Music 101

After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music.
Aldous Huxley


Today’s Writing 101 prompt is to write about the three most important songs in your life. Well, true to my track record so far, I am not going to do that! For one thing, I find it impossible to choose just three songs. But I will say something about music more generally. Music is a big part of our family life. Both my children play piano to a high standard and they each have a second instrument, trumpet for my son and clarinet for my daughter. (She also plays the didgeridoo!) My daughter composes and recently she and a friend won a contest with a song they wrote and performed.


Not surprisingly for a photographer, I am a very visual person. I have no musical talent whatsoever but have often thought that of all creative endeavours, music is one of the most powerful in its ability to affect one on a visceral level. Darwin argued that music came before speech, and that feels right to me.


Now that I have two myself, I have been reminded that teenagers need music with the urgency of a biological imperative. Separate them from it for too long (say, more than five minutes) and they become quite incapable of coherent function.   How and why, as we age, we become less dependent on music is beyond my ken. But when I rehear an old favourite song, after a long absence, I realise that music can still move me. It has the power more than any other thing to cut through the baggage of adult life and remind me what it was like to be that essential, earthy thing that is a teenager. I hope it always will.

Music was my refuge. I could crawl into the space between the notes and curl my back to loneliness.
Maya Angelou

That lighthouse, again and again

Jersey, Channel Islands

I recently had to give an interview in which I was asked to name my favourite landscape location. I found it difficult to answer as I tend to be focused on wherever I am with my camera at any given moment. However, one place popped into my head unbidden.   Anyone who has been around here long enough will not be surprised that I thought of La Corbière.

La Corbiere, Jersey, Channel Islands

Guarding the extreme Western edge of Jersey, one of the British Channel Islands, this lighthouse has well and truly captured my imagination.

Jersey, Channel Islands

We have been to Jersey three times during the last two years and during each visit I have devoted evenings to this one place.   There is something about the way the lonely, white lighthouse sits out at sea, precariously perched on Jersey’s characteristic red rock, that stirs the soul.

Jersey, Channel Islands

It has so many moods. Sometimes, it is wild and windswept, spray beaten and inaccessible. At others it is almost serene, especially at low tide when reflected in the still pool at its base.

Jersey, La Corbiere

On one occasion, during my only Autumnal visit so far, low clouds dispersed the setting sun, crowning the lighthouse with rays.

Jersey, Channel Islands

For the photographer, La Corbière offers so many possibilities. When the tide is out, a causeway is revealed, making perfect lead-in lines. Interesting rocks and pools create endless compositional opportunities and ensure that even if there are other photographers about, there’s plenty of space for everyone.

Jersey, Channel Islands

When the tide is in, higher and wider views can be had from the cliff top. Even in high summer, there is a good chance of having the lighthouse to oneself, or perhaps just sharing it with one other photographer and maybe a romantic couple watching the sunset.

Jersey, Channel Islands

There is one mood I have yet to witness, however. Each time we have been there, the weather has been fairly mild. I have yet to see the lighthouse brave a proper storm. To capture a mighty wave crashing over the tower would really be something. I will just have to keep going back!

Jersey, Channel Island

A beginning

First light, Saundersfoot Bay

In a rash moment I recently signed up for WordPress’s Writing 101.  Writing, on a photography blog?  Yes, I did wonder if I knew what I was doing.   I suppose I wanted to get back to why I started this blog in the first place.  It wasn’t just to share photographs; I had Flickr and 500px for that.  When I started Focused Moments, back in April 2012, I was in the middle of my MA. Perhaps the blog was a way of creating my own original(ish) content when I was otherwise immersed in other people’s words.   (As my subject was Victorian Literature, there were a great many words!)

Over time, however, Focused Moments inexorably tended towards a photo-a-day kind of blog.  Before more touchy readers protest, I am not suggesting for a moment that there is anything wrong with that sort of blog, just that it’s not what I intended.  With Writing 101, which began yesterday, there are daily prompts.  The first one was to free write for 20 minutes.  Well, I didn’t feel like free writing about photography.   That prompt seems, to me, more appropriate to the creation of fiction.  So I have taken comfort in the challenge’s statement that we can be as free as we like in our interpretation of each prompt, and I have ignored it completely!  Instead, I have thought about beginnings.

Blue Hour, Saundersfoot Bay

It must be fairly obvious to anyone who is kind enough to stop by here from time to time that I like landscape photography.  For me, setting up somewhere and waiting for the light is a beautiful, and healing experience.   But I am not really a morning person, so most of my imagery is made at the end of the day.   However, last Friday Pete and I managed to get up for dawn.  At this time of year and at these latitudes, that is no mean feat.  Our alarms went off at 4am, and I can tell you that, as we were blearily dressing and mainlining caffeine, the planned adventure suddenly seemed far less appealing.

Once we were outside, however, all that changed.  There wasn’t much of a sunrise, but it didn’t matter.  We had the beach to ourselves.  A hush hung over the morning, broken only by the swoosh of the waves and the haunting cry of oyster catchers.   Homer’s ‘rosy fingered dawn’ delicately coloured the sky as a solitary fishing smack chugged out of the bay.  I could understand why many landscape photographers prefer this subtle time of day to the more spectacular sunset.   As my children grow, and need me less, one small but significant compensation is that opportunities to get out for daybreak will grow.  The beginning of a new phase in life will involve seeing more of the beginning of each new day. There’s a certain poetry in that.

Dawn, Saundersfoot Bay


To have made a beginning is half of the business.



The child of the morning, rosy-fingered dawn, appeared.