28 May Zulu Shields, Snakes, Crocodiles and the Valley of 1000 Hills
Crocodiles, snakes and Zulu shields
Who doesn’t hanker after photographing crocodiles, snakes and a traditional Zulu shields maker, not to mention Zulu dancing? If you do then you need to visit PheZulu. Forty minutes drive inland from the City of Durban, South Africa in the green KwaZulu-Natal hills, lies an extraordinary experience. There are traditional Zulu shields makers, a crocodile farm, game park with private guided tours, a restaurant and a traditional Zulu dancing show. All in one small area.
Traditional Zulu shields made by Joseph at PheZulu
When we went in, Joseph kindly let us take some photographs of him working. We had to up the ISO slightly whilst indoors, but we got some great depth-of-field by shooting wide open with some close-ups of the parts used in the shields, and some with shields in the foreground and Joseph working out of focus in the background.
Joseph hard at work making Zulu Shields
Zulu spears ready to go with the shields
The restaurant overlooks another absolutely phenomenal view and there’s a small curio shop which used to be in a beautiful rondavel – (a traditional circular African dwelling with a conical thatched roof) – near the entrance but sadly, only recently, burned down completely after being struck by lightning. This is another place where we love to do pans.
They also do Segway tours including a tour where you ride around the game park right up next to giraffes and other wild South African animals. We did the short one first and Nicole introduced us to the segways and how they work. What we didn’t expect was going up and down steep banks that would be a real effort to climb up. It was brilliant fun and she was very patient as I was a bit wobbly in places.
Valley of 1000 Hills
Valley of 1000 Hills. It sounds so gentle and not like anything that would be photography-worthy but that is not the case. In the right light it’s beautiful. The small restaurant / café is a regular haunt for us whilst we’re in Durban as it’s a short drive from Tim’s mom’s. You can have your coffee and food (at ridiculously low prices) whilst enjoying a view that never gets tiring. It was previously called HillBillys but has changed hands and become Fern Gulley. We don’t know what happened to the last people but they used to have a restaurant training programme, a variety of animals, including pigs, birds, and a talking parakeet who only used to talk to Rachel the previous owner.
The new owners have done wonderful things with the café and it is more inviting with a small gift shop. The views is one of our favourites – I (Ally) took one of my first digital pans with our old Kodak DCS – one of our first digital SLRs and a print of it still has pride of place on our lounge wall.
Valley of 1000 hills South Africa, made up of multiple images and put together in Adobe Photoshop
Before you get to the cafe there are small rondavels which are rented by small businesses. There’s a mixture of jewellery, beadwork, leather goods, trinkets, clothing and bags, as well as the Puzzle Place which has been there for years – think wooden puzzles that drive you crazy! Amazing stuff!
Bracketing and Pans
We sat in the restaurant one evening towards sunset with tea and our cameras poised. Whilst we were admiring the view and in-between Tim’s swearing at his scratchy eye as he’s getting used to contact lenses (don’t get me started on how long it takes to put them in!), we were noticing how the light and the shadows were changing. We knew the haze over the top of the hills would be quite heavy although the way the light models the closer hills, fantastic, but with the fabulous dehaze filter in Photoshop we knew this wouldn’t be a problem. There were cattle grazing in the foreground so we made sure we got those in some of the images to add to the rural feel. I tend to bracket more when shooting skies, but Tim doesn’t, or if he does, he does it manually. I prefer the bracketing function as it means you are more likely to shoot exactly the same image, rather than move the camera a bit whilst you adjust the exposure settings. This showed up when we got back and Tim had only 3gb to download and I had 6gb!!
Wait for the landscape to reveal itself
There is so much to photograph in Natal, not just Zulu shields, and so easy to miss when driving around seeing green hill after green hill, but sit down at a coffee shop, watch the world go by and wait for the sun to get lower and the beautiful landscape will come to life in front of your eyes as the hills reveal themselves.