Fingo Village taxi ride: a photo merge

Two of the pictures I’ve taken in the past couple of weeks are merged here. It’s something that I experiment with every now and then and this time I’ve got an interesting result.

Take my picture across the valley, Grahamstown-Makhanda

Fingo Village taxi ride

The first picture in the merge is called Across the Valley. It’s a shot I’ve wanted for quite a while. Taken looking down Wood Street in Fingo Village your eye is drawn immediately across the valley to the leafy suburbs of Fort England and Sunnyside. The 1820 Settlers National Monument and PJ Olivier High School are perched on top of the hills beyond.

Across the valley from Wood Street, Fingo Village, Grahamstown Makhanda

Across the Valley

The second picture was one I took on the fly. I was standing on the corner of Bathurst and High Streets in the town centre taking pictures of the heritage sites when a taxi came cruising past. The conductor called out Take my Picture and so I did. Here he is in typical pose.

Take my picture, corner of Bathurst and High, Grahamstown Makhanda

Take my picture

With the photo merge I combined the two pictures together. So the image still looks across the valley but the taxi (which will take you there) is overlain on top. I use the Luminar photo editing software to achieve this affect.

I also gave the merged image a gritty analogue feel to hark back to the multiple exposures of the pre-digital age.

 

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!

Starry nights at Hogsback

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, Hogsback, Astrophotography, Eastern Cape

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.

Hogsback, Eastern Cape, Astrophotography

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, Eastern Cape, Astrophotography

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.

Karoo Light: Sunsets, Storms and Night Skies

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.

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 Fountain Court, 1820 Settlers National Monument, a Photo Essay before #NAF18 takes over

As #NAF18 draws closer the 1820 Settlers National Monument gets busier and busier. So I took a chance yesterday that there would still be some peace to make a photo essay of my favourite part of the building – the Fountain Court. It’s quite a challenge being a central atrium that’s several stories deep. There’s natural light spilling in from two sides and down from the top but artificial light on the other two sides. I settled on my tiny 9mm fisheye body cap lens to pull in as much of the space as possible. The rectangular shapes of the famous yellowwood scaffolding sculpture, the many long pillars and banner-like Skotnes murals all help make dramatic shots. The fisheye lens does a great job of curving them round the Millstone Fountain and sunburst roof decoration. There’s a nice selection of my Grahamstown pictures over at roddythefox.co.za.

 

Victoria Falls: a Black and White Photo Essay

I was fortunate to visit Victoria Falls last week and tried to capture them in black and white. Photography can be really tricky because of the showers of mist:  you are likely to get soaked and so is your camera!  So I took along my waterproof Pentax WG 3 and carried my Olympus OMD in my backpack for safety.  Fortunately the water levels in the Zambezi were fairly low and so shooting conditions weren’t bad.  I managed to get the Olympus out (and stow it away) quickly between the waves of mist as they blew over.  It’s a two hour walk through the mist forest park on the Zimbabwean side of the Falls and you make lots of stops at all of the viewpoints along the edge of the gorge.

The first and last pictures in the slideshow are of the Falls from a distance away.  They’re taken from Elephant Hills hotel just after 5am on the days before and after my trip.  You can easily see why they’re referred to as The Smoke That Thunders – Mosi-oa-Tunya.

At the start of your walk along the Falls is the imposing commemorative statue of David Livingstone.  Then you work your way along the edge of the gorge opposite the sheer drop of the Falls.  The Devil’s Cataract is a really impressive amphitheatre of mist forest.  The Main Falls have huge streams of water separated by Livingstone Island.  If you look back along the way you have come from Danger Point you see the mist billowing high up into the air above you.  It’s quite an experience and something I hope I’ve managed to capture with this set of black and white pictures.