Grahamstown in Black and White

It’s an unusual place – Grahamstown – located in a basin at the headwaters of the Kowie river. The poor black population in the eastern townships look across to the middle class suburbs on the other side of the valley.  There are not many South African cities where black and white are so closely juxtaposed. I live in Sunnyside, on the south side of town, and our house is quite high up on the side of a hill. A lot of my pictures look down into the valley.  I’m frequently photographing into the light too.  The cathedral is nearby – further down Hill Street – with the northern suburbs lying beyond.  Makana’s Kop is another Grahamstown landmark. It dominates the eastern side of town – across the Belmont Valley.

I wanted a set of black and white pictures so I needed to capture textures and shapes. South African townships are typically laid out on rectangular lines. This makes for clear compositions.  The two pictures here were both taken in winter with low angled light. Before dawn Vukani was wreathed in mist and smoke. I managed to catch the first rays of sunlight cutting across the mists.  Monument to Makana was taken just after a storm had passed at sunset.  Highlights of rain outline the regular street patterns.  The 1820 Settlers Monument is the large rectangular building that lies in the foreground of the picture.

In summer we are likely to get thunderstorms – but many of them drift eastwards past the town.  From the stoep of our house you can see them over the horizon – behind the spire of the Dutch Reformed Church.  Of course some of them do hit the town bringing heavy rain and dramatic lightning.

Off to the north west is the Rhodes University campus.  It’s surrounded by tree lined streets. Some exotic monkey puzzle trees are in the foreground of this picture.  Belmont Valley lies to the south east.  It’s where the Kowie River runs down to the sea. The leafy suburbs shown here are above and below Hill Street. They are beside the old road down to Port Alfred.

The last two pictures are also taken from the south side of town.  They’re higher up – on Mountain Drive – where we take our dog walking.  Both of them are looking right over the bowl containing the old districts of Grahamstown.  The townships have now spread right up Lavender Valley and out on to the plateau at Hooggenoeg.  The mountains on the skyline are the Amatolas.  The last picture is looking north-west – into the semi-arid Karoo. It shows the Winterberg range that is approximately 80 kms away.

Contact me at roddyfox@mac.com if you’d like to purchase any of these images.  They’re reasonably priced. All of the pictures were taken with my Olympus OMD EM5 MarkII.  I’ve edited them in Lightroom using the Nik collection of plugins.

 

 

Trees – a picture and two poems

We will be missing two Poetry at Reddits occasions whilst we are away in Sweden: my contributions are here though.  There are two of WS Merwin’s poems and one of my pictures of Hogback’s trees.  All inspired by Beth Moon’s special book Ancient Trees: Portraits of Time – thank you Kate for the wonderful gift.

Twining Trees at Hogsback

Trees

I am looking at trees

they may be one of the things I will miss

most from the earth

though many of the ones I have seen

already I cannot remember

and though I seldom embrace the ones I see

and have never been able to speak

with one

I listen to them tenderly

their names have never touched them

they have stood round my sleep

and when it was forbidden to climb them

they have carried me in their branches

 

The picture I’ve chosen also reminds me of another of his poems, I think because of the way the trees twine around each other.

 

Separation

Your absence has gone through me

Like thread through a needle.

Everything I do is stitched with its color.

 

Looking forward to our next Reddits in October!

Autumn harmonies

We’ve been having lovely autumn weather with clear air, blue skies and low angle light that brings out all the changing colours. I’ve tried to capture this in these images and combined them into one pattern of autumn harmony.

Autumn Harmonies

Going clockwise from the top right the inspiration was a bare tree in front of the after sunset glow. At bottom right is a red leaf in a sea of green foliage.  The bottom left picture is a flower in the bracken and the top left is the bark of a birch tree.  Here’s how the bare tree looked.

Bare Tree and Belt of Venus

And here’s a detail of how it looked after combining and overlaying the image eight times.

