With a little help from others

Sheila and I have recently returned from  5 days in the Cederberg with good friends including photographers, painter/musicians, accomplished astronomers and so on…. We were greeted by hordes of voracious and belligerent insects emerging into the warm post-winter sunshine.

But despite this not so trivial infestation the sheer scale and drama of the landscape and the beauty of the fynbos after a wet winter were compensation enough. Even in civilised mood the Cederberg possesses a subtle wildness and solitude which Man has not yet entirely erased.

M Wolfson: Impression of Cederberg Road
M Wolfson: Impression of Cederberg Road

(NB: Right-clicking on images allows you to open a much larger version in a separate tab.)

This image by Mike Wolfson uses the road to create the experience of distance and perspective so characteristic of the Cederberg, and the  dramatic photographic  image below in B & W captures the untamed spirit of the spirit of these rocky hills and mountains.

Mike Goldblatt Cederberg Hills in B&W
Mike Goldblatt Cederberg Hills in B&W


I stuck to video throughout, so rather than include older images let’s look at some quotable quotes from that darling of intellectuals (and myself when younger) Susan Sontag.

Photographs really are experience captured, and the camera is the ideal arm of consciousness in its acquisitive mood.” and “A way of certifying experience, taking photographs is also a way of refusing it—by limiting experience to a search for the photogenic, by converting experience into an image, a souvenir.”

True enough up to a point but what about this? “Most tourists feel compelled to put the camera between themselves and whatever is remarkable that they encounter. Unsure of other responses, they take a picture. This gives shape to experience: stop, take a photograph, and move on. ” Surely not for the serious photographer who uses the camera in an effort to enter more fully into the scene or to pay homage to the spirit of placee or to the unexpected and soul-stopping moment of perfection.

In more blunt prose, Ken Rockwell talks of FART for fantastic photography, where F stands for Feeling, A for Asking the right questions, R for Refining the initial intuition and T for Taking the picture – and I would add, Technique. Ken also claimed that the good camera is one which does not get in your way, that is, does not clog up the creative process by bad ergonomics or with clumsly conceived controls. Hear, hear!!

Mike Nichols, a wildlife specialist shows how it is done with a series of lion images from the Serengeti.

Looking into the heqart of darkness
Looking into the heart of darkness

The apparent tranquility of this scene is subverted by the terrifying image  in which the lionesses terrible jaws are fully exposed by an innocent yawn.

In the more poetic and iconic image below the use of B & W captures the eternal  essence of the veld in which beauty is always juxtaposed with terror.

The pride at rest
The pride at rest

And finally another iconic picture of a single male lion

Leonine perfection
Leonine perfection

hurrying through the tall grass in an image of physical perfection and grace. Nichols in these photos has elevated photography into true art in which the the terrifying perfection and majesty of the great predator is revealed. That is FARTing of the highest order – so put that in your cigarette and smoke it Ms Susan Sontag.

Mike Berger


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