Days of looking to be there at the right moment …

“That’s pretty much the life of a National Geographic photographer. Days of looking to be there at the right moment.” Jim Richardson

Jim’s got it right: if you want to get a particular composition, or just the right light, then it can take days of looking and days of waiting. Then you’ve got to get yourself in just the right spot at the right time with the best equipment you have – camera set-up, lens, lens filter, and tripod.

You also need to know your landscape and how it’s lit. If you stand with your back to a Karoo sunset you often have golden light washing over distant mountains. That’s something I’ve wanted to get a good photograph of for a long time. Here’s one from my last shoot.

A golden sunset at Ganora farm

Golden Sunset at Ganora

There’s a second photograph that I’ve worked on many times over the past 10 or 15 years. If you are at Ganora Farm (just outside Nieu Bethesda) and stand looking north towards Compassberg mountain then the sunset is to your left and the light bathes the cliffs and skyline. You can also get lovely colours on the clouds beyond.

The dramatic cliffs of Compassberg at sunset

Compassberg’s cliffs catching the sunset light

Just last month I managed to be there at the right moment for both of these shots. We’d had a dull, hot, overcast afternoon but an hour before sunset a nice rift appeared in the clouds way off to the west. I figured that’s pretty much where the sun would be as it set so I assembled my camera gear and headed to a good vantage point up on the road out of the farm.

One of the reasons I got the pictures I wanted was the lenses I used. It’s the first time I had taken the M.Zuiko 40-150 mm PRO lens with me. I also had the MC-14 telephoto adaptor which enabled me to zoom really close up to the subjects.

I waited for about half an hour keeping an eye out for the sun to drop below the clouds. When it did I shot a picture of the road out from the farm with Compassberg mountain beyond. I used the 12-40 mm PRO lens for this and quickly switched it for the 40-150 mm as I knew the light would change rapidly. Swivelling round so the sun was now behind me I got a couple of really nice pictures of the golden glow on the distant hills and koppies off to the east.

The golden road to Ganora Farm

Golden road at Ganora

The golden light of a Karoo sunset

Golden light at Ganora

Then I walked back over the road for the long exposure shots of the mountain with clouds behind it. These were taken on the tripod using Live Composite base settings of half a second and a second. Each shot was five minutes long – so either 600 for 300 exposures superimposed in the camera.

Sunset colours over Compassberg mountain

Sunset colours over Compassberg

Late sunset colours over Compassberg mountain

Late sunset colours over Compassberg

It had been a pretty intense hour but I was feeling really pleased. It was a nice walk back through the gloaming with the prospect ahead of a cold beer at the braai.

A cathedral, seven churches and two chapels: 10 heritage prints of old Grahamstown

There are 70 Heritage Sites in the central parts of old Grahamstown. Take a look at the map and you will see that the 10 religious ones featured here are mostly found between the Chapel of St Mary and all the Angels (on the Rhodes University campus) eastwards through the CBD and down to Sunnyside where you find St Bartholomew’s Church. Then to the east, and looking down from opposite sides of the Kowie River, are The Old Wesleyan Chapel on the Fort England ridge and St Philip’s Church at the bottom of Fingo Village.

Chapels, Churches and a Cathedral, old Grahamstown heritage sites

Chapels, Churches and a Cathedral, old Grahamstown heritage sites

The Chapel of St Mary and all the Angels has a lovely tranquil setting in the St Peter’s grounds of the Rhodes University campus. It was built in 1915 and consecrated in 1916. Inside there’s a beautiful altarpiece of the Madonna and Child that was painted between 1924 and 1929 by Sister Margaret.

Chapel of Saint Mary and all the Angel's, Rhodes University, Grahamstown

Chapel of Saint Mary and all the Angel’s, Rhodes University, Grahamstown, Makana

The Cathedral of St Michael and St George is a most impressive building, and one of old Grahamstown’s icons. Situated right in the centre of the town it towers above Church Square and acts as a counterpoint to the Rhodes University clock tower. It was built between 1824 and 1911 in the neo-gothic style which makes quite a contrast to the basilican style of the Chapel of St Mary and all the Angels.

