Monday, January 16, 2012

The Mighty Zambezi, Luxury and Food Part 1

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So, for the media launch of Jenny Morris’s book that I’ve been writing about, and will still blog lots about, we were fortunate enough to head out to the Zambezi River in Zambia, staying at the magnificent Royal Chundu Lodge, about 50km west of Livingstone. And that was an unusually long sentence. Even more impressive was that my wife was also with me on this trip, and what followed was a fantastic couple of days in a gem of a spot, and fun in the sun with all the other guests there.

I came to the conclusion in the week running up to our departure that it’s probably preferable to get yellow fever than have the after effects of a yellow fever shot. I’m very glad to know that I won’t have to have it again. 3 days of flu like symptoms was my experience. It seems like some others had the same fate, whereas some had no ill-effects at all. 

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Jenny and Alan Ford, TV producer, at the Cape Town International Airport. We’re ready to roll. Below is part of the Cape contingent. We picked up some more in Johannesburg. Others like John Maytham are seriously seasoned at checking in and did so on their iPads and was by this time sipping espresso’s at Vida e Caffe, departure lounge-side.

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Left to right: my wife Nellie, Siba from Drum Magazine, Carmen from Huisgenoot, Juan-Pierre, writer, Ceri, Jenny’s publisher, Marga, Jenny’s assistant and sous chef and Clay Morar, writer, TV presenter and radio personality.

We were meant to fly Air Zambezi, but the airline got grounded the week we were to leave! Royal Chundu Lodge, get this, out of their own pocket, booked us all onto 1time and made sure we arrived! They were unwilling to let us miss out on this experience. Thank you!

We stayed over in Johannesburg at a hotel of which I can’t recall the name, but it was a typical and efficient business hotel. Fabulous breakfast, though.

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From Johannesburg to Livingstone, the next morning, we pretty much owned the plane. Jenny went around dishing out eats, and also supplied each one of us with a goodie back on arrival at the airport, including the magnificent book.

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I-pods, eating, catching up and also a few winks, were pretty much the way of the 1 hour flight.

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First impression of Zambia? (I make a habit of taking note of the smell and atmosphere in a new place as I get off the plane). Hot. Humid. In Libya my first smell was seaweed. Here it was jet-fuel.

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As is the case normally, my wife got to know some of the locals immediately, getting to know their family history, fears, dreams and medical history in the time it takes for me to wipe my nose and pick up my bags. Carmen and Ceri was taking some heat already. Note to self at this point: Zambians are friendly. Zambia is hot.

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Transferring to a shuttle for the bumpiest ride ever.

Zambia2011__0025Zambia2011__0026Zambia2011__0029Zambia2011__0030Alan acted as our host for the duration of the stay, as he organised this fabulous time for us, and also have been here before. Thanks, Alan!

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Arrival at Royal Chundu does not occur without a stretch of dirt road that can give any road on the Dakar Rally a run for its money, in terms of difficulty level at least. However, arriving at the lodge makes it all worth it. Nestled on the banks of the mighty Zambezi river is a gem we were all about to discover. We were greeted with a lunch, orientation and a brief massage while seated at the table. Needless to say the massage made everyone very very keen to stay here.

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Here we also got assigned our rooms, made our final introductions, tried getting back to Tweeting, making notes, stretching our legs and generally just relaxing after the travel. To some the thought of possibly not getting on Facebook or Twitter was disastrous, while to some, like me, I was looking forward to some social – and general – media down-time. Ironic that I was to spend time with people working in media the whole week!

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Bianca (who would end up being the only one to catch a tiger fish the whole week!) and Liezel having their pics taken with Jenny. As the week drew on, I needed to take loads of these to supply to social pages and the like.

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To see what Clayton was Tweeting, better check out @claymorar. He is part of the local Twitterati, if ever there was such a thing.

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After lunch, we were all dispatched to our different cabins. Jenny and her husband David, and Nellie and I, were to stay on Katombora Island, or the Island Lodge about 15 minutes up-river, while the others stayed at the River Lodge. This caters more for couples and honeymooners, and sports slightly bigger cabins.

