Towering over our townships, like a wave ready to break, was this huge cumulus cloud. Ominously pink in the late glow after sunset the top of the cloud was rising fast and, blown by the winds, looked like a crest hovering over Grahamstown’s townships below. This was taken a couple of nights ago, a week after the lockdown began, and mirrors my feelings of apprehension.
When the wave breaks
Technically this was a tricky photo to take. It uses the Olympus’ Live Composite mode – in this case it’s seven minutes worth of half-a second exposures superimposed (a total of 840 frames). But it was really quite dark at 6:40 pm so I adjusted the ISO to 1000 and opened the lens up as far as possible to F2.8. The bright white lines in the sky are star trails. The moon was playing hide and seek in the clouds whilst I took the picture and that gave an unpleasant bright smudge in the sky that I have edited out.
One of the unusual things about taking the portals pictures is that I am often looking for an image to complete. So I look for quirky shapes that can be combined into something intriguing, different and provocative. Fortunately for me there are plenty of trees in and around Grahamstown with strange forms which provide me with great material – especially at sunset when the light is changing rapidly.
There’s a hook at the top of the trunk of this leaning tree, with slanted bands of clouds behind. When I cropped through the hooked tree and copied, flipped and joined I got the following two images.
The shapes of the clouds now focus your eyes on the strange silhouette in the centre of the image. One of these will go into the Portals Exhibition but I haven’t been able to make my mind up which it will be.
Last night the good aurora forecast tempted me out with my camera but I ended up coming back with pictures of night clouds and star trails. I headed up to a local viewpoint in the forests above Äsperöd with camera, tripod, warm clothes, flask of coffee and a sandwich to wait and see if the aurora would show itself and I could get some pictures. I got some alright but they weren’t of the aurora.
As sunset approached the forecast got less and less optimistic so I tried to capture some star trails over Uddevalla. That wasn’t going to be easy either as it was getting cloudy and windy. Fortunately my new Olympus has a great feature called live composition. Last night I set it to take a 5 second exposure every five seconds for five minutes. The camera then records anything that has changed from one picture to the next. This means that stars make curved trails, planes make diagonal dotted lines (see the first picture) and clouds seem to flow. It’s the clouds that really make these pictures.
The real beauty of live composition is that the picture gets painted on the viewing screen on the back of the camera as each image is added. So you can sit and watch it develop whilst sipping hot coffee. There were, of course, some downsides. The mosquitoes were a nuisance when the wind dropped and walking back through the forest alone in the dark was really spooky. I think the pictures were worth it though. The colours of the clouds and sky were not what I expected. They changed as the sun slid further and further below the horizon and in the last picture the orange tint comes from the lights of the town.