Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Dubai - No Soul

A few year's ago I visited Dubai.  Like most people I walked through the city and was flabbergasted with the displays of everything you could lay your eyes on.  The excessive spending that goes into that city struck me with awe.  I wasn't sure if I should be impressed or totally appalled.  The size of the buildings, the shopping malls and the cars.  The huge amounts of water used in fountains and shopping centers in what is actually a desert location.  The lights, the extravagance.  To me it was just too much. For some reason I felt weird, it felt like there was something missing in that city that money can't buy.

I spend a week in Dubai, met a lot of people, none of whom were locals. Everyone I met was from another country making a living there. Everyone seemed happy in some way or the other, but something still felt wrong.  On my departure back to Cape Town I spoke to one of the flight attendants. As everyone else he was also not from there, just working as a flight attendant for United Emirates.  He asked my if I was going back to Cape Town and told me that he was actually from France, but whenever he gets an opportunity to visit Cape Town he takes it.  He is in fact going to live there one day he said, believes it is the best city he has ever visited. For a flight attended who has seen most of the world that must be a bold statement to make. Curiously I wanted to know why he would want to live in Cape Town and not Dubai.  I was intrigued by our conversation that followed.

He asked me what I think of Dubai. I said it is too much for me and there is something missing.  Everything is over the top and it makes me uneasy. He replied:  "Yes, there is no soul in this city". That is when I realized what was missing. There is no history, no authentic culture, no visible hardship and rewards, no common goal for the people living there.  Yes, they all want to make money but how much soul is there in money.  It is a Muslim country but everything you find there is Western. You can even find alcohol and bacon if you know where to look.  Prostitutes are everywhere and migrant workers work like slaves.  Yet, the image of Dubai is something brought to the world as The Utopia.  Yet everything you see there is fake, artificial with no soul.  It is like a Lego City where nothing was spared to create the ultimate showcase.  Yet the things you can't buy with money is not there. 

I find it quite interesting when I talk to people who has been to Dubai.  Some will tell you the same.  They felt uneasy. Most don't know why and I am not saying that I am the only person who has figured it out because I have heard from more than just one flight attendant that the place has no soul.  Some come back and think it is Utopia. Some actually want to go live there. Clearly the ones who has not figured out what life is about. The ones with fake Instagram accounts or who only post things on Facebook that might impress others. I had a look at some pictures on FB from Dubai's New Year's Eve fireworks.  Yes, it is impressive and it looks good, but where is the joy in that when half the world lives in poverty and fear? I wonder what they will do next to beat this spectacle


Wednesday, November 15, 2017


Let's face it, taking shots with a drone is very similar to taking shots with any other camera. Flying your camera to the point where you want to take that shot is slightly more of a challenge, especially if your subject is moving as well. But as they say, practice makes perfect....after many attempts I guess.
I'm still not near perfect when it gets to catching a surfer on a wave and getting the background that I had in mind in, but I am slowly getting there. The composition is not always the way I want it and I am surprised at how fast a wave is moving when you are waiting for a surfer to take that wave. Positioning your drone at the right spot is not always that simple, especially not if the surfer has the option to go left or right. I usually end up with a surfer in the bottom corner just about to leave the frame. You have to be quick on the controls which is up, down left, right, forward, backwards...and then you have to think about composition and pressing the button. To me it sounds like multitasking and we know how men are when it comes to multitasking.
I have to say that it is so much fun and getting on picture is rewarding enough for me at this stage. Here are two shots from Doodles again.....

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

What would it take to fulfill a dream?

I am sitting on a boat just outside Hout Bay and I am thinking hard.  It is the Rebel Sessions Big Wave competition at Dungeons and I am there to take photos, but something does not feel right inside me.  On the boat and in several other boats around me are more photographers who are all basically going to get the same shots which they are going to post and get an "ooh" and an "aah" from everyone that bothers to comment. Not because it is a great shot, but because it is a shot of something great.  A shot of big waves and guys with big balls....or was it boards? Yes, big waves and big boards...and that's an "ooh" and an "aah" worth.

I have always said that I prefer to be a participant and not a spectator and clearly that has not changed.  I want to be part of the action and not the dude in the boat taking pictures of guys having fun. I want to surf Dungeons.  I am just wondering what it is going to take to get myself to that point?  No, I don't want to take part in a Big Wave competition, I just want to surf Dungeons. So let's see where I stand right now...

