Bright Lights, Big City

I’ve been blogging for quite a while now. I admit it gets tiresome at times. A year ago, I would rush home after doing pretty much anything and blog about it immediately. But 170 posts later, that blogging thrill doesn’t come as easily as it used to. It takes something special to get me excited to blog.

Something like Wednesday night.

Nelson Mandela Bridge at night, shot from the Queen Elizabeth Bridge.

I love cities. I love walking in cities. I particularly love walking in cities at night.

When you walk through a big city at night, you feel a different energy than you feel during the day. The noises are different, the people are different, the smells are different. And of course there are the lights.

The #1 Bar in Braamfontein. The headlights of a car (combined with a slow shutter speed) created the beam along the street.

Wednesday night I went on the first-ever Joburg Photowalkers night photowalk. We walked through Braamfontein, an edgy, gritty, up-and-coming neighborhood on the edge of downtown Jozi.

Walking in downtown Joburg at night is special because you can’t easily do it on your own. The route we followed would not be safe to walk alone after dark, especially with cameras. But this is the cool thing about photowalking. There’s safety in numbers. Thanks to rockstar photowalker Mark Straw, we had our own security detail from Braamfontein Improvement District Security, to make certain we stayed out of harm’s way. So we all relaxed, unfolded our tripods, and enjoyed the night-time sights of Braamfontein.

Walking down a median strip toward Mandela Bridge as the sun goes down. This was probably the most dangerous part of the walk.

We tramped through some areas that are not really meant for pedestrians. I’m wearing hiking boots to the next night walk.

Trains + bridge + evening sky = beautiful. I took this while squeezing my way along a narrow dirt path next to a major thoroughfare. We were protected from the traffic by a cement barrier.

Usually the Mandela Bridge is illuminated by a light show at night, with multi-colored beams that flash on and off. But Wednesday night the bridge was lit up solid pink. 

Once the sun went down and we’d had our fill of bridges and trains, we headed into the commercial section of Braamfontein. There was a lot going on. Music blared, Chrsitmas lights blinked on the street corners. People looked at us strangely. Some laughed and waved.

This photo looks straight out of a horror flick.

Worlds colliding.

Our final stop of the evening was an office building called Orion.

Orion. It looks like an average office building but turned out to be so much more.

Mark had arranged ahead of time for us to go up to Orion’s roof. We piled into the elevators and went to the 17th floor. From the 17th floor, there was a narrow ladder going up to the roof. It looked a bit scary. Several people opted to stay below and enjoy the view from the 17th-floor windows. I slung my tripod across my back and climbed.

“Sh*t!” I gasped when I reached the top.

I was stunned by how beautiful it was.

It was quiet up there, and pleasantly warm. There was a 360-degree view. If I’d had a sleeping bag and a pillow, I would have laid down on the asphalt and spent the night.

The Orion rooftop was sublime. I felt perfectly happy and peaceful there.

The buildings in the foreground look blue because of the Orion sign.

I am fiercely, head-over-heels in love with you, Jozi. I’ve never loved any other city like I love you. And I’m determined to stay.

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49 Comments

  • Reply MartinaInJozi December 9, 2011 at 9:25 am

    Awesome description of our awesome night. I would do anything to get back on the top of that roof with a picnic!

    • Reply 2summers December 9, 2011 at 9:34 am

      We should ask Mark!

      • Reply Joburg Expat December 10, 2011 at 8:33 am

        Tell me when you go again, would love to join you!

        • Reply 2summers December 10, 2011 at 9:37 am

          Absolutely, will do.

    • Reply Ewan Dressel December 9, 2011 at 10:09 am

      Very good idea. And maybe, if there is power up there we can do a movie.

  • Reply Grahame Hall December 9, 2011 at 10:14 am

    A picnic…and a camera! So sorry I missed this walk. Lovely post.

    • Reply 2summers December 9, 2011 at 10:19 am

      Thanks Grahame. We’ll let you know when the picnic is 🙂

  • Reply miadidthis December 9, 2011 at 10:43 am

    I’ve got goosebumps. This city – it has a strange allure. Your photos are absolutely gorgeous. Thanks for pushing on, even after 170 posts!

    • Reply 2summers December 9, 2011 at 10:54 am

      Thanks. 171 now! Hard to believe.

  • Reply Gavin Coertzen December 9, 2011 at 11:21 am

    Looked like an awesome walk. I seriously need to make a plan and come out and join and meet everyone.

