Archive for the 'Beach' Category

All the lovely lulls in life

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I was recently reading something I had written long ago in which I had said that yoga was about getting the inside right while working on the outside.  I was glad to have gone back and read this as I have been feeling, over the past few weeks, that my own personal yoga practice had hit a plateau.  I have been watching the students in my classes make leaps and bounds and taking much delight in their individual journeys.  It is in enormous privilege to be part of this.  To watch them blossom and expand.  To see them face their fears and overcome anxieties.   To engage with them as they make space in their bodies and lives.

Within my own practice I have become frustrated with seemingly little progress over the last month.  I have felt tightness in my hips and this has resulted in not finding the depth in my flexibility that I desire.  I have found that I have not mastered a new challenging pose for a while.  Watch my ego talking here.  Ego ego ego.

So upon re-reading my own words I am reminded that plateaus are okay.  That they are an inevitable and necessary part of life.  More than that though, I was reminded that reaching a lull in my physical practice does not mean that work is not being done.  Everyday when I roll out my mat and use that 6 x 2 space to twist and bend my body into unimaginable poses I am wringing out my stresses and engaging my heart.  I am making space in my body and mind. When I go upside down I am listening to my breath and finding stillness. I am pausing.  I am reminded that, with all things in life, we need these lulls and plateaus.  We cannot be seeking, growing and expanding every day.  That there will be times when we go forward in great leaps and bounds and then time when we pause and reflect.

It is during these pauses and reflections that we do most of our internal work.  Imagine for a moment it is a beautiful sunny Sunday afternoon.  You decide to tackle a moderate mountain or hill climb.  During the climb you concentrate only on putting one foot in front of the other.  You are engaged with supplying your muscles with oxygen and with the process of moving your muscles.  Then finally, after much effort you reach the top.  The plateau.  Here you pause.  You inhale, expand and your heart fills with joy and pride.  You stand for a moment or two just taking in the beauty of this exquisite planet we call home.  Deep breath after deep breath you fill yourself up.  You smile.  Perhaps you sit for a while in quiet thought and contemplation.  You made it and now you are full of pride and happiness.  As your breath becomes calm you lose yourself in all that is.  You think about how you have just challenged yourself.  How you did not think you would make it but you did.  You begin to think about the meaning of life.  Your mind wanders to some of the challenges in your own life.  Somewhere there on top of that mountain you find answers.  So you begin the slow gently climb down.  It seems easy compared to the climb.  Your heart is happy and your soul content.  Your mind is quiet and you feel a new sense of peace.

So it is in life and yoga.  There are lulls in everything as there was on top of the mountain and it is here in these lulls that we do our contemplation.  We cannot only be doing the physical work.  We need the lulls and quiet to make sense of it all.  So I am reminded that this lull in my physical practice is similar to that time on top of the mountain.

There are lulls in all areas of our lives.  In our relationships and in our work.  I cannot possibly be constantly creative in my photography.  I need the time of the lulls to retreat back into myself.  To find the quiet contemplation that is the seat of all our creativity.  The lulls and plateaus are when we do our internal work.  It is when we turn inwards and apply what we have learnt.  It is a little like dreaming.  We cannot be awake all the time.  We need to rest and sleep and during our sleep we dream.  During our dreams our minds are sorting and making sense of what we learned during our waking hours.

I think to some degree we fear these lulls.  We fear that we will not move forward again.  That it is not a lull, and that it is perhaps a wall.  This is rarely the case and if it is we simply feel our way along the wall until we find the edges and a new way round.

So remember to engage fully with all the beautiful lulls in your life. Sit in quiet contemplation until such time as it is done.  Do not rush this process for it is here that all the answers will find you.

 

 

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So many brave warriors

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This last weekend I braved an early and somewhat cold start, attached my fastest and biggest lens to my camera and headed off to take some action shots of the Ironman triathlon being held in Durban.  As I left my house the sky was alive with promise of a beautiful day and I felt the sweet breath of anticipation somewhere deep within me.

