Cycling by the heritage sites: Howse Street Grahamstown

The second post of the Grahamstown heritage sites is a street-scene. There’s no getting away from the new in this picture because there’s a young cyclist front and centre. Behind him Howse Street runs up to the historical core of the city. There’s power lines and street lights leading the eye towards the skyline and the heritage sites silhouetted there.

Howse Street Grahamstown Heritage Sites

Passing by Grahamstown’s Heritage Sites: Howse Street

The Cathedral of St Michael and St George dominates this picture and strangely it isn’t a heritage site: though it is one of the city’s iconic buildings. The buildings that run between the two spires are the backs of the Victorian shops that front on to Church Square. These are all heritage sites: as is the City Hall itself. Later in the series I’ll post some pictures of them as they are architecturally striking.

As usual there’s a bit of a back story to the picture. To get a shot with a passing cyclist I needed to stand in the middle of Beaufort Street – and that’s a busy thoroughfare – mid-way between two sets of traffic lights. So I needed to wait until both sets of lights were on red and there was a gap in the traffic. It meant I dashed out into the road on a number of occasions before I was successful.

Several of this new series will be on display at #NAF19 in my exhibition called ‘Reflections’ at the Carinus Art Centre 27 June – 7 July.

 

Enjoying the moonrise: Rhodes students on Fort Selwyn

The first post of a new series – Grahamstown Heritage – features the old and the new.

Fort Selwyn lies on Gunfire Hill and it was built for its strategic view over the city below. No great surprise that it’s one of Grahamstown 70 heritage sites. These days it has lost its military importance but it does make a spectacular vantage point. That’s especially true for students who come up from Rhodes University after Friday classes to watch the sunset and then the moonrise. All whilst having an early evening drink or two.

Enjoying the moonrise: Rhodes students on Fort Selwyn, Grahamstown (Makhanda)

There’s an interesting backstory to this shot. Night photos usually need a daylight reconnaissance. I’d already been to Fort Selwyn at night taking pictures of car headlights trailing across town. That’s when I first saw the students perched on the Fort’s ramparts. But then I had to go back in the daylight and work out how to get high enough to get the students and the town below plus the full moon and all of Fort Selwyn in one shot. I solved it by climbing one of the megaliths that surround the 1820 Settlers National Monument. When I returned that night I brought a stepladder, propped it against the rock, climbed up and installed my tripod. Then I just had to wait for the moon to climb high enough whilst the students enjoyed themselves. There was, of course, plenty of musical accompaniment from the sound systems in the open car doors. Not a soul noticed me, or the ladder, perched on the rock. You can see my shadow in the right foreground as a passing car’s headlights helpfully revealed the foreground of the picture.

I expect to have several of this new series on display at #NAF19. My exhibitions called ‘Reflections’ and I’ll be at the Carinus Art Centre. In the next day or two I’ll have the picture for sale as a print or for downloading over at my store.

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.

 

Starry nights at Hogsback

We’ve been staying in Helen’s house at Wild Fox Hill, Hogsback, this past week. There’s been her three dogs and four cats to look after whilst she’s in Sweden visiting Jeannie. We’ve also taken care of her Eco-Cabin and the Air BnB guests. I’ve brought along my Olympus OMD I mark 2 along with the big M-Zuiko 7-14 mm wide angle lens hoping to get some good night shots and Hogsback hasn’t disappointed!

Wild Fox Hill, Hogsback, Astrophotography, Eastern Cape

Wild Fox Hill Eco-Cabin, Hogsback

Here’s a picture of the Eco-Cabin taken on our first night. There was a very small new moon, no light pollution and no wind – so ideal conditions for night photography. If you’re familiar with southern hemisphere stars you’ll recognise the two pointers and Southern Cross – the picture’s taken looking almost due south. This second picture was taken looking vertically upwards to capture the full extent of the Milky Way. The two pointers and Southern Cross are now at the right hand end of the Milky Way. Mars is very clear to the left of the Milky Way and Jupiter is up at the top right.

Hogsback, Eastern Cape, Astrophotography

Milky Way, Mars and Jupiter over Wild Fox Hill, Hogsback

In this last picture the crescent new moon was shining behind me so there’s a blue tint to the sky. It’s the first time I’ve managed to successfully merge two wide angle lens images together to make a vertical panorama. I really like the effect of the Milky Way arching across the sky above the Hogsback mountains.

Wild Fox Hill, Hogsback, Eastern Cape, Astrophotography

Wild Fox Hill, Hogsback, Under the Milky Way

That’s Mars in the centre of the picture. I was lucky to have some of the foreground lit up by a car’s headlights on Winding Lane. When we get back to Grahamstown I will upload these images into my on-line store – they’ll make a nice addition to the Hogsback Series.

Karoo Light: Sunsets, Storms and Night Skies

Two or three times a year we make the journey west from Grahamstown and into the Karoo – often staying somewhere around Compassberg which at 2504 metres is the highest peak in the Sneeuberg and Karoo. Kate has been working in the area for many years and I’ve gone along too. Sometimes that’s involved some academic work but more often I take my camera out and about. For me as a photographer the Karoo is really grainy: there’s gravel roads, flatlands, thorn scrub on rock outcrops, flat sedimentary ledges in front of rugged mountains, dolerite columns and twisting sandy rivers. All of this under a huge sky with dramatic light – especially when there’s rain (and snow) about.

This slideshow features some of my favourite themes, sunsets, storms and night skies.

There’s a picture of an iconic Karoo wind pump under a stormy sky. The Obelisk below the Milky Way is at Ganora Guest Farm (it marks the sharp turnoff to their self catering cottage). The Karoo Sunset was actually taken from Hogsback, which isn’t in the Karoo, but I was looking due west at the sun setting beyond range after range of Karoo hills. The two Passing Storm pictures were taken approaching (and from within) the Karoo National Park one dramatic afternoon. The last two pictures are of sunsets at Compassberg and the Sneeuberg north of Nieu Bethesda.

I’ve put The Karoo Windpump and The Road to Compassberg in my online store where you can also find plenty of other landscape pictures and my latest exhibition – Metamorphosis.