Cathedral of St Michael and St George, Grahamstown, Makana

Cathedral of St Michael and St George, Grahamstown, Makana

Just around the corner on Hill Street lies St Patrick’s Church. It was built between 1839 and 1844 by the Royal Inniskilling Fusliers who were stationed nearby. It’s another building that makes the most of its situation even though today it is slightly overshadowed by the Public Library next door.

St Patrick's Church, Hill Street, Grahamstown, Makana

St Patrick’s Church, Hill Street, Grahamstown, Makana

Commemoration Methodist Church was built on High Street from 1845-1850 to commemorate the 25th anniversary of landing of the 1820 Settlers in Algoa Bay. You get a fine view of its neo-gothic facade from the junction of Bathurst Street and High Street.

Commemoration Methodist Church, High Street, Grahamstown, Makana

Commemoration Methodist Church, High Street, Grahamstown, Makana

A little further down High Street are the Shaw Hall (also known as the New Wesleyan Chapel) and next door lies the Sole Memorial Church. Shaw Hall became the home the Methodists in 1831 (previously they held services at the Yellow Chapel in Chapel Street) but by 1844 their congregation was too large and so Commemoration Methodist Church was built. Shaw Hall is named after Rev William Shaw, who was the founder of the Methodist Church in South Africa and in 1864 it was where the Cape Parliament was opened – the only time it ever sat outside Cape Town. Next door is The Sole Memorial Church that was built between 1838 and 1843. Originally a schoolhouse it’s named after John Henry Sole.

The Baptist Church on Bathurst Street will be celebrating its Bicentenary in 2020. Although the church was built in 1843 the congregation had moved from their first meeting house that was on Bartholomew Street in Sunnyside.

The Baptist Church, Bathurst Street, Grahamstown, Makana

The Baptist Church, Bathurst Street, Grahamstown, Makana

St Bartholomew’s Anglican Church and St Philip’s Anglican Church are still almost visible from one to the other. St Barts was built in the suburb of Sunnyside in 1857 and St Philip’s in Fingo Village in 1860.

My final picture is of the Old Wesleyan Chapel at Fort England. it was built in 1861 just outside the barracks on what was then known as East Barrack Hill. The school house adjacent was built later.

Wesleyan Chapel and Hall, Fort England, Grahamstown, Makana

Wesleyan Chapel and Hall, Fort England, Grahamstown, Makana

As 2020 – the bicentenary of the 1820 Settlers – gets closer I will be making further ‘occasional’ posts (with pictures) in this heritage style.

If you are interested in buying a print or purchasing image rights then please use the Contact Me form and I’ll get back to you straight away.

 

 

 

 

The Eastern Cape Karoo in black and white

I’ve had such positive responses from my recent blog post on the Karoo that it’s inspired me to put together these ten images. This time all of the pictures are different styles in black and white. They’re taken from Mt Zebra National Park, which is just outside Cradock, along the R61 to Ganora Guest Farm and Compassberg – just before you arrive in Nieu-Bethesda.

I get these rich blacks in the landscapes if I use the wide-angle M.Zuiko 7-14mm lens. It really picks out the contrasts when there are clouds and captures lots of detail and texture in the foreground.

I used the same lens for this view. I love the way that the fence line and clouds pull you into the photograph.

Gate, sheep and sky, Blaauwater Siding, Nieu-Bethesda, Karoo

Gate, sheep and sky, Blaauwater Siding, Nieu-Bethesda

When the sun’s lower then the light often gets much hazier. I’m looking either through or into the light in this next set of pictures.

The next pair of pictures were both taken using a zoom lens (the M.Zuiko 40-150) with full sunlight bathing the focus of the scene.

Lastly I’ve a couple of pictures that I took looking upwards with the body-cap fish-eye lens. That means the sun gets into your picture unless you hide it behind something!

I’d love to get some feedback so let me know what you think!

To the Sneeuberg and Eastern Cape Karoo: studies in brown and blue.

We are having a long drought in the Eastern Cape – it’s only early Spring and already hot after a very dry winter. On the drive up from Grahamstown to Mt Zebra National Park and the Sneeuberg there’s hardly any green vegetation to be seen. The landscape is dominated by browns and blues showing off the textures, the grain of the land, the rocks and thorny bush.

