“A good traveller has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving."
~ Lao Tzu
Otway Ranges, Victoria. Photograph copyright © Len Metcalf 2018
“A good traveller has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving."
~ Lao Tzu
Otway Ranges, Victoria. Photograph copyright © Len Metcalf 2018
“Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.”
― Edgar Degas
Fronds at Minimurra Rainforest Walk. Stick to the boardwalk and leave no trace. Photograph copyright © Len Metcalf 2018
I often start framing up my photographs by starting with getting one corner right. Mark Littlejohn verbalised it for me, when we were running a workshop with Tim Parkin in the Lake District a few years ago.
Once I get one corner right, my eye flicks through the other three and I move the composition again and again until they are all right. I also run my eye up around the borders too. As Pam says, “go on border patrol.”
By spending time getting the corners right you can concentrate the photographs attention on the main subject. Starting there just makes life so much easier.
Coachwoods and Ferns on Minnamurra Rainforest Walk near Kiama at Jamberoo. Photograph and text copyright © Len Metcalf 2018
“There are two ways to be rich. One is by acquiring much and the other is by desiring little.”
- Jackie French Koller.
Willy Wag Tail at Myal Lakes. Photograph copyright © Len Metcalf 2018
“The most regretful people on earth are those who felt the call to creative work, who felt their own creative power restive and uprising, and gave to it neither power nor time.”
~ Mary Oliver
The Bakers Oven, The Great Ocean Road, Victoria. Apparently, there used to be a large rock that looked like a loaf of bread in the oven-like arch. Photograph copyright © Len Metcalf 2018
“...and then, I have nature and art and poetry, and if that is not enough, what is enough?”
― Vincent van Gogh
Tree at Port Stephens. Photograph copyright © Len Metcalf 2018
I could be excused for thinking this is just another of my many beautiful photographs. Weeping Rock on Jamison Creek, along Charles Darwin Walk, is an incredibly popular tourist location.
Here, in good water after rain, the soft veil of water creates a gorgeous curtain of movement and velvet softness. Thick mist cradles the moment.
I once lived very close to this spot during my son’s first year. I would walk up the creek to get to work. I have wonderful memories of my sister's place directly above it. We would wander down when I was nine to this creek to play. Goats in the yard and a house so large you could ride a bike in it. Every time I wander past that house I stop and stare at it and try to remember.
This is a very special place full of so many memories. I could go on and on.
However, despite all of those wonderful times, this photograph holds a new special meaning. One not just for me, but for another. This photograph started a conversation. A very special conversation about art. One that grows and blossoms. It marks the very moment something started. Something so grand and so magical.
Yes, you can look forward to hearing more.
Weeping Rock, The Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area. Photograph and text copyright © Len Metcalf 2018
I am just about to start our first photographic day of the Namibian Photography Safari. I was thinking about what photographs my clients will want to take. A question I will soon be asking them. I stopped to think about mine. What is my 'shot list' for this trip?
Do you know, I don't have one?
It has taken me years to learn to let go of a shot list. While I would love a photograph of a cheetah or a leopard, I don't hang onto that. Why? To avoid the disappointment, of course. I can't stand beating myself over the head about not getting a particular shot. It is a needless worry.
In all of my travels here, I might not even see one. So, why hang on to it.
Instead, my goal for the trip is to take some beautiful photographs. Period.
I want to be present and do my best, to listen to my intuition and create the best work I can. With a clearer head without all of those imagined photographs, I am freer to see, look and create.
I want to be open to the opportunity of chance. They say chance favours the prepared mind. Well, I am prepared. All of my cards are empty, all of my batteries are charged. Three cameras with different lenses sit ready for action in my camera pack. Later tonight, I will clean my lenses with great care and check the settings on my cameras.
I can't wait. A long day's drive tomorrow sees us at Sossusvlei. This time tomorrow I will have a huge sand dune in front of me. Exciting. This is what photography is about for me. Enjoyment. Fun. Creation.
Seal on the coast of South Africa. Photograph and text copyright © Len Metcalf 2018
Am sitting in Johannesburg airport, waiting for my connection to Namibia. Memories flood back of our trip here last year. So many wonderful people to travel and photograph with. Such special places to visit. Did we really do that much driving?