  • Reply Jeroen December 9, 2011 at 12:09 pm

    Love it. Cool that you can see several silhouettes of the car in front of the #1 Bar, lit up by the neon lights flickering at 50 hertz. You could even calculate its speed by estimating the distance between the silhouettes… or is that too nerdy?

    • Reply 2summers December 9, 2011 at 12:23 pm

      I’m ashamed to admit that I didn’t even see the silhouettes until now. Estimate away! My guess is 45 kms but I’m bad with numbers.

  • Reply Bing December 9, 2011 at 12:21 pm

    They always do the best stuff when I’m not around. @%^&!@$!!! It’s funny how you said you fell in love with Joburg. Coz that’s how I feel too. I’ve never fallen in love with a city/country so fiercely before. On the plane on my way to SFO, I watched Invictus again. The first time I had watched it was many years ago and it did nothing for me except educate me. This time, I actually cried. I don’t even know how that happened! I’m going to go write a post on this..

    • Reply 2summers December 9, 2011 at 12:31 pm

      Haha. I cry at the drop of a hat these days. I should watch that movie again too. I think it would make more sense to me now. (Especially because I sort of understand rugby.)

      Martina and I both felt kind of blah before this walk and we both thought about not going. Thank goodness we did.

      • Reply Bing December 9, 2011 at 12:35 pm

        The movie started with the sounds of a bunch of people singing “Shosholoka”. I started choking right there. I was overwhelmed with the realisation that I actually know how to sing this African folk song. I’ve heard hundreds of kids sing it in so many townships and schools. South Africa has wormed its way into my heart and I didn’t even realise it till that moment. The cabin crew must have thought I was watching a sad love story coz I was hiding my face behind a blanket and bawling my eyes out throughout the movie. Hahaha!

  • Reply thirdeyemom December 9, 2011 at 3:16 pm

    Wonderful post Heather! I love cities too especially at night! Thanks south for making me see and explore a much different Jozi than I saw years ago. I must go back!

    • Reply 2summers December 9, 2011 at 6:09 pm

      Yes, you must! I’ll be waiting 🙂

  • Reply I love South Africa. | Story of Bing December 9, 2011 at 3:52 pm

    […] has been through and now stand for. And I’m not the only one. My friends, Joburg Expat and 2 Summers also blogged about their love for the country […]

  • Reply Christopher December 9, 2011 at 5:29 pm

    I had my 30th birthday a couple of months ago on top of the #1 Bar building in September, was awesome. Born and bred Josie Boy and love the city to bits. Used to live in Hillbrow in the old days when it was vibey and safe, illegally as blacks where not allowed to live there.

    • Reply 2summers December 9, 2011 at 6:09 pm

      Hi Christopher. Wow, sounds like you probably have some interesting stories to tell about your life in Jozi. You must have been quite young when you lived in Hillbrow! Thanks so much for reading and commenting.

  • Reply Mark Wiens December 9, 2011 at 6:24 pm

    These views and incredible photos are definitely an inspiration to come back and write an article – and thanks for sharing, they are fantastic! So cool that you guys had a group and some security to be able to walk around Johannesburg at night with cameras!

    • Reply 2summers December 9, 2011 at 6:30 pm

      Thanks so much, Mark. That means a lot, especially coming from you. It was an incredibly cool experience. My friend Mark did an amazing job planning the walk and arranging security.

      As I just wrote this on my FB page, I’m still planning to send you a guest post. I’m just waiting for the perfect topic.

  • Reply Fidel December 9, 2011 at 6:34 pm

    I need to discover a local photo group where I am. Seems like it is fun and challenging. I need something to break the monotony of what I normally photograph in Tokyo.
    How have you enjoyed being a part of your group?

    • Reply 2summers December 9, 2011 at 6:49 pm

      Hi Fidel, I cannot say enough good things about photowalking. I absolutely love it. I’ve made some of my best friends through the group and it’s allowed me to visit places in Jozi that I never would have visited on my own. For me, it’s been life-changing. If you can’t find a group you should start one yourself! Guess it might be kinda hard with your travel schedule though.

      • Reply Fidel @IHarTravel December 10, 2011 at 2:11 am

        I get a lot of people from my ship asking camera buying and using advice. As DSLR cameras are becoming less expensive and social media sharing becomes the norm, more people are buying better quality cameras. I guess I should consider starting my own photowalking group for Sailors and their families. That’s a great suggestion!

