Monday, July 30, 2012

Flooding in HDR

Even though there is still another month to go till the end of winter we've already had the 3rd wettest winter ever in Port Elizabeth.  Last week we had two days of rain again and this following the flooding we had three weeks ago means that there is a lots of water around.  I drove out to have a look at the Seaview Road just outside the city which is over 1,5 meters under water.  Took this picture to the side of the road with the clouds reflecting in the water and then played around with a bit of HDR to give it that extra effect. 

Friday, July 27, 2012

Black Sparrowhawk

Life and the universe tend to sneak you a very pleasant and unexpected surprise every now and then and I clearly got one of those pulling into my driveway the other day.  As I turned off thew road I spotted something on the lawn under one of the two big palm trees in my front yard.  There right in front of me was a bird of prey sitting on top of one of the palm trees' resident pigeons feeding away with very little regard for me trying to get a good picture of him.  After about ten minutes or so he decided to try and carry his dinner away but the pigeon was clearly to heavy for him so he literally bounced across the road and continued feeding on the other side of the road for another 15 minutes or so.
My bird knowledge is so-so and I wasn't too sure what it could be so I uploaded a pic to the PE Photography Club Facebook Page and within minutes the guys identified it as a Black Sparrowhawk.  The Black Sparrowhawk (Accipiter melanoleucus), is the largest African member of the genus Accipiter and occurs mainly in forests and non-desert areas south of the Sahara.  They nest in large trees and has a particular liking for suburban and human-altered landscapes.  It preys primarily on birds of moderate size, which explains why it took down one of the palm tree pigeons.  The adults are dark with white while the juveniles are brown which means looking at its feathers it was probably a young adult. 
Somebody commented that the fact that there are so many feathers lying around shows that its a Black Sparrowhawk as they, unlike most other birds of prey, don't eat the feathers.

It's days like this though that I wish I had a SLR camera with my prosumer super zoom, even though it generally takes fantastic pictures, just taking too long to focus and take the picture resulting in most of the pictures being slightly out of focus or blurry.

Read more about the Black Sparrowhawk on Wikipedia.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Spinning round

Towards the end of the recent school holidays I took the Kidz and their friends for an outing around Port Elizabeth.  Being a warm winters day I decided to end off the trip at St Georges Park and let the kids play in the park for a while.  While watching them go round and round and round I decided to try and get a picture of the kids on the merry-go-round (at a lack of a better word for it) with a moving background.  It was quite an interesting experience getting the thing up to a manageable speed and holding on with one hand while aiming the camera with the other.  So what do you think of the result?

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Montagu Museum

During a visit to the beautiful Klein Karoo town of Montagu I discovered two very interesting and equally historic museums on Long Street, the town's main drag.  The first one was the fascinating Joubert House while the second was the Montagu Museum.  The Montagu Museum is housed in the Neo-Gothic style Old Mission Church which was built in 1907 and its main aim is the research of the cultural-historic heritage of Montagu.
The museum has a large and diverse collection and frequently changes its temporary exhibitions.  It's collection of pulpit Bibles and church artifacts including old wedding dresses form the focal point of the church with the original pulpit, pulpit cloth and wall text taking pride of place. Other important permanent exhibitions are the Indigenous Medicinal Plant research project displayed in one wing, the Fran├žoise Krige collection of paintings and memorabilia and the T.O. Honiball (he of Oom Kaspaas, Jakkals En Wolf and Adoons-Hulle fame) collection of cartoons.  The museum also has its own oval date stamp which is a replica of the first postmark to be used in Montagu in1858.

