digital photography

Sunrise

Sunrise

I’ve been lucky enough to see some pretty magic sunrises around the world, and every sunrise is special.  Watching the world awaken and warm, everything fresh and new is wonderful. Here, in Tasmania, I don’t have to push myself to jump out of bed super early to see spectacular sunrises, for which I am very grateful.  However, the sunrises I like best aren’t the typical beautiful colours, magical mist, pretty mountain ones.  The ones I feel are really special are the ones that interact with the human element of life: people, industry, housing. That interaction of eternal nature and ephemeral humanity fascinates me.

Posted by DeborahH in Australia, Daily Life, Human-nature interaction, Nature, 0 comments
The Forgotten Tibetans

The Forgotten Tibetans

book

Publishing day has finally arrived! This book is the outcome of close to a decade of travelling to one of the most beautiful and unspoiled parts of China – the western provinces of China – Gansu, Sichuan, Qinghai, and Outer Mongolia. Frequent trips, particularly to Gansu, allowed me to make friends with some of the kindest, most welcoming people on earth. They welcomed me into their homes (or tents, depending on the season), gave me the opportunity to spend festivals, weddings, fun days and work days with them. I was lucky enough to be able to volunteer as an English teacher for nomad students during their winter school vacation, and enjoyed the enthusiasm and dedication they gave to learning during what should have been one of the most relaxing times of year for nomads.

During the years of visiting, I was able to see the changes in lifestyles and place that rapidly accelerated, partly as a result of increased tourism, partly as a result of government policies. Tourists changed the village from a quiet nomad town, focussed around the two monasteries, with a few cafes, two or three hostels and hotels and several shops selling nomad necessities to a small town, with numerous larger hotels, more cafes and souvenir shops. Government policies ensured nomads started to change their traditional way of life to become ‘sedentarised’, and needed to seek work in the restaurants and hotels.

This book is a collection of photographs and stories, giving glimpses into the daily lives, and the changing lives of the Tibetan nomads who live outside the map of Tibet, in lands that the Tibetan Empire once controlled, but now, through internal revolutions and war, have been incorporated into China.  It is intended to highlight the commonalities of our lives, as well as to present a brief history of a way of life that is rapidly disappearing.

I created this book for my nomad mates, hoping that their lives, culture and traditions would find a greater understanding in the wider society.  (And special thanks to Ray and Sabrina for editorial and design work!)

Guadinshi.

Tashidelek.

 

Signed hardback copies are available, please email me for details at:
lotuseater18@gmail.com

Posted by DeborahH in Cultural dimensions, Photography book, Tibetan culture, Travel, Village life, 0 comments
All the tea in China

All the tea in China

Tea? Who drinks tea? At home, generally our parents’ generation drank tea. It was Indian style tea, strong and black in colour. Some drank it white and sweet, some black with lemon, some straight out of the billy, boiled over an open fire and tasting of smoke and gum leaves. The younger generation is more likely to drink coffee or fruit and herbal teas. But Chinese tea in all its variety? Not very many people really know this wonderful part of Chinese culture.

Here, I have learned to love tea and one of my favourite activities is to hit the tea markets and spend all day there, chatting to the tea sellers, sipping different teas, drooling over the beautiful teapots and trying to decide what to buy, how much lightening my wallet can stand.

Little tea shops are lovely places to start learning about tea. Tea shop owners are happy to spend time chatting about tea, while we sip different teas. Fancy tea shops also abound, and in these, the art of tea is as important as the taste. Here, the invariably beautiful girl serving you tea will be dressed in traditional costume, she will sit or kneel before you at a low, highly decorated, ornately carved table, and with graceful gestures pour tea into your thimble sized cups. A traditional musician may be playing nearby.

The tea pouring ritual is fun watch. The tea leaves are selected and we smell them, good aromas, strong or fresh grass green. The tiny cups are removed from the sanitiser with special tongs, and hot water is poutred over them, then water at the correct temperature (it varies with the type of tea) is poured over the leaves to wash them and this tea is then poured over the cups. Next round of water is poured onto the tea and then strained and finally tipped into your cup. The lid of the small tea pot or cup is offered for smelling, the colour of the tea examined and then we can sip. Each round of tea changes flavour, some becoming sweeter, others becoming stronger. Then different teas are offered, and we start again. Tea tasting is fun!!

There is a touch of snobbery around tea, just as there is around wine or olives or cheese back home. ‘Real’ tea isn’t fruit- or flower-flavoured. ‘Real’ tea relies on the mountain it is grown on, the water the tree is watered with, the age of the tree, the time of the year the leaves are picked and many more things aficionados talk about for hours.

To appreciate ‘real’ tea head for the tea markets. Tea markets are wonderful and sell everything to do with tea – the leaves themselves, the special pots, cups, tools and implements that accompany tea. Nimble fingered girls sort tea leaves and stalks. I stop to chat with them and they show me the stalks which can be used to replace your earrings at night. These stalks have an antiseptic quality and prevent infection. Like everything else edible or drinkable in China, tea in all of its forms is good for you!! Pu’er is good in winter, green tea in summer, this tea helps you lose weight, that tea helps you regain your appetite.

I have three “cha hais” – the table-top trays to hold the tea cups and pots while serving. But these are small – not like the huge, elaboratly carved and decorated marble and wooden tables. I also have a collection (growing…) of ‘cha chong’ (tea pets), small scultpures to bring luck. and to keep them beautiful, the waste tea and hot water are oured over them.

Tea is fascinating.

Posted by DeborahH in China, Homepage, 0 comments
Waiting for work

Waiting for work

Teddy Roosevelt had it right when he said “Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.”. But, China, like every other country has a high rate of unemployment, and here it is obvious. There are long lines in front of the city “talents’ offices, and the job notice board is surrounded by crowds hoping to spot that great job. Away from the offices, along the roads there are unoffical employment offices. Large numbers of people gather, waiting for an employer to offer day employment. One corner has painters, with their bikes and long rollers; another is filled with blue trucks, waiting for hauling work. Graders and large machinery operators play cards while waiting for the call.

To serve these patient people, others create their own jobs cooking food from their mobile stoves. Waiting gets boring… so cardboard boxes make good boards for Chinese chess, wild card games privide entertainment, and newpapers keep people informed. And when a foereigner comes along with a camera there is a bit of time for horseplay. “Don’t take my photo – I’m not handsome – take his”, and the fellas gather round to see the photo.

 

Posted by DeborahH in China, 0 comments

Little things

Starfish

I spent a week playing on an Koh YaoYai in Thailand.  This is a beautiful little island, not as well known as some of the others and so not crowded and not quite so touristy.  I was able to wander about, take trips on the long-tail boats to other islands and generally explore.  The scenery was magnificent, and I did take a couple of hundred photos of amazing islands leaping from the water, but in the end it is always the little things that fascinate me.

Half the joy of life is in little things taken on the run… but let us keep our hearts young and our eyes open that nothing worth our while shall escape us.

Victor Cherbuliez

I spent ages wandering along the beach looking at the tiny shells, the small crabs and enjoying how they fit so well into the environment.

Snorkelling gave me the chance to look beneath the surface – and now an underwater housing for the camera on is my wish list. Beneath the surface so much life occurs, and we are so unaware of it.  However, I also explored the mangrove forest from the sea and found this energetic mangrove snail, hiding from predators and looking for food. These are perennial pursuits for all of us – safety and nourishment.

Mangrove snail

A walk around one of the islands hit by the tsunami revealed this beautiful little fossil shell, uncovered by the waves after millenia of hiding.

Fossil shell

And what is an island without a beach?  Again though, the small waves caught my attention, the force land and sea exert on each other to create a changed state.  Small, but persistent and finally creating a new beach, new sand, new motion.

