This and That & Everything!


If I ask you what you did, saw, heard, smelled, touched and tasted yesterday ...'

Alan Watts, The Book: On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are

The extract was longer but perhaps this is enough to remind us to leave some time for our senses to do their work ... to smell the flowers perhaps.   There are more quotes from his book here.

These days find me rushing, like a mad woman, through life.  Cleaning, organising, packing, remembering, searching, sometimes finding. 

I am so tired I will probably sleep all the way to Italy on Wednesday.  Meanwhile the Belgian bloke is having a shoulder scan, this week I hope.  He's been in pain for far too long now and physio isn't helping at all.  It seems he has either torn a muscle or ... he needs something for inflammation of a joint somewhere in there.  We'll be so glad when he can use his arm again, and sleep without waking when he turns.

Jess has broken her finger.  Ignoring it didn't speed healing and so she's 'limping around' in terms of what she can do with that ridiculously painful middle finger.

Miss 10 has taken to lolling about and generally enjoying her summer holidays. And Sander is crossing Belgium 5 days per week for work, as usual.

I suspect, if we sat down together and talked of what we noticed yesterday, we might just be a small group of grouchy stressed people who noticed not much at all ... except Miss 10 who may have noticed things. 

I talked to my Dad this morning.  I wanted to wish him well for his hospital tests on Tuesday but, in good news really, his tests were on Monday and he had come through the actuality of them really well.  It was lovely to be talking to him as he had worried me with talk of having to go off his heart medication for the test.  He's staying at my sister's tonight.  They didn't want him to go home alone.

And so the new website needs fine-tuning.  There are emails to write and to reply to.  I'm behind on my writing course, yet again ...   I'm in and out with the laundry, packing ,and ironing while searching for some really important notes I had made.

But I did finish the family portrait series of shots I took last Sunday.  I'm so pleased with the results.  They were another really special family full of adorable little folk, as seen below.


On Portraiture ...

I love the work of portrait photography ...

My idea is that portrait photography is an attempt to put someone so at ease with who you are that they give you something of who they really are.

I think everybody is capable of being photographed in a way that is beautiful. 

It's about letting the real self bubble up to the surface.  It can take time but it's more than worth it in the end.


The Fabulous Ms Y.

We had the fabulous Ms Y in our lives quite regularly for a while.  Hopefully Jess will find work and we can have her back.  She brings the sunshine with her.

Anyway, she was (hopefully) bemused to realise that I view any person standing still as a photography subject.  She was leaving on her bike when the phone rang.  I went to work with my camera ...

Guitar Girl

Tickets have been booked and I'm off to Genova in February.  I cannot begin to tell you how good it feels to have the promise of wandering back in my life.  It's time ... more than time.

Miss 9 and I have begun reading a new book series together.  It's delightfully creepy.  And I have 'Italian for Dummies' here on my desk.  Now to open it and begin serious work.

I have been struggling to fulfil my daily foto commitment.  And I'm intrigued because I see it's so much about my inability to give myself too much time off.   And the battle is there in the fact that I can't 'snapshot' this commitment.  I climb into photography, working my way towards the right angle perhaps, seeking out the right light. I have to be prepared to do ... just do the photography for an hour each day.  It's an interesting battle.

And emails ...   I've been caught up in a few email exchanges that make me stop to take notes.  And I'm printing out interesting blog posts and articles, sticking them into my journal. 

My super-talented niece called Katie sent me an email containing the static digital image she made at school and it's stunning.  I must ask permission to blog it.  Katie's the one in the foreground.

So, I did a 'girl and her guitar' series for the foto-a-day shoot today.  I was using my 17-40mm lens on the Canon EOS 5D MkII and I was all but climbing onto the couch as I took the image you find at the end here.  I think, in future, I might just stick with my 70-200mm lens.  I love that lens.  It's my way of seeing ... and being. Potentially my photography subjects may appreciate a bit of distance too.

Autumn ...

hello, autumn...  hello, smell of smoke in the air.  hello, hot cups of ginger tea with a cookie on the side, hello chilly evenings, hello colors spreading from mountaintops down, down down into the valleys here below.

