Aug 252015
 

At Mashatu Game Reserve in Botswana (http://mashatu.com) there is a small, stunted baobab tree clinging to life at the end of a rocky ridge near the Maloutse River in the west of the reserve. It’s a quiet, eerie place; the silence in the evenings broken only by the calls of jackal and hyenas getting ready for the night’s forage.

Rhodes' Baobab. Mashatu Game Reserve. Northern Tuli Game Reserve.  Botswana

Rhodes’ Baobab. Mashatu Game Reserve. Northern Tuli Game Reserve. Botswana

On the west side of the tree, facing the setting sun, the initials CJR and ADS are carved into the the bark, and some say that they belong to Cecil John Rhodes and his secretary/friend Antonio da Silva. Certainly Rhodes was in the region in the late 1800s surveying a route for his famous (infamous?) railway line that was to run from Cape to Cairo. Who knows though…

It was also the site of an ancient settlement, the Mmamagwa people lived and thrived here around 1200 AD. Alas, they are no more but their spirit remains in this desolate place.

It’s one of our favourite spots and we have spent many an hour there over the years, just enjoying the piece and solitude.

We shot this panoramic photograph while working on our African Icons Book. Please mail  us if you are interested in acquiring a copy.

See more of our Mmamagwa and Rhodes’ Baobab pix here.

Jul 092015
 

Our latest book is just about ready to be delivered. African Icons (www.africanicons.co.za) is about the 21 (or so) top things and places to visit and see in Africa. We travelled to 22 destinations in 12 months, shooting pictures and movie material, and researching the book. Pat shot movies, I did the stills and long time friend and associate Dave Bristow wrote it. We really pushed limits here: Its a huge book, bound in hand crafted leather, printed on fine, heavy paper and each book is individually signed and personalised by the three of us.

But movies? In a book? Well, yes…. Each chapter opener contains a QR Code and all you need to do is scan this with a smart phone or tablet and you’ll be taken to the video supporting the chapter. No worries if you don’t have a smart device, you can see them online. Simply go to the icons list and select the icon that interests you. Read some of the text, look at some of the pix and enjoy the movie.

We had a bunch of fun on the shoot for the book. It was exhausting. Frustrating, sometimes… But what an experience!!! 21 of Africa’s best… Really!

Have a look at some of the behind the scenes stuff and be sure to order the book on the “early bird” special.

May 122015
 

Some months ago we did a tourism shoot for Kosi Forest Lodge at Kosi Bay in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa. This region has always been one of our favorites as it is incredibly beautiful and there is much to do.

Here are 10 things to do while staying at Kosi Forest Lodge.

  • Take a canoe (kayak) trip on one of the channels linking the Kosi Lakes.
  • Go for a walk in th Rafia Palm Forest.
  • Take a boat cruise on the lakes and visit some of the many ancient fish traps.
  • Take a cultural tour.
  • Take a day drip to Black Rock on the Maputaland Coast.
  • Buy a pair of sandles made from car tires in Mangusi.
  • Visit Thembe Elephant park for great sightings of Elephants and Lions.
  • Make a day trip to Kosi Bay Mouth and swim, snorkel and fish
  • Chill beside the pool.
  • See how many bird species you can tick off during your stay.

Enjoy. It’s a fantastic place.

Tourists at Kosi Bay

 

May 102015
 

We’ve just spent a few days at the Tourism Indaba in Durban visiting friends and clients and there are some exciting things happening for Pat and I with regard to our lodge photography and movies.

Indaba is one of the largest tourism marketing expos on the African tourism scene and one of the top three events of its kind on the global tourism calendar. It highlights a wide variety of Southern Africa’s tourism products, and attracts tourism players from the world.

This clip shows a little of the event (including a visit of Tourism Minister, Derek Hanekom to the Grootbos Private Nature Reserve stand) and Durban’s Wilson’s Wharf.

