Heaven and Earth by Matt Bouch

Welcome to Incredible Photographs, a series of short interviews on South Africa’s very best nature photography. We ask the photographers a set list of questions to gain insight into the previsualization, planning, capture, editing and reflection of their best photographs.



Where was this image taken?

At the head of Ifidi Pass, looking south.

Did you plan this image or would you consider it a stroke of luck?

I captured this during a photography workshop I was guiding. Our workshops are meticulously planned, so that we’re in the right place, in the right season, at the right time of day. The rest is up to nature.

Was this image inspired by another photographer’s work or a specific image?

Not in any image in particular, but subconsciously I draw inspiration from many photographer’s work when capturing these grand landscapes.

Is the location physically challenging to access or is it a brief walk from a parking lot? Also, would you consider the location safe to go shooting on your own or should one be cautious?

It depends which route you take…Going up Ifidi is one of the most gruelling passes in the Drakensberg. Luckily there’s an easier alternative that we use for our workshops.

Did you go out on a whim or was this shoot carefully planned in consideration of weather forecasts?

As I mentioned earlier, this was shot during a summer workshop in the Drakensberg. We plan these workshops in the summer, because of the rainfall, which paints the valleys a vivid green, and the moisture leads to these incredible cloud inversions.

How did you feel when you saw the screen light up with that result?

Initially, I was more excited by an image I shot before this one. So this was pleasant surprise, when I imported the images to Lightroom.

Let’s discuss the technicalities –

  • Settings - F11, 1/30s, ISO125
  • Camera and Lens - Sony A7r3, Sony 16-35 F4 @35mm
  • Tripod - Before I got a Leofoto LS-2854 + LH-36, I had a bulky Sirui tripod that has been retired due to sea water.
  • Filters - NISI Landscape CPL

Multiple Exposures/HDR?

Single exposure. I exposed for the highlights and pulled the shadows up in post.

Did you edit it the moment you got home, or did you leave it in the photo cellar to mature?

Once I saw the image, I wasted no time processing it.

Let’s talk about enhancements made in editing?

Editing this image was about achieving a natural, balanced look. With scenes like this, you can move into HDR territory very quickly if you’re heavy handed. This was a single exposure, and there was a lot of dynamic range to deal with. I used a series of graduated masks to bring down the highlights in the sky and lift the shadows in the foreground. I then used a brush to locally brighten and darken areas of the image, most notably the edges of the ridges on the foreground, and the whites of the clouds.

Do you think this image is one of your all-time top 10 photos?

Of this location, yes.

Do you feel you’ve done the location justice and you can move on now?

I don’t like the idea of moving on. Each trip is unique and presents new perspectives and creative intentions. And as a workshop guide, I visit this location all the time.

Any advice for someone wanting to capture an image like this?

Join us on one of our workshops, and I’ll give you all the advice you need. Shameless plugs aside, the more time you spend in the mountains, the more luck you have. And do your research regarding the weather. For example, there is slim to no chance you’ll have conditions like these in the winter.

Is this image for sale as a print?

Yes, please checkout mattbouch.com where you will find all details about print sales.


A big thank you to Matt Bouch for taking the time to answer our questions and his willingness to share the journey of creation behind the image. Below are the details to all his social media – please give them a like and a follow to show your appreciation. If you’d like to learn from him, check out their workshops and most of all, if you absolutely love this photograph, consider buying a print to support the artists.   

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