Saturday Evening Post #153: When Nothing is Something.

Adventures in Visual Literacy.

Ahhhh, you’ve got that old Dejavu Feeling again!

I also apologise as there has been little to write about this end during the past week.  We have been in a lockdown hiatus.

I had a couple of interesting comments and emails regarding last week’s post, and at the same time had been following a Daoist website that talked about nothing as being something.

Let me briefly explain.
“Thirty spokes share the hub of a wheel;
yet it is its centre that makes it useful.

You can mould clay into a vessel;
yet, it is its emptiness that makes it useful.

Cut doors and windows from the walls of a house;
but the ultimate use of the house
will depend on that part where nothing exists.

Therefore, something is shaped into what is;
but its usefulness comes from what is not.”
Lao Tzu: Tao Te Ching

No Thing Ness is, it turns out, because of its usefulness, becomes a thing in itself.

The use of Negative Space as a photo composition element is like the hole in wheel, or the inside of the cup.  Useful because it is not the subject, yet. Provides a balance or harmony that gives the subject it’s power.

The lurking Minimalist inside me is always attracted to the simplicity of the hole in the wheel as much as the details on the spokes.
It makes us more aware of the importance of details in the subject.

It can be a contrast in sizes or volume that gives the subject some ‘breathing’ room.  As my old mentor, John Harris would add, it gives the subject a visual pause. Somewhere for the eye to relax.

And it allows the viewer to enter into the subject because of the mystery, and make up the rest of the story and emotion.

I found this motif on an early morning walk.  I see the building shape just about everyday, but with a dew on the structure and the reflection of the sky it turned into an abstract where the inside and outside spaces give little clue to the real world.

Nothing it seems is indeed Something.

Enjoy

 

 

Saturday Evening Post #152: Adventures in Visual Literacy

One of my previous mentors and a blog I follow, is David DuChemin. A practicing photographer, photo-journalist and mentor-trainer.
On a recent post, “What makes this image work”  David struck a note that parallels my own photo expression.

He talks about being able to de-construct the image to work out the elements that make it successful, and any that might detract from the story. Worth the read if you like to think about why some pictures are more memorable than others.

It is a process I’ve been fortunate to have been taught a long long time back when I was a mere wee broth of a photographer, and still wet behind the shutter button.

One of my great mentors, and a notable photographic friend and a staunch ally was, and I’ve mentioned him before in past blogs, John Harris.
John had a way of teaching that made people want to learn.  He would often say about deconstruction of a photo, “What we are looking for is the photo inside the photo.”

John and I first met when I was, for want of a better term, acting as Stage Manager for a major photographic convention and National Judging event.  Judging of National and International competitions is on par with any blood sport, and emotions, egos and competitive angst abound.
So it was not surprising that during the running of the event, as I was co-ordinating it, I was told, “John Harris is coming!”   Fear and trepidation would be the hallmark of such an appearance.  John will want to change the colour of the room. John will need those curtains to be pulled back (or forward, or removed), John, will bring his own equipment and the current gear will need to be removed. Don’t expect John to accept the furniture layout, it will need to be changed, etc, etc, and etc.
Quite the demand list it seemed.  Pity is we were running on a tight time schedule, a budget that didn’t exist and we had a power of work to get through in the time allotted. Changes, however small, were not going to happen, let alone be tolerated.
And certainly NOT on my Watch.

“John Harris is here” midway through the afternoon, I heard in hushed terms.
I expected some demi-god.  What I got was a pretty decent replica of my own Dad!

He did look the place over, suggest a few changes, we had some words, and eventually we arrived at what I expect could be called an amicable arrangement.  The show went on.

Something between us Clicked—to coin a photographic metaphor.   It was more than just respect.  We would go on to build a great relationship, built primarily around our mutual love of image, and as seekers of the story within.

So much so, that John spent a lot of time over my photos, and their progression, I reciprocated. A process that benefitted both our work.
Together we ran classes for visual literacy, and general photo training.
I was scheduled to run a two day event in a small country town, and while the locals came out in good numbers, just as I was beginning I was a bit shocked to see John Harris come through the door.  He’d heard I was there ,and had driven up specially for the day.  I added him to the programme and as he was an accepted ‘local’, any friend of John’s was a friend of all.  Suddenly I wasn’t just some passing stranger with a few slides to show, I too was part of the community.  Such was John’s prowess.

