AfrikaBurn 2012

Art Installation at AfrikaBurn 2012

 

I’ve just come back from a couple of days spent out in the remote desert of the Tankwa Karoo, about five hours drive from Cape Town. Every year an amazing art and music festival is held here, and there is always amazingly photogenic weirdness to be seen. The event is called AfrikaBurn, and it’s in its sixth year. It’s the Africa regional event of the Burning Man festival held every year at Black Rock City in Nevada in the US.

It’s a far smaller event, attracting about 5,000 participants to the 50,000 at the US event, but it’s very satisfying to attend. You are expected to take everything you need for yourself: food, water, shelter. There is nothing for sale, and a gifting economy is in effect. Virtually everyone is in costume, you’ll see more sequins, velvet, and mirror balls than you’ve ever seen before. There is also a huge amount of off-the-wall art, and you can spend days exploring it all.

This particular installation reminded me of the surrealist Rene Magritte’s use of umbrellas. I’ve pored over the event brochure, and I can’t really tell whose work it is.

Edit: The installation was put together by a group of friends and architecture students at the University of the Free State and is called Death from Above. See the comments section for more details, and a heart-rending counterclaim.

 

Before and After

I tried to make this image a conventional bracketed HDR, but the umbrellas were mounted on rather wobbly sticks. Even though the wind was blowing very gently, they were all bobbing around quite a bit, and there was just no way I could align the bracketed images. So I gave up and tone-mapped a single image in Photomatix. It worked pretty well all the same, and sorted out the alignment issues. After that I adjusted the tonal ranges using luminance masks, which I’ve spoken about in previous posts. Finally I selectively boosted the contrast and saturation of the image. I think it worked out well.

 

Art Installation at AfrikaBurn 2012 (before)Art Installation at AfrikaBurn 2012

Table Mountain

Table Mountain from Bloubergstrand

 

Table Mountain as seen from Bloubergstand, Cape Town

I’ve had a great photographic weekend on a seascape photographic course with the very talented Hougaard Malan. Two solid days of shooting and processing. Magic!

This is the first image that’s resulted. I don’t think the weather was perfect for this shot, but it turned out pretty well all the same.

If you live on some other planet, this is Table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa, It’s also where I live. If you look very carefully you can see my house, somewhere along the back edge of the city against the mountain, in the gap between Table Mountain and Lion’s Head, which is the pointy peak on the right. See, I’m waving!

 

Before and After

There’s no HDR in this image, and nothing terribly complicated in the processing. Just some contrast, saturation and sharpening … but a little goes a long way. The only trick was to use a neutral density filter to slow down the shutter speed to about a second to blur the waves.

Table Mountain from Bloubergstrand (before)Table Mountain from Bloubergstrand

Where Cars Go To Die

Sutherland Car Wreck

 

If there’s one thing I’ve noticed in my many travels around the Northen Cape, it’s that there are wrecked cars lying all over the place.

I have a theory about this.

The Northern Cape is one the poorer parts of the country, so I’m guessing that as cars age and pass from owner to owner they eventually migrate from the city to out here. By that time they’re pretty old and worn out. Your brakes and suspension circa 1960 aren’t going to help you much when things go wrong. The roads can be pretty bad too, with tyre-shredding stones, bad corrugations and slippery clay. Then, of course, road rules don’t really count for much when you’ll hardly ever see another car on the road. So no one bothers excessively with trivialities like speed limits and wondering what’s over blind rises.

My hypothesis: old car + bad roads + enthusiatic drivers = wrecks galore

After the accident, well, no-one can afford to move the car. And it never* rains, so that wreck is staying there forever. I have decided that the Northern Cape is the place that cars go to die. I think this particular one is a 1970s Ford Cortina, but if you’re better at identifying cars than me then let me know.

