Posted on January 16, 2017
Life looks different in black and white, doesn’t it? I thought it might be interesting to review my year 2016 through some of my black and white photos.
As a photographer, I really wouldn’t want to be limited to making photographs in just colour or just black and white. I love them both equally. Each makes me feel and see quite differently, and I need and benefit from both ways in my life.
Colour brings out the joy for me. I relate to the tones of an image as much as or even more than the shapes, lines and subject. I am drawn toward colour combinations that thrill me and make me happy — jewel tones, pure colours, colour duets, complementary colours, analogous colours, for example, even if the subject is subtle or moody.
As Andri Cauldwell observes: “To see in color is a delight for the eye but to see in black and white is a delight for the soul.”
It has been said many times that black and white distills a subject to its essence, and I find that to be very true. What is central to the photograph I tend to see much more clearly, without being seduced by colour. While it’s a quieter, more restrained way of communicating, it can definitely pack a powerful punch.
Posted on January 3, 2017
How many lessons of faith and beauty we should lose, if there were no winter in our year.
Thomas Wentworth Higginson
I live in a little town called Almonte, Ontario. I moved here six years ago, from Canada’s capital, Ottawa, but I’ve never really lived here. Why? Because for these last several years we’ve always been away for the winter and spring, down south on our sailboat, Windsong II, which I adored, and which we have now sold.
You may have seen a few of my pictures and posts (smile) of our adventures crossing to the Bahamas from Florida and enjoying an active, exciting and relaxing life on the water. I feel so alive when I am always outside, feeling the warm sun and wind on my skin. I hate the expression “living the dream,” but it kinda was…
I make no secret of the fact that I am NOT a winter person. I do not enjoy being cold and I’m not really into outdoor sports. I used to skate on the Rideau Canal in Ottawa, but after a nasty experience with an icy bump and a broken elbow and another with bruised knees my enthusiasm for skating came to an end.
When we decided to spend this winter in Almonte, I wondered how I might survive this period. Then I stopped thinking about it. Christmas was coming and there was much to be done and lots to occupy my thoughts. The grandkids were back from the North and this was the first Christmas we would get to spend with them in a good while. Then my family arrived to spend a few delicious days.
When my sister and I get together, we always try to get out together and do some photography. This time it was friggin’ cold! And there was an Alberta Clipper that arrived on December 31. We decided to go out anyway to see what we could see. We started by checking out the Almonte Falls, which were coated in ice. Then we drove around the back roads to see what this picturesque area looks like under a blanket of white snow. We came upon the Auld Kirk, a church established in 1836. It’s a beautiful stone building that I have photographed at other times of the year. But in a snowstorm it was magical.
My sister says that my time in the south has softened me up for winter. (I think I was always pretty soft.) I admit I wore the wrong gloves and was cursing my frozen fingers the whole time. But I thoroughly enjoyed getting out there with my camera, so much so that I went out again a few days later when it was a bit warmer.
So what inspired this change of attitude? A realization that has been dawning lately that opening to life means opening to what we don’t like and what we resist as much as what we do like.
As Jack Kornfield says:
True equanimity is not a withdrawal; it is a balanced engagement with all aspects of life. It is opening to the whole of life with composure and ease of mind, accepting the beautiful and terrifying nature of all things. Equanimity embraces the loved and the unloved, the agreeable and the disagreeable, the pleasure and pain. It eliminates clinging and aversion.
I’m not saying this is easy, just that it feels necessary.
Also, I’ve been deeply influenced by John O’Donohue, so these words of his rang true:
At the heart of things is a secret law of balance and when our approach is respectful, sensitive and worthy, gifts of healing, challenge and creativity open to us. A gracious approach is the key that unlocks the treasure of encounter… A reverence of approach awakens depth and enables us to be truly present where we are. When we approach with reverence, great things decide to approach us. Our real life comes to the surface and its light awakens the concealed beauty of things. When we walk on the earth with reverence, beauty will decide to trust us. The rushed heart and the arrogant mind lack the gentleness and patience to enter that embrace. Beauty is mysterious, a slow presence who waits for the ready, expectant heart.
Maybe if I walk on the earth with greater reverence, including in winter — being truly present to where I am — the concealed beauty of things will be revealed to me. I don’t know, but I’m willing to find out…
Posted on December 31, 2016
…Now that I have been opened
I can never be closed again.
The reflection of the sun on the waves
is a shining path to the horizon
a dazzling lucent shuttle
of unknowable complexity.
A cloud over the sun
momentary camera obscura.
And as I move towards resolution
the world abandons its detail
in a theatre at once dark & light
where life is a kind of joyous shade
a shadow over the sun
a dark radiance.
From A Radiant Inventory by Christopher Dewdney
Posted on December 22, 2016
“What do you think of Christmas?”
“I like it,” she said. “I think we should have it every year.”
Wishing everyone a holiday full of light, magic and wonder. May your hearts be filled with love and joy, however you celebrate this special time of year.
And may the New Year bring you many opportunities to celebrate the mystery and depth of presence that is within us and around us always.
Posted on December 17, 2016
I know I need art right now. More than I ever have in my whole life. I need art to cut through the noise. …I need it to paint new worlds that help me understand this one.
Courtney E. Martin
Posted on December 14, 2016
Posted on December 7, 2016
In my previous post, I talked about and pictured a favourite building in New York — the Flatiron Building.
Here are a few other favourite places. On this trip, the rain prevented me from going to Central Park — the best park in the world in my opinion — but I’ve made images there on at least two other occasions.
Union Square Park, which is down around 14th street, was designed by Frederick Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, the same two who designed Central Park. You can see the same design philosophy at work on a much smaller scale. I find it fascinating to read about how they so consciously used trees and plants, paths, tunnels, bridges, berms and ledges, and water features to affect people’s experience of a park.
Grand Central Terminal is another place I’ve photographed before — but I keep going back there because there’s so many beautiful details to shoot and so many ways to shoot it. And this time I was there on Thanksgiving Day, one of the busiest travel days of the year, so it was bursting at the seams with people. It’s an incomparable place to people-watch. I could do it for hours. Actually, I think I have.
I’ve been very fortunate to have had some exceptional meals in New York — some mind-blowingly amazing meals in fact. The most unbelievable ever was at Eleven Madison Park, where we went to celebrate my mother’s 80th birthday some years back. My sister and I thought such a milestone birthday was deserving of a special meal — and I’m sure it will be the only Michelin three-star restaurant I will ever eat at in my life, so I treasure the memory and the event it marked.
Another great meal was at Mario Batali’s Casa Mono on one of my last trips, which was so busy that we could only get a reservation at 10:00 pm. But so worth the wait. I didn’t eat there this year, but I did go back to take a picture of the place, which is in Gramercy Park, a favourite neighbourhood to walk around in.
Of course, I have many more favourite places, including the Metropolitan Opera — where this year I had the good fortune to see world-famous soprano Anna Netrebko perform in Manon Lescaut. Sadly, I did not get a good picture of that amazing place and experience. It will have to live on in my mind only.