I think there’s a good deal of fun to be had light painting. It’s like a mini performance. You have to imagine a dark scene to light up, get your camera organised, put on your darkest clothes, start the camera and then take your light into the space, weaving and turning, circling and waving. Then dash back (taking care not to trip in the dark) to see what you’ve captured on the live view of your camera. I’m particularly fortunate because my Olympus OMD has a live composite mode that lets you see the picture you’ve already built up. You can then either stop the long exposure or go back into the scene for some more painting with light (of course you might then ruin it!).
We were up at Hogsback last week and I was looking forward to doing some light painting experiments. It’s a great dark sky site with very little light pollution and lots of locations with mountain views, stars overhead, forests and waterfalls.
On our first evening there I went down the steep woodland path below Wild Fox Hill and took a few shots of myself coming back up towards the camera from out of the forest. I called this picture In the Flow. The second picture was taken that same evening down in the basement extensions being built below the house. I lit the walls and beams first with sweeps of colour and then did some perilous weaving On the Loose dodging the buckets, tools, beams, bottles and mud scattered around the floor. The third picture is almost formal. Standing Guard was taken in the plantation forest with a back lit night sky. It took multiple trips stumbling through the pine litter and fallen branches trying to remember which trees I had stood behind to make the pattern of circles. The last two pictures were taken when there was still some sunset afterglow beneath the milky way. Tor Doone rears up over the valley from Wild Fox Hill and I made these two pictures at almost the same spot. The Sentinel looks rather as though he’s standing guard whilst the Ribbon Dancer is far more elegant as she trips the light fantastic.
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.
Karoo Windpump, Beaufort West
Karoo Obelisk and Milky Way
Passing Storm, Beaufort West
After the Storm, Karoo National Park
Karoo Sunset, Compassberg
The road to Compassberg
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 past eight months of Kate’s cancer treatment have seen our lives turned upside-down. Seemingly by chance I started a photo project – Symmetry – and it’s proved to be a therapeutic space where I can turn away from day-to-day concerns and focus my creativity on beauty and harmony.
As I have been working I’ve shown a number of the photos to Kate, Helen and Jeannie and their responses have been very encouraging. When I was at Warton Farm in July my sister-in-law Jeannie caught sight of some of them on my iPad (which her grandchildren were playing with). She said I should think of an exhibition. I’ve toyed with the idea ever since but last week I changed my mind and postponed that thought. I had just sent 40 images to Sweden where my friend Janet Hall lives and this is what she said:
“I am gobsmacked by your pics……..truly I am. I was immediately thrown back into childhood and my love of and fascination for kaleidoscopes, I could peer endlessly down those tubes at the magical patterns that formed themselves. There is definitely a book there.”
Her last remark immediately struck a chord and so now I am busy finding out how Apple’s iStore and Amazon’s eBooks handle the distribution rights for electronic photo books. I’ll shortly be working with new software in order to get the right ePub file, text and layout to deal with. So from now on I’m going to be very happily engaged making an electronic photo book out of my images. I’ll be blogging some more about this I am sure.
The two pictures are ones that I have worked with as potential title pages.
These pictures were inspired by the Lux exhibition in the grounds of Cragside. It’s a celebration of light and innovation. I loved the sounds of the laurel tree growing (harmonica botanica) spilling around the formal gardens. The glass light vessel was also striking. Here’s some images produced using the filter presets in Snapseed: the light vessel, the wonderful owl carving that’s a permanent feature in the grounds and lastly some of the wonderful textures in the lush vegetation.