The Kwandwe Experience

Ever since I won the WESSA Natural Heritage photo competition last October we’ve been looking forward to our trip to Kwandwe.  Understated luxury, a conservation victory and your private wilderness is their promise – we weren’t disappointed in any way.

It’s a short drive out to Kwandwe from Grahamstown where we were met by Oza at reception. She’s from nearby Joza so we had a neighbourly chat whilst signing into the reserve. Millions then drove us over in the shuttle to the Great Fish River Lodge. On the way he paused to show us two cheetah in the distance and we spotted a pair of lions stalking zebra. So this was quite an introduction – though unfortunately they were too far away for good photographs.

The lodge, and nine secluded chalets, is above the banks the Great Fish River with sweeping views up and down the valley. We had quite a few storms whilst we were there – as you can see from the skies above the Lodge – so every night we fell asleep to the sound of the river, the calls of the Fiery Cheeked Nightjars and the barks of the kudu. On our first afternoon there was also the distant roar of a lion.

We soon met Chase and Siza who were to be our ranger and tracker and quickly made friends with Jack and Caitlyn Conklin, from Nashville Tennessee, who shared all of our game drives and the hike on our last day. First up was a visit to the male lion that I’d heard roaring. He had a very full belly and wasn’t going anywhere. I’ve tried a retro feel on some pictures; borrowing the idea from the Lodge’s Victorian period photographs.

Chase and Siza also found the elephant herd for us and we spent ‘blue hour’ after dusk in amongst them. These weren’t ideal conditions for photography but the superb modern technology from Olympus works wonders in poor light conditions. I used a very high ISO so the pictures were grainy but it was easy to turn one of them into another retro styled image.

We saw a lot of game in the next two days. Some close up, some far away and quite a lot was partially hidden in amongst the valley bush veld.

As much as I love wildlife, and really enjoy photographing them, I won the WESSA prize with a landscape photograph. So it’s no great surprise that I spent quite a lot of time capturing the gorgeous light over the valleys and plains at Kwandwe. I was helped a lot by the stormy weather which produced spectacular clouds and lightning followed by clear skies. I even managed to get a good picture of the Milky Way arching up overhead.

The Kwandwe experience will live with me for a very long time – I hope I’m fortunate enough to win another visit!

Oldenburgia – Winner of the WESSA Natural Heritage Photo Competition 2018

Last Wednesday we were waiting to collect our luggage at Port Elizabeth airport when I got the news on social media that I’d won First Prize (Professional Category) in the WESSA Natural Heritage Photo Competition 2018. I was a bit stunned. That’s partly because we’d been travelling  home from Sweden for 27 hours but also I didn’t expect to win. A big thank you to the organisers, judges and Kwandwe Private Game Reserve for their generous First Prize of an overnight stay.

WESSA Natural Heritage Grahamstown Makhanda

Oldenburgia – Winner WESSA Natural Heritage Photo Competition 2018

If you’d like to buy a copy there’s a download available over at my online store. Here’s the picture. Its one of the big trees at the top of the zigzags on the Oldenburgia Trail just below the radio masts on Mountain Drive. There’s a lovely patch of afro-montane forest and summer grasses beyond the tree on the shoulder of Featherstone Kloof. I took the picture using a very wide angle lens on my Olympus OMD E-M5MarkII – it was set at 7mm focal length – which is what pulls the clouds down into the frame. It’s a 1/1250 second exposure at F4, ISO was 200. I did a little editing in LightRoom.

 

Reflections on the Culture Trail, Sundborn

These are my best set of pictures from our autumn visit to Sweden. It was a day of clear blue skies and cold weather but beautiful colours. Sundborn is only 20 minutes from Falun and a location full of photographic opportunities – especially reflections in the river. After taking the tour of the beautiful and iconic Carl Larsson-gården we had a picnic in the sunshine on the lawns of Stora Hyttnäs and then took the Culture Trail north to Sundborn Kyrka and Toftan.

http://sundborn.com/ks/en/karta/

Sundborn’s Culture Trail

The first picture shows the vivid autumn colours in the trees and vegetation along the river bank south of the Carl Larsson-gården. It’s pretty much the view you get of the river from the gardens themselves. They’re really nice to stroll around whilst you wait for your guided tour of the house.

