Some thoughts on atmospheric conditions, focus and the illusion of islolation

Hints of the changing season. Black and white, close up shot of raindrops on Loropetalum chinense (chinese fringe flower) leaves. Image: Su Leslie, 2017

All it takes is a change of focus to see what lies beyond us. Raindrops on Loropetalum chinense (chinese fringe flower) leaves. Image: Su Leslie, 2017

I woke this morning to find the world beyond my street has disappeared.

A mist has rolled across the harbour and made an island of this, slightly elevated, piece of land I call home. Beyond the neighbours’ roofs, a stand of macrocarpa trees fades softly into a flat, grey void.

The still air carries the sound of motorway traffic in the distance, but like shapes in the mist, the sound is muffled and indistinct — a mere hint of life beyond this temporary island.

For this time I am alone; the drivers, dog-walkers, joggers and cyclists either still at home or invisible to me.

For this time I can enjoy the quiet and solitude, the safety and peace, of my island. Soon it will be gone; evaporated by the climbing sun. Once again I will be part of a bigger, messier, noisier whole.

I can’t ponder this without thinking of John Donne, and THAT poem:

No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend’s
Or of thine own were:
Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.

MEDITATION XVII
Devotions upon Emergent Occasions
John Donne

I imagine all over the world right now, good people are reading and quoting this rebuke of isolationism, even as the sound of guns being cocked and drawbridges being pulled up echo through the mist.

For those of us who have a safe place — a home, a friendly neighbourhood, a peaceful country — it is tempting to build a fence, patrol the boundaries, create rules for entry. It is tempting to hold on to what we have and create a mist to obscure that which is beyond.

It is tempting to zoom in and focus on what is near. But however blurred by our lens, there is always a background in shot which must share our attention too.

Written for Sally D’s Mobile Photography Challenge at Lens and Pens by Sally.

Both sides, now

Storm clouds over a field of grazing cows. Seen from the roadside, State Highway 16 Kaipara, NZ. Image: Su Leslie, 2017. Edited with Snapseed.

Storm clouds gathering. Seen from the roadside, State Highway 16 Kaipara, NZ. Image: Su Leslie, 2017. Edited with Snapseed.

You know that thing, where you’re traveling along and in one direction the weather is all clear blue skies, but on the other it looks like a storm coming?

The Big T and I found that driving back from Atiu Creek at the weekend. Off to the west, the Kairpara Harbour was fair glistening in the sun. At the same time, huge dark clouds were lowering over the east.

Storm clouds approaching over hillside and mangroves. State Highway 16, Kaipara, NZ. Image: Su Leslie, 2017. Edited with Snapseed.

Storm clouds approaching. State Highway 16, Kaipara, NZ. Image: Su Leslie, 2017. Edited with Snapseed.

The contrast in light was breathtaking. Grass in the slightly parched fields seemed to glow golden, and foliage shimmer, against the matte chalkboard sky.

Just a few miles further south, and the clouds were behind us.

Since I’ve pinched a Joni Mitchell song title for this post, here is the song to enjoy.

Written for Sally D’s Mobile Photography Challenge at Lens and Pens by Sally. This week the theme is black and white.

Regular Random: five minutes with some yellow flowers

I’ve almost got the remains of the Big T’s bouquet out of my photographic system, deriving nearly as much pleasure from close examination of the blooms’ decay as from their beautiful heyday.

In this shoot and my earlier posts of images of a solitary gerbera, I was really conscious of how powerful blackness is. In this, I am unashamedly inspired by the work of NZ photographer Fiona Pardingdon, and in particular her exhibition A Beautiful Hesitation, which I visited multiple times and have never ceased to be enthralled by.

Thanks to Desley Jane at Musings of a Frequently Flying Scientist for Five Minutes of Random (the RegularRandom challenge) which gave me the perfect excuse to spend some quality time with a bunch of dying flowers and a lot of black space.

All photos ©Su Leslie, 2017

“Always the bough is breaking …”

Grainy b&w shot of milkweed seed head. Image: Su Leslie, 2017. Edited with Snapseed.

Milkweed seed head. Image: Su Leslie, 2017. Edited with Snapseed.

I’ve become a gardener. Not just in the literal sense of having a garden; but more in the way that my garden has become a filter through which I see the world.

I grow flowers for the bees, set beer traps for snails, chase wasps from the swan plants and am the Big T’s eager accomplice in Monarch butterfly husbandry.

When I grow hungry, the contents of the  vege patch are as important as the contents of my fridge.

And when the annoying TV weatherman casts impending rain as a villain swooping in to spoil the party, I want to shout “sod off! Think of the plants; think of the gardens.”

The thing about gardening is that you become part of a cycle; birth, life, death, decay, re-birth. Compost as metaphor!

I have become connected. Though my little patch of cultivated dirt, I feel a sense of belonging to the Earth that is not only new, but surprising in its intensity.

Grainy b&w shot of milkweed seed head. Image: Su Leslie, 2017. Edited with Snapseed.

Milkweed seed head. Image: Su Leslie, 2017. Edited with Snapseed.

I found this poem yesterday and realised that where once, if asked about my attitude to life and death, I’d have quoted Dylan Thomas’s Do not go gentle into that good night. 

Now I think Willam Soutar‘s Song might be more apt.

Song

End is in beginning;
And in beginning end:
Death is not loss, nor life winning;
But each and to each is friend.

The hands which give are taking;
And the hands which take bestow:
Always the bough is breaking
Heavy with fruit or snow.

Portrait

Double-exposure portrait of clown doll. Image: Su Leslie, 2017. Edited with Snapseed and Fused.

Clown puppet; double-exposure portrait. Su Leslie, 2017. Edited with Snapseed and Fused.

My artist friend Claire Delaney works from a studio that manages to be simultaneously a tranquil creative space and an Aladdin’s Cave of curiosities and treasures. I spent time there yesterday; thinking, writing and taking photos.

Hanging on a wall she has a clown puppet whose face offered such ambiguity of expression, I couldn’t resist editing two shots together.

A contribution to Sally D’s Mobile Photography Challenge, at Lens and Pens by Sally.

“… how do you find where you belong?”

Black and white shot of trees reflected in lake at Tokaanu Boat Ramp, Turangi. Image: Su Leslie, 2016

Lake Taupo, at Tokaanu boat ramp. Image: Su Leslie, 2016. Edited with Snapseed.

Home from a visit to my dad (and do to a glass-making workshop), I’m working through my photos. I shot these images while walking by Lake Taupo at Tokaanu. The weather was overcast; the threat of rain always present.

Black and white image of rushes reflected in Lake Taupo at Tokaanu. Image: Su Leslie, 2016

Lake Taupo at Tokaanu. Image: Su Leslie, 2016

But what I remember best is not the lowering clouds, but the sense of absolute stillness. With no-one else around, the only sounds I heard were bird-calls and the lap of water.

It’s rare that I find myself in a place of such quiet and calm, and I’ve edited the shots to help me remember and hold on to the feeling of absolute belonging in that space and time.

Black and white shot. Piers from old jetty, Lake Taupo at Tokaanu boat ramp. Image: Su Leslie, 2016. Edited with Snapseed.

Piers from old jetty, Lake Taupo at Tokaanu boat ramp. Image: Su Leslie, 2016. Edited with Snapseed.

The title of this post comes from the wonderful Eva Prowse song ‘Lie in the Land’.  On the road I listened again and again to a recording of her performing this with the band Fly My Pretties.

Written for Sally D’s Mobile Photography Challenge, at Lens and Pens by Sally.