I recently read a post by a successful blogger, Mark Manson, about his top tips for blogging. Mark hit the nail on the head with all of his tips; I especially liked his focus on quality writing and perfectionism. But Mark left one important blogging subject out of his post: photography. Photography enhances blogging more than it does any other literary genre. Photos are to blog posts what chocolate is to peanut butter: They make an amazing combination, but must be combined properly and the quality and packaging are important. One of the main reasons my blog is successful (in my own mind, at least) is because I’m good at combining blogging and photography. Here are some tips I’ve picked up along the way: 1) Practice, practice, practice. Want to get better at taking pictures for your blog? Then take as many photos as you can, everywhere you go. If you don’t have a camera then use your phone (although an actual camera is better). Ignore the voices in your head that say, “I don’t know what I’m doing” or “I’m not a good photographer”. The more you practice, the better you’ll be. 2) If at all possible, use your own photos rather than someone […]
Last weekend I went to South Africa’s Eastern Free State to attend the annual Cherry Festival in Ficksburg. I took the weekend off, more or less. I didn’t take many photos and hardly thought about blogging. Regarding the Cherry Festival: Although I had lots of fun, it was really just a local carnival with a few cherry-related activities and some cherry jam for sale. Even though I love cherries, I wouldn’t necessarily go back to Ficksburg for the festival. But it was a great excuse to hang around in one of the most beautiful parts of South Africa. Clarens, a quaint tourist town near Golden Gate Highlands National Park. We stayed in Clarens our last night before driving home to Joburg. One of the activities on offer at the Cherry Festival was a “Cherry Pip Spitting” contest. (Americans call them pits, not pips. But I think the word pip is way cuter.) I missed the actual contest but I did try my own hand at cherry-pip-spitting, and it seems that I have some talent. Check it out. (Thanks to Ray for recording this amazing video.) 2Summers Cherry Pip Spitting from Heather Mason on Vimeo. Anyway, my main reason for writing this post is […]
*Sketch by Fiver Löcker. Greetings, friends. It’s the Melville Cat. It’s been such a long time since I’ve posted; many of you might not even know who I am. Others may have feared I went away. Not to worry though — I’ve been here all along. I’ve just been very busy and haven’t had a chance to write. Here are some images illustrating what I’ve been up to over the last several months: Sleeping on the porch. Sleeping on a bed on the porch. Laying sullenly on the bed as Heather packs for a trip. I do this often, as Heather travels often and it displeases me greatly. Despite my valiant efforts to make her feel guilty, she continues to travel. Hmph. Sitting in the garden with a blasted cone on my head. I also do this often, as I like to fight with other cats and injure myself while Heather is away. As I said, I’ve been busy. Heather has been busy too, which is why she asked me to write this post. She wants me to explain to you why she hasn’t blogged for so long. Last week Heather was in Zimbabwe, a fact that I’m well aware of. Lucky took good […]
My blog lives a double life. Most of the time it’s a fun, informative guide to living and traveling in Joburg and surrounds. But other times it’s a personal account of what’s happening in my actual life. A few years ago, when lots of tragic and dramatic stuff was happening to me, I wrote lots of personal posts. After Jon died, I wrote at length about death and addiction and grief. I poured my rawest, most intense feelings into the blog, sometimes not realizing what I’d written until after the post was published. But I find it harder to be personal on my blog when awesome, happy stuff is happening to me. It’s easy to write about surface-level happy stuff, like co-authoring books and fun blogger trips around South Africa. But all these surface-level happy things are happening for a reason, and that’s what I want to write about even though it’s really hard. The real me. She hasn’t written enough lately. (Photo: Ray) A couple of years ago I realized that I wasn’t a complete person. I didn’t know who I was or what I wanted and needed. I was addicted to self-destructive feelings and emotions and I couldn’t make myself happy. I looked fine on the outside but on the inside I was eating […]
Dear Blog: You came into my life four years ago today. I want to thank you. Thank you for giving me a sense of purpose. When I first arrived in Joburg, I didn’t have a job or even a plan. But I always had you. Eventually you became my job and my plan. Thank you for introducing me to photography. Creating you made me realize that I tell stories much better with words and pictures than I do with words alone. I’m a photographer because of you. Thank you for helping me to survive the most difficult times of my life. When I felt like I had nowhere to turn, I turned to you. I clicked “New Post” and started typing. Thank you for keeping me in South Africa. When life got really bad, I thought about leaving. But I knew that you couldn’t live anywhere else, and I knew that I couldn’t live without you. So I stayed. Thank you for introducing me to my city. You made me fall in love with Joburg. Now it’s home. Thank you for introducing me — directly or indirectly — to many of the people I care about most in the world. Thank you for introducing me to myself. I […]
I’m on Day 6 of my 10-day #MeetSouthAfrica trip. I intended to post on a regular basis during the journey but lack of time and wifi have prevented that. We’ve done so much. In the last three days alone I have crossed South Africa by bus from one end to the other (twice), learned to paddle a raft, made some awesome new friends, cooked my own gourmet meal in Cape Town, gone deaf in one ear (don’t worry Mom and Dad, I’m sure it’s temporary), and swam — yes swam — across an international border (twice). I want to wait until I have time to do proper justice to these experiences before writing about them in depth. But in the meantime I thought I’d post this one photo. It epitomizes my experience so far. It was shot in a tiny town called Pofadder in the Northern Cape, in the Kalahari Desert, between Upington and Springbok. Photo: Meruschka Govender #MeetSouthAfrica, baby. #MeetSouthAfrica.