        • Reply 2summers December 10, 2011 at 9:34 am

          A sailor photowalking group sounds very fun.

  • Reply Nina Neubauer December 9, 2011 at 8:12 pm

    Heather, the photos are amazing. Thanks for sharing. That was a photowalkers I shouldn’t have missed!

    • Reply 2summers December 9, 2011 at 8:15 pm

      Thanks Nina! Next time. Night-walking is awesome.

  • Reply Richard December 9, 2011 at 10:50 pm

    Damn, I’m so sorry I missed this one. Great photos as usual Heather.

    • Reply 2summers December 9, 2011 at 11:07 pm

      Thanks Richard. You would’ve loved it! Sorry, don’t mean to rub it in. But you would’ve. Just sayin’.

  • Reply Emily Cannell December 10, 2011 at 12:51 am

    Love me a night shot!

  • Reply Kathryn McCullough December 10, 2011 at 2:51 am

    These photos are stunning, Heather. I too love cities, at night. The bridge is amazing in pink light. Sounds like a great evening! Hope you have a great weekend, as well.
    Kathy

    • Reply 2summers December 10, 2011 at 9:37 am

      Thanks Kathy. We were so lucky too – it was warm and perfect that night. Every night since has been rainy and cold.

  • Reply Lu December 11, 2011 at 10:09 pm

    What a cool thing to do and your photos are brilliant 🙂
    I’m actually a little jealous, there isn’t anyone that I know who’d venture into Jo’burg during the day, let alone at night, these days 🙂 – Mind you, most folk I know are from the Pretoria side – and they wouldn’t be caught in Jo’burg on principle!!
    When I was at Wits, I’d pop into Braamfontein quite often, usually during the day, but I used to know people who lived in Jo’burg city centre (one of the old apartment blocks that has a mosque on the top) and others who used to live in Yeoville – who had access to the rooftop. Night-time braais were awesome – seeing Jozi all lit up was quite beautiful. I never did take any photos though.. Boo.

    • Reply 2summers December 11, 2011 at 10:12 pm

      This city is so beautiful at night. I feel really lucky to have seen it from that perspective.

  • Reply Tonito December 12, 2011 at 12:02 pm

    Love this post. Due to our fears with crime, we don’t venture out to take photos of South African cities at night, so I love this initiative! Personally I too love city centre’s at night as the place changes completely. I once saw a comparison of London’s financial district by day and night. The results were awesome as the place completely changes!

    Great Photos!

    • Reply 2summers December 12, 2011 at 12:38 pm

      Thank you. It’s amazing how walking around a place changes your perspective of it. There are certain things you can’t experience from a car.

  • Reply lisa@notesfromafrica December 12, 2011 at 2:10 pm

    Beautiful photos, Heather! It’s so difficult to take good night-time shots. I especially like the ones you took at dusk when the city lights are just starting to go on.

    • Reply 2summers December 12, 2011 at 2:16 pm

      Thanks, Lisa. The dusk shots are my favorites too. I’m still learning the ins and outs of night photography but I think I’m slowly improving. I think it’s so much fun.

  • Reply cashancountry December 13, 2011 at 6:34 pm

    We love JOZI! thanks Heather yet again, pix supreme, and so true so true, it has a way of giving and giving and giving. I remember going to Canada once and staying with ex South Africans. I found their bookshelf- read about six books about Sa in a week?!! Ilive here and grew up here and read a lot but over there what did I do? It is part of our blood ek se!
    chris

    • Reply 2summers December 13, 2011 at 7:13 pm

      Thanks Chris. I would probably do the same thing. (Although I could never finish six books in a week. Maybe in a month…)

  • Reply Slowvelder December 15, 2011 at 8:51 pm

    This post makes me sad in a way. You are showing me my own city in ways that I have never seen it. My generation was brought up to steer clear of the city centre because it was a horrible dirty place. I think I have missed out on so much. I am glad that my younger sister and brother are rediscovering it too and enjoying spots I never even knew existed. I think I must come and visit you one day and you can reintroduce me to JHB.

    • Reply 2summers December 15, 2011 at 9:16 pm

      Yes, you must! Any time. You’d love the photowalks,, Jackie.

  • Reply Slowvelder December 15, 2011 at 8:56 pm

    PS: brilliant photos from the roof!

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