Growth and Development

Challenge 2

Challenge 2

What wouldn’t translate into black and white very well?  I can easily see how industrial scenes and buildings could be rendered in black and white, but the challenge was to look at how other things that seem dependent on colour would work. So – flowers! Flowers and other plants depend on colour for survival. Do they work in black and white?  So here is a play in my garden to take out the colour.

What am I learning about taking on this challenge? For one, I do find it difficult to ‘see’ in B&W. I look for the easy to translate options – the black rose below, tulips with a pale colour, and my tomato plant after watering with the focus on the droplets.  Plants where the lack of colour really doesn’t change much. I think it is still cheating a bit, and I wonder how photographers who only had B&W saw the world. Was it an automatic translation for them, or did they receive a shock when they saw the vibrant colours they had photographed lost, and turned into shadows of colour? Were they inured to the loss of colour, and so turned to other, more technical ways of making flowers, landscapes and the world around them vibrant? Dodge and burn, changing contrasts, grain…

More experiments to come, forcing myself to see differently.

Posted by DeborahH in Australia, Black and white, Growth and Development, Nature, Tasmania, 0 comments
Architecture and Spirit

Architecture and Spirit

When I was around four and five years old, I lived right next to the ocean, literally within 20 metres of where I slept the waves rolled and crashed.  My views went forever – the horizon was the limit.  Today whenever I am near the ocean I feel sane, I feel as if I can breathe properly and I feel as if my soul has enough space to expand and grow.

So from that experience I constructed my own pet theory of ‘soul space’ – the sense of safety, of strength and a place where you can come back to physically, mentally or emotionally when you need that security. For my theory I postulated that where you live when you begin to really notice the world around you, and see yourself as part of it, is when ‘soul space’ occurs.  From the limited number of friends I have discussed this with, there seems to be a general agreement that this could be possible. For me, any ocean and any area where I can see forever creates that feeling.

After 10 years in China, watching the construction of ever more and more high-rise towers I began to wonder what happens to ‘soul space’ when children grow up confined within those tower walls?  Every city and town is rapidly replacing single story homes, small villages and farm houses with high-rises.  People who have lived close to the land all their lives are encouraged to move into huge slabs, with views of the next-door slab of housing, and the one after that.

What impact does this hive construction have on the inhabitants? Where and how do they find the soul space that allows them to grow and have a broader view of the world and their place within it, if their world is limited to a few walls, views of more walls, a minute garden with “No walking on the grass” signs and concrete play areas?

Nan Ellis in Architecture of Fear believes that this urban development has destroyed much of our urban heritage, disrupted established communities, displaced people from their homes and businesses, increased social segregation, diminished the public realm, harmed the environment and created eyesores.

Do we need this massive construction?  No, not even in China with its massive population. No matter where I travelled in China, I saw blocks and blocks of new apartment buildings sitting virtually empty.  Some areas have entire ‘ghost towns’ where no-one lives.  Empty buildings everywhere, but the construction continues.

However, even if all of this construction was necessary, what of the effect on the people?  Alain de Botton,  in The Architecture of Happiness says , “We depend on our surroundings obliquely to embody the moods and ideas we respect and then to remind us of them. We look to our buildings to hold us, like a kind of psychological mould, to a helpful vision of ourselves. We arrange around us material forms which communicate to us what we need — but are at constant risk of forgetting what we need — within.”

What moods and ideas are contained in the hundreds of apartments created exactly the same? Of building after cloned building?  Do we become moulded to be the same, losing creativity, individuality and soul?  Richard Sennett would agree.  He argues that “the homogenization of contemporary culture is aided and abetted by the failure of modern architecture and urban planning to accommodate the physical and sensory needs of the human body.” (Flesh and Stone)

“Bad architecture is in the end as much a failure of psychology as of design.” (Alain de Botton)

Without this soul space, what happens to us as humans?



Posted by DeborahH in China, Daily Life, Growth and Development, 0 comments
Continue 2,454km

Continue 2,454km

This was the voice of my car GPS for the road trip to the next stage of my life.  After a wonderful 3 month holiday staying and playing with family and friends, I had to move on to work and a new state. I was a little daunted so instead of doing the first leg – Brisbane to Canberra in one 14 hour (plus pit stops) hit, I decided to break the drive at Coffs Harbour – a fancy little resort with comfy beds – and Kiama to stay with a lovely cousin.  My lovely cousin plied me with good food and red wine, then we headed out on a sightseeing tour of Kiama.  A lovely little town based around the ocean and mountains behind, with fascinating history, and she was able to fill me in on the history.  Having locals give you insight makes the places so much more interesting.

