Find the tracks

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I have been sent on interesting photographic assignments over the years, and each time I enjoy the little stretch that comes from people wanting what they want, which is the thing they can see in their mind’s eye. The latest version of this was the instruction to find some tortoise tracks to be displayed on an information board in Yzerfontein about our Angulate Tortoises. Easier said than done when there is still lots of rain and cold weather about, and these little creatures are tucked tightly into their shells and not moving. Luckily this morning arrived already warm and I found this obliging resident of the dunes. Not sure yet if this shot is going to make the grade, but I have enjoyed the hunt and tracking down of the subject!  

Raptor Kills

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Yellow-billed Kites arrive as an event each year. They announce the change from Winter to Spring all across the Southern African skies. And when they hunt, they display their true skill as raptor in the wide variety of flying snacks they latch onto. Sometimes large flocks will congregate around an emerging termite nest. Watching them swoop and snag such comparatively tiny prey can entertain me for hours. Grabbing a shot with a kite locked into position to catch a fluttering termite is pure pleasure.

Cloud build-up over the Highveld

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I am never entirely sure which of my photographs will stand the test of time: the ones that I am always pleased to see again, no matter how often they have passed in front of my eyes via the screensaver on my laptop. This particular shot was taken 11 years ago at Suikerbosrand Nature Reserve in Gauteng, and at the time I thought little of the fact that I experienced it as pleasing.  Now it puzzles me that I have grown to love it. I wonder what it is about this relatively simple composition that I find so enticing. Is it idiosyncratic, or would others find joy in it too? I often have huge skies in my photographs, because of an internal need for expansion, and this shot leaves me with a sense that I can stand next to that dark little bush on the edge and that the world will fall away and I will be able to see forever. 

Fury

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Cape Weavers are known for their fierceness during breeding season and this male was telling me in no uncertain terms to leave his nest alone. All of this against the backdrop of millions of flowers strewn like a carpet across the landscape. Strange to think that in a few weeks this individual will return to a calm and dull olive-brown colour, while the furious yellow of his piercing eyes will become dark.  Around him the fields of flowers will return to dusty strandveld, leaving only the seeds to carry the potential of a next year’s splendour.

Inner cohesion and variety

The yearly West Coast flower season is opening up to the sun every day, and after the good rains we had it is promising to be a good one. It has me thinking of mandalas, secrets and variety. I climbed a koppie in the West Coast National Park and within half an hour I had photographed the inner hearts of near a dozen beings. Technically I used an extension tube for this probing, and handheld a 135 mm lens using a high ISO. But in my heart I was joyful for this symbolic mystery of resilience.

Home patch

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I find it very satisfying photographing the birds living on my home patch at Yzerfontein. Yesterday this Grey-winged Francolin just happened to be out and about and ready to act as model of the day. Usually a very shy and elusive bird I have tried for many years to get close to this beautiful bird. My partner took one glance at my much prized photograph and said it would make a good puzzle. Looking at the feather detail I can’t help but agree.

Sleepy Sunday

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The African Scops Owl is the smallest of our Southern owls. It is a blending expert, sleeping in plain sight against its chosen tree trunk all day long, hardly ever noticed by those who walk on by. When it is noticed and photographed it gives the barest recognition by opening its eyes into the tiniest slits imaginable. It fully embodies the need for rest and recovery.

Worker Be

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18 July is a celebration of South Africa’s President Nelson Mandela and the community cohesion he worked for. It has left me contemplating the flow of energy involved in gathering and giving. My individual gains are so small, I find them easy to disregard. My conclusion at the end of a long, tiring and trying, day?  I find hope when I remember to just be a small working part of an alive planet.

Always time for rainbows

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We are heading towards the 21 June solstice point still waiting for rain.  I find myself longing for rainbows. I want to experiment with getting a rainbow in sharp focus. HaHa. Not likely. They are ethereal things, made up of refracted light and the camera lens sees right through them and hardly takes note. This rainbow I found over the Karoo landscape some years ago shows just what I mean. It fades from colour to colour and in a split second of cloud movement it disappears. But I did have the time to catch it then and, now in this unseasonably dry time, I treasure it like a pot of gold.

Bumbling along

Out on an early walk this morning with cloud and mist in the sky, the bumble bees are playing along side me.

Out on an early walk this morning, with cloud and mist in the sky, this bumble bee was playing alongside me. Because of the soft light the contrasting yellow and purple show up clearly. In harsh bright light the colour would be more likely to burn out: literally too much light bounces off the camera’s sensor and the colour looks faded and washed out on the photograph. In low light conditions, such as this morning, however, the challenge is to get the fast moving insect in sharp focus. I resolved that problem by pushing up the ISO to 1600. It remains a compromise, though, as higher ISO settings can introduce too much colour noise and ruin the photograph in that way.