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Saturday, 28 July 2012

African mountains.

Amazing what can be done with a little digital editing of a photograph.

Click to enlarge.

This first photo is as it was taken, in very harsh light, and it looks very bland and washed out.

Above is the same photo. I adjusted the colour's and contrast in Picasa photo editing, saved the results as a separate photo, then I blended the two in Gimp photo editing, and the result is a photo with a more vibrant appearance.  

The foreground of this photo was 2km from where I was standing, the ridge in the middle about 5km away, and the two hills in the background about 10km.  In the valley just behind the yellow  ridge with the two Acasia trees, lies the town of Estcourt.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Bath time.

This Cape Robin-Chat came for his usual evening bath in the dogs sandstone water bowl. I was lucky enough to get my camera before he flew off. Set the camera on continuous shooting and pressed the shutter release. Took 20 photos in less than a minute, many of them are just a blur as the bird bathed.

Click to enlarge.

Water's just right.

Head down and a blur of wings as the water is sent spraying into the air.

Give the wings a good fast flap to dry them...,

Lastly a vigorous shake of the tail. All clean and set for bed.

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Sunset over Pietermaritzburg.

Spent yesterday afternoon and last night with my brother at his home in Pietermaritzburg.  While we were sitting on the veranda drinking a cup of coffee I took these photos of the sun setting over the town.

Click to enlarge.

Sun behind the clouds.

A little while later the sun shone through below the clouds and soon after disappeared below the horizon.

Saturday, 21 July 2012

African winter sunrise and memories.

Something I remember from my very early childhood, -I must have been about five years old at the time-, is seeing a picture of a sunrise in a comic book. The picture is still very vivid in my memory, of a barnyard farm scene, with a rooster standing on a fence post crowing and the sun rising like a big orange ball behind the barn.

My mothers parents had a small 10 acre farm on the western outskirts of Durban and we went to visit one weekend, I decided to get up early the next morning and see if the sun really looked like that when it came up. (I needed proof of these things even at that early age). Early the next morning before sunrise I was sitting on the back step, no one locked their houses those days so it was easy to get out. I had no idea where the sun came up, so it was just luck that I was facing the right way. When the sun came up over the mountain opposite the house I was enthralled, it wasn't quite what the picture showed in the comic book, it was far more beautiful than I could have imagined. Since then I have been fascinated by sunrises. 

This morning I was out with my camera in the freezing cold to photograph the sunrise.

The first hint of the sun.

It's amazing how fast the sun rises, the earth is spinning on it's axis at almost 2,000km an hour, so that's how fast the sun is rises above the horizon.

Almost completely out.

To keep pointing the camera at the sun after this is to risk damaging the sensor and your eyes. By now I was freezing, the temperature was only just above zero degrees Celsius, so the dogs and i headed home, where two strong, hot cups of coffee revived me.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Gautrain humor.

One of the things I did while I was visiting in Pretoria a few weeks ago was to ride on the high speed suburban, Gautrain. (the name is an abbreviation of Gauteng Province, Gauteng means place of gold).

What struck me about this train and it's stations was the absolute cleanliness as apposed to the normal dirt one finds on the average African station and trains. Another thing was the teams of security guards patrolling the strain and the stations. When I asked the friend who was travelling with me, "What's with all the security," he told me they were mainly there to prevent littering, and all the things forbidden on the train the most "verboten", was chewing gum. At the time I thought he was pulling my leg. This morning while paging through "The Witness", one of KZN's news papers, (also one of the oldest in the country) I came across this cartoon strip, "Madam & Eve".

Click to enlarge.

The cartoon "Madam & Eve", appears in most English language newspapers in the country. The cartoon is a spoof on the relationship between a domestic, "Eve", and her employer, "Madam". In this strip Eve is on one of the Gautrain station platforms chewing gum, with the inevitable results. 

The train pulling into Hatfield station. Just in the left of the photo the friend who was travelling with me.

Below is the link to my post about the Gautrain.

Monday, 16 July 2012

Egyptian geese waiting _.

Waiting for what you might ask? Waiting for spring and watching over this pond so no other pair of geese take it over, come spring and they'll raise another gaggle of goslings. This is a young pair, (newly weds you could say) and last year they only managed to raise on gosling to adulthood. Older pairs have an almost 100% success rate, raising six or more.

Click to enlarge.

Took this photo in the late afternoon about six days ago.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

First snow of the year.

The predicted cold front was no myth and the Drakensberg has had it's first snow of the year, hopefully not the last. Snow melt keeps the rivers flowing before the first spring rains arrive, useful to have enough water if you wish to do a bit of fly fishing. Unfortunately the southern part of the country had freezing weather and too much snow making roads impassible, and torrential rains which caused flooding ans extensive damage.

Click to enlarge.

Weather satellite photo showing the tail end of the cold front passing to the east. The area from about 29* south latitude was affect very badly.  

Tried to take some photos of the snow on the Berg but the light was bad, (midday, very bright) but with a bit of manipulation I did manage.

This is a photo of the northern spur of 'NtabamHlophe, (height about 2000m above sea level), otherwise known as White mountain. ('Ntabam = mountain & Hlophe = white) The Berg & snow can be see behind. 'NtabamHlophe is about 24km from where I stood to take the photo, the Berg behind another +- 10km.

This photo is two photos "stitched" together to create a bit of a panorama.

