Updated: Jan 29

In the second week of January this year my family and I decided to get away from the rat race by taking a short break into the countryside. Normally I do not do much outdoor photography at this time of the year as the weather in the Western Cape, where we live, is quite predictable. Day after day, blue sky followed by more blue sky. Most of my outdoor photography, including the Abandoned project which I am currently working on, has been shot during the winter when there is lot more cold fronts around. This creates moody light and unpredictability. The accommodation we booked was located in a valley at the foothills of the Wintershoek mountain range. This meant that early morning light would show up late and evening light would dwindle early. All in all, an idea location with great views for a vacation and some "foot-up" time, but conditions were certainly not conducive to good photography. Plus, just to reinforce my agenda for the next four days, the weather man showed blue sky’s for three and the outside possibility of cloud cover on the morning of the third day.

Call it habit, or an impulsive desire that I cannot seem to switch off easily, I still decided to look for compositions in the area in any case, even if it mean coming back to shoot at another time. Scouting around, one could not help but be impressed by the majesty of the surrounding mountain ranges and could only but salivate at the opportunities that would likely occur later in the year.

Samantha my daughter, also a photographer, accompanied me on long drives into the countryside, our expectations were muted as we did not expect to capture much at all. We discovered that the late afternoon and early morning light, slightly back from the valley itself was particularly good for photographing single subjects against the blue shadows of the mountains in the background. I was able to add three more pictures to my Solitary Collection of trees, but that was about it.

On the evening of the second day, some scattered clouds started to form above the Winterberg mountains in the distance (See below). This backed up the weather forecast, which predicted the possibility of cloud cover the next morning. That night we set an early alarm, excited about working with some good light as well as an interesting sky in the morning.

We were greeted at dawn with fantastic cloud cover, which quickly started breaking up as the sun began to rise. Samantha and I headed over to an area which we had scouted the day before on the Witzenberg mountains. The position we found high up on the slopes allowed us the vantage point where we could photography the glorious peaks of the Wintersberg from across the valley. The weather was there, now all we needed was the light. On our way, we drove past two abandoned houses on the side of the road. I had seen them before, but with uncomplimentary light and blue sky in the background they did not look appealing at all. Now with the sky filled with clouds and the sun breaking on the horizon, which created a strong side light, they looked great. Its kinda like noticing a girl at a party for the first time when she is all dolled up, only to find out later that she attends the same school and for many years you did not notice her at all.

We still had time, so I quickly turned around and headed back. I "sort of" liked what I saw through the viewfinder. Without too much delay I found a composition, and took a few exposures. Normally I know if I have cracked a keeper, but with this photograph I was not a 100% sure plus I felt a bit rushed, it was only when I processed the file back at the studio that I realized it’s potential. I was so ecstatic that # 33, three photographs short of printing the coffee table book in the Abandoned collection, had been captured.

I recall a quote by Ansel Adams, one of my mentors, who said “Twelve significant photographs in any one year is a good crop” Indeed Mr Adams, indeed!

After shooting this picture Samantha and I headed up onto the slopes of the Witzenberg where we experienced some great light and got some truly remarkable photographs of the peaks of the Wintersberg and surrounding mountains, but this is a story of another day.

Hope you enjoy.

Regards, Martin

#MartinOsner #Abandoned