For years upon years upon years,
I dreamed the days away.
As I stared out the window of my speeding train,
the images of my life rushed by in a bright stream,
pulsing, flowing, exploding with colour and light
never stopping really,
There were always words there too, in my mind,
but they fluttered in and out,
trying so hard to make me believe them.
I couldn’t love them enough, though,
to give them a life of their own.
May you enjoy the rainbows, or any pink clouds that come your way, even as they constantly change. May each bubble — the moments of life — arising and passing away, help open us to greater wisdom and love.
An awake heart is like a sky that pours light.
Parker Palmer has written a short but profound article called MyFive New Year’s Revolutions. I encourage you to have a look.
The most beautiful moments always seemed to accelerate and slip beyond one’s grasp just when you want to hold onto them for as long as possible.
For other images taken around Lanark County, click here.
I tell my students that photographs can be reduced to light, lines, and moments. Everything else is derivative.The more I study photographs from the past century — the incredibly short lifespan of our art so far — the more convinced I am that everything’s been photographed, that our challenge now is to manipulate light, lines, and moments in the frame in a way that expresses our unique view of those so oft-photographed subjects.
I often find myself resonating with the writings of photographer David Duchemin in his books and on his blog, but this quote in particular really hit home.
Don’t you find yourself thinking sometimes that everything has been photographed — and way better than you can do it — so what’s the point exactly?
Well, as Duchemin says, it has. So I find it incredibly helpful to think in terms of light, lines and moments when I have my camera with me and we’re meditating together on what we see.
It is a rare, rare thing when they all come together — light, lines and the moment — but once in a blue moon they might — and you have yourself an image that speaks louder than any words.
This image is one of those for me. When I was photographing at the Bethesda Terrace in Central Park, a young woman busker in a medieval-type dress with a tousle-haired toddler pulling at her skirts moved into the archway facing the staircase to start singing.
She had the voice of an angel. I think she was singing Gregorian chant because the words were not intelligible to me, but that didn’t matter. It was a moment when time stopped. I raised my camera to my eye and clicked.
This image, which is now framed on my wall, brings it all back every time I raise my eyes to look at it.
Cruising has two pleasures. One is to go out in wider waters from a sheltered place. The other is to go into a sheltered place from wider waters.
There is a flowering tree not far from our boat (a Hong Kong orchid, I am told) with a lovely fragrance. I love trees in general and I find myself returning to this one often. At certain times, the light falls on the flowers in a way that is irresistible.
So today I spent some time with the flowers, trying to capture a range of their gestures (placement of petals and stamens etc.) and experimenting to see how their colour changed depending on where the light fell on them.
I love listening to Jay Maisel talk about photography. He has forgotten more than I will probably ever know. The funny thing is that he speaks in such straightforward terms and makes it sound so easy, and when you look at his images, you can be fooled into thinking they are simple to make — that is, until you try to replicate one! He has some wonderful videos on You Tube (Google them!) and of course, his new book Light, Gesture, Colour is just excellent.
Many people snap away at flowers and are quite pleased with the results. I envy them. In my experience it’s not easy to take a good picture of a flower — at least one that satisfies me. The ratio of bad to good is quite high. Is that just me, or do you find that too?
Here are some of my favourite quotes from Jay Maisel. They inspire me to keep going and keep trying…
“We have always wanted to find the ‘it-ness’ of anything we shoot. We want to get as deep into the subject as we can.”
“You will, in time, see and show others not just the superficial, but the details, the meanings, and the implications of all that you look at …”
“What you’re shooting at doesn’t matter, the real question is: ‘Does it give you joy?’”
“Always shoot it now. It won’t be the same when you go back.” (That is oh so true!)
“The drama of light exists not only in what is in the light, but also in what is left dark. If the light is everywhere, the drama is gone.”
“If you’re not your own severest critic, you are your own worst enemy.”
But then, on the other hand…
“Remember that most people (those who are not photographers) don’t even see the things that you missed. Many don’t even look. Ergo, you are way ahead of the game.”
THANK YOU to all my readers…
I wish I could thank each and every one of you for your kind, thoughtful and insightful comments on this post. They made my day!
It looks like the weather is shaping up for us to leave to cross to the Bahamas on our sailboat very soon. So I need to turn my attention to other things right now and will probably be without Internet access for a bit.
I hope to see you on the other side!