To get to the Island Lodge we were transported using a flat-deck catamaran cruising at a leisurely pace, while with every trip the possibility of seeing hippo’s or crocodiles were imminent, and seeing many kinds of bird-life.

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Arrival at The Island is the same every time. A huge smile from a impeccably dressed porter, your luggage being taken away on your behalf, and a steep climb to a piece of heaven.

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Zambia2011__0152Although I set foot on the island, I don’t think it ever touched the ground, as the island’s cabins are all connected with a deck system leading from the jetty to a central lounge.

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In the next instalment I’ll start showing you the amazing facilities, the gin and tonic sunset cruise, dinners and the like. Also I am editing a video of our stay, so watch this space closely.

I’ll also be talking a bit more about the other guests, anecdotes and the food, the people and my thoughts on travel and the like.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Wedding: A&D, Solms-Delta

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It’s a real big kick for me if I get to shoot one of my commercial clients’ weddings, every time such an opportunity comes up. It has happened a number of times now, which I’m grateful for. Not only does it allow you into a very special and personal part of a client’s life, but also allows you to reward their loyalty and trust in you.
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In this case, the client and I have been doing work together for 8 years, shooting PR and ad campaigns, and having a good relationship always. However, as much as I need to impress him, it is of no use if his bride-to-be does not approve. I’m very grateful that she did, and what an easy subject she turned out to be to boot!
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Horses make up a big part of her life, so it was decided that she would enter the ceremony on a horse, so prior to the ceremony starting, I had a short while to familiarise myself with equestrian photography! As it was not her own horse either, she just needed a couple of minutes to whisper to it or whatever it is that horse-people do. At this point in time it is maybe necessary to point out that I’ve had a rather “grounded” relationship with horses (ok, 1 horse). I remember being dragged through grass and also not being able to sit on a wooden chair for a couple of days after the ride.
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Horses are decidedly beautiful creatures, and this one is no exception, and allowed me a couple of touching moments. Literally, it allowed me to touch it. I also took some nice pics of it and the bride.
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Different photographers might point at different situations or conditions or even people to be a wedding photographers biggest enemy, including bad light, overbearing family members, over-zealous point-and-shoot-guest-photographers, difficult customers or such things. I have to put up there the problem of heat.

The gorgeous Solms-Delta Estate in Franschhoek decidedly was the recipient of a sun-flare that day. Why is this a problem? Try holding a 40 deg C camera body to your face, keep your eyes sweat-free, your hands dry, your face dry, your spectacles dry and your smile steady, while the noon-day (yup, noon wedding) sun batters you. The heat eventually made for a great picnic reception next to a river, as most (male) guests stripped down to board shorts and spent the afternoon bathing in the cool mountain stream.
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Meet Spence, the best…man? Anyways, Spence has been on the staff roll of companies where his boss worked, even with profile and pic on the company website, so the lad was chosen to be the ring bearer. Awesome dog.20111119_0164
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Something deserves to be said about these two pictures. The only way I could cool dow….. get this shot, was wading into the pond to hip height. Whether the the image merits such effort, I leave up to the observer, but it certainly was worth it in sun-stroke prevention. Also it made me look really and utterly committed to my art to those observing. And a rather unpleasant experience of putting my boots back on.20111119_0456

The wedding happened at a great leisurely pace, befitting a summer picnic, and so were the sessions I had with the couple. They would wine, dine and socialise a bit, before embarking on a foray into the forest for some photos, then frolicking about in the river, then some more pics and so the afternoon passed. Hence, what might seem to the average event organiser, a rather strange chronological arrangement to the images.
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A hit on the day was a photo booth to one side of the reception, where guests could entertain themselves with silly costumes and photos. This was not managed by myself, but is a great idea for weddings in this setting. Naturally I could not let the two of them go without getting them in their own booth.
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After much dancing, and especially some ethnic moves from the groom on Johnny Clegg’s “Impi”, the dusk started falling and it was time for the couple to disappear into the future.
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