Tag Archive: leaves


Hidden sun

I’m experimenting with my camera, looking for a couple of things.  Firstly, to understand the camera and its capabilities better and secondly, to increase my own ways of viewing the world, looking at it with fresh eyes.  HDR – even the letters scared me! – but the plan I had for improving my photography had  a section on HDR, and even though I tried to skip passed it, I felt I had to have  one try.  So – this is my first HDR experiment – and not a really good choice for HDR – just the sun hidden behind branches.  Definitely not the world’s best HDR image, but when I made it, different ways of seeing appeared for me.  This now looks almost 3D and that was a surprise.  HDR isn’t as scary as I thought.  🙂

Looking to the sun

As I was looking over the results of my different experiments, I realised a small theme of ‘in hiding’ was emerging.  The techniques and capabilities of the camera are in hiding until I deliberately go looking for them. I could just as easily set it on Auto and let the camera do all the work.  My creativity is in hiding until I start pushing it, by trying different things, looking at things in different ways.

Many of the subjects are in hiding – only glimpsed through leaves, or trees, or behind fog.  They also need to be found before they can become part of our conscious understanding.

When life is comfortable it is so easy to move through it without looking beyond the obvious.  Things are smack in our face, telling us clearly what they want us to see, do or think.  It’s easy to skip past the hidden pains and losses around us.  We also try to slide over the top of our own ‘hidden’ bits – the stories we don’t want told.  In not seeing, and choosing not to see, these things, how much are we losing?  Bypassing the chance to search for the hidden means we miss out on the hidden surprises and joy as well.

My photography will improve with more experimenting, and I hope my creativity will grow the more I see and understand of both myself and the world I live in.  Each of the steps I take along these paths of experiment and investigation brings me closer to seeing and understanding more of what is hidden in the world.

The gentle prison

                                               I existed in a world that never is – the prison of the mind.   Gene Tierney

It seems to me that no matter how much we long for freedom we continue to create our own prisons.  They are such enticing and seductive prisons as well. Prisons such as the bonds of love and friendship, gaols of goals, cells of comforts.

I’m watching a friend struggle with the end of a relationship, clearly one in which she wasn’t valued and respected as an individual.  Her desire to make this relationship work, to finally gain love and warmth reflects my own struggles. A desperate need for belonging and love fetters our emotions and deprives us of autonomy.  Even within a good relationship, we lose some levels of freedom.  We choose to limit ourselves to the codes of conduct of those relationships.

I have been extraordinarily lucky to have been enriched by many friends.  But these people, people I love and care about, also confine me.  Their love and companionship warm and delight my soul at the same time as they prevent me from furthering my internal self-exploratory adventures. Our joint activities, our long afternoons and evenings of talking and laughing, limit my ability to meditate, create, write and dream.

My desires to expand and develop also create boundaries. If I am to reach goals I have set for myself, then I have to ignore competing pathways, reject competing interests.  How much do these self-imposed bars prevent me from growing?  These decisions are usually sensible, logical, well-reasoned – but they mean choosing and rejecting.  What if the path fails to take me to the planned destination?  What have I lost by creating these limits?

Work, even work we love, creates more cells for incarceration. I enjoy eating, travelling, drinking fine wine, reading and taking photographs.  All of these pursuits require money.  Work enables me to enjoy them, but confines my days, pushes my thinking in certain directions.  I have broken some work chains, but the necessity for at least some money equals the necessity for some level of imprisonment.

The locks we surround ourselves with can be beautiful. Family,friends and dreams are  vital, important and so wonderful.  But they are still limits that require us to waive some of our freedom.

Conformity is the jailer of freedom and the enemy of growth.   John F Kennedy
Conformity is what society requires of us – to conform allows us to fit in, to be accepted, to uphold the norms and mores.  We are aprt of it all, and not alone. Work requires conformity, to enhance and make production efficient. Love requires us to conform to make everything peaceful. Our goals require us to conform to the steps to reach them.  We want to conform to be accepted seen as valuable and worthwhile.

These bars and cells are our own choices.  The biggest difficulty we face in wanting to choose freedom is the idea of hurting others. The idea of being seen as selfish, egotistical, uncaring.

The question then becomes, how many bars are essential? Which bars on this warm and wonderful prison can I remove? How much freedom do I want?

I’ve just finished a really busy semester, with work, coaching, judging, social activities, writing, editing, studying, visitors, friends, family and many other commitments.  I love the feeling of being important in people’s lives, just as I want them to know how important they are in my life. I enjoy being involved in making even a small differnce around me.

