The Eastern Cape Karoo in black and white

I’ve had such positive responses from my recent blog post on the Karoo that it’s inspired me to put together these ten images. This time all of the pictures are different styles in black and white. They’re taken from Mt Zebra National Park, which is just outside Cradock, along the R61 to Ganora Guest Farm and Compassberg – just before you arrive in Nieu-Bethesda.

I get these rich blacks in the landscapes if I use the wide-angle M.Zuiko 7-14mm lens. It really picks out the contrasts when there are clouds and captures lots of detail and texture in the foreground.

I used the same lens for this view. I love the way that the fence line and clouds pull you into the photograph.

Gate, sheep and sky, Blaauwater Siding, Nieu-Bethesda, Karoo

Gate, sheep and sky, Blaauwater Siding, Nieu-Bethesda

When the sun’s lower then the light often gets much hazier. I’m looking either through or into the light in this next set of pictures.

The next pair of pictures were both taken using a zoom lens (the M.Zuiko 40-150) with full sunlight bathing the focus of the scene.

Lastly I’ve a couple of pictures that I took looking upwards with the body-cap fish-eye lens. That means the sun gets into your picture unless you hide it behind something!

I’d love to get some feedback so let me know what you think!

To the Sneeuberg and Eastern Cape Karoo: studies in brown and blue.

We are having a long drought in the Eastern Cape – it’s only early Spring and already hot after a very dry winter. On the drive up from Grahamstown to Mt Zebra National Park and the Sneeuberg there’s hardly any green vegetation to be seen. The landscape is dominated by browns and blues showing off the textures, the grain of the land, the rocks and thorny bush.

Karoo Skyline from Mt Zebra, Cradock, Karoo

Karoo Skyline from Mt Zebra National Park

On the way north to Cradock there’s a great big Karoo sky above you and the folds and wrinkles of the landscape stretch far into the distance. You get lovely skylines like this one – taken from Mt Zebra’s Black Eagle Hike towards sunset – and you might be lucky enough to be able to sit behind some boulders and quietly watch a baboon troop pass by.

Baboon troop, Mt Zebra National Park

Baboon troop in the golden light of sunset at Mt Zebra National Park

If you take the Kranskop loop in the Park then you leave the throne bush (and monkeys) behind and climb steeply up to get more great views.

Ververt Monkey in the thorn bush, Mt Zebra National Park

Ververt Monkey in the thorn bush, Mt Zebra National Park

Off to the west of the Park the Sneeuberg range stretches away towards Graaff-Reinet and Middelburg.

Sneeuberg Landscape from Mt Zebra, Cradock, Karoo

Sneeuberg Landscape from Mt Zebra National Park

This is the countryside that you will drive through if you go west towards Nieu-Bethesda. My final picture is taken from the lookout where the gravel road crests and you get a view down to Ganora Farm. Nieu-Bethesda lies just beyond the middle range of hills.

Sneeuberg Landscape at Ganora, Nieu-Bethesda, Karoo

Sneeuberg Landscape at Ganora, Nieu-Bethesda

 

King Proteas – four studies

There are some King Proteas blossoming on Mountain Drive at the moment. Though they are not as many as last year – when they seemed to go on flowering for a very long time. As Spring gets nearer the days are getting a little longer so there’s just a bit more time to photograph them. Sunset’s a great time for this. I wanted to make a few studies showing them in different light and these four pictures are what I have got. They were all taken in the early evening – often straight into the light so a lens hood was essential!

When they are fully open you can get the most beautiful pink shades as the sunlight streams through them. Some, however, are almost bleached in colour and the tightly furled buds can also reveal very delicate shades of pink.

 

 

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