Tuesday, 28 February 2012

The power of Photoshop

I was going to talk about snow in this blog – the blindingly white stuff that crunches under your boots and melts on your tongue – but I’ve entered my first ever photography competition and been bowled over by Photoshop.  The competition's website said they wanted digital entries with a creative approach or treatment, which means using a camera to capture the image but using a variety of techniques to edit it, which means Hello Photoshop. 
As I didn’t have Photoshop – I do now, due to the love and kindness of someone dear to me – my friend Terry said to come round and he would give me some quick lessons. I selected seven or eight images and played with them, and I ended up choosing three out of those eight and submitting them in the categories Best Digital Landscape and Best Digital Abstract.
I had a lot of fun, and was gobsmacked by what you can do to a simple picture.  And excited, too. So I’m sharing some of the before and after shots here.

One of my own personal rules dictates that I try as little as possible to interfere with the original shot, except in two instances, where I went a little wild.

The other example I can't show because I've submitted it to the comp. 
I didn’t add things to the photos – no computer graphics, for instance – except for colour and contrast and something called temperature. I did, in one instance, take out a handrail. Simply rubbed it out, which was a weird feeling.

A good friend tells me that I make frequent use of vanishing points in my photography. I didn’t know what a vanishing point was, so Lesley explained how the lines in the photograph converge in the middle distance, and I see now that I do use them quite often. She wondered if my many photos of pathways/roads/lanes means that I am searching for something. I don’t know. I like to think rather that I am intrigued by the unknown, by what lies beyond. Do other photographers out there relate to this, to finding a theme in your pictures?

It’s fairly obvious how all this relates to writing. Get something simple or straightforward down and keep adding layers to it until you have a piece that is worth looking at or, in this case, reading.  The trick of course is to get something down to start with... 

Ah, well, back to the real world.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Climb every mountain

Last week I climbed Table Mountain in Cape Town.

Table Mountain is at the bottom of Africa and is over 1,000 metres above sea level. I read recently that it’s believed to be one of the oldest mountains in the world, but I’m not sure how they know that and whether it’s true. While it looks flat on top, believe me it isn’t.  I first climbed it with my father and my brother when I was a little girl. We climbed not just up, but down again, in one day. My memories from that trip are hazy but one is that I was always lagging behind, and the other is that my father sustained me with pieces of chocolate.  When I climbed it two days ago I couldn’t face food, and I kept myself going for most of the way with water and the thought of a cold beer when we reached the cable car station.
At various stages of my life I have climbed this particular mountain again and again. And again. It never loses any of its magic.

There are a number of routes to take to reach the top, and the one we chose is called Skeleton Gorge. I say we because you should never climb a mountain on your own and, just as importantly, you need someone to set the pace. Someone who, when you feel like lying flat out like a lizard on a rock like my friend below, cracks the whip.

Skeleton Gorge is a ravine that ascends between two outcrops at the back of the mountain. And, basically – there’s no getting away from it – it’s straight up. It’s tough-going. One section is a rock scramble. In the winter, this bit is tricky because it’s often dripping with water. It’s summer now, of course, and it was almost dry. I don’t know if the ferns and grasses were grateful for the sweat dripping from my hairline. 

But it’s all worth it. The top is reached by overcoming a series of ridges, a series that has you fooled, that has you believing the top is over the next ridge, but when you reach that ridge you find there’s another. And another. And when you finally reach the top and look down on all below you as if you were King of the World, it’s a surprise. 

Why do we climb mountains? For some people it’s simply because they’re there.
But for me it’s about pushing myself. And where my thoughts take me as I put one foot in front of the other. As I look at nature in a new way.

Or heave myself over one more boulder. For me it’s about the challenge. And the exhilaration when I’m done. 

I like to think about my writing in the same way.