Here we go again. This month’s theme for the competition is wildlife and water. Whereto from here? What do I think about how the living world engages with water? What exactly constitutes a good representation of Wildlife and Water?
Is it a bird flying over the ocean?
Or a battle for territory on the rocks beside it?
Would an Eagle fishing over a fresh water lake do the trick?
Or would it be better to put the bird with its prey solidly (?) fluidly in the water?
Could the subject be small and the water distant? Why is a tortoise making tracks by the sea anyway?
Does a sunbaked hippo show its need for a muddy bath? Especially because there is no water there?
Should feathers touch?
Or show their immaculate colours after a bath?
Should the water be big and the wild subdued to a small tame spot?
Or would a smudged blue background be water enough?
Do creatures from the deep surface into our world with cold gold eyes and no colour to the water at all?
Is a bluebottle still wild if its life is not sustained by the shallow layer of water it is in?
Is the quiet of a crocodile with a dragonfly on its brow visible to all?
When faced with a brief like this, and you have to pick a single photograph, what do you look for in your portfolio?
Is it the young juvenile Pale Chanting Goshawk in Kgalagadi showing each feather in motion?
Would you consider the local cape gulls cracking open their mussels?
There is always that marsh harrier feeding its juvenile a mouse high up in the sky.
So many times I have photographed a bird with something in its beak as being interesting. But is an elephant eating considered to be ‘in motion’ and note worthy, or do the mammals have to run and fight to get recognised?
Is an insect a wildlife? Is the bee wolf heavily setting off with its recently stung prey fully in motion?
What I have come to realise is that I have examples of individual species living in their movement, but with it being a collective title: “wildlife in motion,” those huge migrations are more likely to be the sought after thing. Hordes of animals trying to cross a crocodile infested river? A blur of juicy impala streaking away from three young cheetah. Monarch butterflies. Raptors flying over a narrow strip of land crossing from Russia into Africa. I’ll get to those still. But not today. Today I’m still trying to pick one.
Whether you go in the evening or during the day, Wolfgat offers authentic Strandveld hospitality.
Make sure that one person in your group is inquisitive about how the cuisine is put together, because the more you talk to owner Kobus van der Merwe, the more you realise the vastness of the knowledge he has accumulated over time. He will come to the table several times during the meal to discuss the exquisitely plated titbits that have been foraged from the environment or sorced locally. He is eager to explain the reasons behind how he has paired the food with each offered wine or beer; drinks that have been cultivated or brewed to encapsulate an earthy blend of the sea salted herbs of the West Coast. The added touch of the fine crystal of a Gabriel’s wine glass leaves only pure flavour on the tongue.
The food is prepared after careful “behind the scenes” research is done. As waitrons vie to bring all of your group’s plates to the table at once, Kobus van der Merwe will refer to a Louis Leipoldt recipe dating back to the 1930s or name a person in the kitchen who created the dish. Whether it is an oyster from Saldana or a limpet taken from the rocks on the beach, each bite rests for an explosive yet thought provoking moment in the mouth.
Most remarkably, each plated item is a work of art in it’s own right. If you love the West Coast (die Strandveld), this experience will linger with you. You will find yourself reminded of it when it is reflected in the veld and the sea around you. It becomes a reference point to say: “remember when we had those at Wolfgat!?”, and you will know the heart of the West Coast beats inside you too.
Today, 21 June 2022, the mist flowed in gently before the approaching storm and the sun hid high in the sky behind a thin layer of dense cloud. This left the light lingering in the apparent dusk of sunset for at least four hours. The Snoek were running and the fishermen were having golden dreams of how life could be when there is plenty.
People who keep bird lists are often called twitchers or they are teased for being obsessive. “What’s important to you, the list or the bird?” I have often been asked. “Neither,” I tell them in my cheeky photographer voice. “I love catching them and taking them home in ways you may never see!”
My bird list says I first saw an Oystercatcher on the 1st of January 1994 off Cape Recife in Gqeberha. This might not mean much to anyone else, but to me, my list is a magical record keeper of days of adventure and holidays filled with explorations. My first sight of this dark black bird made me instantly fall in love with her character, attitude, and surprisingly colourful first impression. A flock of Oystercatchers can be a veritable assault on the senses with their bright eyes, striking beaks and the shrillness of their calls to each other from the intense ocean smelling kelp and mussel beds.
