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 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 – at Space Creative and Culinary on October 28th

I always like to make a mosaic of the images I’m going to show.  So this first picture’s your overview of the 14 images that’ll be up for sale at Space Creative and Culinary, 14 Fitzroy Street, Grahamstown on 28th October.  They’re almost all pictures of trees: Balanites, Baobab, Birch, Cabbage,  Fig, Fever, Hornbeam, Oak, Shepherd’s and Yellowwood.

Trees Exhibition

The first thing you’ll see is that some of them are naturalistic but others are mirrored or overlaid to show their fractal designs.  The four images on the top row are all single African trees pictured against the sky.  I’ve mounted them simply on card and they’re printed on enhanced matte paper – they sell for R750 each.

In the second row there’s the Fig Tree from the Botanic Gardens in Grahamstown on the left hand side and two Hogback Yellowwoods twining around each other on the right hand side. These two look quite special as they’re printed on brushed aluminium dibond – they’re the most expensive items for sale at R2500 each.

The black and white mirrored image of the Baobabs is between them, it was taken in the Okavango panhandle.  Printed on glossy paper and mounted behind glass with a black wooden frame it’s priced at R1500.

Baobab Temple

Two green mirrored images come next.  Both pictures were taken in Sweden: on the left is an Oak above the Göta River and on the right is a Hornbeam at Tureborg in Uddevalla.  They’re R2000 each, block mounted and printed on enhanced matte paper.

The three images of spiders’ webs were all taken early one misty morning at Tsitsa Falls in the Eastern Cape.  They’re printed on enhanced matte paper and block mounted ready to be hung –  they also sell for R2000 each.

The final two images are the most complex. They repeatedly mirror, overlay and use positive and negative versions of one lone Birch tree that I photographed silhouetted against the deep blue arctic sky at Tromsø in Norway.  They’re also block mounted, enhanced matte images and sell for R2500 each.


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.

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.

Festival fallout

I’d like to start by saying how wonderful it was to receive so much positive feedback from so many people.  That has meant a lot to me and pointed my work, and exhibition next year, firmly in a couple of directions.  I’ll post more of these ideas shortly.  It was quite something to talk about my pictures with complete strangers and that’s helped me get a very clear idea of what my work is about.  I really enjoyed having friends drop by too: some of you were clearly surprised but in the nicest way I think.   Then, of course, it was great to sell my pictures – though the first time a couple of them walked out of the door felt a little strange.  I sold four framed copies and seven prints – so eleven in all – ten was my original goal so I’m pleased.  Here are the ones that sold:

Äsperöd Gnarly (900 x 754) R2200 framed (sold); R1350 print

Äsperöd Gnarly

Äsperöd Gnarly

Aurajoki Runic (643 x 900) R1900 framed (sold); R1150 print (sold two prints)

Aurajoki Runic

Aurajoki Runic

Baobab Temple (900 x 378) R1550 framed; R1150 print (sold one print)

Baobab Temple

Baobab Temple

Natalie Metallica (1200 x 800) R2450 framed; R1300 print (sold two prints)

Natalie Metallica

Natalie Metallica

Aloe Skyscape (800 x 680) R2000 framed (sold); R1250 print

Aloe Skyscape

Aloe Skyscape

Lindesnäs Fjordscape (900 x 404) R1650 framed (sold); R1200 print

Lindesnäs Fjordscape

Lindesnäs Fjordscape

Stendörren Dreamscape (1350 x 529) R2200 framed; R1350 print (sold one print)

Stendörren Dreamscape

Stendörren Dreamscape

Okapuka Sunset (1000 x 997) R2750 framed; R1550 print (sold one print)

Namibia Skylight Half Size 150

Okapuka Sunset

Prints are still available of all of these and so are hard copies where indicated. Portals Exhibition – the catalogue has full details for the other pictures as well.  Contact me if you want to place an order.

What were the downsides?

Well, Carinus Annex is very cold to sit in day after day during mid winter and be told that you aren’t allowed to use the electricity for heating!  This seems more than a little strange when you are paying a daily rental fee. It’s also a venue in serious need of a coat of paint and overall refurbishment.  It looks tatty and that’s not a good atmosphere if you are trying to exhibit.  I know it’s ‘only’ a Fringe venue but this also reflects poorly on the Festival.  It’s been my first time exhibiting but I still I got the impression from artists and visitors that visual art as a whole needs some more support: just look at the ugly wire frame stands for example … I had to prop mine up with folded magazines!

Portals exhibition 2016

Portals exhibition 2016

Finally, a big thank you to Harry Owen for helping me to set up and take down the exhibition.



Almost there …. National Arts Festival 2016

The pictures are framed, the labeling’s done, digital images uploaded for distribution, picture hooks, string and the rest of the exhibition paraphernalia are all just about ready to go.  So I’m almost there!

I’ll be hanging the pictures on Tuesday 28th, with Harry Owen’s assistance, and the finishing touches should be done on Wednesday.  Thursday 30th we open at the Carinus Annex. See you there!