Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Stellenbosch University Botanical Gardens

As always, click on the photos to bring up a larger view.

Tuesday 15 September 2020

I spent about an hour or so with my Fujifilm X-T2 and 80mm Macro lens, walking around the gardens looking for some macro shots. For those of you who haven't been here before and might like to visit (it's R10 per entry), here's a map on how to get there:

It was quite a chilly morning, even though the sun was shining. By the time I left it had warmed up a bit, but the wind  had also started up, making hand-held macro shots too difficult. The gardens were quite well patronised, with a small restaurant that makes great cappuccinos! Lots of bees around, but not too much else - I think it was a bit cold for that.

Here are some of my shots on the day:

Bee on pincushion protea

Granadilla flower

Pincushion "fur"


Pond lily

Daisies selection

It was a really nice and relaxing way to spend and hour or two. It looks like the restaurant caters mainly for breakfasts, though there are some light lunches, with a "Dish of the day" (Babotie and rice with vegetables when I was there) on offer. Pleasant and friendly staff on duty, ably looked after by Karin, the manager.


Thursday, September 3, 2020

Aquila Private Game Reserve

The Aquila Safari Lodge is a 4 star establishment in the Southern Karoo. It is named after the endangered black or verreaux eagle (Aquila verreauxii), shown above.

The reserve is a 10000 hectare conservancy and is situated in the historic town of Touws River, in a valley between the Langeberg and the Outeniqua Mountains in the Karoo. The 10,000 hectare conservancy has evolved from its early days of only being home to various antelope species, to now featuring what is known as the Big 5 – elephant, lion, buffalo, rhino and leopard. In addition, there is a substantial number of other wild game, all of which (apart from the lions), roam freely on the reserve.

Because of the Covid-19 lockdown regulations, Jacqui and I were unable to go away for our annual short holiday this year, and like millions of others, were feeling quite house-bound. And then, soon after the travel restrictions were lifted, we saw a special weekend package offer from Aquila for two nights' accommodation, two breakfasts, one lunch, and two dinners, plus two safari drives, all included! It sounded like just what we needed. So we just scraped in with a booking on the last weekend in August before the offer expired. At the special price of R5800 it was certainly worth it!

We had a room on the top floor of the main lodge, and this was our first look from the balcony.

Apart from the live animals, there are a number of art pieces scattered around the lodge. Here are my two favourites.

When we went to bed on the first night, it was extremely cold. Thankfully there was an airconditioner in the room, but the beds unfortunately were fitted with summer sheets, and there were no electric blankets! We were frozen! We woke to a morning temperature of close to 0 degrees C, and it had obviously been colder during the night. The photo on the left shows the view from the balcony, looking right.

The rest of the morning was taken up with breakfast, exploring the grounds when it wasn't raining, and then lunch and off for the afternoon safari drive. At about 15h00 it started snowing! Just a light dusting, but snowing nevertheless! The drive had been scheduled for 15h30, and we got there a little bit earlier, but by then there were already three or four safari vehicles in front of us! We were supplied with blankets and rain jackets, and they did help counter the freezing temperatures outside - just a little! The game drive was reasonably interesting, and would have been extra special for those folk who might have been first-timers, and who wanted to be close to the animals, even though they weren't quite in their natural habitat. But that was fine - you want completely realistic, go to the Kruger or similar places! 

There was a number of small children staying at the lodge for the weekend, and for those who hadn't seen the animals  before, it would have been a spectacular treat. During our drive,  we did not come across the leopard, nor the buffalo, but here is a selection of some of the other animals on the reserve.

About 5 minutes before the end of the drive, it started snowing again. That, combined with the howling wind, meant that when we got back to our room, both of us were shivering uncontrollably! So we turned the aircon up, had a drink or two, and finally thawed out! We decided there and then that we would give the final day's safari drive a miss!

Needless to say, the summer sheets on the bed that evening were not that attractive! But it was better than sleeping in the chairs or on the floor! 

Sunday morning found us awakening to an outside temperature of -3 Degrees Centigrade! Probably ok if you're used to that sort of thing, but we aren't, and it was bloody cold! We had booked to do our second safari drive at 10am, but went and informed them that we would pass. Had our final breakfast and seeing we had some extra time, decided to go home via Ceres, hoping to see some snow.

That turned out to be a good decision - here are some of the scenes we encountered on the journey home.

If we had to summarise our thoughts regarding the lodge, they would be as follows:
  • Though it is classified as 4-star, we probably thought that was slightly optimistic, and would have rated it 3-star ourselves.
  • We appreciate the the virus restrictions have caused some ridiculous procedures to be implemented - for "safety" reasons, of course, and those obviously encroached on the services that were offered. But it meant that by the time you eventually got your plates of food back to the table, they had gone cold. We found the food to be of average quality only - acceptable and edible, but certainly not memorable.
  • We thought that a bit more planning could have gone into organising the parking area. Parking spots were not marked out, with the result that guests, in their normal inconsiderate way, tended to waste an incredible amount of space, meaning that a number of guests had to park quite far away from the rooms. Though porter services were available, this parking situation could easily be improved.
  • On arrival, we found we had a leak in our room. We reported it immediately and were given great service in having the issue resolved. It even included a visit from one of the managers and a complimentary bottle of wine for our trouble.
  • I will end off on what it probably the lodge's greatest asset - the staff, including the management. They really do have an excellent complement of staff members, who are always friendly and willing to go the extra mile for you. Every single staff member we dealt with fell into this category. They were certainly one of the highlights of the weekend.


Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Breakfast run - Wednesday 8 July 2020

Grabouw farm

It is the Wednesday before the big storm about to arrive in the Western Cape (and possibly further into South Africa and perhaps even parts of Namibia) on Thursday 9 July.

