SHOOT! A Family Adventure

Words & Photos: Jacques Marais

Sometimes even adventure photographers need to take a break, but that definitely does not mean the camera has to stay at home. Here’s how to get some great holiday snaps of you and the family having fun in the great outdoors.

Photo credit: Jacques Marais

Nothing quite rates up there with a good, clean family adventure. And I’m sure you all know that when I say ‘clean’, I do not mean devoid of mud, sweat and the odd tear. Kids of any age only need the gentlest of nudges to get them outside and, once they’re outdoors, the fun is sure to find them.

The recent school holidays ended up being a combo of work and play (I suppose that is the reality for most photojournalists). Myself, Karyn, Beth (9) and Robert (6) road-tripped via the Cederberg into the Eastern Cape heartland in search of MTB routes to crank and mountain hikes to explore.

Although the itinerary needed to focus on these adventures, it wasn’t difficult to find family destinations along the way. Eight Bells Mountain Inn nestled in the Ruiterbos Valley region; Arminel Hotel in Hogsback; Tsitsikamma Village Inn in Storms River Village … it does not get better than this.

And the best way to keep the rest of the family happy while you’re in search of those definitive shots? Make sure they each have a camera with which to capture the journey. But make sure the kids are using water-resistant and shock-proof compacts, otherwise this may just turn into a rather expensive exercise!

Image 1: Horsing About

The Action: Beth, Robs and two mates waiting to go on a morning horse ride at the stunning Eight Bells Mountain Inn near Mossel Bay.
The Shot: Easy enough to set up. The kids were completely fascinated by the horses in the paddock, and this gave me enough time to frame the shot before calling them.
The Technique: The use of a polariser, combined with stopping down by one stop after metering on the sky, accentuates the colours
The Specifications: 1/250th sec @ f8; Nikon D700 with 16-35mm lens; ISO 200; WB Setting (Sun); diffused fill-in flash from SB900; AE Setting: Under-exposure by 1 stop.
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Photo credit: Jacques Marais

Image 2: In the Footsteps of Fairies

The Action: Robs and Beth hiking along one of the verdant forest trails within the fantasy world of Hogsback’s arboretum. I did make sure they dressed like pixies …
The Shot: I wanted to compact the depth of field on this image to isolate the kids, and used a long lens and wide aperture to achieve this.
The Technique: As I did not have a tripod with me, it was necessary to lean the super-zoom lens against a sturdy tree trunk. I also shot a number of images to ensure I got at least a few sharp photos.
The Specifications: 1/250th sec @ f5.6; D700mm with 80-400mm lens; ISO 400; WB Setting: (Auto).
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Image 3: Arch Energies

The Action: The hike up to Wolfsberg Arch through the eponymous cracks makes for one of SA’s most dramatic day walks. Start about three hours before dawn so you can be there for sunrise.
The Shot: This one would be pretty difficult to mess up. A combo of perfect light and dramatic rock formations mean all you have to do is compose and push the shutter.
The Technique: Always remove your polarising filter in warm light, as you do not want to lose a couple of stops while hand-holding.
The Specifications: 1/80th sec @ f5.6; D700 with 15mm fish eye lens; ISO 250; WB Setting (Sunlight).
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Image 4: The Two Robbies

The Action: Robbie Marais (on his JD Bug) and Robbie Henderson explore the farm roads around Darlington Dam, a remote part of the Addo Elephant National Park.
The Shot: Low light meant this was a bit of a grab shot, with a relatively low success ratio. The narrow depth of field on the 400mm zoom meant I had to pre-focus on a spot to try and minimise movement and blur. Lightroom added a bit of funk to the final product.
The Technique: Lying in the road gave me both stability and a low shooting angle. Lightroom offers several downloadable Presets for free on the Adobe website.
The Specifications: 1/400th sec @ f5.6; D700 with 80-400mm zoom cranked to full; ISO - 800; WB Setting: Cloudy.
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