The cold Karoo leaves its mark

Without doubt the Karoo is cold in the winter months. We are just back from field work based at Ganora Guest Farm, New Bethesda and it was gray and cloudy and cold.  I managed to capture the grainy chill in these pictures: particularly in the skies towering over the gravel roads twisting through the big landscapes.  We’ve usually finished field work before sunset and so I get the chance for a quiet walk and the opportunity to compose some photos – hopefully beside some sheltered sun-warmed rocks.

Then there’s also the small things that you see when walking through the countryside. The donkeys, pumpkins at a road side farm stall, freshly shorn sheep smelling of lanolin and there were some orange-red blossoms like flame flickering amongst the rocks.

At night the sky sweeps above you and the stars are incredible.  This picture of the milky way was taken when it was hazy and cloudy so I was lucky to get the picture when there was a break in the clouds.  The farm buildings in the next picture are very bright because a guest’s car drove down to the farm whilst I was exposing the shot.  So the farm was light painted for me.  There’s a straight diagonal line running across the curved star trails in the last picture.  It’s the lights of the SAA flight from Port Elizabeth to Cape Town.

Karoo up close

Last week we were staying in Nieu Bethesda and I realised that one of the important things about the Karoo is the shape and texture of the small things we experience.  I’ve already posted pictures of big skies and clouds or rain storms and sunsets in the Karoo.  Yet the Karoo is also in the shape of a twist of fence wire, a pink vygie, the Bushman poison bulb (Boophone distichia), a bee entering a sneeze wood post or an inverted padlock.

So here’s a selection of just those things – and a few more.

The Frowl in the Grass: Strange Creatures in Nature 2

We were back at Ganora Farm last week updating our research in the Karoo and came across this strange creature.  We had taken a short walk above the cottages to get some cellphone signal and stretch our legs after a morning of desk top work and came across a pair of oddly matched eyes peering up out of the grass.  I thought ‘he is an owl’ but Kate took one look at the photo and said ‘looks more like a frog’.  So let’s settle on a frowl.

Frowl1

Kompassberg and the High Plains

Last week we spent four days in the Karoo. As usual we were based at Ganora Farm, which is near Nieu-Bethesda, doing some mapping work and interviewing farmers who kindly gave us their rainfall records.  At this time of year the light can be spectacular, especially in the early evenings when there are summer storms passing by.  The air gets scrubbed clean by the rain and wind leaving a sparkling landscape.  It is also high, at around 1500 metres, which also adds to the translucent skies.  These pictures are mostly in black and white though the filter I used on my Pentax K-5 leaves red shades in the images.  That’s easy to see in one of the pictures.  The landscape is dominated by wide open spaces, clouds, and Kompassberg mountain which towers dramatically 1000 metres above you.