5.3.15

Just one more time?












I had a lovely bunch of spring crocuses ready for this week's blog, then on Monday morning we woke up to snow.

We were on our way to the National Concert Hall. The Gloaming a group of musical wizards led by Martin Hayes, were about to play to a packed house. It's like Irish traditional music, jazz and trance blended into a new genre, uniquely theirs. 

When Martin, the King of the Faeries takes off with this wild fiddle playing, the rest of them follow, barely hanging onto his coat-tails.  And then the audience is swept away with them, until we are all circling the lofty hall soaring through these dramatic riffs, in the flow of the old stories from the time before time. 


Even their opening piece of about 15 minutes long, got a standing ovation.....

Then afterwards, fan that I am didn't I run into Martin standing beside the cloakroom just as I collected my coat, twas still sleeting and snowing a bit. He held out his hand and I told him about my favourite quote of his "knowing the wisdom of what's all around you and playing that" and how it relates to contemplative photography. (I now KNOW he has a set of gossamer wings hidden under those clothes) 

They play in Australia and New Zealand next week.  Never, ever pass up a chance to spend an evening with them.....








26.2.15

Friendship








There was a smudge of navy blue painted onto a peachy sky. Nothing had changed but the eery manifestation of fading light, on a February evening. 

A unique set of moments. And WE were there. 

The camera captured the scene. But the sound of the moorhens cooing, and of our footsteps through the darkening meadow remain only as memories captured in our hearts, forever. 




22.2.15

Comeragh Mountains










The Comeragh Mountains lie towards the west of County Waterford. All year long we can track the sun as it sets further north or south along the high ridges, from one solstice extreme to the other. Like our elders, we tell the season and the hour by it.

The weather comes to us from these mountains too and so every morning we check to see what's on it's way. As in the old joke, if we can see the mountains there is rain coming and if we can't see the mountains it is already raining. 

Up here now there's a bitter wind: eyes watering with warm tears, breath fogging up the viewfinder. The walk to the waterfall has us bent double against the force of it.

Over the other side beyond the summit, the road heads out west towards the Atlantic; Dungarvan, Youghal, Cork, Killarney, Dingle. 

And as we turn for home I remember that it's time to start planning a longer road trip again......





15.2.15

On being alone










Sometimes aloneness is confused with loneliness.  I know both and find that loneliness creates a heartache while solitude feels more like a salve to the soul. In some way loneliness and solitude are opposite states of being.

In any visual practice solitude is key. Cutting out noise and taking yourself deeper into that world is a crucial starting point. It doesn't really matter where you do this. It doesn't matter either what results you get. The practice is to see and be.

Learning to be alone is some of it. As soon as I am with another, my attention is on them and I am especially programmed in this (you may not be.)  At a certain stage in the creative process, being truly alone frees up attention and allows you to focus on your process.

Paradoxically you will soon find you are not so alone at all. What's around you will start to sing and dance with you. You will notice the mysterious intensity in stillness. I find this more in some places than others.  It's like there are different levels of vibration and you can sense this immediately.

At this point many of you will be able to recognise your own prayerful practice or idea of God in the spiritual connection you might feel in a place? As a fuzzy agnostic who feels much more connected to the vast unknowns, this practice is a kind of soulful "human" experience for me. Either way there is a special alchemy in it and maybe a new way for all of us to connect to mystery no matter what our beliefs are.

 Giving yourself fully to any given moment is an integral part of our human experience with or without a camera. But with a camera this attentive solitude becomes an enriching Contemplative Photography Practice deepening the moment and then capturing it forever.




For more places with vibrations visit the If old stones could talk Gallery











8.2.15

Studying light











I'm going to write more about contemplative photography and unravelling what it means. How it can enrich your life and your creative practice, no matter what that is. How it can help to infuse more soul into your work. How it can help to develop your visual sensibilities and enhance the quality of what you do.

Its just like any other contemplative practice, a very personal experience. But the inklings I am following for 2015 suggest that my own developing practice might be something worth sharing. I'd love to know if there are questions you would ask about either improving your photography or about a contemplative approach to photography? Just leave a comment with your thoughts or questions and it will help me greatly in knowing where to begin with this.....or even if to begin!

