A special place

img_6329 Image: Su Leslie 2019

Last November I visited Taranaki in New Zealand’s North Island for the annual garden festival. Armed with my carefully annotated programme and map, I criss-crossed the provence, visiting an array of private gardens whose owners had kindly opened them to the public for the duration of the festival.

All were beautiful and interesting, but the one that has proved to be the most memorable was neither on my list, nor a private garden.

img_6316 Entrance, Hollard Gardens, Kaponga, Taranaki, NZ. Image: Su Leslie 2019

Hollard Gardens was established in 1927 by the then owners, Bernie and Rose Hollard. While the garden is now owned and managed by the Taranaki Regional Council, “Hollard Gardens is unique in the fact that it is an achievement of almost a lifetime of work by a private individual. It is a plantsman’s garden and a reflection of patience and horticultural skill.” (The History of Hollards)

“Bernie selected his plants based on personal appeal and whether they would fill gaps in his existing collections of species or varieties. The overall design of the garden considered not only the aesthetics, but whether a plant would thrive in its environment.” (The History of Hollards)

The gardens consist of several areas, including a woodland glade, avenues of lawn lined with different rhododendrons, hydrangeas and other flowering shrubs, and a kitchen garden.

It was the kitchen garden that made Hollard so memorable and special for me. It was one of several organic gardens I visited that have been designed according to permaculture principles, but the most accessible and informative.

That the garden is managed by the Regional Council demonstrates an official commitment to sustainable food production which I find refreshing and reassuring.

Lens-Artist Photo Challenge | a special spot

Also posted to Friday Flowers

… but on the other hand

I like to think it’s because my star sign is Libra …

Side Note: I *believe* in horoscopes only when they promise the really good stuff

Where was I? Right: I’m a Libra and apparently that makes me indecisive — and diplomatic. Which means the task of choosing favourites, even from my own work, is daunting. But that is Patti’s challenge for this week’s Lens Artists Photo Challenge | favourite photos of 2019, and I like the idea of looking back over a year’s work.

So here goes (with the caveat that today’s hot favourites could be tomorrow’s ‘also-rans’); images from 2019 that still speak to me.

January
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Redwoods Tree Walk, Rotorua. Image; Su Leslie 2019

Taken in early January when the Big T and I visited Rotorua, this shot reminds me of a peaceful afternoon on elevated walkways high in a redwood forest. I could use some of the cool, fragrant air right now.

February
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Summer fun. Road-trip with the Big T. Image: Su Leslie 2019

It’s become a bit of a “thing” to photograph T’s car in scenic locations. Maybe I should ask Audi for a job?

March
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Kereru (native wood pigeon) in Ti Kouka (cabbage tree). Image: Su Leslie 2019

One of the things that has brought me great joy in the past year is seeing native birds feasting on the bounty of our trees. With so much loss of habitat in the neighbourhood, the importance of maintaining a food source for our beautiful wildlife has never been greater.

April
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Portrait of the artist as teacher. Image: Su Leslie 2019

In April, my friend Claire sold her house and moved out of Auckland. We’ve been friends since our kids were at primary school and I miss her company, especially as I’d spent much of the previous year documenting her work as an artist and teacher.

May
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Sunset, Wynyard Quarter, Auckland, NZ. Image: Su Leslie 2019

I chose this shot of oil storage tanks at sunset simply because I think it’s beautiful.

June
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Image: Su Leslie 2019

On a winter’s day walk in the Auckland Domain, I found this shot already staged for me, either by nature or another’s hand. Serendipity.

July
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Welcoming party, morning walk in Turangi, NZ. Image: Su Leslie 2019

Definitely not the best shot I took in July, but a lovely reminder of a frosty morning in the central North Island town of Turangi.

August
Impressionistic double-exposure image. Colour close-up shot of pohutukawa leaves. Image has been slightly overexposed to create a soft effect in pale greens and apricot/bronze shades. Su Leslie 2019

Pohutukawa leaves; double exposure. Image: Su Leslie 2019

I finally found the multiple-exposure setting on my camera and had fun with pohutukawa leaves and some other things. I love the colour palette in this shot.

September
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Solace in the Wind, by Max Patte, Wellington waterfront. Image: Su Leslie 2019

One of the most photographed sculptures in New Zealand apparently. Certainly I can never resist trying to capture the changing moods of this powerful and beautiful work.

October
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Wisteria. Image: Su Leslie 2019

October was a month of flowers and new growth. I chose this particular image because I love the colours.

November
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Teahouse, Pukekura Park, New Plymouth. Image: Su Leslie 2019

With all that seems wrong in the world, I need to hold on to what is good, like a week in New Plymouth visiting gardens — beautiful and productive — and meeting people committed to living simpler, better lives. Each evening while I was there, I walked through the city’s stunning Pukekura Park.