A programme we developed together, and did successfully run for several years, involved image deconstruction. John had collected a large folio of tear sheets from a range of magazines, and we would pass them out to small groups at the event ,and have them highlight the elements of the visual.  Much as David D is asking in his blog.
John’s skill was making the images meaningful, mine was getting each of the groups to communicate what they were seeing and experiencing. What lens, shutter speed, lighting, point of view, emotion, visual elements and the like, so that everyone could both share their experience with the photo, and of course hopefully use the gained knowledge in their own work.

David’s current image of the coffee barista at work is a classic shot for deconstruction.  No two of us are ever going to agree on what should and shouldn’t be in the image.  As John would remark, “If we all agreed, then someone could take One Photo of the Subject and we’d never need to take our Cameras out again. Art that is not growing is Dead!”

Thanks David for the insight, Thanks John for the memories.

A Black-shouldered Kite, hunting pre-dawn. Too simple? : Or simply Abstract?

 

Saturday Evening Post #151 :The Heathdale Glen Orden Wetlands

I’ve had a few enquires regarding the Latham’s Snipe photos, I’ve been sharing of late on Flickr and elsewhere.

And as I thought, you dear reader, needed a bit of  break from some of the stream of consciousness posts of the past few weeks, I’m going to break with Tradition for the Saturday Evening Post and put up several shots for an insight into the summer-over home for these wonderful creatures that fly all the way from Japan to take up residence in a small wetlands surrounded by suburbia and not 500 metres from a major shopping complex: The Werribee Plaza.

Heathdale Glen Orden is about 35 hectares of parkland and water retaining basin, situated in a saucerlike depression in the middle of a number of housing complexes.

There is a main feeder drain that brings water from several kilometres away from the run off of roadways and parklands, and is fed into the water-retaining area from a smaller feeder drain.  The drain is full of reeds and cumbungi and the like and the runs for several hundred metres before the water enters the lake area proper.  During that time the clever plants filter out the majority of large rubbish and begin the process of clearing the water of sediment and other detritus
The water that flows into the lake area is already quite well filtered and the large open areas of water further act to remove impurities.

The water area is quite shallow, and on a good rain it quickly fills and flows out well beyond the fenced off areas. However that very fact makes it ideal for the visiting Snipe as it produces small areas of damp mud, small dry areas for roosting and pools of water that keep a steady food supply available.

The past couple of days, we’ve had some decent rain, around 35-40mm. Perhaps even more in some areas.  This has enabled the feeder drain to pickup quite a volume of water and when I visited this morning water was extending well out over the surrounding area and footpaths around the  wetlands.  Perfect for Snipe.

The area is a favourite patch of a couple of  birding “off-siders” as my Dad was wont to say.  David Nice, from Flickr is part of the Friends of Heathdale Glen Orden and posts there , and also on Flickr. Always a good supply of info of what the area has to offer.
Dave Torr, he,  the emeritus President of the (former) Werribee Wagtails, is a local and walks the area most days. Not much misses his attention.

So here are a few shots from this morning.  I used the Nikon Z50 with its 16-50mm kit lens.  I’ve had the lens for over a year, but have rarely used it. What surprised me was the small size, it’s almost a pancake lens when folded up, and despite its lightweight feel and design is quite capable of producing very sharp, very useable results. It may not be a birding lens of any repute, but as a walkabout lightweight kit it will get a few more outings  I think.

Enjoy

Oh, I didn’t see any Snipe today, but I was running out of time on my “exercises hour”.

Across the shallow, water retaining basin.
The feeder drain that brings water from housing developments a few kilometres north. After the recent rains it has been given a new life
Toward the Eastern End. This location is usually much drier and a small feeder drain comes in at the end of the fence line.
A well formed walkway winds its way across the wetlands. But it is well overgrown and with only a few area of open water makes bird watching challenging.
Hey, Who Let the Water Out!
That’s a duck halfway down the footpath. Always the opportunist.
The western end of the lake area, normally not underwater, and a good location for spotting Snipe