Day 7: Silhouettes

Dear Mr Alien,

it’s been a while since we last spoke and for that I apologise my friend, how has the universe been treating you? Any intergalactic skirmishes or space storms we need to know about? No. Well keep me updated, wouldn’t want to be the last to know about any meteorite on a collision course with earth now, how embarrassing right?

These last few days I’ve been caught up with my photography which equals early early mornings & semi late nights, chasing that all important light. My photographic adventures have led to missions on the mountains, bodacious sunrises on the beach, cavalier city shooting and unfortunately some danger. More about this danger in an upcoming post me thinks, wouldn’t want to bum you out with stories of my possible imminent harm or death.

Back to the theme of the post, silhouettes, one of my favourite techniques to shoot as it automatically adds an element of mystery to one’s photos as well as highlighting the beauty of the surroundings by removing the details from your subject. Mr Alien a silhouette is defined as “the image of a person, animal, object or scene represented as a solid shape of a single colour, usually black” saying quite a bit without much information, leaving your thoughts to run free.

Looking through some of the potential photos I was planning to submit a thought struck me about how a silhouetted photo of oneself could be used as a metaphor for the darker side to our personalities. Yes we all would like to think that we are the best next thing since sliced bread, but in actual fact we have undesirable qualities that come with the beauty of being human beings. These undesirable qualities are usually described by words like jealousy, avarice, gluttony, spite, the list goes on and on.

Since birth we have been taught to quell such feelings, lest we book ourselves a one way ticket to that dreaded place called “hell”, where you are forced to listen to Telkom’s customer service jingles while simultaneously being itchy in a spot you cannot reach for eternity.  Or at very  least being labelled as a “not nice person”.  Carl Jung addressed this as being our “Shadow Self”, the aspects and traits about yourself that you find difficult if not completely disturbing to accept. Often described as the darker side of our psyche it represents the wildness, chaos and all round unpredictability that too dwells inside of us.

But instead of denying this aspect of being human I am here to tell you that only by embracing these qualities in ourselves, acknowledging and accepting them as an integral part of self can we truly see the light within which we would all love to be living. You know that place where unicorns poop rainbows and tiny bunny rabbits and deer greet you good morning with a song? Yeah me neither. Ok ok Mr Alien yes I am embellishing a bit but my readers will understand where I am coming from, we’ve all had days where colours are just brighter, the air crisper and we even find listening to what passes as music on the radio enjoyably bearable.

So next time you find yourself having darker thoughts, don’t suppress these feelings but rather take heed of them, where they are coming from, what caused these feelings, internalise and introspect and ultimately use them as motivation to live a fuller more authentic existence. We are who we are, light and dark, good and bad, we just are.

Always watching the stars,

Adrian

Silhouette
Sunrise silhouette in Saldanha

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 6: Low Angle

Dear Mr Alien

how’s those intergalactic streets treating you my man or woman or whatever forms of gender your species prescribes to? So this past weekend I celebrated my 37th year on this splendorous piece of rock and water, the day of our births are celebrated ad nauseum on my planet Mr Alien, usually filled with some sort of party, excessive eating and gifts, usually celebrated in the company of friends and family.

Personally it has never really been a time for much revelry for me, just another day, just another grey hair. But as I grow older I find myself becoming more receptive to these shenanigans, trying to fully immerse myself in the birthday spirit, being a little silly and generally having a good time. I think the reason for this is that I’ve become more and more aware of how short our time is on this planet, merely a heartbeat in the big scheme of things so we should indeed cram as much life into the time we do have. Do you also age like we do? And celebrate every year you’re still existing? If so happy belated birthday to whenever that might be.

Side note: This year I rung in my birthday with a weekend trip to a private beach with a few friends, definitely makes celebrating much more doable when you have the ocean literally a few steps away.

Mr Alien today’s challenge was low angles, looking at the world from a lower angle than usual. When last have you looked up, what do you see when YOU look up Mr Alien? Too often we earthlings look straight ahead, to engrossed in that which is apparent, never looking down or up, allowing ourselves the chance to absorb as much of our surroundings as possible.

