Trip report: Elliot/Rhodes area – May 2013

A week or so ago my wife and I decided to return to the Elliot area (in the Eastern Cape close to the Lesotho border) for a weekend of landscape photography. The area is about 4h drives from Bloemfontein – taking the N6 from Bloemfontein to Aliwal North and then turning away from the N6 towards Lady Grey and Barkly East. We stayed at the Shadows Mountain Hotel on the Barkly pass and we can recommend this little gem of a hotel. Comfortable rooms, excellent “boerekos”, and very friendly (and helpful) staff. The hotel buildings are just about 100meters from the R58 and about 16km from Elliot.

Unfortunately we arrived too late on Friday afternoon to position ourselves for the setting sun near Rock Castle. On Saturday morning the cloud cover was gone but around 06H00 (sunrise was around 06H55) we went again to Rock Castle in the hope of getting some nice sunrise shots. The wind almost blew us away on top of the mountain and we had to hide behind a cliff while trying to get shot or two. But no luck and we could not get nice landscape photos. So it was just tea and rusks behind the cliff for us. Then it was the short drive back to the hotel for a well-deserved breakfast.

We considered going down to Rock Castle again during the day to explore the area but, because of the wind, we decided to give a pass. As an alternative,  we decided to drive around the area for the rest of day and see what is on offer because we are no familiar with the area. We started our drive around 10H30 and took the R393 to Moshesh’s Ford and turn onto the R396 to Rhodes. Just pass Moshesh’s Ford we came across this scene and as you can see – not a cloud in the sky. No good for landscape photography, so I tried to improvise.

1. Berries around the hill 11.  Berries around the hill

Nikon D800 with Nikon 17mm-35mm lens @ 32mm, ISO100, f16, 1/100, WB = sun, Manual mode, Benro tripod, Kirk head.

___________________________

After that scene and driving through Rhodes, we tackled the “famous” Naude pass and what an experience! We decided to go and have a look at the newly build 5 star hotel (Tenahead mountain lodge & Spa) near the pass. We were presently surprise when we arrived around 13H30 at the lodge built from the local “ysterklip”. After a nice cup of tea, we tackled the Naude pass and the rest of the road back to Rhodes again. Just an image of the Naude pass – as you can see, the road is almost just a farm-like “twee-spoor paadjie”. No more than 10-20mk/h going up or down the pass in certain area.

2. Naude pass2.  Naude pass

Nikon D800 with Nikon 17mm-35mm lens @ 25mm, ISO100, f11, 1/200, WB = sun, Manual mode, Benro tripod, Kirk head.

___________________________

Near Moshesh’s Ford we came across this interesting barn and it was time to be creative. We spent almost 1 hour photographing it from every possible angle. My wife is better than me at this type of photography but here are a few of my images:

3. The barn door3. The barn door

Nikon D800 with Nikon 17mm-35mm lens @ 19mm, ISO100, f11, 1/160, WB = sun, Manual mode, Benro tripod, Kirk head.

___________________________

4. The barn steps4. The barn steps

Nikon D800 with Nikon 17mm-35mm lens @ 19mm, ISO100, f11, 1/160, WB = sun, Manual mode, Benro tripod, Kirk head.

___________________________

5. The Barn windows5. The Barn windows

Nikon D800 with Nikon 17mm-35mm lens @ 19mm, ISO100, f11, 1/160, WB = sun, Manual mode, Benro tripod, Kirk head.

___________________________

We stayed on the R396 and drive back to the hotel via Barkly East. As mentioned earlier, no cloud cover to speak off, so the late afternoon produced no significant opportunities and we arrived back at the hotel just in time for a nice hot shower and a “lekker boerkos” supper again.

Sunday morning, leaving the hotel again around 06H00, we saw a small band of clouds to the east. So we decided to go to Baster voetpad because during the previous visit, the pass was covered in mist.  It will take you about 20minutes to drive the farm roads to the beginning of the pass and another 20-30mintes to the top of the pass. So, do plan our trip accordingly because this is what the Baster voetpad looks like – not really necessary for a 4×4 (but I would recommend it) but make sure you do have a high ground clearance vehicle. No problem for our Fortuner.

6. Baster voetpad6. Baster voetpad

Image taken with my D700 and 70mm-200mm lens handheld.

