For a change of pace on a rainy day, I went out into the garden and took some cuttings and brought them inside to set up a still life. I played around with a simple monocle lens and a wide angle lens on my 4X5 camera, but wasn't pleased with any of the compositions. While waiting for the instant film to develop after each set up, I took to playing around with the macro lens on my digital camera. A little bit of motion, the reflections of the rain on the flowers, and something interesting happened. I like this crowded composition found within the still life, the light trails from the rain drops and slight blurring give a sense of vitality.
We were standing in the kitchen, looking up through the skylight for glimpses of blue in the rainy sky. Looking down, twisting the camera, creating a sense of blur and motion in the slate floor - it reminded me of the whirling dervish. The interplay between observation and a playful sense of experimentation is a form of enlightenment and daily practice is a way of passing through the doorway.
It was after dinner, and we were putting together a little dessert of fresh fruit. My sister-in-law was admiring the beautiful reds of the cherries and strawberries, and picked up her camera to document our good fortune. I followed her lead - part of learning from daily practice is being open to the possibilities in even the simplest, mundane moments of life, and to be open to seeing what someone else sees.
I went exploring new places today and came across this murky little tide pool. It was swarming with some kind of larvae, the water looking like the proverbial primordial soup. As my shadow fell across the pool, they all dived deeper, some primitive survival instinct kicking in. In a hostile world, this little oasis cupped within the lichen covered bedrock must have seemed like paradise.
The value of a daily practice was readily illustrated to me today. I took my 4x5 field camera out for the first time in many months. Working with the camera itself was no problem, but somehow I managed to make several images at first using the spotmeter completely backwards. I would take a reading on a dark value, but then place that value on the light side of the meter scale. I only realized this after about using 4 sheets of film. Once I straightened myself out on that, the rest of the session went well and I decided that I should make it a goal to use the view camera at least once a week. In fact, I'll take it out again tomorrow.
That wasn't the end of my trials and tribulations, though. There were a few mishaps while developing the film, again mostly because of a lack of practice. Fortunately the negatives came out fine.
These little glimpses of the garden have me thinking of poetry, that written form where words are crafted together in unusual ways. Here the use of selective focus brings about a juxtaposition, a dialogue between two sides of the image - a whispered endearment unheard above the diffuse background noise.
Today's daily practice post is a bit of a departure - rather than post one image, I decided to post the images made on the short 5 minute walk from my office to my car at the end of the work day. This was the first time during the day that I had thought about the daily practice, and I instantly decided to take out my phone and find some images on the way to the car. Click on any of the images to view them larger.
Images like this are the legacy of reading about Ruth Bernhard and her work. A heightened sense of the qualities of light, along with stronger observation resulting from this daily practice, "made" me see the reflected dawn on the wall of the neighbour's house. These images are not necessarily outstanding or world class, but serve as tiny devotionals or momento mori, of lessons learned.
Although my intention has been to work on the forest project, I seem to be drawn recently to these intimate studies of the garden. The close focus combined with shallow depth of field bring a spiritual quality to these images, each begging to tell its story.
The vertical stripes and blurring made me think of two of my favourite painters. Morris Louis created these wonderful large canvases with poured paint, often consisting of vertical stripes. The blurriness made me think of what direction Gerhard Richter might take a Morris Louis painting to.
Title: "Her body reflected all the freshness and splendor of the world"
(click to view larger)
I have a plan to spend a week making "portraits" of the local forests with my digital P&S. I want to make images that capture the tranquility of the settings, that speak to why I have been constantly drawn to walk in the woods since I was a boy. It is a comfortable place to be alone, to let the mind quiet and thoughts to pass without notice. To consider the world as an upside down reflection of itself, with a flattened perspective on the still surface of the water. I like images such as this one because even when there is a demarkation between the "real" and the "reflected", there is still a strong ambiguity to the image. The reflection is like a photograph, with its framing constraints that fail to contain the entire height of the trees. A picture of a picture of a tranquil moment.
Title: "Who is this approaching, up from the wilderness?"