Sundborn Autumn Höst Dalarna Sweden Fujifilm

Autumn Colours, Sundborn

The culture trail takes you along the river: stopping either at interesting locations where Larsson painted or the other historical sites of Sundborn. The hydro-power station is one of those sites, it was built just after 1900 and is located on the rapids a short walk from Larsson’s house – he provided the sketches for the design of the building and got his electric power from there. This is the view of the power station from downstream.

Sundborn Autumn Höst Dalarna Sweden Fujifilm

The Power Station, Sundborn

On the upstream side are these impressive sluices that control the flow of water into the turbines. There’s a walkway over the river so you pass right next to them. Their reflections are pictured here.

Sundborn Autumn Höst Dalarna Sweden Fujifilm

Power Station Sluices, Sundborn

Across the water you’ll see the tiled roofs of the old farm buildings that feature in some of Larsson’s paintings. They give you a nice taste of the picturesque nature of the old town that the trail takes you through.

Sundborn Autumn Höst Dalarna Sweden Fujifilm

Roof reflections, Sundborn

The next picture shows the buildings along Kyrkvägen that front on to the river. It’s taken from the opposite bank on the pathway along to the old wash house. It’s a very picturesque setting.

Sundborn Autumn Höst Dalarna Sweden Fujifilm

Looking across the Sundbornsån, Sundborn

When you reach the old wash house – it’s now a sauna – you can look back along the river. There’s a lovely composition where the trees frame the river that recedes away from the viewer. I was lucky because a scattering of light cumulus clouds also provided a top and bottom frame to complete the picture.

Sundborn Autumn Höst Dalarna Sweden Fujifilm

Looking down the Sundbornsån, Sundborn

Once you’ve walked through the old town to the church you get lovely views of the lake – Toftan – that opens up before you.

Sundborn Autumn Höst Dalarna Sweden Fujifilm

Toftan, Sundborn

I took this last picture when we got back to Larsson’s house. It’s called Summer’s End because it has a real end-of-season feel to it. The boats and canoe belong to the relatives of Larsson who still have summer houses on the property. Soon their river craft will be stored away for the winter.

Sundborn Autumn Höst Dalarna Sweden Fujifilm

Summer’s End, Sundborn

The pictures were all taken using the Velvia Vivid setting on my Fujifilm X100F. It gives a great depth of colour – especially the blues. I used my two converter lenses – wide angle and tele converter – for the pictures.

Sweden in Monochrome

This past few weeks in Sweden I’ve been using my Fujifilm X100F exclusively. It always takes me a while to adjust to new light and compositions and the switch from late winter in South Africa to late summer in Sweden is quite drastic. That’s one reason why I’ve been using monochrome – it’s helped me to capture the light.

When we arrived I opened up my parcel from Fuji with the wide and tele conversion lenses I’d also bought. We went out berry picking on the first weekend to a beautiful location called Karlsbo – it’s about a half hour drive from Falun in Dalarna. I was keen to use the wide angle converter and so I screwed it on to the standard lens and took a lot of pictures that day – this is one of them. It is a vertical panorama of two images one stacked above the other.

Karlsbo Dalarna Fujifilm F100X Monochrome Sweden

Karsbo Panorama, Dalarna

This second picture was taken on the beautiful Bohuslän coast at Ramsvikslandet. It was a stunningly clear day after a major storm had passed through. Everything I was seeing was swept clean. The granite rocks and islands were scraped bare by glaciers and the sky was a clear blue with hardly a cloud. For this picture I used the tele converter so as to zoom in on the cottages at Fykan across the close cropped grass in the foreground.

Fykan Smögen Fujifilm X100F Monochrome Sweden

Fykan, Ramsvikslandet

You couldn’t get much more of a contrast than with this next image. It’s taken late one evening after sunset and it’s a view of the Bäveån that flows through Uddevalla. The river has a series of old mills along its course and this one hunches above a broad sweeping curve with the rapids in the background.

Uddevalla Bäveån Bohuslän Fujifilm F100X Monochrome Sweden

Bäveån Mill Pond, Uddevalla

The last couple of pictures were taken from the outlook above Gustafsberg – it’s has a lovely outlook west over the fjord to the Uddevalla Bron and east to the harbour entrance.

Uddevalla Bohuslän E6 Fujifilm F100X Monochrome Sweden

Uddevalla Bron from Gustafsberg

Uddevalla Gustafsberg Bohuslän Fujifilm F100X Monochrome Sweden

Uddevalla from Gustafsberg

I’m really pleased with the results I’ve got and I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing them.