We have an idiom here on Earth (an idiom is a collection of words whose meaning is not apparent from the meaning of the individual words), side note English is a weird language. It means “to not know or be aware of what is going on around you”, which in my thinking does not seem such a bad way of living right, #daydreamerforlife. But I digress, yes the idiom has a bad connotation but the action of looking around us from different perspectives is sorely underused.

The action getting low and taking a photograph looking up at something automatically gives that subject a sense of gravitas, of importance and stature (photo hack 101).  So when we too make ourselves smaller, throwing off the shackles of the ego and import are we able to see the greatness in all that is around us.

Letting go of trying to be cool, smart, popular removes those dominator culture tinted lenses from our eyes, viewing all as an extension of ourselves and not something that needs to be overcome or viewing our brothers and sisters as opposition in this rat race (def: endless, self-defeating, or pointless pursuit) we call modern living.

In this photo I have captured an iconic piece of architecture from my neighbourhood, Balmoral, a building I have walked past thousands of time without actually looking up and viewing it’s symmetrical splendour. So for an exercise in changing your paradigm, take a moment and start viewing things from different angles, crouch to your dog/cat/baby’s height and look around your living space, doesn’t it seem like another world?

There is much beauty and magic in this world of ours Mr Alien if people were just willing to change their conditioned way of thinking and viewing things through fresh eyes, so until next time keep your mind like a blank page.

Always watching the stars,

Adrian

 

Day 5: High Angle

Dear Mr Alien,

this morning I rose bright and early at 5am to go out and capture some images for you and while waiting for the Sun to make its appearance I stared up at the sky wondering if you’re any closer to visiting our beautiful blue floating marble? Or if you just visit sporadically, choosing to first learn as much about our world before announcing your presence. Please don’t be scared, no matter what that orange little man in the States is doing, the rest of us are pretty chill and will accept you and yours with open arms. We look forward to your arrival.

As I said earlier I was up early this morning chasing the photo challenge theme of the day, which was High Angle. I missioned up to Boyes drive, just under Muizenberg Peak which is one of the higher areas of my neighbourhood, Muizenberg. This was my second attempt shooting from this location and was luckily blessed with some wicked clouds and lighting that led to some great images, of which I will share more of during the upcoming weeks. Initially I was thinking of taking this High Angle theme in the direction of how we as individuals are in a constant sense of competition which each one trying to be richer, cooler, prettier, thinner than the other, always striving for that high angle version of ourselves.

But after developing the images from my sunrise shoot I was inspired to try and verbalise the magnificence of a sunrise and the all the potential that a new day brings with it.

Sunrise, for aeons the human race has been equal parts enthralled and reverent of the Sun, worshipped by many cultures over the ages such as the Aztecs (Huitzilopochtli or Tonatinuh), Egyptians (Ra), Incas (Inti) and even the Romans (Sol Invictus). This almost perfect sphere of hot plasma is at the centre of our Solar System, we are the planet just after Mercury and Venus in case you need directions, and is undeniably the most important source of life giving energy for our planet.  All life on Earth is dependant on this source of energy yet we take this amazing piece of solar sorcery for granted, knowing that it rises every morning and sets every night like clockwork, how we will rue the day when Mother Sun decides not to show her pulchritudinous face to us anymore.

As you might or might know Mr Alien, the Sun is a star, stars are born, they live and they die so scenarios above is definitely a possibility. Although we don’t need to worry about that, the Earth will most probably be vaporised when the Sun expands into a Red Giant (a dying star) during the throes of death.  But no need to worry it will still be around for the next 4-5 billion years, so you still have time to make your way to this corner of the universe.

Enough history and facts, let me bring to light the impalpable qualities a sunrise brings with it, although these are usually best experienced first hand to really admire and viscerally experience the magnitude of watching the night turn into day via the embracing rays of the morning Sun.