(click to view larger)
The affinity of poetry and photography fascinates me. Poets use words in combinations that amaze, delight and bring unexpected understanding to us. Photographers strive to make images that convey meanings beyond what is simply visible. This image was made just yards (meters) away from an extremely busy road that passes through the rain forest. Yet the power of the forest brings a tranquility that mutes the everyday world. I love the lush greens, the way the stream appears out of no where and carries on beyond the lower left corner of the image. This element in the composition is important for giving a sense of the magnitude of scale in this forest, that it envelopes one, is a place where one is easily lost in the best possible way.
Today when I went out, I debated taking a film camera but decided just to carry the little point and shoot digital. Looking at this image makes me want to do a series with this camera, as a counterpoint to a series I shot on film over the past couple of years. Those images also lent themselves nicely to pairing with lines from a poem, and can be seen here
Like Jennifer Bartlett, I went looking in the garden for an image, this time hoping to move further into abstraction. Selective focus brought two disparate elements together in the composition, the black and white abstracting the subject beyond specific recognition. I like the spatial relationship between the two areas in focus - as if they are exchanging polite small talk at a party. I also like the smoky black veins, as if one of the two is blushing as the conversation takes an unexpected turn.
I've written before about Jennifer Bartlett's year in France, when she produced a staggering body of work using the mundane garden of her temporary home as the source for the images. I found the work instructive about how using a variety of approaches can teach our eye a great deal regardless of subject matter. Looking around today for a subject for daily practice, I realized that I sit in our garden at the moment, enjoying the rhododendrons and iris in bloom. Yet flowers are a subject that is difficult to approach without falling into standard renditions of "beauty", and so I rarely use them as a source material. However, today I got caught up in the potential for more abstract compositions in the garden, picking out tiny, delicate details in a sea of tones and colours, in a way making the actual subject matter irrelevant yet also making a bold declaration of "beauty".
Nothing prosaic, just some dried flower petals that have been lying around in the studio for quite sometime. They've been bunched up in a pile, randomly dispersed, their colours and shapes antagonizing or complementing each other. It's that every changing dynamic that I find interesting.
I always find walking in the forest to be a meditative experience, an environment where senses are more acute. In the early morning or late afternoon, there are little scenes lit with filtered light, as if the forest is drawing one's attention to its tiny jewels. I came upon this scene, the quality of light on the rock and foliage just sublime.
I've recently (in the last year or so) slowly started to collect books of photography by artists who are generally known for their work in painting or sculpture. So far I have books of photographs by Jim Dine, Gerhard Richter, Kiki Smith and Cy Twombly (I may be missing a few names here). Twombly is an example of an artist who made photographs on an on-going basis, although these were not exhibited for a long time since they were generally visual notes to himself. They were generally photos of things lying around his studio and the studios of other artists. What I find endearing about the Twombly photographs is the link between their quality of blurriness, shapes and tones with those qualities of his paintings and drawings. Tonight I put together a little still life in the studio, which ironically consisted of elements I would not normally find in my studio, were it not doing dual duty at the moment as my "camp kitchen" during the renovations. I like the way this image turned out - the somewhat incomplete shapes of the two objects, the varying tones and physical imperfections.
The tide was out very far today, as I went beach combing in the misty rain. There were rocks that are rarely above the water line, glistening black underneath their mantle of blackish green vegetation. And like an old dowager dressed in her finest, there were some shining pearls dotted amongst the rocks. Half shells that remained embedded, presenting their beautiful white interiors. I was taken by the sharp contrast between glistening white and glistening black.
We recently installed a skylight in the kitchen that has completely changed the quality of light in that room, and the adjoining hallway. I liked the soft light on this wall in the hall, the emphasis of the shape with shadow and light in the small cutout.
The title of this blog is taken from Alexander McCall Smith's 44 Scotland Street series of books. Bertie is a wee precocious boy who's not allowed to be a child. His mother has grand plans for him, and has organized "The Bertie Project" to educate him well beyond his years. This blog is meant to be my own personal "Bertie Project" - a way to lead a more enriched life.