That afternoon I zoomed off to Canberra to stay two nights with my oldest daughter, and was again plied with more good wine and good food – what is it about me that makes people think this is important??   We also began my cellar with some lovely big reds from local wineries.  (That could be a clue?)

Next day was an early start for Melbourne and an overnight with a mate.  More good food both at home and a local Asian restaurant.  Asian restaurants seem to be much the same in Australia as in Asia – noisy, filled to the brim and people gently being asked to move on – no lingering over coffee. My mate filled me in on bits of local history, but housed me in her “Xi’an” room – filled with bits and pieces from a shared Chinese past.

The almost final leg was the ferry trip across the Bass Strait – 10.5 hours on board.  It was dark by the time we had all the cars, caravans, trailers, semi-trailers etc loaded and sailed off, so there was little to photograph.  Next morning we landed at 6:00am and were off the boat and heading through quarantine before 7:30am and I began the final 25 minute drive to my new home.  End of road trip.

But what did I learn, what did I expect?  I learned that you can cry and drive at the same time – leaving my family was hard.  I learned my own country is beautiful.  Previously I had merely accepted this was Australia, and until I had a comparison the only time I took much notice of the beauty around me was when it was overwhelmingly stunning.  Now with a number of countries under my belt, I can see the beauty in what used to be ‘just Australia’.  I was reminded of the history and geography lessons, passing by towns and cities I had studied when younger. I was reminded of my own history driving past towns I had visited before.  I was reminded of family history looking though the wealth of photos my cousin had inherited from her mother. I was taken back to the near past looking at paintings, sculptures and eating Asian food. All of these things added ideas and dimensions to my road trip, and gave me connections to the past and what I have become.

I expected to stop more often for photographs, but somehow the driving and the destination took over. This seems to me to be a bit of a lifestyle thing, and I decided (once I arrived at the destination!) to make sure that the destination doesn’t outweigh everything else around. I found that it is almost impossible to take good photographs while you are driving, even using the phone camera.  (Is a go-pro on my list?) I expected I would get tired of driving, but I enjoyed it very much – possibly because I also had the “On Taking Photographs” podcasts on for well over half of the 44 +pit stops driving hours. A major reason I enjoyed the driving was the thinking time… huge stretches of time with nothing but my own brain for company.  Alain de Botton has a theory that we are experiencing a ‘wave of insomnia’ because we fill our days with ‘noise’.  As soon as we stop work, we check our mobile phones, our email, social networks.  He believes we no longer give ourselves time to just be, and so at night our brains are now saying “HEY – me time”.  Here I had time and silence in which to think.

When I drove off the boat and through quarantine, I had a tremendous sense of elation – new experiences, new work, new things to learn, do and see are all in front of me. Road trips can be very clarifying, particularly if you are alone.

Posted by DeborahH in Australia, Daily Life, Growth and Development, Road trip, 0 comments


I have been reading Bill Jay’s interviews with David Hurn “On Being a Photographer” and am busily underlining many passages that I feel resonate. One interesting quote is that you are not a photographer because you are interested in photography, and he goes on to say that photography is only a tool for expressing a passion in something else.

That quote was certainly challenging, because it made me ask WHAT am I so passionate about that makes me want to express it through photographs? I cast my mind’s eye back over the photographs I have taken and they cover almost everything!! From family photos to macros of flowers; from antique ploughs to portraits of elderly Burmese ladies… My problem is what am I NOT interested in??

I had to think further about this – maybe I am just someone mucking around with a camera? The best I could come up with is I passionately believe that everything is connected, and I want to express those connections. Connected at an atomic, cellular level; connected an emotional, responsive level; connected at a human level. We are all part of it…

And to add to my thinking about connection, last weekend I went to the wedding of a couple of my debaters. Nothing says ‘connection’ more than a wedding. Clearly a strong symbol of connectedness. It was a lovely wedding, I caught up with other ‘old’ debaters who are now out in the world working and creating their own families and lives. But our connections were still there in the stories we told, the jokes we remembered and the fun we had.

Even when I leave China, we will still have those connections.




