Background patterns


Alpine flora. Image: Su Leslie 2018

Jude at Travel Words has embarked on a year-long project to improve her photography through a series of personal challenges (#2020PhotoChallenge) and she’s invited us to join her. You can find out more here.

I think it’s a great project, and when I found myself critiquing images for this week’s challenge, I realised it’s definitely time I took part and offered some of my images for critique.


Agapanthus, and more agapanthus. Using depth of field to create patterns. Image: Su Leslie 2019

The challenge is ‘to photograph a subject using a background which is a pattern without distracting from the subject’ — and Jude acknowledges that it’s a difficult one.

The issue of distraction is central I think. Too much overwhelms the subject, too little runs the risk of not being seen as a pattern at all. And then there’s the question of what the pattern is formed by — and does it make sense in terms of the subject?

I think some of the most effective photos I’ve seen that incorporate patterns into the background are urban scenes –think brick walls, multi-stories with endless glass, graffitti. Trawling my archives failed to turn up anything even remotely appropriate.

So my background patterns are made of light — bokeh if you like. Do they work? Do they fit the brief? I’m not really sure.

sparrows in western park20

Making patterns with light; bokeh is my friend (I think). Image: Su Leslie 2019

And what about this one? Too tongue-in-cheek?


A necessary pattern. Image; Su Leslie.

Do visit Jude’s challenge posts, and those of other bloggers who are taking part. We learn so much from each other’s comments.

The Changing Seasons, February 2020


Detail, ‘Contained and Protected’, sculpture in bronze, Marte Szirmay. Sculpture in the Gardens, 2019-2020; winner McConnell Family Supreme Award. Image: Su Leslie 2020

Humans are incredibly skilled at both making, and understanding symbols. Indeed, our cultures rely on it.

The symbols I respond to most are generally visual; paintings, sculptures, photographs — but especially sculptures.


‘Contained and Protected’, sculpture in bronze, Marte Szirmay. Sculpture in the Gardens, 2019-2020; winner McConnell Family Supreme Award. Image: Su Leslie 2020

I saw this piece a couple of weeks ago in an exhibition at the Auckland Botanic Gardens. I find its simplicity both beautiful and powerful. The judges who awarded it the exhibition’s supreme prize had this to say:

“This beautiful disk, fastened to its base by a bronze cord, acts as a talisman of guardianship in the garden bed of critically endangered native plants. It is a superb and accomplished linking of form to site, evoking both the preciousness of our botanical heritage and the idea of keeping it safe forever. The work is placed near the entrance to the Threatened Native Plants garden … ” News, Auckland Botanic Gardens.

I won’t pretend my response to the work was analytical or erudite. I just felt — and continue to feel — uplifted by it.

I had a similar experience with a painting I saw on Instagram. So much so, I bought it.


‘Little Cottage in a Summer Field’, Natalie Towler. Image; Su Leslie 2020

The artist is local (New Zealand) and also makes wonderful small sculptures of houses (you can see them here).

I didn’t fully realise it until I was sorting photos for The Changing Seasons, but the colour palate of the landscape around me right now, is the same as in Natalie’s painting.

I’ve mentioned a few times this month that parts of New Zealand, including Auckland, are in drought at the moment. It’s particularly noticeable where land has been cleared for animal grazing. On a recent trip to Raglan, we drove through mile after mile of fragile, brown grass; broken only by occasional stands of trees and irrigated fields of maize — presumably being grown as animal feed.

At home, I’ve been incredibly grateful for our rainwater tank which has allowed me to keep my plants alive without resorting to “city water.”

I’ve managed to sustain “proactive hopefulness” largely by not engaging with mainstream news media and spending as much time as possible in my little garden.

As always, I end the month with a list of projects that excite me, but in which I’ve barely made a dent. I can partly blame a cold which hit me harder than expected and has clung on far too long. But I suspect that I perhaps need to take stock of my life and prioritize my time better.

And of course, in that spirit (NOT), I bought some lovely writing paper and envelopes so that I can send real, actual letters to people.

I could explain why, but I think it deserves a separate post … to come.


Got the pen, got the stationery, found my glasses and made a cuppa. Dear …. Image: Su Leslie 2020

About The Changing Seasons

The Changing Seasons is a monthly challenge where bloggers around the world share what’s been happening in their month.

If you would like to join in, here are the guidelines:

The Changing Seasons Version One (photographic):

Each month, post 5-20 photos in a gallery that you feel represent your month
Don’t use photos from your archive. Only new shots.
Tag your posts with #MonthlyPhotoChallenge and #TheChangingSeasons so that others can find them.

The Changing Seasons Version Two (you choose the format):

Each month, post a photo, recipe, painting, drawing, video, whatever that you feel says something about your month
Don’t use archive stuff. Only new material!
Tag your posts with #MonthlyPhotoChallenge and #TheChangingSeasons so others can find them.

If you do a ping-back to this post, I can update it with links to all of yours.


Darren at  The Arty Plantsman

Little Pieces of Me

Joanne at My Life Lived Full

Ju-Lyn at All Things Bright and Beautiful

Lani at Life, the Universe and Lani

Marilyn at Serendipity Seeking intelligent life on Earth

Tish at Writer on the Edge

Tracy at Reflections of An Untidy Mind

Sarah at Art Expedition

Ruth at Ruth’s Arc

A Shared Space

Pauline at Living in Paradise

A Wonderful Sheep

Brian at Bushboys World

Gill at Talking Thailand


Shaping the image in my memory

img_6608 Waiting for rain, Highway 22, Waikato, NZ. Image: Su Leslie 2020
“Dodging and burning are steps to take care of mistakes God made in establishing tonal relationships!” — Ansel Adams

It’s Sunday evening and we’re driving through drought-struck farmland in the north-west Waikato. Rain clouds have flirted shamelessly with the skyline all day, but the land remains parched and disappointed.

Rounding a corner, we see a distant hill quite dramatically lit by low sunshine breaking through the clouds. It’s beautiful and stark and emphasizes how dry the land has become.

T stops the car. I hop out and wade through long, brittle grass. As I’m fiddling with the camera, a police car stops to check that we’re ok and that the car hasn’t broken down on this very quiet stretch of road. T assures him we’re fine and I wave my camera ineffectually to establish my bona fide. He nods and zooms off — possibly a tad faster than might be strictly legal. But I suppose there have to be some compensations for patrolling country roads on a Sunday night.

When we finally get home (after quite a few more photo stops), I download the images. “Cop-stop hill” is too dark and doesn’t have the contrast I remember, but the bones of the shot are good and all the pixels I need are there, just waiting to be tweaked.

Thank goodness for PhotoShop.

And for Debbie at Travel with Intent, whose weekly quote challenge gave me the perfect excuse to tell you the story of this image.

Friday flowers


Queen Anne Lace. Image: Su Leslie 2020

Even though it’s a natural part of the plant’s life-cycle, the drying of these flowers reflects rather well the state of our gardens here.

And with only a few (still very welcome) showers forecast for the weekend, it looks as though the current drought isn’t over yet.


Queen Anne Lace. Image: Su Leslie 2020

“When the well is dry, they know the worth of water.”
— Benjamin Franklin