 

Looking for the little things that make up our world keeps me balanced.  Not everything has to be bigger than Ben Hur to be wonderful.

Posted by DeborahH in Musings, Photography in China, 2 comments

Experimenting with life

“All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

I’m experimenting with my camera to encourage me to look at things differently.  Each week I am setting myself a ‘task’ – use only the 28mm lens, take movement photos, only take images of 2- and 3-wheel transport etc.  These experiements teach me more about my camera and lens, teach me about techniques and thinking about what I want each image to be, rather than taking photos of everything that takes my eye.

Have I missed having my ‘walkabout’ 18-270mm with me at times?  Too right.  Do I want to take a different view sometimes?  Yes I do.  But for now the learning is outweighing the missed opportunities.

I’m not only experimenting with my camera and my vision here, I am also experimenting with life.  So many opportunities are outside my windows.  So many paths available for walking.  Right now, I have chosen a path, and set a particular aim.  Once that aim is completed, then the path can veer in any direction and I will experiment with a new world, new ideas, new beginnings.  My current path was a huge veer from the ‘safe’ path of gov’t official, safe job, busy social life, close to family and friends. I learned many many things on that path,  had wonderful experiences but also found areas within myself that were not fulfilled.  The need to experiment grew stronger and stronger until it was an imperative.  So I took the plunge – safely at first, leaving the way open to return to my previous life.  But the more I travelled down the experimental path, the less the previous life fit me.  I finally left it behind althogether, and closed one of the ‘safety’ doors.  Other ‘safety’ doors remain open – family and friends will always be my lifelines, my beacons if and when the new paths become too dark.

What did this experiment teach me? Adaptability, confidence, self-reliance, independence and more about myself.  What will the next path teach me?  I have no idea – but whatever it is, it will be valuable and I will be glad that I experimented with life once more.

Posted by DeborahH, 0 comments

Beauty 3

Inside the bell - the beauty of age.

Still looking at beauty and where we find it.  I love the colours of rust, the textures and stories that I can conjure from them.  This is an image from inside the bell at Qinglong Temple in Xi’an.

Each temple and city in China traditionally had a bell and drum tower.  The bell was rung in the morning, the drum at dusk.  A lovely way to mark the beginning and end of the day.  Most of these are now just ornamental, their purpose being taken over by watches and clocks.

Can we find beauty in the disused, outdated and time-worn?  I think so. The beauty is in the colours of the past, the textures of the disuse and the stories they could tell if we listen carefully enough.

Out to pasture

Most photographers love photographing the faces and hands of the elderly – and I guess for pretty much the same reasons.  Those faces and hands can tell so many stories and those stories can enrich our lives so much.  History is written for us to see in the eyes, wrinkles, knotted fingers.   Babies and littlies are sweet, but their faces, as yet, tell us little.

I can find beauty, even in death, if it is surrounded by life.  A well-lived life, with work  done, goals achieved and loves fulfilled, is not sad in death, but beautiful.  The death of an old tree in a  forest surrounded by young trees, speaks of the wheel of time, the ever-renewing face of life.

QingLong Temple bell

Beauty can be found in the old and forgotten.  It can be found in rust and cracked paint. It can be found in death.

Posted by DeborahH, 0 comments

When is enough, enough?

 

Ambition is so powerful a passion in the human breast, that however high we reach we are never satisfied.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

It’s raining and causing flooding over huge parts of Queensland.  More rain is predicted for the next couple of weeks, more flooding will happen.  This is being called the biggest natural disaster  for the last x years and likely to cost $5 billion in clean up, lost revenue, damages etc.  Clearly we have had enough rain – for now.  But Australia is an arid country that floods. A fact of life.  In 6 months we will be complaining of how dry it is, and worrying about the loss of crops and how little water there is for the cattle.

We swing between too much and not enough.  Floods and droughts are extreme examples of this seesaw of life.