Light is everything, and I once spent a full year studying nothing else. It is a wonderful starting point for observation; for seeing everything with new eyes. These rare icy mornings can be overcast and misty. But sometimes there is a delicious combination of ice and sunlight which creates little rainbow coloured bubbles. Known in photography as bokeh, it's from a Japanese word meaning blur or haze.

Today it's like the morning sun just spread handfuls of silvery bokeh glitter on everything.....

These photos were taken at ground level with a fully open aperture and very particular conditions that don't happen around here too often. That moment when the ice softens and the moisture picks up the light just enough to shine.

If you are interested in beginning a photography practice then start by studying light. Where the sun rises and sets. How subjects alter at different times of the day. The way the seasons influence the shadow falls on the landscape. How light falling softly on a child's face creates a special radiance.

Meanwhile in the spirit of contemplative photography look out for what is going on around you and above all else open your heart to it......







1.2.15

Contemplative photography












Everything is in flux. Isn't it the basis of physics? 

The small birds flit and watch. They hardly stop for a moment, always listening and alert. Those rare times when they settle are all the more delicious. Their stillness can catch me holding my breath in the moment.

While I observe them, I am wondering about the kind of photography I am aspiring to? 

It's not easy to explain in words but I am exploring again what it means to be a contemplative photographer.  The world is just there, outside the back door. The pictures come from any given day and then these words come from that. 

One of my favourite quotes "knowing the simple wisdom of what's around you and playing that" from Martin Hayes, the County Clare born fiddler sums it up. Every day I am knowing the simple wisdom a little bit more. 

Contemplative photography slows down the heart rate because it is a kind of meditation. Through the lens, everyday stuff is captured and some kind of alchemy is infused into that image. Some part of a moment that never happens exactly that way again. Today the lens rests on this Robin, singing in the coldest morning; it's colour and spirit, it's moments of intense aliveness.

And then that aliveness feeds mine. And my hope? That sharing these moments with you feeds your aliveness too.


And there are more Irish birds here in the Bird Gallery





24.1.15

Seeing red










It's not something we see around here in the dead of winter. Red, the colour of vibrance, heat, attention. So any little pop of red here on the lane is precious and impossible to ignore.

I've gone through most of life not wanting to stand out or be too brash. The (so called) worst thing a girl can be, is a bit of a show off. And yet when I meet a young girl with a twinkling sense of her own mischief I love it. Don't you?

Look here how a bit of showing off cheers up the day, sparkles in the greyness of January and brings such happiness? And anyway for a photographer, one of the ground rules is always photograph RED!









19.1.15

Inklings





What if you followed every inkling, hunch or hint at a possible good idea? If you stretched your legs out beyond your comfort zone? If you trusted that these inklings would become their own story?







On the misty drive through South Kilkenny, nothing to see, hidden landscapes. Favourite fields and places blanketed in fog. In the distance the great house invisible today. But up close, the trees loom out of the background. Their huge branches hugging the dim light.







The silence of life on this road. The twists and bends of rural life. The car door slams and the soft shoe shuffle of this wayfaring photographer saves the day. The vaguest hint of shape and shadow. 

Following an inkling that it's not all about light and certainty......











14.1.15

A hint of frost












The sky changes by the minute. As I am writing this, the calm ice covered landscape I was loving this morning is being battered by a westerly gale and driving heavy rain. Unsettling and mind numbingly grey to boot.

I could complain, moan, slump. Every part of me wants to go horizontal, hide under the warm duvet, dream about Greece. The evening is setting in again and the heat will have to be cranked up another few notches.

Winter can sometimes be a matter of holding on for dear life until the light returns. A time of hibernation and low energy. So I write out the slump here and ride out the darkness in my head. A combination of gritting the teeth and letting go the effort. 

The news is bad here but worse in other places. The fragility of life and the lack of certainty seeps through every bit of the veneer. Uncontainable. 

The silvery foliage I snapped in the frosty early hours lights up the screen. I put on another pair of socks knowing that the only thing to do is get back to work.















13.1.15

Winter blues










Winter reveals what's underneath; a rusty gate usually overwhelmed by briars, the cattle shed at the ruined cottage. Tantalising glimpses into what is out of reach during the leafier seasons.

Strangely today it was all in shades of blue, or at least that's how I saw things under the cool January sky.....