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Friday, 29 June 2012

Bushveld and Nyala antelope.

Left Pretoria at 13:10 this afternoon on the N1 highway heading north, arrived at Sondela game reserve at 14:20 a distance of 100 km.

This is where I'm staying now, this part of the house faces north, on the left the main bedroom, in the middle the lounge, dining area and kitchen, all open plan. The room I'm using is just of the picture on the right. This whole side of the house is glass. This house was also designed and built by my brother in law.

The last rays of the sun catching the eaves of the roof.

Two visitors, an Nyala ewe and her lamb. These two were no more than five meters from me.

In spite of being quite tame, still alert. Baby stays very close to Mum.

Mother and daughter.

Gau train.

Yesterday I took a trip on the high speed Gau train, from Hatfield in Pretoria to Rosebank in Johannesburg.

Click to enlarge.

Train arriving in Hatfield station. There are "drivers" on the trains, but the whole system is fully automated so they are there just for psychological effect. Top speed of the train is 160km an hour, (99mph).

Interior of the train, security guards constantly patrol up and down the train, mainly to prevent littering.

Train on the opposite platform and more security guards looking tough. 

The Voortrekker Monument on Monument hill just outside of Pretoria, built between 1938 and 1947, to commemorate the Great Trek 1836 - 1838. Voorterekkers were the Afrikaans pioneers who left the Cape Colony to escape what they considered British oppression.

Rosebank station our destination, this station is underground. For about 30km the line runs underground as it was cheaper to tunnel than to expropriate property to build the line above ground. 

One of the things that struck me was the almost clinical cleanliness of the trains and the stations. In Africa dirt is the norm and public places like railway stations are always full of litter and worse. 

One of the stations along the way. Since 2010 the system has carried 5,8 million passengers. 

Below is a link that gives a detailed description and history of the building of the line.

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Interior shots for Joyful.

Here are some interior shots of the house, Joyful wanted to see more.

The guest house lounge, dinning room and kitchen. Just to the right of the door leading out is another guest room with it's own bathroom and toilet. These facilities are often used by visiting missionaries from all over Africa. Not strange to arrive here to find Mozambuiqan's, Chanaian's and others staying over. My sister in law was involved with YWAM for many years while my brother in law is involved with a men's ministry called Living Word. Christian hospitality and service is their normal way of living.

View towards the guest bedroom, bathroom and toilet on the right.

Looking from the kitchen towards the dining area and outside entertainment area. 

The main lounge, the cover over the couch is to protect it from the sun.

Looking towards the kitchen. You can see how the early morning sun just streams in through these north facing windows. 

The entertainment area.

The front door from the inside. This home is filled with warmth, love and peace.

PS. Excuse any spelling mistakes, my spell check is not working and I'm dislexic, so for the life of me there are words I just can spell. Even spelt dislexic wrong.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Bougainvillea & front door.

Took some more photos of the house I'm staying in, I've stayed here more time than I can count and every time I'm impressed with the design and the "liveability" of the house. Below is the enclosed court yard that divides the north and south wings of the house. This court yard allows the south wing to also have north facing windows to catch the winter sun.

Click to enlarge.

The front door with two multi coloured leaf bougainvillea's growing over it. The door on the right is the entrance to the south wing.

Close up of the multi coloured bougainvillea leaves and flowers.

View of the court yard from the south wing door.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Birds & bougainvillea.

Sat on the veranda looking out at the bird feeder here where I'm staying in Pretoria.

Click to enlarge.

Weaver bird at the feeder made of bamboo. Right behind the feeder, (about 3 meters), is a grove of bamboo. Every two years or so it has to be cut down or else it blocks the winter sun. This feeder was made from a piece of this bamboo. Much nicer than the plastic ones on sale at various garden stores.

A sparrow waiting for a turn at the feeder. I just love the bold markings on this birds back. 

Weaver bird and sparrow having breakfast together.

Walked around to the back of the house to photograph this bougainvillea growing over the garden wall. Further up the driveway there are bougainvillea's with different colours but they were not flowering as well as this one.

Monday, 25 June 2012

Go away bird.

This where I'm staying for the next four days. On Friday we are going to a private game reserve where my sister in - law and her husband, have a weekend cottage. I'm hoping to take a lot of game and bird photographs there.

Click to enlarge.

My sister - in - laws husband is an architect and he designed  and built this house for them about 20 years ago. This side of the house faces north so all these big windows catch the warmth from the winter sun all day long. Took this photo early in the morning.

Later on while I was sitting in the lounge of the guest wing I spotted a Loeri high up in a willow tree, this particular type of Loeri is also known as the Go away bird.

Go - away - bird, (Corythaixoides concolor).Known as the Go - away - bird, because of it's call, if you use a bit of imagination. 

Having a good stretch. These birds are listed as an endangered species.

I went outside to see if I could get a better photo, the bird, becoming aware of me turned around and I got this shot.

Rusty gate and a tree.

Took this photo on Saturday afternoon, two photos actually and blended them in the Gimp editing programme.

Click to enlarge.

At the moment I am visiting family in our capital city Pretoria. Left home yesterday at 5:30am and arrived here at 11am, a distance of 500km +-, this included a half hour stop for breakfast. Beautiful four lane highway all the way, until you hit the outskirts of Johannesburg, where you have six lanes in both directions, the size of the highways still leaves this country boy dazed. Johannesburg and Pretoria are only about 60km apart.

South Africa has three capitals, Pretoria is the administrative capital, Cape Town is the Parliamentary, (legislative) capital and Bloemfontein is the judicial capital, seat of the supreme court. Every couple of years some politician starts rumbling about the costs involved, (as if they really care about wasting money) and starts talking about moving everything to one central point, until it's pointed out how many billions that will cost. Will write more about this strange set up in a later post.