I took the shot on the road from Sutherland to Calvinia. When the road is dry and ungraded the corrugations are terrible. When it’s wet the clay makes it almost impossible to stay on the road. My wife and I drove this bit last year in heavy rain. We were in a Land Cruiser with 4 x Everything engaged, and we could not keep in a straight line. It must have looked like a drunken lemur was driving the car. We had several forays off the side of the road and I was very surprised we didn’t manage a couple of 360s as well. Lots of fun. In retrospect.

* ok, hardly ever

The Big Rock Candy Mountain

Pamukkale, Turkey

 

This is Pamukkale in Turkey. Its name translates evocatively into Cotton Castle, which reminds me of the Big Rock Candy Mountain of the depression era song, though unfortunately a lot less sweet. It was Easter yesterday, and my brain is still in sweet mode. Yum.

But back to Pamukkale. It’s called Cotton Castle because it’s covered from top to bottom in white travertine, deposited here over thousands of years by the action of hot springs. The travertine forms naturally into cascading terraces and pools. The effect is very strange, very beautiful, and very dazzling without sunglasses.

The mineral rich waters have had the reputation since ancient times of possessing healing properties. A spa was built here sometime in the 200s BC to take advantage of these properties, and the city of Heirapolis grew up around the spa. It was a popular place for the sick and for retiring to. Today the ruins are still visible on top of Pamukkale (you can see some in the background), and are currently being excavated. In a country that possesses far more than its fair share of ruined Roman and Greek cities, it’s not the most spectacular of ruins, and is easily eclipsed by the incredible travertine formations.

People still come here in their droves as tourists, and it’s now a World Heritage Site. You can see the floods of tourists arriving in the disance, all barefoot to minimise damage to the travertine, and carrying their shoes in their hands. We got up very early and managed to just beat the crowds to the pools and to get relatively people-free photographs. Most of the pools are off-limits to protect them, but swimming is allowed in a few of them. The pools are actually quite shallow and slippery, so people paddle tentatively in rolled up pants more than swim. When we were here, a lot of people found it appropriate to strip down to bikinis and pose in exaggerated Zoolander poses for their photos to be taken, with complete seriousness and lack of irony. It made for great peoplewatching!

 

Before and After

This is an interesting shot for this blog, because it’s not really an HDR shot in the usual sense. I’ve combined two shots instead of the usual three, one taken at 0 exposure compensation and one at -2 underexposed. Instead of Photomatix HDR software, I then combined the two shots by hand in Photoshop. I ended up using mostly the -2 shot, but bringing in the highlights from the 0 shot to give a larger range of tones and more contrast to the final image.

Pamukkale, Turkey (before)Pamukkale, Turkey

Of Pofadder and Puff Adders

Road to Pofadder

 

The Road to Pofadder, Northern Cape

Pofadder is a small town in the Northern Cape of South Africa, synonymous with remoteness to South Africans, like Timbuktu is to others further afield. Not being satisfied with that sort of remoteness, I decided to take this photo an hour or two out of Pofadder where it really gets quiet. This is the road from Kenhardt to Pofadder, which is about 200km of dirt driving with very little to see, unless like me you love the remoteness of the Northern Cape. It’s always pretty but especially like this, with rain recently fallen and more on the way. I didn’t see another car for that entire 200km of road: it was just me, my Land Cruiser, and Paul Oakenfold Live in Ibiza. What a wonderful afternoon of driving it was!

For non-South Africans, Pofadder is Afrikaans for a puff adder, which is a beautiful but lazy snake that likes to lie in footpaths and bite hikers that stand on them. You really don’t want to be bitten by one: you will likely experience feelings ranging from ‘really really sore’ to ‘dead’. The town is however apparently named after one Klaas Pofadder, a local Khoi-Khoi leader back in the day. The snakes aren’t in short supply around here either. However the town was named, I think it’s a name David Lynch would love.

Here’s what puffies look like, this one from another Northern Cape trip to the Biedouw Valley…

 

Puff Adder (Bitis arietans)

 

This is a baby, probably about 30cm long, and was very happy just lying in the sun, even with me shoving a camera in his face. Maybe not my wisest moment.




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