F-Stop Blues

I’ve had such a jol in the country this past week. It started on Thursday. My regular aqua class was cancelled so instead of kicking up a storm in the pool at Fordoun, I joined a four- hour guided walk through the Fort Nottingham Reserve (part of the Lions Bush Conservancy).  I felt so privileged to be wandering through the countryside on such a glorious weekday, with not a care in the world, that I had to stop myself from launching into what would’ve been a very embarrassing rendition of Val-deri,Val-dera,Val-deri,Val-dera-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha…. We saw the most beautiful wild flowers and even spotted Oribi and Samango Monkeys. A couple of the other people on the walk were conservationists and I learned so much about the indigenous flora and fauna of the area. Our guide, who lives in the beautiful little village of Fort Nottingham, was a walking “Who’s Who” of the Midlands. It was all very interesting and I managed to catch up on quite a bit of local skinner. He took us up to the crest of a hill from where we had a spectacular view across the Kamberg valley to Rosetta. A large part of this valley is going to be flooded when the new Springvale dam is completed and, as always, it’s a shame to think of what is going to be destroyed in the name of progress.

Kamberg Valley, October 2011 (soon to be flooded)

Kamberg Valley, October 2011 (soon to be flooded)

wild protea in the Fort Nottingham Reserve

wild protea in the Fort Nottingham Reserve

Over the weekend I attended a photography workshop, something I’ve wanted to do for ages but just haven’t found the right course. The teacher, Stephen Pryke, lives in Hilton and is a well known Midlands photographer. There was only myself and another woman, who had travelled down from Jo’burg to attend the workshop, so we got lots of individual attention and had a very pleasant time. I think I have at last managed to grasp the correlation between the dreaded F-stop number, apperture opening, depth of field and shutter speed. Time will tell. On the Saturday afternoon, Stephen took us to the Umgeni Valley Nature Reserve which lies in the spectacular gorge below the Howick Falls. It seems so wrong that this is on my doorstep and I’ve never visited it. It really is beautiful and we snapped away until sunset.

Umgeni Valley, October 2011

Umgeni Valley, October 2011

Umgeni Valley, looking towards Albert Falls (October 2011)

Umgeni Valley, looking towards Albert Falls (October 2011)

can anyone tell me what this flower is called?

can anyone tell me what this flower is called?

What I love about photography (and I guess the same would apply to any creative pursuit) is that it makes one more observant and more present. It brings you into the moment, like meditation, and it’s there that you find the beauty. There’s a scene in American Beauty that kind of sums it up for me when Lester Burnham (Kevin Spacey) gives his final narration after he’s been shot:

I had always heard your entire life flashes in front of your eyes the second before you die. First of all, that one second isn’t a second at all. It stretches on forever, like an ocean of time… For me, it was lying on my back at Boy Scout camp, watching falling stars… And yellow leaves, from the maple trees that lined our street… Or my grandmother’s hands, and the way her skin seemed like paper… And the first time I saw my cousin Tony’s brand-new Firebird… And Janie… And Janie… And… Carolyn. I guess I could be pretty pissed off about what happened to me, but it’s hard to stay mad when there’s so much beauty in the world. Sometimes I feel like I’m seeing it all at once, and it’s too much, my heart fills up like a balloon that’s about to burst… And then I remember to relax, and stop trying to hold on to it, and then it flows through me like rain and I can’t feel anything but gratitude for every single moment of my shitty little life… You have no idea what I’m talking about, I’m sure. But don’t worry, you will someday.

It’s there; you just have to pay attention.

Just so you know, I have moved my camera off auto and onto the aperture setting and I am fiddling with exposure settings as well (oooh, I feel so bold)! Yesterday, the mist came swirling in at lunch time and I set off in search of a “moody” pic. What I found was a Secretary Bird in the field which I proceeded to shoot on completely the wrong bloody settings, heaven help me. At least I now know what I did wrong. Perhaps I will eventually be able to say I know what I did right. It’s blurred I know, but I like it!

Secretary Bird

Secretary Bird

roses in the mist

roses in the mist

Foxgloves

Foxgloves

Waterlily

Waterlily

view from the wee house

view from the wee house

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9 Responses to F-Stop Blues

  1. Lex says:

    Pics are great. The last one ‘View from the Wee house’ is the best. I also have all the gear but slowly getting there.

  2. Mark Muggeridge says:

    Lovely photos Cathy, sounds you really are living the good life.
    Re aperetures and all that, it may be good to deal with them one at a time, practise with aperture and then with speed.
    Aperture is very good for get sharp subject and blurred back ground, good for flowers. The bigger the aperture the more blurred the back ground will be, f1.2 and f2 are nice big apertures, (the higher the number the smaller the apeture – yes it’s counter intuitive) when doing flowers set the f stop number as low as you can and make sure focus is bang on your subject (a flower). Try this for a year then we will get on to speed 1/ 25th of a second etc!

    • Cathy says:

      Thanks for your advice. It is confusing to try and deal with speed and aperture together. Good idea to stick to aperture for the time being and get comfortable with that. I’m very happy to leave speed for a year! I have a compact camera that doesn’t do the blurry backgrounds (lowest is f2.8) but what I’ve learned is that if I use the macro setting on wide angle and get as close as possible I can get a good shot of flowers. Does that make sense? Maybe I should motivate for a new camera for Christmas!

  3. Mark Muggeridge says:

    Nice work Cathy, yes just stick to aperture, f2.8 is not bad and using the macro is a smart way around it. The important part is getting a camera that can take interchangeable lenses, it’s the lens that does the f stop thing, there are plenty around depending on Santa’s budget.

  4. Mike says:

    can anyone tell me what this flower is called?
    Could be Boophane disticha, a beautiful flower with a poisonous bulb ( check http://www.shire.co.za ).
    Mike

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