The colour brown

Crunchy Anzac biscuits and a cup of tea. Image: Su Leslie

Brown is not a colour I think of much when I’m taking photos, unless it’s autumn and I’m obsessing about falling leaves.

Image: Su Leslie

But it’s the colour of the month at Jude’s Life in Colour photo challenge. And when I looked in my photo archive, I found more than I’d expected.

There was food (naturally).

Image: Su Leslie

Image: Su Leslie

Image: Su Leslie

And art.

Stay, by Antony Gormley. One of two sculptures created for the city of Christchurch, NZ, post-2011 earthquake. Image: Su Leslie

Bernar Venet, '88.5° ARC x 8'. Seen at Gibbs Farm Sculpture Park, Kaipara, NZ. Image: Su Leslie, 2015

88.5° ARC x 8, Bernar Venet, Gibbs Farm Sculpture Park, Kaipara, NZ. Image: Su Leslie

(Detail) Tip, John Radford, Western Park, Ponsonby, NZ. Image: Su Leslie

Informal Still Life. Seen at Bushey Park, Whanganui. Image: Su Leslie

And small treasures in the natural world.

Cicada shell. Image: Su Leslie

Driftwood, Castlecliff beach, Whanganui, NZ. Image: Su Leslie

Image: Su Leslie

If you’d like to join in (even belatedly like me), pop over to Travel Words and read Jude’s introduction.


milkweed fibre

Milkweed seeds, dressed in their silken floss. Image: Su Leslie 2017

When you watch a milkweed seed pod burst and scatter its tiny dancing seeds to the wind, it is easy to understand how nature balances the strong and the delicate, and finds finds the most elegant of solutions to the problem of continued existence.

Ragtag Daily Prompt | delicate

What really takes my breath away …

img_3361 Muriwai beach, Auckland. Walk far enough and you can almost ignore the tour bus parties destroying the rock pool eco-systems with their sunscreen, body lotions and general stupidity. Image; Su Leslie 2019

I live in a country that earns quite a sizeable portion of its living out of being breathtakingly beautiful.

It is true that these days human impacts on land and water are beginning to show, and we’re increasingly like a hung-over media celeb, relying on Photoshop to pixel over the cracks. But it’s still relatively easy to turn a corner or crest a hill and find a vista so beautiful you can be forgiven if you forget to breathe.

I wouldn’t say I’ve become inured to such beauty, but if I’m honest, what really takes my breath away these days is the appalling ease with which my fellow New Zealanders (and some of the paid guests we’re taking in to help pay the bills) feel it’s ok to desecrate our environment. Apart from the terrible damage inflicted on landscapes, waterways, eco-systems and wildlife, it’s biting the hand that feeds.

This is death by a thousand cuts; dumping litter, over-fishing, clearing forests to create dairy farms, freedom campers who (literally) leave their shit behind, people who turn every available patch of grass on a beach reserve into a de facto car park because someone else did it first, a national mindset that says dairy farming and tourism are GOOD FOR GROWTH and let’s not look too closely at the negative impacts … the list goes on.

As always, the prescribed treatment for my chronic environmental grump is to get out the door and connect with the little miracles of nature that also take my breath away.

Posted to the Ragtag Dail Prompt | breathtaking

The butterfly effect


Newly emerged Monarch butterfly dries its wings before taking off. Image: Su Leslie 2017

“Notice the small things. The rewards are inversely proportional.” — Liz Vassey

In nature, Vassey’s words are particularly true. Whole eco-systems can be compromised by disruption to even the smallest part.

In 1800 Johann Gottlieb Fichte noted that “you could not remove a single grain of sand from its place without thereby … changing something throughout all parts of the immeasurable whole”.

Edward Lorenz later described this phenomenon as the butterfly effect.


Monarch caterpillars. Image: Su Leslie 2017


Monarch butterfly emerging from chrysalis. Image: Su Leslie 2017

Scientists now believe that Earth is experiencing a potentially catastrophic loss of biodiversity — with insect species being especially at risk. (See Science Direct article)


Image: Su Leslie 2018


Image: Su Leslie 2018

Diminishing numbers of bees and butterflies have caused widespread concern, and gardeners around the world consciously grow plant species to feed and support these creatures.

But, while gardeners may not like them, snails and other less glamorous creatures are necessary too — consuming rotting vegetation and providing food for other species like birds, lizards and mammals.


Starfish are regarded as a “keystone species” in marine ecosystems — but are sensitive to both marine pollution and water temperatures.


Starfish, seen clinging to a rock on the Coromandel Coast, NZ. Image: Su Leslie 2018

The loss of any part of nature’s elegant and beautiful system is a tragedy in itself, but the consequences reach far beyond any single extinction, threatening the whole Earth.

It seems that humans have the power (at least for now) to protect the life-forms that remain (including our own), and reverse some of the damage done. But we’d better be quick.

Posted to Lens Artist’s Photo Challenge | nature

On birthdays, bugs and being grateful

Close-up shot of orange lily stamen coated in pollen. Image: Su Leslie, 2017

Lily stamen. Image: Su Leslie, 2017. Shot with Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 IS USM macro lens

Well the election gods haven’t (so far — hung parliament) come through with the new government I wanted for my birthday, AND I’ve managed to spend the last 36 hours feeling utterly miserable from a gastro-bug-thingy , BUT …

… the Big T floored me with a particularly thoughtful and wonderful birthday gift.

I’ve been dithering for ages about buying a macro lens, and now I am the ecstatic owner of a Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 IS USM macro lens. I’m a bit hopeless with technical terminology, but even from my first experiments, I can tell this lens is seriously cool.

Unknown micro-plant with slender stem and large overhanging oval seed heads or flowers. Seen growing in ponga logs, Waitakere Ranges, Auckland, NZ. Image: Su Leslie, 2017

I have no idea what these are, but I found them growing out of punga (silver tree fern) logs in the Waitakere Ranges. The tallest stem was about 5cm. Image: Su Leslie, 2017

Unknown micro-plant with slender stem and large overhanging oval seed heads or flowers. Seen growing in punga logs, Waitakere Ranges, Auckland, NZ. Image: Su Leslie, 2017

Otherworldly. Unknown micro-plant found growing in punga logs, Waitakere Ranges, Auckland, NZ. Image: Su Leslie, 2017

As my interest in photography has grown, I’m turning my lens more and more on nature, and particularly on the tiny details. In a world that I find increasingly — well, scary — I am comforted and sustained by the beauty and resilience of the smallest life forms.

And by the love of the good people like the Big T. And not just for the awesome gift — I’m even more grateful for his thoughtful compassion and nursing skills — especially at 3am when I’m sick and grumpy and, frankly, stink.

The most beautiful moment

"The flower is the moment we live. The perfect moment." Close-up image of white apple blossom against blurred background. Image: Su Leslie, 2017

“The flower is the moment that we live … The most beautiful moment.” Image: Su Leslie, 2017

A plant has a circle. The seed becomes a plant which has a flower … it transforms into a fruit and the fruit drops. There’s another seed and the seed grows again. This is a circle. The flower is the moment that we live. The most beautiful moment of the circle. The most beautiful moment.Alex Atala, chef.

The road-bumps my family’s been experiencing lately show no signs of disappearing, and it looks as though travelling a new, more difficult road might be the new normal — at least for a while.

If I sound cryptic, then my apologies. Some stories are not really mine to share, even though I’m a character in them.

It is amazing though, how having to raise my head to new horizons also allows me to appreciate much more the simple beauty around me.

I heard the quote above on Chef’s Table last night and was moved almost to tears.

Here it is in context: