A blog about what I love….photography and bicycles!

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The Kiln Gallery has a new Exhibitor

It has been a while since we had a new exhibitor at the Kiln.  Sarah van der Bank is not exhibiting at the Kiln building yet but her work is available on the Kiln FaceBook page and may be ordered directly from us.

Sarah is a born and raised Midlands lady. She grew up and was schooled right here in Howick and now lives in the Mkhuze Game reserve with her conservationist husband, Lance, and young son, Meryck.  Here is a taister of some of Sarah’s work. 

Like most of us at the Kiln, Sarah’s work may also be viewed and purchased through The PictureBox in Pietermaritzburg www.picturebox.co.za

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Rocksitters in March.

Here in KwaZulu Natal we have two members of the genus Durbania.  Members of the species Durbania amakosa fly throughout the Eastern region, from the coast right up to 2500m is suitable areas.  They are also mid summer insects, emerging in November on the coast and later at higher altitudes.  Our localised Durbania limbata is a bit of an anomoly, it flies in late summer.  Mid March is the best time to find it.  A few weeks ago my old friend Harald Selb visited us from Cape Town and Steve Woodhall, Clive Curtis and I spent a day butterflying in the midlands with him.  I did not take him to the D limbata spots as I thought we may be too early.  Instead we visited the forests nearby and Woodridge.  A week later Clive and I visitied the old “Pennington spot” at Curries Post above Yellowoods.  Clive wanted HD video footage and I have to say that, despite having bred the insect from larvae found on the rocks had never seen it live.  So Clive and I visited the old spot.  After introducing ourselves to the owner we walked over to the colony (with his over active dogs in tow…..anyone who has ever tried to photograph butterflies will know that a bouncing, loving labrador is not a great help when trying to focus on a butterfly at 20cm).  We wondered around and saw very little apart from a very territorial Spialia spio.  I checked the rocks and found loads of old pupal cases but no insects.  After 1/2 an hour of searching I was beginning to think we were to late and then Clive saw a D limbata.  That was it, over the next hour we saw loads.  Along with the D limbata were what have to be the most frustrating butterflies on the planet to photograph, Stygionympha wichgrafi, they rarely site and when they do it is for a second or two.  I have a hard drive of in flight escape shots!!  I got one relaxing.  All that said, I feel that if we had stopped with Harald we would have seen them.  Pity but good reason for him to come up again next March.  Here are a few photos of the day.

Spialia spio, the Mountain Sandman

Spialia spio, the Mountain Sandman

Spialia spio, the Mountain Sandman underside

Spialia Spio, the Mountain Sandman, underside.

Stygionympha wichgrafi, Wichgrafs Brown.

Durbania limbata, the Natal Rocksitter.

Durbania limbata, the Natal Rocksitter.

Durbania limbata, the Natal Rocksitter.

Clive Curtis videoing D limbata.

Clive Curtis doing his thing.


A dash up the Bushmans Neck

A few weeks ago I sent an email out to my friends inviting them to join me on a dash up Bushmans Neck to photograph Chrysoritis orientalis.  A lot of interest and very little commitment was shown as the hill is very steep.  Eventually two of us went.  My old mate Clive Curtis, a professional hunter who can walk for a week before he starts panting and myself.  I collected Clive at 05h30 from his house and we headed to Bushmans Neck.  After a very misty drive we signed in at the Ezemvelo Gate and started the walk.

The path to the colony goes straight up the main ridge above the hotel, it is very steep and in some places precipitous on either side.  On the way up we came across a small colony of Aloeides oreas.  One particulary fresh male allowed us time to photograph him. 

