speed in the studio. Of course, you don't actually shoot at f/4.5, where it's a little soft due to coma. This is the same as other f/5.6 lenses; stopped down to f/8 or f/11 it is sharp from centre to corners. For landscapes, you generally shooting at f/22 and f/32. Nikkor-W 180mm f/5.6   Nikkor-W 180mm f/5.6 The Nikkor-W 180mm f/5.6 has an image circle of  208mm at f/5.6 and at f/22 it is 253mm for 5x7" cameras. The aperture of f/5.6 allows you to focus better under low light conditions. This is a standard angle lens which is the 35mm equivalent of a 60mm lens. The rule is to divide the focal length by three to arrive at the 60mm format approximate equivalent. The Nikkor-W 180mm f/5.6 weighs in at 380g. The f/5.6 makes it easy to compose, focus and make camera movements. It has a 67mm front filter thread with 6 elements in 4 groups. The shutter is a Copal № 1 T, B, 1-1/400 which is also the sync speed in the studio. Of course, you don't actually shoot at f/5.6, for landscapes, you generally shooting at f/22 and f/32. Nikkor-W 210mm f/5.6   Nikkor-W 210mm f/5.6 The Nikkor-W 210mm f5.6 243mm f/5.6 has an image circle of  208mm at f/5.6 and at f/22 it is 295mm for 6.5x8.5" cameras. The aperture of f/5.6 allows you to focus better under low light conditions. This is a telephoto angle lens which is the 35mm equivalent of a 60mm lens. The rule is to divide the focal length by three to arrive at the 60mm format approximate equivalent. The Nikkor lenses in the T-series are telephoto-type lenses which do not require long-length camera bellows. The Nikkor-W 210mm f/5.6 weighs in at 460g. The f/5.6S makes it easy to compose, focus and make camera movements. It has a 67mm front filter thread with 6 elements in 4 groups. The shutter is a Copal № 1 T, B, 1-1/400 which is also the sync speed in the studio. Of course, you don't actually shoot at f/5.6, for landscapes, you generally shooting at f/22 and f/32. Nikkor-W 240mm f/5.6   Nikkor-W 240mm f/5.6 The Nikkor-W 240mm f5.6 243mm f/5.6 has an image circle of  278mm at f/5.6 and at f/22 it is 336mm for 8x10" cameras. The aperture of f/5.6 allows you to focus better under low light conditions. This is a telephoto angle lens which is the 35mm equivalent of an 80mm lens. The rule is to divide the focal length by three to arrive at the 80mm format approximate equivalent. The Nikkor-W 240mm f/5.6 weighs in at 820g. The f/5.6 makes it easy to compose, focus and make camera movements. It has an 82mm front filter thread with 6 elements in 4 groups. The shutter is a Copal № 3 T, B, 1-1/125 which is also the sync speed in the studio. Of course, you don't actually shoot at f/5.6, for landscapes, you generally shooting at f/22 and f/32. This is a beautiful lens for portraiture for both the studio and outdoors. Schneider Lenses Schneider 150mm f/5.6 Apo-Symmar L Lens I do not own a Nikon 150mm lens. At the time of me purchasing my 4x5" system, the Schneider 150mm f/5.6 Apo-Symmar L Lens came part and parcel with the package. I do not see the need or purpose to purchase a Nikon 150mm lens as this lens does a fabulous job. This is a standard angle lens, all-purpose large format lens which gives the highest image reproduction quality possible in a broad range of applications, equivalent to a 50mm lens in 35mm format. The 75° angle of coverage permits generous shifts on the 4x5" format, which is very useful in architecture photography. The 150mm Apo-Symmar L uses 58mm filters and weighs 267g. It is an ideal everyday lens for users of 4x5" large format cameras. Compact, extremely sharp slightly wide lens for the 4x5 format Increased coverage (to 75°) for the classic 6-element, 4-group optical design Bright ideal working aperture range of f/11-22 for shorter exposures and sharper outdoor images Small and light for unobtrusive use Maximum image circle of 233mm allows ±35.5mm of rise/fall/shift (in both vertical/horizontal composition) for 4x5" format Accepts 58mm filters Standard-style Copal #0 shutter with calibrated aperture scale and maximum 1/500th speed The Apo-Symmar-"L" series of lenses replaces the well-proven original Apo-Symmar. As some glass types have been phased out for environmental reasons, new designs with substitute formations were necessary. Seizing the opportunity, Schneider-Kreuznach has now completely re-designed this successful, all-purpose lens to bring it up to the current state-of-the-art of lens design and fabrication. The covering power has been expanded in nearly all cases and the imaging performance further optimized. The current focal lengths and the principle technical specifications are shown in the table here. Used according to the maximum photo format, the focal lengths between 120 and 480mm offered by the new "L-Series" deliver normal perspective pictures without a wide angle or telephoto effects. This is a large format photographic lens for view camera photography with film formats up to 5x7", although it's most common use is for 4x5 inch photography. It has a 75° angle of coverage at f/22. This results in an image circle of 233mm at f/22, which allows a shift of up to 52mm vertically and 46mm horizontally with 4x5 inch film. Schneider 150mm f/5.6 Apo-Symmar L Lens This is a large format photographic lens for view camera photography with film formats up to 5x7", although it's most common use is for 4x5" photography. It has a 75° angle of coverage at f/22. This results in an image circle of 233mm at f/22, which allows shift of up to 52mm vertically and 46mm horizontally with 4x5" film. Shutters Copal Manufactured in Japan by the Copal Company LTD since 1946, Copal shutters are widely used on large-format photography lenses. Fully mechanical, very reliable lens shutters, they are quite repairable by many technicians all over the world. There are two types, self-cocking or press shutters and manual cocking. They are basically old-fashioned clockwork systems with leaf blades for the shutter. Copal Shutters Specifications   COPAL LENS SHUTTER № 0 № 1 № 3 № 3S Weight 115gr 160gr 372gr 340gr Outer diameter 61mm 73mm 102mm 102mm Lens mounting Front: M 29.5mm x 0.5 Rear: M 29.5mm x 0.5 Front: M 40mm x 0.75 Rear: M 36mm x 0.75 Front: M 58mm x 0.75 Rear: M 58mm x 0.75 Front: M 56mm x 0.75 Rear: M 56mm x 0.75 Cable release nipple M 3.2mm x 0.5 M 3.2mm x 0.5 M 3.2mm x 0.5 M 3.2mm x 0.5 Shutter speeds T, B, 1, 2, 4, 8, 15, 30, 60, 125, 250, 500 T, B, 1, 2, 4, 8, 15, 30,60, 125, 250, 400 T, B, 1, 2, 4, 8, 15, 30, 60, 125 T, B, 1, 2, 4, 8, 15, 30, 60, 125 Shutter speeds tolerance +- 30% +- 30% +- 30% +- 30% Maximum iris opening 24mm 30mm 45mm 45mm Minimum iris opening 1.5mm 2mm 2mm 2mm Number of iris blades 5 7 7 7 Synchronization all shutter speeds all shutter speeds all shutter speeds all shutter speeds Max. sync delay times before max. opening: 0.5ms after max. opening: 0.7ms before max. opening: 0.5ms after max. opening: 0.7ms before max. opening: 0.5ms after max. opening: 0.7ms before max. opening: 0.5ms after max. opening: 0.7ms Threaded mounting ring M 32.5mm x 0.5 M 39mm x 0.75 M 62mm x 0.75 M 61mm x 0.75 Lens board hole 34.6mm 41.6mm 65mm 64.1mm   Copal № 0 This is a Copal № 0 shutter. The shutter speeds are T, B, 1, 2, 4, 8, 15, 30, 60, 125, 250 and 500. It has an aperture scale range of f/5.6 to f/64. Copal № 0 Copal № 1 This is a Copal № 1 shutter. The shutter speeds are T, B, 1, 2, 4, 8, 15, 30, 60, 125, 250 and 400. It has an aperture scale range of f/5.6 to f/64.   