So we decided to make use of a beautiful day to have a short day trip - one that would incorporate our favourite breakfast and a drive in the country.

Obviously the breakfast had to be Eggs Benedict at the Hartlief Deli in Hermanus - without question the best Eggs Benedict (or breakfast, for that matter!) to be found anywhere! On our trip along Sir Lowry's Pass, the N2 took us just past the turnoff to Grabouw, and at one of the farms on the left-hand side we saw the mounds pictured above - we think they were mounds of compost, emitting steam caused by the internal heat. 6 degrees Celcius outside - at around 9 o'clock in the morning - it was cold, but very pretty! Worth stopping for.

From there straight on to Hermanus and Hartlief for yet another scrumptious breakfast. Crispy potato rosti base, with stacks of bacon, topped with rocket, two poached eggs, and Hollandaise Sauce, and a mild garnish of chopped chives. Sneak peak:

Eggs Benedict

After a cup of cappuccino each, we decided to take the long route home - along the R320 to Caledon (another beautiful drive and well worth the time if you haven't tried it), and then home. Total round trip - three and a half hours.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Deep Blue

15 May 2020

On my way back home after shopping last Friday (I took the long route home), I saw the results of the demolition of the old Deep Blue building on the Strand beachfront. I stopped, donned my face mask, and took a few shots for record purposes.

Once I arrived back home, I posted the above image on our local community's Facebook page. It turned out to be my most popular Facebook ever - by miles! It's now five days later, and at the time of writing this post, 348 people had emoji'd the page, 76 people had made comments, and 111 had shared the post!

In addition, one of my other shots was used in the Bolander, a local newspaper distributed each Tuesday. Admittedly it was featured at the back of the newspaper, but it was there! The article refers to the building as "Big Blue", but it should read "Deep Blue". Be that as it may, I was quite chuffed at the image being deemed newsworthy enough to be published.

I found the variety of emotions expressed by the folk on Facebook extremely interesting, From comments like "It was an eyesore", "About time too", "Butt ugly", and "Finally" to "Fond memories", "Very sad", "Will miss that blue building", and "Very sad and tragic". It's incredible how much interest and emotions one photo can generate!

Because of the interest shown, I thought I would try to gather some information about the building's history, but sadly I couldn't find anything definite on the Internet. The most authoritative thing I could find was from an article in the District Post (another local newspaper) which stated "It is assumed the building was built in the mid 1970s as an ablution block and café. It has since become defunct and derelict. There is also no proposed redevelopment".

So - as another Facebook poster put it "The end of an era".

Sunday, January 26, 2020

TPS Club competition - January 2020

Water drop fountain

Ok, so while my commitment to do more blog posts this year is still fresh in my mind, here we go.

Club competition night was held on Wednesday 22 January 2020. My favourite image out of the four submitted was the one at the top of this post. It was entered into the Print Open category, but unfortunately it only received a Silver award. The judge seemed to like it, and didn't have any negative comments, so not sure why it didn't score better.

I must say I also enjoy my other entry in the Open category, this time in the Digital category, which was another macro shot of a soap bubble (I submitted my first one in November last year), and this received a Gold award.

Planet Bubble

The set subject for the month was "City life". I found this to be quite a challenging task, and for my Print entry, I chose a photograph taken of the blind guitarist who plies his trade on the streets of Cape Town. He featured in a legal battle with the Cape Town City Council a few years back, and the case made headlines in the local newspapers. The one headline, "Blind injustice", is attached to the wall behind him and now features as part of his stage.

Blind injustice
This image received a Silver award. The judge liked most of it, but felt that the left hand side was extraneous and would have been better cropped away.

I am including a cropped version of the photo. You can make your own decision as to whether it is superior to the original or not.  Personally, if the subject had been Street Photography, then I probably would agree, but think the uncropped version also shows some of the vast differences so typical of City Life, with a talented blind man having to beg for his existence, whiile just a few metres away people pay R200 for acrylic nails. Anyway, just my thoughts. Win some, lose some!

My Digital entry for the Set Subject was taken at the top end of town, and features quite a common site around our City, namely tourists / citizens enjoying a guided trip around the City and surrounds while in and on top of a tour bus.

The major bus company in the Western Cape is Golden Arrow, and their slogan is "The bus for us". This image title is obviously a play on that, as not everyone has the time nor cash to make use of it. I decided to keep this shot in colour, as it is one of the bus' major characteristics.

The image also received a Silver award.

The bus for some of us

Till next time.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Tygerberg Photographic Society - 2019 Competition Entries

Bend it like Beckham

Hellooo - back again! Finally, after a break of over seven months!

But at least this job is done now - all my TPS entries for last year have finally been documented and published. To see the images, click on the "TPS entries" heading at the top of the page, and then on to the "2019" link. As is normal practice, click on any of the images to bring up a larger view.

The image above is the only one posted during the year that was placed first in its category, but unfortunately didn't make it as overall winner for the month. However, it is still supposedly my top image for the year, and hence gets pride of place above.

The shot was taken at the beautiful Cape Town Stadium, during a walk around during November 2018. The event was organised by one of my TPS colleagues, Karen Donaldson, and the time spent was thoroughly enjoyed by all who were there. This is the staircase leading down from the main area to the underground parking.

I also plan to do a few more posts this year, though they probably will only be fairly short in length. Well - that's the plan anyway - watch this space!

As usual, all comments are welcome!

Stellenbosch University Botanical Gardens

As always, click on the photos to bring up a larger view. Tuesday 15 September 2020 I spent about an hour or so with my Fujifilm X-T2 and 80...