___________________________

We arrived a bit late at the top of Baster voetpad and on the recommendation of Gideon (owner of Shadows Mountain Hotel), we descended on the other side of the mountain (Munnik pass). To our surprise, there were a lot of clouds around and we jumped around to find some sort of composition of a sunrise photo. Here are some examples:

7. Munnik pass sunrise 167. Munnik pass sunrise 16

Two photos (using the bracketing function of the D800) stacked on each other in Photoshop – both were: Nikon D800 with Nikon 17mm-35mm lens @ 17mm, ISO100, f16, WB = sun, Manual mode, Benro tripod, Kirk head. The one image was taken at 1/20sec  and exposure compensation = 0 and the other at 1/10sec and exposure compensation = -1.0

___________________________

8. Munnik pass sunrise 228. Munnik pass sunrise 22

Here is the same image but using an f-stop of 22

___________________________

9. Munnik pass sunrise portrait9. Munnik pass sunrise portrait

Another stacked image using two photos (using the bracketing function of the D800)  – both were: Nikon D800 with Nikon 17mm-35mm lens @ 17mm, ISO100, f16, WB = sun, Manual mode, Benro tripod, Kirk head. The one image was taken at 1/25sec  and exposure compensation = -1.0 and the other at 1/6sec and exposure compensation = 0

___________________________

10. Rock on Munnik pass 110. Rock on Munnik pass 1

Another stacked image using two photos (using the bracketing function of the D800)  – both were: Nikon D800 with Nikon 17mm-35mm lens @ 17mm, ISO100, f16, WB = sun, Manual mode, Benro tripod, Kirk head. The one image was taken at 1/6sec  and exposure compensation = +1.0 and the other at 1/200sec and exposure compensation = -1.0

___________________________

Just be warned – drive down Munnik pass is not for “sissies” – here you do need a 4×4 (big rocks lying around) and there are only a few places that you can turn around – the road is very narrow but it is really spectacular and worth a try. Just make sure you do arrive well before sunrise to find a great spot for a sunrise photo. Or go the previous day and identify a spot beforehand.

While there were some clouds around, we quickly (as the road allows us) drive to the school building (situated in an old church building a few kilometers pass the Baster voetpad turn off). The previous day we took a few images but with no clouds around, it was not that spectacular. However, with the clouds around, a must better image. Could have better with sunrise. Nevertheless, here is an image of the building:

11. Church in the clouds 111. Church in the clouds 1

Another stacked image using two photos (using the bracketing function of the D800)  – both were: Nikon D800 with Nikon 17mm-35mm lens @ 22mm, ISO100, f16, WB = sun, Manual mode, Benro tripod, Kirk head. The one image was taken at 1/60sec  and exposure compensation = +1.0 and the other at 1/250sec and exposure compensation = -1.0

___________________________

Then it is was time again for our last breakfast and we arrived just in time – 09H05. Gideon told us about the Bushmen paints to be found on farm very close to the road to Barkly East and we stopped for a few photos. Here is one such image – my first ever photo of a Bushman painting:

12. Bushmen 112. Bushmen 1

Image taken with my D700 and 70mm-200mm lens handheld.

___________________________

Just an afterthought: we saw two juvenile bearded vulture (the one was about 20meters above us) and a very rare Black stork flying by. Also a flock of about 30 Grey Crowned Cranes (Mahem) in a plowed field. A very good area for birding.  Well, I hope you’ve enjoyed the trip with us and until my next trip report – keep on shooting!!!

Message to take home:

When it comes to landscape photography, this piece of advice I read somewhere is so true. Please look at the two bold/italic sentences – and I do remember that Hougaard Malan also stressed it during our workshops:

“Many good images may be captured during each time shooting, but rarely is an image captured that is truly stunning. While all photographers understand this fact, their photography techniques rarely reflect it. Most photographers shoot hundreds of images and hope that some of them reach the level of quality necessary to make it into the portfolio. Please plan properly before you start shooting. Make sure you know what and how you want to capture the situation/scene/subject. As you practice your photography skills rather than simply shooting and hoping to improve, you will feel more confident in your ability to come out of any shoot with creative and technically-correct photos.

After this trip, I once again realise how true is this statement. On Sunday morning, my wife and I did run around on Munnik pass (“soos af-kop hoenders”) to find a proper composition wasting valuable time and we’ve missed the best photo opportunities. Therefor, go and visit the scene your want to use before-hand (the day before) and plan your shot for the next shoot. You won’t be disappointed and you won’t waste your time. Until our next shooting – keep on planning!!!

Advertisements

  1. #1 by bessie on June 2, 2013 - 3:07 pm

    alles baaaie nice maar die kerkie op die heuwel is regtig spesiaal. sien uit na ons trip. well done!!

  2. #2 by de Wets Wild on June 2, 2013 - 4:50 pm

    All beautiful shots Willem, but the ones from Munnik Pass are exquisite!

  3. #3 by Jan Reyneke on June 3, 2013 - 6:39 am

    Great foto’s Willem. Sal die roete moet doen.

  4. #4 by whk139 on July 3, 2013 - 5:53 am

    @Bessie – ek sien net so uit na ons trip.

    @de Wets – thanks, yes that one is also a favourite of mine.

    @Jan – jy sal defnitief so ‘n draai moet gaan ry. Jy sal nie spyt wees nie.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: