National Geographic

Although cars are by far our favourite subjects, we do do other commercial photography.  Every photographer has a bucket list – that list of images we are going to shoot “one day” – the illusive “perfect” image. Every photographer also has a check  list of clients they dream of working for during their career. Our journey as a team stated some six years ago when we entered into a joint venture to photograph the construction of and progress on the development of the Square Kilometer Array (SKA) radio telescope being built in South Africa. SKA is rumoured to be the biggest global scientific project of the century and South Africa would at completion of the project host approximately 80% of the antennae that would make up the array. We visited the site many times and spend as many happy hours under the chilly Karoo night skies photographing the antennae standing proud as one of South Africa’s biggest scientific feats to date. We knew back then that we were photographing history in the making while not underestimating the privilege of being the only photographers allowed on site. We knew that our images would go out into the world, but little did we know that one of our images would be the link to our bucket list item – the cover of National Geographic magazine. I would be lying if I said that I could contain my excitement, when the mail came asking if we had made a specific image of the first  MeerKat antenna photographed under the Milky-way. The particular image was a stacked panoramic of the Antenna under a 180degree arch of the Milky-way. We would have been ecstatic with just a feature of our image in National Geographic,  but we asked if we could go on assignment for a story called “searching for life”.  There are quite a few logistical challenges to getting to the SKA site –  the remote location being the least of them. We would have to have our equipment tested and a new RFI license issued as it had been about 3 years since our last visit to the site. The brief from National Geographic was also specific  – we need to find a window of opportunity when the skies would be clear, with no moon for astro-landscapes and then with some moonlight for star-trails and it all had to happen as a matter of urgency. The perfect opportunity would prevent itself less than a week after the first email appeared in my inbox. A near full moon would light the landscapes but set at 01H00 giving us the dark skies needed for the astro-landscapes and as an added bonus two nights would be clear without any cloud cover. I always find myself at a loss of words when trying to describe  the experience of photographing under a starry Karoo night sky. The very dark arid landscape comes with its own unique smells and except for the odd jackal call, it is eerily quiet.  One of our pano’s became not only the main cover image, but was also featured on many of the 38 Local language covers for the March/April 2019 edition…..

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