On the  down side I am on the wrong side of 50, maybe a pound or two overweight, very unfit and with the lung capacity of a tiny bumblebee bat.  On the up side I can surf, I still have a heartbeat and I have balls. Maybe not big enough right now, but I am sure I can grow them larger with the right head shift and plenty of exercise.   

I am only speculating but I have looked at the waves at Dungeons and I am sure they are doable for anyone with surfing experience and a long breath. The sharks feeding on the local seal population is something I can cope with. I will not attempt the traditional paddle from the foot of The Sentinel through shark infested waters to get to Dungeons.  At my age I will be excused, or should be excused. Most of the surfers take the boats out anyway. I'm not there to prove anything, I am there because I want to feel the rush of catching a wave that size and not capture a wave that size.  But there's the problem with water, lots of water.  How long must one be able to hold your breath? 10 seconds, 20 seconds...a minute? Two minutes? I don't have the facts, so I need support from someone with experience.

I am sure that we have seen the last sets for 2017 breaking at Dungeons, and the next swells will only be winter 2018.  That gives me 8-10 months to train. Get fit, loose the belly and expand my lung capacity. While doing this I can gradually work my way up on larger boards until I get the chance to paddle for my first wave at Dungeons.  All I need is someone to train me or keep me on a training program.  

Are there any Dungeon surfers out there who wants to take on this task? We can record my progress, make videos, get sponsors (I can't afford another surfboard) and surf as much as possible for a year. I need to do this because I won't be wasting my time in a boat taking pictures at Dungeons ever again......

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

My two minutes of fame...

I never imagined the day when I posted my first IG picture that I would one day be invited to chat on a national television station's morning show about my IG account? But, I had my 2 minutes of fame..which for most part of it was nerve wrecking and felt like an eternity... on Expresso, a live morning show on SABC3.

I cannot say that I have said everything that I wanted to say, but I was only asked three questions if I remember correctly. Further more there were no spin-offs after the show apart from 9 extra followers and an old flame of mine from my primary school days who saw me on TV and made contact via FB. Which makes me wonder why she never did it before. Was it only now because I am famous now?  Hahaha, never take me seriously, but I have to say just being asked to appear was a huge compliment to me.  They did ask me how I use IG as a marketing platform and it made me realize that I don't really do.  There is some homework for me.

You will never get these two minutes back if you do, but feel free to watch my two minutes of fame below...

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Die Epic® Ambassador

I am honoured that the epic clothing brand, Die Epic® invited me to become one of their brand ambassadors.  They are a bunch of skydivers living and epic live, and just the mere thought that they reckoned that my life was epic enough to be associated with their brand really inspires me to live more legendary.

Please check out their clothing and apparel and support them at Die Epic, Live Legendary

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Dungeons and Dragons

I always had this image in my head about what it must be like out there in the ocean when you are a big wave surfer.  The images you see in the media makes the hair on your back of your neck stand up. Like anything else that includes some dedicated athleticism I guess one will only really know when you are paddling out there yourself after years of training.  I had however the opportunity to go take pictures on a day when the waves were breaking at Dungeons, South Africa's biggest wave spot and counted under the best in the world for wave riding.

There seems to be two ways to get to Dungeons which is situated behind the Sentinel at Houtbay. Either walk across the saddle of Sentinel and paddle out, or take a boat out.  I was lucky to be on a boat. Just as well because I was there to take pictures, not surf.  We left from the NSRI slipway in the Hout Bay harbour and a 10 minute boat ride took us to where we could safely sit and watch the waves of Dungeons doing their thing. We weren't the only spectators, there were tourist boats, support on paddle skis, photographers on paddleskis and everybody else it seems that could get something that floats.  I was going to find out soon that taking a shot without a paddle ski or boat in the frame was going to be difficult.  Luckily sometimes an object in front gives you a nice perspective of the size of the waves.  I tried to incorporate the objects in such a way that it did not distract one's eye from the actual surfer, but that was not always possible. A lot of my images ended up in the bin.

