I love the early morning light at Piha, and it is one of my favourite times to take photographs as only a few walkers and surfers are around. Because of the hills behind, the sun only sneaks over about 30 minutes after sunrise, so until then there is this lovely ambient light. One of the things I’m learning about landscape photography is the inclusion of active elements like animals and humans to bring it to life, so I was really chuffed when an early morning swimmer dashed across. I quickly snapped an image and I think this is one of my favourite shots as it gives a great sense of proportion to Lion Rock and the hills behind. My camera is a Nikon D5200 and I have a 16 to 85 DX lens, which I am slowly mastering. It was just on the landscape setting.
This world can be incredibly fretful and noisy at times – Thomas Hardy had it right when he entitled one of his works Far From the Madding Crowd (which you have to admire for being a literary classic in which sheep bloat is a major plot device).
Sheep bloat may have diminished as one of life’s challenges, but our modern consumer culture is awash with noise, and daily life can often overwhelm us with all the chores, obligations, and expectations that seem never-ending.
We all need somewhere to escape to – a refuge and sanctuary – and as I get older the value of these quiet spaces becomes more and more evident. When we get stressed, we often run to the easy comforters – the internet, sex, drugs and alcohol – that diminish the noise until they in turn become their own problems. However, over the last few months, as I’ve worked to find balance and recover from trauma, I’ve sought healthy regular practises that take me away from the noise and give me breathing space.
During the day at work, I head out of the office and walk around the Auckland waterfront – as a sea person just being near the water helps me de-stress. Escaping the office environment, even for 30 minutes, does wonders for the brain.
On the weekends, I head to Piha – either to go surfing or just for a walk. This is a place where just by being there, I feel happy. The big open blue sky, surrounding hills covered with bush and the steady roar of the surf all work to rid my mind and body of aggravations and calm my soul. Even the drive out there helps to bleed off the cortisol levels driven up by the week’s aggravations. Instead of the stop/start annoyance of commuting, I get to pretend I’m a rally driver in my red Toyota Yaris – no traffic jams or red lights, just the tourists on the weekend who get the odd toot for going too slow around the bends. As I come down the hill, and catch the first sight of the sea through the bush, straight away my mood lifts.
If you don’t have a place like this, find one, and if you already have one, go there as often as possible.
It has been a shit few months for me. Apart from my relationship going south, I also have been recovering from back surgery for a prolapsed disc which I had in November 2013.
Prior to that, I had always been fit – I had trained in karate and obtained my black belt, been a keen sailor – going out weekly – and generally thought of myself of being in rude good health. It was a real shock when my back blew out and I went from being a fit health person to being in constant pain and barely being able to climb a flight of stairs. Couple that with the stress of a highly dysfunctional relationship, I became dependent on painkillers and piled on the weight. Even though after surgery I was much better, I became scared of pushing my body too hard in case my back went again. Continue reading Zen and the art of surfing – riding a wave as therapy.