Let there be light

Photo: Su Leslie 2012

Photo: Su Leslie 2012

Humans are diurnal creatures; we operate in the daytime and rely on vision as one of our principal senses (if not THE principal sense). For that we need light. Arguably, our ability to create light – fire, candles, electric lamps – has transformed human culture, allowing us to work, play, create during the hours when the Earth is naturally dark.

All lit up; Auckland's Sky Tower, an office building and St Patrick's Cathedral in the foreground. Photo: Su Leslie 2011

All lit up; Auckland’s Sky Tower, a hotel and St Patrick’s Cathedral in the foreground. Photo: Su Leslie 2011

Light is one of the oldest, most powerful and most pervasive symbols. It can invoke knowledge, enlightenment, spirituality, purity and the divine. We use the word “enlighten” to mean sharing or imparting knowledge – literally to shed light upon. Religious teachers speak of spreading light in darkness. It has also been co-opted to underpin centuries of racist oppression and discrimination in the contrast of “light” and “dark” skin.

In New Zealand, as in much of the world, we take light for granted. Our electricity supply is reliable and largely affordable. For how long  -who knows? But it does mean that light has become decorative; we illuminate buildings and structures because it looks good and we can.

Flinders Street Station, Melbourne, Australia. Photo: Su Leslie 2010

Flinders Street Station, Melbourne, Australia. Photo: Su Leslie 2010

Sometimes we illuminate buildings to share more than beauty. For a few days around the 25th April, the Auckland War Memorial Museum stages the Anzac Illuminations; with archival footage of New Zealand’s war stories projected onto the facade of the Museum. Hundreds of Aucklanders visit on each nights of the illuminations. We take blankets and cushions, picnics, friends and children and we watch a few moments of silent film played against one of city’s iconic buildings. It is part of the way we remember those who have served in the many conflicts our small, relatively young country has been involved in.

Anzac Illuminations, Auckland War Memorial Museum. Photo: Su Leslie 2012

Anzac Illuminations, Auckland War Memorial Museum. Photo: Su Leslie 2012

Cenotaph, Auckland War Memorial Museum. Photo: Su Leslie 2010

Cenotaph, Auckland War Memorial Museum. Photo: Su Leslie 2010

This post was written as part of the Daily Post Weekly Photo Challenge. You can find out more about “Let there be light” here.

And here are some other posts on the theme that I’ve enjoyed:



WPC: Let There be Light









Six word Saturday: the count-down to Christmas starts now

The boy-child's advent caledar; made by a cousin and given to him when he was four. Still in use 12 years later!
The boy-child’s advent calendar; made by his cousin Karen and given to him when he was four. Still in use 12 years later.

Never too old for Advent treats!

Here are some other Six Word Saturday posts that I have enjoyed:



Six word Saturday





Ten things Tuesday: people from my tree I’d like to invite to dinner

Cheating a bit this week; reposting “10 things” from my other, family history blog.

Shaking the tree

1. My great uncle Thomas Gourlay Leslie. My paternal grandfather’s younger brother was a widower without children. He was kind and funny and always willing to create adventures for me. He owned a Messerschmidt “bubble” car and lived near a canal in which we went fishing. Even after we moved to New Zealand, he remained an important part of my life, writing witty, newsy letters which often contained money. They always smelled of his cigarettes, and even now, the whiff of tobacco on paper or clothing reminds me of him. I’d love to be able to invite him to dinner and introduce him to my son who is named after him. I’d hope that he would be proud of the person I’ve become.

2.Susan Forbes, my great great grandmother. I’m named after my grandmother Susan Forbes Nicholson Elder, who was in turn named after her grandmother…

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Really unexpected, or unexpectedly real?

“Reality leaves a lot to the imagination.” ― John Lennon

“Reality leaves a lot to the imagination.”
― John Lennon
Object and image, Tony Gray 2011.

I wouldn’t really expect to find this object, suspended in air in the middle of a warehouse space (or anywhere else for that matter). Yet it is a very “real” object, in a very real space.

Only it’s not.It’s a 3-D model generated by my partner using sophisticated engineering software. He has used tools which allow engineers to optimise the design of objects – from the tiniest bottle cap to whole, multi-storey buildings; and applied them to the creation of an object that has no obvious function but to be looked at. He has created a work of art.

But of course, he hasn’t really. He has created a visual representation of a set of mathematical equations and placed the result on a photographic background. He didn’t have to use this background – and with other models he hasn’t.

"To expect the unexpected shows a thoroughly modern intellect." -- Oscar Wilde

“To expect the unexpected shows a thoroughly modern intellect.”
— Oscar Wilde

The object could be real; he could take the output file generated from the modelling process and send it to a 3-D printer. He could make this sculpture extremely large, or very small. He could reproduce it as many times as he wanted (or could afford) to.

He would like to do this. I kind of want him not to. I like that he can create virtual “sculptures” and exhibit them anywhere in the world (or in space I suppose) without using up any physical resources beyond those needed to generate the model. I like the way he can exhibit in multiple places at once and can (using some other cool bits of software) generate a walk-through, walk around experience for the viewer. I like that this plays with space and time and with our expectations – of what is art and what is real.


