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South African Holiday with Old School

South Africa Holiday

This last fall Vicki and I settled on Africa as our next summer holiday to have Redington along with. I had never been before, Vicki has enjoyed safaris before and Redington had a new lens his Grandfather had given him the previous summer. So it was decided. Alas there was turmoil in Kenya where planned to go. However we had a chance encounter at a friend's 50th birthday party who suggested a little out of the way park in South Africa call Hluhluwe-Umfolozi (pronounced as near as I can Shlu-shlu-way Um-fu-lo-zee). In addition to one of the oldest parks in Africa (1899) it is in the Zulu kingdom. Redington followed with interest the battles in the movie Zulu at Rorke's Drift and Isandlwana.

So that settled it We booked flights to Durban on South African Airways and found accommodation in various game lodges. Our travels would involve more than Hluhluwe-Umfolozi park. We would head to the center of the battle area near Dundee, and then to the Drakensberg mountains for some hiking.

As we neared the holidays thoughts turned to photographing animals and I had increasing amounts of camera envy. Normally I am happy (even smug) to travel with a compact camera. It is easy to carry and there are no excuses for not taking a few pictures. However Redington and Vicki have digital SLRs with 500mm and 300mm lenses respectively. I became concerned that I would have these pictures with small gray and brown dots I would have explain as spectacular African beasts. I also didn't want to spend the money on cameras and lenses.

Grandpa's 'Old School' Nikon
I was rescued by a fortunate business trip to the US. It so happened I needed to be in Hillsboro to meet with a couple of companies there and had planned to spend a weekend with my Dad and Joanne. When I moved to the UK Joanne was good enough to let me use a portion of her barn to store some of my more cherished possessions. One of these was Grandpa Cushy's old Nikon F. I was in college when I got it and had some fun trying to be a photographer. Finally, I couldn't compete with my brother and couldn't afford the film and processing on a student budget. So for the next 20+ years I dutifully hauled it around with me. When I thought I might be coming to the UK I tried to sell it on EBay but didn't get enough to interest me, so I put it in Joanne's barn and moved here 2 1/2 years ago.

Once I got to Oregon I put my plan into action. I got the camera out of storage. It was in great condition and has a 50mm lens (as pictured) and a 200mm telephoto (no not zoom and still much smaller than my wife's and son's).

History lesson: The Nikon F was the camera that made the SLR market and put Japan firmly in the lead of the camera market over the German's. The Germans produced fine rangefinders cameras like the Leica and Voitlander. After the Nikon F nobody wanted one. The camera is legendary.

Now I knew the battery wouldn't be any good. The battery is only used to operate the light meter. Everything else about the camera is completely manual. I did find a replacement battery in Beaverton but alas the meter was knackered. Some reading on the Internet indicated this was common as the contacts corroded with age. It is easily remedied but the camera must be sent away and as such I didn't have enough time before we went to Africa.

Old School Light Meter.
Plan B: So I turned to the internet to see how much a handheld meter might cost. I was shocked that they were on the order of $200! Now I was getting depressed and desperate. This wasn't helped by a trip to Cosco that revealed a digital SLR package for a very attractive price. Then Joanne came to the rescue when she said she had an old light meter I could use. She dug out an old Voigtlander (a very beautiful design) and her light meter, a DeJur Professional from the mid-late 1950's. It is really very simple to use, set the film speed (ASA) make a light reading and turn the dial to match the line to the meter. Of course I had never used one before. It took a lot of faith, one realizes, before the advent of digital photography, that the film would be properly exposed. I also didn't know if the Nikon shutter speeds were calibrated anymore or if the light meter had lost its calibration. The whole ensemble I dubbed 'Old School'

In any case I bought the last five rolls of slide film ($20 a roll!) from the camera store and I was all set. Here I am in full old school regalia. Vicki and Redington quickly realized my subtle plan. While they were happily clicking away at 3 frames per second with zoom and autofocus and vibration reduction, I would still be making patient meter readings, carefully focusing, and conserving film. I was going to drive them nuts!

Photo credit Redington Morse

The pictures you'll see below are a combination of my compact digital camera and old school Nikon photos. The old school photos were scanned and then processed with
Adobe Photoshop. In the end I was quite happy with the photos. The meter is about 1 stop over exposed which I was generally able to overcome with Photoshop. All of the Old School photos are marked in the caption.

There are a lot of photos here. I hope you enjoy.

First lets see the animals! Click the Elephant to start the slideshow. If don't see anything below be patient it may take some time to load the slideshow. If it moves too fast, pass the mouse over the picture and hit the pause button in the middle and you can advance the pictures manually. This hyperlink will take you to the photo album directly if the slideshow doesn't work or is not visible.

Lake St Lucia with the Hippos and Crocs, Horseback Riding in the Bush

Our hosts at Malala Lodge arranged a morning boat trip to Lake St Lucia for Crocs and Hippos. Because we spent the morning facing into the sun the photography was extra difficult. In the afternoon we went on a horseback ride. (This seems to be a pattern with Vicki and I.) This hyperlink will take you to the photo album directly if the slideshow doesn't work or is not visible.

Battles: Rorke's Drift and Isandlwana

We traveled some distance towards the town of Dundee. As the sign said in our lodge visit the locations of allour stupid battles. There were a lot. The Boers killed the Zulus (Blood River), The Zulus the Brits (Isandlwana), The Brits the Zulus (Rorke's Drift), The Brits the Boers (Talana), and the Brits the Boers.

In this area one was struck with how the whites were exiled in the country on Game Lodges and farms. The black in the towns and in small villages as well as farms. There was tension that I don't think I was imagining. No hostility however and generally friendly people. This hyperlink will take you to the photo album directly if the slideshow doesn't work or is not visible.

Drakensberg (Dragons Mountains) and a Tour of Cave Paintings

We drove on from Dundee to the Drakensberg mountains for another change of scenery. South Africa is huge and in that regard much like the western US, large and mostly arid. The Drakensbergs form a kind of wall around the country of Lesotho. This provided refuge for different tribes and some clans of the Zulu who were persecuted as the Zulu nation rose in power just prior to European settlement. The Zulu Nation was brutal and created a refugee state in modern Lesotho. The King then was known to be wise and treated the people who came well. The country has fallen into a kind of quiet incompetence today.

We spent one day on a hike in the mountains going to a waterfall. The next day we hired Stephen, half Bushman half Zulu, to take us to some cave paintings. The area is famous for them. These are painted by Bushman Shamen to encourage rain. The Shamen also come to stay in the caves for months without food in order to gather their magical powers. He spent most of the time talking of the influence of ancestors and the magic of the Shamen. Stephen has plans to protect the caves and turn them into a place for school children to visit. He is self taught and is sending his sister to University with the money he earns guiding tourists. This hyperlink will take you to the photo album directly if the slideshow doesn't work or is not visible.

An Elephant Encounter

Finally we went to another Game Lodge where they had a couple of rescue Elephants who had become injured and could not be kept in the wild. Here are some photos of us feeding the Elephants. It was quite amazing to be so close to such big creatures. This hyperlink will take you to the photo album directly if the slideshow doesn't work or is not visible.