Copal № 1 Copal № 3 This is a Copal № 3 shutter. The shutter speeds are T, B, 1, 2, 4, 8, 15, 30, 60 and 125. It has an aperture scale range of f/4.5 to f/64. Copal № 3 Film   Various Film Formats Alex Burke of Alex Burke Photography a large format landscape photographer from Greeley, Colorado, in the USA has a fully comprehensive blog on various film types, both current and discontinued. Do have a look at his blog and consider buying his informative ebook on large format photography. My choice of colour film is Kodak Portra, I am not so wild about Kodak Ektar 100. My choice for slide or transparencies is Fuji Provia and Velvia. Bellini manufactures developing chemicals that allow you to process your negatives to positives or slides, so one is not necessarily limited to only Fuji for slide films, these can be purchased here. Black and white film, its a mix between Kodak and Ilford, there are other brands on the market like Adox, Bergger Pancro, Fomopan, Arista etc which I have not shot yet. I would like to shoot Rollei Infrared and would like to see how that performs, infrared produces amazing portraits with soft skin textures. Kodak Professional T-Max 100 Black and White Negative Film Film is best stored in the fridge to ensure an even, constant temperature and longevity. To prevent condensation from forming on the surfaces of film taken from a refrigerator or freezer, allow the package to warm up to room temperature before breaking the seal or opening the container. Warm-up times vary with the amount of material, the type of package, and the storage temperature. Typical warm-up times are given in the table below in hours to reach a room temperature of 21°C from a storage temperature of: FILM SIZE -18°C 02°C 13°C 120 01h00 00h45 ooh30 135 01h30 01h15 01h00 135 100' Roll 05h00 03h00 02h00 10 Sheet Box 01h30 01h00 01h00 50 Sheet Box           03h00       02h00      02h00   Film Holder Cases These are very handy, as 10 holders or 20 exposures become rather bulky in one's bag. The need for these to be either attached to your bag in a film holder or kept in your Pelican case helps keep things in order. If you are travelling light, I can strongly recommend these bags. 4x5"Film Holder Bag I have a system in place; all film that is not exposed is sealed in plastic packets, the holders are labelled with the type of film and kept in either my camera bag if I am not shooting a lot of film. The exposed frames are then put back into the opened plastic bags and those film holders placed in this bag which eliminates the mistake of double exposing my film. They are well padded and can protect and carry up to six 4x5" film holders. A mesh pocket on the front provides convenient storage for dark slides or small accessories. Film Holders These hold the same size film format as the camera size you shooting. It is basically a lightproof tray with a darkslide. Once the film holder is in place in the camera, the darkslide can be removed and the film is ready to be exposed. Once exposed the darkslide is returned and your image is safe, as long as the darkslide is not removed before development in the darkroom. I keep the white side of the darkslide facing outwards to show it has not been exposed and doesn't need the darkroom. Once exposed, I flip it around, black side outward.   4x5" Film Holder   Camera Bag The made in England, 550 Original Shoulder Bag from Billingham is designed to carry a medium-format, large-format or DSLR camera plus accessories. The case is khaki with tan leather trim. It is constructed from soft-weave fabric which helps eliminate abrasions, combined with Stormblocker dual-laminate waterproof canvas and a heavy-duty, closed-cell, foam-padded interior. It has Superflex 10-15 and 10-18 partitions for organizing gear. There is a large rain flap with buckle fastening. Billingham 550 - Khaki Canvas Tan Leather The 550 bag has two full-height zippered pockets inside the main compartment, double-bellowed front pockets with press-stud fastenings, two removable end pockets, and an external back pocket. It is carried by dual handles with an overlapping leather grip or an adjustable shoulder strap with an SP20 heavy-duty, neoprene-backed leather shoulder pad. This is a really expensive and good quality camera bag. How to shoot a 4x5 camera Here is a breakdown of roughly how one goes about shooting a frame on a large format camera: Choose the camera position, approximate orientation, focal length. Set up and level the tripod and camera. Attach the lens and open it to full aperture. Focus roughly using the focusing knob. Adjust precisely the composition while looking at the ground glass. Focus precisely with tilts/swings. Determine the optimal aperture. Close the lens, cock the shutter, rap and insert the film holder. Determine the shutter speed. Set the aperture and shutter speed. Remove the dark slide. Look at the subject. Fire the shutter with a cable release. Put the darkslide back in with the black side outwards to show it is exposed. Remove the film holder. Pack and move to the next spot. With today's technology, instead of using a traditional light meter to calculate the exposure time, you can simply use an app on your phone. There are plenty of mobile phone apps which are available from the various app stores where you in dial the aperture and ISO, and it calculates the time needed to properly expose your image. I use a Sekonic L-478DR light meter as well as a phone app. Acknowledgements Product information and images have been acquired from the relevant manufacturer websites.

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

Have You Tried YouPic for Photographers?