First and foremost a sunrise signifies new beginnings, new opportunities to do the things you have always wanted to or perhaps tackle those tasks you’ve been procrastinating about, like decluttering your home and employing that long overdue Feng Shui or actually going for that run you’ve been promising yourself during a drink addled recitation of new year’s resolutions.

Secondly a sunrise brings light into the world, “Sunlight is the best disinfectant”, one of the most profound sayings I’ve yet to read as it speaks on so many levels. The saying is mostly about transparency, being open, not hiding your true feelings from those you love but also most of all those you don’t get along with. We have the privilege of choosing our company, make full use of this and do what feels right with you instead of reluctantly engaging with that person or activity but under the umbrella of resentment.  With our loved ones we need to feel comfortable enough to criticise each other with the main objective being a healthier relationship where both or more, I am not judging, feel appreciated and most of all liberated enough to voice their true voices.

And thirdly as stated before sunlight energises us. Here is a quick exercise I’ve learned from my yoga practice. In the mornings before you start your day,  stand facing the morning sun while keeping your eyes closed, (Please whatever you do, do not stare directly into the sun, she is a shy star and there is also that little thing of possibly blinding yourself) life your hands toward the sun, palms forward and feel the energy and heat radiated onto your hands, now place energy filled hands over the face, drawing that energy into your body, revitalising it for the arduous oncoming day.

The list of superlatives describing this star of staggering solar is almost as long as the that alliteration and our fascination with this beauty will continue, well for at least the next 4-5 billions years. Thankfully I’ll be peacefully resting within Pachamama by that time.  I hope these words resurrects your passion for rising early and catching the splendour that are sunrises.

Always watching the stars,

Adrian

 

 

Day 4: Texture

Dear Mr Alien,

I hope you had a magical Valentine’s Day with your love interest. What is love I hear you ask directly followed by “Baby don’t hurt me!” in my head. That my other worldly friend is a topic I’d need to tackle all on it’s own. For now let me get back to the photo challenge. So we were asked to go out and capture “Texture”,  an image reflecting the look and feel of something. Good examples are rocks or wood or if you’re brave enough a reptile’s skin, as these visually portray textures rather well given the right lighting and exposure.

I decided to go with 2 conflicting textures in my image , creating a contrast between smooth and rough, the roundness of the pebbles looked great against the grain of the wooden bench. Side note those pebbles were from my most recent trip to Peru, in particular from Playa Makanha (Playa means beach in Spanish) a pebble coasted beach with long smooth waves off the coast of Miraflores. The smoothness is achieved by the back and forth motion of the sea, which itself is not very cold, I managed to surf sans wet-suit on a few occasions, but the beauty of this location is when the sun starts to set behind you lighting the waves crimson red while you look outwards to the scenic cliffs overlooking the many beaches and parks lining the coast of Miraflores.

I won’t lie I have stalled quite a bit on typing this post as I was finding it difficult to correlate the texture theme with something people could relate to on an empirical level.  So I went to our favourite neighbourhood search engine, Monsieur Google. (Mr Alien Google has now become the go to for information on the planet,  it’s results are hardly questioned, sadly).

Google defines texture as “the feel, appearance, or consistency of a surface or a substance” and as soon as I read the word feel, it triggered the word touch into my mind and at once I had a direction for this post. Feeling or touch rather is one of the 5 major senses our human bodies possess Mr Alien, the others being sight, smell, taste and hearing. I personally postulate the presence of a 6th sense, intuition, but I digress. In a society where we are constantly viewing the world we live in through some variation of screen, be it the TV, our laptops or computers  or most likely our phones we have in a sense lost touch with engaging our senses or rather experiencing the world through these senses.

