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.
The views of Hogsback’s landscapes and sky-scapes from Wild Fox Hill are outstanding and so I’ve made this small video of 24 pictures. It’s not as if you have far to go to get a really good shot: some of these pictures were taken right from the stoop of the eco-cabin. Others are taken from the hills nearby. I just love being able to get outside whatever the time of the day or night and capture the changing light and moods.
The video is three minutes long. It’s my first attempt so comments and suggestions are welcome!
We’ve been staying in Helen’s house at Wild Fox Hill, Hogsback, this past week. There’s been her three dogs and four cats to look after whilst she’s in Sweden visiting Jeannie. We’ve also taken care of her Eco-Cabin and the Air BnB guests. I’ve brought along my Olympus OMD I mark 2 along with the big M-Zuiko 7-14 mm wide angle lens hoping to get some good night shots and Hogsback hasn’t disappointed!
Wild Fox Hill Eco-Cabin, Hogsback
Here’s a picture of the Eco-Cabin taken on our first night. There was a very small new moon, no light pollution and no wind – so ideal conditions for night photography. If you’re familiar with southern hemisphere stars you’ll recognise the two pointers and Southern Cross – the picture’s taken looking almost due south. This second picture was taken looking vertically upwards to capture the full extent of the Milky Way. The two pointers and Southern Cross are now at the right hand end of the Milky Way. Mars is very clear to the left of the Milky Way and Jupiter is up at the top right.
Milky Way, Mars and Jupiter over Wild Fox Hill, Hogsback
In this last picture the crescent new moon was shining behind me so there’s a blue tint to the sky. It’s the first time I’ve managed to successfully merge two wide angle lens images together to make a vertical panorama. I really like the effect of the Milky Way arching across the sky above the Hogsback mountains.
Wild Fox Hill, Hogsback, Under the Milky Way
That’s Mars in the centre of the picture. I was lucky to have some of the foreground lit up by a car’s headlights on Winding Lane. When we get back to Grahamstown I will upload these images into my on-line store – they’ll make a nice addition to the Hogsback Series.
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.
Our second experience of the Karoo Wine Club’s excellent tasting weekend in Graaff-Reinet didn’t disappoint. We went last Friday to find some wines cheap enough for the opening of my fringe exhibition ‘Metamorphosis’ at #NAF18. For the price of a R250 ticket you get to sample wine from some 30 different estates: there’s craft beer, gin and liqueurs too but I failed dismally to get the right product!
Tasting Stoep Wine
Wines to taste
Karoo Wine Club Sampling Glass
Sampling Beer at the Stoep Wine Tasting
We also took along my portfolio to discuss possibilities of exhibiting in the Drostdy Hotel at the lovely Imibala Gallery and had a couple of very positive and helpful discussions. I’m hoping that a return trip is going to happen later this year when I’ll be carrying some of my metal prints with me.
Friday evening was spent sampling the different clusters of wineries to find a safe place to take pictures on Saturday night. I quickly discovered that Graaff-Reinet’s motorists treat random photographers as fair game to flatten – especially after dark – and finally found a nice spot outside the Reinet House on Murray Street. I wanted to catch the stars above the fine historic building and the wine tasting going on outside as cars drove by.
Early Evening Stoep Wine Tasting outside Reinet House
The N2’s not an easy road and I don’t think many festinos’ would think it’s a delight: but most people will come to #NAF18 along it. Whether from Port Elizabeth or King William’s Town it snakes its way across a whole sequence of deep valleys. I just love the names of the rivers. On the PE side you leave Grahamstown through Howieson’s Poort and must cross the Berg, Palmiet, Assegai, Kariega and Bushman’s before the long dry stretch to the Sunday’s River at Colchester.
N2 by Night: Howieson’s Poort
To the East of Grahamstown it’s across the Belmont Valley you go and over the Kowie River before the long climb up to Governor’s Kop. You’ve still got the Great Fish and Keisakamma to cross before you reach the Buffalo River bridge entering King William’s Town.
N2 by Night: Grahamstown
N2 by Night: Belmont Valley
The N2 at Night makes a good photo essay. From the radio masts on the western end of Mountain Drive you can catch the car headlights coming up Howieson’s Poort. At the toposcope you can look down over the N2 bypass to the town’s lights. Below you is the Port Alfred road and the N2 weaving across the Belmont Valley and up through the cuttings beyond.
The Howieson’s Poort picture is one of this year’s Grahamstown series that I’m showing in Metamorphosis, June 28 – 8 July, at the Johan Carinus Art Centre during #NAF18.