The Astronomical Toposcope and 1820 Settlers National Monument

Just across the road from the front entrance of the Monument is a small pathway that leads to the beautifully kept Astronomical Toposcope. I was up there last week in spite of the oppressive heat because there were some interesting strands of cloud in the sky – high circus being blown to the south-east – that I thought might give a good effect in the sky above the Monument or Fort Selwyn. I took several Live Composite pictures of up to 5 minutes duration to get the effect of a sunburst of stripes behind the buildings.

They make a nice counterpoint to the ring of stones in the foreground – Guy Butler’s Astronomical Toposcope – that represents the cardinal points of the compass, the summer and winter solstices, the equinoxes, and where in June the Pleiades (Isilimela) becomes visible over the precinct stone at dawn. This marks the start of the Ukwaluka period for adolescent Xhosa males.



Roddy is a self taught photographer whose first camera, a Zeiss Ikon, was bought in 1974 from a second hand dealer in Glasgow. Through the forty years since then, he's taken landscape photographs with Pentax, Olympus and FujiFilm systems for his teaching and research as a geography academic at Kenyatta and Rhodes Universities. He has always been inspired by great nature and landscape photographers such as Nick Brandt, Beth Moon, Obie Oberholzer and Hans Strand. Since taking early retirement he has been able to pursue his passion for photography, published a photobook ’Symmetry in Nature and held three solo exhibitions at the National Arts Festival, Grahamstown, South Africa. 

His landscape photography is about light: often at low angles, of forests, mist and clouds, the night sky and lightning. He prints on different media depending on the affects he wants to produce: brushed aluminium for reflecting angled light; Hahnemühle German Etching paper for soft diffusion; Ilford Metallic Gloss for vibrant night pictures.

His conceptual photography uses mirroring and merging of layers to explore patterns, motifs and the feminine in nature.