Every soil contains a bank of sleeping seeds

Popply fields with tree

The conditions that favour poppy seeds are simple – the seeds lie dormant, deep in the soil, until something comes along to plough and break that soil up, allowing sunshine, warmth and moisture to reach them so that they spring into vibrant, astonishing life.

Their overwhelming association with the trenches of WW1 is because, in land that had been ripped apart by shells and fighting, they were the first sign of life to reappear.  It must have been a poignant sight – the blood of the fallen springing up as dancing red flowers.  The poppies symbolised both the huge loss of life and shedding of blood, but also the triumph of life over death, of beauty over man-made devastation.

I wish the link with war wasn’t so strong.  The poppy is the most joyful of flowers – to come across fields like the ones in these images is something that lifts the heart.  But then – for me, at least – the symbolism kicks in and it’s impossible not to think of Flanders fields, in the same way that I can no longer see a plane flying towards some skyscrapers without thinking of 9/11.

However, these poppies were busily creating their own little pocket of joy – the small layby next to the fields housed an ever-changing parade of cars whose occupants had stopped to gaze in awe at the poppies stretching into the distance, and more often than not, to get out and take pictures.  Everyone was smiling at everyone else, and exclaiming how wonderful and amazing it was.  These poppies were bringing people together.

Photographing the poppy fields

I searched the web for quotes about poppies that didn’t refer to war.  It’s almost impossible to find any, so this one stood out:

‘That we find a crystal or a poppy beautiful means that we are less alone, that we are more deeply inserted into existence than the course of a single life would lead us to believe.’

The quote is from John Berger who – coincidentally – wrote extensively about the theory of photography.  I do believe that there’s something about nature’s spectacular beauty that connects us more strongly to the world, puts our problems into perspective, and opens our hearts to the simple pleasures that lie in looking at something as gorgeous as this.


Poppies, Balderton, Notts

Poppies and white flowers, Balderton, Notts

Poppies, Balderton, Notts

Poppies with yellow flowers, Balderton, Notts

Poppies with tree, Balderton, Notts

Poppies with tree, Balderton, Notts

The title quote is taken from an article in the Guardian by Lea Leendertz.


Last summer’s seed head

Seehead 1

I don’t know what’s wrong with me at the moment; I’m just not taking many photos, and that’s not good when you’re writing a photography blog.  I think some of it might be because I don’t really know where to go in this area in terms of interesting places to take pictures.  Or maybe it’s just that I’m still feeling unsettled and the creative juices aren’t flowing quite the way I’d like them to be.  That’s probably more like it, as I’ve just spent three days in London and hardly took anything at all while I was there, and that’s pretty unusual.

It seems a good time to go through the archives and pull out some things that got passed over at the time.  Last summer I brought home this seedhead.  I don’t know the name of the plant, although it’s very common; it’s bugging me a little, so if you know what it is, can you tell me please?  I love the clear-cut spikiness of the bottom bits (I’m not good on botanical terms) and the intricacy of all the little seeds that make up the head.  I spent quite a while photographing it from every possible angle, as you can see.

I was processing these images this morning, and they weren’t coming out quite as I wanted.  They were a little too dark, but if I boosted the light tones they became too hard and contrast-y.  After a bit of experimentation, I duplicated the original layer and set the blend mode to Screen, then increased the transparency to about fifty percent.  The last one was done a little differently; with that one, I added some Gaussian blur to the duplicated layer and I didn’t increase the transparency at all.  It’s given a very soft, high-key effect that I’m quite pleased with.  All were taken using the Lensbaby – by default, as I don’t have anything else that will do macro.

Seedhead 8

Seedhead 2

Seedhead 3

Seedhead 1

Seedhead 5

Seedhead 4

Seedhead 7