  Clive has started a stock video company (linked to his hunting video business http://www.safari-vision.com/) and was able to get a lot of footage of this little chap.  From here (about half was up) we dashed to the top.  It took spot on an hour from the car park to the colony.  I have visited the colony on a number of occations.  Some on my own, once with Clive (where we had to sprint off the hill to avoid the huge lightning storm that appeared from Lesotho) and also once with Alan Heath where I found the larvae and Alan was able to breed the insect.  Needless to say we walked the colony flat.  We saw one very ropey female and nothing else.  I suggest that we were far to late for the brood and should head up there again in October and November next year.  That said we found two colonies of rocksitters on top.  The species amakosa of the genus Durbania has been split into a number of subspecies.  I collected a number of specimens from this locality 16 years ago and showed them to Steve Woodhall.  They were nothing like our local insect, Durbania amakosa natalensis.  I thought they were closer to the nominate amakosa however the red/orange patterning on the wings was far more extensive.  Since then we have bred them from three localities and I am fairly sure now that they deserve subspecific status.  Anyway, here are two males found in the upper colonies.

Again Clive got loads of footage of these.  We then set off down the hill to see what we could find in the Proteas.  Not long after entering the Protea stand we cam accross a male Capys alpheas, a butterfly whose larvae feed on the flower heads of Proteas.  In the Proteas we also found more rocksitters.  Further down the hill we came across a number of skippers.  Spialia skippers have always confused me and here we had two of the 10 odd species.  Anyway, I got home and IDed them (with confirmation from Steve Woodhall and skipper guru Johan Greyling).  We found two, Spialia mafa and S asteroidia.  I got a number of photos and Clive some video footage.

And finally a few candid shots of Clive photograhing the Spialia int he photograph above and on the walk home.

We got to the bottom absolutely famished and Clive treated me to lunch preceded by a iced lolly, one of those lollies where the packet should read “defrost and add 5l of water”, it was sweet but exactly what we needed.  The usual conversation on the way home was a little less enthusiastic than usual as we were both rather tired.  It is a hard climb and my cycling legs struggled!!


Decembers invited artist

Things have been pretty wild for the last few weeks getting the Agric Hall going anf people have been asking me whats happening for December.  Well December is here and the first person who will be in for the period Dec/Jan is Steve Bailey.  Steve is an award winning Eastern Cape based photographer.  A brief bio follows as do a number of photographs but please visit Steve site www.stevebailey.co.za for more information.

This December we hope to see Allen Hallett return to the Kiln after a very successful exhibition in Gaborone.

An now a brief bio :

“Steve Bailey was born in Liverpool, England and moved to Southern Africa when he was 10.
He has always had a passion for Photography – eventually studying Graphics/Photography, obtaining a City and Guilds Diploma in Graphic Reproduction.
He spent 25 years in Zimbabwe before moving to Cape Town, South Africa. He is now resident in Bedford in the Eastern Cape”, and a few photographs…..

  


The Kiln Gallery at the Karkloof Farmers Market and soon to be at the Howick Agricultural Hall as well.

I have not posted for a while, mainly because I have been away in the Northern Province and further working rather hard with Fran and Doug getting our new venture going. The new one is another Gallery. Doug and Fran started the Kiln at the Karkloof Farmers Market and two months into it we were approached by Laurence Hancock, a local farmer and business man, about establishing a permanent exhibition at the Howick Agricultural Hall. This was to be open 7 days a week which would help us enormously. Anyway, we have been getting printing done, sorting out painting and trying to employ people. Hence no posts.

Oh, and I forgot to add, if you have not been to the Kiln FB page then do, and like it and you will be kept up to date with all the goings-on. See http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/The-Kiln-Gallery/192143797488771

The new gallery opens its doors on the 12th November so we hope to see everyone there!! Anyway, to close off a few pictures. Bye!!


Visiting rare mountain butterflies, The Drakensberg Daisy Copper (Chrysoritis oreas)

This last weekend Steve Woodhall, Michael Purves and I decided to hike up Bulwer Mountain to attempt to find and photograph the Drakenberg Daisy Copper, Chrysoritis oreas.  This insect was first discovered by South African butterfly legend Ken Pennington on the higher slops of the Drakensberg in Loteni area.  A few people visited the spot and collected specimens however I do not know of anyone who knows where this type locality is.  In the 1980’s Clive Quickleberge and my old friend Wolter Kaspers were on the Bulwer Mountain when Wolter presented Clive with a little copper that he had caught.  It was the Drakensberg Daisy Copper and Bulwer mountain is the only known locality besides the type.  I have visited the mountain a number of times.  The butterfly holds particular significance for me as the day that I trekked back from my first hike up the mountain was the day that I met my wife, Tracey.  In 1997 I visited the mountain with Alan and Jenny Heath, Tony Brinkman and Tracey.  On this trip Alan identified the foodplant (Thesium sp), the ant and got to breed the butterfly for the first time.

