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 roddyfox@mac.com 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.

 

 

The Dryad series: Symmetry Exhibition, National Arts Festival 2017

This post’s about the Dryad series.  They are the seven images that make up almost a quarter of my exhibition – Symmetry – which is at the Carinus Arts Centre for the National Arts Festival from 29 June to 9 July 2017.  I wanted to explore what happened when I placed a person into my images – rather than finding a Green Man or a fantastical pattern in them. I did that by projecting some images I’d prepared on to Natalie – she’s the dryad in the shoot – as she stood in front of a screen.  When her back’s turned she becomes enigmatic with a big shadow playing across the forest.

Stained Glass Dryad Original

I must say that technically this was really tricky to do.  Fortunately the mirrored organic shapes I’d chosen could be draped down her spine and that was really evocative.  The next picture’s from the exhibition. It shows the filigree of a tree-like skeleton in/on her dryad body.

Dryad

Some time later I decided to mirror the dryad images and construct a triptych.  The two pictures here have the mirrored dryads on either side of the original.

Stained Glass Dryad

Green Dryad

All of the pictures so far have shown a dryad within a scene but I also projected one of my favourite tree images on to her so she became the screen.  In Scarab Dryad I love the way the tree branches burst out of her neck whilst a runic scarab perches on her shoulders.

Scarab Dryad

When I made the runic tree image smaller – so that it just fitted in her back – it makes the curved shape of an angel’s wing.  You can see there’s a wing on the back of each of the mirrored dryads in the Angel Dryad triptych.  The wings reappear as overlays in the original runic tree in the centre.  The contrast of the burning wings on the slender body reminds me strongly of William Blake’s etchings.

Angel Dryad

Lastly I did something quite fantastical.  I made Dryad Fantasy by overlaying the runic tree with the Angel Dryads in a multiplicity of mirrored images.  So it’s a re-composition of the originals: re-imagined shapes with new patterns and forms.

Dryad Fantasy

I wrote about some of these pictures last year when they were still a work in progress. If you are interested there are more pictures and descriptions in these posts.: Triptychs 1: Stained GlassTriptychs 2: The Figure in the ForegroundTriptychs 3: Angel Wings.

The Three Green Men: Symmetry Exhibition, National Arts Festival 2017

My solo exhibition – Symmetry – is at the Carinus Arts Centre for the National Arts Festival from 29 June to 9 July 2017. I’ve decided to write a series of posts about the images that are in it so that you can see what it is about.  When you walk into the exhibition you’ll immediately pass by the three green men.  One of them is so striking that I chose it for the poster and advertising.  Here he is.

Äsperöd Green Man Final

It’s an image of a Scots Pine tree (tal in Swedish) deep in the forest near our apartment in Äsperöd, Sweden.  I’ve mirrored it into two and also overlaid the image on itself.  This is the original.

Äsperöd Green Man Original

I took the picture one evening last September (early autumn in Sweden) when the light was soft and diffuse.  That meant I got an image with lots of detail and I could increase the contrast and saturation in post production to give the final picture more impact.

The Green Man is thought to be a pagan symbol of rebirth – that’s according to Wikipedia anyway – and found in architectural motifs right across Europe.  It’s usually a face made of branches, leaves, fruit and vines.  That’s certainly the case with the second green man too.

Göta Green Man Final

This image’s of an oak (ek) tree showing the first autumn colours and I’ve used the identical processes of mirroring and overlay on it.  The foliage is far more dense and so the image is much more richly textured.

Göta Green Man Original

I took the original at lunchtime whilst walking in the nature reserve above the Göta River in Trollhättan.  Once again I made sure that the light was soft and diffuse.  The third green man is a little different.  He’s an artefact made of driftwood in Lars Vilk’s amazing construction called Nimis  located in Skåne.

Nimis Green Man Final

I like the way he just stands there with his arms on his hips.  There’s something oriental, almost samurai-like, about his presence as though he’s covered in armour. Here’s the original picture.  It’s taken with a fish-eye lens from the walkway that tunnels between the towers.

Nimis Green Man Original

It was an overcast, drizzly October day so I managed to get all three images to complement each other nicely in terms of light conditions.

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

 

 

Iceland panoramas

iceland Panoramas
Iceland has such a big dramatic landscape that you struggle to fit it into a regular sized photograph.  I tried a number of panoramic shots when we were there in the summer of 2013 and I’ve recently come across them again whilst reorganising my photo files – so I’ve done some touching up on them.  My camera doesn’t have a fancy piece of software to make a panorama so these are all made from separate, overlapping, frames stitched together using DoubleTake.  It wasn’t a sunny road trip and it was very windy sometimes so these shots were snatched whenever it was possible.  The top image in the composite is looking north at 11pm watching the sun dipping slowly towards the horizon.  We were up in North-West Iceland at Skagafjörður.  The middle image is the view of Borgarnes just as you enter the town from the west.  The bottom image shows clouds peeling off the icecap at Snæfellsþjökull.

Lenticular clouds above þjðrsa river

On our first drive out east from Reykjavik it was so windy I had to hang on to a fence to stay still enough for the five images in this panorama.  The winds blowing of the Atlantic produced these spectacular lenticular clouds forming in the lee of the Vatnajökull ice cap.