Posts Tagged ‘#dogwood2017’

As you may have realised, the photography challenges I leapt into at the beginning of the year have disappeared. A brief period of illness, then travel, then rain, and then travel planning all meant that I just didn’t have the time or the inclination to get out and take photographs. I hope to try it again, or maybe pick it up after our trip. Of course, when we’re away I’m going to be taking pics madly (and perhaps sharing some with you via a new Instagram account – look for TravellingMali), although I had hoped to have had more practice before I left, but isn’t that always the way?

I’ve joined a couple of social media groups – one for the challenges I was doing, and one for my particular camera – and have been learning a lot from them (eg. how little I know), and I’ve also been reading various websites to learn more, so I don’t feel like a complete failure!

It’s possible I might get to see the Northern Lights when I’m in Iceland – though with the nights getting lighter when we’re there, I am by no means counting on it – and I’d dearly love to be able to show you all a photograph of the lights … or a puffin. Ironically, the Southern Lights were visible from Wellington last Sunday, but I didn’t know about it until the next day. Typical, isn’t it, that I plan to cross the world to see the phenomenon, and all I needed to do last week was cross the city!


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As a blogger, I’m quite enjoying the weekly photography challenges, because they give me topics to write about. Yes, I know it’s cheating a bit, and I may tire of it, but this week’s challenges gave me two very appropriate topics.

The first was Shadows, Light and Absence of Light. This photo of the new fence, on our renovated driveway, was perfect one evening. For the first time in the more than twenty years in this house, I both like the fence is required to surround our driveway, and feel confident that the metalwork holding the driveway up (I’ve mentioned before that it hangs off a hill) is secure. This time last year we had just begun work on the driveway, as we had to replace all the steel support structures holding it up. It cost us a fortune, dug uncomfortably into our retirement funds, and meant that we couldn’t travel for a couple of years, but it had to be done. And now it can even give me pleasure.


The second challenge this week was Still Life. I took a lot of photos, though you’re only going to get to see a couple. Needless to say, I learned a few things about Still Life photography and me:

  1. I don’t have the equipment to light things beautifully
  2. I don’t have the patience to light things beautifully
  3. I would need to spend a lot of time to find an artistic and appropriate layout of precious objects
  4. When you take close-up photographs in the sun, you can see all the dust on surfaces, props, etc, and therefore …
  5. Attention to detail is important
  6. A moving metronome on a Mozart Sonatas book next to a little statuette of Beethoven probably doesn’t qualify as a Still Life, given that the thing I liked most about the photo was the blur of the metronome as it ticked and tocked!

Still (no pun intended), my final two choices were representative of the last week. The Travel Still Life photos reflect the shopping I’ve been doing (hiking shoes and cute woolly hat now purchased), and all the research time I’m spending online. I’m including two – I think I like the composition of the second one the best, but the first has the additional feature of a booking confirmation. (Though it doesn’t show the time it takes to make those bookings!)


This week, finally, we have had consecutive days of beautiful weather, so in the evenings – both with guests and alone – we have enjoyed relaxing outside in the garden, just sitting, seeing, and being still. We’re going to do it again tonight.


Still Life in the Garden with Drinks





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I bought myself a new camera in October. For some years I had coveted the idea of having more control than my superzoom camera gave me, although I still dearly love the photos it has given me. So I bought the camera and tried it out on our trip south. (And yes, I still plan on writing about that … soon!) I’ve realised though that to become accomplished with my new camera, I need to use it more often. So I am going to try a weekly photography challenge. Actually, I am going to do two weekly photography challenges. (Yes, I’m a sucker for punishment, but time is short.) I’m going to do last year’s challenge, because I need the discipline. But then I saw that this year’s challenge is all about telling stories, and I love to tell stories, whether here or with my camera.

I was a little horrified, though, to see that the first week required a selfie. You may know how much I love selfies! Well, I reasoned, I don’t need to post the result of every week’s challenge, do I? After all, I don’t pretend to be a good photographer, just a keen one. So I played around, trying to ensure that the light wasn’t hideous, or that I wasn’t hideous. I used my little tripod, and also my wifi app that allows my phone to take over remote control of my camera, so I didn’t have to jump up and down to adjust the camera. It was all good practice for me. The results weren’t brilliant, and even as I write this, I’m still not sure if I’ll actually attach the photo, but I do want to document that I actually did the challenge. Week 1 half-completed.

The second task was both easier and harder. I had to tell a story using the rule of thirds, which is, apparently, an important feature of photography. I’m not sure I’ve approached it correctly, but there is a story, and the timing is appropriate, as I took the photo just before taking my Christmas tree down for another year.

My fat angels (I have three) have been amongst my favourite decorations for over 20 years. I first found them in Thailand, that most Buddhist of countries that embraces the idea of Christmas celebrations and lights and carols.

They were, I think, the first of many decorations I bought there. I loved their angelic faces, and the sheer humour of their shape, their faces, and their instruments. I love their wings, though they are quite delicate. I’m very careful with them. They survived 17 years of living with two cats, who were thankfully remarkably well behaved around the tree, and they’re still doing well.

More robust were the felt decorations that I found in Thailand. I bought dozens, red, green and white reindeer and stars and camels, and even a squirrel or two. All very (northern) Christmassy. But my favourites that are uniquely Thai, are my felt elephants. Not Christmassy at all, but they represent such an important part of my life, and so they hold an important place on my tree.

So I chose this photo because completely unintentionally, I had hung these two decorations – so different but forever linked – so close together on my tree. I didn’t move them (although I realise now I probably should have), so they’re not perfectly balanced, and it would have been nice if the elephant had been facing the angel. But the angel’s uplifted eyes are in one of the intersections of thirds, and the elephant peaks at another intersection of the thirds, and this is where they were on the tree. So I took the photo. That’s what I do, essentially. I take the photos that are there, rather than design and plan my photos. Just as I learned to write back in 2006 with 44 words a day, I now need to start thinking like a photographer. I guess that’s a good lesson to learn at the beginning of the challenge.

But in the meantime, Week One was completed. Getting started is often the hardest part.


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