I arrived at the starting point just as the sun was edging its way into the new day, creating black palm tree silhouettes against a flaming red sky.  Three and a half thousand men and women stood shivering in their wetsuits waiting to start this half ironman competition that started with a two kilometre swim out past the back line and in again further up the beach.  From here the competitors cast aside their wet suits and head out on a one hundred kilometre bike ride. When done with that they would then have to face a twenty one kilometre run before they make it to the finish line.  My goodness this is only a half Ironman!! Families, friends and strangers mill around waiting for the start before walking the distance to where they come out of the water to start stage two.  I am struck by the tense sense of excitement.  An almost breathless anticipation of the day ahead.

The competitors came in all shapes and sizes along with all ages.  Each one of them prepared to push themselves physically and mentally beyond the norm.  Each one of them setting themselves an seemingly impossible target.  The waves that day were enormous.  Probably over three metres and to be honest, not being a water baby, there is not even a possibility I would have ventured out there in a worthy vessel let alone under my own steam.  As the swimmers came back towards the shore you could see the massive waves filled with tiny black dots being swept high and pounded down to be tossed about like buttons in a shaker jar.  Not for the feint hearted.  However, age was not a deterrent to these people.  There were plenty of competitors considerably older than me.  Size was not a deterrent.  They came in every possible guise.  As they stumbled out of the water I was already in awe.

They set off on their bicycles and we made a dash to drive to a half way point.  Firstly because it had coffee (having been up since five thirty this was becoming a priority in my life at this time) and secondly so that I could get some photographs like the one above.  This guy is smiling.  Seriously!

Then we drove back to the finish line to watch them run.  The run was done by way of a ten or so kilometre loop so the runners came past several times.  Supporters lined this route, leaning up against the barrier and passing endless words of encouragement to the runners who by now are starting to look like finishing is not even a possibility.

I was overwhelmed by the support these complete strangers gave to the competitors. Every man and woman that passed was handed a huge dose of kindness.  Their names would be called and words of encouragement would follow.  The people next to me made sure not to miss out anyone.  They clapped and cheered and gave courage to those that had seemingly lost their own.  This was beautiful.  By now the sun was warm and I found myself surrounded by strangers helping strangers.  The unknown supporting the unknown. I soaked it up and revealed in the joy of being human.  How incredibly sweet this all was.

We are capable of so much more than we think.  As humans we have the mental capacity to overcome almost anything.  Seeing these people push themselves to the limits of their endurance and physical capability moved me in a way I cannot describe.  They were truly courageous.  Each facing whatever it is they have to face and doing so for their own reasons.  Each with their own story.

The kindness that humans show to each other is so beautiful it is beyond words.  Why I ask myself do we have wars and why are people so intolerant of one another.  It is not our nature.  We are not born this way.  We are born with soft open hearts and this is how it should stay.  When people come together like this, hold each other up and open their hearts to one another there is an energy that sinks deep into your soul.

It should be like this everyday.  Be kind to one another.  Open your hearts and hold each other up.  We are all courageous and we are all just writing the pages of our own stories.

As in the words of Ram Dass – “We are all just walking each other home”.

 

What do running and photography have in common?

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Now you are wondering why I am posting a photo of a surfer when I am writing a photography blog that is now talking about running. Well stick with me with my roundabout feminine logic.

Life has a rhythm doesn’t it.  Days have a rhythm.  Days of the week being different to the weekend. Days spent on holiday develop a new sweet rhythm all of their own.  My days have a rhythm to them.  I always start my day with yoga.  If I have to I will get up before sunrise to fit this in.  It’s how I roll.  Just very occasionally if I am shooting early, say at sunrise, I might give this a miss.  I start with a cup of green tea (yep, I really like that stuff) and then put on my headphones and spend an hour on my mat easing my body into the day.  I then spend the rest of the day either shooting, editing, uploading to Getty or doing all that other boring stuff that photographers have to do.  For those of you reading this that think photographers spend their entire days behind the camera think again.  Many many hours are spent at our computers doing all the gloriously mundane behind the scenes work which actually makes up the bulk of our lives unless of course you are so successful you have a team of assistants doing all the mundane stuff for you.  Sadly I am not one of them.

