Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Richtersveld: Kokerboomkloof

During the night we heard the first drops of rain coming in behind the cold front, and when the alarm went off well before dawn, a quick peek outside the tent showed the weather had closed in on us, with low cloud and steady rain, as well as distressing signs of water leakage into my tent. No dawn photography would be possible today, and with a chill wind swirling outside, the sleeping bag deserved my full attention again.

By 9 a.m. the rain had lifted enough for us to walk around and start exploring. With the wind swirling, the clouds were moving rapidly bringing sporadic rain, but occasionally a small gap would open, and let a beautiful shaft of light through to illuminate the boulders with an incredible glow. Seeing the incredible changes in the light, we quickly scrambled amongst the rocks to find a good spot where we hoped would reveal a great view if a gap in the clouds would oblige us by shining on a particular koppie. Fortunately I had a full waterproof suit with me, so it wasn't too much of a problem to hang around in the rain.  Dave, on the other hand, had only a waterproof jacket, and had a pretty cold and soggy time while waiting.

It wasn't very long before the rain lifted enough for us to quickly pull the cameras out of their bags, set them up on the tripods, and compose our images in anticipation of the light. Alas, the rain arrived heavily again before the light, and the cameras were quickly put away, to wait for the next gap. Our patience eventually paid off with the rain lifting just before a beautiful glow of warm light illuminated the koppie that we were 'aiming' at. With moisture still heavy in the air, a subtle rainbow shone across the width of the koppie, resulting in one of my favourite images of the trip. Printed as a large panorama, i think this image may well land up on my wall at home.

Kokerboomkloof: Rainbow on the kloof
Richtersveld: Rainbow on the kloof, at Kokerboomkloof
Over the next hour or two we had a great time exploring the kloof as the light changed minute by minute.

Streaky Koppie
Richtersveld: Streaky Koppie at Kokerboomkloof
Dying Kokerboom of Kokerboomkloof
Richtersveld: Dying Kokerboom at Kokerboomkloof
The rocks of Kokerboomkloof
Richtersveld: Multi-toned rocks of Kokerboomkloof
After an exploratory climb in the early afternoon, we decided that our late afternoon photo would be from the top of a koppie behind the camp site which had a particularly interesting tree growing out of a crack in the rock at the top of the koppie, and the changing light might make for an unusual image (you can see the small tree at the top of the koppie in the first of the three photos above). Having seen a sunrise photograph from Hougaard Malan which used that particular tree, I thought it made for a particularly compelling foreground.  Hougaard was kind enough to point us in the right direction, so we could locate it.  The last portion of the climb was particularly tricky, and with the rain still moving through, extra slippery. If I had been by myself, I would never had completed the last few meters to the tree, but fortunately Dave is a more adept climber than me, and kindly came back for my camera pack and tripod, so I only had to slither on my bum the last stretch and hoist myself over the edge to get to the tree.

The next hour was the same routine as the morning - waiting for a gap in the rain above our heads, to coincide with a gap in the clouds on the horizon to let the late afternoon sun shine through.  It was such a promising spot that even without the anticipated cross lighting, it was still worth a snap or two.

Kokerboomkloof: Singing in the rain
Richtersveld: Singing in the Rain at Kokerboomkloof
After a couple of mediocre photos, suddenly it all came together, with the rain moving off to one side, and the tree brilliantly lit in front of us.  This time an intense rainbow appeared, seemingly coming from right under our feet.  The light and rainbow were only there for a few seconds, but it was enough to capture probably my favourite image of the trip. 

Kokerboomkloof: Warmth and colour after the storm
Richtersveld: Warmth and Colour after the storm at Kokerboomkloof
A few minutes later, the kloof was clear, with mostly blue skies. 

All quiet after the storm
Richtersveld: All quiet after the storm at Kokerboomkloof

The three images above were all taken within a span of about 20 minutes, giving some idea of the variable nature of the weather.  As quickly as it had cleared, the rain returned by the bucketful, and it was time to call it a day, and slither back off the koppie.

Cooking dinner in the rain at Kokerboomkloof proved a rather miserable affair. For some reason (probably the strong wind on the first afternoon), we had not put up the gazebo, so the only cover we could find was just outside the 'ablutions' (Kokerboomkloof of course being a complete 'bring your own water' site). Essentially a reed covering to protect against the scorching summer heat, it was no match for the persistent rain. With water well entrenched in the gas cooker heads, as well as my gas bottle seemingly running out of gas (after only 4 days!), we had to haul out Dave's backup bottle and take turns with the pots. 

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