“Stay focused to the unexpected. Sometimes it’s life’s conundrums that take us exactly where we need to and least expected.”
— Kemmy Nola

This post was written in response to the Daily Post Weekly Photographic Challenge.

Here are some other posts I enjoyed:










Weekly Photo Challenge: Unexpected



Very British



Travel Theme: fragrant #2


The Big T had to go overseas on business so it was a good time to check the perfume bottles in case I need to place an order for duty free.

You can find out more about Ailsa’s Travel Theme at Where’s my backpack. And here are some other posts I enjoyed:

11-23-13 Travel Theme: Fragrant

Travel Theme: Fragrant






Weekly Travel Theme : Fragrant !


Travel theme: fragrant

Who could resist the fragrance of chocolate chip cookies? Photo: Su Leslie 2013

Who could resist the fragrance of chocolate chip cookies? Photo: Su Leslie 2013

Really, what says “home” like the fragrance of baking?

When the boy-child was little, baking was a big part of what we did together. Mainly we made Anzac or hokey pokey biscuits and I still associate the slightly caramel-y smell of melting butter and golden syrup with our afternoons together.

These days I don’t bake much, so the occasional banana loaf or ginger slice that is produced gets eaten with gratitude and much gusto.

Of course the surest path to sensory overload is to visit a food market. Borough Market in London almost overwhelmed me when I was there recently.

Perhaps it's cheating being able to see the sign, but I feel I can smell the lemon grass, kaffir lime leaves and fresh coriander of this fragrant Thai dish. Photo: Su Leslie 2013

Perhaps it’s cheating being able to see the sign, but I feel I can smell the lemon grass, kaffir lime leaves and fresh coriander of this fragrant Thai dish. Photo: Su Leslie 2013

P.J. O’ Rourke said that “fish is the only food that is considered spoiled once it smells like what it is”, and so it’s probably not a typical choice for a post about fragrance.

Snapper from the Hauraki Gulf. Photo: Su Leslie 2013

Snapper from the Hauraki Gulf. Photo: Su Leslie 2013

But last weekend the Big T went out fishing with some friends and came home with a chiller full of snapper. They were so fresh, the first way we thought of to eat them was as sashimi. It took us most of the day to convert those beautiful fish into food; making stock, ceviche, smoking fillets and finally preparing the sashimi.

Fish Stock 101. Photo: Su Leslie 2013

Fish Stock 101. Photo: Su Leslie 2013

We felt that by trying to use as much of the fish as possible (our cats had the flesh left on bones after the stock-making process), and by not shying away from the processes of turning animals into food, we were at least being honest with ourselves about where our food comes from.

And how does this relate to fragrance? Well the fish themselves did actually have a slight scent of the ocean, and the stock we made was fragrant, but the real fragrance of the day was the combination of manuka smoke, salt, sugar and fish that resulted in the best smoked fish I’ve ever tasted.

Getting ready for smoking. Photo: Su Leslie 2013

Getting ready for smoking. Photo: Su Leslie 2013

smoked fish

Fragrant, succulent smoked snapper. Photo: Su Leslie 2013

This post was written as part of Ailsa’s weekly Travel Theme at Where’s my backpack?

Six word Saturday: a New Zealand Christmas tree

Pohutukawa blossom. Photo: Su Leslie 2013

Pohutukawa blossom. Photo: Su Leslie 2013

Six Word Saturday is a weekly blogging prompt. I use it to try and distill words and image into something that captures how I feel right now.

Each blogger who takes part in this has a different approach. Here are some I’ve enjoyed:









Auckland in full colour

Thank you to everyone who commented on my recent Auckland Without Colour post. Janet from This That and The Other Thing,  Sally at Lens and Pens by Sally and Angeline at AngelineM’s Blog all made really interesting points about photographing landscapes in black and white. So I decided that, as a companion piece, I’d post the same images in their original colour versions. I know which I prefer!










Travel theme: short

Not so much short as teeny against The Angel of the North. Photo: Su Leslie 2013

Not so much short as teeny against The Angel of the North. Photo: Su Leslie 2013

I’d wanted to see the Angel of the North for such a long time that it was a reason in itself to spend a couple of nights in Gateshead.

My hotel experience there was less than wonderful (10 Things Tuesday: little things that I’ll remember about being in the UK) so I was short in temper by the time I got to the Angel. Despite this, and the overcast weather, I couldn’t help but be awestruck and cheered by this wonderful sculpture. It’s location is so mundane – on the edge of a housing estate in a layby off the A167 – and so magnificently appropriate.

Along the fence marking the Angel’s site off from surrounding land, people have placed balloons, cards, flowers and other tributes of dead friends and relatives. I’ve seen similar things at the site of road crashes, but I really loved the way these seemed to be asking that The Angel watch over their loved ones.

I only spent a short time at The Angel of the North; but it was time well-spent.

This post was written for the Travel Theme at Where’s my backpack? You can see Ailsa’s original post here, or click on some of the other “short” posts I’ve enjoyed:


Travel Theme: Short




Travel Theme: Short