Behind the church is a magnificent rose garden which was beautifully in bloom on my visit while the archive which adjoins the church is an important research centre containing a comprehensive collection of historical documents and photos relating to Montagu, the district and people as well as the museum library.  Unfortunately my visits to both museums were done at a bit of a rush as I didn't really gave myself much time going there but we have already booked a return visit to Montagu for the end of the year and this time around I'm going to be spending a lot more time in the two museums.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Baby grasshoppers

Going for a walk along one of the trails at Sleepy Hollow outside Port Elizabeth I noticed a black blob in the long grass next to the trial.  Now being a curious creature (and always looking for something to photograph), I decided to have a closer look and this is what I found.  A whole bunch of little baby grasshoppers.
Getting up after one or two pics I noticed for the first time that there was a Praying Mantis in the grass below the grasshoppers enjoying one of them for breakfast.  Would have been a great shot but the grass was in the way and my camera a bit slow on the focus to just move the grass and get a quick pic.  I decided not to disturb his brekkie any further and moved on.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Two wheel track

The back seats on an open game viewing vehicle may be the most bumpy but it also offers the best view not just of animals but the surrounding countryside.  In this case while my fellow game viewers were watching a couple of zebra I was hanging out the back trying to get a nice picture of the two wheel track behind us.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Ant-eating Chat

I'm not a big bird photographer, not by choice but because my camera is a bit slow to focus and then still has a bit of a shutter lag as well.  But when a bird sits still for long enough for me to focus and get a nice pic I won't let the opportunity slip by.  Small birds are especially difficult for me as they always dart around but on a recent game drive at Amakhala Game Reserve a Ant-eating Chat decided to sit still on a sweet thorn tree and look around for long enough for me to get this pic of him.  The Ant-eating Chat's natural habitats are subtropical or tropical dry shrubland and lowland grassland and they mainly eats insects, especially ants and termites. 

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Joubert House

Most people probably find town museums quite boring, but I love what they have to offer.  Its usually the best place to learn more about a town's history and there is always something, usually more than one thing, new to discover in these museums.  One such small town museum which I have discovered is Joubert House in the Klein Karoo town of Montagu.  My timing wasn't the best and I walked into the museum about 20 minuted before closing time on a Saturday afternoon.  Even though I was the only person in the museum it didn't stop curator Annette Cilliers from sharing her very extensive knowledge with me on a personal tour of the museum.  Even though closing time was nearly on us she didn't leave out anything and told and showed me ever bit of detail there was to be seen.  She even offered to stay open a bit longer while I walked around to take a couple of photos after the tour.  Ms Cilliers really deserves some kind of tourism award for what she does at Joubert House.
Joubert House was built in 1853 by 22-year old Pieter Gideon Joubert for his par­ents and is thought to be the oldest dwelling in Montagu.  After the devastating floods of January 1981 the building, which was built from sun­baked bricks and clay, was on the verge of collapsing and the municipality decided to have it demolished.  Luckily it was saved from demolition by the Montagu Museum Board of Trustees who had it restored to its former glory.  Joubert House was opened as a museum in 1983 and celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2003.

Joubert House is a house museum and portrays the typical country lifestyle of the 1850’s.  Each room has been meticulously recreated and each one had a unique appeal.  The lounge contains the pictures of historical figures who visited the family back in the days while there is also a piece of the original wall paper.  The kitchen is normally my favorite room in this kind of museum while there is also an exceptional collection of toys and individually numbered handmade porcelain dolls.
Next to the house visitors will find the town's first jail right next to the ori­ginal privy.  Pieter Gideon Joubert senior was also the town's first Justice of the Peace and any­one found dis­turb­ing the peace found themselves locked up here for a little while.

Behind the museum is an indigenous medicinal garden.  Over the last 22 years the Montagu Museum has been researching the traditional uses of medicinal plants in the Montagu district as used by the Khoi, San and settler farmers from Europe.  The garden contains most of the more than 120 plants that have been researched and published by the museum.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Serval Cat

I have never had the opportunity to see a real live serval cat before seeing that they are extinct in the Eastern and Western Cape.  Visiting the Royalston Game Reserve just outside Port Elizabeth not long ago the owners took us to have a look at their Serval rehabilitation project.  They obtained two serval cats from another rehabilitation project and they have had three babies which are being prepared for release at one of the big private game reserves near Port Elizabeth. 
The serval is a medium-sized cat but I didn't really know what to expect before we got there. They look like normal domestic cats just a lot bigger with much longer legs. Servals grow to about 59 to 92 cm in length and stand about half a meter tall.  This boy was in a very playful mood and had a ball chasing the handler's scarf.  The rest of us, well we were clicking away through the fence as they wanted as little interaction with other people as possible. 

For more information on Serval Cats in general, visit Wikipedia.