But this level of commitment also creates a serious lack of alone time, a curtailing of freedom, and a realisation I lose myself in the process.

Creating the freedom I look for means saying no.  It means limiting the connections and commitments.  Saying no to friends and colleagues is not easy.  It makes me feel ungrateful for teh richness of my life.

And the gain in freedom means the loss in relationships. Real freedom, total freedom, no ties, no commitments also means no love, no belonging.  This is a fearful prospect. One few humans are destined to survive.

How much freedom is important?  This is a question that can only be answered individually, and must be answered almost every day. Each choice we make limits our freedom in one way or another.  Each relationship, each commitment creates another link in our chains.  I love those links.


Looking for difference

You can become blind by seeing each day as a similar one. Each day is a different one, each day brings a miracle of its own. Paulo Coelho

Blue leaves?  What why, who, how?  I have no answers to these questions, but being different, they definitely pulled my eye.

Individually and as a society we grow when we embrace the differences.  No progress is made unless we think differently, act differently.  No inventions, no new ideas, no philosophies are created without difference.  And yet we are so afraid of it.

Our social structure requires conformity, our families ask us to fit in, our workplaces promote conformist slogans that tell us to focus our attention in one direction.  There is no reward for difference, but it is the foundation of our civilisation.

How do we manage this tension? How do we live different lives without being seen as rebels, pariahs, weird, eccentric, odd, selfish, egotistical, unrealistic, dreamers, and all of the other epithets that are flung at those who do not walk the same path? To walk this path requires strength and determination. It requires an ability to believe that even if we do not conform to the expected, to the norms society and our family and friends place around us, we are still of value.

Believing we are valuable seems to me to be the hardest challenge for those who step away from the common path.  We can convince ourselves of our internal value “I am a good person” etc.  But when we are faced with the strange looks, the pain of family and friends who do not understand our choices, the laughter of workmates when we propose new ideas, the subtle distancing of others – how do we convince ourselves that we are still of value and offering value?

Walking the expected path feels safe, conforming to norms makes it easy for us to live within our group. There is danger and doubt in difference.

The only validation I can give myself is that if I conform, if I step away from my own choices and live the life others believe is good and proper, then I lose myself.  I am no longer me, and therefore no longer valuable to myself or society.  I become fodder for whatever ideology is around me, a cog in an economic machine, and an acquiesent supporter of conformity and fear.

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.   Friedrich Nietzsche

“All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

I’m experimenting with my camera to encourage me to look at things differently.  Each week I am setting myself a ‘task’ – use only the 28mm lens, take movement photos, only take images of 2- and 3-wheel transport etc.  These experiements teach me more about my camera and lens, teach me about techniques and thinking about what I want each image to be, rather than taking photos of everything that takes my eye.

Have I missed having my ‘walkabout’ 18-270mm with me at times?  Too right.  Do I want to take a different view sometimes?  Yes I do.  But for now the learning is outweighing the missed opportunities.

I’m not only experimenting with my camera and my vision here, I am also experimenting with life.  So many opportunities are outside my windows.  So many paths available for walking.  Right now, I have chosen a path, and set a particular aim.  Once that aim is completed, then the path can veer in any direction and I will experiment with a new world, new ideas, new beginnings.  My current path was a huge veer from the ‘safe’ path of gov’t official, safe job, busy social life, close to family and friends. I learned many many things on that path,  had wonderful experiences but also found areas within myself that were not fulfilled.  The need to experiment grew stronger and stronger until it was an imperative.  So I took the plunge – safely at first, leaving the way open to return to my previous life.  But the more I travelled down the experimental path, the less the previous life fit me.  I finally left it behind althogether, and closed one of the ‘safety’ doors.  Other ‘safety’ doors remain open – family and friends will always be my lifelines, my beacons if and when the new paths become too dark.

What did this experiment teach me? Adaptability, confidence, self-reliance, independence and more about myself.  What will the next path teach me?  I have no idea – but whatever it is, it will be valuable and I will be glad that I experimented with life once more.

Critique

Individuality and creativity

.. .(presenting)  your personal work is a central part of creative art; in exposing your ideas and expressions to the cold light of impersonal inspection, your work – and your own attitude to it – gains strength.  … Diffidence inhibits creativity. Tom Ang.

