Taking pictures and riding through sheep!
A long long time ago when I did ‘A’ levels, my father had insisted on 3 academic subjects. French (my favourite subject) coincided with Biology and Chemistry, and Art (my other favourite) wasn’t considered a ‘real’ subject, so I chose the next easiest thing… History of Art!
It was wonderful; all those gorgeous pictures and such beautiful architecture; the constituents of a painting, colour, structure, balance, light etc. I was captivated. (I also realised while riding through Poland that our art teacher must have come from either Poland or Slovakia, as her name was Miss Hajduk)
This rambling introduction is because I thought I’d share a little of the enjoyment I take in looking through the lens of a camera and what it is I’m actually looking for… what I want a picture to say.
We were shown ‘The Golden Mean’ which was a complex organisation of lines that divided a picture up and with various diagonals, could offer a way of producing direction, movement and focus, leading the eye to something interesting, or quietening the overall effect by having less ‘clutter’…. perhaps choosing a point of bright colour and carefully placing this in the prescribed corner or in contrast to it’s complimentary colour somewhere else in the picture!
After a while this way of looking becomes a habit, as well as trying to get a nice exposure etc, and all the things that photography demands. So although there is a lot of impulsive point and shoot, when I am selecting pictures, I usually look very carefully at the composition: and with a mix of pictures, like a programme of music, try to get some variety in there. People, colour, mood, stillness, beauty, reality, mess and so on. I especially love the way light falls on or halos landscape, and those little moments when an especially interesting person comes my way. How to capture respectfully whilst preserving privacy.
Somehow in Noto and the surrounding countryside, with the short days, strong sun and long shadows, the magnificent and ornate architecture, I am in an abundance of subject matter!!
Today I have shopped for supplies and taken a first bike load up to the beautiful area I will be staying in over Christmas. Leaving the town and the roadside litter behind, the afternoon sun was just comfortably warm, so 5 or so miles uphill was really enjoyable. The colour of the local stone is a deep sand gold, and when the sun is on it, it glows so warmly. The soft light sage-green of the olive trees, and their gnarled shapes against the deep blue sky, another joy, and then the fragrance of jasmine and pretty little white stars brushing my shoulder. In the distance, wonderfully shaped hill tops, with little bobbles of green against the dry dusty sand/earth and in the foreground, the earth darker where it has just been ploughed, throwing up the warm smells of manure.
Pan-tiled roofs and small dwellings amongst the neat rows of bright green orange trees and on the Tarmac, squished olives now, instead of apples and beet. A scurrying lizard darting into a cranny in the stone wall and an enormous toad who sadly didn’t make it across to the other side.
One of my favourite local vehicles is the time honoured Vespa-style van. Essentially a 3-wheeler motor bike with a very flimsy shell/car body around it that rattles and bounces along and carries everything you could possible imagine! Ideal for the tiny narrow and steep streets in town, as well as the hairpins in the hills.
A flock of sheep, honking car horns and dongly bells with barking and Baa-ing are all part of the picture… noisy strimming and tractors rumbling and giving off fumes… but then, further up, the stillness settles and within the gates, just sunlight and lemon trees, winding paths and the stream. Ahead, a huge hill with the last of the sun along the top and beneath it’s shoulders, soft shadows. Bougainvillea, Myrtle berries, great blue-green cactus leaves, order and nature, tiles and stoves, quiet, shuttered, candle-lit rooms. Carpets of pine needles and collections of logs for burning.
This is where I shall spend Christmas, quietly in nature and delicious solitary contemplation. I can already feel myself dropping into peace.
A quick look around to make sure no little animals can get to my food store and then it’s a beautiful long wind down with a salmon sunset behind me and the town in the distance turning from warm red-gold to being lit up against the night sky.. domes and more domes, the hill-side town with all it’s steps and levels, balconies and ancient doors in the walls.
Thanks to the generosity and thoughtfulness of friends and connections I am going to be able to take a rest in this lovely place, and for the time being, not have to be constantly planning ‘the next stop/place to stay’.
You can imagine how great that feels and how easy it is to slip into a much lower gear.
A very special thank you for making this possible.
I don’t think I will be putting out a message at 3pm on the 25th, but you never know, and I shall certainly feel like a Queen!