In a couple of month’s time Grahamstown’s Festival Gallery hosts its annual end-of.year exhibition. This year the theme is Summer in Miniatures – artworks have to be no bigger than 30 cms. I’ve decided to try out a submission with the idea of ‘Summer Nights’ and use a selection of four night pictures taken this past southern hemisphere summer.
The first two were taken on Ganora Farm which is just outside Nieu Bethesda in the Karoo. Summer Nights 1: Angel and Obelisk was taken in the middle of the night when there was no moon. I wanted to catch the Milky Way stretching directly above the rock and quite by chance I caught the light of my head torch that I was using to light-paint the top of the obelisk. Summer Nights 2: Compassberg Star Trails was taken on a night when the moon was full which is why the landscape is so bright. It’s a one hour exposure looking north to Compassberg mountain and has beautiful star trails arcing across the horizon.
Summer Nights 1: Angel and Obelisk
Summer Nights 2: Compassberg Star Trails
Summer Nights 3: Firefly and Star Trails
Summer Nights 4: Pride Rock Star Trails
Summer Nights 3 and 4 were both taken looking south from Mountain Drive, Grahamstown: so they are overlooking Featherstone Kloof. In Summer Nights 3 I was joined by a firefly that flickered briefly past my right shoulder and up into the sky. It’s another picture taken when the moon was full so I hid beneath a rock overhang to avoid getting direct moonlight on the lens. For the last picture, Summer Nights 4, I highlighted Pride Rock from underneath with a bright LED as there was no moonlight to bring out the foreground. The lights on the horizon are from Port Alfred 60 kms away.
If they’re accepted for the exhibition they’ll be priced at around R2500 for a framed print but I can supply a high resolution digital image for half of that. Contact me if you are interested.
Last night Äsperöd had clear skies with a distant Aurora forecast so I headed up the hill after it eventually got dark. I was looking for a band of green on the northern horizon that merges into pinks and purples before the black of the night sky above. Uddevalla city lights put paid to seeing anything low on the horizon but I did manage to capture the soft pinks and purples.
It’s been exciting this past couple of weeks seeing everything start to take shape. There will be 19 large format photographs for sale either as limited edition prints or as digital images at reduced size and resolution. A further 20 images from Symmetry in Nature will also be for sale in digital format along with the remaining six copies of the limited edition print run of the book.
I compiled two mosaics of all of the images that will be on view at the exhibition so it’s easy to see what’s on offer.
Symmetry in Nature
The pictures have been printed and the framing has started. Here’s the first two images that were waiting to be collected yesterday from Classic Framers in Grahamstown.
Night photography allows me to make some unusual images. I lit the forest path below Dassie Krantz with three lights and, by chance, there appeared a blue phosphorescent effect on the thorn tree. Mirroring then gave me this lovely blue portal.
Forest path at night
Further along the path you have to bend double to get through a really dense tangle of creepers. It took me an hour of experimenting to get this picture. Placing the lights was very tricky and I did a lot of crawling under the creepers!
Tangle of creepers
I did the usual mirroring to get a richly textured, dramatic image but then I realized that duplicating and offsetting it would give an endless weaving pattern. I was surprised and very pleased with the result.
Images taken at low light have always been one of my passions but lately I have been able to take much better images at night. A new camera and lens have helped! So I’ve been taking milky way pictures and star trails – quite a few have been posted in Instagram using my @roddythefox account. A few nights ago I was taking some star pictures in the garden below our house and I swung the camera down and round to capture the vegetation. Here’s the picture I got – I was blown over by the glossy aspect of the leaves, the jungly shapes, the amazing violet-pink sky and the interesting composition.
I saw straight away there were lots of possibilities in the shapes to make some special images. So I enhanced the picture’s contrast, cropped out most of the right hand side and then mirrored it horizontally and vertically to get this dramatic image.
I’m pretty sure I will be using it for Portals. It’s such a great fusion of night imagery with mirroring to find a stunning pattern. I could see, though, that there’s the possibility of another great pattern using the almost vertical leaves on the left hand side of the original. This time I’ve duplicated it many times to arrive at a fantasy wallpaper/wrapping paper design.
I’ve been out from home to take night pictures around Grahamstown three times recently when the cloud (preferably no clouds) and wind (preferably no wind or light winds) forecasts were favourable. The moon isn’t such a problem as you can use the moonlight to paint the foreground of your picture. Night photos have been a dominant theme for me lately. I’ve had great results with the fantastic ‘live composition’ option on my new Olympus and I bought an expensive wide angle lens to catch as much light as possible.
The first picture’s taken looking down the Belmont Valley from the hillside below PJ Olivier School. I had to hide the lights of Grahamstown behind the burned out tree stump and rocks but that gives a nice dramatic composition. There was no moon but plenty of artificial light so I used a short two second exposure and took a live composition for 50 minutes. So the picture is actually 1500 images combined.
Belmont Valley Star Trails
The second picture’s from just below the high point of the Oldenburgia Trail – where is goes over Dassie Krantz – south of Grahamstown. This time the moon was full and I positioned myself so the moon, and lights of Grahamstown, were behind me – on the other side of Mountain Drive. The camera settings are almost the same as the first picture. You can see the ribbon of car lights snaking along the N2 and the dotted lines of the two light aircraft flying along the coast. There’s also a meteor – the thin diagonal flash in the centre-left of the picture (in the middle of the Milky Way). The sky’s blue because there’s much less artificial light.
Oldenburgia Trail Stars
The last picture was taken a week later and only a few metres further down the Oldenburgia Trail. This time I’ve pointed the camera south-east, looking down Featherstone Kloof, as the moon was just rising behind the crags to the left. There are a lot more stars and a brighter sky because this composite is one-hour of five second exposures and the camera’s sensor picks up light from the fainter stars. You can make out the glow of street lights from Bathurst and Port Alfred on the Indian Ocean coast 60 kilometres away.