All shot in our little garden. Today as is and tomorrow some photoshopped cross breeds.
All shot in our little garden. Today as is and tomorrow some photoshopped cross breeds.
Life is full of cactus but you don’t have to sit on it!
Guesthouse ‘Fraai Uitzicht’ (‘Beautiful View”) in the Klaas Voogds hamlet in the Western Cape, South Africa does not only offer the guests stunning views from the restaurant terrace or amazing surprises to look at in the own garden but also a look at the guesthouse itself is worthwhile to stay there for a couple of days. And than I’m not going to describe the mouthwatering dishes that are prepared in the kitchen. This superb guesthouse qualifies with ease for five stars but the owners stick to their 4 stars for marketing reasons. Well …. let’s have a look.
The hike (approx. 5 km) took a few hours and we had to climb and descent rocks, walk through a fern forest and follow a stream but the reward was amazing and refreshing: the hidden waterfall of Stanford, South Africa and only the very, very privileged know about it. Not that we are that ‘very, very privileged’ but our friends are and they have, after 16 years Stanford, obtained the key for the gate. A paradise for whoever want to take photographs of waterfalls and streaming water; frogs and other creatures, fynbos and other precious plants. Well we guess that the Garden of Eden must have looked alike. Our time was limited this Sunday morning for there were also lunch arrangements but we definitely will return for a day or longer to picture it all.
Virtually every day I picture flowers in our garden. Me and Yvonne are privileged to live in an area with a year-round floral display. Most of the pictures are erased while they are still on the memory-stick of the camera; some of the others by second thought on my iMac. Flowers are natural art; especially when you look more closely. It’s fascinating! And it’s not only the flowers …….
Starting from scratch is what I like. When I started this blog (see ‘About’ page) and this ‘new career’ at the age of 61 I never thought to make a lot of money out of it. Let’s see where it all leads to, was more the idea. Yvonne, as always supportive, wasn’t sure about it either; neither was she with her own jewelry. Starting a business is always some kind of a gamble. I did it in the seventhies with dealing in second hand goods between England and Holland and when the market went downhill I got a job (PR) in Bath, England and there I was asked by a Dutch mayor newspaper as a journalist and started for the first time a very serious career that lasted for more than 20 years as a free lancer. Everybody in my surroundings declared me for mad for there was nothing more than dry pieces of bread to earn in that profession. And that is true but also a challenge to do it different. And I did, with patience and living soberly (=understatement…) and it took 7 years of battling against all odds before I got the more profitable assignments. Well to make a long story short; I stopped (at the end of 1999) just in time (before the Internet took over) with 30 well paid free lancers working for me. But retiring at the age of 48 is not in my blood and we both decided to take on the challenge to move from Holland to South Africa. Without the idea of what to do over here we bought a small neglected farm in the Klaas Voogds area near Robertson in the Western Cape where we discovered that the weed overgrown cactus garden was a historical one created by South African cactus pioneer and amateur botanist Marthinus Malherbe and one of the cacti dated back to 1910. Without any market research, botanical knowledge, business plan or whatever we decided to restore and extend this garden; just for our own pleasure. When that was on the rails and inspired as we were by the story-telling culture of our neighbors we also created a maze (well the 10 hectares needed to be filled up….) with story-telling objects as orientating points towering above the hedges. What did we know about mazes and thanks to this lack of knowledge we created a truly unique hedge-maze which was not only the largest hedge-maze in the world but also consisted a cactus labyrinth and did not have a central point but several story-telling areas where visitors were invited to find their way to the next visible one somewhere in the distance…. Later we added near the cactus gardens a Philosophers Garden and a hiking trail. The concept was unique and a cactus garden with an outdoor collection of over 2500 different succulent plant species from all over the globe attracted a lot of merely overseas visitors. VIPs of the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, AZ on a botanical tour in South Africa were unanimous in stating in diverse publications that ‘Soekershof’ was by far the best garden visit they experienced in South Africa. A reporter of the Sunday Times (UK) headed: “Best Garden in Western Cape” and notorious Irish landscaper Diarmuid Gavin (involved in Chelsea Flower Show) stated in public “Now I know where South Africans get their ideas from for their submissions to the Chelsea Flower Show”. But … it was not the success we hoped for. We hopelessy misjudged local tourism politics that does not like to deal/promote attractions initiated by foreigners. That we had to battle five years for a proper road sign was the least of all challenges; that the local tourism bureau liked to distract visitors to go to other (locally owned businesses) and provided wrong road directions was a severe problem and costed us dearly (modestly estimated: R 1-million in 10 yrs). And it was 7 days per week hard working. We were glad last year when on a Sunday afternoon a couple came in with interest in buying and 4 days later it was all settled at the attorney. We did not make money out of it neither did we have a loss except when we start to count our own invested time…. We bought a nice house in Stanford and a precious collection of succulent plants we took with us is growing nicely in our new small garden. We decided after the move to take one year Sabbatical and we loved all of it including the flight to Europe (hadn’t been there for 11 years) and Americas earlier this year. We needed a break for sure but also knew that we couldn’t sit down for the rest of our lives; even when we can afford it. Yvonne started to make her jewelry; earrings, necklaces and rings of sterling silver with objects made of South African Earth and crushed rocks (natural glued with plant material) and Swarovsky gems added. The latest collection made in co-junction (advice) with The Little Gem in Hermanus which shop also has the exclusive regional retail rights and also takes care for nationwide distribution. Although only in the shop for a few weeks the jewelry sells quite well (she is already ordered to produce a second larger range). Silly enough we understand that South Africans don’t like to buy locally made but people from abroad like to buy ‘Made in South Africa’…., well this is only a first impression but also supported by several retailers we spoke with in the past months…
In my career as journalist I learned to work with photo equipment (ended up with Minoltas, Canons, Hasselblad and Pentax 6×7 plus all lenses, filters, etc.) and I sold it all with the business. It was late 2007 when I bought a Sony snapshooter (Cybershot 7.2) to make some pictures of our garden for online marketing etc. Made thousands of pictures with it and you can see them on our FB-page (still garden related). If you scroll back to September of this year and earlier you will see the pics we made with it and since the purchase of present equipment you will see an increase in the quality of the photographs if I may say so myself. I am still educating myself with Photoshop and have to find my way in it and think it might be different directions: First pictures as is; second cartoon-like (photoshopped) pictures; third pictures with added graphics (see also yesterday posting) and fourth (and most challenging): photoshopped pictures that look (on first sight) as is. And this last ‘speciality’ of which you also see an example on top of this page, has caused some interested parties to pop up. Well one assignment is in and the second will be discussed later today. And there was an email enquiry coming in from a gallery-owner with galleries in Dubai and Marseille (for the graphical ones) but I’ve put that on hold; I’m not that far yet. Like to take it step after step.
In chronical order here an example of each:
Virtually every day you can see me in our small garden shooting. I merely shoot flowers and every now and than also a bird. My weapon-of-mass-imagination is a Sony A77VQ with a few lenses. This camera suits me well and it does everything I want. I shoot in RAW-format (Sony’s JPEG needs some quality improvements) and after the shooting I perform a pre-selection before I download and process the pictures in Adobe Photoshop CS6. For some of the flowers it means a dissection into elements (stamens, etc.) which I use for elementary images or ‘imaginaries’ as I prefer to name them. I love flowers and nature but don’t ask me names of specific species; just being in a garden catching fragrances and touching and capturing nature’s beauties is a Feast. Here are some of the recent pictures of flowers. We have around 600 to 700 different succulent plants from around the globe in our outdoor collection including cacti.