In my own life I am always looking for the next thing that will make things easier, better, more interesting etc.  Today I was on-line looking for camera bags.  I already have several; some too small for my current camera, another too big to take on long hikes, but necessary to take when I travel to hold all my gear.  I am looking for a bag that carries my camera, flash, maybe another lens and looks like a handbag, I am also looking for a bag that allows me to climb mountains, stay balanced so I don’t fall, hands free of camera and stuff, and yet can easily grab the camera while holding on to the rocks or branches.

I have to ask how often I will use these bags, what real necessity there is for them?  How many camera bags are enough?  How many lens are enough?  Ultimately, how many images are enough?  When will I say, I have enough, I have seen enough, I am enough?  Or will I always be looking for the next piece of equipment, the next country, the next image, the next version of me?

On the other end of this spectrum, yesterday I went to the Chenrezig Tibetan Buddhist Nuns community. Set on a ridge, surrounded by natural bushland, this community runs classes, retreats and provides a home for those wanting to live a life of simplicity and meditation.  Giving up the desires of the world for the expansion of the soul.  Is it another ‘what is enough?” process?  Material ‘stuff’ is gone, but will there ever be ‘enough’ connection with the universe or the Bodhisattva?

The search for ‘enough’ goes on.

Posted by DeborahH, 0 comments

Perfection?

Art is never defect free. Things that are remarkable never meet the spec, because that would make them standardised, not worth talking  about. Seth Godin

 

I spend so much time trying to create perfect images, perfect articles and am never satisfied with what I have done.  I am delaying sending work to a professor for assessment because I have difficulty in choosing the right images.  The Seth Godin quote pushes me to think about perfection and standardisation.  Yes, I need an understanding of ‘craft’ to make art.  But I also need to know how to break rules, changes the standard and add a whacking great dose of emotion and feeling into my work to turn it into art.

 

The fear of being laughed at, of seeming inexperienced or unprofessional come in from the other side to push me to follow the rules, to meet the standards set by others for what is ‘good’.  If I stopped allowing those little voices, or the voice from the ‘lizard brain’ that Godin talks about in ‘Linchpin’ to control me, what would happen?

 

If I spent less time tweaking settings on the camera, playing with Photoshop  and generally trying to create the perfect image, would there be more images?  Would I have more time to be outside with my camera and using it instead of worrying, smoothing out one more bit of skin, adding or subtracting a titch of exposure?

 

Would I create a whole bunch of useless images?  Too right I would.  But I do that anyway, even with all the fiddling around. Godin reminds us that Picasso created over 1000 paintings, but how many of these do we know?  The paintings we know from any major artist are far fewer than the ones they commenced and tossed out or painted over.  Thrown out not because they weren’t ‘perfect’ but because the emotion and vision weren’t there.

 

By searching for perfection, I achieve less, I have fewer images and those that exist meet ‘the standard’.  How many of them have the ‘wow’ factor?  How many of them just CANNOT be created by anyone else who followed the same rules I followed?

 

I’m giving up on ‘perfect’ and going with basic knowledge plus emotion.

Posted by DeborahH, 0 comments

Reflecting on reflections

The excessive increase of anything causes a reaction in the opposite direction.
Plato

The one was taken from a boat inside a cave.  The arrows of light pointing in both directions drew me, as did the reflections.  I love reflections  – in mirrors, cars, water, windows.  They provide opportunities for interesting photographs.  The object doubled, distorted or seen from a different perspective creates new ways of looking at it.

There are times when it is hard to see where the reflection ends and the ‘real’ object begins.

This is the reflection of stalactites and mites above, but to me looks like a new cavern has opened up for me to explore.

The reflections give us opportunities to explore alternate realities, parallel universes perhaps.  Then the question becomes – what is real?  Which one is the reflection?  Are the images within us as real as the images external to us?  Are our visions more real than reality? Do our internal visions reflect a deeper and more real view of the world?

Posted by DeborahH, 0 comments