So after the opportunity to shoot from a boat I can point out a few disadvantages of doing it from there.  The advantages are clear, you can get some of the best shots of surf spots where you would never be able to get that same angle from the beach.  What was a bit annoying on this day was the amount of traffic in the water.  Always a boat of someone in front of you.  Secondly getting the best angle is difficult, because you cannot drive around and look for the perfect spot to park your boat. The current moves the boat and the skipper had to make a turn every time to get back to position. There is not room for capturing unique images.  Everyone on the boat takes the same pictures from the same angles.  The end result is 20 people sitting with the same images.  If you cannot add any of your own creativity to your shots you are not standing out. Something which I never thought would be a problem was the size of my lens.  My 600mm at some points were too long and when the guys were surfing closer towards the boat you could not get them into the frame.  But then again, most of the action happened a bit further out where the 600mm was just perfect. Lastly is the bopping on the water.  If you cannot stand steady or rock with the boat you lose track of where the surfer is and sometimes you get sky or just water. But this only happened for the closer up shots.

Despite everything mentioned above, the pro's outweigh the cons.  It is amazing out there on the water. The images are breathtaking and the whole experience was just something you want to do again. Below are a couple of the shots from the trip.  For more images of Dungeons and other surf spots please visit my facebook page.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Just add water

Lately I have been taking most of my surf photos from the beach.  I have a GoPro which I used for water shots, but apart from being very easy to handle and carry around, the wide angle lens requires one to be very close to the surfers.  For wave photography that is not a problem and actually quite comfortable to carry around and diving through the waves with little effort, but I wanted to do better surf photography and ended up getting myself a water housing for my Canon 7D.  The housing I bought is a local brand from Brother Housings based in Durban.  I cannot really compare it with other water housings as I have not really used anything to compare it with.  So this is an actual first experience report on using a water housing and specifically the Brother Housing. I will make a few comparisons with the Go Pro as well.

The housing itself feels quite sturdy.  I have always been very skeptic about any water housing and the damage it might cause to the camera, especially an expensive DSLR in sea water. The first day I tied a weight to it and left it in the pool overnight to see if it might leak.  It passed my pool tests, but I guess when one gets hit by waves it might be a different story.  Well after yesterday's shoot and having to do quite a few duck dives, everything still seems to be fine. 

I found the housing and camera very heavy to carry around in the water, especially compared to a GoPro. I stayed in for about an hour and after the session it felt like my right had was numb and cramping at the same time. It does float however, so that takes off some of the weight, but I also reckon that the way I clamped it out of fear of losing it in he water, contributed to the cramping. My biggest problem was aiming. I seem to get a better aim with a Gopro so I realized that I have to find the correct angle to get what I actually was hoping to capture in my shot. That I guess will sort itself out with more practice.

The one problem that does not seem to go away is water droplets on the lens. I know all the tricks about keeping your lens clean but even here water spoiled many of my shots. I was shooting against the setting sun which highlighted the spots even more. Due to the size of the lens compared to GoPro's lens it does appear much smaller though, but it is still a nuisance.

I was also quite amazed at how the Canon handled the changing light.  The Brother Housing does not allow setting changes once it is inside, so you have to choose your settings before you go into the water and hope the camera makes good choices. I was shooting in Manual mode at 1/800 sec, f/8 and auto ISO. I am quite pleased at how the camera adapted against the sun with basically having all the surfers in the shadow of the wave. In brighter daylight I will go for a faster shutterspeed to avoid the bit of blur.

I think one good thing about using a housing is that it makes you look more professional.  Surfers tend to be much more accommodating when they see a dude with a real housing in the water compared to a GoPro. I love it when guys see you and come closer hoping to give you a nice shot or two. 

Below are some of my shots.  As can expected I am very stoked about my first session. My next comparison will be between shooting in the water and shoot from land. For more images please visit my Facebook Page.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

You want to be out there

I was quite surprised, and obviously pleased with myself when I turned a page in one of South Africa's favourite surfing magazines and saw a picture of mine under the "Shot Bru" section.  This has been the showcase of local photographers for many years, all sharing not only their passion for photography, but also their love for surfing. As a kid I always looked at these pictures and wondered what it takes to get shots like these. Do you have to be a special kind of photographer with special skills and expensive camera equipment, or do you have to know someone at the magazine to cunningly push your images forward in order to have them published?