To my other terrestrial readers or even to you Mr Alien, when last have you really felt something with your hands or tentacles/claws/paws in your case Mr Alien? Closed your eyes (those things you see through) rolling or rubbing it in your fingers creating a mental image of it in your head? A good example would be walking barefoot on wet grass or dipping your hands into earth or soil, one of my favourite things is gardening and having my arms elbow deep in dark loamy soil invigorates the primordial cultivator in me, automatically connecting me to something greater than myself. It’s as if the inherent potential that the soil holds is slowly seeping through my pores, strengthening that bond between me and the source, Pachamama (Mother Earth to the Andean People).

It’s almost like this sense of feel is slowly being taken away from us as we are not fully using or appreciating it, as I sit here now in front of my computer I struggle to recall anything I felt today that left a lasting memory, and the reason being that I have been too involved with the day to day activities of modern living and so reliant on my other senses, mostly sight, that I am almost on auto-pilot. Why would I need to touch it when I can just see it and make conclusions based off of that information or past experiences? The answer: Awareness, awareness of our senses allows us to be more centred, focused and conscious of our bodies and how they interact with the world around us.

So next time you pick up something, be it a fruit, a baby or even your camera try and be aware of the textures accompanying that something, how it feels, it’s temperature, it’s weight and reconnect that channel of touch.

In closing I’d like you to attempt this exercise which calms your thoughts, allowing you to fully engage your sense of feeling. Hit me up if you’d like the whole exercise for all the senses.

1. Sit in a comfortable upright position with your feet planted flat on the ground. Rest your hands on your thighs or on your desk.

2. Notice your breathing, no need to breathe in a particular way, I just want you to be cognisant of each part of your breath, the inhale (I usually envision positive energy being drawn to me when inhaling), the exhale (and likewise I envision letting go of negative energy) and of course the lull between breaths.

3.Bring your attention to the sensations of skin contact with your chair, clothing, and feet on the floor. You can notice the pressure between your feet and the floor or your body and the chair. You can observe temperature like the warmth or coolness of your hands or feet. You can even reach out and touch objects close to you to fully focus your attention on the present moment.

Always watching the stars,

Adrian

Can you feel it?

 

 

Day 3: Black and White

Dear Mr Alien,

today’s photo challenge was to go and pursue, capture and post a black and white photograph. Sounds easy enough right? Wrong! Composing a powerful, emotive, timeless monochromatic photo forces us to think more creatively as you can no longer rely on vivid colours  and tones to give your photograph that pop it needs to capture your viewing audience. Rather we make use of things like contrast, shapes and textures to give life to our images. A good rule of thumb is to look for subjects with strong blacks and strong whites to give your image stark contrasts.

Photography lesson over Mr Alien, as you would have guessed black and white are on two extremes of the colour spectrum, lending themselves to every day conversation where polar opposites are discussed.  As a species we seem to be caught up in extremities. Things are often good or bad, right or wrong, strong or weak or in this case black or white. But do we allow ourselves the best chance at a happy life if we think in terms of black and white in a very grey world where things are not always as they seem and sometimes the best adventures are found in those contours and contrasts of grey? In this sometimes crazy world Mr Alien we as humans love compartmentalising things in order for us to process them better, each in their own little box or rather each on their side of the fence. What opportunities are we letting pass us by when thinking in such terms? How much happier would we be once we realise that we can’t place the world, it’s inhabitants and their behaviours into neat, clinical categories?

These are questions I feel we need to ask ourselves before getting caught up in divisive narratives, race being one of the most divisive subjects currently. Mr Alien in my country South Africa we have a history of oppression by one race over the other, in our case it was the minority white settlers who subjugated the populous black communities as soon as they landed here in 1652 and unfortunately we are still feeling the after effects of said colonisation. As a rule I try and stay away from sensitive subjects like race Mr Alien because as much as we would like our opinions heard and valued I feel the subject will always cause some furore seeing that our current political system has swapped one form of oppression for another. In the past it was apartheid that kept South Africans segregated but these days it’s economic apartheid doing the same thing. Too many South Africans are still hungover from the outlandish laws and jurisdictions that this beloved country of mine suffered through to view the situation objectively.