One week, we were huddled around a campfire in our down jackets. The next at a different spot as it was too hot to be out by nine a.m., and we found cool spots next to granite rocks to shelter by.
Each place we visited took us time to connect with. Familiar places, yet new and strange. South Africa reminds me of the Flinders Ranges or the Devils Marbles. Roadside rest stops even have our eucalyptus trees to trigger that memory even more.
Who you travel with makes the world of difference. Being relaxed with good people makes the world of difference to my creative endeavours. Feeling supported and loved is just as important as the connection with country and subject. Well, it is for me.
Do you know, I have fonder memories of the people than I have for the place? Yet, I ache to return and sitting here reminds me of both.
Struggling tree caught in a crack in the granite. South Africa. Photograph and text copyright © Len Metcalf 2018
After ten days of twice-daily practise with my medium format digital camera, I am finally settling with it. My fingers are finding their way around easily. The buttons have become familiar, as have the dials. I might even start using the aperture ring next.
I am using it like a view camera, leaving the viewfinder off it and religiously putting it on the tripod to use. The flip up, down and sideways screen makes it easy to use the main screen as my only aid.
It’s when the camera gets out of the way that I can fully immerse myself in the creative task at hand of making art. This is so important. I have to practise using it until it becomes one with me. It’s like when the paint brush becomes an extension of your arm and fingers. I need to become so familiar with it, that it almost disappears.
Bruce Barnham describes a camera cuddle to his students; which I have been doing since with mine. Keep the camera out. Use it regularly and practise until controlling it becomes second nature. On the lounge even, or out on your veranda. Keep changing the aperture and learning what your equipment does. Practise taking well exposed and focused images; rather than on creating beautiful works of art. You want to become unconsciously competent with it. It takes time. It can’t be rushed. You just have to keep at it until you get it.
Remember learning to drive a car. You sat next to others and watched and thought “that’s easy”. You really didn’t know what was required.
Later, once you started learning, you realised you didn’t know how hard it would be. But slowly you learnt. You did everything consciously. Everything was thought out. Planned. You did things in the order you were taught.
Now years later, you can drive a car and chat to your passengers or think about the amazing photographs you will create. You probably can’t remember changing gears or using the indicator. You now have your own way of doing things. You have now progressed to unconscious competence. This is your goal with your camera.
The lesson is to practise until you reach this point.
On Tuesday, I felt this way with the camera. The light and mist were nearly perfect. The mood was gorgeous. My emotional response to my country soared. Without the thoughts of using my camera I relaxed and engaged with my emotions. The photographs flowed. I was lucky enough to share this with Susan. What a wonderful day.
When it’s like this, the images flow and speak for themselves. I hope you enjoy one of the results.
Trees in the mist at Furber Steps, Katoomba in the Blue Mountains. Photograph and text copyright © Len Metcalf 2018
“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched, they must be felt with the heart.”
- Helen Keller
Furber Steps with Witches Leap in the background. Photograph copyright © Len Metcalf 2018
Today, I fly to Namibia to run my first tour there. The first of many I suspect. I first thought when I visited The African continent that I would want to see all of it. Over time, though, it has dawned on me that I will enjoy it more returning to places to get to know them more intimately. I am already looking forward to returning to South Aftrica.
The sand dunes are something I can’t wait to get back into. I still haven’t figured out why I love photographing them. Sand gets everywhere and places like beaches never have seemed to work for me personally. So, it surprises me that I love photographing in the dunes so much.
I don’t bother thinking about it too much. I just go with it. Do we really need to understand why we enjoy things? I am sure one day my subconscious will explain it to me.
Perhaps, one day I should return to The Empty Quater in the Arabian Peninsular. Stunning sand dunes. Each one, hundreds of kilometres long. I must scan the films and share images of the Middle East with you.
The sand in Namibia gets blown directly from the sea. Strong south-westerly winds start it on its journey east.
I do love the lines. Here we were playing beside the road in Namibia. For the causal passerby an innocuous drift of sand, but for an artist a wonderland of design elements begging to be framed into an artwork.
While I am travelling the posts will continue. I have worked diligently to get ahead and hope to share some of my journey while I am there.
Excitement builds and the final presentations need to be made. Yes it’s time to pack.
