Victoria Falls: a Black and White Photo Essay

I was fortunate to visit Victoria Falls last week and tried to capture them in black and white. Photography can be really tricky because of the showers of mist:  you are likely to get soaked and so is your camera!  So I took along my waterproof Pentax WG 3 and carried my Olympus OMD in my backpack for safety.  Fortunately the water levels in the Zambezi were fairly low and so shooting conditions weren’t bad.  I managed to get the Olympus out (and stow it away) quickly between the waves of mist as they blew over.  It’s a two hour walk through the mist forest park on the Zimbabwean side of the Falls and you make lots of stops at all of the viewpoints along the edge of the gorge.

The first and last pictures in the slideshow are of the Falls from a distance away.  They’re taken from Elephant Hills hotel just after 5am on the days before and after my trip.  You can easily see why they’re referred to as The Smoke That Thunders – Mosi-oa-Tunya.

At the start of your walk along the Falls is the imposing commemorative statue of David Livingstone.  Then you work your way along the edge of the gorge opposite the sheer drop of the Falls.  The Devil’s Cataract is a really impressive amphitheatre of mist forest.  The Main Falls have huge streams of water separated by Livingstone Island.  If you look back along the way you have come from Danger Point you see the mist billowing high up into the air above you.  It’s quite an experience and something I hope I’ve managed to capture with this set of black and white pictures.

Grahamstown in Black and White

It’s an unusual place – Grahamstown – located in a basin at the headwaters of the Kowie river. The poor black population in the eastern townships look across to the middle class suburbs on the other side of the valley.  There are not many South African cities where black and white are so closely juxtaposed. I live in Sunnyside, on the south side of town, and our house is quite high up on the side of a hill. A lot of my pictures look down into the valley.  I’m frequently photographing into the light too.  The cathedral is nearby – further down Hill Street – with the northern suburbs lying beyond.  Makana’s Kop is another Grahamstown landmark. It dominates the eastern side of town – across the Belmont Valley.

I wanted a set of black and white pictures so I needed to capture textures and shapes. South African townships are typically laid out on rectangular lines. This makes for clear compositions.  The two pictures here were both taken in winter with low angled light. Before dawn Vukani was wreathed in mist and smoke. I managed to catch the first rays of sunlight cutting across the mists.  Monument to Makana was taken just after a storm had passed at sunset.  Highlights of rain outline the regular street patterns.  The 1820 Settlers Monument is the large rectangular building that lies in the foreground of the picture.

In summer we are likely to get thunderstorms – but many of them drift eastwards past the town.  From the stoep of our house you can see them over the horizon – behind the spire of the Dutch Reformed Church.  Of course some of them do hit the town bringing heavy rain and dramatic lightning.

Off to the north west is the Rhodes University campus.  It’s surrounded by tree lined streets. Some exotic monkey puzzle trees are in the foreground of this picture.  Belmont Valley lies to the south east.  It’s where the Kowie River runs down to the sea. The leafy suburbs shown here are above and below Hill Street. They are beside the old road down to Port Alfred.

The last two pictures are also taken from the south side of town.  They’re higher up – on Mountain Drive – where we take our dog walking.  Both of them are looking right over the bowl containing the old districts of Grahamstown.  The townships have now spread right up Lavender Valley and out on to the plateau at Hooggenoeg.  The mountains on the skyline are the Amatolas.  The last picture is looking north-west – into the semi-arid Karoo. It shows the Winterberg range that is approximately 80 kms away.

Contact me at roddyfox@mac.com if you’d like to purchase any of these images.  They’re reasonably priced. All of the pictures were taken with my Olympus OMD EM5 MarkII.  I’ve edited them in Lightroom using the Nik collection of plugins.