Have You Tried YouPic for Photographers? Have you tried YouPic for photographers? YouPic is a photo and video platform where anyone can upload their work. Photographers can rate each others work, down to specifics like composition, creativity, technical quality and content. YouPic is the place for photography enthusiasts around the world to be inspired, receive recognition and improve their photography. It is in my opinion, the best social platform for photographers out there right now. Whether you are an amateur or a professional, the YouPic platform provides anyone with useful courses, tips & tricks, and inspiration. YouPic is first and foremost a photo community, and it is based on a passion for photography and an engagement in the art form. There are currently over 1.5 million photographers from all around the world that have found YouPic and has become a part of its loving and active community. On YouPic, there are a number of ways for photographers to interact with each other and share their work with the rest of the community.  So What Is YouPic? Well, its not Instagram, it is not Facebook. Why I say that it’s not really like Instagram or Flickr etc, in which you could post anything off the cuff (although you could if you wanted to), is because it can best described as being a LinkedIn version of Instagram where professionals display their work, where they can be hired, their work reviewed or even sell their works. The photographic quality standards of works are very high, as is the level of photographers on this platform. It can be used on IOS, Android and Windows devices. For people like me it’s a great place to both find inspirational photos, discuss how they were taken, and to gain useful insight into which of your photos resonate with other photographers of similar styles, and what it was about the photo that they liked. This forces you to only post photos that you think are worthy of review, which in turn keeps the overall quality level high. There are awards and levels that you receive as you get more of the typical social factors like favorites, repics (like a retweet within the platform), and engagement (comments), as well as things like number of countries your photos were taken in and other less common items. The EXIF data, tagging and geotagged information is also displayed along with your image. Your work can be shared by you or others to any of the existing social networks. It also has a Lightroom plugin so you can upload directly from within the application which is quite handy. Who Will You Find On YouPic? There is a huge passionate community of photography enthusiasts from all of walks of life. Amateurs to super professional photographers, it looks to be the new hot spot for photographers. Photographers like Adam Hinton and David Harrow even have a profiles on YouPic, that says a lot to me! How Much Does It Cost?   Terms and Conditions Reading the About Page, Terms & Conditions, Privacy, YouPic seems to have their hearts in the right place. It is really encouraging to read in large letters, that photographers keeps all their rights to their works. How Does It Work? It did not take more than a few seconds after uploading my first work, that I started to receive positve responses and repics (which is like a re-tweet) and feedback based on composition, creativity, technical quality and content. Everybody is looking for something called Inspiration Stars on YouPic. When you acquire those, the human curators choose your image to be featured. You will also receive many more views and love on the special feed called Inspiration. There is also a shop feature which I havent set up yet, as I have been using YouPic for less than a week, but are planning to do so soon. The Shop is commission free, which means that I will get 100% of the revenue I make. My Take On Social Media Platforms Social media is an amazing vehicle to reach out to people instantly! Prior to the digital age, one had to work so much harder to get your name out there and to be noticed, now it's so much easier; and the competition bar can be raised even higher in the race to be the top dog in any game. In today's world, it is all about instant gratification, people dont have time to wait for a roll of film to be processed, they want the digital image today! It is good to have a presence online and a must. Personally, I do not have the time or desire to be feeding 20 different platforms and I have been very selective in what I have chosen to use for my photographic business. Facebook has the strongest social media following internationally since its inception in 2004. I use this as my main presence, followed by Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn. Twitter and Instagram are brilliant if you are shooting at a sporting event, capturing the moments now, and later competitors can see your snaps and tags and get in touch with you afterwards for images that you may have to sell. LinkedIn for me a great place to showcase my work as a business. I have now since discovered YouPic, and are very impressed with what I see and how it works! This is by no means a fully comprehensive review of the platform, I can say I am inspired by the works I have seen and are in this one for the long haul. Do give it a try and follow me here as well. Conclusion This is a fantastic platform to be discovered, seen and noticed by the photography community and by photographic consumers. Newsletter Please subscribe to my newsletter which will inform you of any new workshops, activities, products and upcoming events. Subscribe

Social Media Banners – Your Billboard On The Internet Highway

Social Media Banners - Your Billboard On The Internet Highway By Craig Fouché Your social media banners are your billboards on the internet highway, no matter which channel you use! Nothing more nothing less! If you are wanting to put yourself out there, design something professional that will spark interest and let you stand out from the rest of the crowd! Sell your brand well, first time, every time! I had a lightbulb moment the other day after doing a shoot for a client that needed updated advertising content for their billboard in the city where I live. Far too often, including me, we post a "nice" image up on our banner on Facebook and it may stay there for quite some time. We endeavour to generate as much internet traffic through the social media channels we use, as it is ultimately advertising that we are doing to potential vendors out there to make use of our skills and services. That's when the penny dropped! It is no different to you driving down a busy highway and seeing a giant billboard advertising a brand, idea, product or service. Some billboards are punchy and eye-catching, others very quirky and punny, as well as funny, and others that are seriously bland. I recall about 15 years ago in Pretoria, seeing a large billboard advertising luxury cars and the slogan was "7>6" that is 7 is greater than 6 and that the BMW 7 series was greater than the Audi A6. Mathematically it is true, 7>6. Ultimately BMW was trying to say that their brand of luxury cars was better than Audi, albeit both are German manufacturers. Clever advertising like this stands out and makes you think, yes, seven IS greater than six and you don't forget it. In response to this, 500m down the same highway, Audi responded with "8 is better than 7"! They weren't taking this one lying down, they were saying their A8 was better than the 7-series BMW! How much different aren't we as photographers when it comes to selling our skills and brand when competing against a newbie who has just walked into a camera store, bought an entry level setup and is suddenly a professional? You have taken time to build a brand, a name for yourself, why shouldn't it show in every dimension of what you do and who you are. If you are professional, show that be noticed, stand out from the rest of the crowd! YouTube is a great source of information, use it if you stuck with a skill that you need to learn when designing in Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator or Indesign. Adobe has a great tutorial on How to amp up your Facebook profile, which is easy to follow and will help you to get your creative juices flowing. Follow seasonal trends as advertisers do when it comes to marketing. An example could be Valentines Day, change your banner to reflect that sale for that event and brand it accordingly. The first thing any visitor is going to see are your social media banners when they search for you on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram etc. Make an impact the first time so that your visitor likes, stays, uses your services and recommends you to someone else. Below are some examples of Facebook social media banners that I have designed for my client and my page: Manic Cyles Worcester Craig Fouché Photography Social Media Banners Craig Fouché Photography Social Media Banners Craig Fouché Photography Social Media Banners   Craig Fouché Photography Social Media Banners How to Design Social Media Banners The ideal designing size for Facebook is 1920 x 1080px. Yes is way deeper than the