David Noton's Room With a View

April 21, 2009 | Mark Goldstein | Photography Techniques | Comment |

What is the perfect length for a photographic trip? About six weeks; long enough to really get into it, long enough to be adventurous and self-indulgent, long enough to forget about the real world, bail outs and bankruptcies. In truth there’s never enough time, compromises have to be made, agendas curtailed. So it may be tempting to think the longer the better, but I find if I’m on the road longer than six weeks I start losing the edge, slowing down and just getting a bit blasé about yet another stunning vista. Plus the editing mountain starts to look increasingly daunting, and it has to be said the novelty of hotel, guest house and campsite ablutions starts to wear thin.

We are near the end of our South African Odyssey and after five weeks of camping in the Kruger and the Drakensberg Mountains I have to admit we’ve gone soft for a few days. We’ve a room with a view, and oh what a view. From the deck we look up the Tugela Valley west towards the Drakensberg Mountains and the Ampitheatre of the Royal Natal National Park. It has been a great journey, a real adventure, and I’m in that happy but sadly all too temporary state of bliss that comes near the end of a productive trip. The hard work, the endless location searches and the dawn and dusk vigils have been done. A full to capacity hard drive of RAW images is testament to that. We’ve had gorgeous light, unforgettable wildlife encounters and awesome landscapes. Not to mention the barbecues and nights under the stars listening to the sounds of the bush. South Africa has it all; we’ll be back. But now, here over the last few days I have the luxury of just trying to squeeze out a few more shots knowing that whatever I make will be a bonus.

The Drakensberg rises up from the rolling farmland of KwaZuluNatal as a long rocky ridge riven by gorges and cliffs with its very own localised weather system. Every day sees a cycle of clear blue skies evolving into turbulent thunderstorms as the African sun goes to work on the bare rocks of the mountains. It’s a Big Landscape with Big Skies, endlessly changing; a photographer’s delight. The daily dousings keeps the air clear, and when it comes the dawn light is sparkling.

After weeks on the road we’re getting sadly perky over the chalet’s comforts; its amazing what excitement an ice tray and toaster can generate. It’ll be a good place to finish, and with this view on hand I can work it over the next two days, two dawns and two dusks, just to see what I can make of it in different lighting situations. It often pays to use whatever is right on your doorstep, so that’s exactly what I’m going to do here.  It’ll be an interesting exercise in working one view over a 48 hour cycle.

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