Pied Avocet, Marievale

I like the harmony and balance, the silent concentration, in these photographs of pied avocets with their swooping bills wading in the waters at the Marievale Bird Sanctuary.

Time for a break, I thought, in the Spanish series…


Quirky Madrid

Madrid is a cosmopolitan capital, a seat of empire, replete with boulevards, fountains, museums, palaces – and of course more cathedrals and churches per square mile than the British have pubs.

It is also a city of narrow, crooked streets, bars, restaurants, whole stores dedicated to jamon, turron and other delicacies and treats, a city of street performers, street markets and the vitality and quirkiness of everyday life.

Here are a few photographs, from the Sunday market of El Rastro to the streets of old Madrid.

Travels in Spain

A traveller visiting Spain for the first – or second – time is spoiled for choice. From Madrid, where we spent four days, and could easily have spent more, Rob and I took the high-speed train south, to Sevilla, where we picked up a car and drove on to Ronda and the pueblos blancos. From there by road to Granada and Cordoba, and back again by train from Cordoba to Madrid, from where we flew back to Johannesburg.

If that sounds like a whirlwind tour, all compressed into little more than two weeks, it was. In hindsight, we might have done less – but what would we have left out? Everywhere we went was an experience, memorable and quite wonderful.

And everywhere we went we walked the place flat, so much so that by the end of the trip our bodies were really quite hammered – and yet, in the way of all good holidays, time seemed to have slowed, quite dramatically, so that two weeks away felt almost like six.

So now we are back, with our gifts and purchases stored and distributed, two weeks of laundry done, and a hard drive full of images to be culled and processed. There are glimpses of our travels to be shared, too, over the coming weeks, as time permits.

Here, to announce our return, are a few photographs to start with.



Blacksmith Plover

From photographs of birds, taken during my recent field trip to the Marievale Bird Sanctuary, this blog will see a change of scene, to our travels in Spain – but only when we are back, Rob and I, towards the end of September, from Andalucia and Madrid.

Meanwhile here is one image – a blacksmith plover – to mark the spot, and signal a short hiatus in these posts.

Blacksmith Plover.jpg

Bird on a Wire

Here’s a good one. A prisoner in a Turkish prison goes to the prison library, and asks for a particular book. The prison librarian replies, ‘We don’t have that book. But we do have the author.’

Signs of the times, you might say – the modern dystopia. History has not ended – in fact, it’s back with a vengeance.

I saw this black-shouldered kite perched on the power-lines on the way back to the gate at Marievale the other day. I was afraid it would fly off, so I stopped, a way back, and turned off the engine, and carefully opened the car door, and took a couple of photographs. The bird seemed unperturbed, so I drove a little closer, and repeated the performance. The kite had other things on its mind, so I drew still closer. Even so, this photograph is a radical crop, using maybe a quarter of the original image.

Says something about the image quality of the Nikon, and that big sensor.

The original, in colour, is simply a picture: ‘this is what a black-shouldered kite looks like.’ I wanted to show something more, of the bird’s brooding power, it’s fierce beauty. I hope this captures at least something of that.


Black-Shouldered Kite

Against the light

From the corner of the hide, you looked out across the water, directly into the light, where the coots were squabbling and giving chase, and I knew at once that this was an image made for black-and-white. I took several photographs, aware of how tricky the light was, and struggling with the heavy lens to keep the birds in frame. This one came out best.

Against the light

The Ale House

We headed out, last Sunday, Kathy and Tom and Rob and I, to the Magaliesberg, to our favourite bush-pub, the Ale House – only to find it had moved.

How does a bush pub move, one might ask? Very slowly?

Anyhow, we tracked the place down to its new home, on the road past Hartebeespoort, and settled under the trees for pizza and beer. And I took a few photos.

The setting could be the Karoo, or the Australian outback – it has the dry colours and warm dusty scents and infinite skies of somewhere old and archetypal, bleached of the modern. But I like these images in black and white.

There will be more to follow, most likely in colour, of Master Tom causing mayhem.