Back to the black and white thinking of my hereditary brothers and sisters I share this exquisite planet with. Oh my how we love this paradigm of classification,  if we cannot classify it we either fear or vilify it. If we can’t control something we outlaw it. There are no compromises,  there are no in-betweeners, you are either with us or against us. And this is the inherent problem with society today, we do not allow for the murky greyness that is every day living. Yes we might not agree with what another says but does that make him/her wrong? Why can’t we both be right in our rights? It seems the world has become smaller, allowing for only popular opinions and as I touched on my previous post we humans love following the crow, despite not always knowing the facts or context of a situation.

So allow me to leave you with this message then. Let us have that courage to be neither wrong nor right, black nor white, good nor bad but just be ourselves, with our flaws but also with our strengths. Once we’ve realized that thinking in terms of extremes is holding us back from our true, prosperous existence we’ll remove those blinkers of judgement and see the world and it’s people through lenses of acceptance, compassion and empathy. Choose to see the good where before you saw bad. Choose the light where once there was darkness.

Letting go of your preconceptions and judgements will set you free to live a life where all possibilities reign supremely with you as the monarch of your future.

Always watching the stars,

Adrian

Walk your own path in life

Day 2: Rule of thirds

Dear Mr Alien,

did you miss me? I would miss me if I was you. Hope all is well with your intergalactic travels and you have not encountered any black holes or turbulent asteroid showers. So day 2 of photo challenge required that we go out and shoot a photo that obeys the much vaunted (but not set in concrete) Rule of Thirds. This is where you divide your camera screen into 9 parts and then position your subject(s) of interest on the intersecting lines in order to create a more visually appealing effect. Easy right? Wrong! Sometimes the subject does not allow for this or placing the subject smack bang in the middle of said photo actually creates the magic. The rule of thirds is not a law, like for instance never using the word bae in real life conversation or wearing white socks with a black pants, but rather a guideline, to be used when appropriate and to be broken when it does not serve you.

This particular image was taken of the iconic beach houses situated in my local hood of Muizenberg (more about this eclectic seaside village in another post), these cute colourful houses have been photographed ad nauseam so I usually avoid them. But yesterday evening I was short on time and the sunset promised to be spectacular. It was not. Although I still like the boldness of the overall photo, it ensures that the houses are the focal point and nothing else.

Back to rules, if you have not yet gleaned Mr Alien rules are practices that we as humans abide by, for many different reasons. Some are so we will be socially accepted, others are so that we can make a living, while others are simply there to ensure that chaos does not reign supreme, the last one tickles my anarchistic tendencies though. Most of the time we do not really want to follow these “rules” but rather do only because they have been issued under threats, these threats usually start early in our lifetimes, usually right after we can feed ourselves we start stuffing things into our mouths, as this is how we make sense of things when we are that age, but then comes along mom or dad with the dreaded rules like “you can’t put that in your mouth”, “the dog is not there for piggybacks”, “eating your boogers will turn you into a snot monster” and so on and so on.

And these “rules” just start piling up  the older you get, it never ends. I hear you asking “So if you do not like rules, why follow them?” Great question there Mr Alien, why indeed. Besides the threat of bodily harm or deprivation of things that make us happy (when we are kids)  and then the threat of getting locked up and ostracised by polite society we follow normally because everybody else is following and we do not want to buck the trend. Point in case is the concept of “herd mentality” ( describes how people are influenced by their peers to adopt certain behaviours)  and this can be witnessed in any scenarios where groups of people congregate.

In older civilisations those who did not fit in were sent to live on their own where they would most likely die from exposure or hunger if they could not fend for themselves.  So it made sense to stick to the rules and follow the pack but in our modern world where our every whim or need is satisfied with a click of a mouse we do not have to labour under the protection of the tribe. However  civilised as progressive we deem ourselves to be , we as human beings still obey our most atavistic tendencies, we are social creatures, we do want to be accepted by our peers and society as a whole but most of all we want to be ourselves, living our lives under our own set of rules, not the ones mandated to us by government, society, mainstream media or social media.

