Polishing Turds, Pumping Sand & Playing With Apps


Dallas

Last week I was pretty busy with photographing Real Estate listings. I think I ended up doing 8 for the week. Some were great, some were just awful, so I am thinking of changing my official title from “Property Photographer” to “Turd Polisher”, because that is a very appropriate description of what I am doing when editing some of my work. 

 

Anyway, today I didn’t have anything on, so to get out of the house for a little while I took a drive down to the beachfront. For those of you who don’t know, May is the very best time of the year to visit Durban. The weather is quite stunning nearly every day. The sky is blue, there is never any wind and the ambient temperature averages about 23-25˚C. Usually this time of year we see lots of people heading to the beaches to enjoy the warm Indian Ocean water and this magnificent weather. However, this year there is a problem. Some of the main central beaches are closed while the city tries valiantly to replenish the fast eroding sand. 

 

Due to it’s position at the mouth of several rivers, large portions of the city are essentially reclaimed land and in the current age of global warming we are seeing some unusually high spring tides on a more frequent basis than has been the case historically. These events wreak havoc on the promenade as the ocean tries to reclaim its dominance over the shoreline. 

 

Screen Shot 2018-05-07 at 12.10.45.png

Google Earth 3D view of the city, looking south west. The harbour mouth was once an estuary and the entire point area is actually a giant sandbar. On the horizon you can see the Drakensberg mountains. 

 

Since I’ve been alive and living here (50 years now), it’s been an ongoing battle. Sometime in the early 1980’s the city engaged the services of an overseas company who came up with the brilliant idea of taking the sand normally dredged from the harbor mouth and pumping it onto the beaches with water via massive 2m diameter pipes. As kids we watched this operation unfold with fascination and were astonished to see the beach grow from it’s usual width of (roughly) 50-100m to more than triple that in places. It was a huge success and the city then built its own, somewhat smaller, but permanent sand pumping system to maintain the shoreline. 

 

Sadly, as with most infrastructural systems that had been put in place by the previous regime, it fell into disrepair after the transition to democracy and only the southernmost central beaches were having their sand replenished a few times a year, while the more central and northern beaches were literally disappearing from the coastal scour that affects them. This year it reached crisis point and finally lit a fire under the new city management’s collective behinds to take emergency action. 

 

APC_0129.jpg

The structure you see being eroded was actually once a pump house for the original reclamation scheme. Ironic that it is now becoming a casualty of the thing it was designed to protect us from. 

 

On my walk this morning I see that they are doing it slightly differently this time around. Instead of pumping it from the harbor mouth and spraying it towards the ocean, the sand appears to be getting pumped from a point about 300m from the shore directly onto the beach into huge mounds which are then being bulldozed flat. Honestly, I don’t think this is going to work very well and it certainly doesn’t make much sense from an economic point of view to have these big diggers and dozers running all day, taking sand from where it is being deposited and manually moving it across the beach when all they have to do is point the outlet towards the sea, pump the sand in that direction and just leave it there. That’s how they did it in the 80’s and it worked perfectly for a long time. 

 

APC_0118-2.jpg

 

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APC_0122.jpg

Bulldozers in action.

 

APC_0121.jpg

Not a great pic, but this is the floating connection point for where the dredger drops off the sand to be pumped onto the main beach. 

 

APC_0123.jpg

 

APC_0124.jpg

 

APC_0126.jpg

 

APC_0133.jpg

 

These are all iPhone pics of the current operation, taken using the Lightroom CC app. 

 

On the subject of this Lr app, I am now a bit perplexed to have discovered that all the photos I took were seriously underexposed (by around 3 stops) when I opened up the Lightroom CC app on my iMac. I don’t use the app a lot but obviously the last time I did I must have reduced the exposure quite a lot and then not bothered to reset it to normal. The problem with using the Lr phone app in bright daylight is that the phone will adjust its screen brightness automatically to compensate for the ambient light, in this case boosting itself significantly, so unless you have got a really good memory on where you last left the exposure compensation, you’re likely to make the same mistake. That’s a bit of a design flaw in the Adobe app if you ask me (something they seem to be getting very good at doing lately). That said, I am quite impressed that the files were rescuable by lifting the exposure and shadows by a couple of stops and then applying a 50% noise reduction to them.


