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Photographing Dead Trees – Braving the Storm

On the evening of Saturday the 24th May I got a message from fellow photographer Etienne Beneke saying that he would be shooting a particular location in the morning and asked if I would be keen to join. The location is question will be easily recognized by most locals, but I do know there’s a lot of photographers who like the keep the location on the low-down a bit, so for that reason I won’t be mentioning where exactly it is. The spot is one that I have wanted to shoot for ages, but have just never really gotten around to making the relatively long drive. I was quick to accept Etienne’s invite and we left Somerset West at 8:20 on Sunday morning.

The weather was chaos, the day before saw winds touching 70km/h and upon arriving at our destination, it would seem that a lot of the weather was still lingering. While most of the drive was dry and even only partly cloudy, once we got to the spot it was blowing a gale and the rain was coming down quite a bit. Etienne took me to a spot that he had scouted prior, but things weren’t ideal there so we moved on a little bit further and saw some more potential, but we would be fighting against the elements. At this stage everything seemed to be going against us, we had gale force winds coming straight towards us, blowing rain directly towards our lenses. Not only this, but the sun was behind us, which was casting shadows in the foreground of our images.





As we got out the car I saw a rainbow taking shape and bolted to try and find a composition so that I could get a photograph that included the rainbow. The biggest challenges were as expected, the rain, wind and the shadows. I found myself almost being blown over several times, while having to try and dry the lens by facing it towards the sun. The sun was shining in one direction, but the rain was coming from the other.

We worked the area for about 30 minutes, but we gave up after a while as the wind and rain were relentless.





After feeling defeated by the fury of mother nature, we decided to take a drive further along the dam and look for new areas where we could shoot. Things were looking bleak with the wind and rain seemingly only getting heavier. As we were about to give up, we came to a point where the wind and rain seemed far less and the potential was never ending. We parked and headed down to the shores and began taking images. The rain soon let up completely and the wind was about 10km/h less violent, allowing us to spend some real time finding compositions and making the most of our new position, which also had the lighting in a better direction.

I jigged and jagged like a squirrel along the shoreline as I sought new and unique angles. The whole time I would be shooting with my Canon 50D, Sigma 10-20mm and my Hoya ND400 neutral density filter, which allowed me to get shutter speeds around 10-15 seconds (as can be noted by the silky appearance of the water). In reality, the water was crashing in the form of wind-driven waves, but the ND filter did the trick perfectly.






I managed to get several photographs that I was happy with and things turned around excellently for us. Just goes to show you that the right potential may exist just around the corner from where everything seems hopeless.

We then grabbed an enjoyable lunch at Houw Hoek Inn, before heading home from what I deem a very successful day for me personally.

Bryn De Kocks

Bryn is a passionate and opinionated antinatalist and naturalist with a love for nature, the ocean, photography, severe weather and music. He spends most of his time looking for new birds within the Western Cape, taking landscape photographs or behind his computer being a nerd.

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