traditional letterbox size, it is however a 16:9 aspect ratio which is also the size for HD video. Well, what has this go to do with Facebook you may ask? We are now able to upload videos as an alternative to photos to the banner, and slideshows too. The OLD shallow letterbox size (which you’ll still see recommended by a lot of people) is: Groups: 820 x 250 (we recommend you create this in 1920 x 1080) Pages: 820 x 312 (we recommend you create this in 1920 x 1080) Personal Profile: 851 x 315 (we recommend you create this in 1920 x 1080) Universal recommended size for all all Facebook cover photos (Page, Group and Profile): 1920px x 1080px Aim for a high resolution, as there are users out there with retina displays, futureproof yourself by sticking with 1920 x 1080 px; 820 x 461 px still looks the sharpest on older screens. The upside is a lovely deep photo to play with that renders in all its depth on mobile. However, on desktop it gets cropped a little. These deep dimensions give the best view on mobile as it uses the entire photo and gives you the largest area possible for the photo on the native app. It also gives you a larger area for any text that Facebook itself places on top of the photo in some scenarios. As you don’t have an option to upload different variants for mobile vs desktop rendering you need to be concious of where your photo will get cropped on different devices. Keep text to the safe area and ensure that nothing else in the picture looks weird when savagely cropped. View sizes for Facebook Groups, Pages and Profiles This is how the different photos actually surface on different devices. Facebook Group cover photo dimensions: Overall –  820px x 461px Mobile – 640px x 360px Tablet – 820px x 303px Desktop – 820px x 332px (1640px x 664px Retina Display) For all the above create your image as 1920px x 1080px Facebook Page cover photo dimensions: Overall – 820px x 461px Mobile –  640px x 360px Tablet – 820px x 391px Desktop – 820px x 312px (1640px x 624px Retina Display) For all the above create your image as 1920px x 1080px Facebook Profile cover photo dimensions: Overall –  851px x 479px Mobile – 640px x 360px Tablet – 851px x 406px Desktop – 851px x 315px (1702px x 630px Retina Display) For all the above create your image as 1920px x 1080px Also be aware that what you see will also vary on which browser/app variants you are using. Facebook treats each of these three variants differently: Tablet browser and desktop web browser (eg Safari/Chrome) Mobile phone web browser and tablet native Facebook app Finally the native Facebook phone app This is where we really are with Alice down the rabbit hole) the photo is then cropped differently depending on where it surfaces – eg as a recommended Group vs on the Group’s home url. Saving And Optimising Your Photo For Facebook – Recommended Software It is important to optimise the photo correctly – a lot of  image problems are to do with poor optimisation. It is recommended using a .jpg for optimum resolution at the smallest file size. The best way to do this is using something like Adobe Photoshop and exporting the image with ‘save for web’ as this will optimise the image better and give you a smaller file size. If you don’t have Photoshop there are several free services online that you can use. Most of the photo libraries have photo editors on their sites now. Try https://www.shutterstock.com/editor which has plenty of social media templates and enables you to edit and resize your own images for free (i.e. they don’t have to be Shutterstock pictures). Another excellent tool to use is Adobe Spark, as a Creative Cloud user, this is part of your package. For a Photoshop Social Media Banners template for Google+, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn click here to download. Disclaimer: Social media sizing dimensions and information found on various sources on the internet. Newsletter Please subscribe to my newsletter which will inform you of any new workshops, activities, products and upcoming events. Subscribe

Astrophotography – PhotoPills – Guide To Meteor Showers in 2018

A Guide to the Best Meteor Showers in 2018: When, Where and How to Shoot Them By Rafael Pons Here is a very informative guide by the guys at PhotoPills, who, as far as I am concerned are the industry standard for astrophotography apps. All credits in this blog belong to the authors, none of these works are mine. Their guides are very helpful,so  be sure to enter your valid email address to receive one. You’re about to learn all you need to enjoy watching and shooting one of the best late-night shows served by nature: Meteor Showers. Meteors are caused by streams of cosmic debris entering the Earth's atmosphere at extremely high speeds. Smaller fragments burn in the atmosphere producing a “shooting star”, but the bigger ones can really produce an amazing big fireball. And when the space rocks (meteoroids) of the Perseids, the Geminids or any other powerful meteor shower enter Earth’s atmosphere, you’d better be ready for a great night of shooting stars. My goal with this article, using the same words that the night photography Master Lance Keimig uses in his most famous book, Night Photography and Light Painting, is to help you: "Find your way in the dark" Get the whole Meteor Showers ebook for FREE now!     Content Meteor shower calendar for 2018 Where to look or frame: the radiant? The Meteor Showers’ key information How to shoot a meteor shower Inspiring meteor shower images We’re rewarding creativity 1 Meteor shower calendar for 2018 The following table gives you all the key information about the most important and active meteor showers in 2018: Pay attention to the Moon phase percentage during the peak night. The more phase the worst conditions for the watching and shooting. As you see on the table, moonlight will be blocking the Quadrantids, Eta Aquariids, Delta Aquariids and Orionids. While, the conditions will be great for the Lyrids, Perseids, Leonids and Geminids. Finally, the table also provides both the Radiant and constellation of origin of each meteor shower to help you know where to look or frame your camera. 2 Where to look or frame: the radiant? During the meteor shower, you’ll observe that meteors radiate from one point in the night sky. This spot is called the radiant. Each radiant (the point of origin from where the meteors appear to converge) is located within or near the constellation that give the name to the meteor shower. For example, the radiant of the Geminids meteor shower is located in the constellation of Gemini, near the Castor star, one of the brightest stars in the night sky. But you don’t have to look in the direction of the meteor shower's radiant point to see the most meteors. Meteors can appear in all parts of the sky. If you decide to introduce the radiant point in your frame and trace the path of the meteors backwards, you’ll realize that all meteors appear to converge to one single spot in the sky. In this case, if you're lucky enough to capture many meteors, you can create a stunning effect by using the technique described in this video by David Kingham for image post-processing. By using David’s technique, Antoni Cladera (aka, the Photographer) could built the awesome cover image of this article. I love this effect. How can you locate the radiant? The position of the radiant in the sky is defined by two coordinates: Right Ascension and Declination. Declination is the vertical angular distance between the center of a celestial body and the celestial equator. A declination of +20º means that the celestial body is located 20º north of the celestial equator. The south polar cap is at a declination of –90º, the equator is at declination 0º, and the north polar cap is at a declination of +90º. Declination is to a celestial globe as latitude is to a terrestrial globe, a vertical positioning of an object. Right Ascension is the angular distance measured eastward along the celestial equator between the vernal equinox and the celestial body. Together with Declination, it defines a position of a celestial body in the sky. It is measured in hours (1h equals to 15º), minutes and seconds. Yes, I know, both coordinates have horrible names and even worse definitions. The good news is that you don’t need to understand the theory to use PhotoPills’ Night Augmented Reality tool to locate the exact position of the radiant in the sky given by Right Ascension and Declination. Take a look at the following video to learn how to do it. We help you locate the radiant of the Perseids (Right ascension 3h 4m, Declination +58º). It’s easier that it seems, I promise ;) Once you’ve located the radiant in the sky for both the beginning and the end of the shooting, you’ll know exactly the path the radiant will follow. Then, you'll be able to frame at the right area of the sky to create an image with the same effect than David Kingham's. 3 The Meteor Showers’ key information The Quadrantids, January 1-6 The Quadrantids, well known for their bright fireball meteors, which produce larger explosions of light and color, are also known to be tricky. With a Zenithal Hourly Rate (ZHR) reaching 120 meteors per hour, the Quadrantids could be the most powerful shower of the year. But it turns out that the peak only lasts a few hours, which makes it difficult to catch. The shower runs from January 1 to 6. The best night for the watching is the one between the 3 and 4. The Peak has been predicted for January 3 at 20h UTC. This is not a good year for the Quadrantids, the Moon, with a phase of 98%, will block the stars. Unfortunately, this meteor shower is only visible from the northern hemisphere. These meteors are not visible from the southern hemisphere. Highlights: When: January 1-6 2018 Best night: January 3-4 Peak: January 3 at 20h UTC Moon Phase: 98% (poor viewing conditions) Number (ZHR): 120 Meteors/hour Meteors velocity: 42 km/s Origin (radiant): constellation Boötes Radiant coordinates: Right Ascension 15h 28m, Declination +49.5º Associated Asteroid: 2003 EH1 Northern Hemisphere: Medium rate Southern Hemisphere: Not visible The Lyrids, April 16-25 With a Zenithal Hourly Rate (ZHR) of just 20 meteors per hour, the Lyrids is an average shower. It runs from April 16 to 25. The best night for the watching is the one between the 22 and 23. The Peak has been predicted for April 22 at 18h UTC. This year, the crescent Moon will allow us to enjoy the show. This meteor shower is visible from both hemispheres. Although it’s weaker in the southern hemisphere. Highlights: When: April 16-25  2018 Best night: April 22-23 Peak: April 22 at 18h UTC Moon Phase: 38% (good viewing conditions) Number (ZHR): +20 Meteors/hour Meteors velocity: 48 km/s Origin (radiant): constellation Lyra Radiant coordinates: Right Ascension 18h 08m, Declination +32º Associated Comet: C/1861 G1 Thatcher (comet discovered in 1861) Northern Hemisphere: Medium rate Southern Hemisphere: Low rate Eta Aquariids, April 19 to May 28 The Eta Aquariids is known for its high percentage of persistent trains, but few fireballs. It’s usually a very active meteor shower when viewed from the southern tropics. Its Zenithal Hourly Rate (ZHR) is 55 meteors per hour, but it gets down to 10-30 from the equator northward. It runs from April 19 to May 25. The best night for the watching is the one between May 6 and 7. The Peak has been predicted for May 6 at 8h UTC. Trying the night before and after is also a great idea. The Moon, with a phase of 61%, will be an issue this year. It might block part of the meteors. So, use PhotoPills to check the time the moon will set in your location and get ready for the show. You never know what can happen! The meteor shower is best visible from the southern hemisphere. It’s also visible from the northern hemisphere but at a lower rate. Highlights: When: April 19 to May 28  2018 Best night: May 6-7 Peak: May 6 at 8h UTC Moon Phase: 61% (poor viewing conditions) Number (ZHR): +55 Meteors/hour Meteors velocity: 66 km/s Origin (radiant): constellation Aquarius Radiant coordinates: Right Ascension 22h 32m, Declination -1º Associated Comet: 1P Halley Northern Hemisphere: Medium rate Southern Hemisphere: Good rate Delta Aquariids. July 12 to August 23 As it happens with the Eta Aquariids, it’s better to watch this shower from the southern tropics. With a Zenithal Hourly Rate (ZHR) of 20 meteors per hour, do not expect to see many meteors. It runs from July 12 to August 23. The best night for the watching is the one between July 29 and 30. The Peak has been predicted for July 30 at 11h UTC. This is not a good ear for the Eta Aquariids, the Moon, with a phase of 96%, will block the stars. The meteor shower is best visible from the southern hemisphere. But it’s also also visible from the northern hemisphere but at a lower rate. Highlights: When: July 12 to August 23 2018 Best night: July 29-30 Peak: July 30 at 11h UTC Moon Phase: 96% (poor viewing conditions) Number (ZHR): +20 Meteors/hour Meteors velocity: 42 km/s Origin (radiant): constellation Aquarius Radiant coordinates: Right Ascension 22h 40m, Declination -16.4º Associated Comet: Unknown, 96P Machholz suspected Northern Hemisphere: Medium rate Southern Hemisphere: Good rate The Perseids, July 17 to August 24 The Perseids is considered to be the best meteor shower of the year. With a Zenithal Hourly Rate (ZHR) of above 100 meteors per hour, the night of the peak is usually epic. It runs from July 17 to August 24. This year, the best night for the watching is the one between the 12 and 13 of August. The Peak has been predicted for August 13 at 01h UTC. It’s a good idea to give it a try also the nights between the 11-12 and 13-14. The moon, with a phase of 3%, will give us the opportunity to enjoy a big show. The meteor shower is visible and intense in both hemispheres. Highlights: When: July 17 to August 24 2018 Best night: August 12-13 Peak: August 13 at 01h UTC Moon Phase: 3% (good viewing conditions) Number (ZHR): +100 Meteors/hour Meteors velocity: 60 km/s Origin (radiant): constellation Perseus Radiant coordinates: Right Ascension 03h 04m, Declination +58º Associated Comet: 109P/Swift-Tuttle (comet discovered in 1862) Northern Hemisphere: High rate Southern Hemisphere: High rate The Orionids, October 4 to November 14 The Orionids are associated to the comet 1P/Halley, the same that’s associated to the Eta Aquariids in May. It’s an average shower with a Zenithal Hourly Rate (ZHR) of just 20 meteors per hour. It runs from October 4 to November 14. The best night for the watching is the one between the 21 and 22 of October. The Peak has been predicted for October 22 at 03h UTC. Unfortunately, the moon, with a phase of 91%, will block the stars. The meteor shower is visible in both hemispheres. Highlights: When: October 4 to November 14 2018 Best night: October 21-22 Peak: October 28 at 03h UTC Moon Phase: 91% (poor viewing conditions) Number (ZHR): +20 Meteors/hour Meteors velocity: 66 km/s Origin (radiant): constellation Orion Radiant coordinates: Right Ascension 06h 20m, Declination +15.5º Associated Comet: 1P/Halley Northern Hemisphere: Low rate Southern Hemisphere: Low rate The Leonids, November 5 to 30 The Leonids has a peak above 100 meteors/hour every 33 years. The last great peak occurred in 2001, so we’ll have to wait until 2034! Usually, It’s an average shower with a Zenithal Hourly Rate (ZHR) of just 15 meteors per hour. It runs from November 5 to 30. The best night for the watching is the one between the 17 and 18 of November. The Peak has been predicted for November 17 at 23h UTC. The Moon, with a phase of 62%, will be an issue this year. It might block part of the meteors. So, use PhotoPills to check the time the Moon will set in your location and get ready for the show. The meteor shower should be visible in both hemispheres. Highlights: When: November 5 to 30 2018 Best night: November 17-18 Peak: November 17 at 23h UTC Moon Phase: 62% (good viewing conditions) Number (ZHR): +15 Meteors/hour Meteors velocity: 71 km/s Origin (radiant): constellation Leo Radiant coordinates: Right Ascension 10h 08m, Declination +21.6º Associated Comet: 55P/Tempel-Tuttle Northern Hemisphere: Low rate Southern Hemisphere: Low rate The Geminids, December 4 to 16 For many astronomers, the Geminids is considered to be the queen of the meteor showers. The comet 3200 Phaethon is the cause of this meteor shower. With a Zenithal Hourly Rate (ZHR) of +120 meteors per hour, you can expect to see a good number of bright meteors. It runs from December 4 to 16. The best night for the watching is the one between the 13 and 14. The Peak has been predicted for December 14 at 13h UTC. This year, the waxing crescent Moon will not be a problem for the watching. Use PhotoPills to check the rise and set times, and choose the best time for the shooting. It’s visible from both hemispheres. Although it’s weaker in the southern hemisphere. Highlights: When: December 4 to 16 2018 Best night: December 13-14 Peak: December 14 at 13h UTC Moon Phase: 35% (good viewing conditions) Number (ZHR): +120 Meteors/hour Meteors velocity: 35 km/s Origin (radiant): constellation Gemini Radiant coordinates: Right Ascension 07h 28m, Declination +32.2º Associated Asteroid: 3200 Phaethon (discovered in 1982) Northern Hemisphere: High rate Southern Hemisphere: Medium rate 4 How to shoot a meteor shower In case you plan a night scape to shoot one of the meteor showers, the following recommendations will help you get started with the shooting: Location: Go into an area with little light pollution. Framing: Make sure you’re framing the right area in the sky. You can use PhotoPills’ Night Augmented Reality tool to locate the radiant of the meteor shower. Focal length: Use the widest angle lens possible (at least 14mm) to capture the most area of the sky. Aperture: Use a fast lens to collect as much light as possible. An aperture of f/2.8 is great. Focusing: Focus at the hyperfocal distance. Make sure you’re not focusing at a shorter distance, because you’ll get stars completely blurred, even if you miss it by one inch (2.5cm). It’s much better to make focus exceeding the hyperfocal distance by 2 feet rather than falling short. You can calculate the hyperfocal distance with our on-line Depth of Field calculator. Also, learn all you need to know about hyperfocal distance and depth of field with our extremely detailed DoF Guide. ISO: Set the ISO to the maximum level that your camera allows without getting excessive noise (ISO 1600 or higher is recommended). Exposure time: Use PhotoPills' on-line Spot Stars calculator to calculate the maximum exposure time to get stars as bright spots. Usually, you’ll get a value between 20 and 35 seconds, depending on the camera and lens used. White Balance: With no light pollution, I recommend you to use a WB between 3,400K and 4,000K. Interval: Use a shooting interval between 2 and 5 seconds to try to capture the maximum amount of meteors.    