Being taken by New York in black and white…

 

fire-escapes

Shawna Lemay wrote recently in her rich gift of a blog, Transactions with Beauty: “There is a point one reaches in one’s creative endeavors that … you find yourself covering familiar ground, repeating, circling back to familiar themes and concerns.”

I had just returned from New York City and I was going through my images. I definitely recognized myself in those words. Yes, that is me, for sure.

I’ve gone to New York City three times now since 2013 with more on my agenda than seeing the sights and experiencing some of the best music and art a city can offer. (Which I love to do, by the way.)

But I also strive to come back with images — not just snapshots — that encapsulate what thrills me about New York. And I do find myself considering the same subjects and themes over and over. (See my previous posts — I did a 7 part series in 2013.)

When I look at my gallery called New York City in Black and White, which contains images from more than one trip, I see that I am drawn to arches, windows, reflections, symmetrical and geometrical architectural shapes, buskers, young lovers, and silhouettes and shadows, just as a few examples. I am also fascinated by the contrasts between old and new and the built and natural environment.

(And whatever else I’m doing, I have to find time to shoot the Flatiron Building, my all-time favourite building. In a previous post, I talk about my obsession with it.)

But even as I tend to return to the same preoccupations with my photography, either consciously or unconsciously, I find that something has changed in the way I see. More and more I am struck by a “flash of perception” that hits me fast and furiously and it is a distinct frisson of excitement that compels me to turn my camera in a certain direction. Something I see feels fresh and new to me. Most of my very favourite images have come about this way.

I’ve noticed too that my memories associated with where I was and how I was feeling when I made these photos are much sharper and longer lasting than when I was merely documenting a scene, or even recording a nice memory. The image can bring me right back to the time it was taken with all the details intact.

I know that less and less I want my photography to be about looking at the world and saying to myself: Ah, that’s interesting or beautiful, I should take a picture of that.

It is the times when I am “taken by a picture” — even if I don’t quite know why — which always mean the most to me.

the-smooch-2016-edition

 

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It’s simple…

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When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks, and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness…

The light flows from their branches.
And they call again, “It’s simple,”
they say, “and you, too, have come
into the world to do this, to go easy,
to be filled with light, and to shine.

 

Mary Oliver

In memoriam…

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In the visible world of nature, a great truth is concealed in plain sight. Diminishment and beauty, darkness and light, death and life are not opposites: they are held together in the paradox of the “hidden wholeness.”

In a paradox, opposites do not negate each; they cohabit and co-create in mysterious unity at the heart of reality. Deeper still, they need each other for health, just as our well-being depends on breathing in and out.

fall-filigree

When I try to fabricate a life that defies autumn’s diminishments, I end up in a state that’s less than human. When I give myself over to organic reality — to the endless interplay of darkness and light, falling and rising — the life I am given is as real and colorful, fruitful and whole as this graced and graceful world and the seasonal cycles that make it so.

Though I still grieve as beauty goes to ground, autumn reminds me to celebrate the primal power that is forever making all things new in me, in us, and in the natural world.

From Autumn: A Season of Paradox by Parker Palmer

 

In loving memory of Donald Gordon (1930 – 2016)

 

French Apple Cake…

cake

I thought it might be time for a brief break from poetry and photography…

In the fall, I love baking with apples. In Canada, it’s almost Thanksgiving, and with company coming this year I was looking for a new recipe that isn’t too sweet and puts the emphasis on the apples.

I happened on a recipe for French Apple Cake that really appealed to me. I love simple, rustic French food, and not only did this recipe sound great but it looked easy, which is even more important, so I thought I’d give it a try.

This dessert has a custardy, apple-rich base beneath a light, cakelike topping. Cook’s Illustrated recommends microwaving the apples briefly to break the enzyme responsible for firming up pectin. I followed that suggestion and it worked really well.

This cake goes really well with a light dusting of powdered sugar, whipped cream, ice cream but it’s also lovely by itself — and tastes just as good the next day or the day after, in the unlikely event that anything is left.

If you like apples or French food — or both — you might want to give this a try!

slice-of-cake

French Apple Cake

1 ½pounds apples, peeled, cored, cut into 8 wedges, and sliced ⅛ inch thick crosswise (about 4 to 5)
2-3 tablespoons rum (optional)
teaspoon lemon juice
cup (5 ounces) plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
cup (7 ounces) plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
large egg plus 2 large yolks
3/4 cup vegetable oil
cup whole milk
teaspoon vanilla extract
Confectioners’ sugar

INSTRUCTIONS

Serves 8 to 10

1. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Spray 9-inch springform pan with vegetable oil spray. Place prepared pan on rimmed baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Place apple slices into microwave-safe pie plate, cover, and microwave until apples are pliable and slightly translucent, about 3 minutes. Toss apple slices with rum and lemon juice and let cool for 15 minutes.

2. Whisk 1 cup flour, 1 cup granulated sugar, baking powder, and salt together in bowl. Whisk egg, oil, milk, and vanilla together in second bowl until smooth. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and whisk until just combined. Transfer 1 cup batter to separate bowl and set aside.

3. Add egg yolks to remaining batter and whisk to combine. Using spatula, gently fold in cooled apples. Transfer batter to prepared pan; using offset spatula, spread batter evenly to pan edges, gently pressing on apples to create even, compact layer, and smooth surface.
4. Whisk remaining 2 tablespoons flour into reserved batter. Pour over batter in pan and spread batter evenly to pan edges and smooth surface. Sprinkle remaining 1 tablespoon granulated sugar evenly over cake.
5. Bake until center of cake is set, toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, and top is golden brown, about 1 to 1¼ hours. Transfer pan to wire rack; let cool for 5 minutes. Run paring knife around sides of pan and let cool completely, 2 to 3 hours. Dust lightly with confectioners’ sugar, if desired, then cut into wedges, and serve.
Note: The microwaved apples should be pliable but not completely soft when cooked. To test for doneness, take one apple slice and try to bend it. If it snaps in half, it’s too firm; microwave it for an additional 30 seconds and test again.
Adapted from a Cook’s Illustrated recipe.

 

Leaves are falling…

october-is-here

Autumn

Leaves are falling, falling as if from afar,
as if, far off in the heavens, gardens were wilting.
And as they fall, their gestures say “it’s over.”

In the night the heavy earth is falling
from out of all the stars into loneliness.

We are all falling. This hand here is falling.
Just look: it is in all of us.

Yet there is one who holds this falling
with infinite tenderness in her hands.

 Rainer Maria Rilke
from On Being