Nina Bagley, extract from her blog Ornamental

If I had to describe the place I would most like to live then a location like Nina's would be high up on the list. Her blog is the place where I go when the need to wander off and be quiet is upon me and I can't physically go anyplace.

In fact there's a novel I've been writing since those days when I was an airforce officer's wife.  It's a story that has retained the same main character but one that has reshaped itself as I have moved countries and lives.  She always has a dog, lives someplace beautiful but slightly isolated, and her life has been simplified. 

She was a war photographer, so I researched post-traumatic stress and Iraq and the Green Zone and so many other places where people like her go, filled with the conviction that if people just knew the truth of those places and situations, they would rein in the monsters who create wars. 

My bookshelves have more than a few war journalists and photographer biographies sitting there, next to the climbers stories.  Another people who fascinate me.

But there's still no dog in my life.  Everyone feels compelled to remind me of the responsibility when I bring up my desire to have a dog again.  They tell me ... the woman who has had dogs since she was 9 years old, that it's a big decision.

I don't roll my eyes ... well, not visibly but it does get boring.  I rode horses, had cats, my daughter had a pony.  There are things I just know by now.

Another birthday soon.  Another year older and, oddly enough, I'm enjoying these years.  I'm becoming less concerned about what people think of me, how I 'should' look, and I'm turning down the self-censorship dial on those things I would like to say directly. 

I learned the fine art of careful and considerate behaviour as a child, with a side-helping of all-consuming guilt if I slipped up and was honest or direct. It's almost fun unlearning these things.  Fun and frustrating, and challenging too, but as  long as I'm gentle ...

Autumn is here.  It was crisp out there this morning.  The pollution levels have been high recently.  Our city is split by a ring road that has some of the heaviest traffic loading in Europe.  We're a true crossroads and it's a nightmare living so close to a section of it.  And then there's the industrial pollution.

It takes about 3 days for my system to begin to clear when I flit off to Genova, that spot by the sea that is close to some beautiful hills and mountains. 

New Zealand ... out there the air was simply stunning. I would all but dance, delighting in the variety of scents the air carried as we journeyed there.

Wild thyme in Central Otago, then the seemingly limitless beech forests and lakes that give Fiordland that unforgettable smell.  The wild west coast of the South Island, with the Tasman Sea crashing on one side while, on the other, the Southern Alps roar up into the sky.  The scent of the sea and the glaciers, soaking wet glacial moraine and forests.

Mmmm, I'm not really a city girl ... must work that one out one day soon.

But today is all about packing and preparing for another journey.  My cousin continues her journey back to New Zealand on October 8.  We will say our farewells in Milan, after almost two months together.  It's been good having someone around who shares a history, whose mother was my mother's much-loved older sister.

Sometimes, over these weeks, I've looked into Mum's eyes - Julie's are almost exactly the same.  Mum died way back in 1999 and I've missed her often over the years.   Anyway, it has been a time of 'remember when ...' and of familiarity, of picking over old wounds, and creating new stories to tell next time we meet. 

We're off on a roadtrip to a part of Europe I haven't thought of exploring before.  Although, admittedly, I do find it hard to go past Genova ...

But anyway, meet Julie.  She was the model of choice one day out there in Piedmont on the photography workshop.  Sandy and I photographed her, delighting in the colourful backdrop Diana provided with her delicious use of colour.

Julie has eyes just like my mother's.

And back to work ...

We arrived home later than expected, caught up in the air-controllers strike, fortunate to have our flight only delayed by 4-5 hours.

I can't complain and would rather that air-controllers were well-paid and happy with their working conditions.  Lyon Airport isn't the worst airport in the world to get stuck in either.  I would have preferred it was Istanbul, as that is surely my favourite airport so far - free wifi and good food.

Lyon had great food.  We took the risk and paid 14euro for a main at the brasserie there.  It was the best airport meal ever however ... we surely paid for it.  We had tried the cheap route earlier in the day but it was 7 euro for a bag of potato chips and 2 bottles of water. 

