Last week I had tried to get up early and photograph Matariki in the dawn sky, but couldn’t manage it. I did, however, get up early and observe it, twinkling away at me above the hills in the north-eastern sky. I have also had the privilege of enjoying some spectacular sunsets, with tonight’s being particularly moving.
These photographs were all taken from the comfort of my studio. I chose the room for its large west-facing window, and throughout the year I get to witness sunset from this room. A line of trees offer me a sense of privacy, and I’ve often felt like they block the view of the setting sun. Tonight I have finally realised that they in fact add interest and character for me to play with.
After much back-and-forth about spending money that I really didn’t have, in 2020 (just a month before lockdown!) I finally splurged on a DSLR camera. It was bottom of the range and secondhand, usually known as the Canon ‘Rebel’ series, and it opened up a whole new world for me in terms of photography. I can be wonderfully creative with my DSLR as working in manual allows me to make more of the visual choices myself.
Now, though, I have realised the importance of also having a camera that you can simply point and shoot and have invested in a compact camera alongside my ‘proper camera’. It fits in my handbag, and sometimes in my pocket, and all I need to do is, well, point and shoot. In the few days that I have owned it I have already taken so many more photos than I would have if I was relying on my DSLR, or the very limited range of my phone camera. I love the flexibility I now have, between DSLR & compact & smartphone, and am so excited to explore my world that little bit more.
I’ve tried the 100 Days Project several times, with varying levels of success & failure. What happens without fail, though, is that I learn and grow from each project (for those of you who aren’t familiar with it, the project is to produce one creative thing daily for 100 days). I’ve scattered (draft) pages of the journal throughout this blog post.
Upon reflection I realised that one of the things I find hard is that after I’ve done the daily challenge, I then have to photograph & post it online & figure out something to say about it. So this time I’m doing the daily challenge (a photo a day), writing something about the image or my feelings that day, and putting it into a photozine. I’m not sharing daily and I already feel much better about this project than I have about previous ones.
The first three days I was really happy with, and it was a good boost for me to get off to a good start. I’ve noticed myself becoming more introspective as the days wear on – though I’m not sure if that’s the project, or just how I’m feeling right now in my life.
There’s been a definite inward turn towards ‘climate doomism’ (or more broadly, environmental doomism, but I don’t think that’s officially a thing). My inclination in photography is towards the wildlife and the natural environment but usually when I post my photos online I don’t reflect deeply on them. In this project the ‘journal’ aspect encourages going deeper, so that might go some way towards an explanation about why I’m feeling it more deeply. Of course, it’s normal for me to go through periods of overwhelm related to the human impact on the environment, so it could be completely unrelated!
There’s also some artistic frustration, between where my skills are currently at and where I’d like them to be. I definitely make images that I am happy with – they are appropriately focused, composed well, and say something. Maybe they are part of a story, or communicate emotion, or they achieve a particular skill I’ve been working on (at the moment I’m working on better focus with bird photography, and learning how to capture sunrise/sunset). But I can’t – yet – go out with a camera and be confident I’ll get something I’m happy with.
We don’t have a car at the moment. It’s not terrible, but obviously it places restrictions on when & where I can go. On the plus side, it’s forced me to walk and take public transport way more than I would’ve in the past. When I stop to think about it I’m slightly impressed at how much I’ve been able to do (and to photograph) without a personal vehicle. Our little rural town now has a bus service on the weekend so that’s opened up my options slightly more. It’s still a challenge, though, and sometimes a source of frustration that I can’t just go where I want whenever I want to. Particularly with sunrise & sunset photos, my best option is to rent a place near water so I can be up and ready for the skies, but of course there’s also a little thing called a budget that needs to be considered.
Suffice to say, there are a lot of things going on and a lot of challenges. But I guess that’s what it’s supposed to be: a challenge. These challenges force me to be creative, and problem solve, and figure out what I want to say to the world. In the words of Roosevelt — ‘A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor.’
There have been several Mondays at the dayjob where my colleague and I have said, where did the weekend go? Or realising that it’s already one, two, five months into the year. Time never used to speed along that quickly, and I was sure that mindfulness & adventure were at the heart of it. I had my joint exhibition in April, which was a joy and a real milestone, and in May I took myself out for a ‘mini adventure’ for the day at Waikouaiti. I did a sunrise shoot before work one day, and a sunset shoot on the last day of autumn. By the time June arrived, it felt like it had been a month. Time didn’t fly by without meaning – I found mindfulness behind the camera, and adventure in this beautiful country I am blessed to live in.
I have just finished reading Zen Camera by David Ulrich. It resonated strongly with something I was describing to my friend when I first started using a DSLR: that being behind the camera absorbs my attention. I observe more deeply, and I’m able to (sometimes!) capture how I see the world for others to see it through my eyes. The camera is a tool for my mind to be quiet, finally, and for my appreciation of beauty to have an outlet. It’s an excuse for little adventures, and photographing daily helps ground me in my daily life.
At the end of the project, I will have a 100 photographs that reflect on 100 days of my life, and a little bit of daily mindfulness. No matter what I photograph, or how good the end product is, I have no doubt that this project will bring richness into my daily life.
This year I am proud to have had two of my pieces shortlisted for display at the annual Otago Museum Photography Awards exhibition. The works were She Moves In Her Own Way, a photo of a unique harakeke growth pattern, and Adventures In Wonderland, a close up of a mushroom with interesting texture. Both were in the ‘Botanical’ category.