Since I started doing photography on a full-time basis, in between doing school runs and cleaning the house, for more than one obvious reason I started looking at pictures of other "adventure photographers". Most of them well-known names, some of them really talented with individual styles that no-one should or can copy, and some of them ordinary guys and women just taking breathtaking pictures. I needed some sort of benchmark, something I could compare my pictures to.  The problem with this is that a good shot or picture is not necessarily valued equally by all observers.  In a way it is like any form of artistic expression where subjectivity can never be totally ruled out. Does on appreciate the actual skill that was required to take the picture, the aesthetics of the image, the subject or theme, or does one listen to what other people think and then give a score?

What I have realized though and is very important for adventure photography is that a lot of people like pictures for reasons other than the photographer's skills.  They see emotions and dreams, feeling and memories in pictures that attracts them or make them feel good.  Faraway places, extreme activities, all the things that ordinary people don't have, see or do in their day-to-day lives.  You don't have to be a good photographer to get a likable shot that will score you a ten, you have to get an interesting shot at a location where people long to be.  To be a successful adventure photographer you have to be more of a adventurer than a photographer.  You need to explore and discover.  You need to find places and events that people don't see every day.  Sometimes a good composition or expensive equipment is totally irrelevant. What is more important is that someone was out there and was able to capture something that could be taken home to show to the rest of the world. If you want to be an adventure photographer and come back with interesting pictures you have to be out there, you cannot get these shots from inside your living room.  But even more important than taking pictures that other people may like, you need to do it for yourself.  You need to be out there for yourself. The pictures are just your way of remembering your adventures. You will always love them because you were there and you captured it.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Let me photoshop your face for you

A client send me a picture that was taken on a holiday and that has sentimental value and asked me to brighten it up a bit.  She wanted to enlarge it and hang it on a wall.  Now there are lots of discussions going on about the authenticity of editing images.  Is it fair when someone takes a pictures of a sunset and makes it slightly more orange or red? I guess if the assignment was to see what colours you could capture with no editing or filters, then no. What I have found many times is when I post an image some people will make a comment about the colours saying "nice, but it was probably photo-shopped". I see the more ignorant ones use the term "photo-shopped", while some say "edited" and the more informed calls it what it really is, "enhanced". But what is the difference?

If you read photography forums the question pops up quite frequently.  I enhance some of my pictures like most professional photographers do.  I use Adobe Lightroom for that and there are some amazing tutorials on Youtube on how to get the colours out.  If you google "landscapes images" you are likely to find 90% of them were enhanced by some editing software.  "Photo-shopped" to me is turning a picture into something that didn't exist, or does not exist.  Putting an extra head on a sheep and selling it off as a freak animal to me is "photo-shopped". Making a model look thinner with less wrinkles is "photo-shopped".  Bringing the colour out in a way your "unintelligent digital-eyed" camera saw it but could not capture, is enhancement. 

Does this mean that anyone can produce good beautiful coloured photos?  No, because there is much more to capturing a good shot (composition, perspective, contrast, atmosphere, etc) than just pointing a camera somewhere and afterwards trying to "fix" it with software.  Here Photoshop might be a a better option, but isn't that exactly cheating?

Photo editing is a creative skill that is part of most photographer's work flow. They spend time making sure that landscapes look good to the eye, that atmosphere is captured and brought out and that the final image looks good to the "beholder".  They should be paid for that skill as well, because cameras have their limitations. Not everyone, including cameras, has a creative eye.  Hopefully your photographer has that along with his or her skills to use a camera properly and compose a nice shot.

Please visit and like my Facebook page as well for more discussions and images from my galleries.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Nature's own flash cards

There are a couple of things that I unashamedly will admit I know nothing about...like the inside of a motor car's engine, the moves in a chess game.....and bird watching.  Despite my passion for the outdoors, I somehow never became interested in our little feathered friends.  Maybe they look too much alike and I never could bother to distinguish between the species, or maybe they never came close enough for me to see them properly. 

On a recent trip I had the privilege of spending a couple of hours in the presence of one of Vanrhynsdorp's keen bird watchers and tour guide, Salome Willemse. Salome was showing me around Gifberg, and my son was traveling along.  Funny thing though is that unlike myself, my son is into bird watching, has his own book on birds where he ticks the ones off that he has seen and knows the difference between a "mossie" and a dove. Ok, I know that too but I don't know the names of other bird species to make a better comparison.

