Sit down with a cuppa and learn what is happening in the Pollination Garden.


Photo challenges are something I have been wanting to do for a while, ever since I did my first workshop I realised that regular practise and community are two ways in which you can improve your skill set which is the perfect reason to do a photo challenge.

Before I talk about the challenge I want to share with you why I have chosen the challenge that I have. First it is not about being technical which I appreciate if you haven't been behind the camera for a while that this is a great way to dust off the cob webs that may be lurking over your lens. No stress let's just have fun.

The second, it is a jump start for me. I started a personal project a while ago based on an exercise I had read in the wonderful book by Laura Pahsby (@circleofpines) called Little stories of your life. Her exercise centred around a cup of tea moment where you could write what was happening around you as you had your tea. I loved this idea and so diligently made my tea, wrote some words, took a photo. Rinse and repeat. I quietly noticed that the moments moved during the day. The words became more poetic. They became phrases as I found different ways to capture mood. The images because I have been working from home for the last 4 months became about textures and light. All good stuff right. Yup. Until I stopped. I got to day 165 before I lost interest. I suspect that this happens with personal projects. Life takes your mind and heart in different directions and then sometimes you just loose your mojo.

So because I love the idea and I love what I have been creating. I liked that for this personal project I used my iPhone. I loved that I was taking a moment to write and discover new things about my writing. I decided I needed a reframe so here we are. The first photo challenge and let's see if I can get my mojo back.

So the premise is select a time of day. Have a think about your day and pick a time where you know you will have space and time to take a few minutes away from what ever you are doing so that you can take a photo. For me I am going to try 3.45pm. Set an alarm on your phone or whatever works for you and then at the time take a photo. Don't over think it. Look around see what catches your eye and then take the picture. The task should only take a few minutes. It's designed to make you stop for a beat, look and just see what kind of beauty you can find in the everyday that captures your heart.

Share if you wish on insta #mydailyphotomoments Collect them as I do in a folder on your phone. Use your digital camera, use your iPhone. The only rule is setting a time and turning up at that time for 7 days. When the 7 days end check in and see how you feel. You might be done. You might want to keep going. Maybe it is something that you do once a month or a prompt like I am to jump start how you feel about your photos. I would love to hear your thoughts on how it goes for you.

From the work that I have already done on my personal project I learnt it was fun to play with different colour palettes than I normally do. I loved looking at different textures and light in my home but I think the gift I have gotten most from this excerise is capturing a time in our lives. I know things will change as change is life so capturing the ordinary little bits and pieces around me has made what I have achieved so far with this project mean so much to me.

I woke early to the sound of rain, a welcome sound after a day of heat. The blankets provide comfort unlike the night before where they were oppressive. It was too hot to sleep then. As I woke my mind started to dance with thoughts. Words formed and they were anxious to be written on a page. I thought I will remember them, I can lie here a bit longer. I did and the words danced off somewhere else and the ones I later wrote weren’t nearly as clear sighted as what I initially thought. The comfort of a duvet chased them away.

The thoughts where connected to my photography work. I have been given a blank canvas to create something. Anything. To tell a story. To build a narrative and part of me can’t quiet believe that I am here. I am starting a Diploma in Postgraduate Visual Arts. I am going to create a body of work.

Yesterday I met my tutors. Tutors to guide me through this little journey I am about to start. Masked up I got a tour of the building. There was a camera equipment store room, open space with lighting to create images. A printer bigger than my dresser and light. Oh the light, even on a wet day you could see the potential of the light coming through the big windows. I felt small and wondered how long it would be before working in such a space would feel normal. I mentioned my set up at home of a chair and a background when taking still life work. I think we all start there. I also wondered how long it would before we would see each others faces, mask free. A weird tangent of our new normal.

We sat and talked. I think I was suppose to share my vision, my plans but I was shy. I listened to how my year would unfold with excitement. It made sense. It felt good. I heard myself give an sigh. The release of breathe when you realise that you are in a good place. A precious feeling after a wonky few years of not knowing which way to go. It was a lot to feel and see. I am slow at processing. I left with millions of thoughts, thoughts that were looking for the paper to be written on.