Now thankfully my work is quite portable and I will often take my office to a coffee shop and work there just because I can and because I love coffee as much as I love green tea.  Somewhere around mid afternoon I start to get restless and that beautiful afternoon light starts calling me.  This is my favourite time to shoot if I am working on location outdoors but this is also my favourite time to run.

Once again I grab those headphones and head down to the beach.  I am blessed to be able to call this hot and humid part of Africa home.  There is a long promenade at my local beach which is almost exactly 5km long.  I park at one end as I get out of the car and can actually feel a skip in my heart.  I simply love the freedom of running.  The way that for that time I belong only to myself.  I love the place that I go in my mind and how time stops. That I forget everything and exist only in the moment. That I find the rhythm of my soul.  Same thing happens when I get behind my camera.  Same skip of the heart.  Same place I go in my head and that same beautiful feeling of my soul finding its rhythm.

Now if you are not getting any of the above when you have your camera in hand you need to go do something else because when you are in your creative zone this is how it should be.  If the world doesn’t stop for you when you create don’t give up your day job just yet. When you are truly passionate about your art it should make your soul sing, and your heart dance. It should make you feel weightless and it should make you feel free.

When I run the promenade I watch the surfers.  I see the looks on their faces in those moments before they enter the ocean.  I literally see the freedom they feel as they catch a wave.  I know where they are.  I know that their hearts are skipping beats and dancing their own secret dances.   I feel their joy and I know that their souls are finding their rhythm.

Now go and find your sweet spot.  Find the rhythm of your soul because when you do it’s an exquisitely beautiful thing.

 

 

On the beach with Ellen

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This is my beautiful eldest daughter Ellen.

She is currently living in Cape Town working the modelling season there.  She is represented by Ice Models in Durban and Cape Town.  The Durban office asked me to take some natural, no make up photos of her for her portfolio.  Now I don’t normally get to shoot Ellen much so this was a rare privilege.

For the months that Ellen was home before her move to Cape Town we would head down to the beach every morning to do our yoga.    I have cherished this time with her. Our quiet mornings watching the sun rise.  So many moments of laughter and joy and an equal amount of moments with tears.  It has been an absolute privilege to have watched her grow and mature during this time into this amazingly self-contained, self-assured beautiful young woman.  Yoga has a way of doing that to people but more on that in another post.  Always beautiful on the outside I have seen her inner beauty develop beyond that which I thought possible at such a young age.  I envy her this journey.  I wish that I had travelled this road years ago.

After our yoga we headed down the beach to near a lagoon where there are some wooden steps coming down from the dunes.  The light was already quite harsh by this time so we did not have ideal shooting conditions and she was facing into the sun.  Most of us would look dreadful right!  No make up, post exercise, harsh sunlight and facing into the sun.  I love this photograph for many reasons but mainly because of all those reasons.  This is Ellen in all her glorious bare beauty.  She has, in her eyes, a look of such contentment and determination.  What a wonderful combination.

Her sandy coloured cardigan blended beautifully with the wooden steps and her hair naturally bleached from our mornings on the beach just added to the muted tones.  I did a Scott Kelby process on this photo.  If anyone wants to know how to do this it is in Scott’s photoshop book and is a lovely, slightly desaturated look that works so well here.

I still do my yoga every morning, continuing with my own journey through this messy thing called life.  I miss her presence beside me.  She pushed me to achieve things I did not think I would, she encouraged me to be more, as I hope I did her.  We have both grown enormously in those hours side by side in the exquisite morning light.  She has far to travel and what an incredible journey it will be.

 

 

 



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