Monday, January 31, 2011

Thank you!

Happy Dutch Snowman is happy!

Just wow.

Well, I'm about to go and amend this morning's post; two people have formed an unholy alliance, and are buying my crutches. How cool is that!

I'll thank 'em publicly as soon as I find out whether or not they're willing to be called out.

In the meantime, I'm still selling prints, but the funds will be going into the general 'Pay Arwen's medical bills' pool.

If anyone has already purchased a print, and would prefer the money to go elsewhere, contact me and we can chat.

Thanks, guys!

Trees and snow, somewhere near Maastricht

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Operation Cripple Crutches - Buy the Prints!

UPDATE - Thanks to two secret squirrels, I will soon have shiny crutches!
Prints are still on sale; profits will be going into my general medical expenses pool. See this evening's post for details.

Most of you know that I use crutches. In fact, from the amount of time I spend complaining about them, I expect you're all aware of the fact. And given the complaining, you're probably also aware of just how difficult/painful/damaging it is to be using them long-term.

But, my physio called yesterday to tell me about some new ones she'd seen an ad for, which she thought I might be interested in. Take a look at the smartCRUTCH.

smartCRUTCH - they even come in pink!

Exciting, aren't they! Other than the horrible name, that is. I keep wanting to yell about intelligent crotches - but that may be just me.

I want a pair. Unfortunately, it looks like they'll cost me around $200 Australian, once I figure in shipping and so on. And while I have room on the credit card for them, with uni fees due and other incidentals, paying them back will be problematic.

So, enter Operation Cripple Crutches.

I've put together three images from my Chinese Gardens images. One of them y'all have seen before; it's the most popular image from the free desktop wallpapers I made last year, and a favourite of mine as well. The other two are new. I'm selling 8 x 10 inch prints, unframed, of each of these images for $30 (plus $5 postage if you need it sent to you, either in Australia or internationally).

If you can't afford a print (and have a thing for strangely disturbing art), stick around - I'll be posting a booklet from my latest finished project in the next few days.

In the meantime, if you're looking for some art for a wall or a workdesk, or maybe a present for someone, you know what to do!

Waterfall, Chinese gardens
Waterfall, Chinese Gardens

Buy Print

Bamboo over water
Bamboo over water

Buy Print

Quiet pool and sunlight, Chinese gardens
Quiet Pool and Sunlight

Buy Print

And thanks, y'all!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Wanted: Advice and minions

I'm slowly wading through the images from the recent trip - expect a post on Dubai soon. In the meantime though, I could use some suggestions.

I've been wanting to do some more of the long-exposure night photos and pinhole photos that i love so dearly, but sadly, my pain levels are currently kicking my butt. Chocolate Mark and I went out on Saturday to spend some time in the cemetery making pinhole images. We managed about 30 minutes before my camera battery died, but even spending as much time as possible sitting down, I'm still paying for the time on my feet two days later. It's very discouraging.

Pinhole afternoon, St Stephen's cemetery
I love making pinhole images, but the long exposures are proving too hard on my feet

So I've been thinking about what I can do to make excursions for long exposure photos easier on myself, with a bit of input from M. Today, we bought the latest in high tech mobility equipment - a folding camp stool. I'll carabeena clip it to my camera bag - hopefully it won't be too unwieldy.

High tech mobility aid
Hopefully the shiny new camp stool makes longer exposures less painful

I'm also buying myself a wireless remote trigger for my camera. I currently have a cable release, but I still have to stand up to turn it on or off. I'm hoping that having a glorified TV remote for the camera will make things slightly easier.

Other than that, the only other idea I can come up with is to find a volunteer or two to come on night ambles and carry some of the gear for me, so I don't have to pack everything down each time I want to move locations. Is anyone interested in some slow night-time rambling around the Inner West?

And does anyone have any other suggestions for easing the strain of slow photography on my feet?

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Snapping away

I don't know about you, but it takes me some time to get familiar enough with something, be it a person, place, or thing, in order to photograph it well - or at least photograph it in a way that satisfies me. I'm made especially aware of this when it comes time to edit travel photos. I'm editing the images from our recent trip to Europe, and am being made especially aware of how familiarity affects the way I photograph.

Snow, Bridge & Bicycle
The Netherlands is both lovely & photogenic - shame I couldn't make the most of it.

If I'm working somewhere I'm familiar with, I'm usually reasonably happy to take my time. To find the little details that add depth to an image, and make pictures that work as images, not quickly-hazarded copies of whatever I see in front of me.

When I'm somewhere new, however, I get snap-happy. This trip, we spent five weeks overseas, and I've brought back a little over 3,000 photos. Admittedly, because my feet issues make it next to impossible to stand without swaying, I take 3 images at once to be reasonably sure of getting at least 1 in focus. But that still means over a thousand images from those five weeks, many of which I'll most likely end up culling.

Trees in Forest

I think the problem is that when I know I'll only be somewhere a short time, or I'm unlikely to get back to, I rush. I quickly frame my images with a vague idea of a composition, and snap away, without actually checking to see if the image meets the one in my head. This usually results in a bunch of over-excited and poorly translated images that were very evocative in person, but are flat and lifeless as images.

It's the premature ejaculation of photography, and most annoying.

The problem is compounded, of course, by the disability and chronic pain issues. These days, I'm always aware, consciously or otherwise, of my increasing pain levels as I stand or move around. It makes it that much more difficult to take my peaceful time in making an image, when I'm all too aware of how little functional time I have.

