This past Easter weekend we went with friends to the Ebenezer Dam in Georges Valley, Magoebaskloof . . .
Our friends have a little house, a few meters away from the water. They also have a fast and very powerful speedboat. Thus we spend a lot of the time on the water skiing (not me!) and being towed on an inflatable behind the boat at high speed with the driver doing his level best to throw everyone off. We also eat and drink a lot and somehow with all this activity I don't get to photograph much...I have been to the dam house quite a few times and although its in a beautiful setting, somehow its not that photogenic in my opinion.
Because of all the skiing I usually take along my Canon EF 70-300F4-5.6 L zoom. Sitting at the back of the speedboat with my new, old Canon 40D its actually quite easy to capture the 'best' skiing moments. The 40D manages about six frames a second and is definitely the fastest camera that I have ever owned. Its 'only' 10 megapixels and aps-c but its fine for a backup camera to my 5D2, which have never let me down on a job...so I didn't want to spend a lot of money on a backup camera. I bought the 40D secondhand from Cameratech in Johannesburg. They are the official Canon repair agents and gave me a two year warrant on the camera. With only 5000 activations and R3600-00 I though it was a bargain. But...sports photography is not really my thing and so I looked for something else to photograph...
To work off all the eating and drinking we went for a brisk walk towards the dam wall and back every afternoon. The gestalt is pretty ordinary but I started to notice some details that looked promising. I don't like carrying a camera when I walk for exercise, because I just stop too much to look and photograph!
So I decided to take a 'slow' walk with my 'leetle' Leica X1. Although a most flawed camera with agonizingly slow performance, it looks good, is very small and lightweight, handles nicely and above all produces superb image quality. It also easy to use for details and close up and can manage a closest focus distance of 30cm. Whist this is does not give one macro images its just close enough for my type of photography. If I want macro images I have a Canon EF f2.8 100mm macro for that...
The first thing I noticed was all the litter hidden by the tall grass on the side of the road. Lots of flattened tin cans that were in various stages of decay and rust. The tar roads make an interesting textured background. These types of images made straight from above doesn't really have much design and composition. The interest imo lies n the shape and textures of the rusty and flattened tin cans. The same goes for the splash of blue paint on the face brick wall.
Another interesting site was the dam wall. It has granite rocks packed on the slope and in the middle is a concrete staircase with yellow painted railings. I made a mistake with my focusing here, in that the foreground is sharp but the background is not that sharp. I used the X1's 11 point focus mode instead of my normal hyperfocal length or zone focus method which would have given me better results i think. The 11 points focus selects the closest point that it can focus on and this seems to have been too close with the result that even at f11 the far distance is out of focus. I realized at the time that it would be difficult to get the fore- and back ground in focus and that's why I selected the 11 points but i didn't think at the time that the background would be so much out of focus! The problem with the X1 is that the rear lcd is a very low resolution screen and that makes it very difficult to judge focus. but i will go back one day and then I will make sure that I have my tilt and shift lens with me. The tilt action will give me a plane of sharpness from close up to infinity.
So what does one make of these more graphic and colorful images? I have to live with images for a while to see if they make the grade or not. Often 'visually stunning' images fade after a while...and the more 'quiet' images last longer. And how does these images fit in with my usual style of more austere documentary type of photography? Well I look at it as an exercise in 'looking' and finding something to photograph even when, initially, the prospect looks bleak. It also takes me out of my comfort zone and forces me to look at objects and things differently....which is never a bad thing and I suppose some of these images can even be described as austere and documentary...which, afterall fits in well with my style of photography.
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