Wednesday, September 29, 2010

SHOOT recommends

How Saatchi & Saatchi’s Toyota social media disaster unfolded
Surprising Hike in Suicide Rates Found Among Baby Boomers
Killer brothers 'are Christians'

Solar Insights

Solar power is coming along.  This afternoon I drove to Grahamstwon and photographed a Japanese made solar  vehicle capable of reaching 160km/h.  It uses, literally, space age tech.  The solar panels are 0.3mm thin, literally paper thin.  It's the stuff they use on satellites where space is very limited.  The Solar Challenge this year is a 4100km circuit of South Africa involving 5 teams.  The Japanese are not streets ahead in this, but highways.  Part of their advantage no doubt is the budget to use lithium batteries, whereas the South African teams are using inferior battery tech including petrol and hydrogen hybrids.
In any event when I went to photograph the above vehicle all of the other 4 teams were still on the road, and an hour later had still not arrived. 
In the end I left, drove 20 km on the N2 towards the other vehicles and still did not see them!  Maybe solar power is coming along, but South Africa is a way behind.  Organisers say they expect around 20 teams at the next challenge; hopefully we'll see a continued increase in quality as the quantity of competing teams increase.

Interestingly, the Japanese team were charging the battery for the entire time I was there.  This is in case tomorrow's weather is not sunny.  This afternoon's sunshine then provides the impetus for their journey tomorrow, even if the sun doesn't shine.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Slowed down 80 times, even a simple action is transformed...

The religious don't know much about religion [SURVEY]

A new survey of Americans' knowledge of religion found that atheists, agnostics, Jews and Mormons outperformed Protestants and Roman Catholics in answering questions about major religions, while many respondents could not correctly give the most basic tenets of their own faiths.

Forty-five percent of Roman Catholics who participated in the study didn't know that, according to church teaching, the bread and wine used in Holy Communion is not just a symbol, but becomes the body and blood of Christ.

More than half of Protestants could not identify Martin Luther as the person who inspired the Protestant Reformation. And about four in 10 Jews did not know that Maimonides, one of the greatest rabbis and intellectuals in history, was Jewish.

The survey released Tuesday by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life aimed to test a broad range of religious knowledge, including understanding of the Bible, core teachings of different faiths and major figures in religious history. The U.S. is one of the most religious countries in the developed world, especially compared to largely secular Western Europe, but faith leaders and educators have long lamented that Americans still know relatively little about religion.

Respondents to the survey were asked 32 questions with a range of difficulty, including whether they could name the Islamic holy book and the first book of the Bible, or say what century the Mormon religion was founded. On average, participants in the survey answered correctly overall for half of the survey questions.
Atheists and agnostics scored highest, with an average of 21 correct answers, while Jews and Mormons followed with about 20 accurate responses. Protestants overall averaged 16 correct answers, while Catholics followed with a score of about 15.

SHOOT: They should do a survey on Christians to assess how many Christians have studied how their bible was written, and how the language evolved.  For example many will be surprised to learn that the Old Testament was written in Hebrew and the New Testament in Greek.  This is possibly where the saying 'it's all Greek to me originated'.  And perhaps it should have remained so.
Another fascinating insight into the bible is that the story of Joseph is considered one of the oldest works of fiction [almost like a novel] in history, and was conceived in order to connect the first five books [or Pentateuch] of the bible into a more cohesive whole.
And I find it interesting that of the Jews living in Israel, a majority are atheists, and there are more Muslim Christians than Jewish Christians.  Jews know their own religion is a con, but the biggest suckers of all are the Christians who took on a religion 'made for' Jews and expanded the chosen people theme to themselves.  While the bible may be filled with ironies and subjectivity's, it is a mistake to dismiss it as unimportant.  It may not be the truth the way we hoped or believe it was, but the cultural impact of humanity is, of course, enormous, and in that respect alone deserves a modicum of respect.

Monday, September 27, 2010

This guy is getting all the chicks [PHOTOGRAPHS]

The View from my Bicycle [COLUMN]

Life in nature is quite hard - by Nick van der Leek

I'm at Shamwari Game Reserve, and my routine is based around 3 hour game drives.  After the third game drive [around 9 hours exposure to the wilderness] you start to appreciate what survival entails.  It means spending most of the day foraging for food, and dealing with the elements, whether it be cold or heat or dry, or in today's case, wind.  The animals are out there whatever the weather.  When the sun goes down, they're still out there, and here's where it gets particularly tricky.  The cat and mouse [lion versus impala or leopard versus kudu or badger versus snake or cheetah versus eland] games don't stop when it's bedtime.  Imagine a life where snoozing too lightly [and thus being sleep deprived] could cost you your life because you've lost the edge to your usual state of alert.  On the other hand, sleep to soundly and you're just as likely to be a nocturnal snack.

You may think predators have an easier life than their prey.  But consider a leopard in a game park.  In Kruger for example all the territories have been claimed; all territories are taken.  That means if a new leopard enters an area he has to fight another leopard and these tussles are often fatal.  A leopard that has to exit one territory then finds himself in another one, and a fresh encounter awaits him there.  Territory defence is one way nature has kept the best of the best leopard predators in the hunt for natural and sexual selection.

In nature the name of the game is staying invisible, being quiet and subtle about one's activities, and doing some strutting vis-a-vis competitors and the opposite sex.  Again, do too little and you risk going hungry or going without a mate, do too much and you risk being run down and susceptible to a range of maladies floating in the air [and remember, you live permanently outdoors, permanently exposed to the elements].

This provides an interesting contrast to human beings who do their best to be seen.  In our world the most dangerous creature is another human being, and commonly, another human being in a vehicle is a deadly combination, often capable of slaughtering handfuls of people at seemingly random intervals.  Even so, these slaughters are reasonably few and far between.  Man though has a bunch of 'stuff' to deal with which animals are probably grateful they don't.  For example, man is the only animal that lives his [or her] life with the knowledge that death is part of the game, no matter how cleverly the game is executed [granted many if not most human beings suspend this belief, this knowledge, either indefinitely or at least until the next funeral they attend].  Equally, man is also capable of humor.  And irony.

Shamwari is an exceptional environment and I've been privileged to visit and encounter animals as diverse and compelling as leopard, cheetah, lion, hippo and rhino.  Earlier today we heard a rhino calf shadowing his large father uttering a plaintiff cry that sounds much like a dolphin, a wheezy noise that elicits a balloon noisily by lyrically losing air.  There are too many encounters to describe [for the purposes of this blog post] but, suffice it to say, these experiences leave an impression on the inner human being.

I have come to Shamwari on my own despite extending invitations to one or two of people.  Beyond the monetary value of experience, the nourishing impact of these nature experiences are invaluable,  I feel refreshed, and buzzing with ideas.  And also, infused with a better sense of my place in the world.   And this seems to be one of the strangest casualties of our consumerist age - nobody really knows what to do, what to be and worse, why one choice is better than another.  Oh, other than in 'money terms'.  The few people who turned their nose up at joining me [for free] on this trip, it seems to me, reflect a sense of being 'spoilt'.  Spoilt because we are either to busy to appreciate something, or too caught up in distractions to know the value of something meaningful when it arrives at the door on a silver platter.

It is wonderful for me to be able to live out my dream; to follow my passions, to investigate the stories, experiences and realities of this world in a way that seems to address my personal set of 'what is meaningful'.  When we are 'spoilt' we know longer recognise the gifts or fruits or blessings of this world.  Through our individual obsessions we have not only lost our connections with a greater community, but also our immediate neighbours, and so it shouldn't be a surprise that we feel empty, miserable and finally depressed for the course of much of our lives.  Nature is where beauty and truth resides, it is where we find ourselves and understand ourselves including in terms greater than ourselves.  We gain a proportion of the size and wonder and difficulty of things, not only for ourselves and others but for a wider spectrum of life.  I for one hope that I can maintain my appreciation, this gratitude for the wonder of things.  Being spoilt literally spoils the experience of life for you and those that cross your path.  The antidote is compassion and gratitude.  It's how we learn to love and celebrate life, and hopefully I can stay on track to do just that.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Student flies like a bird

HPO Flight from U of T Engineering on Vimeo.

Read about this here.
SHOOT: Pretty incredible stuff. Even though you see this thing flapping its wings it's hard to believe.

Thursday, September 23, 2010


Do you want to update your portfolio? Want to strut your stuff to the pristine backgrounds and luxurious interiors of the Eastern Cape's premier Private Game Reserves? ONE TIME ONLY!

To see if you qualify, make sure you can answer YES to all of the following?
- Are you available for a shoot between 25 September and 4 October?
- Do you have your own transport?
- Are you serious about modeling, serious enough to pay for a shoot and pitch up on time?
- Do you want to appear in a magazine?
- Are you enthusiastic about the Easternh Cape's premier private game reserves [Shamwari, River Bend, Idwala etc]

If you are, get cracking!  Book your slot - shoots starting this weekend at Shamwari and finishing October 4. 
- Find out more about Shamwari
- More on Addo's River Bend Lodge
- More about Idwala 
- More about Bushman Sands
Email me for details. Accomodation and meals optional free extras.

About your photographer: Nick van der Leek is a professional photojournalist with multiple page spreads in top tier magazines such as Getaway, Bicycling, Shape, Financial Mail, Brainstorm and numerous others.  He has photographed Miss World 2009, celebrities such as Liezel van der Westhuizen, interviewed Wolverine director Gavin Hood and actor Morgan Freeman.  He has also won awards for photography.  Nick balances photojournalism with surfing and triathlon.  For details on his Portfolio, go here.