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 Hogsback Series: viewing at Wild Fox Hill Eco-Cabin

This last weekend we hung 14 of the pictures from my Hogsback Series at the Wild Fox Hill Eco-Cabin.  You can see the full series of 17 images (with prices and full descriptions) beneath the slideshow. They are printed on brushed aluminium Dibond by Orms Print Room which gives them great impact. At the end of June they’ll move down to Grahamstown for the duration of the National Arts Festival 2018 where they’ll be showcased in my exhibition ‘Metamorphosis’ at the Johan Carinus Art Centre.  Contact roddyfox@mac.com if you are interested in buying (the prices here don’t include postage) or come and enjoy them during your stay at the cabin (it’s on Airbnb) whilst you are in Hogsback.

 

Madonna and Child Waterfall (297 x 420 mm) R1250

Madonna and Child

39 Steps Waterfall (400 x 400 mm) R1500

39 Steps Waterfall

Swallow Tail Falls (297 x 420 mm) R1250

SwallowTail Falls

The Big Tree (297 x 420 mm) R1250

The Big Tree

Redwood Trees (297 x 420 mm) R1250

Redwoods

Twining Trees (297 x 420 mm) R1250

Twining Trees

Misty Morning View (297 x 420 mm) R1250

Misty Morning View

The Military Path (297 x 420 mm) R1250

The Military Path

Dawn Light over Hogsback (400 x 400 mm) R1500

Dawn Light

Star Trails over Wild Fox Hill (400 x 400 mm) R1500

Star Trails over Wild Fox Hill

Moonrise over the Three Hogs (420 x 297) R1250

Moonrise over the Three Hogs

Tor Doone in the Mist (420 x 297 mm) R1250

Tor Doone in the Mist

Red Hot Pokers (420 x 297 mm) R1250

Red Hot Pokers

Three Hogs and Three Dogs (420 x 297 mm) R1250

Three Hogs and Three Dogs

Dream Forest (420 x 297 mm) R1250

Dream Forest

Misty Road (420 x 297 mm) R1250

Misty Road

Elandsberg Panorama (1000 x 374 mm) R3500

Elandsberg Panorama

 

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.

There’s a nice selection of my Grahamstown pictures over at my online portal roddythefox.co.za. 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