Namibian Sands. Photograph and text copyright © Len Metcalf 2018
When we first start out we want to learn everything and we tend to turn to a broad-based education. We read whole books on the basics and try to learn everything we can.
A masterful learner doesn’t do that. They study very specific things that they are interested in. They follow thier interests and the problems they are encountering along the way. They study specifically to solve real problems they are facing.
By doing so you are learning and practising problem-solving skills in your practice. You will find yourself more motivated to learn. Solving these questions will bring you a greater feeling of self-worth.
It is better to be a shining specialist than a mediocre generalist.
How do you apply this to your creative endeavour? What are your loves? What do you want to excel in? What do you need to study?
Sand and rock, The Tarkine, Tasmania. Can’t wait to get back to this wonderland of rainforest and untouched coast. My photography tour is in September this year. http://www.lensschool.com/workshops-tours/tarkine-photography-tour Photograph copyright © Len Metcalf 2018
"Never mind pleasure. Search out joy. Pleasure is its shadow. Joy is real, a secret splendour running through all creation.
Like gold, it doesn’t lie about the streets waiting to be picked up. It has to be dug for, with diligence and passion. It’s in people, to be found through the practice of love. It’s in work, in the rigorous exercise of powers of mind, body and spirit. It’s a gift the created world is perpetually offering. The price of it is untiring attention to the present moment.
Hunt it down, pursue and track it to its lair where it dwells. Not in pleasures and pastimes, distractions, piled-up satisfactions and busyness. It dwells in truth and nowhere else.
That’s why it matters. It will show you moment by moment where truth is for you. And when you know that, cleave to it, turn not aside, be given up to that. That, if you will, is a way of life worth living."
- Fae Malania (edited)
Thanks Megan xx
Minimurra Creek at Minimurra Rain Forest Walk. A place that is regenerating due the the careful work of NPWS and because visitors are staying on the boardwalk. Absolutely stunning and well worth the effort to visit. Best photography days will be overcast or rainy. Photograph copyright © Len Metcalf 2018
Bombo Quarry was always full of romanticism, as it was a little Mecca for very hard rock climbs in the eighties. The hip and famous crowd climbed there. The climbers from the Illawarra and the Gong. Names like Fret still ring in my head.
Basalt columns are enticing to climb on. The lines (routes) are so clearly delineated. Finger cracks, jambing and wide stemming. That sort of climbing never settled with me.
Now the infamous climbing cliff is fenced off. Claw wrote about how it had been taken over by a shit farm. A human waste processing plant might be a more politicaly correct term in the modern age. The climbs that made history for a short time now forgotten behind a barbed wire fence.
A dad and his two kids ride past and he makes a dad joke. Checking in with his son to see if he had flatulence. The three laugh and ride on and punch through the wave of smell.
I find the place harsh. A little desert next to the ocean. Hordes of tourists visit daily with hundreds of cameras. There are always plenty of tripods reminding me that landscape photography is a growth industry.
On days the swell is large, the place becomes deafening with pounding waves crashing on the basalt shore.
It’s no surprise that I find this place difficult to connect with and even harder to photograph. But that doesn’t stop me trying.
Bombo Quarry near Kiama. Photograph and text copyright © Len Metcalf 2018
“When the last tree is cut and the last fish killed, the last river poisoned, then you will see that you can't eat money.”
Did you know the Tarkine is still a threatened environment?
The Tarkine, Tasmania. Photograph copyright © Len Metcalf 2018
As I mature I find myself loving the one lens philosophy more and more. It simply makes me work harder and I notice it makes my work stronger. I started that way with my second camera, after the inevitable box camera, with an Olympus OM-1 and a 50mm f1.8 lens. It was what I was given.
I just made do with what I had.
Lens envy didn’t take long to surface, nor did my desire for dad’s black version of the same camera. I laugh, as I still have a very strong preference for all-black cameras.
Choice is a dangerous thing, as Fred Hulls used to say when we taught leadership and teamwork. Derek Lucas had cottoned into it earlier. He would put a can of red herrings in with all the equipment, when he presented more of it than required into a problem-solving exercise. Facinating to watch, people always wanted to use every item including the can of red herrings.
The thing is, if we have it, we want to use it and that little thought becomes the distraction.
There’s a quote there somewhere. If all you have is a hammer then all you can see is nails. Something like that.