I’ve been writing a lot about hashtags lately, which is a little embarrassing. Hashtags are so trendy. But sorry, I can’t help it. Once you’ve read this post you’ll understand my newfound hashtag passion. South African Tourism has a social media campaign called #MeetSouthAfrica that promotes South Africa as a travel destination, and they’ve invited 14 travel bloggers — nine international bloggers and five local bloggers — to explore the country for ten days. The journey starts in Joburg tomorrow and finishes in Durban next weekend at South Africa’s Tourism Indaba (a huge travel convention). Throughout the trip, the bloggers will share their experiences through social media using the #MeetSouthAfrica hashtag. #MeetSouthAfrica: Omphi on a bridge in Soweto. (I’ve populated this post with some of my favorite Instagrams from the past few weeks.) A few weeks ago I learned that I was one of the local bloggers selected to participate in the #MeetSouthAfrica campaign. I was stunned. Actually I was overjoyed. I’ve been trying to play it cool but the truth is I am more excited about this than I’ve been about anything in a long time. (Read more about the #MeetSouthAfrica trip here.) Let me back up and try to explain why. A bit more than two years ago in January […]
I don’t normally do “sponsored” posts. I have no interest in writing about forex exchange companies, grocery coupons, or casinos in Brunei, and these are the kinds of sponsored post offers that I normally receive. But a couple of weeks ago Gumtree.co.za contacted me and asked if we could work together. For those of you who don’t know, Gumtree is an online classifieds website similar to Craig’s List. I had never heard of Gumtree before I moved to Joburg. But it’s huge here — as huge as Craig’s List is in America. Gumtree is also big in the U.K. (where it was founded) and a few other countries. Before typing my normal polite decline, I stopped and thought. I had never used Gumtree before and it so happened that I had something I needed to sell. Why not try to sell it on Gumtree and then review the experience? Hence, this blog post. I needed to sell, of all things, a set of tires (tyres, to the South Africans and Brits among you). Five enormous, steel-belted radials that belonged to my late boyfriend Jon. I had been putting off selling them forever for a variety of reasons, but mainly because I have zero interest in tires and […]
*Photo above courtesy of Eva Melusine Thieme. Some of you will probably feel cheated when you open this, thinking that I climbed Mount Kilimanjaro myself. Sorry to disappoint you. While I am an adventurous person and I think Kilimanjaro is beautiful (I’ve seen it from afar), I’m not particularly interested in climbing it. I’m content with hiking up smaller mountains, as I did in Lesotho. Me on a mountain called Fukufuku in Lesotho. Not Mount Kilimanjaro. (Photo: Michelle Stern) Anyway, this particular Joburg expat (or Joburg migrant, if you will) did not climb Mount Kilimanjaro. But another Joburg expat — my friend Sine — did. I first met Sine (professionally known as Eva Melusine Thieme) through her blog, the Joburg Expat. Sine and I moved to South Africa from America at around the same time, and we both started blogs about it. Sine (who is originally from Germany but every bit as American as I am) moved back to the States in December 2012 and renamed her blog “the Ex-Joburg Expat”. I still read it faithfully. Sine and I only saw each other occasionally when she lived in Joburg. We lived far apart and our lives were drastically different. Sine is a busy mother […]
As I’m sure you’ve noticed, my blog changed. This is what my blog looked like yesterday. Big change today. It’s been more than two years since I changed the design of my blog, mainly because I really liked the old design. And the last time I changed designs, in December 2011, was a very pivotal point in my life. I guess my old blog reminded me of that. I subconsciously struggled to let it go. But today was time. My new blog header is the brain-child of Fiver Löcker. In addition to being a good friend, Fiver is one of my longest-running and most loyal blog-readers. I’ve always admired her online drawings and decided there was no better person to create the new 2Summers look. Fiver designed and drew this on her iPad. If you’d like to check out more of Fiver’s iPad drawings, visit her Tumblr feed. She also wrote a blog post about iPad drawing. This header incorporates many of the things I love most about Joburg: boxing, minibus taxis, aloes, hadedas, coffee, sunsets, photography, and of course the Joburg skyline and the Melville Cat. The banner even includes a broken iPhone, which isn’t exactly a happy thing but tells a good story. My new image is fairly unusual in the blogosphere, […]
On August 8, 2010, I published my first blog post from South Africa. The first photo in that post was a picture of a hadeda in my back yard. A hadeda at the Lucky 5 Star — my first South African blog photo. I’ve mentioned hadedas in passing over the years but I’ve never devoted a blog post to them. This is inexcusable, I now realize. The hadeda is more than a bird; it’s a Joburg icon. If you live in Joburg — whether it be in Melville or Mondeor, Sandton or Soweto — you probably awaken to hadedas every single morning of your life. You might love them, you might hate them, or you might have become immune to them. But the hadeda is always hovering on the edge of your subconscious, standing silently a few feet away or scaring the crap out of you as it launches into the air with a deafening screech. The hadeda (pronounced HAH-dee-dah, scientific name Bostrychia hagedash) is a large ibis, recognizable by its long beak and clumsy demeanor. Hadedas live all over sub-Saharan Africa, mostly in grasslands. But they have adapted exceptionally well to cities and especially to Joburg. I met this hadeda earlier in the week at the Rietfontein Nature Reserve […]
I just spent four days in Port Elizabeth and Nelson Mandela Bay, with four other bloggers. It rocked. The first photo I shot in Port Elizabeth on Thursday morning. Left to right: Rachel of Bush-bound Girl, Meruschka of Mzansi Girl, Heather of 2Summers, and Dianne of Afribird. Theresa of Fine Places is missing from the photo — she arrived a few minutes later.