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Posts Tagged ‘NaBloPoMo’

Phew!

In case you haven’t guessed, last month I participated in the NaBloPoMo blogging project, and every day I blogged on a set topic, and posted a photograph. I could have just presented my photographs, with no words to explain it, but I find that pictures need words, and words can be enhanced by pictures, so there were always words to be written. It was exhausting, but it was great fun too.

Here I am now, though, a little sad it’s over – I don’t get to show off my photos any more – but relieved too. There is after all, a world beyond blogging, and things to do, and jury service (sigh) to be served. I’ll be back soon, when I’ve thought of something else to say. But for today, I’m just going to urge you to read something I posted in the last month – after all, only my most dedicated readers and commenters (and maybe not even them) will have read all 31 of my May posts – or simply look at some of my pictures.

 Click the image to find out more about #Microblog Mondays

Click the image to find out more about #Microblog Mondays

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(Photo Blogging Day 31)

This last prompt is one of the hardest of the month. How do I determine which photograph of the thousands I’ve taken is the best? I’ve been taking photographs since I was 17. Technically, my photos are much better now. I know not to shoot into the light if possible. I don’t have my camera strap in my photos. I understand a little about shutter speed and aperture, and composition. Having a better camera helps, and of course, in that time digital photography has revolutionised how we take photos. Some would say it makes us lazier; we can just take a lot of photos and hope one of them will be okay, or we know that they can usually be improved in post-production. That is true of my approach sometimes. But other times, I know I can try out a whole range of techniques to find the one that works, learning so much more in the process. It only makes me a better photographer.

But wait. This is about my best photograph, not me as photographer. It’s also about my best photograph, not my favourite. I’ve already shown you many of my best and many of my favourites this month. But other favourites have come up in this search. It’s not the scene in the Ourika Valley in Morocco, though that is an absolute favourite, framed by the foothills of the High Atlas, women bending over their washing in a clear river. It’s not the Amsterdam canal in the early evening, with the only colour coming from the light in a window, and the green grass on top of a houseboat. It’s not the sandspit on an island in Australia, or the humbugs (fish) on the Barrier Reef. And it’s not a photo displaying the sheer beauty of New Zealand – perhaps the lupins in flower on the banks of Lake Tekapo, with the snowy Southern Alps in the background. I could go on, but I must stop. So how on earth am I going to choose? I decided to come up with criteria:

  • I eliminated all my pre-digital photos. The quality of a scanned photo to be used on a blog just wasn’t going to be good enough. So that means any photos under consideration are dated from 2004. My photo of the stunning La Roque Gageac village on the Dordogne River in France lost out for that reason.
  • There would be no photos of me, or other people who might not want their faces splashed over the internet. This eliminated the group of donkey-handlers, waiting for their next clients on the cobbled steps of Santorini, with cigarettes and suntanned grizzled faces.
  • No photo clichés, such as sunsets or the Eiffel Tower, or one of my first photos ever, of the Sydney Opera House. This eliminated another strong contender; the sun going down in Fiji, palm trees on a cliff in shadow, the sea a shimmering silver, and a yacht moored just off the shore.

So this is the one I came up with. It isn’t even my favourite leopard. But it’s just too good to ignore. It’s printed on canvas and hung on our wall. I see it every day. I hope you like it. best leopard

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(Photo Blogging Day 30)

My first ever safari was the Night Safari in Singapore about 15 years ago. Essentially a night zoo, my friend who was living there insisted my sister and I visit. We did so eagerly, as both of us had always wanted to go to Africa. It was magic – I’ll never forget the sight of the fishing cats standing by the stream, dipping their paws into the water in an attempt to catch some dinner, or particularly, of the giraffes in shadow. Africa was calling to me even then.

Of course I know now that the reason for a Night Safari is that so many animals are nocturnal. Still, when I finally got to Africa, I was surprised to find that every day we would spend about an hour on game drives in the dark. The tracker would sit on the front of the jeep, and scan the bush with his spotlight. It became mesmerising – we would all follow the movement of the spotlight, hoping to see something. Of course, we never did. Well, not until the tracker pointed it out to us.

