Forget the camera for now. Let’s just look at composing a picture in the countryside.
Here we are experiencing the river running as a relatively thin thread through beautiful countryside. The angler is far off, and barely visible. He is diminutive in the large landscape, and that landscape is wide open, and it’s vastness is evident:
In the picture above we lose the sense of high mountains. We cannot fully appreciate how high they are, and the degree to which they dominated the river valley that lovely morning. To achieve this, try orienting the picture the other way. In other words take the shot with the camera held sideways:
I recently started wearing sun gloves when out fly-fishing. Here are my personal observations:
Sun protection. I suppose this has to be number one on the list. I started wearing them for this reason alone. I simply didn’t want my hands to look like my grandmother’s did, with large dark spots on the back, and with a leathery look, and regular little bleeding nicks. The gloves seem to do the job well, and considering that sun-cream washes off ones hands, the glove would be the way to go. We have harsh sun conditions here in South Africa, and one finds that particularly at high altitude, you very quickly burn.
Protection from wind and chapping. This was a surprise discovery. Regrettably I am an office person, and when exposed to wind and cold, my hands simply are not as tough as they need to be. I have found that the gloves help with this aspect of things.
A kind and generous friend recently asked me to describe to him in words, the sound of a crowned crane. I suppose it was because I had recently done a short piece on cranes. Perhaps it was because he hasn’t heard a crane before, but on reflection, I think it had more to do with him setting me a writer’s challenge:
The sound of a crane comes on the wind. A wind that whisks through swaying grass, and moans off against the far hill, like air over an open bottle. A wind that briefly rattles the thousand paper leaves of an autumnal London plane, and huskily departs in waves. And then suddenly, and cutting through the wind’s hissing, in far off pines, comes an ever so slightly mournful sound. Guttural and powerful in an understated way, that surprisingly carries the soft tune above and through the swaying, hushing breeze. A tempered rattling and ribbing sound, accompanied by a soulful background whistle, as liquidly tranquil as the voice of a beautiful backing singer, whose silky tones I once fell in love with. “Mahem”. That is the word one can hum to one’s self through the haunting call. A short “Ma” and a slightly rising “Hem”. Each ending call overlapped by the call of the mate, steadily beating her lovely wings beside her partner as the graceful birds first come into sight over the hill. Fighting the wind, but with a style and grace that matches the music of their ever approaching call. They descend, and alight with neatly folding wings, as they also fold away their final pretty call, and settle on the tapestry of gently rolling veld.
That’s my best shot at it !
Once every two years we go back to the North Eastern Cape.
It’s not often enough, I know, but we figured, when we started this thing all those years ago, that we could sell every second year to wives and family. In fact we were confident that we could ensure the event would take place if we did it seldom enough. And we were right I suppose, because we have indeed been back every second year like clockwork.
I grew up within sight of this mountain, I live within sight of it,and a great deal of my fly-fishing is conducted within sight of it.
I am not quite as obsessed with cranes as a fishing buddy of mine is. His ringtone on his mobile is a honking crane, and often when we are fishing quietly side by side, in response to a small passing speck in the sky, he will blurt out “wattled!”, referring to his identification of the species.
But they are the most stunningly graceful birds, I will admit. Their presence on our waters is a rich blessing for reasons I struggle to describe. Perhaps it is their size, perhaps it is their muted calls, perhaps it is the rarity of them, or their sensitivity to a fast degrading environment. Either way, they are a treasure, and beautiful to behold.
We get three species in these parts:
The Blue Crane
A hand carving of the Blue Crane, completed by my father (DP Fowler) just a few weeks ago.