Archive for October, 2016


In the cathedral in Segovia I recently spotted these two doors right next to each other. They immediately struck me as curious.

Firstly, one is so much bigger than the other, and secondly, the little one seems to have been squeezed in as some kind of after-thought. Look how it almost disappears behind the pillar, and how the stone work overlaps the arch around it.

Why have two doors so close to each other but such different sizes? Are there two rooms behind them? Is the room on the left a bigger room than the one of the right? Or do they both lead into the same room – that would be even more strange.

But maybe there is another reason. Maybe each door is for different people. Maybe the bigger door is for more “important” people, and the smaller one for servants, or those of lower standing. That would be odd, wouldn’t it? I know lots of old mansions had a main door at the front and a servants, or “merchants” door at the back, but this is different. Here they are right next to each other.

Then this morning as I looked at this photo again I thought well just as each of us engage with the world from our own perspective, our own unique subjective viewpoint, I wonder if we enter into each day through an individually shaped door?

And if we do, then are you starting today by going in through the big door, or the smaller one? What will that be like?

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Is it possible to go anywhere in the northern hemisphere just now and not be astonished by the colours of autumn?

Here are just two scenes which caught my eye recently. Above is one of the several walnut trees which I pass on my walk through the vines near where I live in the Charente.

Below is just one striking Acer which leapt out and said “Look at me! Look at me!” when I walked into Stirling the other day.


Two very different scenes, two different countries, one season.

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Everywhere you look you can see the effects of the interplay between the universe’s two forces.

When I looked up at the ceiling of the Chapel of Saint Blaise in Toledo I was entranced by the colour, the gold and the eight pointed stars. It was only later when I was back home that I realised that the centre piece contained eight dragons, out of whose mouths poured not fire but crystals…..at least that’s how it looks to me.

Dragons for wildness, crystals for discipline, to bring together David Ward and Thomas Berry, for this is how they each describe the two forces.

Without the integration of these two polar opposites our planet would not exist, and nor would we. Astonishing. Awe inspiring. Wondrous.

Look around and I’m sure it won’t take long for you to spot these forces at work.


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I expect many of us put away our cameras when the rain comes on, but the rain can bring out the beauty in a city street.


These two photos were taken in Madrid in the summer time when the temperatures were high, but a ten minute rainfall which forced everyone to take cover in doorways really made the streets sparkle.

And I liked how this guy improvised by using the back door of his car for shelter…


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The sunlight reflecting on the leaves of the lilies caught my eye, but once I’d uploaded the photo and looked at it more closely I realised there were three completely separate areas of reflection in this one image.

There is the one which initially caught my eye. It’s so bright that the leaves are hardly green at all. They are like silver plates floating on the river. Right next to them is a reflection of the clouds passing up above. The ripples in the river give these clouds the appearance of a water colour painting. Quite beautiful.

Between them, these two reflections put me in mind of Monet’s paintings of lilies in the Musée de l’Orangerie in Paris….which is definitely one of those places to put on your bucket list.


To stand in one of those galleries with Monet’s astonishing paintings filling the entirety of your visual field is one of the most amazing experiences you could have in an art gallery.

Finally, right at the top of the photo, there are the reflections of the old watermill, the entrance to the park, and a bridge, all seemingly a much more literal kind of reflection somehow.

I hadn’t really thought much about different types of reflection before, but this one image has inspired me. I hope it does the same for you.

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I recently came across Rebecca Solnit’s contemplation of the colour blue through the Brainpickings site.

The world is blue at its edges and in its depths. This blue is the light that got lost. Light at the blue end of the spectrum does not travel the whole distance from the sun to us. It disperses among the molecules of the air, it scatters in water. Water is colorless, shallow water appears to be the color of whatever lies underneath it, but deep water is full of this scattered light, the purer the water the deeper the blue. The sky is blue for the same reason, but the blue at the horizon, the blue of land that seems to be dissolving into the sky, is a deeper, dreamier, melancholy blue, the blue at the farthest reaches of the places where you see for miles, the blue of distance. This light that does not touch us, does not travel the whole distance, the light that gets lost, gives us the beauty of the world, so much of which is in the color blue. For many years, I have been moved by the blue at the far edge of what can be seen, that color of horizons, of remote mountain ranges, of anything far away. The color of that distance is the color of an emotion, the color of solitude and of desire, the color of there seen from here, the color of where you are not. And the color of where you can never go. For the blue is not in the place those miles away at the horizon, but in the atmospheric distance between you and the mountains.



If you can look across the distance without wanting to close it up, if you can own your longing in the same way that you own the beauty of that blue that can never be possessed? For something of this longing will, like the blue of distance, only be relocated, not assuaged, by acquisition and arrival, just as the mountains cease to be blue when you arrive among them and the blue instead tints the next beyond. Somewhere in this is the mystery of why tragedies are more beautiful than comedies and why we take a huge pleasure in the sadness of certain songs and stories. Something is always far away.

I got to thinking about a couple of photos I took recently in Spain, one in Grenada and one in Segovia.



She talks about how artists used the colour blue, and cites the following classical paintings amongst her examples –





Isn’t the blue of distance in these paintings really beautiful?

Here are another few examples from an old French book which we have at home –




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I looked out of my window yesterday evening and saw the most beautiful and subtle shades of pink lying between the top of the vineyard and the blue sky high above.

When I went outside to look to the West I saw this –


How a small change in perspective, a shift in the direction of the gaze, can reveal such astonishingly different views…..

I think if I was asked to give one single piece of advice about photography I’d say move. Don’t just stand and point your camera straight ahead at eye level, but move around. Climb up on something, or crouch down, lie on the ground even, look in different directions, move in different directions and turn and shoot your photos from different places, even if those places are just a few steps apart.

Small changes in your position can reveal to you astonishingly different potential photos.

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Autumn can be such a beautiful season. In the early morning everywhere I look I see spiders webs turned into chandeliers and sparkling jewels.

The water reveals what is already there. I don’t think spiders spin their webs only in the autumn. The webs are there, but they are invisible to us as we hurry by. The water does more than decorate the webs. It turns them into the most eye-catching feature of the landscape.

I love the variety of drops you can see on a web like this one. There is a huge range of droplet size, from the tiniest beads to impossibly large spheres. A close look reveals that each drop contains a view of the world around it. Every one of them is like a lens, gathering all the surrounding light and colour, turning it upside down, and showing us a completely different perspective on the world.

This one reminded me of a fountain I recently photographed where the water droplets seem to be strung along invisible threads as the curve up into the air, and back down towards the pool.


What strikes me about both of these images is how the water droplets are individually beautiful, but the greater beauty is revealed in their relationship to each other. Those invisible lines and threads create something quite magical.

People are like that too, aren’t they? Each one unique, and each one connected to the others by invisible threads of relationship.

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