I find it difficult to show my work.  I question why anyone would be interested, why people would be bothered to look at my photographs (slide night anyone??)  or read my writings.  I frequently ask ‘WHY”  I have a blog, why I put photos on on my blogs or Facebook. And the only answer I was able to find until I read Tom Ang, was that I am a photographer and writer and therefore, it is something I need to do. I have to express myself..

But, if I look at the process from the other point of view, that I am aiming to strengthen my work, then this gives me another acceptable answer.   Knowing that others may view my photos  drives me to consider, compose and  take shots that express what I want to say.  Thinking that someone may read my writing makes me choose my words more carefully, and revise more.  Sometimes I find this revision and culling process very helpful in developing my craft and attitude.  I have to ask myself what is it about this shot, what about this idea that expresses what I mean.  Often I see that I could have improved my technical skills, or that what I saw in my mind’s eye was not what appeared on my screen.  Other times, I feel as if I just want to relax and enjoy the shots for their memories or the weird way they turned out. I want to play with the words.

When I look at my periods of deepest personal growth, they have happened most often when I have been placed in a situation where I had an impersonal eye looking carefully at me. Therapists or colleagues, friends or enemies can all call us on our behaviour and our barriers and challenge us to move past whatever it is that is holding back our growth.

What do we fear most from critiques?  That we will be told everything we have done is wrong?  That we are hopelessly inadequate ourselves?  Are we afraid that if others look at our work or us too carefully we will be exposed for frauds as artists or people?

Once we have heard this challenge, it is still up to us to decide whether we can take it on or not.  Will we by-pass this call for change?  Will we be happy enough with the level we are at, ignoring the potential for improvement?

If we accept the need for change, for growth – are we afraid our growth will take us in directions others do not understand?  That our work will be too different, that we will be too individualist to fit within the comfortable framework we have operated in for the last few years?

Improving as a photographer or writer could bring more opportunities for more critiques.  Am I willing to move down that road?  Am I willing to put more work, my vision and my individuality out there, for more and more people to see and to critique?  They will continue to challenge me.  I will continue to have to make a choice between more learning and saying ‘Enough’.

The more I place my work in public, the more I open myself to challenge as well.  Am I prepared to continue on the journey of self-discovery and change in public?  I think Tom Ang’s words apply equally to our inner growth.  We need to critique ourselves, our actions with a dispassionate eye. We cannot allow ourselves to hide behind comforting excuses, blaming others, the situation, our birth order for what we are or for our actions.

Fear of turning the cold light on ourselves means that we hide in the shadows and lose the chance for taking the next steps forward.

Bring on the critiques!

A shot into the psyche

The limitations of photography are in yourself, for what we see is only what we are.Ernst Haas

For the seeker of the soul, photography and all other arts become the window to the inner world.  We look at the world with our eyes, seeing the things that resonate within us.  We take photographs of what catches our psyche, and therefore catches our eyes. To explore this is to find out so much more about ourselves.

I take photographs of things that fascinate me, and in doing so, I expose my view of the world, and my inner being to others.  When I spend so much time on finding the beauty in the imperfect, the transient, the dying – does this echo my preoccupation with my own imperfections, my quest to create beauty and goodness within my transient self?

When I walk through the streets taking photographs of faces, am I looking for myself within those crowds; searching for someone that I can see myself in?  The photos of foibles – lovely shots of touches of humanity in an increasingly homogeneous world, are they signs of my search for my individuality?

Each shot I take means something to me, and places me ‘out there’ to be interpreted as others wish.  I have no control over those interpretations, and occasionally when someone interprets one of my photographs in a way that I didn’t see, didn’t intend, I cringe, wanting to shout “But that’s not what I meant!”.  Yet, that person is interpreting my work through their eyes, their experiences, and from that I can see another way of looking at the world, and I can see a little way into that person.

What does the photo above mean to me?  I see many things.  New growth – always something I am looking for.  For me, to see the end of growth is to experience death.  Light – light is so glorious.  I can stand transfixed by light and how it touches the world.  Light creates glow and warmth and joy.  These are things I want to echo in my life.  Contrast – bright and dark, new and old, the shadow and the light.  The yin-yang of the world.  I am seeking balance in my life, and examining contrasts clearly shows that I need opposites to create balance.  Quiet times need to be balanced with energy; sleep with wakefulness; work with rest … the list is endless.  And yet we often strive for an unbalanced life – calling for happiness without sorrow, growth without pain or change without loss.

The more I look at my photographs, the more I ask WHY that shot needed to be taken, the more i can see into what motivates me.  It is a fascinating journey.