There is something about the stretching expanse of a country road that evokes an emptiness. The rocks spinning out, the dirt crunching and blowing dust clouds, the bumps and bangs and yet also, the absolute beauty of a world without obvious human life. Just pine forests, hills and harsh bends, kangaroos and sometimes, a fenceline to remind you where you’re going. Your mind runs with the fuel tank, unless you focus it.
When I was little my favorite thing to do was to ‘explore’. I turned copious amounts of rocks and planter pots, climbed trees and haystacks and fences, crawled into bushes, and all of it was done in search of life. The thrill of finding a cat, or a dog, or any kind of domesticated animal was a day made. More realistically though, I looked for bugs – butterflies and ladybirds, and spiders with patterns on their back, and slaters, and bees, and caterpillars. I learned that bees liked flowers, and the water trough. That caterpillars hid in rotting apples. That worms came out when it rained. That slaters liked the dark. I liked the way the grass squished on a rainy day, the patterns on trees, finding leaf skeletons in autumn and tiny blue bird eggshells in spring. I liked running and falling into leaves, the way flower petals feel against your cheek, and when the wind howled and it rained, and I looked at the sky with wonder.
I loved the world, but I grew up, and I forgot to make time for it. The first time I picked up a camera, it was that childish thrill that rushed through me. It was a ticket to connect again, to experience and learn and make time to just be. A chance to be new to the world, and find that state of wonder and curiosity again, in the simplest of situations.
Through a lens finder, things look different. What you see and what you photograph are different. There is something magic about going close up, waiting for moments, and trying to make what you see and what you capture as close as possible.
There is a frustration, a need for patience – like when you run excitedly towards a bird only for it to fly away, or you don’t have the right equipment to match your long distance vision. If you want to see something, let alone want to capture it, you need to wait. If you are calm, and empathetic, and understand your place in the world of something else, that’s when magic happens. You become your senses instead of your ego.
When you look, properly look, you start to see the way the clouds become colours, or leaves become framing devices, or petals become a bohkeh’d colour in the background. You begin to see the curiosity, the personality, of the creature you’re photographing, and your job is to see it in the best light.
My friend Elly and I had just left the shopping centre, and she said “isn’t this light perfect.” It was, it was golden hour, and it rushed through the grime and grit of the city and made it shine somehow. You could see it streaming through the window, turning the specks of dust into glitter. It wasn’t the first golden hour I’d seen, in fact we all see them, every day. I just hadn’t noticed it before. Light is everything in photography, and so are shadows. Everything is about how you see it, the way you turn it into a frame. More importantly it’s about paying attention.
You can wait hours to capture a bird in flight, to get a second chance at a split second capture. You can also get the shot in a second. Photography to me is all about mindfulness, about silencing yourself and tuning in to your surroundings. It’s about being connected, and being empathetic, and about that magic moment when you manage to get what you see captured in film.
The city I live in doesn’t have dirt roads, or rocks, or haystacks – but there is life everywhere, and I never feel more connected with myself, and the world, than I do with my camera in hand.