 

 

 

 

The many shades of Falu Red – Falu Rödfärg – Sweden’s favourite colour.

Think of rural Sweden and forests, lakes, fields and fells spring to mind – wonderfully green in summer and white in winter. The houses, farms and barns will almost all be painted in Sweden’s favourite colour – Falu Red or Falu Rödfärg – that comes from the 1000 year old copper mine in Falun, Dalarna.

Falu Rödfärg Falun Red Sundborn Dalarna Sweden

Riverside houses in Falu Rödfärg, Sundborn

I’ve always found the red to be very attractive – not least because it changes shades depending on the light and the season. When it’s cloudy in summer then it is matte and has a clay-like texture and appearance. I’ve chosen this picture of the doorway to Sundborn church steeple because it shows this – there’s also beautiful wood work in the overlapping tiles of wood. The colour is very similar to the red-brown laterite soils where we lived in Ruiri, Kenya. I’m sure that’s one of the reasons that I like it so much.

Falu Rödfärg Falun Red Sundborn Dalarna Sweden

Sundborn steeple doorway in Falu Rödfärg

In dappled summer light it’s still soft but with brighter and darker red patches where there’s light and shade. You can see this on the main church building at Sunburn that has a large oak tree spreading shade across the roof and walls. Sundborn church is a beautiful village just outside Falun with a lovely heritage walk that features the locales of Carl Larsson’s famous paintings. The church is part way round the walk.

Falu Rödfärg Falun Red Sundborn Dalarna Sweden

Sundborn church in Falu Rödfärg

You also go past this lovely old barn on the riverbank.

Falu Rödfärg Falun Red Sundborn Dalarna Sweden

Old riverside barn in Falu Rödfärg, Sundborn

The real richness of Falu Red comes out in this next picture. It’s almost orange-red on the main wall of the church in the foreground. Falu Red, white and green are a really common summer colour mix.

Falu Rödfärg Falun Red Sundborn Dalarna Sweden

Sundborn church tower in Falu Rödfärg, Sundborn

Winter is a different story. All of the green will be gone and replaced with white when there’s been snow. Falu Red is particularly striking when there are cold blue skies behind bare tree branches.

Falu Rödfärg Falun Red Falun Dalarna Sweden Elsborg

Falu Rödfärg in winter, Elsborg, Falun

These two pictures were taken in Elsborg – the beautifully preserved historic quarter of Falun – during the particularly long, cold winter this year.

Falu Rödfärg Falun Red Elsborg Dalarna

Winter street scene of Falu Rödfärg, Elsborg, Falun

I had to use a very wide angle lens to capture the sky and clouds in these scenes. Even with the sun at a low angle the Falu Red is vibrant. If you are lucky and there are no clouds then you can get red reflections in the snow.

Falu Rödfärg Falun Red Dalarna Sweden Stångtjärn, Falun

Reflection of Falu Rödfärg on snow, Stångtjärn, Falun

The wall in this picture shows the yellow-orange colour that you can get when the clear winter light hits the paint horizontally. It’s almost mirror-like. This last picture was taken at Romme Alpin, it’s mostly blue and white, with just a little Falu Red to hint at summer’s warmth.

Falu Rödfärg Falun Red Dalarna Sweden Romme Alpin

Falu Rödfärg on the ski slopes, Romme Alpin, Falun

 

The Sweden Affect

The same thing happens to my photography whenever I come to Sweden. I think it’s either the impact of all that Scandinavian design on my artistic sense or maybe its all of the conformity and regularity of life here. Here’s a great example.

Sweden Black and White Monochrome Design Falun

Sensommar i Sverige

Since I arrived in Falun a couple of days ago It’s been raining a bit and so the summer furniture was stacked up (neatly of course) on the altan just outside the kitchen window. It looked so typically ‘sensommar’ – late summer – that I went out to get the picture. The composition just jumped out at me. Here’s another.

I was out on the balcony trying out new settings on the Fujifilm X100F and, once again, the shapes and lines drew me in. This time the light was changing as I took the picture (the sun came out!!) and so I could experiment with different compositions.

For the next six weeks I’ll be working only with the Fujifilm. I’ve found that’s the best way to learn what a camera will do. In the end I will be using it without thinking at all about the settings. Also it means that I can use the two new lens extensions I have just bought for it!