Karoo Skyline from Mt Zebra, Cradock, Karoo

Karoo Skyline from Mt Zebra National Park

On the way north to Cradock there’s a great big Karoo sky above you and the folds and wrinkles of the landscape stretch far into the distance. You get lovely skylines like this one – taken from Mt Zebra’s Black Eagle Hike towards sunset – and you might be lucky enough to be able to sit behind some boulders and quietly watch a baboon troop pass by.

Baboon troop, Mt Zebra National Park

Baboon troop in the golden light of sunset at Mt Zebra National Park

If you take the Kranskop loop in the Park then you leave the throne bush (and monkeys) behind and climb steeply up to get more great views.

Ververt Monkey in the thorn bush, Mt Zebra National Park

Ververt Monkey in the thorn bush, Mt Zebra National Park

Off to the west of the Park the Sneeuberg range stretches away towards Graaff-Reinet and Middelburg.

Sneeuberg Landscape from Mt Zebra, Cradock, Karoo

Sneeuberg Landscape from Mt Zebra National Park

This is the countryside that you will drive through if you go west towards Nieu-Bethesda. My final picture is taken from the lookout where the gravel road crests and you get a view down to Ganora Farm. Nieu-Bethesda lies just beyond the middle range of hills.

Sneeuberg Landscape at Ganora, Nieu-Bethesda, Karoo

Sneeuberg Landscape at Ganora, Nieu-Bethesda

 

King Proteas – four studies

There are some King Proteas blossoming on Mountain Drive at the moment. Though they are not as many as last year – when they seemed to go on flowering for a very long time. As Spring gets nearer the days are getting a little longer so there’s just a bit more time to photograph them. Sunset’s a great time for this. I wanted to make a few studies showing them in different light and these four pictures are what I have got. They were all taken in the early evening – often straight into the light so a lens hood was essential!

When they are fully open you can get the most beautiful pink shades as the sunlight streams through them. Some, however, are almost bleached in colour and the tightly furled buds can also reveal very delicate shades of pink.

 

 

Symmetry Series: nude studies and new work at #NAF19

I’ve been making symmetrical images for many years now. Usually of trees, grass, leaves, ferns and clouds – you can see plenty in my Symmetry in Nature book download. Recently I have been making them much more complex by dissolving nude female figures into the composition. Here’s a good example from this years’s #NAF19. It’s called The Three Graces and is a large piece (76 cms x 67 cms). The blog format doesn’t really do it justice but you can see what I mean.

The Three Graces Vaulted #NAF19: Symmetry Study

The Three Graces Vaulted at #NAF19: Symmetry Study

The backdrop is a picture of the ancient milkweed tree at Platbos Forest in the western Cape near Cape Agulhas. I have mirrored it horizontally and vertically to get a vaulted effect. I wanted you to feel the branches stretch overhead as if under the roof of a cathedral.

Platbos Milkwood Dark: Original Study before mirroring

Platbos Milkwood Dark: before mirroring

Then, of course, I needed to have a figure, or figures, to merge into this ethereal background. I wanted a nude female figure that dissolves into the roots, branches and vines. So I set up a photo shoot (with Natalie who I have worked with before) and she posed in front of a screen with a variety of images projected on to her. I used my own mirrored images of ferns, spider webs and – best of all – lightning for this.

Lightning of Grahamstown - Symmetry Template

Lightning over Grahamstown – Symmetry Template

Here’s a short selection from the shoot. You’ll see that Natalie gave me some beautiful shapes to work with. They’re tricky pictures to take as it’s dark with only the projected image for lighting – so shutter speeds were quite slow and ISO settings high.

My favourite images had the lightning and trees draped over her body. I then spent many hours reducing images carefully down to partial figures. These could then be overlaid on to the forest so they looked as though they were dissolving into, or emerging organically out of, a mystical scene. In the end I had three images of her that I used and that’s why the finished artwork is called The Three Graces. It’s so striking that I have two versions of it. I’ve used it for my poster and publicity.

You can see the final two image at my exhibition Reflections in the Johan Carinus Art Centre, Beaufort Street, Grahamstown. We are open from 9 am to 5 pm daily throughout the 2019 National Arts Festival from 27 June to 7 July. If you are interested in purchasing (or having a private viewing) then please contact me at roddyfox@mac.com.