Tagged: photography

After a recent trip to Sodwana I took a detour to reconnoitre the quaint village of Lüneburg (place of the moon) which lies nestled in the northern Drakensberg and is the original settlement of German Lutheran missionaries who in 1854 named the community after their home-town in Germany. The views, the buildings, the landscapes sublime and take one back to a simpler time and a slower pace. Today it is the site of the oldest German school in northern KwaZulu Natal and lies virtually on the border with Mpumalanga; Deutsche Schule Lüneburg. Its closest neighbour is the city of Paulpietersburg. There are a number of B and B’s, Self Catering establishments. Attractions; fishing, trails, cycling, birding, wetlands, mountain passes, clear night skies for star gazing. Take a week to explore and make sure you are in a 4×4 / SUV.

Northern Berg Vista

Rolling hills and mountains. Northern Berg Vista, KZN © Harvey Grohmann

I “relied” on my Garmin Nuvi and despite telling it to avoid dirt where possible it took us on mostly that. Never again! I had not planned on such a massive detour. Needless to say I have restocked the 4×4 with real maps. From Piet Retief (R543) it took us to Lüneburg then over some very challenging dirt road mountain passes to the exit just south east of Wakkerstroom on the Utrecht Rd.

4 hours (don’t believe the Google map estimate of 2.5 hours) of really poor roads both badly potholed tar and mostly dirt and logging trucks vying for space on narrow bridges with broken or no railings. Don’t let this put you off. It’s doable. In daylight.


View Driving directions to Lüneburg from Piet Retief in a larger map

Here is a link to German Societies and Institutions in South Africa.

Gear I use: Bodies: Nikon D-SLR’s / Lenses: Nikon, Sigma, Tokina, Vivitar
Filters: Hoya UV & Polarizing / Flash: Nikon Speed-lights / Bag: Lowe Pro
Tripods & Heads: Manfrotto / Grips, Triggers, Timers, Batteries etc: BandH
Editing Plug-in: Topaz Labs Noise Reduction, HDR, B&W Conversion & more!

ALL IMAGES ON THIS SITE ARE © Harvey Grohmann. Read more for Terms and Conditions:
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If you thought that sounds like the headlines of one of those trashy “tell all” magazines you might be forgiven. However I kid you not. It’s true 🙂 A Raspberry is indeed taking HA Images!

27km above Earth. Sat 4 Feb 2012: Moon from Near Space Image © Dave Akerman

Dave Akerman with his Strawberry Pi/Camera used in HAB Photography

Dave Ackerman of  Newbury,  UK is an “amateur” HAB (High Altitude Balloonist). I use quotes because his images and projects are anything but. Using a Raspberry Pi computer (@ £24.00!) hooked up to their new camera module, Mr. Ackerman created a lightweight ‘eye in the sky’ that he sent up 143,000+ feet above the United Kingdom, taking pictures on its journey. (more…)

I decided to make a long overdue visit to Wakkerstroom on my way to a wedding in Sodwana Bay to visit friends and birders Sandy and Kevin. They escaped the bustle of the city in 2009 and bought a home a stones throw from the wetland.  I can now understand why it’s is such a popular destination, especially for birders.

I only had half a day and a night at early Autumn (April) to explore, yet I had some good bird sightings (photographically though too far for any award winning bird shots). One needs a week or long weekend with the usual amounts of patience with a side order of…time. However scenery and travel style images also await your camera as you will see in the slide show.

Lying in a unique grassland Biome; the source of the Vaal, Usuthu, Phongolo and Thukela rivers and surrounded by the Versamel Mountains the valley village of Wakkerstroom is a must see destination when exploring South Africa. In isiZulu, the river that passes close to town is known as Uthaka (Utaga), which roughly translates into a wide-awake (Wakker) river (Stroom) or  lively stream.

There are also numerous historical sites and as always in towns throughout South Africa a number of beautiful churches, the oldest, St Marks – Anglican dating back to 1880. There are also Catholic, Lutheran and an NG Kerk to explore or worship in on a Sunday. There is much to see and do; Arts and Crafts, biking, hiking, bushmen art, a 1938 SAR Class 19D No 2690 Borsig steam locomotive, Opikopi Museum. Ossewakop & Scotch Hill which may have inspired Sir Ryder Haggard who sometimes stayed in Wakkerstroom in the 1870’s to write about two enormous lava-covered volcanic mountains, called Sheba’s Breasts, in his novel, King Solomon’s Mines. A Roller mill, which dates back to 1904 is the only one of its kind still in operation.

