Favourite images of 2020

Waiting for rain. Highway 22, NZ. Image: Su Leslie 2020

The Lens-Artists challenge for this week is to look back at 2020 through our favourite photos.

These are not an attempt to make sense of the year (as in last week’s Changing Seasons), but to consider my journey as a photographer.

I love photographing landscape, but not the picturesque and panoramic landscapes of travel blogs and brochures. More and more, I want to capture the back roads, the mundane, the damaged. I love how small changes in light can render the ordinary, if only fleetingly, extraordinary.

Don’t look back. Ararimu Valley Road, Auckland. Image: Su Leslie 2020

Water, especially the sea, has always been a focus for my photography. But again, I’m interested in the quiet places, the cloudy days.

Not even the fishermen. Wharf, Island Bay, Auckland, NZ. Image: Su Leslie 2020

Beach walk. Kariotahi beach, NZ. Image: Su Leslie 2020

Shooting indoors, I find myself again drawn to the quiet, liminal spaces.

Echoes. Image: Su Leslie 2020

Rest. Image: Su Leslie 2020

I started 2020 with the intention to take more portraits, both to improve my technical skills and to make me engage with people more. With hindsight, yeah, I picked the wrong year.

Windows on the soul. Image: Su Leslie 2020

The guy above asked me to take his photo. He thought I’d be interested in his moko (tattoo), and I was. But I was way more interested in his eyes.

In the middle of lock-down, and lacking human subjects, I shot a “Portraits of the Mundane” series. The goal was to play with lighting, but I enjoyed the results too.

Whisked. Image: Su Leslie 2020

All that remains. Image: Su Leslie 2020

As in the past, my photo archives are overflowing with images of food and flowers. With both, I think my skills have improved over the year, but (perhaps because the field is so crowded) I don’t have any real favourites — except perhaps this.

And probably because it’s one of the few flower shots I’ve captured that I think works well in black and white.

After the rain. Image: Su Leslie 2020

Lens-Artist Photo Challenge | favourite images of 2020

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.

Saving, and savouring, daylight

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Rural landscape, just south of Auckland, NZ. Image: Su Leslie 2020

When the boy-child was small and had limitless, mother-draining energy, I loathed daylight saving. I spent those long evenings wrangling the solar-powered monster into bed so I could — finally, finally — stop for the day.

I think overall I still prefer light in the early morning when I’m more alert, but I can’t deny that it’s incredibly pleasant to watch a landscape slowly turn ever more golden while having a beer on the deck with friends.

Not my deck in this case — our views aren’t nearly as spectacular.

Ragtag Daily Prompt | daylight

Layers upon layers

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Evening light, Whanganui River estuary. Image; Su Leslie 2019

This week’s Lens-Artists Photo Challenge asks for interpretations of the word layered.

Do I approach it literally with the layers of a macaron or a cafe breakfast?

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Salted caramel macaron. Not only layering of the biscuits with buttercream, but layers within the baking itself. Image: Su Leslie 2019

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Hash-browns, mushrooms, eggs; layered to look good on the plate and distribute those delicious runny yolks throughout the dish. Image: Su Leslie 2019

Or stacked container layers, gone awry in high winds?

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Containers, Wellington Harbour. High winds have wrecked havoc with the carefully constructed layers. Image: Su Leslie 2017

More broken layers?

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Reflections in the contoured glass exterior of the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery/Len Lye Centre, New Plymouth, NZ. Image: Su Leslie 2017

Or maybe layers in art?

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Detail, ‘Wave 2’ sculpture by Annette Thas. A tidal wave of discarded Barbie dolls installed at Tamarama Beach as part of Sculpture by the Sea, Bondi 2015. Image: Su Leslie

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Layer after layer of discarded Barbie dolls form a wave shape. Layers of plastic and layers of meaning. Image: Su Leslie 2015

And then there are layers created by the two-dimensional nature of photography; compressing landscapes into bands of colour and texture.

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Landscape, Canterbury, NZ. Image: Su Leslie 2019

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Tutukaka, Northland, NZ. Image: Su Leslie 2019

Not to mention layered images; double-exposures, super-impositions.

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Double-exposures; a newly discovered camera setting. Su Leslie 2019

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Photo-montage. Su Leslie 2019

Obviously, I couldn’t decide which to focus on.

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge | layered