Well, hello. I can hardly believe it’s been so long since I sat down to write to you. Four months I think. I kept thinking about writing, and thinking and thinking, but never actually getting around to it. Until now, this moment, that I’ve taken to sit and write.
Mostly I’ve been thinking about why I make art, why exactly I create. Creating feels as though it’s part of my dna. I’ve been drawing or writing or making things for as long as I can remember. Creating gives me a sense of peace, brings me joy and also a sense of place in the world. It’s also good for my mental health. For a long time I’ve fought an inner war with this fact. I’ve hated that art is good for my mental health. I’ve asked myself why can’t I be making art simply because I want to, rather than because I know it’s good for me mentally. My inner monologue around this has at times been nasty and at others pleasant. Something that I think is a lot more commonplace than we realise, especially considering we rarely talk to anyone – other than our therapist perhaps – about the deep dark thoughts we have.
Recently I finally decided to embrace the mental health benefits of creating. I asked myself what is the actual point of fighting something that is demonstratively good for me? I couldn’t come up with a decent answer. After all, I exercise because its good for my mental and physical health and freely admit that. So why not look at creating in the same way?
I would like to share more of that here, the intersection of creativity and mental health. They are a large part of my life and perhaps they might be for you to.
These photos were taken during my holiday last week. It was late afternoon, we were making our way back to our hotel to rest before heading out for evening activities. I wanted to capture the city but wasn’t feeling it. Then we stumbled across this ballerina, busking in the heart of the city. We only caught the last of her performance, but seeing her dancing, such beauty and strength invigorated me, calling me to capture her but then going on to take more photos. It’s like I was jolted out of tiredness and spurred on to find other beautiful things.
Do you have a creative outlet that eases anxiety or depression? Or simply let’s you get into the zone, allowing you to drown out the world and focus on the thing you’re working on?
I’d love to hear from you. You can comment here or if you’d prefer send me an email. I love engaging with people about their creative outlets.
As I write this I find it difficult to believe that 12 months ago I was China for the first time, alone, exhausted, ill-prepared for the oppressive humidity at Shanghai Airport, trying to make my way through customs with no knowledge of Chinese & no clear idea of where I needed to be going. I was attending a conference for work & due things going on in my life I wasn’t able to bring my husband along with me to enjoy the experience of a visiting a country I’d not been to before, nor was I able to extend my stay beyond the five days of the conference.
On the second last day of my stay I had a few hours of free time so I joined a couple of people I met at the conference on a walk to try to make our way to a pagoda located on the top of a mountain, that could be seen from our hotel. We weren’t able to get to it so instead walked the gardens located at the base of the mountain enjoying their tranquility & beauty.
I was amazed to see the air full of dragonflies. They flitted around, paying no attention to me standing there, gobsmacked to see so many of them at once. I guess the combination of the humidity & the abundance of water provides a perfect home for them. They can be just seen in the photo above as mere specks in the sky; I didn’t have a lens suitable to capture them close enough but I didn’t want to edit them out of the photo either.
Travelling somewhere new is an experience like no other. The excitement of new surrounds & the possibilities of what photographic opportunities might arise cannot be matched. Unfortunately I don’t get the opportunity to travel to new places often. I do visit Melbourne a few times throughout any given year so I’ve been trying to focus my attention on capturing the things about the city that to me make Melbourne feel like Melbourne. That allow me to look at them when I’m home & think yes that photos speaks of Melbourne, at least to me anyway.
I wonder if I can create photos like this of my local area? Can I look at the places I’ve traversed so often & find something of interest in them? I think I’ll give it a try. It cannot hurt & it might just help me improve my photographic skills. Regardless of the outcome of this challenge I’ll write about it here. Hopefully I’ll have a photo or two I’ll be happy to share sometime in the near future.
Yesterday I was listening to Episode 5 of The Photo Podcast Network’s Q & A show, with hosts Scott Bourne. & Rick Sammon. A listener asked why were they not able to produce the same image in the camera as exists in their head. One of the reasons suggested as causing difficulty was that sometimes time is needed between taking the photo & then judging it’s quality.
I am very harsh on myself when it comes to critiquing my creativity, particularly when it comes to my photography. However around 18 months ago I realised that wherever possible I need to leave newly taken photos alone for a while before determining the quality of what I produced. This realisation came to me when I was searching for an old photograph that I knew I’d taken. As I revisited older photos it occurred to me that many of my photos are not as bad as I first thought. A lot had been left untouched, essentially left to take up hard drive space & nothing more. Yet time made me see that perhaps I’d judged them harshly.
So now I like to leave a series of photos for at least a few weeks before critiquing them. Somehow time makes them a little bit better.
The above photo of a lion cub at Dubbo Western Plains Zoo is an example of letting a photograph percolate with time. When I took photos during the day I had in mind what I was hoping to achieve. I quickly browsed my images later that day & was a little disappointed. The high I was still on from having a fantastic day at the zoo made me write off most of the photos as not very good.
I’ve revisited this series of photos over the past few days & I’m pleased to realise that there are some photos here that work. Some of them might even be worthy of printing & hanging on my wall.
I recently had the pleasure of being onboard the PS Melbourne with over 120 other passengers and crew as she cruised along the Murray River making her way to Wentworth, in doing so leaving the Murray River & entering the waters of the Darling River. The day trip starting at 8am & finishing at 4:30pm was thought to be PS Melbourne’s first time cruising this route since becoming a passenger boat many years ago.
