Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Joyce in Jo'burg

Joyce flew in from Whistler for Christmas, and after three days of the Buzzard family goings on (Christmas lunches on the 24th, 25th, and 26th), we decided to pop up to Johannesburg for some peace and quiet.

Joyce riding a WWII German 88mm antiaircraft gun, and about to get us thrown out the Johannesburg Military Museum. Take that Ken Melamed.

We had lunch in the arty suburb of Melville, and while Jo'burg is a huge cosmopolitan city, it never quite lets you forget you're in Africa.

Finished the day off with a great meal on the patio in Sandton.

Friday, December 18, 2009

The Durban Club

A close family friend invited my father and to lunch at the Durban Club, the self declared final bastion of the British Empire. It's an exclusive men's club located in downtown Durban. The club has been operating since 1861, and has been in the current building since 1903.

Arnold is my sister Joanne's father-in-law. He and my father have been doing business together since long before Joanne and Simon ever met, and now have the pleasure of having their children married to each other.

Head waiter Dennis Zondo, chef Khanyisile Mhlongo, and waiter Bernard Khuzwayo

My host, Arnold Taylor

The Blue Horizon Club

I had the pleasure of attending the retirement party for my father's friend, Colin Govender, at the Blue Horizon Social Club. Colin was a shift supervisor at the chemical plant my Dad ran on the Natal South Coast. There was a terrible accident where a huge chemical reactor failed, and Colin crawled on his hands and knees to the control room to shut it down, saving the plant, and everyone in it. After 43 years of service with the company, he's retiring, and he asked my Dad to speak at the party. I thought it would be interesting, so I tagged along.

Funny enough, we came directly from our lunch at the Durban club. We had two fantastic curries, back to back.

Burning the Cane Fields

Before the farms harvest the sugar cane, it's burned to remove wide grass blades, or trash from the cane, leaving the bamboo like cane behind. This saves a lot of work for the cane cutter, and clears the area of snakes and rodents.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

South Coast Sugar

A worker climbs between two sugar cane haulers.

This week I had the pleasure of touring the Rhodes sugar cane farm on KwaZulu-Natal's South Coast. The owner, Craig Rhodes, and his father Chris were kind enough to let me have the run of the place for two days. It's a large operation, with over 300 workers, mostly Xhosa speaking Pondo's from the Eastern Cape, and stretches for more than 25 km's across the rolling hills.

Loading cane onto trucks for the trip to the nearby Sezela Mill

A tractor is pulled out of a flooded access road

Craig Rhodes checks the oil on an ailing tractor.

Sugar cane cutters at work. Cane is burned, and then harvested by hand.

Craig Rhodes confers with his foreman.

A cane cutter at the end of the day.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

some of the locals

A couple of the locals around the Limpopo region, around Kruger Park.

Nothing but rain and cold weather here in durban, nothing much else to report.

Caspir in Action

It took some searching, but I knew I had a shot a Caspir Armoured Car on patrol, to add to the one that's in the museum. This was in KwaMashu, a Durban area township, in June 1996.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Kruger Park

African Elephant, near Lowe Sabie Camp

Cape Buffalo, near Punda Maria Camp

Boabab Tree, near Punda Maria Camp

Punda Maria Campsite

Elephant Skull, near Letaba Camp

Submerged Hippos in the Oliphant River.

Hippo on the bank of the Sabie River

Hyena, near Lower Sabie Camp. This guy would make a Pit Bull look like a Toy Poodle

I had originally planned to drive into Zimbabwe, an area I travelled in extensively during my time in South Africa in the mid-90's. I had really fallen in love with the area, and wanted to see for myself what the years of economic turmoil had to done to her. As I got up near the border, I met the local police inspector at my hotel bar. He said that you can travel in Zimbabwe, but you need to take all the fuel and food you need for the trip, as outside of Harare, there isn't much of either available. The condition of the refugees coming across the border is appalling, as they're essentially walking from Harare to the border with no food. With my little car, I thought it would more reckless than adventuresome to do Zimbabwe, so I cut across to the north end of Kruger park, and worked my way down to the southern most part, a distance of nearly 600 kms.

Kruger is a South African national park, similar to Banff or Jasper back in Canada. While there are some very expensive private camps inside the park, catering mostly to foreign tourists, there are also very reasonable priced public facilities and restaurants. For my three nights/four days in the park, the bill was less than R1400 (about $200.00 CAN), and that included a night safari drive.

I must admit that I really loved the northern sections of the park, even with temperatures in the high 30's celsius, and a lot less game than the lower sections. The above makes the northern park areas almost deserted, while the southern part is closer to Yellowstone Park at labour day, wall to wall with brash Jo'burger's and their floosey wives, all armed with 'big 5' game check lists.

Tech Stuff:
While I brought a 300mm f/2.8 lens, I found it too big to use in my very small Fiat car, so all the game pics were shot with my AF-S 70-200mm f/2.8, and the scenics with my AF-S 17-35mm f/2.8. I used my Nikon D700 for all the photos.

Kruger Park at Night

Civit Cat

Spitting Cobra

Spring Hare


Something I really enjoyed at Kruger was the night drive I took at the Lataba Camp. We were on the back of an open safari truck with sets of spot lights mounted on it, and it was led by a park ranger. Most of the animals in the park are nocturnal, and bush there is alive with life.  Believe me, you would not want to be on foot here at night.

The crown jewel that got away was a hunting Leopard we spotted. By the time I got the camera up, it had disappeared into the bush.

Tech Stuff:
I've stayed away from giving a lot of technical information, as I've really been travelling light, with one camera and three lenses, but this shoot involved some problems.

First of all, it's really dark. Most of the time, I had the D700 camera dialed up to either ISO 3200 or 6400. It's the environment the camera was built for, and it handles the low light beautifully.

To get the colour balance, I asked the ranger to train the spot light onto some white cars in the parking lot, and then used those as white balance point so I would have a clean look to the photos, not the orange "in the headlights look".

I used my AF-S 70-200mm f/2.8 with the vibration reduction, as most of the shutter speeds were in the range of 1/125th to 1/30th of a second.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Apartheid Museum

The Apartheid Museum is a must see. It's a thought provoking place, and being a journalist for the tail end of, a bit of personal history as well. Above is a self portrait in the mirror display.

This is a frighteningly realistic solitary confinement cell they had mocked up. It's a lot smaller than it looks in the photo, and I was getting seriously wierded out after only a few minutes in there.

This bad boy is a Caspir armoured car, one of the most recognizable symbols of the Apartheid days. This what the police used to patrol the townships. It has to be one of the ugliest things ever put on four wheels, and from the bullet pocked windows, this one has seen some action.

Now it's like Apartheid itself, just another museum exhibit.