To Trip the Light Fantastic: light painting at Hogsback

I think there’s a good deal of fun to be had light painting. It’s like a mini performance. You have to imagine a dark scene to light up, get your camera organised, put on your darkest clothes, start the camera and then take your light into the space, weaving and turning, circling and waving. Then dash back (taking care not to trip in the dark) to see what you’ve captured on the live view of your camera. I’m particularly fortunate because my Olympus OMD has a live composite mode that lets you see the picture you’ve already built up. You can then either stop the long exposure or go back into the scene for some more painting with light (of course you might then ruin it!).

We were up at Hogsback last week and I was looking forward to doing some light painting experiments. It’s a great dark sky site with very little light pollution and lots of locations with mountain views, stars overhead, forests and waterfalls.

On our first evening there I went down the steep woodland path below Wild Fox Hill and took a few shots of myself coming back up towards the camera from out of the forest. I called this picture In the Flow. The second picture was taken that same evening down in the basement extensions being built below the house. I lit the walls and beams first with sweeps of colour and then did some perilous weaving On the Loose dodging the buckets, tools, beams, bottles and mud scattered around the floor. The third picture is almost formal. Standing Guard was taken in the plantation forest with a back lit night sky. It took multiple trips stumbling through the pine litter and fallen branches trying to remember which trees I had stood behind to make the pattern of circles. The last two pictures were taken when there was still some sunset afterglow beneath the milky way. Tor Doone rears up over the valley from Wild Fox Hill and I made these two pictures at almost the same spot. The Sentinel looks rather as though he’s standing guard whilst the Ribbon Dancer is far more elegant as she trips the light fantastic.

Light painting with Freddy, the Fibre Art Fish

Freddy’s been circling in my studio ever since he swam over to me from Sally Scott’s wonderful exhibition at the Johan Carinus Art School. That must be five or six years ago during South Africa’s National Arts Festival!

Last night he got a real break. I gave him a dust over and a new (black) line and took him outside as night fell. He looked absolutely splendid glinting in the lights – I’d swear he was pirhouetting with pleasure under the canopy of our old grape vine. And he got the film star treatment – with flash lights popping and light wands waving. Just take a look at him!!

Escher’s Butterflies Migrating Over The Rivers of Africa

I’ve really found Escher’s work to be inspirational and it’s so nice to be able to take it into a new dimension. I re-imagined Escher’s Butterflies in one of my earlier posts and now I’ve finished mapping the whole continent’s rivers I’ve been able to realise a new, more complete, look for the idea.

Escher's Butterflies Migrating Over the Rivers of Africa
Escher’s Butterflies Migrating Over the Rivers of Africa

I particularly like the granularity and textures in each butterfly’s wings and bodies – if you look more closely you’ll see what I mean.

Detail of Escher's Butterflies Migrating Over the Rivers of Africa
Escher’s Butterflies Migrating Over the Rivers of Africa – Detail

Please check out my Instagram feed to find a selection of the Rivers of Africa images that I’ve been posting. Hope you’ve enjoyed seeing these!

The Fish and Scales Topographic Map of South Africa

MC Escher produced his famous Fish and Scales print in 1950 – at the same time as The Butterflies. And so, following on from my re-imagination of The Butterflies in yesterday’s post, I’ve used the same method to produce the Fish and Scales Topographic Map of South Africa. You should be able to pick out the country’s coastline easily. The north-eastern edge of Escher’s print follows the curves of the Limpopo River whilst in the north-west it follows the Orange. I’d like to think that he would appreciate the playful colouring!

The Fish and Scales Topographic Map of South Africa
The Fish and Scales Topographic Map of South Africa
Escher's Fish and Scales
Escher’s Fish and Scales

MC Escher’s Butterflies Print Re-imagined

MC Escher’s work has always amazed me with the way he transforms reality: peeling it away in layers to reveal new structures and perceptions. Lately I’ve begun to wonder if I couldn’t use one of his prints – The Butterflies – to blend his work with how Geographers use Geographic Information Systems to portray the Earth’s surface. After all, Escher was always interested in landscapes too.

So I scanned The Butterflies from my 1972 copy of The Graphic Work of MC Escher and then removed all of the white areas from the print leaving those areas transparent.

MC Escher's Butterflies Print
MC Escher’s Butterflies Print

This meant that when I overlaid it on to my map of Africa’s rivers then the coloured areas showed through to become the wing colours of the butterflies. You can clearly see the distinctive shape of Africa’s horn in the top right and the central large green butterfly is right over the Congo River.

Escher's Butterflies on the Map of Africa's Rivers
Escher’s Butterflies on the Map of Africa’s Rivers

For my next attempt I flipped the Butterflies image vertically and overlaid it on the topographic map of South Africa. This makes them fly up from the south coast over the mountains of Lesotho and on into Zimbabwe and Botswana.

Escher's Butterflies on the Topographic Map of South Africa
Escher’s Butterflies on the Topographic Map of South Africa

This was a fun thing to try and it’s given me some lovely new African designs and ideas to work with.

The Silence of Elephants – a haiga

I found this lovely haiku by Ingrid Baluchi when I was recently browsing through back issues of The Mamba Journal – it’s the Africa Haiku Network’s online publication that comes out twice a year. Right away I knew I would like to put it to imagery and – fortunately – we had already booked a visit to Woodbury Tented Camp at Amakhala Private Game Reserve. Our ranger (Brad Louwrens) was extremely helpful in positioning the vehicle during our game drives and that was a big help in getting the video clips I needed to make this haiga.

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