Now I live in Yzerfontein, where I can walk to the beach in five minutes and where on many of the beaches I can be sure to see Oystercatchers on any day of the week. They still thrill me. Late at night I can be lying in bed and hear one calling as she flies past on a mission of her own. “Yes,” I say, “I can hear you. You are a beautiful being.”
In my garden, the lavender bushes grant great big perpetual bunches of flowers breezed through with gentle soothing scent. They gather together many beings. These photographs were all taken this 2nd of April 2022 with a 100mm macro lens in a single lavender bush. The late afternoon sun provided the colours.
Rock can bring out the gravitas in a scene. A beach without a trimming of rock is just not as pretty. The layering of rock tells stories going back millions of years. I can imagine rock as the place where the earth holds its breath. I love rock. Rock rocks.
English is a language with an extensive vocabulary, and yet many words are used in different contexts to contain a range of meanings.
Provisions (noun): the act of supplying something for use. It could be a donation, or an agreement around services to be rendered.
Provisions (verb): to allocate beings with food, drink, or equipment, especially for a journey.
All around us every day we are faced with providers and provisions. Do we remember the chain of life that brings us to where we are? Are we happy in what we have? These are some of the questions that may help us to understand the need to be respectful when playing but a small part in millions of years of events.
Species differ, but life itself runs the same developmental progression of youthfulness through to ageing and death within all. Cuteness always favours the young and there seems to be inter-species awareness of this beauty. This provides part of the pulling power to elicit the care from elders that enables life to be resilient.
How freeing would it be for humans to honour, value and find gratitude in all of life’s intricate aspects, rather than to minimise our reverence to the human form?
Doves and their etymological cousins, the pigeons, are well known across the majority of the earth’s landmass. People often see them, and seldom give them any thought. The geographical features of the Sahara Desert, Antarctica, and the high Arctic are too stark to allow for the survival of these birds, but elsewhere they are considered abundant.
Even when offered as an example of the potential for extinction, these birds are discussed casually. Let’s look at Passenger pigeons. They are arguably the best known example of Anthropogenic extinction… they were an abundant species. They were eradicated from the surface of the Earth by humans. Quickly. We teach that this tragedy happened because of us, we recognise it as our responsibility, even when using the distancing techniques of language we don’t get much further away than saying they died “due to human activities”.
Here are some examples of abundant doves and pigeons. Decide if they are ordinary, dismissible, easy to live without.
Currently at least eleven species of doves and pigeons are endangered world wide. How many can we afford to lose before we know they are no ordinary birds?
This is no ordinary love No ordinary Love This is no ordinary love No ordinary Love
Keep trying for you Keep crying for you Keep lying for you Keep flying and I’m falling
These starkly prehistoric birds love walking about in groups, showing off to one another what they have caught. Perhaps the girl with the prettiest eyelashes gets a share of the most delicate item on the menu?
From Cairns in Queensland, Australia one can ride the Skyrail Cable car right into the rainforest around Karunda. The highlight is Barron falls. A place where it becomes easy to believe that the rivers, forests and waterfalls of the earth have a conscious, breathing, living right to the self determined existence we usually reserve in our thinking for human beings.
A recent long weekend at the Percheron Stud Farm Outeniqua Moon did wonders to lay to rest the tumultuous time of the Coronavirus. I feel for all who have been working ( or not working ) without as much as a chance to see such incredible beauty.
Kelp is constantly being washed onto our beaches from their sea beds during storms or strong tides. I love the way the decaying, sun burnt kelp seems to expel a last strong surge of life force, a kind of inner passionate fire.
After a month of traveling, I have come home with a store of photographs. Finally the mad rush slows down into these quiet representations of what flashed by before. Being in the moment is an art, but having it prolonged into a meditation is a luxury. Staring at leisure endows artistic splendour to all who managed to flee.
I am about to leave my most beautiful and glorious home to travel far and wide in Australia, Papua New Guinea and the United Arab Emirates. A little voice was whispering in my ear that I may no longer believe I live in the most beautiful place on earth when I return, but then I realised that we all have access to a world in which beauty is unbelievably generous when just added to what we look at, and that such looking does not need to be compared, competed over or judged . We can choose to love the accumulated effect of many places and live in one whole world. I can safely be excited about leaving, and open hearted about returning.