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I discovered and really appreciated the LR Mobile app on my Android phone and tablet during our last trip to South Africa.  I will keep you point in mind about the exposure compensation, not sure if it works the same (bad) way on the Android.  For those you use Lightroom and have not ventured into using the mobile app, it is so handy to be able to capture images on your phone and then mix them in with other images taken with a "proper" camera for a presentation.  

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      The structure you see being eroded was actually once a pump house for the original reclamation scheme. Ironic that it is now becoming a casualty of the thing it was designed to protect us from. 
       
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      Bulldozers in action.
       

      Not a great pic, but this is the floating connection point for where the dredger drops off the sand to be pumped onto the main beach. 
       

       

       

       

       
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    • By Dallas
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      Are you kidding me? 
       
      Nope. That’s the way it works now. 
       
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    • By Dallas
      I thought I would start sharing my week in professional photography with you fine folks. This (hopefully) weekly column will give you an insight into what I am busy with in photography and related matters, things I have discovered and things I am hoping to do. Maybe some opinions too. They won’t be in-depth pieces, but I hope you will enjoy them. 
       
      So, at the beginning of April a new chapter opened for me. I am now doing real estate photography for a new realtor that has set up shop in my city. They charge a flat rate of sales commission regardless of the property value, which when compared to traditional agencies is way, way less than the normal 5-8%. They send in a professional photographer (like yours truly), upload the resulting photos and description to their website, advertise on other sites and facilitate both appointments to view the property as well as negotiate any offers received for the seller. They also arrange conveyancing, bank loans and everything in-between. 
       
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      Truth be told I love this kind of photography. I have always loved residential architecture and interior design and you’ll find me visiting Houzz and Apartment Therapy every day to look at the house tours they do. For me getting this work is kind of like winning a jackpot. 
       
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      Just not quite wide enough
       
      However, there is the option of doing this type of work with my little Canon 200D (SL2 for you American folks) and getting the very cheap but highly rated Canon 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 STM EF-S lens for it. Everything I have read about that lens indicates that it is more than up for real estate work and it costs about $250 here, less than a quarter of the price of either the Pan-Leica or Olympus wide angle options. However…. while I find working with the Canon 200D in pseudo mirrorless mode using live view and the touch screen pretty easy to do, there is a serious feature limitation with it that might scupper this plan. The AE bracketing feature only allows for 3 frames to be shot at a time. There are some instances, as I mentioned earlier, when I need to bracket up to 5 frames to get a decent spread of exposure range. I’d have to do that manually and while it isn’t difficult to do, it will add a significant amount of time to the job. 
       
      If I do this I’ll then be reliant on two different camera systems again, which is not something I enjoy because I’ll have to get more batteries and might be tempted into buying other things too. Decisions, decisions… 
       
      Micro Four Thirds definitely needs to look at offering some cheaper wide angle lenses for their system. I wish the likes of Rokinon would bring out a manual focus rectilinear 8mm lens. 
       
      OK, so that was last week in photography for me. I look forward to seeing what this week brings and also hearing from you folks.
    • By Dallas
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      I had to get out of the house for a little while this morning. The weather has been very wet this entire month, which is seasonal but the temperatures are definitely not the norm for this time of year (19C high today). In years gone by we’d already be complaining about the humidity and discomfort levels, but things are not quite there yet. 
       
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      iPhone 7Plus processed in Lr Mobile. Apologies for the tilted horizon...
    • By Dallas
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      Click for larger view. 
       

    • By Dallas
      Yesterday morning at about 9am I looked out my window and noticed what I thought were some very low lying black clouds. We have been expecting a weather event this weekend, so I didn't think too much of them. A few hours later I looked outside again and thought to myself, hang on a bit, those aren't clouds. I went out to the top of the road and there was just this massive plume of black smoke coming from somewhere South of where we live. I got out the camera and took a few shots. 
       

       
      From the top of my driveway it looked like my neighbour's house was going up in smoke (yes, that thing is one person's 3 story house, not a block of flats). 
       

       
      From my garden. 
       

       
      From my window. 
       
      So, I started searching social media to see what was going on. Turns out it is a massive wax factory near the harbour that caught ablaze yesterday. When I say massive, I'm talking the size of several football pitches. Anyway, the local fire department had over 150 fire fighters on site and they are still unable to put it out, a day and a half later. They have however, managed to contain it so that it doesn't spread any further, but the smoke from this blaze has literally blanketed the entire city. Last night we had to close all the windows as it started to rain and the fallout began to get really close to us. 
       
      Here is an aerial video taken by a local photographer showing just how big the fire was this morning. 
       
       
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