Well, if all you have is one lens, all you can see are photographs with that lens. If all you have is one film, all you can see are images and possibilities with that film. If I hunt for square sepia photographs with a standard lens, that is all I see. When you create, search and play with just one combination I can assure you, you will see more possibilities than when you have a world of choice.
Well, this is how it works for me. It’s how it works for some others too.
I wouldn’t have created a composition like this without embracing all the limitations around me. I was on a bridge, so I could only move left or right, up or down and, working with one lens.
As I said yesterday, there is still too much in that camera bag. Something will have to go.
Minimurra Creek, near Kiama at Jamberoo. Photograph and text copyright © Len Metcalf 2018
Taken just yesterday, looking down at Cathedral Rocks near Kiama.
I have been really enjoying pushing my exposures well past the two minute mark over the last few days. I have finally figured out how to easily meter and get my preferred exposure on my Fuji camera. I think this will be stunning at 50 inches square.
I have stopped teaching expose to the right ETTR, now telling people the importance of getting the exposure as close to what you are aiming for visually. I recently started teaching exposure to my twelve year old son, Cyan. I just showed him the exposure compensation dial, how to put the camera in aperture priority and move the wheel until it looks right. It works perfectly every time. Yes, he knows what happens when you blow the highlights. I go back to my mantra, it’s ok as long as you compose the whites as you would with any other compositional element.
I asked him if he wanted a zoom lens for his birthday, thinking it would be a great gift. He looked me firmly in the eye and said “No dad, you don’t use them, so why should I.” I had to laugh.
I don’t know why we like to make things difficult for ourselves. Keep it short and simple.
I look at my camera bag, still too much gear. I must take some out.
For years, photography was hard. Lots of visualisation and learning how to predict how the camera sees with film. Life is so easy these days. More effort can go into composition. Yes, flawless technique is always important, as is post-processing for printing.
Cathedral Rocks, near Kiama photograph and text copyright © Len Metcalf 2018
This morning I was lucky enough to enjoy the sunrise overlooking the ocean. It is a very beautiful thing. I was enjoying the soft morning light pre-sunrise, but then the sunrise stopped me.
It’s rare that I photograph the sunrise or the gorgeous colours it floods the sky with. Usually, I am obsessed with the predawn light and the gorgeous way it can be played with. So many possibilities.
Today, I stopped and watched. It’s funny, it'so easy to forget the feeling that induces. That breathtaking moment when the light peaks through and you can feel the sun's warmth on your face.
I look around again, the golden light danced across the surface of the sea, sparkled and illuminated the wet rocks with gold.
How often do you stop to enjoy what you are witnessing? Are you so caught up in the process and act of photography, that you forget to stop and enjoy the beauty of the world around us?
It’s so lovely to breathe and look, let it wash over us and allow Mother Earth to relax and heal us. Stop, look, listen and feel. Magic is everywhere.
Seaweed on the coast somewhere. Photograph and text copyright © Len Metcalf 2018
This morning we were at Minnamurra Rainforest Walk. Stunning. It was raining, but not enough to use the umbrella I carried. Yes, my camera did get wet. There was a fair bit of cleaning the lens and moving to be under some inconsiderate drips. Well, an inch here and there made all the difference.
I have always wanted to go when the weather and light was being considerate. It was almost perfect. There were lots of shiny leaves. If I was shooting colour I would have removed them with the polarizer, but in monochrome, they are just lovely.
I am reminded of Gordon Undy's project of "looking through". love his shot of the turtles looking through the branches. It is a lovely theme worth pursuing: looking through.
I really love depth and dark black trees that loom into the foreground. They invite you to peek through them to see something else. You will probably notice it is a common theme in my work. Depth is a beautiful subject and one well worth pursuing in its own right.
One day I will make it there in thick mist and be mesmerised.
I was really impressed that National Parks made a point to us to stay on the boardwalk. Wandering off to take that photograph destroys the visual beauty of the place. It harms the fragile ecosystem. I am horrified by how many photographers think it is their right to leave footprints and tripod holes in fragile environments. To wander whereever they like, in their goal of getting the best shot.
Minnimurra Rainforest Walk, Jamberoo, near Kiama. Photograph and text copyright © Len Metcalf 2018