Regarding the equipment, in Step 7 of our tutorial “How to Shoot Truly Contagious Milky Way Pictures”, you’ll find all you need no matter your level of expertise or budget. Make sure to take a look at it. But, knowing the camera, lens and tripod you’ll need is only the beginning. I recommend you to also bring with you at least one heater strip to fight dew back! One of the most annoying aspects of night photography is dealing with dew. Moisture in the air can condense on the cold front surface of your lens, and ruin the photos. Getting a heater strip is a great way to save the night. The good news is that heater strips are very cheap (see again “Equipment against moisture” in step 7). Perhaps, the two most popular heater strip brands are Dew-Not and Kendrick. I use a Dew-Not 3" DN004, which perfectly fits my Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8. This model has a length of 13" (33cm), enough for the diameter of the lens. Make sure you buy a strip that can go around the entire circumference of the lens. You’ll also need a portable battery and a cable connector.   Dew heater Dew-Not 3" DN004 connected to a portable battery. Need more help? Take a look at our articles How To Shoot Truly Contagious Milky Way Pictures and The Definitve Guide to Shooting Hipnotic Star Trails. You'll learn everything you need to imagine, plan and shoot stunning photos of the stars. And if you wish to learn face to face with us, the whole PhotoPills Team, along with a selected group of photography masters, don't miss the PhotoPills Camp! 5 Inspiring meteor shower images From stacking a great number of photos to create David Kingham’s effect or a powerful star trails image, to putting together a timelapse video, spending the whole night shooting a meteor shower can be very productive from the creative side. The following images and videos are the outcome of the Geminids Meteor shower in 2015. It was on Monday, December 14 2015, around 10pm local time, when the clouds disappeared from above our heads, leaving us face to face with one of the most active meteor showers we remember. We spent the next 5 hours shooting and enjoying the show. What an epic time! Timelapse The timelapse is the result of playing 647 still images at 24fps. Nikon D4s | 14mm | f2.8 | 30s | 5000 ISO Star trails   Staking of 647 photos. Nikon D4s | 14mm | f2.8 | 30s | 5000 ISO You can create stunning star trails by merging a series of short exposure photos into a single image using softwares like StarStaX (Mac, Windows, Linux) or Startrails (Windows). Meteor Exploding Who has seen the explosion of a meteor in the sky? We did! And with a smoky tail :) You never know what your camera will capture during the night. Each night scape is a different adventure. Converging Meteors   Nikon D4s | 14mm | f2.8 | 30s | 5000 ISO The image is the result of stacking 120 photos using David Kingham’s technique. To create this stunning effect, every photo has been rotated around Polaris to keep the radiant point of the meteor shower in the same place. This proves that all meteors appear to converge from one single point in the sky: the radiant.   Happy Showers! All photos in this articles have been taken by Antoni Cladera.  Newsletter Please subscribe me to your newsletter informing me of all new workshops, activities, products and upcoming events. Subscribe

The Eight Major Meteor Showers Coming to South Africa in 2018

The Eight Major Meteor Showers Coming to South Africa in 2018 If you enjoyed Geminids this month, this will be right up your street, here are the eight major meteor showers coming to South Africa in 2018. By Tom Head   Image Credits: Pixabay / Pexels There is something so tangibly beautiful about meteor showers. They are a reminder of just how magnificent our universe is, illuminating our night skies as part of a breathtaking cosmic ballet. We all enjoyed the Geminids shower that lit up the darkness this month, so we got to thinking: When will we see something like this again? We come bearing good news… There are eight major meteor showers coming our way in 2018. So if you’re an old romantic, or a long-time stargazer, you’re going to have to make some plans for the new year. There are some stunning shows on their way to us from across the galaxy. Put the smartphone down, and treat yourself to something truly special. Meteor showers in South Africa 1. Quadrantids Meteor Shower, January 2018 When? Quadrantids wastes little time in christening 2018 with a beautiful display of shooting stars. From the 1st – 5th January, the shower will be visible from South Africa. The peak date will be Wednesday 3rd January. Meteors per hour? You can spot around 40 an hour during its peak phase Visibility? Not great. The Full Moon on the night on the 1st and 2nd of January will make for a brighter night sky, drowning out up to 80 percent of visible meteors. You have a fighting chance on the third though, as the moon dulls and Earth moves closer to the shower itself. 2. Lyrids Meteor Shower, April 2018 When? This is an annual shower that runs between 16th – 25th April. The night of the 22nd going into the morning of the 23rd will be your peak viewing time. Meteors per hour? This is a more reserved shower, and around 20 meteors can be spotted within a sixty-minute period. Visibility? It’s a good forecast. There will only be a ‘quarter-moon’ in the sky during the peak viewing hours. When that sets, it will leave a dark sky to compliment the bright dust trails flying off the meteors. 3. Eta Aquarids, May 2018 When? The first signs of this shower come during Lyrids, on the 18th April. Meteors from Eta Aquarids have been spotted as late as the 29th May. However, their peak date will be the 6th May, going into the early hours of the 7th. Meteors per hour? This year it’s likely to be just 30 an hour, but can peak to 60. Visibility? The further south you are, the more likely you’ll see it. A “waning gibbous Moon” will already be illuminating the sky, reducing visibility from its normal level. We have it on good authority from Seasky that there should be ‘a few good ones’ that are easy to spot. 4. South Delta Aquarids, July 2018 When? The shower runs on a six-week cycle every year, from 12th July – 23rd August. The peak night for viewing will be the 28th July, through to the 29th. Meteors per hour? A steady rate of 20 an hour should keep the stargazers busy Visibility?   A full moon is threatening to limit what can be seen from space. However, the South Delta Aquarids is an incredibly bright offering, so you should still be able to see one of the best shows of the year. 5. Perseids Meteor Shower, August 2018 When? From the 17th July – 24th August, one of the best known meteor showers passes across Earth. It’s the 12th August when the night sky really lights up, though. Meteors per hour? It’s the event that perhaps provides the most value for your time invested. Up to 60 meteors can be spotted within an hour. Visibility? There’s a thin crescent moon which means visibility is excellent! 6. Orionids, October 2018 When? It goes from the 2nd October – 9th November, and the 21st October in the night to see this shower hit its peak. Meteors per hour? It can produce up to 20 visible meteors an hour, but these are all quite special. The meteors are all fragments of Haley’s comet, the cosmic marvel that appears in our skies once every 77 years. Visibility? Bad news, full moon. Great news is that Orionids is the brightest shower on the list. No matter what the moon is doing, nothing will stop us getting a good eye-full here. 7. Leonidis Meteor Shower, November 2018 When? This has a shorted run than most showers, but is no less spectacular. Leonidis is visible from the 6th – 30th November, reaching its peak on the 17th November. Meteors per hour? These meteors have a cyclic peak of 33 years, the last of which was reached in 2001. Although it will be a stronger display than 2017, there is still some way to go before it takes over the night sky again. Having said that, a fair 15 meteors an hour can be spotted on a dark evening. Visibility? The moon is setting early on the 17th, so any time after midnight will provide you with a dark background. This will be one of the clearer nights on the calendar 8. Geminids Meteor Shower, December 2018 When? Rounding off our list of meteor showers is Geminids. We were all treated to something spectacular this month. In fact, it was so good, Geminids has agreed to come back again next year. And the year after. And the year after. It’s an annual event, set to peak on December 13th next year. Meteors per hour? 120 an hour. There’s a reason we all lost our minds over this one. It’s the most breathtaking offering you can get from watching the stars, and next year will be no different. Visibility? We’ve got a good set up for Geminids 2018. A few South Africans were robbed this year when cloudy skies blocked their views, but everything should be going our way next December. Only a quarter-moon will be in the sky. We can’t wait another year! Newsletter Please subscribe to my newsletter which will inform you of any new workshops, activities, products and upcoming events. Subscribe