As a child I always believed that only "old people" did bird watching.  When we went to the Kruger Park and stopped next to a vehicle to hear what they were looking at, I was always utterly annoyed when they said they see some sort of bird somewhere high up in a tree. I was hoping to see lions mauling a Springbok or something, not look at a bird that you can't really see. These people always used to be a bit older than me, maybe that is where I got this notion that it is only old people doing this. 

Whenever you see a car with a bumper sticker saying "Birder on board. Beware this car suddenly stops" or "I brake for birds", please do not take this warning lightly.  They stop when they see something move in the air...or when for the untrained eye there is nothing to see in a tree.  Yes, they could spot a bird in a tree when I am still trying to find the tree. Your chances of actually seeing the bird is very limited, because before you can look around the bird is gone.  This reminds me so much of the flash cards we had at school.  The teacher would show you a word on a flash card, remove it so fast that you could not even see the word. Then she would ask you to repeat the word and spell it. Some birds are like flash cards.  Before you can make out what it is, the bird is gone.  Your only luck comes when the bird is sitting still. This gives you enough time to see that it is in fact a bird.  Look down to your bird book to compare colours and feathers and size and when you look up the bird is gone.  Drive slightly forward to take a picture and the bird flies away. It's like throwing the flash cards through the window, like a buddy of mine did in Grade 2. All the required information to identify the bird flies away with the bird.

Because I am someone who tries everything, I have to say there is something special to this activity called bird watching as well.  Listening to someone who knows the birds better than what she know's her son's last exam results really make it a pleasure to hear the stories, to learn the differences between the last two birds that I obviously missed and to see that there are people who has so much passion for what they're doing.  Salome impressed me with her knowledge and she obviously knows more about the Vanrhynsdorp region than just its bird life.  She managed to find 16 new "lifers" for my son and still had time to show me some of the most amazing scenery Gifberg has to offer. For you ill-informed, a "lifer" is a bird that you have spotted and identified for the first time. It get's a tick in your Bird Book and you are supposed to add where you spotted the bird.  I saw Salome every now and again jumping on her phone when she had seen a bird.  At first I thought she was bored seeing the same bird again and texting a friend instead, but it turned out that she maps the sightings making it easier for other birders to come and find one that they have not seen yet. I though bird tend to fly away to other countries.  Typical what I would do if I was a bird, but apparently some hang around for longer. 

If you ever want to learn about birds, want to see them and want to have an enjoyable experience, contact Salome. Her contact details are on her facebook page. She has lovely cottages to overnight in. If you use olive oil you will find that too, specially pressed form her own olive orchards. Oh, and let me not forget to mention her Full Monty breakfasts. All round a delicious experience.

Birdie birdie, look this way please, I want to identify you.....

Picture courtesy of my son (c) Kai Photography

What Boys Should Know

So how long does it take to teach a 9-yr old boy to use a SLR camera? Well apparently not very long...

I took my son on his first "adventure photography road trip" with the hope of slowly introducing him to photography.  I was a bit skeptic because it took me a while to figure out the difference between aperture, ISO and exposure and I did not expect a child to master that in one trip. Also, I didn't want to scare him off on Day One.

We were heading towards Gifberg. Our first stop was just past Malmesbury. I gave him a few tips on how to switch it on, hold the camera and to focus.  I mentioned something about aperture but kept it simple, real simple. It was the first time that he ever held a SLR in his hands, and he has not really taken any pictures with a point-and-shoot or a phone camera either. Nothing in any case where you had to zoom or focus. He took a few shots, asked me why this and that is happening and after a while got back into the car.  "It's over!" I thought to myself.

The surprise however came after we got in and drove off.  He started asking questions which reminded me of the time I started asking my mom questions and she shoved a book in my hand by Dr Jan van Elfen called "What boys should know". I took the opportunity and gave him a photography book I had brought along. The questions that followed convinced me that the game was not over yet. "Why were some shots too light and others dark?".  "Why was some blurry and some not?".  "How far can I zoom in?". "What are these other buttons for...?".  I started talking. The more I talked the more questions came. Close to Citrusdal he instructed me to stop. He saw a nice farm stall next to the road.  Thinking that he wanted something to eat, I stopped.  He got out with his camera and started snapping instead. I went in and bought Mineolas and rusks. He didn't want anything.