 

May 062015
 

Have just taken delivery of my new Dji Phantom 2 with H4-3D Gimbal from Action Gear and what a joy it is! I was used to the Phantom 1 with no Gimbal and wow, the difference is phenomenal! Smooth. Exactly what we need. The clip below is from the first flight and cobbled together quickly in FCP.

 

May 012015
 

For those of you that have been following us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, you will know that we have been busy with a new book called African Icons with friend and colleague David Bristow. It all about the most fabulous places and attractions Africa has to offer – what we call the African Icons…

We have gone all out on this one: We travelled Africa extensively (22 destinations in about 10 months) shooting pictures and video, we’ve selected fine paper and leather for the book and its cover, and have gone the extra mile in creating a particular “look and feel” for it.

The video? Here’s the interesting thing: We’ve created electronic books before (In Search of the African Lion and our children’s book, Mandla the Lion Cub) but, while they are full of information and rich media, they are about as soulless as a kettle. Nothing beats a top end printed book for character and luxury. So, we have included QR Codes at the beginning of each chapter that you can scan with a QR Code scanner on your smart device and this will take you to a short movie clip on the chapter.

Here is a taste of what to expect: We stayed at the delightful Ibo Island Lodge while photographing and researching the Indian Ocean Islands chapter.

Indian Ocean islands from Roger and Pat de la Harpe on Vimeo.

Check our some of the other African Icons.

Apr 072015
 

David Batzofin talks about the Photo Workshop he did with Pat and I recently:

Good better best, never let it rest, till the good is better…

And the better best.

I first heard these words from my Primary school Principle way back in the ‘50’s. And they are as valid today as they were then.

And they were the reason that I found myself in Howick, at a photo-workshop hosted by Roger de la Harpe and his wife Pat. Although Roger presented the course, it is Pat who is the rudder that steers the ship. It is easy to get distracted when surrounded by a group of like-minded people, but Pat was having none of that…”Stick to the script”…and every now and then she would quietly add a piece of advice or a comment.

We played with freezing motion and luring motion using different shutter speeds.

It does not matter at what level of photography you are, this workshop will take your images to the next level. I and others on the course were “pushed” and perhaps some even felt uncomfortable.  But it was all well worth it.
In my case, I take good “thing” pictures, so, for me, the morning spent taking “people” pictures was somewhat stressful. However, my results were better than expected, AND I learned techniques that I will use in future.

My favourite outing was to the Karkloof Falls, where I learned to make water move and trees go in circles. I can highly recommend this course to both beginners and experienced photographers alike. We should ALWAYS be learning…constantly, and trying to make OUR images stand out.

Using long exposures and moving the camera to photograph trees differently
Bottom line, don’t stress about the technical issues…GET OUT AND TAKE PICTURES!

Are you keen to join us on one of our Photo Workshops? Have a look here.

Apr 012015
 

I must say I’m rather thrilled with my Peak Design Camera Clip. The sad thing is that I wish I’d had it a few weeks earlier when we did a 10 hour hike across the High Atlas Mountains in Morocco. Pat and I were there to shoot pix for our new book (www.africanicons.co.za) and part of the trip involved this long hike. We shot pix the entire way which meant that the camera was either being used or hanging off my shoulder. Quite a pain. Imagine if I could have clipped the camera to my belt or, even better, the shoulder strap of my backpack….

Peak Design Camera Clip

Enter the Camera Clip. Peak Design makes a very useful little gizmo that is imported by Photo Gadgets in South Africa. It attached to your belt or backpack straps (whether a photo or a hiking one) and makes the camera and lens very accessible. Now, clearly, you don’t want to attached your favourite 600mm f4 and pro body to you belt or backpack but as a way of carrying your camera and shortish lens around, it’s ideal.

This is going to get a lot of use!

