Thursday, March 03, 2016

Shutter Therapy in Cape Town, South Africa

The reason my blog has been quiet for over a week, is because I have been away to South Africa. It was a company trip, hence I was partially working on this visit. This was not a photography tour, I did not have a lot of time to roam around freely and shoot whatever I wanted to shoot, as we were rushing from location to location with limited time to spare. Considering that the tour was not photography oriented, I did not have much chance to do my best in capturing Cape Town, perhaps one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Nonetheless, with whatever opportunities that crossed my path, I made sure every single one counted. 

We started our tour with the Big 5 Safari, which I am not including in this blog post. I intended to do an extension review for the Olympus M.Zuiko 300mm F4 PRO IS, considering I now had an actual chance to bring this long lens out in the wild to capture some wildlife shots! Coincidentally now in Malaysia, there is the BMW Malaysian Open 2016, a tennis tournament which I think is a perfect ground to test the 300mm F4 IS PRO lens for sports and action photography. Furthermore, this would be an ideal condition to test out the C-AF tracking of the lens, though I will not put too much hope on high success rates. After shooting the tennis event (hopefully nothing clashes with my schedule, especially work) I shall compile images both from the tennis tournament and from the Big 5 Safari in South Africa to compose my extension blog review for the M.Zuiko 300mm F4 IS PRO lens. 

We spent the first few days at the Kruger National Park, and remaining days at Cape Town. I was told that Cape Town was breathtaking, and that word is not enough to describe now beautiful this place is. There is just a slice of everything in Cape Town: blue waters, dramatic sky, beautiful sun, gorgeous mountain, white sandy beaches, amazing cliffs... I don't think I am able to list down everything, as I may not have visited all places in such a short visit. Obviously we went sightseeing, touring around Cape Town, taking the scenic tour. We did stop by the Central Business District, and the group was allowed 40 minutes to shop. I traded my 40 minutes shopping time for shutter therapy instead. With just 40 minutes at hand (technically I only have 35 minutes, as I needed 5 minutes to walk back to our meeting point), I attacked the streets with my camera. 

The South African people are the friendliest people I have met so far (I have not traveled to that many places, though). I noticed many people commented that I was able to do my close up portrait shots of strangers in Malaysia because people here are so friendly, and a trait that is not shared elsewhere in the world. I think the South Africans are friendlier than Malaysians! They speak fluent English, unlike most Malaysians who prefer to converse in local dialects, eg Cantonese, Malays and when Malaysians do speak English mostly on the street they are broken and not easily understood by foreigners. This was not the case I observed in Cape Town. I have approached many strangers and none, I repeat, NONE rejected my request to photograph them. We even sparked conversations, some lengthy ones, and some rather meaningful ones. 

As I have mentioned, I am faced with a few obstacles: 
1) This trip was NOT a photography trip, it was designed as a sightseeing tour. 
2) All the shoot timing I had was wrong, I was having my shutter therapy at noon time, when sun was harsh and not directional 
3) I just did not have enough time. 40 minutes? What can one photographer do in 40 minutes in an unknown location? No complains here, I just charged the streets head on and hoped for the best. One has got to make full use of one's opportunities, no matter how small one was given. On top of shooting at the CBD, I also had a chance to roam around the waterfront (about 30 minutes) while shopping for souvenirs. 
4) We did stop by a few other locations around Cape Town, some with high potential of awesome street shots, but was limited to only 5 minutes stop each. I am not kidding. 5 minutes. 
5) We stopped by tourist locations, thus, please bear with my "touristy" shots, as anyone would be able to capture with their smartphones instead. 

All images were taken with with Olympus OM-D E-M1 and M.Zuiko Lenses 12-50mm F3.5-6.3 kit lens, 25mm F1.8 and 45mm F1.8. Also, the Fisheye Body Cap Lens. 

