The Past, The Future and The Strange

Gold Reef
- 7th November 2013 -

Photography Gold Reef City

Once again the objective was photography, but this time it wasn't in the damaged cultural city called Newtown, this time we headed to an entertainment theme park just south of the Johannesburg ruins -- Gold Reef City Theme Park.

Like normal getting into the theme park with a tripod was a challenge, the management of the park got all nervous when they saw some professional equipment, especially the tripods, and it took considerable explaining to convince them that we were just doing this for fun and are not on a professional photo shoot. I guess people just can't believe that someone would buy all the expensive equipment without the intention of making some of the money back.

We stopped over at the Wimpy to get our morning coffee and something to eat but soon after we all headed in separate directions. Our objectives were our own, to capture and record in some artistic way our impression of the Gold Reef City Theme Park.

Like normal, I still had to build up my inspiration and everything around me was looking pretty normal, I was taking photos of totally ordinary and boring things. Eventually I climbed on a train that circles the park and setup my tripod facing the back of the train. It was a good idea, and I got a couple of photos of some Chinese tourists snapping away on their point and shoot cameras. I still wasn't inspired! The train stopped at the station and despite there being a board indicating that everybody should disembark the train, I asked the driver if I could stick around.....

The train started filling up with children, school children to be precise. These children were from a school in Soweto.... The Adelaide Tambo School, a school with approximately 400 students ranging from grade 1 to grade 12, but specifically for the physically and mentally challenged. No, not all 400 of them were there on this day, but rather about 40 or so. I don't blame the teachers for going in small groups, they looked like a handful already and having wheelchairs and various other equipment it would make it impossible to handle more than this.

After trying to get a couple of photos from the tripod I got irritated and packed the tripod up and decided for this part I would go handheld.

Fine Art Photography Good Friends

They are awesome kids, despite what the above photo says they were ecstatic to be here and really eager to experience the rides. I kept taking photos throughout the train journey to the next station (if you want to see more photo of these kids and their day, please visit a separate post specifically on this @ Adelaide Tambo School) and got talking to one of the teachers. I take my hat off to her and her colleagues. The school offers the normal school curriculum, all the way through to grade 12 where all students need to pass like any other school child would. This is really impressive, the patience and dedication of these teachers must be out of the ordinary. 

When the train arrived at the kids mini theme park, despite the inability of these kids to scramble off the train towards the rides, they still did it with great enthusiasm, the teachers helping all the way. One of the first rides was the spinning shells which was soon packed with eager kids.

School Child Photography Disability

I asked one of the teachers if they don't mind me sticking around as I was enjoying capturing these moments and would gladly send them the photos, they agreed and I landed up being their unofficial photographer for about 2 hours.

The day progressed and the sun was already harsh limiting me to the amount of good photos I could get but regardless if I was getting brilliant photos, I stuck it out, as these photos will serve a different purpose.... they will be dearly appreciated by the parents and kids a like and be a joyful reminder of their awesome day at Gold Reef City.

Eventually I had to move along so I greeted the teachers and headed off deeper into the theme park. 

My expectation for this day of photography was filled with pictures of intricate lines of thrilling rides, but to my surprise and reconfirmation at the same time, I realised that I am much more interested in the people than in the machines that surrounded me.

Photo Gold Reef City Theme Park

The sun was still harsh and shadows weren't very forgiving so I was struggling, but then something changed, the sky was suddenly dark and there was a faint rumble of thunder in the distance, the rain was coming. The clouds were helping with the shadows, but good shadows only go well with good subjects, so I continued on looking for my inspiration.

When I looked again it was raining. I covered my camera bag with the waterproof cover and set out in the rain looking for the perfect moment. 

Kid Running in the Rain

The streets were empty and huddles of people were found in sheltered areas, so I guess I looked a little odd wandering around in the rain with expensive equipment. However I was confident, Nikon claims that my camera is weather sealed... this was the day I would be testing that theory. 

I caught some people running to get out of the rain, but eventually felt that I should also get some shelter from the water pouring from the sky, so I stopped under a bridge looking into one of the alleys where all the restaurants are situated and dried my camera a bit. 

Photo Main Running in Rain

Huddled nearby was another group of school children, so I started taking some photos. I had my zoom lens on so getting in onto the crowd was a little easier, but I knew I would still be tempted to get closer, so although my camera is weather sealed, my zoom lens wasn't, so I decided to replace it with my fixed prime 50mm lens while I was still on dry ground. 

Now I had no choice, if I wanted to get some photos I knew I would have to get in physically closer, so I ventured out into the rain again. The school kids spotted me! As I got in closer they all wanted some of the action and I was eager to catch the moments in the chaos so I continued on. I was soon surrounded by jumping screaming kids, all wanting to be the subject of my wet photographic affair... and I played along.

Photography Kids Chaos

Fine Art Photography Cool Kids

The Future of South Africa Photography

Eventually I had to stop the madness, they were getting more and more aggressive while trying to get the into the frame. So I greeted them all with "cool" handshakes and moved on. 

So far my day had been centred around the future of our country.... the children of this world. What would be next?

The rain had subsided and was now only a mere drizzle. I continued up the road and spotted a unusual sight. A peacock admiring the art.

Photography Gold Reef Peacock Art

I was still soaked from the rain, so I didn't want to go into the building and I still only had my 50mm lens on, so my options were limited, but I tried my best and in return got an awesome picture.

The rain had now stopped so I started walking back to the meeting place we arranged to meet up at @ 14h00. I was late, but I was now inspired and just about everything around me was catching my attention. I had been out taking photos for 4 hours, my feet were sore, I was soaked but the wet ground and people emerging from their shelters made it feel like it was a new day.

Photography After the Rain Gold Reef

Despite getting sidetracked along the way I eventually found my fellow photographers having some coffee, but it was too late to get some myself, nonetheless everybody was planning to find a different restaurant to have a late lunch, so I tagged along.

Along the way we got cornered by a magician performing acts on the street. Some of the tricks I figured out but others were simply mind boggling, I still have no idea how he bent the spoon....

Photography Gold Reef Magician

We stopped over at a restaurant and ordered lunch and the main conversation topic was politics, specifically around art and politics, specifically regarding The Spear, one of the most contraversal and most talked about artworks in South Africa of our President... Jacob Zuma. Either way it was still politics, so I limited my involvement... these discussions can get pretty heated.

After lunch we headed out again, it was 16:30 and the light was getting interesting again, longer shadows and dramatics scenes. 

Photo Peacock Strolling

I decided it was time to capture a little of our past so I spent a considerable amount of time photographing the old trains on the upper side of the park. The light was just right, and after wandering all around the train, I found some interesting photos of the past machinery which helped shape the province we now refer to as Gauteng -- place of gold --

Photography Train Gold Reef City

Photography Gold Reef Train

I wasn't the only one photographing this, the rest of the group was close by, but I seemed to be the only one interested in this side of the train. The problem is that when light is at this angle is doesn't last long, it disappears pretty quickly so I was soon done and we all started heading to the exit.

It was home time, but being a Thursday I knew getting through the traffic to the other side of Gauteng where my home is, is not going to be easy, unless I wait another 30 minutes till it is 18h00. By this time the heavy traffic should have passed and could get home relatively quickly. So I spent the extra time photographing the people leaving the theme park.

Photography Gold Reef Shadows

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