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Magwa Falls & Nikon D850...

Who would drive two days to a location and two days to get back home to take photographs of a particular scene - ME - on the road again chasing the light.


To be honest I did get some other worthwhile shots, but they were a bonus - they will be in my next Blog - and I did go specifically to shoot the Magwa Falls in the Eastern Cape. 

If the falls are forgotten, as Western King says in his article, then they are certainly not difficult to find. An easy drive on a gravel through the last of the Transkei tea plantations leads one to a virtually pristine meadow atop of the falls (can you spot my Car in one of the shots?). At first, apart from a glimpse of the wide shallow river 50 meters away, one thinks, where are these spectacular falls?

It was about 6:30am as I parked and got my gear together. A steady trickle of local Xhosa ladies with clay painted faces (Ingceke) on their way to work in the plantations navigated, almost seemingly levitating, across the shallow river; I was intently observing their route, in the hope of not getting my feet wet. As they passed the usual smile and Molo Kunjani (good morning) greeted me. I was in no hurry and sat on the bank looking around the area taking in the light, the shape of the land and the rise of the sun above the forest behind me in the east.

I did get my feet wet, not only this first time but also on the 3 further visits over the next 2 days. As Western King describes there is an intimacy, an almost secrecy about the place, which gives the whole experience, when the falls are revealed, that is very special and unique. For such a spectacular geologic phenomenon there is no one around to spoil the area. There is a Xhosa village on the hill behind the canyon, but its no where near the falls. What is also unique is the actual canyon, a geological fault caused by long ago volcanic activity, it is only about 50 meters wide and one can stand the very edge of the precipice and almost be part of the veil of the falls - if you are not subject to vertigo. 

My first location to shoot the falls was an area of about 5 meters wide along the very edge of the ravine. To get the images framed as I wanted, without much of the vegetation in the foreground required my tripod to be literally centimetres away from the edge mounted on a flat rock about 800cm x 1m, with the camera literally hanging over the void! I worked very slowly with my gear bag on the bank behind me, making sure every turn and movement was done with the utmost precision. Changing lenses, attaching filters and holders was a long ponderous process.

As I edged off the ledge there behind me was a young teenager who had obviously been there for some time. In broken English he explained what an excellent guide he was and that he would, not only show me the best locations, but would assist me with moving my gear. To be fair, Western King had warned me beforehand that these kids would turn up. He did indeed help and guided me to another aspect, which I might add had even less room to manoeuvre, but I did have his assistance. By the time I had visited the place for the 4th and last time in my 3 days, this was my entourage, they were fun kids, who carried my gear with gusto, and when asked kept well away and were quiet and very well behaved - of course they were duly rewarded for the expert assistance.

This is where my new D850 excelled; using live view meant I didn’t need to hover over the cameras’ viewfinder to frame and focus. The excellent touch screen focusing feature allowed precise focus anywhere within the full frame whilst viewing and if necessary adjusting the final composition via the ball-head, all done at a comfortable near arms length, using another new D850 feature, silent shooting!

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