Wakkerstroom is indeed a hidden gem and whilst this was a quick recce for future workshops, I immediately fell in love with it. The Wakkerstroom Country Inn serves a killer lunch / dinner and the numerous bistro’s, cheese factory and craft shops are also a must visit for their healthy fare, bric-a-brac, antiques and owners with heart warming stories and genuine love of the area. Townsfolk are friendly and real characters. There is also an annual classic music festival in March. A beautiful town steeped in history, period buildings, wetlands and the vistas of surrounding hills are to die for. If you have a few bob buy a hideout here and visit as often as you can.

I can arrange a photo workshop with self catering cottage, B&B or fully catered for between 4-6 budding photographers (spouses welcome).

Get a quote / Book a workshop here.

The area conjures up sightings of many of Southern Africa’s endemic birds as well as migrants, pristine wetlands, perfect hides, beautiful hikes, fishing and fine dining.

According to SA Birding:

The Wakkerstroom/Amersfoort area is famous among birders as the easiest area to find three highly endemic species restricted to South Africa’s high altitude grasslands – Rudd’s Lark, Botha’s Lark and Yellow-breasted Pipit. A total of 13 bird species are endemic or nearly so to South Africa’s Grassland Biome and nine of these, including Rudd’s Lark, Botha’s Lark and Yellow-breasted Pipit, plus Southern Bald Ibis, Blue Korhaan, Eastern Long-billed Lark, Sentinel Rock-Thrush, Buff-streaked Chat and Drakensberg Prinia can easily be found here during a full day’s birding in summer. A second day could yield forest endemics such as Bush Blackcap and Chorister Robin-Chat. Add to these another 33 southern African endemics or near-endemics and it is easy to see why the area is a magnet for foreign as well as South African birders. Habitats range from open grassland to mist belt forest, gorges and cliffs, with extensive wetland habitat in the form of vleis, pans and dams.

Thank you Sandy and Kevin for putting up with us Joburgers and making us feel at home. We’ll be back in the summer! Sandy is a keen birder and photographer. Her bird book collection could fill a library and her images not only of the birds but of the area are unhurried, natural and breathtakingly beautiful:

Autumn Sunrise Southern Hemisphere © Sandy McKenna 2012

Wakkerstroom – Official Web Site

Wakkerstroom Bird Club – Facebook Page

Wakkerstroom Ama Click Click Photo Club – Facebook Page

BirdLife South Africa Wakkerstroom Tourism and Education Centre – Facebook Page

Birdlife South Africa Wakkerstroom Tourism Centre – Web Site

Directions from Midrand, Gauteng about 3 hours.


View Midrand to Wakkerstroom Wetland NR, Wakkerstroom 2480, South Africa in a larger map

Gear I use: Bodies: Nikon D-SLR’s / Lenses: Nikon, Sigma, Tokina, Vivitar
Filters: Hoya UV & Polarizing / Flash: Nikon Speed-lights / Bag: Lowe Pro
Tripods & Heads: Manfrotto / Grips, Triggers, Timers, Batteries etc: BandH
Editing Plug-in: Topaz Labs Noise Reduction, HDR, B&W Conversion & more!

ALL IMAGES ON THIS SITE ARE © Harvey Grohmann. Read more for Terms and Conditions:
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Thank you Mother Earth for presenting me a palette to take images like this:

Gear I use: Bodies: Nikon D-SLR’s / Lenses: Nikon, Sigma, Tokina, Vivitar
Filters: Hoya UV & Polarizing / Flash: Nikon Speed-lights / Bag: Lowe Pro
Tripods & Heads: Manfrotto / Grips, Triggers, Timers, Batteries etc: BandH
Editing Plug-in: Topaz Labs Noise Reduction, HDR, B&W Conversion & more!

ALL IMAGES ON THIS SITE ARE © Harvey Grohmann. Read more for Terms and Conditions:
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Despite heavy rain in the morning I had made a promise to some friends to assist with the Open Day. Rietvlei, as usual, did not disappoint. Shooting in the rain brings a number of other photographic opportunities that you just don’t get in a sunny day. Sadly, only one of eight confirmed showed up. Those that did not make it lost out on some wonderful sightings and valuable tuition in difficult shooting conditions. Thanks to the summer rains, Termites were out in their tens of thousands and the bird-life that appeared for the feast was astounding. With dull poor light and rain drops streaking down some great moments presented themselves:

Cape Longclaw © Harvey Grohmann 2012 (light rain)

The Cape Longclaw or Orange-throated Longclaw (Macronyx capensis) is a passerine bird in the family Motacillidae, which comprises the longclaws, pipits and wagtails. It occurs in southern Africa in Zimbabwe and southern and eastern South Africa. This species is found in coastal and mountain grassland, often near water. At 19–20 cm height, the adult male has a grey head with a buff supercilium and a streaked blackish back. It has a bright orange gorget, black breast band and otherwise yellow underparts. The female is duller, having a yellow throat and much weaker breast band. The juvenile has a dirty yellow throat, indistinct breast band, and yellowish white underparts and is usually found in pairs throughout the year. It feeds on the ground on insects and some seeds.