Lunch with a friend was to follow and I was early. I found a table and ordered food and while I wanted for my dear sweet friend who I knew would get this next step in my journey with a few words that I would say when she arrived in the meantime I wrote. Pairs of women sat around me chatting away about this and that and I wrote my words. I released them to the paper. My friend came, we ate, added to the dine of the chatter and headed back to her office to collect things before heading home.

On her wall are my prints. The first I had put up for sale in the confusion of wanting to take the next step with my art work but not sure how and like the dear sweet friend that she is she brought a couple. She took it a step further and got them framed and then as we stood in her office they where. On the wall. Framed in a different way to what I had thought possible. I struggled at first to see them as my photos. They looked so different. Then it was explained. The framer, an artist, had framed my photos in a way that made sense to them. They looked beautiful and highlighted light and features in ways I had not seen before. It was a poignant moment even more so because of where I had been earlier that morning. In an art school where images sat on walls. I had looked at these images and wondered how I would fit into this space. Would I be good enough? Seeing my prints on my friends wall suggested I would be ok.

Returning to my rainy morning, it crept on. Tea was had along with toast. Words have been written and I encourage myself since I have the space today to leave my notebook open on the table to a blank page so as the day unfolds I can write more. The rain is still falling and I should get out of bed but that comfortable duvet......

The rain has cleared as I head outdoors, camera in hand. I do this most days. A quiet little moment of observation. I like taking some time to connect to the garden, to see, to learn and to understand my role it more. Sometimes it is a quick dart out, other times I can be there as long as I want, luxuriating in being able to wander around distracted by whatever takes my eye. You can quickly lose an hour doing this.

Over the year or so since I took up my camera, taking photos of the garden has helped me understand my role in the garden. My role has become one of an observer and gardening for me has become less about controlling and maintaining and more about becoming part of the community that lives in my flower beds. I think a large part of the reason for this is from what I have seen from behind the camera.

I definitely see more of the details that make up the garden and this tends to be what I take photos of. Little details. Some days the images I take are inspired from something I have seen as I have weeded a bed. A little secret that was hidden. I would have walked past it before. It would have gone unnoticed. Other days I know it is the season for roses, dahlias, spring bulbs and I am anxious to capture then before they pass. I find regular practice has helped improve my skill set. Those daily ventures into the garden benefit me creatively and definitely spiritually.

The interest in creative details that you find in your garden and how to capture them is the main theme of the workshop I will be giving in February at Crosshill Gardens.

I did a practice run for workshop the other day. No doubt confirming for the neighbors my oddness as I talked to myself whilst in the garden. I discovered on my first attempt that I get distracted, that I get excited that I am like a kid in a candy store. I darted from one bloom to another. The delights in a garden constantly inspire and when I think of sharing that excitement, of others feeling the same, it fills me with joy.

So today, camera in hand, I walk down the path. In this moment for me it is about the roses. Roses after rain are the best. They droop with the weight which can evoke a feeling of life weight. They have just opened, a fresh bloom, with a delicate sprinkle of raindrops on petals. Or they are a tight bud wound to a tapered point, ready to burst when the sun returns.

When I take a photo I think about what has attracted me to the flower. What was it that caught my eye? Humans like distractions, our eyes flickering one thing to another. A quick endorphin rush follows after our eyes have rested on a beautiful rose. I have questions that run through my head unconsciously as I take my photo. A dialogue almost between plant and me. It tells me it’s mood and I respond with my camera. Sometimes we feel the same. I factor in the environment, again more question and finally I think about how I want to tell the story of the bloom. The options are numerous and I work my way through them factoring mood and environment. The photo is taken.

My purpose is not perfection. In fact I embrace imperfection. A bruised petal, a faded bloom, they for me hold just as much beauty as the newly flowering. Perhaps more so because they have a story. Even the out of focus photos have merit. One of my teachers advised me of this, that the technically imperfect photo can capture the mood better than the perfect one. Sometimes the images flow, other days nothing works and I take it as a lesson. I listen to what is going on around me and within. Taking a moment to reflect.

My workshop in February, my first, at Crosshill Gardens will be like this, us walking in the garden together, seeing what captures our eye – squeals of delight are optional. I will talk though how I take a photo, do a demonstration if technology is kind and then we can wander, talk and capture the beauty that is Ali’s stunning garden. I hope you will join me.

Workshop details can be found on the Secret Gardens NZ website. I do have plans forming for other workshops. If you are interested please sign up to my newsletter.