At this time of year, it starts to get light here (Rooi Els, around 70km east of Cape Town) before 5 a.m. Most mornings the light show outside the window is blue skies, a few clouds, the warm, rosy tinges of the rising sun and if I am fortunate, the wind isn’t howling*.
Up, quickly dress, put cameras and tripod in the car and I’m happy to drive for an hour or more to a distant spot to record the sunrise.
Which is odd, because I live in a village tightly sandwiched between the ocean and neighbouring Kogelberg mountains. It’s a United Nations Biosphere and the floral diversity – more than 1500 different types of plant flourish here – is said to be greater here than anywhere else on Earth.
And, if I get bored with the flora, we have the only ocean-side foraging baboons on the planet living here as well as a family of leopard. The bird life is spectacular and at least two varieties of buck live in the hills – and doubtless also provide food for the leopards. Of Africa’s seven seriously poisonous snake types, six have been observed in the village, including the dangerous cobra and deadly, puff adder.
So, what the hell am I doing driving away from this paradise?
Ask yourself and your photo buddies – my guess is that they have the same issue I’ve been struggling with since moving here; most will tell you that they find it nearly impossible to take meaningful photographs in their own back yard.
Scottish photo friends, Ted Leeming and Morag Patterson hit a similar barrier some years back. Their response was to produce a fantastic gallery of images called Zero Footprint (here), all shot from the immediate environs of their home near Dumfries. Zero Footprint has been shown in several leading galleries in the UK and could easily form the core of a forthcoming book.
With their example in mind and living in a place where the scenery makes it almost impossible to take a bad photograph, I finally did some stern self-admonishing and made a deliberate effort to try and see the village differently and shoot nearer home. The photographs with this post are a few of the images from several years of that effort; a tiny representation of what I’ve shot and all within the boundaries of Rooi Els, most less than a kilometre from my front door. A place that until I got my act together, I was all too happy to photographically write off.
It’s been a very worthwhile exercise and I don’t drive to remote locations very often these days.
* If you’ve not been here, South Africa’s Southern Cape region is home to the Cape Doctor, a seasonal southeasterly wind that blows from mid-October until late January. Some days, it is a balmy breeze, mostly it howls out of the clear skies of the South Atlantic at anything up to and over 160km/h.
It’s called the Cape Doctor because it keeps the skies clear and blows away the bad weather. When the temperature is in the high 20s (Celsius) and all the doors and windows are shut tight against the wind, it’s easy to call it something else.