Early arrival

mmm1753-R01-005, originally uploaded by katiemuffett.

Almost too fast for me, but I had caught this Zebra Longwing (Florida’s official butterfly) catching the glimpses of sunshine near a shaded walk in Tallahassee.

I can never see butterflies anymore without being reminded of Nabokov’s The Gift. The main character, Fyodor, flutters through his own imaginary discussions and a droll, urbane society; all the while, seeing his lost father’s ghost just at the corner of his vision. Interestingly, this father was lost during a lepidoptery excursion abroad.

My chosen track for this image seems especially apropos considering the recent volcano eruption in Jónsi Birgisson’s native Iceland. Considering the nation’s geological past, they are well educated in the transience of life.

I wonder if I’m allowed ever to see/
I wonder if I’m allowed ever to be free

Image soundtrack: Tornado by Jónsi

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Winter fruit

mcclaypark1, originally uploaded by katiemuffett.

“…it should be made clear that science and mathematics have themselves revealed a world full of mystery. The deeper that our scientific understanding becomes, the more profound the mystery that is revealed.”

– Roger Penrose, Shadows of the Mind

Image Soundtrack: ‘Caledonia’ by Amy MacDonald

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Heaven offers nothing that a mercenary soul can desire

berries, originally uploaded by katiemuffett.

The title is a quote from C.S. Lewis’ The Problem of Pain, which is in my regular rotation of ‘currently reading’ books. It deals with *the* question that atheists and agnostics raise when discussing their loss of faith. How can a good God allow bad things to happen?

A few readers may already know that I have a very deep and very private relationship with faith and the pursuit of Truth, but am not devoted to any one ‘religion’. I also love science and engage in heated skepticism on occasion.

Recently I have been attending a church here in New York, primarily because of the good people and my big sister who work there. I want to point to a post in their Bible discussion group’s blog that deals with this topic in particular. I will be attending these discussions for the first time and the reading material has turned me on to C.S. Lewis again.

The quote above reminded me of this photo as it has always been sidelined in my popular shots, mainly because the colours are so mellow and the subject is so humbly captured. Yet I know how dearly I lined up the shot and with what care I held my focus in the fading light. These tiny berries – hidden in a random hedge by the city walls – seem to offer me something that others don’t quite seem to appreciate.

Image Soundtrack: ‘Election by Adoration’ by Hans Zimmer from the Angels & Demons OST

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So turn off your tears, and listen

rose_yellowred, originally uploaded by katiemuffett.

I’ve been so bad at scanning in my negs this spring/summer, though I’ve actually taken quite a few rolls with my new telephoto lens.

This shot is of course slide film, and that lovely new lens brings every drop of colour out in brilliance. Perhaps the reason I’ve been so slack with my blogging is because I walk and shoot so much…and Britain is at it’s absolute best with the delicate blossom colours of spring giving way to vibrant early summer roses.

Sadly, this proliferation of photography has all started to change due to a recent hike up in film prices…but that’s why I chose to blog this particular photo with this particular song. I’m just not made for cynicism.

Image Soundtrack: ‘Heart of Life’ by John Mayer

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In the Shadow of Love

bishopspalace2, originally uploaded by katiemuffett.

This was taken toward the end of this past November, when there was still a lot of colour clinging on to the trees and bushes. I’m trying to find depth and vary my techniques with this current bleak palette, with the help of David Bailey’s ‘How to Take Better Pictures’ (swiped from my in-laws’). Conclusion: impressive winter shots require significantly more money (film, filters, good B&W developing etc etc).

The swaying melody of the song for this image soundtrack actually reminded me of this shot, rather than the other way round. Like all of Rufus Wainwright’s songs, there is deceptive gravitas woven into the elegant and exquisite composition. There are always a few cheeky/colloquial lyrics thrown in to lift it, which I always think sound more heartbreaking sung through his perfect voice with that slightly frayed edge.

Image Soundtrack:  ‘Natasha’ by Rufus Wainwright

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Old Skin, Young Memory

yewbark1, originally uploaded by katiemuffett.

You can see just how dark and alive the yew forest was from this shot. It’s impossible not to stroke the branches like this one. They’re incredibly strong, and they don’t seem cold somehow. The topmost layer is cool with moisture, but it’s very much alive.

For those who might be interested, my settings inside the forest were pretty much these – where I could get dappled sunlight as in this shot:
f/2, 1/60s (35mm, ISO 100)

Regarding the image sountrack: I absolutely love Laura Marling, but with one concern: she is hailed as being ‘talented beyond her years’ (she’s 19). I have a feeling this has been a mantra she has heard all her life. Her lyrics often attempt to describe a very old and weary soul, which are rather a giveaway (to anyone who thinks 1990 was five minutes ago) as to how young she really is.

A great comparison: Joni Mitchell was 26 when she recorded ‘Both Sides Now’ – a song ostensibly told from an old woman’s perspective as she reflects on her life. Even listening to this track on my parents’ hi-fi when I was in my teens, I could tell that this was a very young person’s notion of old age. Joni’s words and voice were too tremulous compared to the strength and resilience I heard in real elderly people when they talked about their past.

Yet rather than this affectation lessening the consequence of these songs, it is probably a more candid insight into the minds of Laura and Joni in their youth than an autobiographical tune. As young women, they revealed that they wanted to gain insight into what they ingenuously believed to be ‘mature’ old age. They wanted to dig deeper into the human experience, even if it was at the time out of their reach.

I mentioned that this was a ‘concern’ I had for Laura Marling: to best define what I mean by this I will reference a piece of advice Joni Mitchell was herself given by a writing teacher:

After writing an epic poem, Mitchell got it back covered in red circles, with “cliché” written next to phrases such as “White as newly fallen snow” and “High upon a silver shadowed hill.” Legions of Mitchell fans can thank the teacher for this bit of dead-on advice: “Write about what you know, it’s more interesting.” (salon.com)

While it is a wonder that a teenager composed a song like ‘Old Stone’, the lyrics would sing more true if they boldly conveyed a sensitive and creative teenager’s real heart and mind.

Little saplings know little of ancient yews.

Image Soundtrack: ‘Old Stone’ by Laura Marling

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Yew Songs

yewbark8, originally uploaded by katiemuffett.

The few shots I took of yew bark have convinced me that I have got to take more. This was shot on Fuji slide film, which fortunately caught the glimpse of deep red at the centre of the picture.

Now a little interesting background for the track chosen. In one episode of the BBC ‘Imagine’ series by Alan Yentob titled ‘Oliver Sacks: Tales Of Music And The Brain’, Alan has an MRI scan showing an intense response to a piece of Richard Strauss music. I’m not sure if this is the one from the program, but it is of the same ‘Four Last Songs’ used.

The reason for rather arrogantly putting such a grand piece of music to this shot is because, as I studied in further detail, yew bark had so much to reveal and genuinely a grand and elaborate history.

Image Soundtrack: ‘Vier letzte Lieder: No. 3. Beim Schlafengehen’ by Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, Jessye Norman & Kurt Masur

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