Our first sighting was a leopard. The tracker signalled to the ranger (who drove the jeep) to stop the vehicle.

“He thought he saw a leopard,” said Dylan, the ranger, to us. The tracker, Fani, was disgusted with him.

“Oh, okay,” said Dylan. “He did see a leopard.”

We looked out into the darkness, trying to follow the spotlight. Fani managed to pinpoint the leopard, and slowly our inexperienced eyes could make out the two glowing lights of the leopard’s eyes. It seemed impossible that Fani had seen it as he scanned the landscape, catching it for just a split second. But he had.

Over those days we discovered what extraordinary eyesight Fani and the other African trackers have. A few nights later the car stopped quickly. Fani had found us a bush baby. A rare and very special sighting, and one that we couldn’t photograph; any flash would have hurt its eyes, so you’ll just have to take my word for it. I do have evidence of a wildcat though, but in general much of what we saw at night was for our eyes only.

A day or two later, my husband turned 50, and it seemed we were driving a long way for our evening drinks that night. We saw some lights in the distant, and as we got closer, we found that a staff member from the lodge had set up a table under a marula tree, encircled by lanterns (to keep animals away), and was cooking up some goodies to go with our champagne. There was of course a cake too. The sky was clear, and our ranger used the spotlight to point out the major constellations. The Milky Way was spectacular that evening, and I fell in love with the night sky in a way I never had before. It was a birthday neither of us will forget.

A week or so later at another game reserve, we took a wild ride as Stuart came across a porcupine one night. The porcupine turned and raced off up the track. Stuart was screeching delightedly as the jeep bounced after it,

“Two years I’ve been here, and I’ve never seen one before!”

It took off into the bush, and Stuart chased it, but it was soon lost in the undergrowth.

Other sightings on our safaris include a chameleon, elephants, leopards, the occasional hippopotamus caught out of the water, and a lioness, its fur stained red around its mouth, finishing off some dinner.

The highlight though was the night we were treated with a dinner in the bush, next to Ulusaba’s observatory. Lanterns and lamps were placed around the barbecue and the outdoor furniture that had been set up for us and our jeep-mates. Stuart periodically climbed up to the highest part of the jeep to scan the surroundings with the spotlight. A herd of buffalo were resting only a hundred metres or so away, but they couldn’t see us and were mostly asleep, so the danger was limited. A clan of hyenas waited nearby, patiently hoping they’d get some of the barbecue leftovers. We were served champagne, and peered through the telescope at various constellations, including the Jewel Box cluster, and Saturn’s rings.

Nightlife. It means what you want it to mean.

Dinner at the bush observatory

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(Photo Blogging Day 29)

What makes a good photograph? There are as many answers to this question as there are photographs, I’m sure. We could look at it from a technical point of view. Is it perfectly exposed, perfectly in focus, with an interesting composition? Does it use advanced techniques, perfect as it is without post-production editing. Or we could look at it from an artistic perspective. Is it beautiful, or challenging? Does it make us see the world in a different way? Does it tell a story? We could try to decide if a photograph has any meaning, whether it contributes to the world in any way. Or we could take it very personally. Does this photograph speak to us? Do we want to keep it? Does it remind of us something? What does it make us feel?

Imperfections can help make an ordinary photograph a good photograph. Solar flare can bring a moment to life, even if it is a mistake. The camera strap getting in the way told a story of a young woman learning to use her first camera. A bird swooping may be a little blurry, but brings some life to an otherwise very static photograph of old, stone buildings. Even a photo that blurs when losing light and without a tripod can be beautiful.

Good doesn’t need to mean perfect. In fact, sometimes imperfect is just what is needed. The unwanted, unexpected and unplanned can turn into something amazing. Just like life.

