A Visit to Rhodes Memorial

My old storm chasing forum signature used to be “Keep your eyes to the skies”, but over the past weeks or so the skies have held much of nothing. During the summer months the reason for the hot weather is due to a high pressure system which steadies itself over the western parts of the country, this high pressure system holds back cold fronts and in the process brings up sunny skies and wind. This means that we generally only have a couple of days where there are clouds present, apart from fair weather cloud clothes over the mountains, which hold little surprises (treats) when it comes to sunrise or sunset. We rely on certain forms of weather for different sunrise and sunset results, this is something I addressed in another post over here:

Anyway, my girlfriend and I had been wanting to head out to take some photographs; She has recently found that it is something she highly enjoys and as an artistic person, usually with paper, is happy to have found a new medium to use to create.

The problem we found ourselves in was one where I am not at all keen to head out into the field to take landscape photographs without there being at least some cloud present, or the sky just feels like a dull blank canvas. It almost feels like publishing a book with the last 20 pages missing.

Finally on Saturday evening there were a few small hints of cirrus in the sky, and we decided to make a short trip from Kenilworth, through to Rhodes Memorial, which overlooks Cape Town facing north.

It had been a good decade and a half since my previous visit to Rhodes Memorial, but I still remembered it distinctly, the stairs, the railings, the parking lot and the restaurant.

The abandoned Athlone power station.
The abandoned Athlone power station.

On our arrival, we moved to the ledge that overlooked the city, the wind now biting our necks and arms. The shadow of Table Mountain cast what I deemed an undesirable shadow over much of the foreground. I then noticed the Athlone building, the one that was next to the Athlone Towers, prior to their destruction. The building is an amazing piece of industrial art by itself, shattered windows lined up on brick walls, towers leading up to the skies – but the old rusted metal fence that contains the beast makes it impossible to access. Now standing around 10 kilometers from the building, I replaced my Sigma 10-20mm with my Canon 400mm 5.6 and attempted to capture at least some of the power that this building seems to hold. The result was very different to my desired shots I’d like to get from with inside the fence, but I was pleased with the result regardless, specifically the fact that as the image slowly fades into the distance, you can see less industrial and suburban buildings, and begin to see more of nature, hills and mountains. The contrast between the untarnished mountain in the back and the abandoned old factory building in the foreground was something I found very appealing, and I rarely try to look for meaning or symbolism within a photograph.

Cathryn was left to wonder around the grass areas, focusing on the trees surrounding the monument, while I headed up and made the pillars my main focus. I am a complete sucker for symmetry, especially in photography, and even though it’s a basic rule of photography to not center your focus point, I will sometimes disobey that thought and be happy with the result.

A homeless man sits next to the Rhodes Memorial quote.
A homeless man sits next to the Rhodes Memorial quote.

rhodes-memorial

rhodes-memorial-pillars

archways

Cathryn shooting a hallway
Cathryn shooting a hallway

A homeless man was sitting next to ol’ Cecil at the top of the monument stairs,looking over a city which had abandoned him. He was not young, but not old either.. Slightly greying, slipping away, somewhat like the sun at that minute. I wished I had the ability to approach him and to take photographs where he was the focus, but I had no change on me and I feel as though it would only be right to use him for my own personal gains if I were to provide something in return. Instead I sneaked a few shots using my wide angle lens, where he wouldn’t know he was being photographed.

Cathryn shooting the sunlight as it slipped behind the clouds by Table Mountain.
Cathryn shooting the sunlight as it slipped behind the clouds by Table Mountain.

Cathryn busy taking in the last bit of light.
Cathryn busy taking in the last bit of light.

We were then offered by the manager, to take advantage of the views present from the top of the roof. The roof is an area that is usually off limits, and was hidden behind a door marked “No Entry”. He opened the door for us, and we slowly climbed a set of dark, stairs in a tiny corridor that felt as though it lead to the depths of Satan’s lair. The wind up on the roof was unbearable and it was only a few minutes before we couldn’t take any more of the icy chill and headed back down and to the car.

I think that Rhodes Memorial, while offering some decent photographs, is still a place that can be appreciated more by the eye and a camera can’t really capture it effectively. None the less it was a pretty good evening adventure without much travel needed.

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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