Peak Design Camera Clip

Peak Design Camera Clip

Mar 132015
 

Our new book (African Icons), when opened, is very much a panoramic format (it measures 27 X 74cm across the spreads) and so when we were shooting it we did so with this format in mind. As a result there are a pile of panoramic images in it. Heres how I create them:

A panorama of 8 images of Rhodes' Baobab at Mashatu Game Reserve in Botswana.

A panorama of 8 images of Rhodes’ Baobab at Mashatu Game Reserve in Botswana.

  1. Set the camera to manual mode in pretty much everything – exposure, white balance and focus (with focus, auto focus on your subject and the switch off the auto focussing so this doesn’t change while shooting) and then capture a series of images, creating the panorama. I find that you don’t want to skimp on the number of images you shoot – mostly I’ll allow about a 60% overlap.
  2. Import these (preferably RAW) images into Adobe Lightroom and select the series if images you wish to create the panorama from.
  3. Do all the necessary edits and enhancements but do not do any cropping, local (Brush, Radial Filter, Spot Removal…)  or lens corrections like “Auto”, “Level” “Vertical” etc. This gets done after you have created the panoramic image.
  4. Sync the settings across all the pix, making sure that all of the sync options are set in the sync dialog box.
  5. Right click any one of the series of images (mage sure that are still all selected) and go to Edit In > Merge to Panorama in Photoshop. This will open Photoshop (preferably CC2014)  and open the Photomerge Dialog Box.
  6. Now, there are a whole bunch of options here and a whole pile of views on which one of the options is best to use, but I’ve found that “Cylindrical” works well for images I’ve shot with a longer lens and “Spherical” is the way to go when I’ve used a wide angle lens to shoot the panorama.
  7. Select go and, if you’ve shot the series on something like the Nikon D800 (very high pixel count), you may like yo go out for a coffee while the computer churns away at all those pixels…
  8. Eventually Photoshop will  create a layered panoramic image and in most cases get it perfect. Occasionally you may need to do a bit of work using the Layer Masks to get the blending perfect but this doesn’t happen all then often.
  9. Flatten the image
  10. At this stage you may end up with a weirdly distorted image (not always – it depends on what you’ve shot, with which lens).
  11. Go to Filter > Adaptive Wide Angle, and Photoshop will recognise the panorama and open the image in a dialog box.
  12. Click and drag across the horizon which should straighten it. Doing this while holding the shift key will also level it. Do the same (without the shift key) to other horizontal lines that should be straight and (with or without the shift key) to vertical lines.
  13. When everything looks great, click OK.
  14. Crop and fill as necessary, flatten, and save and close the image.
  15. It will open in Lightroom. Group the images into a Stack. Now is the time to tweak the images settings and also fix any dust spots etc.

For those that are interested I shot the pic above with the Nikon D800 and 14 – 24 lens. Camera settings were 1/40 sec at f16, ISO 400 and this resulted in an images that was 9492 X 3965 pixels. We teach this technique on our photo workshops.

Mar 082015
 

I have a love/hate relationship with camera straps. They are the most useful of camera accessories at times, yet a damn nuisance at others. A few weeks ago we were shooting the High Atlas Mountains in Morocco for our African Icons Book and on one of the days, did a 10 hour hike across snow covered peaks, shooting pix as we went. Here a strap was invaluable making the camera easily available as we hiked.

On the other hand, when we are working from a vehicle in game reserves, camera straps are just a huge pain in the, er, neck. They catch on things, get tangled up with camera gear and are simply not necessary. The problem is that attaching and removing them from camera bodies is fiddly and time wasting.

I recently discovered the Peak Design Slide Sling Strap. What a pleasure. Clever little dongles attach to the camera and these, very easily and quickly, clip onto the rather substantial strap. The length of the strap can be adjusted just as easily, making it suitable as a neck, shoulder of sling strap. And, if you have more than one body you just need additional dongles and you can then move the strap between them. And if you want to remove the strap it just unclips.

If you are keen, check them out. There is also a list of dealers that stock them.

Peak Design Camera StrapPeak Design Camera StrapPeak Design Camera Strap