The letter S

Sunset, Christmas Beach, Herald Island, NZ. Image: Su Leslie

Many (many) years ago, I used to watch the TV programme Sesame Street with my baby brother. At the end of each show, the “sponsor” announcement went something like “today’s show has been brought to you by the letters … (take your pick) and the number … (usually a small one)”.

This week’s Lens-Artists challenge, which asks for subjects beginning with the letter S, reminds me of that (and how convenient that the show was called Sesame Street).

So of course we have a sunset.

And how about some sea, sand and sky?

Kakanui Beach, Otago, NZ. Image: Su Leslie

Or sunflowers.

Image: Su Leslie

Perhaps something sweet …

Image: Su Leslie

Or do you prefer savory?

Image: Su Leslie

I like to sew …

Image: Su Leslie

But I’ll leave singing to others.

Image: Su Leslie

Amongst the visual arts, I’m particularly fond of sculpture.

Sometimes serious …

‘Gretchen’ Sam Harrison, 2014. Exhibited at NZ Sculpture OnShore, Devonport, New Zealand. Image: Su Leslie

Sometimes a little bit silly?

‘Damien Hurst Looking for Sharks’ Cool Shit, 2018. Exhibited at Sculpture by the Sea Bondi, NSW, Australia. Image: Su Leslie

Just like Smurfs on a road trip …

Image: Su Leslie

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge subjects beginning with the letter S

Focus on the detail

“The hum of bees is the voice of the garden.” — Elizabeth Lawrence. Image: Su Leslie 2021

Some people look at big things, and other people look at very small things, but in a sense, we’re all trying to understand the world around us.” — Roderick MacKinnon

I’m a detail kind of person. The kind who notices when pictures are hung a fraction off; who will unpick and re-sew a seam until it’s just right. The kind of person who not only owns plating tweezers, but actually uses them.

No surprise then that I love macro photography. Nor that a walk around my garden results in an abundance of close-up shots — but not one that shows the shape and structure of the garden itself. Though given that it’s (euphemistically) a “work in progress” — maybe that’s no bad thing.

Cosmos: the garden gift that keeps on giving. Image: Su Leslie 2021

Image: Su Leslie 2021

Image: Su Leslie 2021

Image: Su Leslie 2021

Image: Su Leslie 2021

New buds. Image: Su Leslie 2021

Beauty in decay. Image: Su Leslie 2021

Lens-Artist Photo Challenge | It’s a small world

Friday Flowers

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

The sun will come out tomorrow

“Into every life a little rain must fall.” Image: Su Leslie 2018

It’s probably not surprising that sunshine is so often used as a metaphor for joy and positivity. Most life on Earth, including humanity, is dependent on the energy of our Sun.

So we describe people as “a ray of sunshine” or as having “a sunny disposition.” Stevie Wonder sang “you are the sunshine of my life, while Morecambe and Wise often signed off at the end of their show with “Bring me Sunshine (in your smile)

“You are my sunshine.” Image: Leslie family archive.

The flip-side of course is our use of rain and cloud metaphors. My mother’s fond of the phrase “a face like a wet weekend” and I’ve always liked Billy Bragg’s “a little black cloud in a dress.” (Must I Paint you a Picture).

A face clouded. Image: Su Leslie 2018

And when we want to offer hope in bad times, we promise sunshine after the storm.

… if you hang on for a while longer, there is always something bright around the corner, or the dark clouds will go away and there will be sunshine again. – Charles M. Schulz

Be thou the rainbow in the storms of life. The evening beam that smiles the clouds away, and tints tomorrow with prophetic ray. — Lord Byron

Lens Artists Photo Challenge | The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow

A walk on the beach

Te Henga/Bethells Beach, Auckland, NZ. Image: Su Leslie 2020

If I told you I encountered a major road-block when thinking about this post, you’d probably imagine some emotional or psychological barrier about which I’m going to unburden myself.

But actually, I missed a road sign announcing that Scenic Drive in Waitakere was closed to traffic, and found myself driving towards an actual blocked road. With the car behind me way too close for a safe U-turn, I ended up on Bethells Road, heading towards the beach.

Te Henga/Bethells Beach is one of four road-accessible beaches on Auckland’s (wild) west coast. Although it’s the closest to home, I seldom visit there, probably because the next closest — Muriwai — has the twin attractions of the gannet colony and a good fish and chip shop en route.

It’s school holidays here at the moment, but the beach was surprisingly quiet. Perhaps it was just too cold and overcast.

Although I saw a few people carrying surfboards, I didn’t see any actually in the water, and the surf life-saving tower wasn’t manned.