So what's the solution? I was thinking of going back to film for a time, for the almost enforced slow down, but for me at least, working solely with film just isn't practical any more - or financially viable. If my digital camera and lenses were built to work comfortably on manual focus, I'd switch to that, and use the extra focusing time to also focus on the image in front of me rather than the vague idea in my head, but that's not something the non-high end digital cameras are designed for, sadly.

Snow on the Fields
I think I need to carry a chair with me when wandering around places like this for photographs.

In the absence of outside props, then, I'll have to make the change for myself. I'm going to try and curate my images in-camera, before I press the shutter button, rather than on the computer. I'll also try and find ways of photographing more comfortably, even if that means carrying a chair with me! And for a little while, I'll make myself come back from an outing with no more than 5 images, not 50 or 500.

Any other ideas? Those of you who photograph, how do you deal with the digital urge to spray & pray?

Sunday, December 5, 2010

It's snowing in Amsterdam

Snow on bicycles, Amsterdam. iPhone photo.

Well. From the sunny summer Botanic Gardens in Sydney, to Amsterdam in the middle of a snowfall is a bit of a jump, but that's where I find myself right now. I'm currently sitting in the cafe at FOAM photography museum in Amsterdam, sipping nice warm coffee while snow falls heavily outside. There's a flight of stairs climbing past the window next to me, and I'm watching it mound up with piles of feathery white snow flakes. Walking down here from our hotel, M and I also became walking mounds of snow, and had to pause at the entrance and de-mound ourselves, lest we end up streaming with icy water the instant we walked into the warm.

I'm enjoying the snow, but I still find it deeply weird. Think about it - feathery ice drifting down from the sky - how odd is that! And even odder is the idea that people voluntarily choose to live in places where it gets cold enough for this to happen regularly. Weirdoes!

The strangeness of snow aside, I've really enjoyed Amsterdam. It's very different to Sydney, of course. You can see the strata of the city's centuries in the houses and canals, as ech generation inhabits the city and adds and remove bits to create their own landscapes. The 16th century mingles happily with the 17th and 18th, while sleek and edgy additions from the 21st try to edge out dated-looking scraps from the 20th.

Unlike London, though, this commingling of past and present doesn't seem to have mired its population in the past, nor has living in each others' pockets made them perpetually angry and withdrawn. I like it.

Of course, there are reams of photographs, but unfortunately, I can't actually upload any! My poor little netbook is too slow to manage a photo editing program, and has too little memory to store the pictures. So you're all stuck with iPhone photos until I get home. I've been making a lot of film images this trip as well, with a little camera I put together from a kit - but it will probably be even longer before those see the light of day, given my backlog of negatives that need scanning!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Foto Phriday - Botanica

Digitalis purpurea - Foxglove
Digitalis purpurea - Foxglove
Traditionally used for dropsy and other heart conditions. There's a possibly apocryphal story of a doctor discovering it's uses by talking to an old woman in country England about her remedies, then extracting the isolated component digoxin, which is still in use today. It's quite poisonous, though, if you don't need it, so I don't recommend adding it to salads!

The Friday-before-yesterday was to be my last Foto Phriday for some time, so I made the most of a lovely summer's afternoon and went to the herb garden in the Sydney Botanic Gardens for some photography.

Most of you already know that I'm a herbalist, so it will come as no suprise that I love herbs and herb gardens, and will happily spend hours in one, wandering around cooing to the plants and boring people with me with excited stories about the various histories, uses and quirk of each herb.

I'm gradually building up a library of herb images; partly in the vague hope of ending up with a viable commercial resource, but mainly for myself and the sheer love of herbal medicine & its history.

Symphytum officinale - Comfrey
Symphytum officinale - Comfrey
Comfrey is very useful for helping to heal sprains, strains and broken bones. Unfortunately its use in Australia is restricted due to its supposed content of toxic alkaloids. Don't get me started on how much of a beat up that is!

Sadly, I didn't come away with too many images that I was happy with - I do hate a pedestrian herb photo, and it's so hard to avoid cliche. But what I do have I like, so that's the main thing. Besides, it's the perfect excuse to spend more time loitering with herbs!

Rosa 'Fantin-Latour' - Rose
Rosa 'Fantin-Latour' - Rose
Roses have been used throughout Europe and the Middle East for centuries for a whole range of therapeutic benefits, as well as their obvious beauty. I think just about every virtue and beauty has been ascribed to them at one stage or another - is there any other flower with such a cluster of attributed meanings?

Friday, October 8, 2010

Reading the tea leaves

Seasoning the new teapot

I'm writing this post in a Chinese teahouse in Surry Hills, Sydney, sipping a rare and precious rock tea, with the owner's very well behaved poodle sitting on the chair beside me. Very civilised, yes?

Tea drinking is a ritual for me - sometimes a very quick ritual, but a ritual none the less. It's a touchstone of calm and gratitude, and a chance to sit with the deep, steady serenity that lives within us.

That's what serenity is, really. It's easy to feel a facile simulacrum of serenity, the easy calm of a good massage, or the hypnotic music in the local New Agey shop. True serenity, though, wells from within. It's the calmness to steadily face life as it is, unshaken by the storms. That steadfast equilibrium that lets us smile, even when things around us ostensibly suck.

How is this relevant to photography? I've been thinking about the themes in my work, lately, and it struck me at about the third cup of tea that this serenity is one of the most constant and powerful themes in my images. It's a state of being that I want to share with people; the strength to calmly face the world without the assumptions and compartments we normally impose on life around us.

I rarely say this directly, though. I'm not fond of straightforward statements in art; they're too simple and too easily discounted. This serenity, though, I think is a message straight from my subconscious to yours.

A lot of meaning for a single pot of tea, yes? It's a good thing the tea has depth enough to take it. Maybe you could have a cup with me?

New teapot plus tea