While most of our photography and video work is in the wildlife, conservation and travel fields (http://www.rogerandpatdelaharpe.com) we do have some commercial clients as well, like Ardmore Ceramic Art. We have worked with them for many years, shooting their wonderfully creative interpretations of wildlife and African life through the medium of ceramics. You’ve got to love their work: Passion comes through in boat loads. The creativity! And an insight into both the natural world and African culture beyond your wildest imaginings. I have grown to love it – we have a few small pieces at home but much of it is out of our reach. Ceramics produced in the Ardmore studio have ben given as state gifts to, inter alia, Bill Clinton, Jacques Chirac, Queen Elizabeth II and Empress Michiko of Japan.
Ardmore was the brainchild of Feé Halstead, a ceramicist living in the foothills of the Drakensberg in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa in the mid 1980s. She befriended the daughter of the family’s housekeeper, Bonnie Ntshalintshali, who was a polio victim. Feé and Bonnie quickly became friends and under Feé’s guidance, Bonnie quickly developed into a very talented artist. And so the idea of of Ardmore Ceramics was born. Other young artists were keen to join and the studio grew into the formidable organisation it is today.
In 2012 we were involved in the photography for their stunning coffee table book, Ardmore – We Are Because of Others, which is available directly from Ardmore or from Amazon. Aside from the many photographs showcasing the artists’ stunning work, it tells the story of this extraordinary studio, of Feé and of the talented and passionate artists behind the work.
These days Ardmore is based in the KwaZulu Midlands in Caversham near the small town of Howick where their artists are given training, direction, materials, a studio and a guaranteed market for their work. They are also supported by a skilled marketing and administrative team. Accolades for there work have poured in, Christie’s describing it as “modern day collectables”.
So, what has all this to do with Manfrotto and more importantly with Manfrotto bags? Well, on many of the shoots we do for Ardmore it’s the “real deal”: Lights, tripods (Manfrotto of course), reflectors etc are all part of the scene but sometimes, both when doing small shoots at Ardmore and when one needs to be inconspicuous and unobtrusive on other projects, we leave all that at home and take along our diminutive Panasonic GH4. It’s tiny, light and the best part is that you really don’t look like a “Pro” photographer when you use it. And here’s where the little Street Shoulder Bag comes in. The GH4 fits in perfectly, there’s room for an additional battery, a lens and a few memory cards, and you are out there shooting pro quality video and stills without anyone realising what’s happening. There is a bonus: it looks good – quite stylish actually, with its muted colours and fabrics. I like it. The Street Shoulder bag will certainly be part of our kit in the future.
We were out on our mountain bikes in the Karkloof, myself and riding buddies Laurence and Tony, exploring the miles of single track that have been carved out of the forests and plantations surrounding the little town of Howick in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands, South Africa.
The ride had taken us down the side of the Karkloof River, past Woodhouse Falls (named after a doctor who’d slipped at the top of them and plunged to his death), onwards to the fabulously high and remote Karkloof Falls and then up, up, and more up to the forestry airfield that would be the turning point – down, down, down on some fabulous, smooth, flowing single track to our cars that we’d left at the Karkloof Club, home to the very popular Karkloof Classic mountain bike race.
There were two sections that I was looking forward to: Boomslang and Camel’s Back. Camel’s Back was first. Somewhat rocky, technical and fast. Brilliant! Laurence was in front as we peeled off the forestry road onto the single track. The race was on… No chance of passing him though. The track was too narrow, too technical and Laurence is no slouch. It’s actually quite hectic. And rough.
But the cameras were OK in the ManfrottoOff Road Hiker Backpack, which, although designed as a hiking and photography backpack, works nicely when mountain biking as well. There’s place for water bottles on the sides, cameras in a padded compartment at the bottom and place in the top for jackets, flashes and other goodies. On the belt are two pouches, where I keep things I need while on the move – including my GoPro Hero 4 Black – easy to grab for a quick shot as we ride. As I said, Camel’s back is a technical ride – lots of rocky sections, drop-offs, tight turns and the occasional smooth bits where you can pick up a bit of speed, the downhill heritage of my Morewood Shova ST bike very much appreciated in this gnarly terrain.
