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Archive for the ‘Photography’ Category

Snow bush

As our cold and windy winter settles in again, right on cue the Hawaiian Snow Bush bursts into its garment of white. In gardens everywhere this delicate shrub or small tree, the Brenia nivosa, provides us with the closest visual suggestion of snow that we could experience. Native to the Pacific Ocean Islands, its papery-thin leaves produce leaf tips of the purest white, giving the impression that the bush has been dusted with drifts of soft snow. As we follow the leaf tips down toward the trunk, its leaves beneath are a rich, dark green.

Snow bush detail 1

One may be tempted to think that the Snow Bush is covered with white blossoms, but hiding under the lower foliage nestle its tiny green flowers. Another variety of snow bush, the Rosea Picta, adds pink to the white and green foliage, leading one to a false impression of a flowering shrub. As winter progresses, the white or pinkish-white leaf tips slowly turn green. And as the Hawaiian Snow Bush loves water, if kept moist it rewards us with its beautiful disguise of winter’s snow.

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Recently a gift came my way – a journal filled with blank sheets of beautifully handcrafted Nepalese paper. These writing sheets—translucent and pale brown—were made from the bark of the Daphne shrub. Writing with ink on this paper is a joy as my pen glides over its surface and the ink never blurs or runs. Through this little journal, the process of handwriting on special paper was rekindled again.

My interest in sourcing handmade paper began to grow wings when I participated in a workshop that taught me how to convert plant pulp into paper. I provided plant materials—fibres, stems, and heavy leaves—that I cut up and soaked in water. Caustic soda, one tablespoon to each litre of water was added, and this mixture cooked for two hours until the material became soft and slippery. (We used an old copper boiler, as aluminium must never come into contact with caustic soda). After discarding any large plant waste, I dipped a frame (screened across the underside) into the slurry, drained it and transferred the sheets of wet paper onto a surface to dry.

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Above from left to right are sheets of paper I produced from the following:

1. Blue tinted recycled paper with finely chopped onion skins
2. Recycled paper pulp and cooked straw
3. Straw, onion skins, and plant stems
4. Bannana trash

Each paper has its own distinctive colour and thickness, perfect for: journal covers,  gift cards or tags, book marks, stationary etc. Handmade paper can be cut as there is no grain. When it is torn, a raggedy edge is produced giving it an attractive homespun look.

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Paper has a long history. Papyrus came first in Egypt around 2400 BC, and was made from sliced sections of the flower stem of the reedy papyrus plant. (See a papyrus stem and flower photo above) A Chinese courtier, Ts’ai Lun, was the first recorded inventor of paper. In 105 AD, he presented his paper making process to the Chinese Emperor, as was noted in official court records. The spread of paper from China to the Middle East, then to Europe in the 13th century has allowed for a massive exchange of information to take place, contributing to significant cultural shifts world-wide.

As our age becomes totally digitized, it is a joy to slow down and return to the simple pleasure of putting pen to paper. In some circles, the art of writing letters on fine stationary is also experiencing a resurgence. While the computer remains at the centre of my writing life, my Nepalese journal has become the repository for my short poetry: haiku, tanka and haibun. On its pages I delight in handwriting again, with pen on fine paper for my own enjoyment.

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We guide our canoe through the shallows of a peaceful billabong. As the afternoon passes the water becomes as still as glass, reflecting the grotesque shapes of old rugged trees on its mirrored surface. The only sound is the gentle splash of our bow. We stop to rest—our paddles across our knees—as small droplets from the wet blades create ever-widening circular pools. Paddling closer to the edge we savour the quiet of this moment, this small gift of nature that never ceases to sustain and uplift us.

on the breeze
the distant call
of a crow

(billabong: an Australian term for the branch of a river forming a blind channel, backwater, or a stagnant pool)

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Look all about you
as far as the eye can see,
how long has it been
since any rain has fallen
on this vast, drought ridden land?

Baked mounds of earth
cross hatched up and down,
cracks deep and wide
always brown, never green
aching for the smell of rain.

Dust is in the air
swirling gold and red
wherever we step,
blowing, scattering, shifting
with every breath of wind.

Call forth a rain dance
rend the heavens with prayers,
conjure up blackened clouds
and shout aloud to all who see
our pain and despair.
Australia is on its knees again
thirsting for life giving rain.

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this morning
my bedroom glows
with golden light –
tonight the moon
will paint it silver

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The sunrise was glorious this morning and I’m standing under a powder blue sky, speechless at the array of flowers spread before me. Dew still clings to their vibrant petals as they lift themselves toward the sun.

The plantings in my friend’s heritage garden first captured my attention. Based on an original design from the 1840s, masses of snapdragons, forget-me-nots, scarlet impatients and brown-eyed Susans are offset by tall stalks of hollyhocks and larkspur. Beds of roses and French lavender perfume the air. Several large Mock-orange shrubs, together with mature elms and towering oaks, define the height of its scale. But I’m not here only to gaze at this lovingly tended spread on the D’Entrecasteau Peninsula, in Tasmania’s Lower Snug. I’m here on a mission with my camera, ready to capture photos of these beauties in their early morning freshness.

Later I view and edit the morning’s work on my computer screen. To my surprise other visitors―nature’s miniature helpers―also appear within the plants to feast on their sweet nectar and gather pollen. One little ant descends along the stem of a passionfruit blossom, its tiny body resembling three gleaming black beads.

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Nearly hidden from sight in the cup of a pink lily, two small ladybugs nestle. The first buzzing sound of arriving bees became a roar as they swarmed over the face of each flower, busily gathering pollen for the return flight home.

It’s an absolute delight to peer down into this minuscule universe as one insect after another comes into view. Each group is uniquely different from all the others in this kingdom. And like the flowers each one is exquisitely made.

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My camera has captured them at work. These small creatures all labour tirelessly, displaying a total dedication to their purpose. They move so quickly―with feverish speed―pausing only to connect with one another by brushing their antennas or performing a dance.

Insects keep the environment clean by carrying away decaying plant material and dead insects. They propagate the plants that feed us while their spread of pollen maintains our rich biodiversity. To ensure their protection, insects are also masters of camouflage as their bodies provide food for larger birds and animals.

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There are many variations within these tiny creatures that are as interesting to observe as the beauty of the flowers that shelter and sustain them. I have grown to enjoy insects because they are so unusual. It’s fun to watch and study them in our world of living creations, both great and small.

 

 

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Today we have the opportunity to take beautiful digital photos and to add a text directly to the image. These two ingredients allow us to experiment with an early art form known as haiga. Traditionally haiga is a Japanese invention combining a sumi-e (inkbrush image) and a three line haiku or a five line tanka poem, hand-lettered on the same paper. The art lies in the subtle relationship between the two.

The painting, drawing or photo is not simply an illustration of the poem, nor is the poem a caption for the picture. Each element should stand alone – yet in juxtaposition, the two resonate to add a deeper and more complex meaning to the total work.

Drawings, paintings or photos may be presented with little or no adjustment, or they may be manipulated until the original is nearly unrecognizable. Photographs can be used as a starting point. The poem can be hand lettered, scanned, pasted to the image, or applied directly using the font capability of a software program.

Through haiga, the old and new are blended into a unique multimedia artistic experience.

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