What is unclear to me is the need for those extremely long claws? I’ll scan Carnaby’s Bible.

Red-knobbed Coot © Harvey Grohmann 2012 (light rain)

The Red-knobbed Coot or Crested Coot, (Fulica cristata), is a member of the rail and crake bird family, the Rallidae. It is a resident breeder across much of Africa and in southernmost Spain on freshwater lakes and ponds. It builds a nest of dead reeds near the water’s edge or more commonly afloat, laying about 8 eggs (or more in good conditions).[2] However, its behaviour towards its own young is so aggressive that only a few are likely to survive to adulthood.

African Purple Swamphen (Porphyrio porphyrio) © Harvey Grohmann 2012

The Purple Swamphen (Porphyrio porphyrio), also known as the Pūkeko, African Purple Swamphen, Purple Moorhen, Purple Gallinule or Purple Coot, is a large bird in the family Rallidae (rails). From its name in French, talève sultane, it is also known as the Sultana Bird. This chicken-sized bird, with its huge feet, bright plumage and red bill and frontal shield is easily-recognisable in its native range. It should not be confused with the American Purple Gallinule, Porphyrio martinica. I watched him for an hour, ripping reed shoots out with his powerful neck, holding them upside down with his claws, clipping the end like a pair of scissors and then eating the soft central pulp. There were two in the area, the one chasing and dominating the other.

Hunter vs Hunted © Harvey Grohmann 2012 (advanced edit) for DP Challenge

Marsh Owl chasing down a “flying ant” © Harvey Grohmann 2012 (basic edit)

The Marsh Owl (Asio capensis) is a species of owl which is a mainly resident breeder in Africa and Madagascar. This species is a part of the larger grouping of owls known as typical owls, Strigidae, which contains most species of owl. The other grouping is the barn owls, Tytonidae. Marsh Owl nests on the ground on open marshy areas, laying 2-4 eggs amongst tussocks. It hunts over open country, often by day. Its food is mainly insects, but it will take small mammals, such as rodents and birds.

At one stage I counted 6 Marsh Owls in the air or on the ground. There may have been more hiding in the grass with stuffed bellies! This image was shot in a mild downpour.

Birds seen: 51 plus a few LBJ’s I’m still ID’ing 🙂
Marsh Owl, African Stone Chat, Cape Long-claw, Sacred Ibis, Southern Red Bishop, Masked Weaver, Cattle Egret, Pied Kingfisher, African Swamphen, Yellow-billed Duck, Red knobbed Coot, Little Grebe, Cape Glossy Starling, Pied Starling, Crowned Lapwing, African Wattled Lapwing, Blacksmith Lapwing, Black Crake, Common Moorhen, Swainson’s Spurfowl, Helmeted Guinea Fowl, Common Ostrich, Whiskered Tern, Lesser Striped Swallow, White Throated Swallow, Rufous-Naped Lark, European Bee-Eater, Dideric Cuckoo, Black-Shouldered Kite, Green-Backed Heron, Western Cattle Egret, Stone Chat, Reed Cormorant, White-Breasted Cormorant, Ground-Scraper Thrush, Common Waxbill, Pin-Tailed Whydah, Long-Tailed Widowbird, Cape Sparrow, Common Fiscal Shrike, African Pied Wagtail, Dark Capped Bulbul, Pied Crow, Grey Go Away Bird, African Mourning Dove, Red-Eye Dove, Cape Turtle Dove, Laughing Dove, Egyptian Goose.

Mammals seen (I’ll post images later):
White Rhino, Black and Blue Wildebeest, Eland, Springbok, Blesbok, Waterbuck, Zebra, Red Hartebeest.

Descriptions © Wikipedia.

Contact me for tuition, workshop tours as well as event photography!

Gear I use: Bodies: Nikon D-SLR’s / Lenses: Nikon, Sigma, Tokina, Vivitar
Filters: Hoya UV & Polarizing / Flash: Nikon Speed-lights / Bag: Lowe Pro
Tripods & Heads: Manfrotto / Grips, Triggers, Timers, Batteries: Phottix
Editing Plug-in: Topaz Labs Noise Reduction, HDR, B&W Conversion & more!

ALL IMAGES ON THIS SITE ARE © Harvey Grohmann. Read more for Terms and Conditions:

(more…)