Reveille-returning from the outer darkness

Reveille-returning from the outer darkness

Multiple suns, Paponga

Nikon D810, Tamron 70-200/2.8 VC Di

ISO 64, 1/400s @ f8



“Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift.” 
― Mary Oliver


Kia ora e te whānau:

Those of you close to me know that the last few months have been a considerable trial, and that the journey back to mobility has been a difficult one (well, for me anyway). As part of that I questioned everything I had done and been and believed. Then, painfully, piece by piece I began to put things back together again into a form I believe will serve me (and what I believe my mission to be) for the future. For much of that time I did not go near my cameras. Frankly, my dear, I couldn’t give a damn. My world was constrained to a circle with a 25m radius, including the water which flowed past my door.

And so, each day, as began to heal, I would spend a lot of my day, sitting and looking, studying the water and looking for truths in the movement of the water. I would watch the twice-daily ritual of the tide and the way the birds wove their routine around it. The thought did occur to perhaps photograph them, but fortunately I didn’t have one suitable for ‘birding’, and so I contented myself with watching and observing. Just that. Each day the tide would withdraw and leave a tear-shaped pool on the mud flat just opposite my door. Each day when it did, 2 matuku (grey-faced herons) would come and take up positions at each end of it, and then, carefully avoiding each other, strip-mine the pool for any treasure they could find. In the evenings, the terns would suddenly appear, circling the exact same spot for about 15minutes, and then they would fade away with the sun.

 There seemed nothing worth photographing in my tiny world. It was enough to simply be and observe. Or so I told myself.

 Then one day I glanced across at my camera, sitting dusty and in need of a clean on my desk. It coughed gently and reminded me that it still had work for me, if I so chose. I ignored it and covered it in papers so it became invisible. And then went back to staring at the water.

In many ways, it was a self-imposed form of the notorious ’telephone box’ exercise I used to inflict upon workshop attendees, where I would give them a square metre of the planet and insist they made several dozen individual images while staying within the square. This time, however, it was me in the frame. I became the solitary attendee at my own workshop on contemplative photography. I began to look in and to see the patterns within the patterns. And the patterns within the patterns within the patterns, the micro-relationships and macro-relationships. And suddenly one day I went looking for my camera.

  While I was there, I was challenged to give these new understandings form, and the way of doing so seemed to be to build a website and water and the idea of a journey down a river as an archetype. I asked myself:

Can a website be a work of art, a kind of virtual installation?

 How can and to what extent can design elements be a part of this?

 Can code be beautiful?

 And what content was the site looking to hold in its containers?

The result is Watertraveller. You may wish to visit it. Or not. Those of you have enjoyed my philosophical/spiritual/poetic posts should have a look there, for this is their new home. Those of you who visited to learn about gear and the latest techniques will be disappointed. Bitterly even. I make no apologies.

 This site, for the foreseeable future is for photography in general.

I also came to realise that there are still things that need to be shared, and that there still some opportunities to be of service to you. For example, I am fascinated by the fact that our medium seems to have lost a sense of direction and momentum, and I have a sense of why that is. Expect a post on that sometime soon.

 I think many of us have become confused as to what photography actually is and is not. Expect a post on that sometime soon. With some possible solutions.

 I am currently fascinated by a David Hockney quote given me (it may actually be accurate):

“in the beginning photography left painting. Now it is returning to it.” Expect a post on that sometime soon.

What you needn’t expect are gear or software reviews. There are oodles of those on YouTube. Unless of course, I find some cool new kit I absolutely need to tell you about. Which probably won’t be often. Here is why. There are no bad cameras, only ones inappropriate for the work YOU do. The best software is the one you have for the work you are trying to do.

In the meantime, I am back on the road for the next few weeks, working down in the South Island.

It is good to be mobile again.

 Nga mihi



12 Responses

  1. NIcky Gilkison says:

    Been reading Mary Oliver lately. Her words tangle me in the sweetest way, because she always somehow guides you through to untanglement.

  2. Wendy says:

    Yes re the Hockney quote. My experiments continue in the quiet hours, not yet ready for daylight.

  3. John C Smith says:

    Welcome back Tony. Glad you too are mobile again. J

  4. Meg says:

    Look us up in akaroa. Meg 021351420

  5. Michael Greer says:

    “No man steps into the same river twice. For it is never the same river, nor he the same man.” Amen e hoa.

  6. Max says:

    And the fantail is airborne once more, perhaps seeking new dimensions of flight.

  7. Rob Norman says:

    Hi Tony,

    I have always admired your writing.

    Great to hear from you again.

    Cheers, Rob Norman.

  8. Sue Dobson says:

    So pleased you are mobile again Tony, go well and have fun in your waka hou.
    I look forward to catching up in a couple of months when I’m back in NZ.

  9. Natalie Smith says:

    Tony, make sure you give me a call when (if) you’re passing through Picton – would love the opportunity to catch up.

  10. J Livingsttone says:

    I remember all too well that phone box. But the exercise was great at making us see things. Enjoy the south and safe travel

  11. Stuart Clook says:

    I look forward to your musings Tony.

    ..a return to painting you say. I think photography today has many similarities to that of the late 19th century when kodak coined the phrase ‘ you push the button , we will do the rest’

    We have 21st century buttons today, a PS action here or a LR recipe there. The result being that many of the photographs we see today have a familiar look or style. I’m not bagging it , i use all the buttons I can find.
    What’s missing in my opinion is soul, the photographers soul, not an adobe engineer of some PS guru’s soul but the photographers soul.
    This has set me on a journey the last 2 years, finding new buttons, mixing recipes and exploring the very same printing processes of platinum and gum that the Pictorialist’s used over 100 yrs ago to put my soul into my photographs. Just so happens this requires my hand and a painters brush to sensitise the printing paper.
    I wonder if this is what Hockney is referring to, or would that too literal !

  12. Barbara says:

    I look forward to the musings during your ongoing journey. Travel well. I am pleased to hear that you are mobile once more

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