Autumn Harmony detail

I’m often asked if my images are for sale and the answer is yes.  I’m exhibiting again on the fringe of the National Arts Festival at the Johan Carinus Art Centre, Grahamstown from 29 June to 9 July.  If you’d like to purchase one of these, for example, then just email me using this contact me link and I’ll provide a quote.  Cost for a high resolution 50cm width print of Autumn Harmonies will be approximately R1000 including packaging and courier to South African destinations.  I have also organised having prints made and delivered overseas.

The Addo elephant – an inspirational coincidence

Last week we spent a day at Addo Elephant National Park and, just as we were leaving at sunset, we saw a lone bull elephant striding up over the horizon.  The misty Suurberg ridges rising up beyond the Sundays River valley made a lovely dramatic backdrop to his silhouette.

Addo Elephant coming out of the sunset

I got to wondering what would happen to my picture if I draped it like a tablecloth over a three dimensional elevation model of the Addo area – showing the elephant embedded on the landscape it lives in.  It wasn’t easy to get the image looking aesthetically pleasing and on the right part of the landscape but here’s the result.

Elephant and Addo landscape

It’s coincidental because I was also using my geographical skills last week working with a 3D model of the Port Elizabeth area. I suddenly wondered if I could get something much more evocative using the elephant picture instead!

Relief Model of the Port Elizabeth area

Aloes, webs and cosmos

There will probably be autumn mist tomorrow morning, our host at Tsitsa Falls backpackers (Adrian Badenhorst) told us around the camp fire, you often get them when a hot day follows.  He was right.  The whole Tsitsa valley was dark with mist at sunrise but it soon began to clear as the sun burned through.

Mist in the Tsitsa valley

The backpackers is on the site of an old Transkei border trading post so it was surrounded by big banks of krantz aloes.  They were already beginning to flower and during the day attracted beautiful malachite sunbirds.  This morning, though, the mist gave an unusual backdrop for a photo shoot of the spider webs.

Old trading store

Unusual because there’s no background to the pictures I shot.  I was on the hillside looking down into the mist and far below you could just make out the bridge over the river.  In the distance was the muted roar of the big waterfall.  In the foreground spiders’ webs arched gracefully between the conical aloe flowers.

Further down the bank, beside the drainage ditch, there were entanglements of cosmos.  Most of the flowers were gone and the spiders had made delicate webs between the dead heads remaining.

Once the sun had come out I took a walk down the valley and went behind the waterfall.  A short scramble through the rocks below and you get a fantastic swim in the pool wreathed in clouds of spray from the falls.  A stunning place to visit.

Behind the falls

 

 

Summer Nights – Festival Gallery Exhibition

In a couple of month’s time Grahamstown’s Festival Gallery hosts its annual end-of.year exhibition.  This year the theme is Summer in Miniatures – artworks have to be no bigger than 30 cms.  I’ve decided to try out a submission with the idea of ‘Summer Nights’ and use a selection of four night pictures taken this past southern hemisphere summer.

The first two were taken on Ganora Farm which is just outside Nieu Bethesda in the Karoo.  Summer Nights 1: Angel and Obelisk was taken in the middle of the night when there was no moon.  I wanted to catch the Milky Way stretching directly above the rock and quite by chance I caught the light of my head torch that I was using to light-paint the top of the obelisk.  Summer Nights 2: Compassberg Star Trails was taken on a night when the moon was full which is why the landscape is so bright.  It’s a one hour exposure looking north to Compassberg mountain and has beautiful star trails arcing across the horizon.

Summer Nights 3 and 4 were both taken looking south from Mountain Drive, Grahamstown: so they are overlooking Featherstone Kloof.  In Summer Nights 3 I was joined by a firefly that flickered briefly past my right shoulder and up into the sky.  It’s another picture taken when the moon was full so I hid beneath a rock overhang to avoid getting direct moonlight on the lens.   For the last picture, Summer Nights 4, I highlighted Pride Rock from underneath with a bright LED as there was no moonlight to bring out the foreground.  The lights on the horizon are from Port Alfred 60 kms away.

If they’re accepted for the exhibition they’ll be priced at around R2500 for a framed print but I can supply a high resolution digital image for half of that. Contact me if you are interested.