Pretoria is known as the jacaranda city, with thousands of jacarandas lining the streets.

Jacaranda trees around the Union building, seat of government in Pretoria, built circa 1910 to house government departments, it's mainly symbolic now as it is to small - although it's a huge building - to house the bloated modern government departments, they are now scattered all over the city. The President does have his offices here though. 

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Last look.

The sun taking a last look through a hole in the clouds yesterday before heading of to do duty further west.

Click to enlarge. 

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Photo editing.

I have been spending a lot of time experimenting and learning more about photo editing in Gimp and Picasa photo editing programmes. Below is a sunset cloud shot I took in February . 

Above unedited original photo.

The same photo blended with a slightly underexposed photo of the same clouds, quite a dramatic change in the mood of the photo.

Above I opened the blended photo in the Picasa editing programme and edited it on the programmes online "Creative editing kit". Once again a different mood.

Monday, 18 June 2012

Venus rising.

At my normal post this morning just making sure the sun rises on time, when I saw Venus high and bright in the sky. This morning at sunrise there was an eastern hairline moon rising, with Venus  and Saturn. Due to the trees being in the way I could not see the moon. On Thursday evening just after sunset there will be a western hairline moon with Venus, on the western horizon, and I should be able to photograph them both.

Click to enlarge.

`Looking for the eastern hairline moon.

Venus peeping shyly through the leaves.

Venus magnified through the camera lens.  

For those interested in the technical details of the above shot;
Camera; Canon PowerShot SX40
Mode:     Manual mode
Shutter:  1/10 second
App:        f5.8
ISO:         3200
Lens:        150.5mm focal length.         

Sunrise this morning wasn't too shabby either.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Early morning splendour.

Every week I tell myself the same thing, "come Sunday and I'm going to lie in a bit." Come Sunday, what happens? I'm up at my usual time, drinking my first cup of coffee. This morning was no different, I sat in my chair watching the sun come up. Being mid winter the sun only comes up at 06:50, and I had been up since 5:30. (This is about 40 minutes later than my usual time, so I suppose I did lie in a bit).

Then, as if on cue, the show began.

Five minutes later the sun is visible through the branches.

And suddenly the whole glowing ball is visible, almost seems to be shaking itself free of the clutching branches. 

Even though I watch the sunrise most mornings, and have a fair understanding of the physical laws behind the spectacular light, I'm still enthralled by it just as Adam must have been when he saw his first sunrise.

Thursday the 21st is our winter solstice, and from Friday the sun starts rising a fraction earlier every morning so that by mid December it's up almost two and a half hours earlier than now. By November the sun and I will be in sync again, both up at the same time.

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Unreal sunset.

Continuing with my photo editing experiments, I took two photos of a rather colourless sunset, (mostly white clouds) and blended them in Gimp photo editing programme.

Click to enlarge.

So who say's a photo can't lie? 

Gimp is a free photo editing programme, and I have found it very easy to use.

Sunrise from my front door.

 The cold, dry weather that we are having at moment, creates perfect atmospheric conditions for dramatic sunrises and sunsets. This morning while I was having my coffee I watched the sun rising like a big red ball.

Click to enlarge.

The dust haze reduces the amount of 'flare', that would normally occur when shooting directly into the sun, without some sort of filter.

Monday, 11 June 2012

Photo editing.

Feeling as proud as Punch, blended my first two photos, (same scene, different exposures), successfully and made one reasonable picture. I have discovered that to simplify matters you need to take both originals using a tripod. 

First photo.

Exposed for the sky, foreground washed out.

Second photo.

Exposed for the foreground, sky washed out with no detail.

Combination of the two.

Click to enlarge.

Both exposures combined, good foreground and much more detail in the sky, sky still too light though. To use some new photographic  buzz words I've just learn't, "better dynamic range." The mountains in the background are very far away. In the middle distance in front of the dark hill one can see some electricity pylons, part of an electrical substation that is about 7km away from where I was standing. The telephoto effect of the cameras zoom lens compresses the distance and makes things look closer than they really are. 

Once I learn how to do cloning I'll remove the pylons and have a pure landscape.

This old man keeps surprising himself with all the new tricks his learning.

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Schooling and education versus true education.

I came across this quote today by the photographer Alain Briot.

"In "education" there is schooling and there and there is true education, paideia, to use the Greek term. Schooling is how we acquire skills and knowledge. Education is about what stirs the soul."

In education today there is lots of schooling, but little true education. 

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Southern Bald Ibis.

The weather has gone from warm to freezing overnight. So far we have had a very mild winter, but yesterday we had a gale strength wind blowing from the north which is always a warning of a cold front moving in from the south west. The cold front pushes the air off the high plateau of South Africa over the Drakensberg escarpment. As it descends it heats up, (adiabatic heating) causing temperatures to shoot up. Yesterdays hot wind just sucked the life out of the remaining green plants in the garden, leaving shrivelled leaves.

The cold front moves in right behind the hot wind, and suddenly it's freezing cold, from one extreme to the next. This sudden drop in temperatures brought some unexpected visitors from the high mountain regions. 

Taking the dogs out for a walk I spotted a flock of Southern Bald Ibis, these birds prefer to live at high altitudes, so seeing them here is unusual. They were a long way of, so my photos aren't to clear, I was also shivering quite a bit from the cold, causing some blurring. 

Southern Bald Ibis. The birds use their long, sensitive, beaks to probe between plant and grass stems and in the ground for insects. 

This paddock was mowed a couple of days ago providing a perfect feeding area for them, as they prefer short grass.  

Southern Bald Ibis are listed as vulnerable.