Autumn has arrived in the Cape and our warm(ish), wet winter can’t be far behind.
Nestled deep in the Overberg, about thirty kilometres south of Franshhoek and within walking distance of Villiersdorp, Theewaterskloof Dam supplies a large percentage of Cape Town’s water and predictably at the end of a long dry summer, the water level is very low.
So low in fact that I’d spotted the trunks of the trees which were covered when the dam was constructed, when driving past recently. Now was the time to go and photograph these eerie remains, before the coming rain and watershed covered them once again.
04:30 – the alarm on my phone started barking at me to wake up – Theewaterskloof isn’t just around the corner, it’s at least a 90 minute drive – and despite packing my cameras and tripod the night before, the morning got off to a slow start despite large quantities of espresso.
I just made it – found the access road and set up just in time. Another five minutes and I’d have missed those critical tones in the landscape as day starts to elbow the night aside once more. The weather forecast has suggested some cloud cover, which failed to materialise, although a photographer’s dream mist more than made up for it. The temperature hovered around 9C, not cold by northern hemisphere standards, but for us Africans, distinctly chilly.
Mother Nature’s sculpting of these trees was exquisite when they were alive and providing shade. Dead and submerged for decades, they remain a visual treat on the few occasions what is left of their trunks and branches appear above the water.
My stricture about only using a DSLR when the car carries it for me was in full force and I shot with three of my favourite pre-AI Nikkors on the D800e; 28 f2.8, 50 f1.4 and the 105 f2.5. They enabled me to frame specific shots and as usual, delivered brilliant images, that needed little more than a bit of CA adjustment.
The African sun rises quickly – the light strengthens and photography is usually abandoned soon after sunrise, as the contrast between light and shadow all too soon swamps the camera’s dynamic range. This morning, as the sun rose, the mist thickened and a different type of soft contrast was on offer. Not for long, however.
No matter how much I love shooting with prime lenses, if I was to grab as much of this wonderful misty light as I hoped, a zoom would be vital. So, with a split between the 24-70 f2.8 and my ancient 80-200 f2.8, I spent a wonderful and unplanned final hour capturing gentle sunny colours, blue haze and a mist that obligingly made my early wake-up and 200km round trip all worthwhile.