Friday, 21 April 2017 22:07

The Beauty of Litter

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In Japanese aesthetics, there is a worldview characterized by transience and imperfection. That worldview goes by the name Wabi-sabi, and it is described as a state of incompletion and impermanence, as well as imperfection. Rather than seeking to avoid this estate, in Japanese art, as in life, it is embraced. After all, it is one of the natural consequences of living which cannot be avoided or eschewed. Wabi-sabi can be said to nuture all that is authentic through its acknowledgement of three realities: nothing lasts, nothing is finished, nothing is perfect. And in such recognition I find great beauty. Not long ago my dear friends, Warren and Ginny Bedell, invited me to wander a bit through Transylvania County with them. We stopped at a lovely old chapel in Cedar Mountain only to watch the clouds disappear and the conditions for landscape work disappear with them; but the environment was somewhat wooded (and therefore shaded) and the floor of the property was covered with last year's litter of leaves and sourwood seed pod clusters, through which tiny mushrooms were emerging, creating a garden of still life. I placed my camera about 2' above the ground and positioned it as level as possible. A focal length of 300mm gave me the angle-of-view I wanted. An aperture of f/16 provided depth-of-field; and a shutter speed of 3.0 seconds at ISO 100 gave me an overall slightly darker-than-medium exposure. There are many directions in which to look; always remember that "down" is one of wabi-sabi's favorite places.


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  • Comment Link Donald McGowan Friday, 28 April 2017 13:04 posted by Donald McGowan

    Good afternoon Everyone. I really appreciate all of you joining me for a discussion of what I consider to be one of the most profound topics of photographic creativity there is. We have so much to learn from how other cultures, past and present, see the natural world; so much to glean of what beauty is and can be for us every day. Wabi-sabi is particularly powerful as an idea in that regard.
    Nancy T., what a wonderful story you have shared with us. Wonderfully descriptive metaphors and symbols. I always look forward to what my Images will reveal to you and await your descriptions that only you can uncover. Thank you, once again, for your vision.
    Hi Donald, it's always good to have you join us. You are so right, it was an elemental feast exactly as you describe. I wish you could have been there. So much to see in the "throwaway" world at our feet, if we but only take the time to stop and wonder. Be well.
    Hey Marcia, thank you for being with us and for your kind words. I'm glad to know that just such beauty speaks to you and that the world of imperfection and impermanence is something to which you are drawn as an artistic expression.
    Hey Warren, thanks to you and Ginny for sharing with me this great little piece of history in your backyard. As I wandered the property, I was constantly hearing the voices of the folks who worshiped in this place and being reminded of a similar place in South Georgia where my own ancestors came together. And it made me appreciate wabi-sabi as a force of reverence for the natural world in ways that I sometimes overlook. You have highlighted the very ideas of approaching wabi-sabi that for me are the most telling: slowing down, paying attention, and being present. I feel another wonderful philosophical discussion coming on. Hope all is well.
    Hi Ray, it's always great to have you with us and to receive your broad-ranging reactions to the images. I think you have described the effect precisely: "reflecting on impermanence and disappearance can exert a profound effect on our photography." As I steep myself more deeply in the ideas of wabi-sabi I find that my notions of beauty expand exponentially and I come to appreciate more and more that nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect. And the great circle just keeps going and keeps returning. I hope you and your daughter-in-law will enjoy many, many engaging conversations, and that your own photography will be happily influenced in the process.
    What a fulfilling conversation you have all shared with me. Thank you. Walk in Beauty.

  • Comment Link Ray Foote Monday, 24 April 2017 13:54 posted by Ray Foote

    Don, thank you for a magical image. And, for your reflection on Wabi-sabi. Our son recently married a Japanese woman so we are all learning much more about her culture; this helps! Of course, reflecting on impermanence and disapperance can exert a profound effect on our photography. Have a great week. Ray

  • Comment Link Warren Bedell Sunday, 23 April 2017 17:37 posted by Warren Bedell

    Nice (very) intimate landscape! The sinuous curves flow around and around the little mushrooms. Now I know what you were up to while you were in back of the building. I'm embarrassed to admit I walked all around it but never saw anything like this. It's a great reminder to slow down, pay attention and look all around. The photo ops are there if we can but recognize them.

  • Comment Link Marcia Perry Sunday, 23 April 2017 12:10 posted by Marcia Perry

    Beautiful composition and color

  • Comment Link Don Newsom Sunday, 23 April 2017 10:35 posted by Don Newsom

    I love it! Such beauty of color, line, and form in a little patch of "throwaway" detritus.

  • Comment Link Nancy Tripp Sunday, 23 April 2017 09:09 posted by Nancy Tripp

    Great find! Mother Nature is at work using Father Time's litter to nurture new growth using lines and shapes to make it all comfy cozy. Those are happy little mushrooms; all tucked in and safe.

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