December 2019
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Image: Su Leslie 2019

A no-brainer really. My funny, kind and darling son.

And now a thank you …

to everyone who visits this blog, and especially those who take the time to share their thoughts and ideas and so often, kindness. I want you to know how much I appreciate your support and the community we have created here.

Wishing you all a happy new year.

 

 

Abstract

dewdrop bokeh Water on a magnolia leaf. Image: Su Leslie 2018

“To abstract is to draw out the essence of a matter.” – Ben Shahn

The more photographs I make, the more I realise that I’ll never capture everything in a scene. And the more I try, the busier and more confused my images become.

I’m learning to focus my brain as well as my lens; to make judgements about what is important to me; what I want my image to say. Sometimes that means taking an image into the realms of abstraction.

img_6015 A starfish in the tide. Image: Su Leslie 2018

“The less there is to look at, the more important it is that we look at it closely and carefully.” ― Kirk Varnedoe

img_6013 Cactus leaves. Image: Su Leslie 2018
DSC09393 The storm. Image: Su Leslie 2013

“What does that represent? There was never any question in plastic art, in poetry, in music, of representing anything. It is a matter of making something beautiful, moving, or dramatic – this is by no means the same thing.” – Fernand Leger

img_6014 Tulips. Image: Su Leslie 2019

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge | abstract

Monochrome

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Image: Su Leslie 2019

When we think of monochrome in photography, it’s often as an alternative to colour — or even as its opposite.

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Fern frond. Image: Su Leslie 2019

We might allow sepia — with its connotations of nostalgia.

But sometimes, nature presents us with monochrome images; green leaves, a bunch of flowers, or a perfect blue day on the lake.

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Image: Su Leslie 2019

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Image: Su Leslie 2019

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Image: Su Leslie 2019

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Lake Tarawera, Rotorua, NZ. Image: Su Leslie 2019

I’m sure there are others.

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge | monochrome

 

Seeing double

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“There are always two people in every picture: the photographer and the viewer.” – Ansel Adams.  Image: Su Leslie 2019

Some things feel like they should always come in twos — like biscuits, and scoops of ice-cream. Though with (regular) hindsight, maybe having two eyes but only one stomach is a problem.

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Apparently, one of the earliest versions of  the saying “two’s company, three’s a crowd” dates back to 1678. John Ray wrote in his collection English Proverbs “One’s too few, three too many.”

One becomes two: shadows and reflections.

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge | seeing double

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

Stealing Oreos?

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Protesters against TPPA, Auckland, 2015. Image: Su Leslie

“Taking pictures is like tiptoeing into the kitchen late at night and stealing Oreo cookies.” – Diane Arbus

The tiptoeing part of that quote definitely resonates with me when it comes to photographing people, particularly candid shots. It’s not something I do often, and my general rule of thumb is to make my presence known, but unobtrusive.

And when I’m happy with the results — definitely an Oreo moment.

Lens-Artists’ Photo Challenge | candid

Filling the frame

I recently saw a photo which consisted of a square of pale pink wall. On the very far right of the image, was a rectangle of black, and tiny cluster of brighter pink flowers.

I loved it! The simplicity and minimalism of the shot is so totally outside my photographic aesthetic or vocabulary.

Seeing Patti’s choice for this week’s Lens-Artists Photo Challenge —  Filling the Frame made me realise how much I do exactly that. I try to minimise distraction and guide viewers to see the my subject more clearly by presenting it front and (generally off-) centre.

Yet the ‘pink-wall’ image achieved exactly the same goal, focusing my attention not by foregrounding the flowers, but by filling the frame with “white space.”

Expect some attempts at this from me soon.

Silhouette

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Sunset, Christmas Beach, Herald Island, New Zealand. Image: Su Leslie

We all know what a silhouette is — but do you also know the origin of the word?

Silhouette originally referred to a style of  portraiture popular in the mid 18th century, that depicted a person — usually in profile — as a solid shape. When done well, the subjects of these simple representations were clearly recognizable.

So you might think that the word silhouette means something in relation to this art form. But you’d be wrong.

Étienne de Silhouette (1709 – 1767) was a French nobleman who briefly served as Controller-General of Finances under Louis XV. It is commonly believed that his attempts to bring the nation’s finances under control earned him a reputation for penny-pinching.

The term à la Silhouette came to mean things that were seen as cheap — like the shadow profiles which were much less expensive to produce than traditional painted or drawn portraits.

Over time, the word has taken on a much wider meaning and now refers to pretty much anything that is backlit and appears as a dark undifferentiated shape on a lighter background.

Lens-Artists’ Weekly Challenge | silhouettes