The patterns of Valencia…

train station ceiling-sq

North Railway Station ceiling

One of the most satisfying ways to explore a new place is by noticing and appreciating the patterns in the built environment around you.

I don’t discriminate in my affection for patterns — I enjoy patterns from all decades and eras. Bold or subtle, symmetrical or not, I seek out patterns for how they make me feel and what they teach me about a place.

One thing that always attracts me whoever I go is ceramics. And Valencia is just full of gorgeous examples. The history of ceramics in Spain is a long and fascinating one and includes Moorish and Chinese influences. I particularly loved the tiled ceiling of the North Railway Station, which was decorated in an Art Nouveau style.

This is just a small taste of the luscious patterns of Valencia.

 

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Detail of tiled wall in Malvarrosa

market dome cropped even closer

One of the domes of the Central Market

spiral starircase

The spiral staircase of Santa Catalina

lights valencia

The lights in Ruzafa during Las Fallas

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Outside the Science Museum in the City of Arts a Sciences by Santiago Calatrava

blue green grid

Detail from inside the Museum of Sciences — my two favourite colours together

subway shapes

A colourful modern subway stop

And the winner is…

declan at the top of the fallshigh rez.jpg

Gobsmacked is the word I would use to describe how I felt when I was notified that my picture of Declan (above) won the Editor’s Choice award of Macleans Magazine’s Great Canadian Photo Contest for the month of February.

It’s a good word; I know it well described how my face looked when I read the email from Liz Sullivan, the photo editor of the magazine. I had entered the contest on a whim, with no expectations at all. I was surprised and delighted to be selected as a finalist, but I never imagined in a million years that I would win.

A fabulous photo by Isaac Paul won the Reader’s Choice Award for receiving the most votes on Facebook. His was a colourfully lit and evocative image of a man playing a saxophone in a funeral home. It was beautifully done and the other eight photos were all splendid as well. I was honoured to be in their company.

I am indebted to my friends, family, fellow photographers and contacts from all over for supporting me through votes, shares and encouraging comments about the photo. It  really was quite enough for me to be voted in the Top Ten — to go on to win one of the two top prizes was just so much extra whipped cream on the ice cream!

A special shout out to grandson Declan, an active and adorable little guy who is always on the move, and who gives me so many reasons to pick up the camera and capture his antics. And huge thanks to his parents and sister, who moved to the Northwest Territories a few years ago, and who welcomed us for a visit that allowed us to see more of our fabulous country  North of Sixty with them.

The award comes with a cash prize and inclusion in an exhibition at the end of the year with all the other winners. I look forward to attending that.

And a final word: I know that many of you reading this and checking in on my blog from time to time are fine photographers with wonderful bodies of work to your credit.  I know because I follow you too and I am endlessly inspired by your creativity and artistry.

You should consider entering a contest from time to time — credible ones with themes that you resonate with, of course. If you are Canadian, there are 10 more months to enter the Macleans’ Great Canadian Photo Contest. Each month has a different theme. March is food.

You probably think, as I did, that you don’t stand a chance, but you never know, it just might be your time to take home a prize!

 

 

 

The colours of Valencia…

yellow flowers

Valencia! Or Valenthia, as it is pronounced here…What a lovely place to spend some time in the spring. Oranges, paella, tapas, Agua de Valencia (a local cocktail), horchata (a milky drink made of tiger nuts), Las Fallas (an annual cultural celebration in March) and warm climate are all immensely appealing to me, as is the history, culture, architecture and Mediterranean coastline. And that’s just for starters.

I’ll be doing a series of posts on Valencia as I explore the area with my camera. But since I just got here, let me start with a short post on what first grabbed me — the colour! So here’s some of my first impressions of this fascinating city, the third largest in Spain.

little-orange-tree
blue-and-green-faceblue-black
happy-doortwo-womenyellow-woman

It powders all the wood…

spindly

It sifts from leaden sieves,
It powders all the wood,
It fills with alabaster wool
The wrinkles of the road.

It makes an even face
Of mountain and of plain, —
Unbroken forehead from the east
Unto the east again.

It reaches to the fence,
It wraps it, rail by rail,
Till it is lost in fleeces;
It flings a crystal veil.

Emily Dickinson

dirty-window-shot

 

wintry-scene-almonte

Please welcome the stranger…

No image today. Imagine instead your own home. Your safe place. Now imagine that it is not so safe…

Home

by Warsan Shire

no one leaves home unless
home is the mouth of a shark
you only run for the border
when you see the whole city running as well

your neighbors running faster than you
breath bloody in their throats
the boy you went to school with
who kissed you dizzy behind the old tin factory
is holding a gun bigger than his body
you only leave home
when home won’t let you stay.

no one leaves home unless home chases you
fire under feet
hot blood in your belly
it’s not something you ever thought of doing
until the blade burnt threats into
your neck
and even then you carried the anthem under
your breath
only tearing up your passport in an airport toilets
sobbing as each mouthful of paper
made it clear that you wouldn’t be going back….

Read the rest here.

 

 

A look back in Black and White…

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.

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Giving winter a chance…

sun-on-icicles

Winter light on barn

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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…

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