The day went on, we stopped at various spots, covered a lot of ground on the photography topic, climbed fences, took little roads, crossed rivers.  Every time we stopped he got out and started snapping away. Each time asking fewer questions and coming back with better pictures. "I want to take pictures of the stars tonight" he said.  "Oh my" I thought to myself, "not sure your camera can do that...."

We arrived at our overnight stop.  He got out, started taking pictures. By now I was at lesson 7 I guess. He asked me about lenses, auto focus and again, how does all this fit in when taking star shots? I was slightly worried. His camera does not expose longer than 30 seconds, but I will show him my "bulb" settings tonight...if he does not fall asleep before that. "We will go at 9:30", I said.

At 9:30 we took the car and drove off into the night. "We want a safe place away from the town, preferably on a farm road", I said to him.  Now I felt like Abraham taking Isaac to the mountain.  He does not have a "bulb" mode and he is super excited to take his first starry sky pictures. We set up, I showed him the steps but said nothing about "Bulb".  He took few shots and jumped up and down. "Cool, I captured the stars".  I felt a bit bad because I was going to take pictures too, but on "bulb". "They are awesome!", I lied, "but your camera is not good enough son, look what Dad's camera has. Mine has another setting called "bulb" and yours doesn't. I can get much longer exposures." Somehow that did not dampen his spirit.  He was super stoked about his first night sky shots  We went home, he still talked "photography".

The next morning he got up.  Before breakfast he took his camera and went outside.  He came back and said: "Guess what Dad, my camera DOES have a "bulb" setting. It is under "manual". I was totally surprised. I have never seen that before.  Ok, I never used that camera for night or star photography, but still.  "Oh, and look, when I shoot on 'Av', the Tv setting chances automatically, and, and....."  I was stunned, speechless.

The rest of the day we drove around, getting in and out to take pictures.  Knowing that he has a "bulb" setting was the ultimate reward.  He was going to shoot stars tonight, come hell or high water...

During the day he captured some awesome shots...and plenty bloopers too.  I told him about the rule of thirds, contrast, point of view. I was surprised at how much I knew myself, but more surprised at his curiosity and his capacity to absorb and process.  He completely skipped the other settings and was shooting on "Manual", occasionally jumping to Tv, Av and ISO. He asked me what "this little green symbol" stands for. I said "Automatic, but believe me, you're past that, you'll never use it." Something that took me years to master, he masted in less than two days. On day three we returned home and he started asking more about editing. He asked earlier but I told him "Baby steps, my boy". I was so naive.

When we arrived home I showed him Lightroom's editing capabilities. I created some folders for him, loaded his bests shots and said:" There you go, edit your best five shots and then I will create you a watermark."  He did all his editing by himself and gave me 8 images to watermark.  I added the watermark for him and asked him what he wants to charge for his pictures.  "I don't think anyone will like them.  I know Mom might buy a few, and maybe Kira (his 4-yr old sister) too.  Let's say R20 a shot or maybe a trade? I'll take any Angry Birds token for an image, or any sweets I guess".

Yes, it may sound like it but no, I am not just a proud father bragging about his son.  I am flabbergasted, I am inspired, I am amazed, but there lies more in this experience than his ability to understand a camera. I spend three amazing days with my son and learned more about him that I did in 9-years.  I did not only "kick-start" an aspirant photographer, I made a friend, a buddy to take on all my photography tours. I created a way to spend valuable time with him and teach him about about other things too, about life, about beauty, about nature. At the same time we will have more adventures, explore new places and meet more people. I'll leave "What boys should know" for later, he might surprise me there too in a couple of years. But, at the moment I am truly blessed.

Below some of his first images on his "new" SLR. All edits done by himself.  If you want to purchase any of his images, please let me know. You'll make his day!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Pinotage at Paternoster

It is widely believed that adventure starts outside of your comfort zone.  When a friend offered me a "beauty treatment" at one of South Africa's top spas at Paternoster I knew there were some sort of adventure on the menu. First of all let's not get excited about  the "beauty" part in my case, that ship has sailed and let us not get too technical on the definition of "adventure" because any kind of treatment aimed at improving my looks or well-being is outside of my comfort zone. The spa's brochure however states that these are "soothing therapies to guide your soul on a journey of profound peace within a renewed sense of gratitude".  Now that I can relate to, a "journey of profound peace". I was still two minded about the facial however. The body massage was enough motivation to get me on my motorbike and head towards Paternoster on a chilly 4degC morning. After all, it was at the spa that had recently received the huge accolade of the 2016 World Luxury Spa Award! They are also part of the Healing Earth brand which is a market leader in holistic African beauty and wellness care. I was already convinced that I was in for a treat.

