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Full moon setting over The Links, Fancourt, George, South Africa. Composed from a position just to the left of the righthand side 16th tee.

This was my last image captured on The Links

This is rather an unusual blog, but I felt it appropriate to chronicle the eleven wonderful years that I have enjoyed capturing images of the unique landscape and ecology of The Links golf course at Fancourt. Generally setting out well before sunrise, I have gone out to The Links almost weekly for the past 11 years, and without exception each visit has  been most memorable in one way or another. Be it a dramatic sunrise, a setting moonscape, the unusual topography highlighted in a special way or the interesting birdlife -they have all been an exceptional experience. But, in life nothing stays the same for long and all good things come to an end. It is devastating for me not to be able to venture out there early in the mornings, when no one is around and the tranquility of The Links is undisturbed.

I struggled to title the blog, but somehow “ode” seemed an appropriate word to include. It is defined in the Oxford dictionary as a structured poem praising an event or individual, describing nature intellectually as well as emotionally. Also as a lyrical stanza in praise of, or dedicated to someone or something which captures the poet’s interest or serves as an inspiration for the ode. I am going to take photographic licence rather than poetic licence and stretch the meaning of a structured poem or stanza to include a collection of images.

Whilst the above moonscape was my last image, the following one was amongst my very first. We had recently re-located to Fancourt and I had joined The Links as one of its first few members. I was immediately taken by the possibilities of capturing some wonderful images as a now full-time professional nature photographer, to say nothing about just enjoying the sheer natural beauty that was being created. I was also fortunately approached to contribute towards a coffee-table book that Fancourt wished to publish. This image was  taken with a film camera as digital cameras were just coming into their own and had not yet matched the image quality of film.

JBLinks-72.14-Wetland-alongside-15th-(with-view)The wetland to the left of the 15th fairway

Canon EOS 1V HS with 24-135mm f/2.8 USM lens using Fujichrome ASA 50 pushed one stop to ASA 100.

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Above: The 12th hole from the left-hand side tee box in late afternoon light. Canon EOS 1Ds Mark II with Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM lens. ISO 100. Evaluative metering, EC = -1/3 stop, 1/100 sec at f/9 in Aperture priority mode.

Right: Ethiopian Snipe in the wetland on the 15th hole. Canon EOS 1V HS with Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS lens with 1.4x TC. Fujichrome ASA 100 pushed one stop to ASA 200. July 2002.

The Links quickly matured into an outstanding golf course with treacherous rough as can be seen from this image of the 12th hole taken from the left hand side tee box in the late afternoon. This hole was later to be changed, especially the layout and surround of the green. The image was captured in July 2005 after the course had fully recovered from the rigours of the President’s Cup in 2003. The wetlands developed and a wide variety of birds were now seen. The number of species did vary and were at times affected by the rapid growth of sedges and reeds in many of the large pools/dams. Latterly this has been fairly well controlled and there has been a marked increase in the number of birds and also the number of species seen.

I have kept a bird list of all the species that I personally observed during the years at The Links – 132 in total. Click [here] to view a few images.

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Predicated on knee replacement surgery in 2007, or more significantly the threat of probable further knee surgery, I reluctantly relinquished my Links membership during 2008. Although no longer able to often walk the fairways of the course, I continued to build on my extensive library of images and closely observed the Links reaching maturity. The plant life had been supplemented over the years with the planting of thousands of small shrubs and plants, notably aloes, ericas and broom. Late autumn and early winter are particularly beautiful as evidenced in these few images. The long grass also changes  to a more deep golden brown. Many of the members miss the best times at The Links.

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The 11th hole in late autumn

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The approach to the 1st hole. August month

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The aloes in full bloom during the month of June

In spite of the attraction of the natural features of The Links, one cannot but be enthralled by the vistas over many of the holes with the green grass contrasting against the natural rough grass and endless big clear blue skies or interesting cloud formations.

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I could just go on and on. The most difficult part of this blog is to decide which images to include and which ones to leave out. These are not necessarily the best images , but they do convey the beauty and variety of the eco-system. Over the years I have got to know almost every inch of this part of the estate, especially all the wetlands. I have been fortunate to have had an excellent relationship with all the Golf Directors and the Course Management in particular. I especially mention Graham Corbett and Spencer Cooper. I shall miss the interaction with Spencer who always kept me fully up to date in regard to what was happening on The Links. If there was an animal or bird sighting, he would let me know and it was great to be able to go and often find what he had spotted. Spencer is  very dedicated and passionate about the environment and does everything possible to maintain the Audubon status of The Links. It was a pleasure to be able to contribute. For a few more images out on the course click [here].

The final image of this blog (below) was taken minutes before the opening image of the moon setting. It was a most spectacular morning. I had positioned myself in the area between the 15th green and the 16th tee, arriving well before sunrise (in fact it was still quite dark). I awaited the dawn. The sun peeped over the horizon and its rays bathed the water, clouds,  tips of the mountains and some of the grass dunes in a special golden light, whilst in the opposite direction the full moon was setting in the west with a clear reflection in the water. A poignant moment to end my odyssey . I shall miss you …….!!

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