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

 

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 cold Karoo leaves its mark

Without doubt the Karoo is cold in the winter months. We are just back from field work based at Ganora Guest Farm, New Bethesda and it was gray and cloudy and cold.  I managed to capture the grainy chill in these pictures: particularly in the skies towering over the gravel roads twisting through the big landscapes.  We’ve usually finished field work before sunset and so I get the chance for a quiet walk and the opportunity to compose some photos – hopefully beside some sheltered sun-warmed rocks.

Then there’s also the small things that you see when walking through the countryside. The donkeys, pumpkins at a road side farm stall, freshly shorn sheep smelling of lanolin and there were some orange-red blossoms like flame flickering amongst the rocks.

At night the sky sweeps above you and the stars are incredible.  This picture of the milky way was taken when it was hazy and cloudy so I was lucky to get the picture when there was a break in the clouds.  The farm buildings in the next picture are very bright because a guest’s car drove down to the farm whilst I was exposing the shot.  So the farm was light painted for me.  There’s a straight diagonal line running across the curved star trails in the last picture.  It’s the lights of the SAA flight from Port Elizabeth to Cape Town.

Karoo up close

Last week we were staying in Nieu Bethesda and I realised that one of the important things about the Karoo is the shape and texture of the small things we experience.  I’ve already posted pictures of big skies and clouds or rain storms and sunsets in the Karoo.  Yet the Karoo is also in the shape of a twist of fence wire, a pink vygie, the Bushman poison bulb (Boophone distichia), a bee entering a sneeze wood post or an inverted padlock.

So here’s a selection of just those things – and a few more.

The Frowl in the Grass: Strange Creatures in Nature 2

We were back at Ganora Farm last week updating our research in the Karoo and came across this strange creature.  We had taken a short walk above the cottages to get some cellphone signal and stretch our legs after a morning of desk top work and came across a pair of oddly matched eyes peering up out of the grass.  I thought ‘he is an owl’ but Kate took one look at the photo and said ‘looks more like a frog’.  So let’s settle on a frowl.

Frowl1