The beauty of Joburg by night

Joburg at night?  Are you crazy? I hear you cry.  Aren’t I meant to be locked up safely in my house?  Well, yes, there are certain places in Joburg that you shouldn’t go alone, and certainly not after dark.  Down-town is one of these places.  It’s an up and coming area, but it’s still pretty run down.  Even during the day there are some area’s that you shouldn’t go alone.  So I absolutely jumped at the chance to go along to the first night walk of the Joburg Photowalkers held in Braamfontein.

Basically, a bunch of people that are interested in photography get together and walk around town, shooting pictures as they go.  It’s a great way to practice, meet people and experience parts of the town that are sometimes off-limits to us.

I’m very new to DSLR photography, and have recently only just learnt to work my Canon instead of using my auto setting.  It’s still all very technical, and on the night I found it very frustrating that I couldn’t get the photos that I wanted.   I’m limited by skill, but also my lens. The good news is that I am learning more every time I pick up my camera and I’m getting a new lens for Christmas! Woop

I didn’t feel at all unsafe whilst we were walking around Braamies – we had security personnel escorting us, and we were a pretty big group.  Strength in numbers and all that.  The security guys were so patient with us and did such a great job at keeping us safe and rounding up the stragglers that were engrossed in their art.  We stuck out like a sore thumb lugging our tripods around (you need them for low light photography) and you could see some guys gawping at us all when they saw us all – I could almost hear them thinking “those crazy white people are gonna get robbed”.  Luckily, our guys looked after us and we were all fine.

We spent a lot of time taking pictures of the beautiful Nelson Mandela Bridge, which is usually lit up with all kinds of colours, but on this particular evening was red.  Then the most exciting part of the photowalk came.  We walked through Braamfontein and snapped away then, but then it had been arranged that we have access to the rooftop of the Orion building – a 17 storey high rise.  We got the lift to the top, and then were faced with a 20 foot climb up a steel ladder fixed to the wall.  A mean feat when you are carrying a big old camera, tripod and are wearing flip flops (I’m so wearing suitable footwear next time!).

A lot of people hung back, and who can blame them – the ladder seemed to go on forever!  I love doing crazy stuff, and so I hauled myself up to the top of the ladder and was met with the most amazing view of a city that I have ever seen.  There was a completely uninterrupted panoramic view of the whole of Joburg.  The city is so beautiful at night – you can’t see the dirt, the poverty or the day to day struggle that so many live with daily, but you could  feel the heart shining up at you.  I was in awe of this beautiful place; so full of hope.  I took pictures and then I just sat and took it all in.  It was very serene up there.

I’ve only been here for 11 weeks but I feel Joburg getting under my skin.  I love this place already.  I love Central London for exactly the same feeling it gives me.  In some cities you really have to look closely to see the beauty.  Some places have amazing landmarks and buildings like London or Rome, but in Joburg it is the people that make this place so amazing.  Everywhere you turn there is pain and happiness walking hand in hand.  It is life changing being here.  I love it.

I didn’t get as many shots as I would have liked, as I spent most of the evening testing different settings to see what results they produced, but that’s the beauty of going with the Photowalkers – there are amateurs and professionals along for the trip and everyone is willing to offer tips and advice should you want or need it.  You don’t need to have a fancy DSLR either – people use all kinds of cameras, including their blackberry and iPhones, and some people just came for the walk.  Looking at everyone’s pics  online inspires me to keep up the work with my camera to get as good as they are.  I can’t wait until the next photowalk!

(some of the buildings are blue due to the blue neon light from the Orion sign at the top of it’s building)


12 thoughts on “The beauty of Joburg by night

  1. Use the “A” setting (for aperture) and open the aperture by cranking it down as low as it can go (usu about 3 or thereabouts on a kit lens). You can’t zoom, as this will close the aperture. Hold the camera very still / use tripod or support and take photo…

    Also, try the view from the polo lounge / pool @ the westcliff hotel.

    • Thanks – that’s what I was doing! Although on my 400d the lowest is 3.5. I actually prefer to shoot in manual though as that is how I was taught. It’s lots of fun trying all of the other settings and seeing what effects I can achieve. I have been to the Westcliff (I’ve written a post about it somewhere) but stupidly didn’t take a proper camera with me. I’m definitely planning another outing in January to get some shots – it’s just a shame there will be no jacaranda’s this time!

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