Saturday, 25 January 2014

Beware of the Dog/Pasop vir die Hond

In my home town of Bethlehem and the surrounding Free State there are many "Beware of the Dog/Pasop vir die Hond" signs. They are presumably a crime deterrent and may have some legal protection in the event of a dog bite. Many of these signs have been up on their respective gates for some time and although the majority have been bought ready made there are some interesting original home made ones too. These signs on their unique gates with their particular dogs they warn about make for a fascinating interplay and a great series with a local flavour. 

Bethlehem, Nikon V1 30-110mm lens ISO 1600
Beware of Upright Dog

Recently while driving around the old railway houses I saw a rather weathered "Beware of the Dog" sign and stopped to photograph it. This was embarrasingly from the car and I reversed a small bit to align the gate posts with the house pillars behind. Then surprisingly a dog appeared from the stoep and walked over to the gate as if it was a lazy Sunday afternoon which it happened to be. He was inquisitive and suddenly jumped up against the gate making for a great photo. The Nikon V1 shoots at 10fps (can even do 60fps!) and thankfully I nabbed the curious dog in great pose.                  

Bethlehem Hasselblad SWC Iford FP4 film
Scraggly dog investigating photographer - early attempt
Bethlehem Mamiya 7 150mm Fuji Acros
First photographs of dogs doing their thing
Clarens Hasselblad SWC Kodak TMY film
The irony and the beautiful gate

Apart from the opening photograph all the images are in black and white and all except one were taken on b&w film. The advantage is not clearly visible when viewed on the internet however film has it's unique quality. Digital capture is clearly so much easier and the chances of obtaining the subject, the dogs in this case in a unique pose are so much higher. This ongoing series has been a fun departure from chasing more serious landscape images. It has also opened the streets and though these images wouldn't be considered typical of street photography they have been hugely entertaining.

Reitz Mamiya 7 43mm Kodak TMax film
The shadow dog with a spade announcing the owner's retirement
Bethlehem Mamiya 7 43mm Kodak TMY film
Unhappy spaniels up the street
Bethlehem Mamiya 7 43mm Kodak TMY film
An alert dog with some flare
Bethlehem Mamiya 7 43mm Kodak TMY film
Boerboel with cardboard sign in English, Afrikaans and Sotho
Bethlehem Mamiya 7 43mm Kodak TMY film
Aggressive Boerboel making his intentions known

Bethlehem Mamiya 7 43mm Kodak TMY film
Large dog taking his role to new heights

When one starts looking there are so many gate variations and the dogs all have their own personality. The majority of dogs took their commission rather earnestly regardless of how shabby the gate or property appeared. The faithfulness of these loyal animals never ceased to impress me and this was irrespective of their circumstances. Although I never crossed the dividing line I am sure I would have borne the consequences. This man made boundary with it's access point to another unknown world is certainly fascinating and the gatekeepers are there to maintain that privacy. One wonders how many people we let into our inner sanctuary?

Bethlehem Nikon D600 16-35mm lens
Angry Bull Terrier up close
Bethlehem Hasselblad Xpan 30mm stitch Fuji Acros
Ossewa Wiele with large Boerboel
Frankfort Mamiya 7 43mm Kodak TMY film
Friendly Bull Terrier
Bethlehem Mamiya 7 43mm Kodak TMY film
Big Boerboel doing the sign justice
Frankfort Mamiya 7 43mm Kodak TMY film
Haven't seen that camera around here before
Reitz Mamiya 7 43mm Kodak TMax film
Faithful terrier with owner on stoep in wheelchair
Tweeling Mamiya 43mm Kodak TMY film
Timid and looking for company
Paul Roux Mamiya 7 43mm Kodak TMY film
Really old and friendly dog
Frankfort Mamiya 7 43mm Kodak TMY film
Wide Awake Sentry
Paul Roux Mamiya 7 43mm Kodak TMY film
Friendly fellow with Huge sign
Bethlehem Mamiya 7 43mm Kodak TMY film
Barking Mad Black Pair
No animals including photographers were harmed in any of these photographs.
Every Dog has it's Day as does Every Photographer too!

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

On Top Of The World!

On the 1st January 2014, New Year's Day I climbed Mount Horeb which has been a dream for many years. Mount Horeb is an imposing 2449 metres high and towers 600 metres above the town of Clarens below. We were thirteen early birds who gathered at Ettiene and Annali Bossert's place which is the Gourmet Shed at the base of Mount Horeb on the south side.

Mount Horeb Landscape
Mount Horeb with clouds hugging the mountain below in 2010
The Group about to ascend Mount Horeb
Ettiene showing the proposed route
The Steep part up

The walk up was rather steep as we zigzagged to get to a particular ridge. I was huffing and puffing as not exactly physically fit and after what looked like a third of the way up decided rather to take time out and continue at my own pace. Kobus Basson stayed with me and we ended up having a great chat before I got my second wind. The going was slow however we took time to enjoy the views and Martin Fouche spotted a young buck cowering in the grass just below the top of Mount Horeb.

