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  • Under African Skies

    For a much-needed rest day excursion I decided to head an hours drive north to check out an area that supposedly has a forest of Aloe Banseii, or 'Quivver' trees. As I approached the isolated spot way out in the desert it became readily apparent that the internet was right - a vast forest of thousands of aloes dotting these ancient sandstone outcrops for several Kilometers.  I spent several hours wandering the barren rocky landscape looking for interesting compositions among the masses of trunks for the evening shoot, in awe at the trees and the orange rocks they grew among - many with fossils of primitive sea creatures.

    There weren't enough clouds for a nice sunset, but as the light faded the milky way came into view, brighter than I've ever seen it, and begged to a backdrop for the sculptural trunks. Ive done a fair amount of night shoots in different countries, but Africa was a total unknown… I was alone, half an hrs drive from the nearest town and there were definitely big things out there - id previously stepped over some burrows of some unknown creature, each hole big enough to crawl into - should one have the nerve. I nervously setup my gear in the car, thinking that at least id have my tripod to fend off anything that came out at me. This had previously worked shooting a sunrise near Wellington where id literally stumbled over a sleeping seal in the semi-dark, so I had some precedent for the confidence.

    I ventured out by the light of a pathetic head torch, bush-bashing through scrub to reach the aloes, then scrambling up the loose gravel slopes to a spot id found earlier that day. Every 30s exposure meant 30 seconds crouching in complete darkness under the vast milk-way with my ears pricked for the slightest noise. With no wind it was complete silence, randomly punctuated by strange grunts, scratching, thuds, what sounded like cats fighting in the next valley over; I pondered how much time id have to react if something did run at me out of the dark - and quickly found myself holding a rock in one hand and my Intervaloumeter in the other.

    With spirits lifted and nerves slightly eased by the thumbnail images on my cameras display I got more adventurous, climbing further up the hill, shooting the image above...

    Suddenly, out of the silence, a strong wind appeared, shaking all the scrub bushes around me and rattling the vanes on a rickety old wild-west style windmill in the valley below. With a blood chilling screech and groan which came to me out of the darkness, the whole windmill must have turned to face this new wind, and my nerves had enough excitement for one night. I grabbed up the tripod and made a beeline for the car, content with the nights images.