Days of looking to be there at the right moment …

“That’s pretty much the life of a National Geographic photographer. Days of looking to be there at the right moment.” Jim Richardson

Jim’s got it right: if you want to get a particular composition, or just the right light, then it can take days of looking and days of waiting. Then you’ve got to get yourself in just the right spot at the right time with the best equipment you have – camera set-up, lens, lens filter, and tripod.

You also need to know your landscape and how it’s lit. If you stand with your back to a Karoo sunset you often have golden light washing over distant mountains. That’s something I’ve wanted to get a good photograph of for a long time. Here’s one from my last shoot.

A golden sunset at Ganora farm

Golden Sunset at Ganora

There’s a second photograph that I’ve worked on many times over the past 10 or 15 years. If you are at Ganora Farm (just outside Nieu Bethesda) and stand looking north towards Compassberg mountain then the sunset is to your left and the light bathes the cliffs and skyline. You can also get lovely colours on the clouds beyond.

The dramatic cliffs of Compassberg at sunset

Compassberg’s cliffs catching the sunset light

Just last month I managed to be there at the right moment for both of these shots. We’d had a dull, hot, overcast afternoon but an hour before sunset a nice rift appeared in the clouds way off to the west. I figured that’s pretty much where the sun would be as it set so I assembled my camera gear and headed to a good vantage point up on the road out of the farm.

One of the reasons I got the pictures I wanted was the lenses I used. It’s the first time I had taken the M.Zuiko 40-150 mm PRO lens with me. I also had the MC-14 telephoto adaptor which enabled me to zoom really close up to the subjects.

I waited for about half an hour keeping an eye out for the sun to drop below the clouds. When it did I shot a picture of the road out from the farm with Compassberg mountain beyond. I used the 12-40 mm PRO lens for this and quickly switched it for the 40-150 mm as I knew the light would change rapidly. Swivelling round so the sun was now behind me I got a couple of really nice pictures of the golden glow on the distant hills and koppies off to the east.

The golden road to Ganora Farm

Golden road at Ganora

The golden light of a Karoo sunset

Golden light at Ganora

Then I walked back over the road for the long exposure shots of the mountain with clouds behind it. These were taken on the tripod using Live Composite base settings of half a second and a second. Each shot was five minutes long – so either 600 for 300 exposures superimposed in the camera.

Sunset colours over Compassberg mountain

Sunset colours over Compassberg

Late sunset colours over Compassberg mountain

Late sunset colours over Compassberg

It had been a pretty intense hour but I was feeling really pleased. It was a nice walk back through the gloaming with the prospect ahead of a cold beer at the braai.

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!

1820 Settlers’ Sunset …

Little did I know when I was finishing work on my exhibition for this year’s #NAF19 that I was previewing the name change debate of the 1820 Settlers’ National Monument. I’ve got a panorama, taken from the cuttings above the N2 bypass, that’s entitled 1820 Settlers’ Sunset. I’ve since been told that it looks apocalyptic.

1820 Settlers Sunset, Grahamstown Makhanda

1820 Settlers’ Sunset

That was before the name change became so topical on social media (Grocott’s Mail is a good place to read about this controversy).

The second picture is an unusual shot taken from inside the Monument building. You have to imagine that you are lying on your back with your head at the base of the giant yellowwood sculpture in the Fountain Court and your feet at the fountain. So you are looking up an inverted cross past the Skotnes murals at the ceiling high above.

Fountain Court, 1820 Settlers National Monument

Fountain Court, 1820 Settlers National Monument

In this picture I’m definitely asking you to see the Monument from a different – and challenging – perspective.

They both look much better framed and on the wall as they are large images. You can see them in my solo exhibition ‘Reflections’ at the Johan Carinus Art Centre, Beaufort Street, 27 June – 7 July.

The green wood hoopoes

There’s an Illawarra flame tree just outside my studio window where the green wood hoopoes go fossicking for insects. With the noise they make it’s easy to hear them, pick up the camera and try and get some pictures from the stoop. They don’t keep still for more than a moment or two but they stay in the same tree for quite a while prowling the branches and dipping their tails incessantly. Once their cries reach up to a crescendo they flash off elsewhere.

They have the most striking curved red beaks and rich metallic green and blue feathers. I didn’t manage to get a shot of their distinctive, barred long tail feathers – perhaps next time!

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