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

 

King Proteas – four studies

There are some King Proteas blossoming on Mountain Drive at the moment. Though they are not as many as last year – when they seemed to go on flowering for a very long time. As Spring gets nearer the days are getting a little longer so there’s just a bit more time to photograph them. Sunset’s a great time for this. I wanted to make a few studies showing them in different light and these four pictures are what I have got. They were all taken in the early evening – often straight into the light so a lens hood was essential!

When they are fully open you can get the most beautiful pink shades as the sunlight streams through them. Some, however, are almost bleached in colour and the tightly furled buds can also reveal very delicate shades of pink.

 

 

Symmetry Series: nude studies and new work at #NAF19

I’ve been making symmetrical images for many years now. Usually of trees, grass, leaves, ferns and clouds – you can see plenty in my Symmetry in Nature book download. Recently I have been making them much more complex by dissolving nude female figures into the composition. Here’s a good example from this years’s #NAF19. It’s called The Three Graces and is a large piece (76 cms x 67 cms). The blog format doesn’t really do it justice but you can see what I mean.

The Three Graces Vaulted #NAF19: Symmetry Study

The Three Graces Vaulted at #NAF19: Symmetry Study

The backdrop is a picture of the ancient milkweed tree at Platbos Forest in the western Cape near Cape Agulhas. I have mirrored it horizontally and vertically to get a vaulted effect. I wanted you to feel the branches stretch overhead as if under the roof of a cathedral.

Platbos Milkwood Dark: Original Study before mirroring

Platbos Milkwood Dark: before mirroring

Then, of course, I needed to have a figure, or figures, to merge into this ethereal background. I wanted a nude female figure that dissolves into the roots, branches and vines. So I set up a photo shoot (with Natalie who I have worked with before) and she posed in front of a screen with a variety of images projected on to her. I used my own mirrored images of ferns, spider webs and – best of all – lightning for this.

Lightning of Grahamstown - Symmetry Template

Lightning over Grahamstown – Symmetry Template

Here’s a short selection from the shoot. You’ll see that Natalie gave me some beautiful shapes to work with. They’re tricky pictures to take as it’s dark with only the projected image for lighting – so shutter speeds were quite slow and ISO settings high.

My favourite images had the lightning and trees draped over her body. I then spent many hours reducing images carefully down to partial figures. These could then be overlaid on to the forest so they looked as though they were dissolving into, or emerging organically out of, a mystical scene. In the end I had three images of her that I used and that’s why the finished artwork is called The Three Graces. It’s so striking that I have two versions of it. I’ve used it for my poster and publicity.

You can see the final two image at my exhibition Reflections in the Johan Carinus Art Centre, Beaufort Street, Grahamstown. We are open from 9 am to 5 pm daily throughout the 2019 National Arts Festival from 27 June to 7 July. If you are interested in purchasing (or having a private viewing) then please contact me at roddyfox@mac.com.

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!

The Kwandwe Experience

Ever since I won the WESSA Natural Heritage photo competition last October we’ve been looking forward to our trip to Kwandwe.  Understated luxury, a conservation victory and your private wilderness is their promise – we weren’t disappointed in any way.

It’s a short drive out to Kwandwe from Grahamstown where we were met by Oza at reception. She’s from nearby Joza so we had a neighbourly chat whilst signing into the reserve. Millions then drove us over in the shuttle to the Great Fish River Lodge. On the way he paused to show us two cheetah in the distance and we spotted a pair of lions stalking zebra. So this was quite an introduction – though unfortunately they were too far away for good photographs.

The lodge, and nine secluded chalets, is above the banks the Great Fish River with sweeping views up and down the valley. We had quite a few storms whilst we were there – as you can see from the skies above the Lodge – so every night we fell asleep to the sound of the river, the calls of the Fiery Cheeked Nightjars and the barks of the kudu. On our first afternoon there was also the distant roar of a lion.

We soon met Chase and Siza who were to be our ranger and tracker and quickly made friends with Jack and Caitlyn Conklin, from Nashville Tennessee, who shared all of our game drives and the hike on our last day. First up was a visit to the male lion that I’d heard roaring. He had a very full belly and wasn’t going anywhere. I’ve tried a retro feel on some pictures; borrowing the idea from the Lodge’s Victorian period photographs.

Chase and Siza also found the elephant herd for us and we spent ‘blue hour’ after dusk in amongst them. These weren’t ideal conditions for photography but the superb modern technology from Olympus works wonders in poor light conditions. I used a very high ISO so the pictures were grainy but it was easy to turn one of them into another retro styled image.

We saw a lot of game in the next two days. Some close up, some far away and quite a lot was partially hidden in amongst the valley bush veld.

As much as I love wildlife, and really enjoy photographing them, I won the WESSA prize with a landscape photograph. So it’s no great surprise that I spent quite a lot of time capturing the gorgeous light over the valleys and plains at Kwandwe. I was helped a lot by the stormy weather which produced spectacular clouds and lightning followed by clear skies. I even managed to get a good picture of the Milky Way arching up overhead.

The Kwandwe experience will live with me for a very long time – I hope I’m fortunate enough to win another visit!