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(Photo Blogging Day 28)

When I first got my new camera, in preparation for our first trip to South Africa, I tried to learn how to take a panned shot. I had immodest ambitions of catching a classic shot of a cheetah chasing its prey, with the landscape blurred behind it. By the time I got there, I hoped simply to catch a non-blurry photo of a leaping impala. I soon realised how impossible that might be for me, a rank amateur, as impalas tended to leap past us just when I had turned my camera off. This is the closest shot to leaping impala we have. I didn’t even take it, my husband did. Three and a half years later. Sigh.

impala

This though is my favourite action shot, blurry as it is. It wasn’t even in the wild, but at the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens in Cape Town. That little guinea fowl was really moving!

guinea fowl running

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I scratched my head when I looked at the prompt for today. Which do I cherish most, old family photos or stories? I don’t have a lot of either, to be honest. I can’t recall any photos of my great-grandparents on my father’s side, and any stories we heard tended to be direct recollections from my mother, rather than stories handed down. My father was a man of few words, and though we heard the occasional story about growing up, I don’t recall hearing anything about the lives of his parents. My paternal grandfather was born into an Irish Catholic family, but he converted when he met my small but strong-willed grandmother. My mother’s grandmother played a large role in her childhood, a strict but loving disciplinarian, by all accounts. She was the woman I can thank for importing the family piano from England in 1912. But otherwise we have few family stories. I have photos of her and my great-grandfather, but I feel I know her through my mother’s stories, not the stern figure in front of her house on Butcher’s Lane. I wonder what she would have made of her great-granddaughter putting her photograph on the internet, knowing that people across the world could see it. I suspect she wouldn’t have entirely approved.

grant home

More recently, I’ve mentioned that I’d love to write the stories of my aunt and uncle. But I doubt that’s going to happen for various reasons. I don’t have any photographs of their life in the Solomon Islands, but I can see in my head my uncle making his ablutions whilst worried about crocodiles, or the local woman who had taken his car keys and was found wearing  them as ear-rings. I don’t need the photos to see that. (Having been there – on my first ever business trip – helps, of course). I never saw him when he was a clown, or an itinerant performer, or a jewellery maker, or as a radio announcer, and I suspect there are pictures (because he was a keen photographer), but I’ve never seen them. But I have no trouble imagining him doing any of these things.

My husband’s family is much the same. There are few family photographs. But there are lots of stories.  We’ve tried to encourage his parents to write some of them down. His father has, the genealogist of the family, but has kept it all very formal. His mother has the more entertaining stories, and likes to write, but hasn’t written anything for us. We gave her a nice notebook seven or eight years ago, asking her just to jot down a story when she thought of it. She hasn’t. She thinks it has to be a big deal, and needs to be perfectly composed and written, rather than a notebook full of scribbles and jottings and memories.

So, perhaps not surprising for a blogger who rarely uses photos on her posts (this month excepted of course), I think my conclusion is that a picture is not always worth a thousand words. I’d rather have the stories.

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Still Life

(Photo Blogging Day 26)

I didn’t really intend to start a collection. But these things creep up on you. Blue and white china is popular in Asia, and the geometric pattern used in the vase at the back, and the small bowl with lid at the front left, is ubiquitous in Thailand. Every time I make a curry, I serve it in a bowl with a lid with the same blue and white china pattern. Just as you’d get in any restaurant in Thailand. (Okay, so maybe the curry isn’t as good.)

The blue vase at the back left is Thai celadon, which is traditionally green, but when I found this in blue, I couldn’t resist it. Blue, after all, is more my colour.  We bought the lamp in Thailand when we lived there. Then a few years later I was in Taiwan, and wanted a small souvenir from there, so the small vase in the middle is filled with pot pourri, and joined the collection. The other pieces are from Singapore, when visiting various friends and relatives over the next ten years or so. We could have added to the collection when we were in Delft, but didn’t find anything that appealed.

So it hasn’t really changed for about ten years. I’m happy with that. I think it is pretty perfect the way it is.

still life blue china

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