We knew Belgium had 22 celsius but, of course, that did involve flying through a bumpy band of grey cloud and into rain.  Kind of 'tropical', if you really want to stretch the meaning of tropical.

Today has been all about unpacking, cleaning the house, and getting back on task with the photo-processing I couldn't do on holiday.  I'm pleased with how it's going but missing Doussard's mountains and surrounds.

The work in process ...

Portrait Series

There were problems with the colour in this image. It's heading toward midnight, and I decided to play a while in Photoshop. 

I have a more natural, unprocessed image of the same child but photoshop can be so much fun.  It took me into a world that felt like art, beyond the art of photography.

Dandelions ...

The common name dandelion (/ˈdændɨlaɪ.ən/ DAN-di-ly-ən, from French dent-de-lion, meaning "lion's tooth") is given to members of the genus, and like other members of the Asteraceae family, they have very small flowers collected together into a composite flower head. Each single flower in a head is called a floret. Many Taraxacum species produce seeds asexually by apomixis, where the seeds are produced without pollination, resulting in offspring that are genetically identical to the parent plant.

Source: Wikipedia

My Way ...

Chi trova un amico trova un tesoro.

Usually, when I head out to a photo-shoot, it's a new location, new people, new light.

Most times, nothing is known or certain ... it's a new beginning. 

I don't use lights, I demand nothing from people.  I don't have a routine. 

Each person, each family, each event is like an individual fingerprint and so I can't ask for the same thing.

I want them to be as they are, wear what they love, and I like it if they can take me to their favourite place.

Sometimes I check in to see if this way of working scares me.  But it doesn't.  It seems to be the thing I love doing best, that attempt to capture people as they are. 

And anyway, I get to meet people like Steven and Isabel and that ... that is treasure, to be sure.

Translation: He who finds a friend, finds a treasure.

Portrait Photography

Above all, life for a photographer cannot be a matter of indifference.

Robert Frank.

I love portrait photography. 

I enjoy people intensely and I think that informs the work that I do.  

My intention is always to show the person just how beautiful they really are ... without Photoshop.  No intervention required.  Really, show me something of your true self, something of your soul ... trust me, and I'll show you you. 

Not that those words are ever stated.  And as a photographer you need permeable boundaries on your own self.  It's good if you're gentle.  Be willing to show some of your soul too. 

Portrait photography, at it's best, is an exchange.  And it's about trust. 

I met a remarkable woman yesterday and I can't wait to write of her work here.  More to follow, just as soon as her website is up. 

Photographing People

I've been preparing for the photography workshop in Genova, thinking about all the things I know ... and finding stuff I didn't realise I knew.

When I make notes on portraiture, I include words like Trust and Respect.  Empathy.  Patience.  Engagement. Authenticity.

And it's not about acting or demanding or insisting.

People, when they're being photographed, are often fragile. They feel broken open, exposed, vulnerable.

You're asking them to show a little of their souls, to give you themselves in a relaxed state of being.

People often tell me they photograph badly but no, I think no one 'photographs badly'. I have this theory that it is a failure on the part of the photographer, to relax their client.  To engage.  To earn their trust.

When I work on a portrait shoot, I am almost skinless.  I don't want to be the boss, to be in control, to demand this expression, that pose, this place.

I want to go someplace my client loves.  A space where they can relax and feel comfortable.  I want to talk, and maybe walk a little.  I want to know who they are and how they want to be perceived.   I want to discover and capture their best selves.  The self they know and recognise. 

Sometimes, if it's a family portrait, I have asked the mum for a follow-up shoot alone because when you're a mum and a wife on a family shoot, you can miss out on being you.  Your own private individual you ... before you took on all those roles.

And it works.  I have photographed some beautiful strong confident women when they're off-duty as everything else.

Kids are something else again.  You need to engage, it needs to be fun, you need to be real.  They will know.  Bubbles have saved many a shoot when a child has grown bored or tired. 

Portraiture is all about a lot of things ... and then relaxing and enjoying that time spent together.  It's about gifting someone the beautiful things in them, and everyone has something.