View of the Table Mountain from Robben Island (where Mandela was imprisoned for 27 years). 
This location was actually situated at the back of a toilet. I am serious. Sometimes, best locations are at least expected places. I only wished I had more time, not just 5 minutes here. Imagine setting up a tripod, mounting an ND400 filter in front of the wide angle kit lens, and do a slow shutter of maybe 30 seconds to slow down the water motion, creating smooth, silky texture! So much to improve in this shot. Nevertheless, of all the touristy shots I have taken, this is the one I liked the most. I wish there was some stronger foreground subject to enter the frame. 



This was my first Portrait of a Stranger shot taken at CBD of Cape Town. I approached this beautiful dude, and asked his permission to shoot a photo. In addition to my usual style, I added the line "I am from Malaysia, I am a street photographer". Worked, every single time. 

Junk food and refreshment seller. 

As you can observe on how the shadows fall on this man's face, the sun was extremely harsh for any good portrait photography. I constantly had to shoot under shady area, and avoid direct sun contact. 

I have learned that unemployment rate is very high in South Africa, hence we can find many men and women on the streets, basically standing around and do nothing. I was not here long enough to be able to tell apart if these people were unemployed. Also, obviously, I did not have the time to make too many long conversations, with the time limit imposed. 

The future Photographer

The Malay Quarters
The Dutch brought in Malays (from Malaysia, yes, that is true!) about 200 years ago, and the Malays have created a settlement in Cape Town. The iconic blocky houses were painted in super bright colors, all different from house to house, making this a striking location for color street photography! Man, I can just spend ALL day here. Alas, I only managed to shoot one shot as shown above. 

The people in Cape Town are so full of character! They do their hair differently, and even the way they look at you, there is something so sincere and human, that I do not see a lot in Malaysia. 

Anyone knows what that dude was sniffing? Whatever substance that was I do not think it did him any good. 

Striking White Pants

Near the Docks at Waterfront

Photographer spotted

The elephant in the room. 

I even like the way the men dressed themselves in Cape Town. 

And the women were not shy to have their photos taken too! Unlike Malaysians. Sheesh!!

When I was shooting this I did not know that the girl on the left could be a homeless or a beggar. She striked a pose for me, so why not take a photo? 

We did what all the tourists did, took a ride on the cable car to reach the top of Table Mountain, and shooting landscape shots like tourists. 

My photos do not do justice to how beautiful these places in Cape Town are. Seriously, I have unsuccessfully captured the grandeur and spectacular sight I was witnessing. Knowing the limited time I had, I stopped trying too hard and spent the rest of the time having video chats with mum (who was back in Malaysia) and feasted on the magnificent views with my eyes. 

This was at Cape of Good Hope. Image taken with 9mm F8 Fisheye Body Cap lens, but de-fished. 

The Long Beach. It is not difficult to see why it is called as such. 

This was our tour guide at Robben Island. His name is Yasien Muhamad. He was a descendant of the original Malay settlers in Cape Town. He told us amazing stories of how Malaysia was the forefront fighter for South Africa's freedom from the cruel and discriminatory Apartheid system. I was reminded that Malaysia was the one who brought the issues of Apartheid to United Nations, and made a huge fuss there. We threatened Japan to pull out from Tokyo Olympic Games if Japan accepted an all white sports team from South Africa to join the Olympic Games. Under pressure, Japan subsequently banned South Africa from entering the Olympics, and this has raised more awareness and gained more support from many countries from around the world to boycott South Africa and fight against Apartheid. South Africa, after decades of struggles, won their freedom and is now such a beautiful, modern and amazing country!
I could not have felt prouder to be a Malaysian. 

Father and Daughter at the Waterfront

Bicycle rent vendor

A group of musicians, taking a break

A nearby restaurant staff, taking a break

Another portrait of a stranger. 

A friendly couple. The girl spent a year studying in Kuala Lumpur! She surprised me with some Malay words. So we stopped and chatted for a while. 

The ferry that took us to Robben Island, gave us this majestic view of the Table Mountain. 

After this trip, my eyes were truly opened to the wonders and incredible beauty of South Africa. Not only the scenery was amazing, but the people are so warm and friendly. I can certainly imagine myself spending all day filling up my memory cards, shooting on the streets, chasing sunsets, and so much more here. 