Travel – Sutherland – South Africa

Travel - Sutherland - South Africa Introduction At the drop of a hat, my wife and I decided to travel and visit this quaint little Upper Karoo town of Sutherland - South Africa over the Christmas holidays. During my booking, I was very surprised to learn that most of the B&B's were fully booked! Most travellers come from the North (Gauteng) and head to the sunny beaches and grand vineyards of Cape Town and the surrounds for their annual holiday break, and usually stop over at Gariep Dam or Beaufort-West. Sutherland on the R354, lies 110km from charming Matjiesfontein on the N1 / R354 junction. This is really an off the beaten track detour, which is off of the main N1 highway from Johannesburg to Cape Town; it was these travellers that had filled the B&B establishments of Sutherland! Saying that, Sutherland is experiencing a lot of visitors, those seeking the peace and quiet tranquillity of the Karoo. Map of the Western and Northern Cape What is the Karoo? The Karoo from a Khoikhoi word, possibly garo "desert" is a semi-desert natural region of South Africa. It broadly translates as “hard, dry, thirstland”. What this blunt rendition fails to convey is the special place the Karoo holds in the hearts of those who perceive beauty in its endless, sun-drenched spaces and flat-topped koppies (hills). They sense it in the evocative clunk of windmills urging sweet, untainted water from underground boreholes, and in isolated farmsteads where hospitality to travellers is a deeply rooted way of life. Windmill and Salpeterkop, Rogge Cloof, Sutherland Vast, remote, open spaces, silence, serenity and dramatic landforms combine with an extreme climate and unique vegetation to make up the alchemy called Karoo magic. The dust and wind, Petrus and Johannes with Vlekkie and Ou Boet the dogs returning with the sheep and goats in the evening to the kraal, Oom Karel Witbooi and Tannie Saartjie Plaaitjies and a few farmworkers from the neighbouring farms on their usual trek to town on their donkey cart are constant reminders that this is the Karoo. That’s what visitors fall in love with. There is no exact definition of what constitutes the Karoo, and therefore also not its extent. The Karoo is partly defined by its topography, partly its geology but, above all, its low rainfall, arid air, cloudless skies, and extremes of heat and cold. It formed an almost impenetrable barrier to the interior from Cape Town, and the early adventurers, explorers, hunters and travellers on the way to the Highveld unanimously denounced it as a frightening place of great heat, great frosts, great floods and great droughts. Today it is still a place of great heat and frosts, and an annual rainfall of between 50–250mm, though on some of the mountains it can be 250–500mm higher than on the plains. However underground water is found throughout the Karoo, which can be tapped by boreholes, making permanent settlements and sheep farming possible. Map of the Great and Little Karoo It’s made up of five regions and the boundaries are marked by subtle changes in vegetation: The Little Karoo Tankwa Karoo Moordenaars Karoo Upper Karoo Great Karoo In the south, the Southern Cape Fold Mountain Belt divides the Karoo from the wetter Cape region. To the west, the frontier is the Cederberg mountain range. To the east and north-east, the lines are drawn by the rolling grasslands of the Free State. And in the north, which is where you find Sutherland, the Karoo eventually gives way to kokerboom (quiver tree) country. The xerophytic vegetation consists of aloes, mesembryanthemums, crassulas, euphorbias, stapelias, and desert ephemerals, spaced 50cm or more apart, and becoming very sparse going northwards into Bushmanland and, from there, into the Kalahari Desert. The driest region of the Karoo is however, its south western corner, between the Great Escarpment and the Cederberg-Skurweberg mountain ranges, called the Tankwa Karoo, which receives only 75 mm of rain annually. The eastern and north-eastern Karoo are often covered by large patches of grassland. The typical Karoo vegetation used to support large game sometimes in vast herds. Today sheep thrive on the xerophytes, though each sheep requires about 4 hectares of grazing to sustain itself. The Karoo is sharply divided into the Great Karoo and the Little Karoo by the Swartberg Mountain Range, which runs east-west, parallel to the southern coastline, but is separated from the sea by another east-west range called the Outeniqua –Langeberg Mountains. The Great Karoo lies to the north of the Swartberg range; the Little Karoo is to the south of it. Great Karoo The only sharp and definite boundary of the Great Karoo is formed by the most inland ranges of Cape Fold Mountains to the south and south-west. The extent of the Karoo to the north is vague, fading gradually and almost imperceptibly into the increasingly arid Bushmanland towards the north-west. To the north and north-east, it fades into the savannah and grasslands of Griqualand West and the Highveld. The boundary to the east grades into the grasslands of the Eastern Midlands. The Great Karoo is itself divided by the Great Escarpment into the "Upper Karoo" (generally above 1200–1500m) and the "Lower Karoo" on the plains below at 700–800m. A great many local names, each denoting different subregions of the Great Karoo, exist, some more widely, or more generally, known than others. In the Lower Karoo, going from west to east, they are the following sub-regions occur: Tankwa Karoo Moordenaarskaroo Koup Vlakte Camdeboo Plains The better-known sub-regions of the Upper Karoo are: Hantam Kareeberge Roggeveld Nuweveld Though most of it is simply known as the "Upper Karoo", especially in the north. Little Karoo The Little Karoo’s boundaries are sharply defined by mountain ranges to the west, north and south. The road between Uniondale and Willowmore is considered, by convention, to form the approximate arbitrary eastern extremity of the Little Karoo. Its extent is much smaller than that of the Great Karoo. Locally, it is usually called the Klein Karoo, which is Afrikaans for "Little Karoo". Our Accommodation Jannie of the Blue Moon Guesthouse was able to roll a stone out of our way to accommodate us during this busy time at The Artist's Cottage, with meals at The Blue Moon Guesthouse. His guesthouse is a charming almost 100-year old sandstone Karoo house with five bedrooms and restaurant. His staff are very friendly and helpful. They serve the most delicious Karoo cuisine all day long, their breakfasts are either served indoors or out on the stoep / verandah, and the most filling, delicious farmstyle breakfast you could wish for! The Artist’s Cottage is one of the oldest houses in town, it doesnt look like much from the outside, step inside and be impressed. The cottage is a charming, typical Karoo-style building which has been renovated with a modern flair yet remains true to its original style! If you expecting modern, upmarket lodging from the likes of a Sandton B&B, forget it, this the Platteland where real hospitality and genuine friendliness is far better than the hustle and bustle of the city-slicker's expectation. Here you go back in time and to the real thing! The Artist's Cottage - Karoo Comfort The Artist's Cottage - Karoo Comfort The Artist's Cottage - Karoo Kitchen Platteland simple living at its best. Nothing is complicated here, it seems the most stress that anyone should endure is when the rains don't arrive on time, or where the snow has become too much - the diesel in your bakkie and the water pipes in your home freezes and you are unable to keep warm! The Blue Moon Guesthouse The tranquility and stillness of the afternoon, the slow turning of the windmill in the cool breeze, the chattering and chirping of the Karoo birdlife, these were the only sounds to be heard whilst we enjoyed tea on the stoep / verandah. Whilst sitting on the stoep, I was instantly reminded of my childhood, of the locally produced Afrikaans comedy drama - Koöperasie stories (1982–1987) set in a small Afrikaans town. This comedy was filmed on location in the mining town of Cullinan, about a very close-knit community always gossiping about each other, "Ja, so is die mensdom, Mietie!", with "Oom Genis" usually bearing the brunt of the gossip which starred Alex Heyns as Oom Botes, Jacques Loots as Genis, Marie Pentz as Mietie, Emgee Pretoruis as Veldsman and André Verster as Dominee. Earlier in the day, I had passed the closed famers Co-op in town, and this setting just reinforced those memories. Koöperasie stories History Sutherland was founded in 1723 as a church and market town to serve the area's sheep farmers. By 1872 the town had a population of 138 registered citizens living in 19 houses. The large Dutch Reformed church in the centre of Sutherland was built in 1899. The first Europeans to settle in the area were sheep farmers who got there via the Forgotten Highway (the road between Ceres and the Karoo), so called because it was the main highway to the north before the N1.   