Welcoming the Snowdrops

clump of snowdrops dancing in sunlight

When does a year begin?

For me it is this day, when the sun is finally shining and you walk out in hope because surely they must be here by now, and even though it’s not much of a surprise,

even though it’s become something of a ritual for you, this watching for them, waiting,

still –

I’m not sure there is anything more lovely, more hope-giving, than the sight of these wee flowers poking up their heads through the mud, and rough ground, and glinting in the sun.

The Light of this Day

One of the biggest gifts of photography, for me, is that it teaches me to notice and appreciate the light.

The way it falls, the way it moves and changes, the way it throws shadows, and the way it illuminates.

I find when I try and think back on a year I am taken instead to particular days, particular places, particular moments – watching, and noticing the light.

Although we love to love the newness and promise of a brand new year, I will keep on learning to notice the look of this day, this place, here, now.

Have a very happy New Year when it comes!

What a Gift

Boots.

Ice grippers to stop me from falling.

A path from my door that leads to a nature reserve in a disused quarry.

Ten minutes walk, and no need to drive on ice.

Blue skies, and brilliant sunshine.

A camera that fits in my pocket.

It being Sunday morning.

The thickness of the frost, hanging on everything, tree branches, bulrushes, nettles, and everything drooping with its weight and glinting with its brilliance.

A path dipping through it, like entering a Christmas card.

An avenue of trees.

The aesthetic of winter.

Ice.

Sunshine.

Sunday.

Boots.

Wishing you all all the gifts of the season – especially the free sort

Caught By A Rainbow

The days in December have been dark, and wet. We haven’t had the inconvenience of ice and snow, and for this our commuting selves are grateful, but the absence of sunlight, of any kind of light, can get to you after a while, and leave you staring at the sky, and at the hour by hour weather forecasts, hoping for a break in the clouds.

I grabbed an hour or so the other week when the forecast looked auspicious, or passable at least, that fitted with the daylight hours, and other work and domestic plans. I had an hour, a whole hour, to head up the nearest hill, camera in hand, and breathe for a while.

As I climbed, you could see the break in the weather that I was enjoying. Although I was bathed momentarily in strong winter sunlight, across the other side of the river, huge dark clouds were looming, rolling and filling the skies.

A rainbow followed, cutting through the sky, arching across what sometimes feels like the whole of central Scotland from way up here, stretching out in front of you. I stood, transfixed by the rainbow straight ahead.

I have no picture to show you – I couldn’t catch it.

It caught me.

As I stood and watched, transfixed, a bird of prey flew across and stopped, and hovered.

For a few moments the sky was full.

For a few moments the sky and the world and the time were full.

There was nothing but this: the land stretched out ahead, the sleet showers looming, the arc of the rainbow, the hovering wings of a bird of prey.

And then the light changed, and the rainbow faded.

The bird flew on.

And in the aftermath I said a quiet thank you for the intensity of this moment, reflecting, picture-less, that this, this, is why I take photographs.

The Blue Hour

I was learning about the blue hour this week.

The blue hour

is the period of twilight each morning and evening when the Sun is a significant distance below the horizon and the residual, indirect sunlight takes on a predominantly blue hue

Down at the Forth shore in December the day felt blue even at lunchtime,

but then again it is so often blue down here, the space and the shore and the river light all playing off each other and merging into not much more than blue,

which is one of the reasons I like to head down here when I can, just to mooch, just to look at the sky and the shore and the absence of stuff,

and even if the light is low I am still grateful that it is not chucking it down with rain, and that although I have to work in an office my job is flexible enough that at some points in the week I can duck away in time to catch what little is left of the light, and just walk along the shore, and let the soft blue light do its work of seeing off the winter blues.

The Opening

Perhaps it always only ever takes but a moment –

Just the fraction of a moment for something to catch your eye: some movement in the trees, some fragment of poetry, some kindness in a stranger’s smile, some chord in a song, some way the light falls –

And there it is again, that reminder, that possibility of things being different – wilder, thicker, deeper and eternally more true –

And the invitation to walk right on in.

A Touch of Frost

The weather has been turning.

After weeks of gentle sunshine, autumn shook itself into winter with winds and rain.

Suddenly the trees are bare, silhouette gorgeous, and reminding me again how much I love the aesthetics of winter, if not the absence of light.

Yesterday we had a first scattering of snow, and the leaves and late flowers were touched at the edges with frost.

Out in the world, it’s hard not to feel like we’re in a winter season. Things can seem very dark.

It’s hard for any of us to make any sense of it. I don’t think there’s sense to be made of it.

It often feels discordant to keep focusing on beauty, on the soft loveliness of the world in the face of such harshness, such darkness, but also wrong to stop, and an affirmation of something important to keep saying otherwise.

The Edge of the Flowers

The early autumn here has been beautiful, weeks and weeks it feels like of dry sunny weather, and all the light we didn’t get in the summer. Warm too – last Sunday, the first of November, I was picnicking on the side of a hill in jeans and t-shirt!

I confess though, there’s something about the damp and misty days that draws me in, that lets you be in a different kind of way. Back down at the shore again in the middle of this week the other side had disappeared once more, and everything was drippy, damp.

There were only a couple of lone figures out, walking dogs or like me catching the sounds and patterns of the wading birds out on the mud flats, half there and half not as they drifted in and out of the mist.

There’s no pressure to do anything on a day like this at a place like this, not to enjoy, not to take photographs, not to be impressed or to impress, just be, half there and half not, like the birds.

Even with the dull light and the dampness there were still a few flowers dancing at the edge, and I couldn’t help but admire their torn and tearing softness, muted, like the tones of the day.

Season of Mists

It was a beautiful autumn-gold day when I left the house this morning. By the time I got down to the river, the world was cloaked in fog.

It wasn’t the walk that I’d planned and so much more lovely than that.

With no-one else about, all sounds muffled, the other side of the water swallowed up by the mist, only the cry of the birds for company –

Everything was still, everything was muted, everything was dreamy.

It was like walking for an hour in another world, as far from the busyness of ‘reality’ as you could be.

And for the umpteen hundredth time I found myself thinking: I will never find the words for this, the gorgeousness of the world; no photographs can ever do more than hint at its loveliness, and my thankfulness.

Back to the Source

There are lots of different ways of thinking about photography.

Sometimes these ideas and theories grab my attention, other times they leave me feeling vaguely baffled.

Sometimes I think it’s not really photography that I’m interested in at all, only what it is that I notice as a result of walking with a camera.

And that, for me, is and always has been the natural world.

You don’t need a camera for this of course but the practice of looking out has certainly changed things for me, making you more likely to notice patterns, movement, light.

To notice and appreciate the look of the natural world, in all its different guises, over and over.