Most of my friend's immediate reaction to this would be "Hypocrite!". They all know I still raise my eyebrows instead of pluck them when I hear the word "metro-sexual'. Secondly they also know that I believe the only natural substance on this planet that can cure anything from cracked heals to broken hearts and ultimately depression is the blue saltwater that surrounds our beautiful continent. But let's face it, the worse thing for your skin is probably prolonged exposure to a sun and sea water mixture. To prove that theory I can present my own evidence. When it comes to facials and exfoliation my routine stops at washing my face with some price-reduced soap that I conveniently buy in six packs from a well-know retail outlet. But don't ditch my natural salt therapy theory just yet because I see that there is also a Salt Therapy Room where you can "alleviate all stress by adding salt...". I was there for more than just a dip in the salt.

I have to be honest I am not familiar with the 'ins and outs' of spas. When I read through the menu I realized that making a choice could be a more difficult task than choosing a name for your first born. Fortunately that decision was already made for me and I was booked for a "Healing Full Body Massage". I was kindly asked by my lovely therapist if I wanted to "uplift, de-stress or detox?" After she noticed the vague look in my eyes she thankfully narrowed it down to "detox or just relax?"  To me detox is associated with the start of a new lifestyle and subsequently sticking to a healthier diet. After 120 kilometers on a motorbike in temperatures that dropped to near freezing point the 'just relax' option sounded brilliant and I was pleasantly surprised to find the massage bed already heated up.  I wasn't exactly sure what the difference was between the options, but I was yet again gently guided to the answer. Different types of oil is used for different types of massages, and for the relaxing massage the oil that she will be using contains Pinotage. It is also referred to as the "Anti-Ageing Vino Therapy". I already know what you are thinking when you hear "vino therapy" right, but I still had to drive home so I stayed with the "Pinotage-in-the-oil" version which had a similar effect on muscle relaxation but without the other unpleasant side-effects of alcohol. 

I never checked my watch because I din't want to massage to end, but after a relaxing 90 minutes or so it was time for the "High Performance Facial Therapy". Here I was completely out of my depth and slightly uncomfortable but I eventually surrendered to the soothing hands of my therapist.  I felt and smelled different kinds of lotion being applied to my face and gently being removed.  The closest I ever come to rubbing these amounts of lotion on my face is when I apply sunblock before a surf session... and only if I remember to do so. I was told that this was a "unique anti-ageing tri-enzyme/peptide technology that enriches the skin, healing damaged tissue and effectively decreasing ageing".  I was convinced that I arrived ten years too late, but according to my therapist this treatment can actually heal damaged skin and reverse the ageing process. I am not sure if there is any remedy on the market yet for my severe case of sun burnt skin, but I have to admit that I had a different tingling feeling after the treatment and felt quite rejuvenated.  I am sure that more skin therapies on a regular basis might just reverse the clock on a ticking time bomb.

Today I've had an introduction to metro-sexuality, but I am not converted just yet. I will however not be telling the truth if I do not admit that I had a wonderful 'day-at-the-spa' experience.  Not only is this spa part of the the 5-star boutique Abalone House Hotel with its wonderful restaurant and view, but the staff is equally friendly and helpful. When I look at the variety of natural products and how professionally they were displayed and utilized, I am sure anyone can get used to this kind of lifestyle. But more importantly I can see how one can benefit from these treatments and allow your soul to be guided on a journey of profound peace.  Maybe an adventure does not have to be outside of your comfort zone because here at the Abalone House and Spa one can really try out new experiences in a very comfortable environment. Life is short and you don't have to ride a motorbike to have an adventure, you can just head down to the Healing Earth Spa at Paternoster in your own preferred mode of transport and just ask for Pinotage...

Monday, June 20, 2016

I've lived in Mossel Bay for a couple of years but still frequently visit it mainly for three reasons, family, surfing and photography.  On all three reasons I can probably spend a day talking, but let me just quickly mention one...photography.