Light precedes every transition. Whether at the end of a tunnel, through a crack in the door or the flash of an idea, it is always there, heralding a new beginning.
We were sent into the world alive with beauty. As soon as we choose Beauty, unseen forces conspire to guide and encourage us towards unexpected forms of compassion, healing and creativity.
Here I am in Florida after a leisurely four-day drive down from Ontario. Our sailboat, Windsong II, is “on the hard” nearby and some repairs and additions need to be made before we move aboard. Nothing major like last year, when we had to get a whole new mast and rigging! I’m excited about living on the sailboat for the next few months and hopeful we’ll be able to cross to the Bahamas once again. I assembled a collection of images from last year and hope to add to them as time goes on.
The trip down was a great time to think about my intentions for 2015 — creative and otherwise. Everybody talks about resolutions and plans and goals and new habits. I just made list after list of the things that enliven me that I want to do more of. I know what is important to me and what I value most so it’s just a matter of keeping that top of mind and living it out.
Photography, of course, is right at the top of that list.
For me, photography is not only about documenting moments and memories so I can share them on social media or look back on my life in the future.
It’s bound up with a way of living life to the fullest and being more open to what’s happening in the moment. It’s a way to see and experience the world more intensely and intimately. It’s a way to find out what I’m drawn to and figure out why. It’s a way to connect with myself and others, wake up and come alive. It is pro-awareness and anti-auto pilot.
But it’s also a way to create something that did not exist before (an image) out of something that does (what I point the camera at).
Images are never exact representations of things or scenes — they are the outcome of many choices made by the photographer in the moment of pressing the shutter, some conscious and much unconscious (subject, framing, lighting conditions, aperture, shutter speed, POV etc.). These choices reflect the photographer’s preferences, prejudices, history, and skills with the camera and processing — and so much more. Looked at that way, photography is art.
I learned a huge amount in 2014 that I used to make better photographs — some of it from courses and much of it from studying, practising and teaching myself. I hope to share some of what I’m learning on this blog over the course of the next year. I’ve now found many good tools and resources and I want to take the time to plumb what they have to offer. But there’s no substitute for doing it — and then doing more of it — and then doing it all again.
I’ve been dabbling in stock photography over the years but in 2015 I doubled by collection for sale on Getty Images — and my sales have improved nicely. I’ve sold almost 20% of my collection at least once, some many times. I’m going to continue with stock, not as a major focus, but as a nice sideline that helps pay for my photography needs. I don’t denigrate stock — some of the most amazing and creative images I’ve seen are on the Getty Images website. The challenge is to make compelling stock photographs.
I’ve also been mapping out a plan to rework my website/blog to better reflect my current passions in photography.
In 2015 I want to pursue black and white photography with vigour — that means more street photography, cityscapes, architecture and portraiture. I hope to refine my approach to colour work, focusing on and playing with simple but intense colour combinations.
And I want to continue “seeing in a new way,” which means practising contemplative photography in a way that has been inspired by Kim Manley Ort and the Miksang school. I also want to experiment more with abstract and impressionistic photography.
I’m also committed to improving my technical skills to learn how to make the best possible images in camera — so that I am more able to create the kind of images that communicate to others. This means, for example, working on things like night photography and long exposures.
My friends over at the collective blog Focusing on Life are working on “night photography” this month so I thought I’d give it a try. I haven’t always been happy with my night photography so I definitely need more practice here. So I pulled out the trusty tripod the other night and tried to capture the lagoon that we can see from where we’re staying.
On the way down to Florida, we made a stop in St. Augustine — the oldest city in North America — and a favourite place of mine. I love the old buildings and the character of the aging Florida cottages. And of course, I had to visit the lighthouse. I was lucky to arrive just as the sun was breaking through the clouds behind it, which made for a dramatic shot.
Last year, the word I chose to guide myself was “light.” And without even thinking about it much, I saw my photographs change organically to be much more aware of and sensitive to light. I learned about how to deal with different kinds of light and what kind of light I gravitated to. For photographers, who literally “write with light,” this is a study that never ends.
So I’m not yet finished with “light.”
I told one of my dear sister photographers some time last year that I was taking my photography more “seriously.” She never fails to remind me that it seems to be paying off. So, no need to fix an approach that’s not fundamentally broken. But, being serious doesn’t mean you can’t have a ton of fun!