I must start saving, and plan my return to South Africa!

35 comments :

  1. nice shot. especially the portraits.

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  2. Beautiful shots. Capetown is really a beautiful place , lovely people too.

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    1. Thanks Raviraj. Cape Town is a wonderful place indeed.

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  3. Nice shots Robin. Could you please tell which lens(es) you have used?
    Thanks a lot!

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    1. Dear Paolo, I have mentioned all the lenses I have used in the blog entry.

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  4. Feels like I have been there.... thank you for the nice pictures...
    Your Charisma seems to work no matter where you go.

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  5. This is a fantastic photo story Robin! Just imagine what you could have done with more time ... inspiring shots mate. Much appreciated.

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  6. Robin, I've been following your blog for a while now. Great to see you visiting my home city! With what little time you had, you've managed to capture the essence of Cape Town and all its beautiful people in a spectacular way. Great job! Just wish you would have included the details of lenses used :) This info is always nice to learn from.

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    1. Thanks for visiting this blog, Stephanie, and my oh my you live in great beautiful city! Thanks for the kind words. I have listed all the lenses I have used. The portrait (close up) shots were mostly 45mm F1.8 and the wide angle landscapes was 12-50mm kit.

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  7. Great essay, Robin. Please visit again and spend ample time in my beloved country. You will enjou the Garden Route, the Drakensberg and much more!

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    1. Thanks Danie, South Africa is such a wonderful place, I must plan my return visit !

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  8. I, too, have been blessed with the opportunity to visit South Africa. What a varied and beautiful place! Excellent "tourist" photos, Robin, as usual.

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  9. Nice shots as always. How about criminality in that city. I have read many articles about Cape Town not being the safest area in the world, especially after the Sun goes down. Anyway I think South Africa is a wonderful place for making a photographic trip.

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    1. Hey Daniel,
      I heard the unemployment rate is very high, and pickpocketing is a common crime everywhere. It is not the safest indeed, due to social issues, but we can always take precautionary measures, and honestly I personally feel Malaysia is not that much safer either.

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  10. Love that "Photographer spotted" pic! So cool colours and the text on the wall gives the image a cheerful and hilarious feeling.

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    1. Thanks! I was lucky he made eye contact, he was busy with his phone for a bit.

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  11. Robin, the pict of a man ( may be a boy ) was sniffing had shocked me ... in Indonesia, we named that activity as " ngelem " ( sniffing glue ). Its effect as harmfull as drug . Sorry about my bad english ...

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    1. I think in Malaysia we also have the same problem. I just do not see it happen so openly at the city streets. THey usually do this at hidden locations.

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  12. Love this post, Robin. The change of scenery has really brought something special out of you!
    Yes, the seascape is really good. I like them all, but I guess my fav is the short/tall couple with the beautiful smiles. Followed closely by Mr. Rasta :^)
    Looking forward to more non-Kuala Lumpur. When you're at home, do you ever take little trips outside the city?

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    1. Thanks for the kind words. Yes we do go out from the city from time to time to unwind, but I rarely do that these days due to work commitments. Maybe it is time to plan a travel again.

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  13. Nice shots. You are right Cape Town is a gorgeous city which I never tired of photographing particular Long Street. My wife & liked visit every January to get away from the cold in the UK.

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    1. Owhhhh, most of the street photos were taken at Long Street!

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  14. Nice shots. You are right Cape Town is a gorgeous city which I never tired of photographing particular Long Street. My wife & liked visit every January to get away from the cold in the UK.

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    1. Great place for a holiday away from the cold!

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  15. Really great engagement from the people to you and your camera. You are right, they are not shy or embarrassed. Also awesome to see you widen your range of shots with patterns, shadows, textures.

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  16. Great Shots!
    What kind of software are you using to "defish" the pics made with the bodycap?
    Thanks!

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  18. Robin, don't worry about the ND 400 filter. It's what so many photographers think they need to do and it's been overdone. Does water really look like that? Your photo is great and it shows the dynamics of the water. Great story and great photos altogether!

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