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.

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

 

 

Winter Aloe blossoms

Mid winter is the right time for seeing the spectacular flowering of the Eastern Cape’s aloes.  These four pictures were taken on my daily walk from our home in Sunnyside down the hill, across Somerset Street and through the Botanic gardens to work.  The whole countryside is glowing with them: particularly at dawn and towards sunset on the road north from Grahamstown to Fort Beaufort or west along the N2 to Port Elizabeth.