Saturdays trip was to secure a series of digital photographs of the insect, live and in habitat.  Steve had photographed the butterfly on film once before.

We left Howick a little late as Steve was caught in traffic but got to the town of Bulwer in good time.  The drive up to the Paragliding launch spot was a lot rougher than I remember and the climb a lot steeper.  Steve was fighting off the last of a chest cold so we took it slowly.  After an hour we were up on the ridge below the colony.  There we came across Penningtons Protea (Capys penningtoni) hilltopping.  This is another rare butterfly endemic to this area.  Like other members of the genus this insect breeds on the heads of protea flowers.  In the case of Penningtons Protea the foodplant os the widespread Protea caffra.  After unsuccessfully trying to photograph the Penningtons Protea we wondered over into the habitat of the little copper.  After a hour of searching we had found nothing but a few ragged Penningtons protea and a very weather-beaten Mooi River Opal (Chrysoritis lycegenes).  Eventually there was a yell from Steve, he had seen one.  Typical of these insects that live on the top of a windy hills, they fly low and shelter in the grass.  Steve had found a female, we followed her and she barrelled into a tuft of grass.  I was able to get a photograph before she shot off not to be seen again.  About half an hour later, after searching the area and finding nothing but a few Penningtons coppers (Aloeides penningtoni) Steve again saw a female.  This lady was a lot more co-operative and we all got a number of upper and underside shots.  While this was happening I noticed something dart onto an Osteospermum flower.  It was a male and it gave me enough time to get a number of photographs.  All in all we estimated that there were five specimens in the area.  All very fresh meaning we must have hit the begin of the brood.  Before leaving we were able to induce a female to lay a few eggs for Steve to take home to photograph and breed.

The hike back was tough but made easier by our success.  It was good to again make the acquaintance of this beautiful and very rare insect.


An early introduction to our invited artist for November, Steve Woodhall

Our invited photographer for November 2011 will be Steve Woodhall.  A short blurb on Steve follows but, having known Steve for some 20 years would like to add my 10c.  I met Steve on the Makhatini Flats in 1991, we were looking for a very rare butterfly that had only once been seen in SA when Steve Woodhall pitched up and introduced himself. 

Over the years I have been on a number of butterfly trips with Steve and learned a lot from him and can say that he is a very enthusiastic butterfly person and very generous with his knowledge as well as his very obvious skills with the camera and photoshop.

Since joining the Lepidopterists Society of South Africa he has travelled the Southern African region extensivly, has become aquanted with most of its butterflies and has photographed a great many of them. A result of his travels and interest in butterflies has resulted in his publishing three books on butterflies and he is now Chairman of the Society.  His book “Field Guide to the Butterflies of South Africa“, published by Struik,  is a must for the bookshelf of anyone interested in South African fauna and flora.

And now, in Steves words…..

My name is Steve Woodhall and I specialise in photographing butterflies and moths (Lepidoptera) and their biology.

I was born in 1957 in northern England. At primary school I was lucky to have a teacher who was a keen lepidopterist take me ‘under his wing’. My closest childhood friend went off with his family to live in Tanzania and started sending letters home, and butterflies. I became hooked on the whole idea of Africa and could not wait to get out there.

I had to wait until 1980 when I was transferred to SA by my firm. Having had some photographic training in my job, although qualified as a chemist I was keen on art.  So in my evenings I studied under Bill Ainslie at the Johannesburg Art Foundation. My childhood interest in butterfly collecting returned and in 1986 I joined the Lepidopterists’ Society of Africa.

My photographic exploits eventually led to writing ‘Field Guide to Butterflies of South Africa’ for Struik. Whilst doing this I learned digital photography and desktop publishing.

My aim is to take photographs that capture the natural behaviour of Lepidoptera. Simple, eye-catching images are my aim, with a well-lit yet out of focus background that complements the main subject.”