Craig Fouché Photography in proud association with Rogge Cloof Private Sutherland Estate, an upmarket, exceptional standards establishment reserve near Sutherland, presented another astrophotography, landscape and wildlife photography workshop in 2019 at Rogge Cloof Private Sutherland Estate. Here we had the opportunity to photograph the night skies, landscapes, star trails and wildlife.
My workshop clients were Germans and came from Cape Town to learn Milky Way and night sky photography, landscapes and wildlife photography while exploring South Africa ’s finest and darkest skies in the Upper Karoo near Sutherland – South Africa’s premier night photography destination. Siegfried was gifted this workshop as a 70th birthday present and both him and Jens were both delighted with what was presented and the images they got.
Sutherland, which is notorious for cold weather, surprisingly it wasn’t that cold. The wind did however howl, and the first evening looked like there would be rain with closed skies for the night. As the reserve is on top of the escarpment, weather conditions can change at the drop of a hat. Sunset was glorious with the promise of pregnant skies hanging full and low on the horizon – it didn’t rain. Later that evening the skies had opened up and we were able to shoot some starry skies. While we were setting up for sunset, I was explaining to my clients that so often people shoot into the sun, it is also better to shoot in the opposite direction as the pinks and blue hues paint a pastel scene in the sky. This happened the previous evening when I was there alone. This evening it did not happen that way and whilst waiting for it I looked into the sun and this composition appeared which was so spectacular!
I showed my clients how to use the app by PhotoPills for their planning, setup and positioning of their cameras to capture the compositions they were after. This is an outstanding tool for any landscape planning activity from any location. The following day a chilling wind greeted us with streaky cirrus clouds which always precedes a cold front. I used this opportunity to shoot these clouds and to teach my clients Siegfried and Jens how to use LEE Filters, particularly a Small Stopper to create long exposures of windmills spinning in the wind.
After lunch, it was time for an editing session to teach them how I edit and what tools I use in my workflow. I use Nik Collection 2 by DXO and Photoshop to edit my images. I showed them how to create astonishing monochrome images from what might have been a throwaway image and how to see things differently. Black and white are all about mood, drama, textures, repeating patterns and simplicity. My photography workshop includes editing as well as hands on photography.
I had been out shooting during their break, looking for new compositions, the dust and wind were by no means pleasant, and this not always seen by the viewer unless on video. This is the time when Nature plays with the skies and creates amazing patterns.
The reserve has cheetah and we were treated to a very special sighting where Mona the older female had just made a fresh kill and proceeded to eat it in a relaxed manner. It is astounding to see how well they are doing, considering that Sutherland gets snow and that there are no trees like in the Serengeti to find shelter from such elements.
There is an abundance of Springbok in the reserve, and most time they can be quite skittish. Moments do present themselves when they are relaxed and one can walk away with such images.
The sunset that evening was all about Venus’ Belt, pastel hues of pinks and blues in the buffeting Upper Karoo winds over Salpeterkop, Southern Africa’s last active volcano in days gone by.
Stars, stars and more stars, this is what Sutherland is known for!
This is the end of the Milky Way season so to speak. The Milky Way lies very low on the horizon and the core could only be seen during the Blue Hour and for two hours after that. We were however treated to a few shooting stars as can be seen in this shot with the Milky Way to the bottom right of the frame. The moon was also high in the sky, sometimes this can be a good thing, as long as it is just a sliver. Soft even lighting is cast upon the ground and it behaves like a mini sun. Saying that this does not prevent one from enjoying the glitter splashed heavens in all their glory when the Milky Way doesn’t make an appearance, the stars in Sutherland are still so spectacular. The photography workshop was enjoyed by all and my clients both learnt a lot.
Like the poet Robert Frost, I too took the road less travelled.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Leaving home in Worcester a day earlier, I decided to take the route through the Tankwa Karoo National Park. This is South-Africas driest region with around 100mm of rain per annum. In spite of this being a hard, tough place – a harsh land, there is an amazing beauty about its starkness. Silence. Heat. Cold. Nothingness. Life exists here and purely by the grace of God.
Those that take the road less travelled will know that the Tankwa Padstal is an oasis on the R355 between Ceres and Calvinia. On closer inspection, the Coke chalkboard says that it is for sale. One can get pretty much anything there and it is basically your last stop for that cold beer or cooldrink and wifi to leave your last message before venturing out into the heart of the Karoo. Beyond here there is no cell reception unless you using a satellite phone, peace and quiet doesn’t get better than this!
The stillness is deafening, your ears ring, and then the thoughts come…why, what, who would want to live here? Surprisingly, there are those who just want to retreat away from it all and find a quietness – I do that and it is refreshing soul food.
You question yourself, and you start to appreciate the simple things we take for granted like being able to open a tap and there is running water, here it may not rain at all!
Yet it in this barrenness, life exists, plants and animals sync and sway to the rhythms of Nature and the harsh Tankwa Karoo.
Crossing a low-level bridge at Sandlaagte, a delicate thistle rooted in the washes swayed in the wind, believing in the promise of rain, waiting for insects to pollinate its blooms so that life could continue in the face of drought, that is hope!
At present, the plant species list for the park stands at 780 plant species with four new species to science found between by 2014.
Near the banks of the Tankwa River, I came across this lonely farmstead Ashoek, this was the only greenery I had seen throughout my drive through the Tankwa Karoo. I am so glad I chose an alternative route to Sutherland, there is nothing wrong with the N1, this was just so much slower paced and rewarding.
There are upcoming astrophotography, landscape and wildlife photography workshops in Sutherland next year, early bookings are always welcome. 24-26 April 2020 | 12-14 June 2020 | 10-12 July 2020 | 14-16 August 2020. For information and bookings click the button below.Book Here
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