Mossel Bay, sometimes called "the drinking town with a fishing problem" is known for much more than just that.  A popular tourist town that provides so much scope for the photograph enthusiast. There are the most awesome settings to take pictures and if the town does not deliver one can always drive up the Garden Route.  I am sure however that if you really go out and capture the beauty of this town, you will not get further than Dias beach....

Below some images from Mossel Bay. Do yourself a favour a book a trip with me to go and explore the beauty of this paradise.

Show me the light

I have had a fascination with lighthouses since I was a kid.  I think my fascination lies in the fact that it is usually situated at rocky outcrops and the idea of being out on the ocean at night and seeing light must be a comforting sight to any sailor.  Despite my fascination with them, I have never really photographed them.  If I did it was during the day and what is a lighthouse during the day apart from maybe just interesting architecture. 

On my recent trip to Mossel Bay I made the effort to get up early to take a shot at it.  I looked for the best angles because the light house is a bit obstructed by trees when faced from the front.  Secondly it is quite high, so getting a shot from a horizontal angle is a bit tricky.  Then there are some other challenges like a bright light that does not stand still and of course as in the case of the one in Mossel Bay, the lights lightening the lighthouse at night goes on and off the whole time.  Not sure if it is to save energy or if the bulb is getting overheated, but it takes a bit of planning to get the shot at the right time.  Add to this a 2 second remote trigger time to avoid camera shake then it is not just for walking up to the lighthouse and taking a shot. It takes some careful planning.

After been questioned by the police for walking around the streets in the early hours of the morning looking a bit suspicious I guess, I managed to get a few shots at last... 

For more pictures on Mossel Bay please visit my Facebook Page.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

How to change your life...and maybe the world!

I honestly believe that one always feel better after some time in the ocean. My philosophy has always been that no matter how bad the waves were, you WILL feel better after the surf than before you went in. 

Yesterday I went for an early morning surf. Because it was quite chilly outside I got into my wetsuit in the comfort of my living room, made myself a flask of coffee for that "after-surf-warmth-requirement" and headed down to the beach.  When I got to the beach I looked at the conditions. The temperature outside was not what I call pleasant and the waves were on the small side. Despite my already proven philosophy I convinced myself that the waves were too small and the water too cold. I turned around and went home. I drank a cup of coffee from the flask when I got home not to waste it while bitching about the fact that I went through the effort of putting on a wetsuit and having to take it off for no reason. I was not feeling better at all and slightly disappointed about my cowardly move to turnaround from a potential nice surf session.

This morning I went to the beach again.  This time I did not get dressed, nor did I make that coffee. I got to the beach under the same weather conditions as yesterday, cold water and small waves.  The difference today though was my determination to get into the water to "feel better". Yesterday that was lacking a bit. Sitting in a car next to me was another surfer also checking out the waves.  I could see from his facial expressions that he was not planning on going out today either. I got out, started chatting to him and suggested that he should do it just to feel better afterwards. "Three waves" I said, "that's all I want....and some time in the water and I will feel it was worth the pain."

I walked down to the water with my longboard. There was only one SUP out and I could feel that the water was indeed freezing.  I paddled out and quickly got my three waves. I looked around and saw my fellow surfer friend walking up to the water with his board, dressed from head to toe in neoprene and with an uncomfortable smile on his face.  We chatted more in the water convincing ourselves that "f*ck it's cold, but that we did the right thing". We both surfed for another 30 minutes or so. Eventually after 10 or more reasonable slow longboard waves we decided to get out. I was about to lose my fingers due to frost-bite and I also don't want gangrene at this stage of my life. He followed suit. 

Back in the parking lot another group of SUP-boarders were contemplating whether they should go out or not.  The news of the ice-cold water was out and they seemed very reluctant to face the discomfort of brain-freeze and possible hypothermia. Myself however and my new surf buddy felt stoked and pleased with ourselves and glad that we went in.  I had that "good-again" feeling I was looking for before I went in. What made me even feel better is that I made a new friend who left me saying, "I'm so glad you convinced me to go in". He clearly was also stoked after his session.

Sometimes we can change ourselves or even the world, all we need is that little encouragement, either from ourselves or from someone else. I am not going to beat myself up over yesterday's missed-out surf session, but I will remind myself about today's experience when I am sitting on a fence again in less than perfect conditions.