In Tandem: Poetry to Imagery

Just before lockdown I shared a quiet couple of beers with Harry Owen and we talked about trying something new for the Virtual National Arts Festival. Seeing as we had lots of poetry and imagery between us why not collaborate? Here’s a taste of what we have been working on.

Aorta – Harry’s unpublished poem was initially prepared with Coming Home: Poems of the Grahamstown Diaspora in mind. It’s the first one that we worked on and has all of the elements that we have stuck with. There’s a voice-over to a sequence of images followed by the written text of the poem. A soundtrack backing the voice-over is the final strand of what we have put together.

The second piece is from Coming Home. It’s Gillian Rennie’s lovely small poem ‘Bots Aloes’. Harry again is the reader. Coming Home is published in East London by Amitabh Mitra’s The Poets Printery.

The last poem took a while to complete because we really wanted to track down the author – Hannah Armour – to get her reading of ‘Now’. She wrote this when she was ten and eight years have passed since then. It’s published in For Rhino in a Shrinking World: An International Anthology, edited by Harry Owen and published by The Poet’s Printery. Thanks to social media and our network of FaceBook we found her and she kindly gave us the voice-over.

We still have three more In Tandem videos that we are working on. They’re all longer than the ones we have done so far and consequently more complex. Watch this space!

 

The Sound of Water: Three Haiku

We missed Reddit’s Poetry last month because of the Covid-19 lockdown so I’ve decided to make this short video clip instead. It’s three haiku with a water theme that I found at The Haiku Foundation’s website. Each of them is overlain on one of my photos of Eastern Cape waterfalls:

  • Wally Swist’s haiku with the Upper Kowie Falls in Featherstone Kloof near Grahamstown;
  • Ron Moss’s haiku with the Madonna and Child Falls at Hogsback;
  • Bashō’s classic haiku with The Upper Tyumie Falls at Hogsback.

I hope you enjoy them.

 

When the wave breaks

Towering over our townships, like a wave ready to break, was this huge cumulus cloud. Ominously pink in the late glow after sunset the top of the cloud was rising fast and, blown by the winds, looked like a crest hovering over Grahamstown’s townships below. This was taken a couple of nights ago, a week after the lockdown began, and mirrors my feelings of apprehension.

Cumulus clouds breaking over Makhanda's (Grahamstown) townships during the Corona virus lockdown

When the wave breaks

Technically this was a tricky photo to take. It uses the Olympus’ Live Composite mode – in this case it’s seven minutes worth of half-a second exposures superimposed (a total of 840 frames).  But it was really quite dark at 6:40 pm so I adjusted the ISO to 1000 and opened the lens up as far as possible to F2.8. The bright white lines in the sky are star trails. The moon was playing hide and seek in the clouds whilst I took the picture and that gave an unpleasant bright smudge in the sky that I have edited out.

Hogsback Land and Sky

The views of Hogsback’s landscapes and sky-scapes from Wild Fox Hill are outstanding and so I’ve made this small video of 24 pictures. It’s not as if you have far to go to get a really good shot: some of these pictures were taken right from the stoop of the eco-cabin. Others are taken from the hills nearby. I just love being able to get outside whatever the time of the day or night and capture the changing light and moods.

The video is three minutes long. It’s my first attempt so comments and suggestions are welcome!

 

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.