The closest anyone seemed to get was surf-casting.

I may have missed a road sign, but I did manage to notice lots of small treasures on the beach and in the surrounding bush.

Lens Artists Photo Challenge | A Photo Walk

Growing

A week of glorious sunshine has delivered lots of new growth and flowering in my garden. It’s especially exciting to see the plum blossom, but I think the bees are happiest amongst the borage flowers. You’ll have to take my word for that now — I was up too early to catch any in action.

This week’s Lens-Artists Challenge | Pick a Word offered Growing (amongst others). I thought I was done yesterday with Comfortable — but how could I resist flower photos.

And it’s Friday.

#fridayflowers

Comfortable

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Cats can make themselves comfortable anywhere, but sunshine and a fluffy rug don’t hurt. Image: Su Leslie

Children are pretty good at finding the adults they want to be around. When he was young, the boy-child would often make a beeline for a particular person and (sometimes literally) throw himself into their arms, ignoring everyone else present. Gotta say, he had great instincts.

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First meeting; the boy-child and his great aunt and uncle. Image: Leslie family archive

What makes you comfortable? A sunny afternoon at the beach?

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Image: Su Leslie

Sharing a drink with a friend at the end of the day?

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Image: Su Leslie 2020

There is nothing like staying at home for real comfort. — Jane Austen

I have no aspirations to luxury but I do like my home to feel comfortable.

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A comfortable place to work. Image: Su Leslie

cushions

Recycled kimono sash cushion covers. Image: Su Leslie

knitted throw

Knitted lap blanket for those afternoons snuggled in the armchair with a good book. Image: Su Leslie 2020

Lens-Artist Photo Challenge | pick a word.  I chose comfortable

Portraits of the mundane

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Image: Su Leslie 2020

I started 2020 with, if not resolutions, then written intentions. One was to take more portraits — partly to improve my technical skills and partly to force me to engage with people more.

Oh well, there’s always next year for the people part. And in the meantime, I am using this week’s Lens-Artists’ Photo Challenge with its theme of everyday objects to make ‘portraits of the mundane.’

Autumnal memory

dried leaves greenhithe 1 july2

Image: Su Leslie

“It was one of those perfect … autumnal days which occur more frequently in memory than in life.”  ― P.D. James

Autumn is the perfect time of year to live in New Zealand. The summer humidity abates, the weather settles (apart from the odd tropical cyclone) and the kids go back to school, making it a great time to travel on less crowded roads and stay in less price-inflated accommodation.

This year of course, we spent a large part of the season in lock-down, exploring the neighbourhood not the country. In doing so, I found that my suburb has a lot more deciduous trees than I remembered.

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Image: Su Leslie

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Image: Su Leslie

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Image: Su Leslie

Perfect to photograph — though not so much fun when it’s time to rake up the fallen leaves.

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But memory is selective, and for me autumn will always be golden and taste of fresh figs, straight off the tree.

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Lens-Artists Photo Challenge | Autumn

The season of the kowhai

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Spring. Tui feasting on kowhai flower nectar. Image; Su Leslie 2019

Amongst all the flowers that burst forth in Spring, the one that speaks most clearly of the season in Aotearoa New Zealand is the kowhai.

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Image: Su Leslie

Kowhai (eight species of tree within the genus Sophora) are native to this country. Unlike many NZ natives, kowhai are semi-deciduous, making their spring-time transformation even more spectacular. Unusually too, kowhai flowers appear before the new leaves.

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Kowhai flowers. Image: Su Leslie

Kowhai is the Maori word for yellow, and the plant has great significance; practically and culturally. Infusions of kowhai bark were used in traditional Maori medicine to treat a huge range of ailments from dandruff to knitting together broken bones. It was even given as a (fairly dramatic) cure for constipation.

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Kowhai flowers. Image: Su Leslie

These days, the medicinal use of Kowhai is not recommended, as it’s known that the plant contains cytsine, an alkeloid common in several species within the legume family. It is similar to nicotine and, in humans, can cause headaches, breathing difficulties and in large doses — death.

Other animals are clearly not affected; kowhai flower nectar is a favourite food of the native Korimako, Kaka and Tui.  One of the great springtime pleasures is watching and listening to Tui in a kowhai tree.

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Tui in a kowhai tree. Image: Su Leslie 2019

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Tui in a kowhai tree. Image: Su Leslie 2019

If you’d like to know what Tui’s sound like, this video‘s good and has footage of Kereru (wood pigeon) and Tauhou (wax-eye)

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge | Spring

Friday Flowers