I told Paul that I don’t do hills.
It’s not that I can’t, but ageing knees, a paucity of breath and ten or fifteen kilos of photo kit just don’t do it for me any more.
That seemed eminently sensible until Sunday morning, when Paul (Bruins) our flamingo-legged guide led us down from hill top to a dam just a couple of hundred metres distant. Horizontally, that is. The incline looked quite steep from the dam wall and I did wonder how we were all going to get back up to our cars. You can catch a glimpse of the terrain in the left hand side of Cathy Bell’s pic below.
Of course we did, but I’m sure I heard an EMS chopper hanging about nearby. Just in case, as it were.
This is Greyton, a tiny town nestled amidst the Riversonderend mountains, about 120km from Cape Town. Paul has a holiday cottage here, knows the area like the back of his hand and had earned his Panorama Paul moniker in the region. The idea of an organised weekend shoot wth him was just too much to miss.
Clearly, I wasn’t alone, as additional workshops are scheduled to meet the clamour for weekends in these spectacular foothills.
Joining Paul to assist was German landscape photographer, Jan Zwilling, who had arrived in Cape Town the previous day. Between Paul and Jan, we were brilliantly looked after, advised, guided and generally helped to make the best of our weekend.
Friday afternoon’s first shoot was in the local nature reserve, first taking in a tiny dam in a spectacularly steep gorge and then bidding the sun goodbye, looking across a field of proteas.
A great start, signalling good weather and fantastic photographic opportunities for the coming two days.
Saturday morning found us set up around a local farm dam, watching the sun colouring the clouds and sky almost every imaginable colour. Mother nature added wisps of mist to give us yet more mood in our pictures.
After breakfast, our guides took us out on to the roads of the region to find locations to shoot canola fields. A major crop in the south eastern Cape, canola’s brilliant yellow flowers create a chrome coloured sea against the might of the nearby mountains. A photographer’s dream.
Sunset Saturday and Paul told us we were going to The Castle.
Several kilometres of not very good farm roads, a precipitous climb (bet you can work out where that’s leading to by now), a pine forest and we arrived at an aerie with views from a nearby vineyard, to canola fields and the mountains disappearing into the distance. A spectacular sunset followed by some wine, beer and snacks and we were all ready to head back into Greyton and an early(ish) night.
The Castle also provided car parking for Sunday morning’s shoot. This time, we were on foot and from the path through the woods, we discovered a wonderful scene just a couple of hundred metres away below us. As before, nature delivered in spades, giving us a dream sunrise. The rest of the story, you’ve already read.
Over breakfast, Paul did admit to me that he was going to find a different access road to that particular spot and that despite his dramatic leg length (almost as long as the rest of us are tall), it didn’t help as he had also found it necessary to stop four or five times to catch his breath.
I asked all of the photographers to send me their choice of image from the weekend. You can see them here, tagged by name.
My weekend was very much a proof of concept; Fuji when I travel and Nikon when my Land Rover does the hauling. Friday evening’s shoot was a bit of an unknown, so the X-Pro2 got the nod. For the rest of the weekend, the D800 and various lenses I’ve not used for a while, got lots of exercise.
I really enjoyed my mostly-Nikon weekend. Why isn’t there a lighter, mirrorless offering yet?
Driving home, I was struck by the level of planning and organisation that had gone into the weekend. That our guides barely touched their own cameras added to my sense of satisfaction and job well done – far too many workshops are led by photographers who all too willingly put their own image taking alongside (and sometimes above) their fee paying guests.
All in, a fine weekend – I’ll put it in my diary for next year.
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