This is back to the same morning I started out this Nepal series with, and not to far apart in time from that first post.
This man was a serious meditator. After his preparations, lighting candles here, he sat on what looked like a couple of rice bags — essentially the cushioning of a few grocery bags — on the stones and meditated by the stupa for hours. We walked around and around, counterclockwise, many times, and he was sitting there clear and peaceful.
Back to Boudha…
The old woman with the cane in the foreground walked around and around that stupa all morning, and she generally seemed to be enjoying herself on this festive day.
This is just one small facet of the huge experience of being around the circle of that stupa on that day. I’d like to post more. Stay tuned.
Such a shame to show so little, so low res, for what should be seen on a big monitor or as a decent print. Here’s a crop, unsharpened, from the 1:1
Here is another dawn at another Stupa. It’s not just that it’s a different morning from the photo posted last; this place, Boudhanath, has completely different energy. This morning was my third time at the Bauddha Stupa; we spent a whole morning starting at dawn. All three times there I felt an intensity, an egoless happiness. My wife had to pry me away each time. I want to move there. Our friend Sarbajit lives there, right there. (and in fact this image is exposed from his rooftop). I don’t think he needs to meditate: it meditates him.
Except for the dead-on, “this is a direct photo of the stupa” images I was compelled to take over and over (some of them are in fact good!), the hundreds of photos I exposed there have a vast range of texture, color, mood, and in one insufficient word: energy. But within that multiplicity of experience, there is a commonality. There is the quiet, awake center.
People, many hundreds per day, circumambulate counterclockwise. It’s a parade of people of all ages; parents carry babies, and old folks limp slowly with canes. It’s a visual feast: clothes of all colors; birds; sky; changing light; prayer flags in the breeze; shops with all their dharma trinkets, art, and clothing displayed around. People feed the pigeons, which gather and disperse in huge flocks. I shifts and changes like mind, like life.
And right in the center of that, there is a focus, an awakeness, and a sense of devotion. There is the accumulation of the merit of centuries of that devotion and thousands of awake and focused minds. That seems to radiate, maybe from the center of the stupa. It’s hard to find a source for something like that. Probably there is no spatial or temporal source for that sense of energy that pervades this place — put it feels that way, “It’s coming from here, somewhere, now.” But no. It’s timeless. It helps me to realize it’s ultimately placeless as well. It’s something we make with our minds.
There are some images I have the opportunity to try over and over. This is right around the corner from my house, so I can experience and frame a visual experience something like this in many nuances: different light, different clouds and snow. In fact, I have a version of this in my camera right now, exposed about two hours ago. This one, above, was exposed a couple of weeks ago on a walk with my son and my wife.
There’s so much to love about Vermont, so much that triggers the mind to leap into other realms. What we’ve got here are some themes that work well: the multifaceted quality of many of the hills. The facets are large and small. For the larger ones, you go over a little rise, and suddenly it’s a new experience. This hill is one of the larger facets, but it also has small facets on its face. The long shadows of the trees to the west ripple along these facets.
I’m not sure if this will be the definitive image of this spot, but it’s certainly good enough to post for now.
I haven’t done this yet, in this photo-blog, but here’s a variation on the exposures from the last post. The last was done with the infrared camera; this is the regular-light camera, with the image as a black and white. In rendering this panorama I tried to bring to bear the sensibilities of a good darkroom silver print — good rich blacks but lots of silvery grays in between. Though usually I like infrared best for the hay bale images, I like this one a lot. Though of course it’s far from many aspects of ukiyo-e aesthetics, there is something very floating-world about it to me, an energy-of-the-land.
I’ve played with this as a subject/composition for years. Without going through all of my attempts, I’ve decided to let this arrow fly from the bow, fresh from the camera, without too much over-thinking.
Hope you can get some fresh local organic strawberries at a farm stand near you, in a thin wooden carton with light coming through the edges.
In the last weeks’ posts, I’ve been dusting off some old photos from the past, back when I lived near Clay Brook and Post Pond in Lyme, NH.
The way a walk would go would be that I would cross the street and walk along the brook, mostly looking at the world up close. Then along the path in the woods (last post), and then POP, everything opens up at the pond.
This isn’t a view I saw after a walk. Likely this was from the road, after driving my daughter to school (that was a good thing to do, which I miss — time with my daughter, and the world beyond my office, camera in the car).
Now it’s spring, quickly turning toward summer in this changing climate. I’ll take a break from frozen abstracts, I think.
This photo isn’t a prize iPad lock screen image or home screen image, which was a roll I was on last week, but I did find it while flicking through a catalog on the iPad. It struck me, strikes me, to be very much of the lineage of large format based silver prints I used to make in the darkroom in the early 80s. This looks a lot like an 8 X 10 I might pull out of one of my archival boxes of silver prints I made in the darkroom. It’s kind of surprising it came from a digital camera.
The good gray tones, textures, a wild composition with strong lines — it has all the stuff I used to try to do. I’m not positive I like it, but I think I do. I know I’m not the same person who made those other photos back then with the big film camera, but there is some echo, some thread. Very mysterious.
This image was exposed around the summer solstice this year, the reflection of the balloon bright with rising sun as a family of mergansers swims toward it. Unfortunately I think it works better as a larger print than at this size on screen; here I miss the detail of the ducks and the detail of the curl of water at the bottom of the dam.
It’s funny how this image came up this week. All week I’ve been spending time looking at Ukiyo-e prints. Ukiyo-e means “floating world,” and everyone knows at least one of these images: Hokusai’s Great Wave. Maybe we know a few more Hokusai images or Hiroshige’s, or any number of the countless fantastic prints still available for viewing in museums, galleries and private collections. Also reproductions are available, and now with the magic of the indra-net, we can see thousands of them.
It’s been too too hot, and work a bit slow. Taking time to cool down and look through Ukiyo-e images has been a beautiful thing this week, and they float in my mind through the day and as I lay down to sleep and wake up.
It’s funny, even back when I only made black and white prints, many of the compositional techniques from this genre appealed to me — and even before I saw very many of these prints. Really, so many elements of the genre have permeated my work all along before I even knew much about it: the heartbreaking beauty, the transience, incongruity and tension between elements, and a dynamic tension in the composition. There is a quality of image-as-poem that I’ve always aspired to. The Henri Cartier-Bresson attention to geometry in composition is a tie to the photographic medium, and the Ukiyo-e images also simulate a sense of a “decisive moment” like Cartier-Bresson — though the woodblock carvers were far more free to work with their imagination instead of the far more restraining constraints of actual-moment that we photographers have to deal with.
Though I haven’t seen a hot air balloon or a duck (rabbits, swallows, frogs, carp, and cats are common), I like to imagine this image above as a modern Floating-World print.
Here are a few ukiyo-e images as thumbnails. The first one of these I bought as a reproduction on ricepaper while I was still in high school (inspired by a similar print on the wall of my flute teacher); I kept it thumbtacked to my wall all through college and for a few years after: