The Blyde River Canyon
If you are a photographer, especially a landscape photographer, and if you visited the Blyde River Canyon, you will know that it’s truly one of the most photogenic areas in South Africa. The Blyde Canyon is the world’s 3rd largest canyon but the greenest of them all. Although I have never visited any one of the larger canyons in person and only seen photos of them I believe that the Blyde Canyon has a lot to offer photographically.
I visited the canyon a couple of times the past 5 years and every time I go there I get a totally different scene to photograph. You can visit the canyon in winter and photograph some of the most amazing scenes, or so you’ll think, until you visit the same scene in summer and you will get a totally different picture. In winter the area may seem dull and lifeless with almost a permanent haze coming from veld fires in the area but with sunrise or sunset it sometimes will give you very nice colors to work with (see photo below).
In summer the scene will change dramatically as the summer rains will start turning all plant life green again. There will be almost no haze from veld fires and the air will be crisp and clean. Dramatic clouds above and mist in the valley down below can give you some of the most amazing scenes you could wish for. I visited the canyon during every season and personally I prefer summer.
One of the most common mistakes that landscape photographers do is to pack away their camera gear after they photographed the sunrise. The Blyde River Canyon can hold a couple of surprises if one just wait a little while longer on the edge of the cliffs after sunrise. It may just happen that the sun peek through a bit of clouds and give you very spectacular sun rays that will give you the goose bumps many landscape photographers get when they see the perfect scene. Even if you don’t get the scene you hoped for you can always just sit there for an hour or more and just appreciate this amazing canyon. Look for birds flying down below, baboons looking for food, and if you are very lucky you may even spot a leopard down below, so take your binoculars and a long lens along.
There are a couple of preferred spots along the top of the canyon where I do most of my photography from but this is not where your canyon journey ends. One can also shoot from the bottom of the canyon near the Swadini holiday resort as well as from the top of the Mariepskop Mountain that is situated on the Eastern side of the canyon. From Swadini one can travel to the very scenic Blyde River Dam. From there the cliff walls will tower above you and if you are lucky you get amazing light and colors with sunrise or sunset on these walls. The dam wall itself can make for some amazing photos as well.
From Swadini it is approximately an hour’s drive to the top of Mariepskop. This area falls within a forested area and there are gates that open and close at certain times that may make it difficult to be there with sunrise or sunset. The views from the top of this mountain are truly spectacular. There are a couple of industrial and military masts on the top of the mountain but one can drive past them and see the Lowveld area on the Eastern side or one can walk to the Western side of the mountain and see the canyon from there. The weather in summer can be very unpredictable and sometimes the mist seems to appear from nowhere and spoil a landscape photography outing in no time. Once again it can be wise to just sit there and wait for a gap in the clouds or you can photograph some of the most amazing plant life growing on and around the massive rocks. The cliffs along this mountain as well as on the other side of the canyon are very high and if you are afraid of extreme heights then doing landscape photography here may become a bit of a problem for you.
If you are into landscape photography and you want to take photos of a really unique area in our beautiful country then do yourself a favour and visit the Blyde River Canyon. Spend a couple of days there and who knows, you might just go home with a couple of photographs that will give you a lifetime’s worth of beautiful memories. Even if you are not into photography at all, this canyon will be food for your soul.
Afriscapes hosts a 5 day 4 nights Blyde Canyon photo expedition in March 2015. Have a look.