Posted by DeborahH in Growth and Development, Musings, Photography in China, 3 comments

In Hiding

Hidden sun

I’m experimenting with my camera, looking for a couple of things.  Firstly, to understand the camera and its capabilities better and secondly, to increase my own ways of viewing the world, looking at it with fresh eyes.  HDR – even the letters scared me! – but the plan I had for improving my photography had  a section on HDR, and even though I tried to skip passed it, I felt I had to have  one try.  So – this is my first HDR experiment – and not a really good choice for HDR – just the sun hidden behind branches.  Definitely not the world’s best HDR image, but when I made it, different ways of seeing appeared for me.  This now looks almost 3D and that was a surprise.  HDR isn’t as scary as I thought.  🙂

Looking to the sun

As I was looking over the results of my different experiments, I realised a small theme of ‘in hiding’ was emerging.  The techniques and capabilities of the camera are in hiding until I deliberately go looking for them. I could just as easily set it on Auto and let the camera do all the work.  My creativity is in hiding until I start pushing it, by trying different things, looking at things in different ways.

Many of the subjects are in hiding – only glimpsed through leaves, or trees, or behind fog.  They also need to be found before they can become part of our conscious understanding.

When life is comfortable it is so easy to move through it without looking beyond the obvious.  Things are smack in our face, telling us clearly what they want us to see, do or think.  It’s easy to skip past the hidden pains and losses around us.  We also try to slide over the top of our own ‘hidden’ bits – the stories we don’t want told.  In not seeing, and choosing not to see, these things, how much are we losing?  Bypassing the chance to search for the hidden means we miss out on the hidden surprises and joy as well.

My photography will improve with more experimenting, and I hope my creativity will grow the more I see and understand of both myself and the world I live in.  Each of the steps I take along these paths of experiment and investigation brings me closer to seeing and understanding more of what is hidden in the world.

Posted by DeborahH in China, Growth and Development, 0 comments

Paths of Possibility

I have been working on a couple of projects, but am never sure when they are ended!  However, I’ve decided that for this particular project, I have at least enough to post here.

I have worked with so many young people who have come from tiny, rural and impoverished villages and are now successful university graduates or working in good jobs.  When I look at where they have come from, how they have had to move into new places and new lives and how amazing this transformation seems I am inspired.

The beginning of the path to...

Man improves himself as he follows his path; if he stands still, waiting to improve before he makes a decision, he’ll never move.

Paulo Coelho

“There are always two choices. Two paths to take. One is easy. And its only reward is that it’s easy.”

We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.

Walt Disney

If you want to succeed you should strike out on new paths, rather than travel the worn paths of accepted success.

John D. Rockefeller

Focus on the journey, not the destination. Joy is found not in finishing an activity but in doing it.

Greg Anderson

We cannot hold a torch to light another’s path without brightening our own.

Ben Sweetland

The journey between what you once were and who you are now becoming is where the dance of life really takes place.

Barbara DeAngelis

“The future is not a result of choices among alternative paths offered by the present, but a place that is created–created first in the mind and will, created next in activity. The future is not some place we are going to, but one we are creating.” 

So if we wish to die well, we must learn how to live well: Hoping for a peaceful death, we must cultivate peace in our mind, and in our way of life.

“Go for the moon. If you don’t get it, you’ll still be heading for a star.” Willis Reed

Posted by DeborahH in Growth and Development, Photography in China, 0 comments


There are days that no matter how strong and independent we are, we need a little protection, a little TLC to help us get through.  We can pride ourselves on our capability, on being ‘the strong one’, but just some days it is so nice to have someone to stand in front of the bitter cold or the rough winds and protect us.

Winter wrapping

When we look at protection, for ourselves or others, what is it we really need?  Trees, in their natural habitat need nothing more than their DNA and situation to survive the driest, coldest, wettest or worst conditions.  Out of the natural habitat, it is a different matter.


Protection from the elements can allow us to survive and perhaps to grow.

White warmth.

But when we look at the protection offered, does it really protect?  Or does it just look as if it protecting? Is it really necessary? Or effective?

 “I’ll be the one to protect you from your enemies and all your demons

I’ll be the one to protect you from a will to survive and a voice of reason

I’ll be the one to protect you from your enemies and your choices, son

They’re one in the same, I must isolate you

Isolate and save you from yourself”  ― A Perfect Circle


How much does this protection eventually warp us into something we are not, or were never meant to be?

“Nothing is true in self-discovery unless it is true in your own experience.

This is the only protection against the robot levels of the mind.”

Barry Long

Posted by DeborahH in Growth and Development, Musings, Photography in China, 0 comments