Friday, February 18, 2011

U2 in Cape Town!!!

We've been waiting since 1998 for them to return & they're finally here!!  We saw them in Joburg, on their PopMart tour - which was a bit of an odd excursion, + that stadium was miserable.  This time we did the Fan Walk to the magnificent Cape Town stadium, on a *perfect* summer's evening, with a full moon rising over our beautiful city...

The Computicket website said "no video cameras & no cameras with large detachable flashes", so we pitched up all set to capture the show with our strategically understated gear.  Only to be told that they'd meant to say "no detachable *lenses*" & so we couldn't take our cameras in!  Anger, denial, misery, dejection (& some more anger) later, we returned to the stadium (cameras back in the car) & found that if we'd only put them in my bag, we could've walked straight through security & proceeded as intended - like all the other people that managed to get in with their digital SLRs!!  Can time Really heal all wounds?? :(

But if there can be an up-side to something this painful, it's that we were forced to focus more on the show itself, rather than on taking photos all the time - although we ended up doing that with our cellphones anyway since we just can't help ourselves!  The stadium acoustics left a lot to be desired, but the stage & lighting was absolutely mind-boggling & the guys put on an incredible performance.  The duet with Yvonne Chaka Chaka was superb!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Kev's new toys visit our favourite hill in the Karoo

So the Seriously Cool Toys have arrived: a Nikon D3S, a Hasselblad H4D-40 & a bunch of Byoootiful pieces of glass to stick on the front of each!  That makes for one VERY happy brother, not to mention an incredibly proud sister, revelling - as usual - in the glow of said brother's sublime toy prowess & overall awesomeness :) 

The obvious place to go to give the new kids a good run-around?  That magic spot in the Karoo that's been the source of so much trouble for me over the last 18 years: the Sutherland field station of the South African Astronomical Observatory.  In fact, it was upon this very hill that we decided (about 7 years ago) that Kev ought to make a living doing photography...  As always - be careful what you wish for ;)

Besides a dramatic afternoon thunderstorm, a pretty sunset & an encounter with a magnificent martial eagle on our way up from the town, we had a huge amount of fun photographing this incredible rock!  It seems to have burst open after falling off the back of a spaceship, or perhaps it was cracked open by a grumpy troll?  However it got to be down there, over the eastern side of the plateau, it's just a fascinating subject!

The modern, technological equivalent is SALT - the 11-metre Southern African Large Telescope.  A delightful beast in its own right, even if it's been hell to nurse through kindergarten...  Years of effort by a number of extraordinary people have gone into getting every sub-system ready - may the data soon flow!

The next biggest telescope on the continent is our 1.9-metre, equatorially-mounted battleship, affectionately known as the 74-inch, or the Radcliffe Reflector (for those that take this stuff too seriously).  Even tarted up in bright orange, at the age of 72, she still exudes mechanical elegance & unmitigated charm.

There probably aren't too many places of work that one would happily drive 4 hours to get to on a weekend...

Monday, February 7, 2011

An icy lake in Missouri & a 1am visit to Times Square

It's taken ages, but here at last are some pics from my New Year trip to America!  So lovely to spend a bit more time with John's absolutely wonderful mom, a truly delightful soul :)  Great to catch up with the whole family over there & to get to stay out at the lake (Lake Lotawana in Missouri) again.  No bald eagles this time, but we did enjoy a few visits from the (ginormous!) Great Blue Heron...  Fun too to see how crazy these 'Markans get over Xmas lights - yikes!

We were entertained daily by the ongoing battle between the liquid & solid phases of water out on the lake.  Each morning there'd be new ice stretching inward from the shore, trying to claim as much of the surface as possible before the morning sun could resume it's fight for the liquid cause.

Although viciously cold most mornings, it was endlessly fascinating to go outside & play around with the ice in its intriguing array of forms.  "Non-destructive testing" wasn't a hallmark of our experimental approach ;)

The way my flights worked out, I ended up with about half a night to kill in New York on my way home.  Sad to be leaving, hauling all my luggage (admittedly there wasn't much, but still) & not exactly dressed for a windy 14 F (-10 C, ignoring wind chill), it still seemed silly to waste the opportunity to explore so I caught a Super Shuttle into the city & hopped off near Times Square.  Very cool to see all that & thanks to Starbucks for the life-sustaining latte that saved my hands when my gloves couldn't!

When all enthusiasm for stomping around the freezing city abandoned me, I caught a cab to JFK & tackled my next challenge: passing several more hours while waiting for the SAA check-in counter to open.  Turns out I probably could've gone straight into the lounge (as it's actually outside security!) & made myself at home, but instead I earned my "dodgy airport-sleeper" badge - albeit via a rather miserable attempt...  Ah, the many joys of travel :)