Walkabouts and wonders

"A life not examined is a life not lived" – Socrates

Tag Archives: discovery

Important discovery..

I think I have made an important discovery –

One glass of wine does seem to help the writing process, while two glasses of wine definitely help. However, much to my surprise and consternation, neither is of any help in editing…..

Fun in Singapore (?) 2

Who knew? – Singapore houses the best modern museum of art and culture that I have ever seen (at least in Europe) in the form of its Museum of Asian Civilisations. I am sorry to say that I couldn’t get enough decent pictures to do the place justice –  just a few steps beyond my current skill-levels – besides there weren’t just artifacts and stills, but multimedia presentations on where they came from and how they were made, interactive bits made for children and amateurs like me and so on. And it probably has the best and most intelligent presentation on Islamic art and its foundations in that faith, that I have visited. Frankly knocks the Victoria and Albert Islamic and Chinese galleries in London, back into the 19th Century (sorry guys – the Singapore museum even has a nicer restaurant attached).

If you think I am going a bit over the top, go have a look at the website for an idea of its rangeº and, if you live in Singapore or get a chance to visit the island, let this place surprise you.


And although I didn’t go all the way through them, what I saw of two other museums – the National and the Peranakan was pretty impressive, too.

Has Photography Lost its Soul?

I met Patrick Keough on a street-corner in Vienna when we were both lost looking for a photographic exhibition. Later on, after we had found the exhibition he mentioned this blog – enjoy!


Photography has a rich and illustrious history and is a relatively new medium compared to other art forms.  I mean painting has been around for 0ver 30,000 years compared to photography’s relatively short history. Photography has also borrowed much of the visual language from painting and applied it for both composition and content translation purposes.

Screen Shot 2013-11-13 at 11.53.14 AM

I personally believe our true goal as photographers is visually translating external /internal references (landscape, nature, people, architecture) and metaphorically (symbolically and/or blatantly) translating our expressive/emotional response to our subject matter into a conceptual bridge (path) for deeper awareness and understanding of the world around us spiritually, emotionally and intellectually. This can be accomplished realistically or in more abstract / conceptual ways.

Last week I spent 2 days reviewing photographic portfolios in Bratislava for the European Month of Photography and also have attended many photo exhibitions and opening during my travels in Eastern Europe over…

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Butterfly discoveries

Boys being boys

Boys being boys

My second Sunday; I had been 17 days in Kalimpong, but realised that I hadn’t yet really paused for breath, certainly not for my soul – hardly enough for my body. So, with only my camera and a rather odd map, I set off into the town. The first part of the journey was my familiar walk to the office in town, but at this slower pace, I had the time to see and appreciate things a little more.

A roadside house, that I had passed many times but never quite saw

A roadside house, that I had passed many times but never quite saw

Who's the man with the funny eyes, mom?

Who’s the man with the funny eyes, mom?

A place of a thousand shopkeepers

A place of a thousand shopkeepers

Having wandered around a while and discovered that my favourite coffee bar was closed – more on that, another time –  I decided to seek out the Indo-Tibet Cultural Institute – perhaps, I thought, there might be a museum, or some interesting people to talk to.

Convinced, after walking a full hour, that I had lost my way, I stopped to ask a shopkeeper. He pointed me further along the road, so off I went. I didn’t find any Indo-Tibetan Institute (and still haven’t). Instead, I found myself walking into the grounds of a Gompa – a religious centre for the 6th Lepcha Lama.

Prayer flags around a new stupa at the entrace to the Gompa

Prayer flags around a new stupa at the entrace to the Gompa

wheels of prayers

wheels of prayer

After wandering around for a bit and finding no one about, I began to think it was all shut up, so I settled into a little of my own quiet time, gentled by the gathering atmosphere. But then, I spied a rather striking, dark butterfly. It flew in front of me and then away. I followed and was shortly greeted by this twelve year old girl –

The Lepcha Lama's grandaughter - a pupil at the High School wh wants to be a doctor.

The Lepcha Lama’s grandaughter – a pupil at the High School wh wants to be a doctor.

And so was led to the Lama’s shrine and meditation centre.

Inside the tiny shrine and meditation room - the Buddha flanked by more ancient gods

Inside the tiny shrine and meditation room – the Buddha flanked by more ancient gods

Though neither old, nor richly endowed, there was an undeniable sense of abiding peace and settlement – a place of continuing devotion as evidened by the new stupa. I spent a further and very worthwhile hour there, taking in the atmosphere and feeling myself settle more deeply than I had before on this trip.

The central temple of the Gompa - a traditional block design.

The central temple of the Gompa – a traditional block design.

5 urns ..... 6th lama.... wonderful thing detection.. wonder if I am right

5 urns ….. 6th lama…. wonderful thing detection.. wonder if I am right

Later, I was told that the Lepcha are one of the three original tribes that inhabited the Kalimpong district. They are not generally Buddhists, and the existence of a Lepcha Buddhist gompa near the town has come as a surprise to a number of my Nepalese friends. But that seems to be the way of these parts – many small communities, clans and families living close by one another; peaceful, self-contained; interacting and mixing, but remaining distinct – content to be and allow to be, together.

Camadramarama, mama.

This morning was full of discoveries and re-discoveries. As well as the winter wonders I found, there was the funny little battle that went on between the long-standing “take it all in” me, and the new “Wow! Look at the picture I just took – I wonder how that happened” camera-toting me.

That last – about the camera – came as a bit of a surprise. Both my most recent ex-s are serious photo-heads who always puzzled me by disappearing into their camera bags just when things got interesting. I found it difficult to see how anyone could experience the same degree of awe looking through a narrow, squared off view-finder , that I felt at the thunder of Niagara Falls or the panorama of the English south coast in May.

Whose is that teddy.....

Whose is that teddy…..

But something has changed. I think I get it now, at least for me – that narrowness forces one’s focus into finer details; lifting what you might ordinarily miss into an enhanced significance. If you can resist the early frustrations of hitting the wrong button here, missing the focal point there, and mixing the aperture with the shutter-speed (yes, really) you will emerge with a new love of light and shadow, angle and texture. Of course, you will see immediately that I was not using the auto-function all the time. And maybe that has something to do with it. For all the advantages of point-and-shoot, the care demanded by working the camera is reflected in the experience and, I think, in the quality of the photograph. It is probably true that a lot of good shots appear out of a process of auto-shoot and photo-shop, but the really great photographs – the ones that convey energy and mood, they always come out of the care of the photographer.

Our instant photo-technology is great, but at the end of the day no camera can equal the immediate all-round visual genius of the eye and brain – that is why I think I was always disappointed by my photos – not realising that the care that more devoted camera-users put into their pictures can give the eye and the brain and the mind some new focus or angle through which to appreciate the world.

Which brings me by a quite unintended route, to my mother’s coat – pictured here, where it hangs by my front door, ready to envelop me in its thick comforting warmth, just as it did my mother, when she first wore it heading going ashore in Antarctica from a cruise she went on when she was about 80, some ten years ago. After she passed away, I found it hanging in her wardrobe – easily big enough for me, and I have used it from time to time, ever since, for cold days like today. And what’s this got to do with cameras? Well, not a lot, except she was my mother and so gets quite a lot of credit for my being here, able to write and enjoy life’s opportunities as I do.

You can just see the badge.

You can just see the badge.

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