Tag Archives: emotion

Michaelmas

Which came first – the daisy or the festival? One has almost certainly given its name to the other but whichever way it is this is a sure sign of autumn; the appearance of the Michaelmas daisy blooming here beside some autumnal berries. As the new literature Laureate said, “The times, they are a’changing”.

With a new season, I am going to try to post a focal point much more regularly. Now that I have the WordPress app I can take and upload photos using my phone. This image is the first I’ve posted having taken it on my phone with minimal in-phone editing for highlights and contrast.  It’s fine but I still prefer using my DSLR but let’s see what’s possible with a phone camera too.

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Travel retrospective 4 – simply being

Looking out

Watching

It was a very hot humid day on the Indonesian island of Nias, which sits just off the western coast of Sumatra. This was in the latter weeks of 2005 after the island had suffered from an earthquake on March 8 and the earlier tsunami of 26 December 2004.

I was there as part of a BMS World Mission filming team and as we were filming I spotted this couple watching us from the window of their home across the road. I was struck by their white faces, covered in a rice paste for sun protection.

This just seemed to present such a peaceful contrast to the seismic upheavals the island had endured so recently. Here was a couple of people who seemed completely relaxed and at peace in their circumstances, happy to simply sit in the shade of their home watching the world go by. Or, more specifically, watch some white westerners filming in the heat of the day. I wonder what their impression was of us.

This makes it into my travel retrospective as an expression of the simple things in life and how we can learn so much about value from those who have so little in material terms. I often think that we easily become prisoners of our material prosperity; the more we have, the more energy we must expend in maintaining and protecting it. How easy it is to forget about the joy of simply being.

This photo was shot at 1/600 sec at f4.5 on a focal length of 105mm.

 

Travel retrospective 3 – thinking in the light

Thinking in the light

Deep in thought

I recently gave a short talk illustrating different ways in which photography is communication and used this image as an example of paying attention. By that I mean that there’s an aspect of communication involving the photographer through paying attention to the subject. For me this happens at least three times. First of all in the original taking of the photograph, considering the framing, composition, lighting and exposure; secondly in the editing process, and again in any viewing of the photograph.

This photograph was taken in Afghanistan in 2003, soon after NATO had taken over security in the country following years of conflict and Taliban rule. The taking of this photograph happened very quickly as it was one of those quickly spotted opportunities. In paying attention to the subject I was struck by the thoughtful reflective pose of this older man as he sat among some friends. I particularly noticed how the light was falling across the upper part of his head, coming from slightly behind and that his eyes were looking down, essentially away from the light. Given this man’s apparent age and the recent history of the country, I wondered what his eyes had seen and what his thoughts might be. I found it easy to imagine that he was thinking about things he’d seen, things that had been visible to him because the light fell on them. He looked to me like he carried the burden of his thoughts and I wondered if this meant he was a little discomforted by the light.

Originally shot on colour film this image was transferred to a digital format allowing me to work on it in Lightroom where I decided to convert it to monochrome in order to make the feelings it evokes rather more stark. I needed to pay attention to the subject again in the editing process in order to reconnect with my thoughts on taking the photograph and to get the tones and balance right in the mono conversion.

It’s a personal favourite, and was an easy choice to include in my retrospective.

Travel retrospective 2 – Caring

A young Afghan girl holding a child

Afghan girl and child

This photograph was taken in Afghanistan in December 2003. On the last day of filming, my BMS World Mission colleagues and I were in a village high above Kabul when I came across this young girl holding a small child. I have no way of knowing, but I assume there is a family relationship here and that perhaps the girl is a sister or aunt to the child. It struck me as an example of the natural caring that continues between people in even harsh and challenging circumstances.

I think the contrast of light and shade illustrate the juxtaposition of conflict and caring. For that reason it’s in my travel retrospective.

The photograph was taken on Fuji 800 Pro film stock. Unfortunately I don’t have a record of the exposure details but in processing, as well as having negs and prints, the photos were all converted to digital format as JPEG images.  The original image was in colour and the reprocessing to monochrome was done exclusively in Lightroom 5, with minor adjustments to tone and contrast.

The light of hope

Old Afghan

Contemplation

The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, December 2003.

I took this photograph on a filming trip and it remains one of my favourites from the set for the way it speaks to me.

Here is a man with eyes cast down, looking world-weary. And why wouldn’t he be? Life expectancy in Afghanistan is 49 years for both men and women. And he looks to be older than that. Most of his life is behind him and here he is living in a country best known for a history of conflict and war.  Afghanistan’s location is almost asking for trouble. Located pivotally between the Middle East, Central Asia and the Indian subcontinent it was centred on the ancient “Silk Route”. This geographic significance has made it a much disputed and fought-over territory for centuries.  But what’s happened within this man’s lifetime?

In 1953 General Mohammed Daud became prime minister and sought economic and military assistance from the Soviet Union.  He was forced to resign as prime minister in 1963. Ten years later Mohammed Daud seized power in a coup and declared a republic.  In 1978 he was deposed and killed in a pro-Soviet coup. There then followed violent infighting with USA-backed mujahedeen groups beginning to feature. In December 1979 Afghanistan was invaded by the Soviet army which then supported the communist government.  Mujahedeen groups continued to fight the Soviet forces backed by arms from the USA, Pakistan, China, Iran and Saudi Arabia.

In 1988 Afghanistan the USSR, the USA and Pakistan signed peace accords allowing the Soviet Union to start the process of military withdrawal. Then, in 1996, the Taliban took control of Kabul introducing a hard-line regime featuring severe punishments for disorder and disobedience, which included stoning and amputations.

In 1998 the USA’s pursuit of Osama bin Laden led to missile strikes at his suspected bases in Afghanistan then, following the 9-11 attacks, a bombing campaign began in October 2001 followed by a USA-led invasion.

Finally, in August 2003, NATO ISAF forces took control of security in Kabul providing a foundation for relief and development efforts.

So, in December 2003, this photo epitomised for me the struggles, conflicts and heartbreaks that a nation had suffered for centuries, reflected in microcosm in one man’s life. At the time I took the photo I was struck by the light falling across this man’s face. I like to think of that being the light of hope for a future that might bring a lasting peace to this troubled land and its people. I find it significant that the light is falling across his eyes in the hope that he might see peace and reconciliation in his lifetime.

Historical source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-south-asia-12011352

it’s just not black and white

DSC_Congo1 (22)Taken in Kinshasa, D R Congo in 2007, this was a spur of the moment shot. One of those situations you suddenly notice and in an instant it says so much to you that can’t be expressed other than by instinctively taking the shot. It’s only later through reflection and learning that the story behind the image emerges.

I’m still not sure what first drew me to the photo potential. Perhaps it was the composition, perhaps the obvious contrast or the expression of the girl on the right. When I later had time to reflect on the photo it was the sense of rejection and exclusion that came through strongly. I think my last post on negativity and the way we build walls in our lives reminded me of this photo in my library. It’s another expression of the potential for cruelty in human nature. It was only after taking this photo that I learned that within some African cultures albinos are very much rejected in society. As ever, the issue of discrimination is much more complex than we would ever believe it to be; it’s just not black and white. And more than that; it’s just not right.

The original photo was shot at 1/640 sec at f9 on a focal length of 300 mm at ISO-500.