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 face of disappointment

Competitor in wood-chopping competition, Helensville A&P Show, New Zealaned. Image: Su Leslie, 2017.

Axeman taking part in standing block wood-chopping competition at Helensville A&P Show. Image: Su Leslie, 2017. Edited with Snapseed.

The Big T and I visited the Helensville A&P (Agricultural & Pastoral) Show at the weekend.

Agriculture is a hugely important part of New Zealand’s history, economy and psyche, and  A&P Shows are a traditional way small towns up and down the country celebrate farming and rural life.

One of my favourite A&P attractions is wood-chopping. And no, I can’t explain why a city girl who has never used an axe to do much more than chop kindling can sit for hours and watch a bunch of men cut through logs of wood as a sport. But I can!

I think part of the attraction is simplicity. While rugby, soccer, etc all seem to have incredibly complex rules, wood-chopping is easy to understand. The first person to cut the block in two wins. Even allowing for the handicap system (a man with a microphone counting off the seconds before each competitor can start), it’s comprehensible even to me. And no offside rule!

The face of disappointment. A young axeman fails to place in a wood-chopping competitition at the Helensville A&P Show. Image: Su Leslie, 2017. Edited with Snapseed.

The face of disappointment. No placing for this wood-chopping competitor. Image: Su Leslie, 2017. Edited with Snapseed.

Axemen may not be regarded as sports superstars, but they seem equally dedicated to their sport. And the disappointment they feel in failure is no less real or painful to watch.

Contemplating the loss. Pensive and disappointed-looking competitor in wood-chopping at Helensville A&P Show. Image: Su Leslie, 2017. Edited with Snapseed.

Contemplating the loss. Competitor in wood-chopping at Helensville A&P Show. Image: Su Leslie, 2017. Edited with Snapseed.

“All that is in the heart is written on the face” — Ritu Ghatourey

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

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.

It’s not this time of year without … portraits of my son

The boy-child. Monochrome portrait of a young man with mirror reflection. Image: Su Leslie, 2016

The boy-child. Image: Su Leslie, 2016

When he was little, the boy-child loved the camera and it loved him right back.

As he’s got older, the relationship’s changed in one fundamental respect. These days, he feels he belongs behind the lens rather than in front. So it takes something quite special — like his grandmother’s desire to have a “nice picture” for Christmas — to persuade him to be photographed.

And with no disrespect to my son’s very real talent as a photographer, I think the camera still loves him.

The boy-child, take 3. Image: Su Leslie, 2016. Portrait of a young man, with reflection in the mirror.

The boy-child, take 2. Image: Su Leslie, 2016.

The by-child, take 2. Image: Su Leslie, 2016. Portrait of a young man, with reflection in the mirror.

The boy-child, take 3. Image: Su Leslie, 2016

This post was written for the Daily Post Photo Challenge. This week we’re asked to show something without which the holiday season would be incomplete.