I don’t think there’s anything on this planet that more trumpets life that the sunflower. For me that’s because of the reason behind its name. Not because it looks like the sun but because it follows the sun. During the course of the day, the head tracks the journey of the sun across the sky. A satellite dish for sunshine. Wherever light is, no matter how weak, these flowers will find it. And that’s such an admirable thing. And such a lesson in life.”
From the movie, Calendar Girls
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” was my word for 2014. It’s an ideal word to guide you when you love to make photographs. And it has moved me in directions I’m very glad to have explored.
But there is so much more to the word than that. When times are dark, we all look for light. As we approach the winter solstice, I leave you with a meditation by a favourite poet, Mary Oliver.
I have farther to go with this exploration of “light.” Perhaps we all do…
The Buddha’s Last Instruction
by Mary Oliver
“Make of yourself a light”
said the Buddha,
before he died.
I think of this every morning
as the east begins
to tear off its many clouds
of darkness, to send up the first
signal—a white fan
streaked with pink and violet,
An old man, he lay down
between two sala trees,
and he might have said anything,
knowing it was his final hour.
The light burns upward,
it thickens and settles over the fields.
Around him, the villagers gathered
and stretched forward to listen.
Even before the sun itself
hangs, disattached, in the blue air,
I am touched everywhere
by its ocean of yellow waves.
No doubt he thought of everything
that had happened in his difficult life.
And then I feel the sun itself
as it blazes over the hills,
like a million flowers on fire—
clearly I’m not needed,
yet I feel myself turning
into something of inexplicable value.
Slowly, beneath the branches,
he raised his head.
He looked into the faces of that frightened crowd.
In January, we were fortunate to spend some time in the beautiful Bahamas. The light was so stunning and energizing. And so I settled on my word for the year.
To celebrate the New Year and my word, I gorged on sunrises — an obvious place to capture light.
But there are so many others. Children can be beings of light can’t they? And they don’t have to be our own to capture our hearts, do they? I cherish and honour the free and pure spirits of young children wherever I see them. That feeling is something that can connect us all in our common humanity…
I just fell for this little guy. His uninhibited street dancing during the New Year’s celebration of Junkanoo absolutely delighted me.When I get too serious in 2014, I will think of him!
The soul should always stand ajar ready to welcome the ecstatic experience.
It came to me in a flash — my word for 2014. LIGHT.
It’s a great word for someone besotted with photography, of course, but it’s also an all-round great word, being a verb, a noun and an adjective. It’s a perfect word for someone who wants to simplify and pare down and travel lighter in the world. It will also be a good reminder to light the way for others, make choices that light me up, and lighten up…
Last year my word was DISCOVER, and it led me to so many great places. I explored and experimented and discovered so much about photography — and myself too. It’s amazing how a simple word can infuse and guide your life.
This year I want to study light, chase light, follow light, learn how to capture light — all those things. Light is complex; it has so many different qualities and it appears in so many different ways in photography. It can scorch, shimmer, reflect. It illuminates and casts shadows. It can be a softly lit pool in the gloom or a full-blown radiant sunset. Light helps us see the full catastrophe of life (as Zorba the Greek would say). To take a long, loving look at the real…we need light.
In 2014, let there be light.