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.
Karoo Windpump, Beaufort West
Karoo Obelisk and Milky Way
Passing Storm, Beaufort West
After the Storm, Karoo National Park
Karoo Sunset, Compassberg
The road to Compassberg
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.
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 1: Angel and Obelisk
Summer Nights 2: Compassberg Star Trails
Summer Nights 3: Firefly and Star Trails
Summer Nights 4: Pride Rock Star Trails
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.
Last week we spent a productive few days doing survey work in and around the Wilgerbos River on Ganora Farm. Kate’s Masters student, Natalie, and postdoctoral researcher, Simon, were busy with channel surveys, flow measurements and laying sediment trips. I helped Kate with her erosion study on the badlands. Some of these pictures have already been posted on Facebook as black-and-whites but here they are in colour. Starting with Kate on the badlands site up above the road to the farm.
Here are Natalie and Brendan surveying the channel at her middle site in the river gorge.
And lastly another picture with someone in the river, this time it’s Simon, and Chabala with Natalie.
It’s been a while since I have had the time and space for posting anything here. We’re just back from Ganora Farm in the Karoo: it was Kate’s first field trip since her colon cancer operation and chemotherapy started six months ago.
Everyone who visits the Karoo has a wind pump picture but I thought I would climb up one to see if I could get something a little different. I’d had a drink from the sparkling groundwater coming out of the pipe and then scrambled up the ladder to just below the spinning vanes. Hanging on one-handed whilst taking pictures was a bit tricky but when one of the farm workers appeared to fill his water bottle I was rewarded with this picture.
Fieldwork with Kate in the Karoo usually involves lots of walking in hot dusty and scratchy places. Last week’s trip to Ganora was no exception. On the way to collect data from various instruments and gadgets you find yourself dodging spiders webs and finding the most exquisitely coloured insects. They are the inhabitants of the sand gullies where Kate has been monitoring erosion for some time now.
So here they are: two webs, a bug and the lady herself!
We’re just back from three crystal clear days and nights in the Karoo. Excellent conditions for taking photos at night. The first picture is a long lens shot of Compassberg taken from Ganora Farm which must be about 10 kilometres from the mountain as the crow flies. It was just after sunset with a thin moon lighting up the mist high on the mountain. The exposure time was around five minutes.
The second picture was taken the following night and quite a bit after the sun had gone at around 9pm. There was a crescent moon again that was lighting the prickly pears in the foreground and the mountains behind. This time I exposed the picture for around an hour.