Well our three week, mid year, winter holiday come to a halt and tomorrow is back to school.

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Berg winds.

Today is not a Berg wind day, it's a miserable cold wind heralding a cold front that is said to be approaching and should be here overnight/tomorrow. Towards the end of July going into August the Berg winds start to blow, bringing with them the fire season and the danger of run away veld fires. The whole farm here where I live is cris crossed now with fire breaks.

Last year in August I wrote a post on Berg winds, . Towards the end of last month I received an email from the publishers, Macmillan, South Africa, (Educational division) asking permission to use my post in a grade 11 geography text book, in the section dealing with Berg winds. Needless to say I gave permission and felt quite good to think that they thought it was good enough for their text book.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Beautiful flower.

I don't know what it's called but it's beauty just had to be photographed.

Click to enlarge.

This is a big flower, I took this photo early in the morning, so I don't know if the drops at the bottom are dew or nectar.

Monday, 9 July 2012

More Sondela birds.

Sondela is a birders paradise, with hundreds of species of birds of which I only managed to photograph a few.

Click to enlarge.

Male Red-headed finch.

Female Red-headed finch.

This guy was waiting for an open spot at the bird feeder, while he waited he had a snooze among the thorns. Those thorns are as vicious as they look, yet giraffe and other browsing antelope manage to pluck the tenderest leaves from among them.

Scaly-feathered finch.

Crested Francolin. 

These Crested Francolin were photographed as the sun rose, with a slow shutter speed, thus the blurred bird in the middle. 

Swainson's Spurfowl, there are several coveys of these birds here on the farm where I live. 

White-crested Helmet-shrike. While I was at Sondela I photographed three different types of shrike, the Crimson-breasted shrike, the Grey-headed shrike and these.

Another view of the White-crested Helmet-shrike.

This is a juvenile eagle of some sort the closest ID I could get was one of the snake eagles.

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Bushveld braai. (BBQ)

When South Africans spend a weekend or evening together we almost always end up having a "braai", Afrikaans for BBQ. Well last Saturday evening we had a "braai" at Sondela.

While we were sitting around the fire this Nyala ewe wandered up looking for a snack, and here she is taking a piece of cucumber from my hand. 

Mutton chops and some beef suasage over the coals.

The result on the table with a bottle of Cabernet wine. My sister in law Estele and her husband Wim. Wim designed and built the house at Sondela. Strange how people close their eyes when you take a photo.

The house they built a Sondela was not built just for their own pleasure and use, but to bless others as well. Dozens of families get to enjoy the facilities every year, all for free, gratis. These are two people who don't just live for themselves but to serve others.

This little stove in the lounge at Sondela, imported from Denmark, is the most efficient heating system you could imagine. Just a few logs of wood heats up a huge room for the whole night. Not cheap but worth every penny.

Friday, 6 July 2012

House at Sondela Game Reserve.

Some external and internal views of the house I stayed in over the past weekend.

Click to enlarge.

Northern view, the room on the left is the main bedroom, middle room is the living- dining room and kitchen section of the house. The tall mast on the right is a lightning conductor, there is another just off picture to the left. Every house, (120 in total) built here must have a thatched roof and lightning is a constant threat here in the summer,

This is the back door of the house on the southern side, looking right through the main living area. The kitchen is just to the left of the door.

Roof detail of the room I slept in, the beams are specially treated blue gum poles. The treatment protects the beams against termites and rot.

All the rooms have these cane/rattan roller blinds, and each room also has it's own exterior door. 

View of the other spare bedroom on the south western side of the house.

En suite bathroom for the spare bedroom above.

This is the view of the en-suite bathroom for the room I used. A large sheet of frosted glass divided the bedroom from the bathroom, I really enjoyed the oversized shower head. All the hot water used in the house came from solar water heaters, with a back-up electrical  water heating system.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Birds of Sondela.

Sondela game, reserve where I spent last weekend, teems with birds, I wasn't able to photograph even a small fraction of them.

Crimson breasted shrike. Not a very clear photo as this bird was looking for breakfast and never sat still for a second.

Helmeted Guinea fowl kicking up dust while the scratch for seeds under the bird feeder.

African Grey Hornbil, looking puzzled, l trying to figure out how to get into the bamboo bird feeder. The dish on top was a temporary measure as the original lid had been mislaid. 

Grey-headed Bush-Shrike, I think this was a juvenile as it's red breast feathers weren't fully coloured yet. I was only about three meters away from this bird but it seemed totally unperturbed by my presence.

The same bird as above, looking for thorn a thorn to spike his latest victim on. 

Southern Yellow-billed hornbill. Females seal themselves into a hole in a tree trunk, the male bringing mud for the purpose, while hatching the eggs. Her mate feeds her through a narrow vertical slit in the mud wall. 

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Breakfast, road hog & Roman gravitas.

Came across these Zebras while walking early on Sunday morning.  

Click to enlarge.

Two mares and their foals.

Time for breakfast Junior.

Road Hog coming through. Warthogs don't ask permission, built like miniature tanks and just as strong there is not much they are afraid of. Those tusks are formidable weapons and they know how to use them. Fences are minor obstacles and are just bulldozed out of the way.

Not such a good photo, cropped out of another photo of a Zebra. Don't let those short legs fool you, Warthogs can put on a turn of speed that will surprise you.

Mother and child.

Nyala ram, the epitome of Roman Gravitas.

Head and shoulders a very handsome animal.