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.

Wine under the Stars: Photo Essay of the Stoep Wine Tasting Weekend, Graaff-Reinet

Our second experience of the Karoo Wine Club’s excellent tasting weekend in Graaff-Reinet didn’t disappoint. We went last Friday to find some wines cheap enough for the opening of my fringe exhibition ‘Metamorphosis’ at #NAF18. For the price of a R250 ticket you get to sample wine from some 30 different estates: there’s craft beer, gin and liqueurs too but I failed dismally to get the right product!

We also took along my portfolio to discuss possibilities of exhibiting in the Drostdy Hotel at the lovely Imibala Gallery and had a couple of very positive and helpful discussions. I’m hoping that a return trip is going to happen later this year when I’ll be carrying some of my metal prints with me.

Friday evening was spent sampling the different clusters of wineries to find a safe place to take pictures on Saturday night. I quickly discovered that Graaff-Reinet’s motorists treat random photographers as fair game to flatten – especially after dark – and finally found a nice spot outside the Reinet House on Murray Street. I wanted to catch the stars above the fine historic building and the wine tasting going on outside as cars drove by.

The Fountain Court, 1820 Settlers National Monument, a Photo Essay before #NAF18 takes over

As #NAF18 draws closer the 1820 Settlers National Monument gets busier and busier. So I took a chance yesterday that there would still be some peace to make a photo essay of my favourite part of the building – the Fountain Court. It’s quite a challenge being a central atrium that’s several stories deep. There’s natural light spilling in from two sides and down from the top but artificial light on the other two sides. I settled on my tiny 9mm fisheye body cap lens to pull in as much of the space as possible. The rectangular shapes of the famous yellowwood scaffolding sculpture, the many long pillars and banner-like Skotnes murals all help make dramatic shots. The fisheye lens does a great job of curving them round the Millstone Fountain and sunburst roof decoration. There’s a nice selection of my Grahamstown pictures over at roddythefox.co.za.

 

The N2 by Night – Festinos’ delight?

The N2’s not an easy road and I don’t think many festinos’ would think it’s a delight: but most people will come to #NAF18 along it. Whether from Port Elizabeth or King William’s Town it snakes its way across a whole sequence of deep valleys. I just love the names of the rivers. On the PE side you leave Grahamstown through Howieson’s Poort and must cross the Berg, Palmiet, Assegai, Kariega and Bushman’s before the long dry stretch to the Sunday’s River at Colchester.

N2, Grahamstown, Howieson's Poort, #NAF18

N2 by Night: Howieson’s Poort

To the East of Grahamstown it’s across the Belmont Valley you go and over the Kowie River before the long climb up to Governor’s Kop. You’ve still got the Great Fish and Keisakamma to cross before you reach the Buffalo River bridge entering King William’s Town.

The N2 at Night makes a good photo essay. From the radio masts on the western end of Mountain Drive you can catch the car headlights coming up Howieson’s Poort. At the toposcope you can look down over the N2 bypass to the town’s lights. Below you is the Port Alfred road and the N2 weaving across the Belmont Valley and up through the cuttings beyond.

The Howieson’s Poort picture is one of this year’s Grahamstown series that I’m showing in Metamorphosis, June 28 – 8 July, at the Johan Carinus Art Centre during #NAF18.

There’s a nice selection of my Grahamstown pictures over at roddythefox.co.za.