The Boomslang is a very different run though. Named after a poisonous, tree-dwelling snake (boomslang literally means tree sale) it twists and turns; snaking its way through the eucalyptus plantations, providing an exhilarating ride. The track is smooth and fast, the many corners built up with berms to help maintain speed through the corners. It’s not technical – just fast and delightful – the sort of place you can get your ears back and just let the bike have its head. We paused at the end of the section, laughing and giggling, the adrenalin pumping from the occasional near “interaction” with a tree or two. We took it easy on the ride back to base and cold beer. Chatting, laughing. What a great way to end a Sunday afternoon.
I must admit that I’m really enjoying the Off Road Hiker Backpack. It’s comfortable, holds a pile of stuff and sits firmly on your body. The innovative “camera strap” in front is very useful and makes carrying a camera while hiking, easy. It also look nothing like a camera pack which is a great – no point in advertising all that camera gear. Clearly someone thought about things when it was going through the design phase. Hooks, straps, clips, pockets, and fittings to hold tripods and monopods all go towards making this a very useful item.
Have a look at more of our photography at www.rogerandpatdelaharpe.com
We are parked on the southern bank of the Mara River in Serengeti National Park in Tanzania watching a slow build up of wildebeest and zebra that we hope are going to brave the river crossing to the North bank. We’ve had 2 crossings this morning and have already got some great images but we keep pushing, hoping to perhaps shoot one of the huge resident crocodiles hunting for breakfast. On the seat next to me is the Manfrotto Backpack L and it’s had a really hard couple of months traveling with us to some very harsh destinations in Africa.
The backpack arrived at our home some months ago, just before our trip to Odzala in the Republic of the Congo to shoot photographs for African Icons (www.africanicons.co.za), the new book we are working on. (It’s about the 21 must see things and places in Africa). I deliberated long and hard as to whether to take it along instead of my regular camera bag as it’s not good to take untried stuff on an important and very expensive shoot but in the end my reckless side prevailed and against better judgement packed my Nikon D800, D7100, P330, 24-70 f2,8, AF-S 80-400, 10,5mm fish eye, SB-900 flash, laptop, hard drives, chargers and various other bits and pieces into it, strapped my carbon fibre tripod and monopod onto the front and headed to the airport. Surprise, surprise. It fitted into the overhead lockers although on some aircraft I needed to pack the monopod and tripod separately which is no big deal.
With its slightly unconventional design and versatile strap system, the backpack is a little different to the norm, and so requires some getting used to. The bottom compartment contains the cameras and lenses and the flexible access flap allows easy and quick access to the contents in various ways. The top compartment houses the flash, P330, battery chargers and various other bits and pieces. Small compartments on the front and sides of the pack are useful for torches, filters, releases and other bits and pieces and then, right down the back is a padded laptop compartment. Accessing the camera gear is quick, easy and logical. Nice and compact and well thought out. It doesn’t look particularly like it contains cameras and so does not attract unwanted attention which is great when you are trying to not look like a photographer as so often happens when you are traveling to remote areas.
Shame, it was a bit of a baptism by fire for the backpack. As mentioned we’ve been to Odzala (http://www.wilderness-safaris.com/countries/congo) and then to the Great Rift Valley, Amboselli and Satao Eleria Conservancy in Kenya (http://www.sataoelerai.com), the Serengeti in Tanzania (http://africanicons.co.za/the-icons/serengeti/), Kruger National Park (http://africanicons.co.za/the-icons/kruger-national-park/) and Madikwe Game Reserve (http://rogerandpatdelaharpe.com/blog/photo-safari-wild-dogs-of-madikwe/) in South Africa and Mashatu Game Reserve in Botswana (http://mashatu.com) and the bag has performed flawlessly. We are thrilled with it and it will be with us as we shoot the rest of the 21 African Icons we are working on (http://africanicons.co.za/the-icons/icons-list/).