Landscape and family pictures: Hogsback weekend

Last weekend’s trip to Hogsback was a good time for photography: the light was excellent, landscape compositions were everywhere and, of course, there’s my daughters and grandchildren.  I’ve already posted my antique picture panorama but here’s a selection of the other pictures I took.

This composition was right outside Helen’s house: the building poles were stacked above the fire pit with Tor Doone looming behind them.  I couldn’t resist taking another, with completely different clouds, the following morning when we set off for one of our walks.

Family walks with small children and an even smaller puppy can be slow affairs.  Here’s Helen holding hands with Luke and her new puppy, Rain, trotting along beside them  This was taken in poor light with my telephoto lens looking down the long hill beside Helen’s house.  The next day we had another walk – to Luke’s ‘Niagara’ waterfall – and here is Sophie being carried in her backpack by Jeannie.

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Helen gave me a great guided tour around the property before we left for a Sunday meal: she ended it by showing me where she plans to build the new main house.  Driving home to Grahamstown on Sunday the light was lovely and the clouds were dramatic so I stopped at the Pluto’s Vale turnoff to take some last pictures before sunset.

Hogsback panorama, antique painting?

Last weekend was spent at my daughter Helen’s place high in the Hogback mountains.  On Saturday evening we took the three dogs and Jeannie with the two little grandchildren up the hill for a sunset walk. It was quite a dark scene with soft light playing on the clouds above the mountains.

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The light and composition reminded me of a nineteenth century colonial painting.  I took seven images to piece together. This evening, once the power outage was over, I corrected them for brightness and then stitched them into one scene using Double Take.  Then I imported the panorama into Aperture and removed blemishes (dirt on the lens) before exporting it again and finally importing it into FX Photo Studio Pro.  The last step was to mask the photo with the ancient canvas filter and add a suitable frame so as to give the picture the antique feel I had experienced on the hillside.  You can see the result above.

Symmetry in Nature: Preview

It’s a couple of months since I posted about the book project. There’s been plenty to work on: finding the right online publisher, deciding on the layout, selecting and reworking images, tracking down picture details, drawing the maps and then composing the book. Here is a preview of the covers: you are looking at the book opened out and face down so the back cover is to the left of the spine.

Symmetry in Nature: Covers

After a bit of research I chose blurb to work with as they publish a lot of photo books and their BookSmart software is free. They also give the option to convert your book into an eBook for publication in Apple’s iBook store. Which is something I will be doing very shortly. My book has a large square format since the images don’t come in standard sizes..  That’s meant laying out each page separately with an image and the original picture I worked from plus a short caption.  Here are two pairs of pages from the Mosses and Lichens and Trees sections.

Symmetry in Nature: Mosses and Lichens

 

Symmetry in Nature: Trees

I realised that I am not the first person to construct striking and evocative imagery through mirroring and duplicating.  What I have done in the book, though, is to add value to the pictures so that it is much more than just a set of lovely and intriguing images.  The book is divided into seven sections depending on the aspect of nature involved. Then I have added a brief description for each picture and included one or two small photographs of people and places.  Here is a two page spread from the Leaves section.

Symmetry in Nature: Leaves

At the end of the book I composed two pages of typical South African and Swedish landscapes so that the reader gets a better appreciation of the places where the pictures were taken.  Each page has a location map, list of where the pictures were taken, a panorama and four typical landscapes.

Symmetry in Nature: Landscapes

The book ends with a page showing how I constructed the images and there’s a complete listing of the technical details of all of the photographs.  It’ll be 54 pages in all. I am just waiting for ISBN numbers to be issued for the hard copy and eBook then it’ll be uploaded and published!

 

 

Night photos around the fire pit: Hogsback

Last weekend we escaped to Hogsback.  The temperatures had built up all week long to 39 degrees so we were happy to go and stay at Helen’s place high in the mountains.  On Saturday night we came back from a cooling swim in the dam in time for a braai. I have been trying to get a good set of night pictures for a while now and had a couple of ideas to try out.  So I left the others to do the cooking and got busy with my camera.  Weather conditions were really changeable with clear skies and stars and then the wind picked up as a night storm came rumbling past.

The evening started with Luke and Helen collecting wood and preparing the fire.
01 Preparing the fire pit

When the coals in the main fire pit could be raked aside for cooking Steve and Kate got busy with the chicken, potatoes and boerewors 

02 Steve and Kate get started

03 Hot coals

04 Food ready

I asked Kate to give the fire a stir so I could capture the sparks flying (and dying) in the wind.

05 Stirring the embers

A storm was clearly approaching but I had time to get Helen to join me on the stoep beneath the starry night sky.  This is a picture I have always wanted to capture. 

06 Helen and Roddy on the stoep

Once the storm came there was lightning silhouetting the clouds behind the house as the wind picked up and sprayed sparks all over me.  The pictures are dramatic with trails like tracer fire and also my head torch bobbing and weaving in the last picture. The sparks died quickly on the green vegetation all around that was very sappy from the recent rains.

07 Storm approaches

08 Flying sparks

09 Finale

There was no rain with the storm …. but a very tasty supper and malt whisky to appreciate before we doused the fire and headed off to bed.

Night Abseil at Ford Fordyce

Team building with this year’s Honours Class involved a happy weekend up in the mountains at Fort Fordyce.  It is a great place to climb and one of the highlights of our stay must have been the night abseil at the Forgotten Dream Sector.  The climbers guide says ‘this really is climbing in a jungle environment’ and I wanted to try and get some night pictures of headlamps descending into the forest. So I headed off with the advance party who were setting up the ropes – Gillian, Ian, Rosie and Kate – and went hunting for a place further along the cliffs to set up my camera on its gorilla stand.

It  was gloomy, the forest was scratchy and full of spiders webs and a good view point wasn’t easy to find.  I ended up about 500 metres away on an exposed cliff top.  It was getting dark, I was on one large boulder and my camera perched on the next – all rather exposed – so I tied myself on to a length of fencing wire that was trailing from the nearest fence post.  There was just time for a few quick pictures with camera on maximum zoom to make sure I was set up okay.  The exposures were about two or three seconds. Then I just lay back with my back against the boulder and the buzzards whizzing past to wait for the sounds of the party coming.

About 20 minutes later it was pitch dark and I could see their headlights twinkling through the trees half a kilometre away. Time to lean forwards from one boulder and half straddle the one with the camera, click the remote and count to 10, 20, 30, 100 or whatever exposure I wanted.  About 20 minutes went by before I decided I had enough of this.  I was cold and uncomfortable, time to hike back through the forest and down to the others, glad to see Kate’s head torch bobbing below me.  I declined the offer of the abseil, I reckon I already had plenty of excitement.

Hogsback Sunset

Most trips to Helen’s house at Hogsback include a drive along to the the radio mast at the end of Plaatjieskraal for a walk, a sunset drink and a long look at the spectacular view.  When Andy was here last month we spent a night out at Helen’s inspecting the progress on her house.  We had a good walk in the forest up to the Kettle Spout waterfall, a picnic and, naturally, a sunset expedition.  You can see the view we were treated to in the photos below.  Her house is making steady progress now that she is spending more time there.  It was a little crowded with four adults and two dogs sleeping in one room though!