The day had quite the historic feel about it, with many of the passengers reminiscing about their first cruise onboard the PS Melbourne or the time they first met the man who made the Melbourne the popular tourist boat she is today, Mr Alby Pointon. Commentary provided by the Captains also pointed out historic things relevant to both the Melbourne & its owners.
Mr Pointon’s Granddaughter Ashton Kreuzer had the idea to run this cruise to kick off weekend celebrations at the Wentworth Junction Rally.
Ashton did an outstanding job, ensuring passengers were well fed, provided with coffee, tea or hot chocolate to keep the cold air at bay and be entertained with art & music.
As I’ve mentioned before it is not often that I find myself on the water, so I took the opportunity to make the most of it by taking my camera kit with me. Cruising at the slow pace the Melbourne takes afforded me the time to not only enjoy the scenery but to capture scenes ordinarily not seen by myself.
However the above photo was taken in the minutes before the Melbourne left the banks of the Murray where she was moored. Sometimes these moments of ordinariness are as important as those that are more historic. Here she is, the PS Melbourne doing what she does more often than not: taking on passengers who will for the first time or the upteenth time be settling in for a journey on the Murray enjoying the tranquility on offer by travelling at a much slower pace. It captures the beginning of another journey -albeit this day was more historic than most.
One thing that is nice about digital photography is the plethora of options available to post process images & the ease of obtaining the software & learning how to use it. I mostly stick to using CaptureOne, but every so often I like to ‘play’ with an image to see what else can be done with it.
In the case of the above photo I’ve used Corel’s Paint It to convert a panoramic iPhone photo into a water colour sketch. On becoming a water colour sketch the fine detail in the photo is lost, though I still feel it conveys a sense of the location.
The sketch also provides inspiration. I’m slowly teaching myself how to use water colours; my preference is water colour sketching. Perhaps one day I won’t need software to create this kind of look. Although the beauty of Paint It is I’m not limited to water colours. There is among others oil painting & pastels, two things I know I’ll never learn. Transforming my photos to digital paintings will suffice.
Here is another instance where being on foot has allowed me to photograph an image I’ve thought about numerous times when I’ve been a passenger in a car, without having had the ability to stop to allow me to take photos.
I love the rhinoceros statues found throughout Dubbo. They immediately conjure images of the zoo in my mind & something about their various incarnations & locations brings a smile to my face. Of them all the mother & baby outside the zoo itself are my favourite. The material they have been constructed of implies a sense of life to the statues & it’s because of this material that they appear different every time I see them. The shadows in the crevices of their skin I find particularly fascinating & I wonder if I got that close to a real rhinoceros would I notice that too?
I think taking the time to experience a destination on foot is by far the greatest opportunity to get to know that place. On the flip side, experiencing a location by car does allow me to see a lot more of a place & if time during that visit allows or perhaps a return visit takes place then I can take a tour on foot of the places that captured my imagination while I was a passenger. Perhaps that is the best of both worlds?
Whilst taking a holiday is good for the soul, sometimes it can also be good for the mind. On holiday only days ago, I made sure I took some time out from catching up with my dearest friend to look for things of interest to photograph in her home town.
I had no expectations or goals to meet. I was on foot & alone which meant I was able to take as much time as I needed at any given location. I was happy to meander & observe the world around me.
I found myself lost to the beauty around me, capturing some of it with my camera but also happy to simply observe it. The sounds around me were particularly electric, consisting mainly of the raucous squarks of sulphur crested cockatoo’s. I stopped & observed them a number of times during my walk, enjoying the site of large flocks of them & marvelling when for a few brief seconds they ceased their seemingly endless noise.
When my few hours of photography time was done I felt relaxed & at ease. That’s when I know a photography outing has been a success. Sure the resulting photographs are important to me, but equally as important is the feeling of reconnection, mediation & happiness. All I need to do is work out how to get that into my life a bit more often.
I love the opportunities that are presented when holidaying at a location that I’ve stayed at before. Although nothing beats the thrill and excitement of visiting a new destination, there is satisfaction to be found in returning to a place I know. It becomes intimate to me in a way, by knowing where good coffee and food is to be found, or which side streets to use to get somewhere quicker. Or even knowing that wandering the length of a particular street will provide ample architecture to photograph/
Sometimes it’s a simple as returning to a site I admire, preferably when the conditions are favourable for photographing it in its glory. But other times magic can be found by viewing a location from the eyes of someone else. Whether it’s a self guided walking tour, a thematic tour (architecture, food, drink) or a guided tour by someone who knows their city and its intricacies, viewing a place in this way is always fruitful.
Last year David and I took a short break in Adelaide, with the primary goal of attending a show we had tickets for. We took the opportunity to do something different, and paid to be part of a walking tour of Adelaide city with Graeme Fanning of Down To Earth Tours. Surprisingly it was the two of us and Graeme, which made for a terrific opportunity to drink in his knowledge of Adelaide. For whilst I have visited Adelaide multiple times, I had never really taken the opportunity to learn about how the city came to be. It was a fascinating walk, and would recommend it to anyone who is interested in this kind of thing. We enjoyed it so much that if given the time on a return visit to Adelaide we would take one of the other tours on offer. And we’ll certainly take tours like these in other locations we visit.