Mr Alien I may have rambled a bit in this post and that is fine, I do not acknowledge rules, but the crux of the matter is that we as humans allow our lives and destinies to be shaped by flimsy, institutionalised, archaic forms of rules, some forced upon us others we force upon ourselves. As much as I would like to think I live my life by no rules that would be the highest form of pseudo-exceptionalism (believing that you are better than others without any real evidence to support the belief) but I am at least conscious of this and do try to take what serves me and just dump the rest. Yes I look twice when crossing the road, yes I pick up my dog’s poop on the beach and yes I adhere to all the water restrictions, so rules have their place in society but try not to judge others who don’t follow the same rules as you.

I will leave you Mr Alien with these words, please pass it onto your fellow space dwellers.

Let our spirits not be subjugated by what is deemed “socially acceptable”, let our souls fly free of the chains of conformity but most of all let your life be one of your own making.

Always watching the stars,

Adrian

Beach Houses at Muizenberg

Day 1: Self Portrait

Dear Mr Alien,

pray you are well and still enjoying the hide and go seek games you’re currently playing with humankind. Don’t worry we do not blame you for not wanting to visit us right now, with the political turmoil, wars, global warming I too would not be too eager to get my Earth visa right now.

I’ve been wracking my brains on how best to introduce you to the wonders and splendour that is Earth through the art of photography (literally means painting with light) and seeing that 2017 has just begun I thought I’d go back to basics with a 30 day photo challenge, where I’ll be taking a themed photo for 30 days and then trying to put that theme into constructs that you’d understand even though I know you’re super smart. You’d have to be, you’ve made your way through the multiple galaxies to this remote location in the Universe.

The first day’s challenge was a self-portrait (urgh) which I generally loathe as the 2017 generation have proliferated the use of the dreaded “selfie”. Let me elaborate here, a “selfie” is where the person takes a photo of themselves at various fun and exciting locations, usually in the bathrooms of nightclubs or on top of various mountains (big ass rocks, we’ll get into this a bit later). There is nothing inherently wrong with this practice, as photos act as triggers for the memory, allowing us to recollect special moments in extraordinary places but like most things too many of them and then they lose their appeal. This practice continues to reinforce the unfortunate characteristic of modern living that as individuals we are the most important thing living on this planet, it perpetuates the “me first” ideology that has become synonymous with Generation Z (people born in the mid-1990s to early 2000s), the culture of instant gratification, losing touch with the more simpler aspects of life. Things like watching the sun rise, the smell after the rainfall, greeting strangers and most of all, treating each other like brothers and sisters.

Don’t get me wrong Mr Alien, there are so many more positive things out there that in my opinion outweigh these negative traits, if we as a species are just willing to look for them. Stay away from mainstream media, be conscious of the media you do ingest and never stop asking questions is a start in allowing yourself the opportunity to grasp that which is serving you while being aware enough to discard that which is not.

But back to the image, please enjoy it as I don’t think I’ll be posting many more of these, since the very first self-portrait photo by Robert Cornelius in 1839 we have been fascinated with self-portraits. The cynic in me likes to think this has something to do with our own self involvement, ego or pure boost of self-esteem but as like most things there is a flip side to this. Maybe we use self-portraits as a tool to humble ourselves, an opportunity for deep introspection and honesty. And through this honest look at our physical deficiencies or shortcomings we can learn able to love what is staring back at us instead of comparing it to other more conventional assumptions of “beauty”, this concept called self-love is, in my opinion, the greatest hindrance to happiness leading to low self-esteem and general dissatisfaction with one’s life.

Let me end of this inaugural rambling blog post with this thought: Love yourself, love your so called flaws, treat yourself, be kind to yourself. Look into the mirror as you’d look at a lover because the relationship you have with yourself will shape all your future relationships.

Be safe out there Mr Alien.

Always watching the stars,

Adrian

Life is all about balance