I have always been excited about shooting pattern and rhythm in my photography, especially so when they occur out in nature. When using pattern, one has the ability of keeping the composition really simple without the risk of losing visual impact.This photograph was taken back in 2007 in the heart of the Drakensberg Mountains (near Cathedral Peak) and forms part of a series entitled Austere Pattern. It was photographed during late winter when the forests were dry without much foliage. Early one morning I spotted a small cluster of trees down in a valley, a few kilometers off the main road. The light was not great at the time, so I decided to wait for better light before attempting to photograph them. Later that afternoon an extensive area of bushveld nearby the trees had caught fire. Smoke bellowed into the air and by four o`clock that afternoon the sky had turned ash grey in colour.
I headed down towards the group of trees, unsure of what to expect. Much to my frustration, I walked around and around and could not find an exciting composition at all. Although the light was great as it had softened though the atmospheric haze, the fire had devastated most of the surrounding bush, making it near impossible to create a composition without including a burnt area in the background. After an hour or so without much success the light had started to fade and I was about to head back to camp when I looked up and spotted some beautiful patterns in the canopy of trees. The smoke had muted the blue in the sky completely: creating a back lit, “charcoal sketch” type of feel. After a while I eventually found a composition where the branches stretched out towards a central point creating a very graphic and balanced impression.I am all for pre-planning in photography.
Often I will spend hours upon hours seeking out the perfect composition, which I then might only photograph some time later when the light is at its best. Nevertheless this picture is a good example of an opportunistic approach. Just when I thought that I was wasting my time the best shot was actually there waiting to be taken! This bears testimony to the fact that there are photographs everywhere; one just has to be patient and continue looking.