NG Kerk Sutherland During the Anglo Boer War, the church was used as a fort by garrisoned British soldiers. During the war a number of engagements between British and Boer forces occurred in the town. In one such engagement, a force of 250 Boer commandos attacked the local British garrison for 10 hours. The ruins of a fort can be found on the outskirts of town on the hill called Rebelskop. This was named after this engagement. As one enters the town from the Matjiesfontein side, the Anglo Boer War cemetery can be found on the left-hand side and can be visited. Economy Major economic activities include tourism and sheep farming. The area includes at least twelve registered B&B's, guest houses and guest farms. The nearby South African Astronomical Observatory also plays a significant role in the town's economy and is a major driver of tourism to the area. The town also has a number of bars, restaurants and an amateur astronomy observatory that service the tourism sector. Sutherland has recently gained in popularity, with many Capetonians buying property in the town and many more visiting on weekends and vacations. Our Experience The tiny Upper Karoo town of Sutherland - South Africa is a town with about 2850 inhabitants in the Northern Cape province. The main road is tarred, whilst the side roads are gravel adding to the Platteland charm that it oozes. There are a few well-known stores in town - OK Foods and PEP, butcher shops, a bank, post-office, two fuel stations, police station, church and a farmers co-op. It lies in the western Roggeveld Mountains in the Karoo. It is famously known as the coldest place in South Africa with an average yearly temperature of 11.3 °C and an average annual minimum temperature of 2.8 °C; although the farm Buffelsfontein holds the official lowest temperature record in the country, of −20.1 °C. Snowfall is common in winter. The coldest temperature recorded in Sutherland was −16.4 °C on 12 July 2003. Sutherland has a semi-arid climate and is well suited to sheep farming. It normally receives about 169mm of rain per year and because it receives most of its rainfall during winter it has a Mediterranean climate. The lowest rainfall (4mm) in January and the highest (28mm) in June. It is also called the ‘Gateway to the Universe’ as it is the location of the most powerful telescope in the Southern Hemisphere – SALT and has the best night skies in Southern Africa. The SAAO - South African Astronomical Observatory takes advantage of the local climate and remoteness of the Upper Karoo – an area that is flat and arid, and therefore cloudless, for most of the year and also very undeveloped with clear unpolluted and very dark skies – except for an inverted ‘blanket’ made of zillions of stars which looks like someone had thrown a bucket of glitter into the sky. It is located approximately 15km from town. Sutherland has its own Dark Skies reserve - Spaceport Karoo, which is South Africa's first and largest Dark Sky Reserve. While Sutherland is most famous for its stargazing and SALT, there are many other things to see, do or simply enjoy around this small town during the day. At 1450-1500m above sea level, snow is guaranteed in the cold winter months, as is a myriad of flowers after the summer rains re-awaken the Karoo. There are walking and mountain bike trails around the town, newer mountain bike trails being developed at Rogge Cloof as I write this blog, horse-riding and just enjoying the wide open space around you. If you looking for peace and quiet, you have found it! Your ears ring in the stillness of Sutherlands' quietness. During 2017, I had wanted to shoot the night skies with a few ideas in mind. This was my perfect opportunity to do so. Getting up early in the morning to shoot sunrises, is not my strong point. With a bit of gentle coaxing, my wife Dominique got me out of bed to capture the sun painting up the NG Church in town. I am glad I got up for it, as it is best photographed as a sunrise shot. It was a rather normal chilly morning for us, being summer, but a normal morning in Sutherland. I was intrigued by the old traditional Karoo architecture of the dorp, and captured a few images there too. Traditional Karoo Home I had contacted Rogge Cloof at the suggestion of my friend Francios of Manic Cycles Worcester, and met with André and Corlia, two wonderful hosts that have a heart and passion for the Karoo and Sutherland. Francios has supplied Rogge Cloof with 6 fat bikes that are very comfortable to ride, actually designed for snow, which will be great to ride in the winter snow and during the other seasons. We enjoyed a lovely afternoon chat and a game drive while I scouted for locations to shoot my night sky images. There are a variety of game and antelope at Rogge Cloof, that being Springbok, Eland, Grysbok, Gemsbok, Zebra, Black Wildebees, Caracal and Jackal, with more game to be introduced that originated from the area. The luxury accommodation is unique and very comfortable, a perfect place to own your own peace and quiet during your stay. Rogge Cloof Panorama My wife, Dominique and I setup before sunset, as I wanted to capture the Blue Hour. Springbok congregated around the windmill slaking their thirst just before nightfall. During that time André and Corlia were preparing the most delicious meal for us. I shot from around sunset to approximately 22h30, in between enjoying the fine dinner and Rogge Cloof's own locally produced Sutherland wines that had been presented. People always associate the Western Cape with wine, I was very surprised to learn that Sutherland is our only highest-altitude, semi-arid, coldest wine growing region in South Africa. Rogge Cloof boasts 3 wines which are produced using organic practices and are grown on the farm Kanolfontein, the vineyards were planted in 2004. One of the wines is from the Ceres Valley. The South African winelands encompass 27 diverse districts and some 77 smaller wards in total. I walked away with a few good images which I am happy with, it wasn't an entirely dark moon at the time of my shoot, that is why the the foreground was lit up in the way it was. The moon was in the last quarter phase. As time was short for us, I want to return again to capture more of what the Upper Karoo has to offer in the other seasons of the year, I have a few ideas in mind, so look out for my next blog on Sutherland when that trip has been completed. Milky Way Panorama Arriving at The Artist’s Cottage around midnight, after our shoot at Rogge Cloof, I was seriously impressed at how clear the stars shone in town, in spite of the few mercury vapour street lights that lit the streets. Sadly, the next morning after breakfast, we had to return home, but going home refreshed and inspired and all the better for our experiences in Sutherland. Sutherland NG Kerk - A Light in the Darkness The Artist's Cottage - Wishing Upon a Star In Conclusion As time was short for us, I want to return again, to leave the boundries of my regular radio station behind and tune into something different. I need to spend some more time there to capture so much more of what the Upper Karoo has to offer in the other seasons of the year. I have a few ideas in mind, so look out for my next blog on Sutherland when that trip has been completed. My focus was purely on landscape photography, I did not come away with any wildlife images, even although the birdlife in the area and game at Rogge Cloof is in abundance, I only brought along landscape lenses for this trip, which is another reason for me to return. Special thanks to André and Corlia of Rogge Cloof for your wonderful hospitality, and to Jannie of The Blue Moon, we plan to be back when it snows! Do show some love and support for these two venues should you decide to visit the Upper Karoo, you won't be disappointed! Acknowledgements Information sourced from various sources on the internet: Wikipedia, Rogge Cloof, Discover Sutherland, Wines of South Africa and Badisa for the Koöperasie stories image, all watermarked images are copyrighted and belong to Craig Fouché Photography. There are two gallieries for this blog, a monochrome and colour below. Click on the images below 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 me to your newsletter informing me of all new workshops, activities, products and upcoming events. Subscribe colour gallery monochrome gallery Newsletter Please subscribe to my newsletter which will inform you of any new workshops, activities, products and upcoming events. Subscribe

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