Time Out
Almost at the top - a small buck cowering in the bush

Once on top the views were simply magnificent and we had a clear view of the beautiful village of Clarens below us. We enjoyed some ice cold water and had a refreshing picnic surrounded by endless vistas right round. Whilst looking up we were treated to a beautiful display of storks soaring effortlessly on the thermals of the hot day. As a real treat we saw two large groups join and coalesce into one spiral of a flight of storks. For photographs I took the compact Nikon V1 with the 10-30mm and 30-110mm lenses which made for a perfect hiking kit with excellent results

The View From Mount Horeb overlooking Clarens
On Top of the World!
Storks overhead catching the thermals

The descent was easier for me however the steep downhill took it's toll on many knees. We finally arrived back at the house where Annali had ice cold Cokes and ice cream waiting! A huge thank you to Ettiene for taking us on this hike and for his patience too - it was a memorable day. The hike wasn't exactly a walk in the park for me and it was the dream of getting to the top that kept me going after that first stretch of over exertion. Standing on top of Mount Horeb was an enlightening experience - the higher perspective and the stork party was something else. 

Whilst reading up about the biblical Mount Horeb after which the Clarens peak is named some interesting stories emerged. It was on Mount Horeb that Moses received the ten commandments and it was Mount Horeb which Moses struck with his staff as commanded when the water came out for the people to drink. It was also at Mount Horeb where the Lord spoke to the prophet Elijah in a whisper after a hurricane wind, an earthquake and a fire occurred in which none of which He was present. I can't exactly say that I heard Him whisper on New Year's Day but He certainly was communicating in so many more mysterious ways that particular day. The day's events set the tone for the coming year and holding onto one's dream with a little help from one's friends makes mountains into molehills!

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Ronnie's Remarkable Story

Ronnie Basaijja is a remarkable young man from Uganda who has been studying videography at YWAM Media Village Africa in Cape Town for some time. He was visiting our family in Bethlehem and we were about to leave to attend the Photo and Film Expo on Friday the 1st November 2013 when Ronnie was found semi-comatose in his room. After an ambulance arrived in quick time and an emergency CT scan was performed on Ronnie who was now being ventilated, we were shocked to see what was a large mass in his brain.

Ronnie in the ambulance and the large tumour present

Ronnie was transferred to the Universitas hospital in Bloemfontein and within a week surgery was performed and ninety percent of the tumour was removed. He received excellent medical care and the tumour turned out to be a pilocytic astrocytoma which does not require chemo/radiotherapy. Ronnie made a full recovery and was amazed at how much better he could read than before the operation.

Ronnie after surgery showing most of it removed

He was discharged within three weeks and whilst back in Bethlehem some shots of Ronnie just reveal how full of Life he is. He returned back to YWAM media village in Cape Town and while travelling on the train with some friends they were robbed of their wallets and cellphones. During the robbery he was attacked with a knife and as he lunged backwards he was flung out of the broken window of the travelling train. His friends thought him dead yet after the train stopped 2 miles later they ran to find him alive next to the tracks.

Ronnie was taken to hospital and due to sustaining a head injury, he was scanned again but other than the residual tumour all was fine. He needed surgery for a dislocated elbow and some suturing of lacerations. Ronnie's response after another close shave with death was "Not why God, but what God, what do you want me to do?"

Monday, 6 January 2014

Road to Know Where

Always loved the song "Road to Nowhere" by Talking Heads. I clearly remember a scene from the 1980's standing as an intimidated medical student in the entrance of the long, daunting passage of the Johannesburg General Hospital and hearing the song playing over the radio. The melody is great but the cynical words were always uncomfortable with the feeling we were heading for this terminal cul-de-sac. In Dec 2013 out of the blue whilst pondering my future the words changed to "Road to Know Where"! Wow, what a difference and what a song it now has become!

The photo was taken whilst returning from Clarens driving the old 1970 Mercedes Benz 280S. The wind was howling and the poplars and grass were straining. The Nikon J1 with 10mm lens makes a neat travel camera and shooting at 60fps one is bound to find a spot in the road where the curve, tree and star come together. I played with the Analog Efex Pro from Nik Software and gave it a Johan Smith colour treatment. Johan Smith is a renowned artist who has captured the essence of the Eastern Free State landscape with it's bright blue sky contrasting with the warm yellow tones of the grass, lands and earth below. His landscapes are often in the vertical format with large washes of blue symbolising the ever present Heaven above.

There are so many cliches about Life being a journey however they do ring true and who knows what lies around the next bend. May 2014 be an incredible year with many pleasant surprises, interesting detours and mind blowing new landscapes!