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

Portals Exhibition: Two Mosaics

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.

Portals Mosaic Final Small Blog Version

Portals Exhibition

Symmetry in Nature

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.

For collection …


Portals Exhibition: early images

The dead eucalyptus trees on Mountain Drive were my earliest interest: their stark branches against a clear winter sky for example.  This old tree is right next to the gravel road and I’ve photographed it a number of times.  As you pass by it rears up against the skyline.  The interlocking branches remind me of a cat’s cradle of fingers, praying hands or the tracery in a gothic church window.

Mt Drive Archway

Clean images and simple subject matter are typical of my early symmetry pictures. The original for this picture was taken in July 2014 just after the big fire that swept across the hillside.  The storms that have followed have all but demolished the tree now.

Mt Drive Archway Original


Portals Exhibition: National Arts Festival Fringe 2016

I’ll be presenting an exhibition of my photography – Portals – at this year’s National Arts Festival. There are six months to go before the Festival and I’m going to try and upload a picture more or less every week.
The exhibition shows how I use mirroring of imagery – usually nature photography – to find new perspectives of the world around us. The human brain is very adept at finding patterns and translating images and my pictures highlight the spiritual, intriguing, fantastical, meditative and striking depths of the world around us.
I’m starting with three pictures to illustrate this.

Natalie Eyes

The first one is the original image. Two eyes are peering straight at the camera through the naturally torn membrane of a large lily leaf. The green backlight and shadows make the picture a little mysterious – it’s hard to see who the person really is and what she is enigmatically gazing at.  The next two pictures are made from splitting the picture down her nose and duplicating each eye-half in turn. The duplicates are flipped over and joined to its mate.  So the next pictures are actually of two right eyes and two left eyes.  I’ve filtered the images using FX Studio PRO to get the striking textures and colours.

Natalie Metallica

It’s easy to see quite a different mood between the two images. The first one reminds me of a moulded metal face-plate.

Natalie Textured

The second one is far more aggressive, questioning, almost frightening.  I’ll be using the Natalie Metallica in the exhibition.
Model: Natalie Ellis

New directions

This past six weeks I’ve been exploring new ideas and finding some new directions in my nature photography.  Since finishing Symmetry in Nature in January I have been full of the urge to create but I was only able to follow this once I got to Sweden and Finland in April and May.  The places I have stayed have been exceptionally beautiful and because I’ve been released from the usual routines then I have let myself go.

You can see from these three pictures that I’ve spent plenty of times in the forests with the trees searching for, and finding, their hidden imagery.

Symmetry in Nature: Published

It’s been a bit of a journey this past few weeks but today I’ve seen the end result and it’s a great feeling.

Screen Shot 2015-01-31 at 5.25.58 PM


You get a full preview of Symmetry in Nature in blurb’s online bookstore where you can purchase a hard copy or pdf version. The pdf file is for download and it’s quite large: over 300MB. Thanks to blurb’s software I have also coverted the book into an ebook (that’s the iPad iBooks format) which is free and a much smaller download at less than 30MB. Click the picture below for the direct link.

Screen Shot 2015-01-31 at 5.40.25 PM

Looking back over the past year I can see that working on the imagery and then producing the book has been a fruitful and enriching experience. A process that has set me on a new creative direction at a difficult time.  I’d like to thank my family and friends for all of their encouragement and appreciation.