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Going through some of my pictures taken recently in Botswana, I thought I’d start with the Malachite Kingfisher. Before I go into any detail about this shot however, perhaps it’s best if I give a brief outline about my trip and what it actually entailed.
Flying from my home city of Melbourne via Perth in Western Australia, I arrived in Johannesburg where I had a couple of nights prior to continuing on into Botswana. Jo’burg is a bit of a monster, a sprawling city with a population variously estimated between 7 and 10 million. There seems to be very little by way of public transport so combined with roadworks, which appeared to be going on everywhere, traffic was horrendous. South Africa is hosting next years soccer world cup which I imagine is helping to push this drive for development and construction. One of the things I saw during my limited time in Jo’burg was Constitution Hill which I’ll discuss a bit later.
The main part of my trip was the organised photographic safari/workshop in Botswana. After meeting the rest of the group in Jo’burg, we flew into Maun and from there got into a smaller “bush-plane” for the flight into the Okavango Delta region. I spent 3 nights in each of 4 camps in the delta with transfers between the camps by bush-plane. The first of the camps was Kwetsani which is regarded as a “wet” camp. To call it, and the subsequent locations, a “camp” is a bit misleading. There was really no camping as I think of it, our accommodations were quite luxurious, thankfully no television, no radio, no telephone, but everything else one might wish for. Elevated on stilts, the camp was on the edge of a flood plain which at this time of year was in flood due to good rainfall in the catchment areas of the rivers which form the delta, hence the “wet” tag.
On our first afternoon we took to small motorised boats and explored the waterways and channels of the area which meant some good sightings of several species of waterbirds including the beautiful malachite kingfisher. We saw several of these kingfishers perched on and flying between reeds at the water’s edge. The challenge was getting a clear shot of the birds without distracting or obscuring reeds. You’ll notice that a wide aperture was used here which gives a narrow depth of field and throws the background out of focus, an effect I like. The head position of the bird means that the narrow depth of field is still enough to get everything that’s important in focus.
Canon 5D, focal length 700mm (500mm with 1.4x converter), aperture F5.6, shutter speed 1/3200 second at ISO 800.
Constitution Hill, Johannesburg.
During my time in Jo’burg I visited the Soweto area to the southwest of the city which was interesting in itself, but driving back towards my lodgings I stumbled across Constitution Hill in what is now the centre of Jo’burg. It is the site of a fort built in the 1890s, later the complex was used as a prison and more recently part of the site was redeveloped as the Constitutional Court.
My previous blog post picture “doorway to secrets” was taken there. I deliberately posted the image without commentary or explanation to allow readers the opportunity to use their imaginations, wonder what it was about and perhaps put their own meaning to it. Mysterious? maybe. Enigmatic? perhaps, and my (unusually heavy-handed) Photoshop treatment was intended to invoke those feelings. The truth is that the doorway is part of the notorious “number four” prison complex. This prison was used during the apartheid era to hold both political and non political prisoners. Many were held there due to non compliance with the race laws of that time, in some cases as simple as not carrying an identity card or pass. The conditions endured by prisoners were brutal. A cell block where dozens of men would sleep on cold concrete floors on freezing winter nights huddled together under too few blankets to try and keep warm. A single toilet in the corner of the room in full view of all inmates and a tiny window high in the wall which provided next to no natural light. A pecking order existed between prisoners meaning the block was effectively run by the “bosses”. They were the strongest, most violent and depraved of the prisoners who abused the others physically and sexually.
This abuse of prisoners by prisoners was tolerated by prison officials and combined with the deplorable conditions and ill treatment by prison staff ensured that the “secrets” behind the “doorway” were anything but pleasant. Whilst the image appeals to me because of the colours, shapes and textures, the true meaning behind it is quite sinister.
I’ve updated my main site for those who’d like further details regards today’s image, click on the homepage image for the explanation page.
I’m finally getting myself organized having returned from overseas and started back at work. I’ve had to sort out some computer and computer software issues and am now working my way through a hard drive full of image files. After a fairly lean period in terms of blogging, I’ll now try and return to my previous schedule of Mondays and Fridays and maybe the odd Wednesday if something “weird” pops up. As always, I welcome any comments, suggestions or feedback you may have. KD.