Image of a silhouette in front of a red background. Photograph by 4toconvert.

Retracing the map of my hinterland

This weekend I paid a visit to my brother in Berkshire, UK. I got there using the main motorways which are the M25, M4 and M1. It was an exercise in retracing the map of my hinterland.

I cannot use these roads without reflecting on my past, present and future. These are roads marinated in memories.

They are full of associations too many to capture here. Each time I am on these roads, images flood like my mind like the numerous vehicles speeding in both directions of these motorways.

It was these roads I first travelled on when I first arrived in the UK and stared through the car windows at this land that I had never imagined I would ever set foot on.

I was only acquainted with it through books, television and the mental pictures stored in my head.

In fact, my first overseas holiday was in the UK and these roads introduced me to England.

It is on these roads that I drove my first car, a Vauxhall Calibra. What an achievement it seemed then. Up until then, I had never thought it was possible that I would ever own my own car.

I can’t use these motorways and not think of all the first times and where I have come from.

These roads represent my journeys of innocence and journeys of experience.

They remind me of the long drives at night to meet my first UK lover. They remind me of my the ones that got away.

They are reminders of my party days as a fresh faced youth without any cares in the world, driving from one end of London to the other in search of fun, women and marijuana.

It was on these roads that we used to race with my friends flat-lining the speedometer of the car deep at night with the lights and road markings above and below whizzing past like blazing arrows.

Images of blurred lights on the motorway. Photograph by 4toconvert.

I grimace when I remember the images of those days. I wonder how we survived when we were so young, rash and reckless.

Using these motorways, reminds me how far I have come and how much I have changed along this journey.

I have changed. I have slowed down. I have more respect for the motorways and other road users.

When I see other young men who could have been me in earlier years doing the the things I used to do, I shake my head.

I know I was lucky. I lived and I can write about it. Will they?

Rather than driving around like a maniac, I prefer been behind the lens of my camera, watching the world through my viewfinder.

Image of lights on the motorway. Photograph by 4toconvert.

I am more in touch with my arty side now. I was arty back then but I didn’t always get to practise my art.

This weekend, I was content as a passenger, reading my Amateur Photography magazine and discovering new techniques and tips.

This is the new me, constantly pushing the horizons of my knowledge and skills. When I retrace the map of my hinterland, I discover that my love for the camera emanates from my childhood.

I read a lot so my mind was always flush with images and ideas of things, places and other worlds.

My father owned a camera and used to take pictures; that is when I fell in love with the camera and I wanted to use the camera myself to take pictures.

I found pictures interesting because they were a tangible way of storing memories, unlike the memories we have in our heads which are fluid and never consistent.

They are always changing colours, moods and our perception always distorts the reality.

Photos are more realistic. They tell stories using pictures. I guess the writer in me also tells stories using words, metaphors, evoking moods and images. So it is not a surprise that I have this thing for cameras and images.

For me, it represents a different way of telling stories. It also provides me with a means of escape just as what a book does when I sit down to read.

It allows me to air some of those thoughts and images that are in my head in pictures.

I belong to a photography group on Facebook and one of the challenges this week was painting with light.

Image of lights on the motorway. Photograph by 4toconvert.

I didn’t get to do the challenge. This challenge was on my mind all the time. On my way back from my brothers, I had my camera with me and I thought about experimenting and painting with light.

Therefore, I started playing with long exposures to see what kind of images I would capture.

I knew there was no way I would avoid shaking the camera in a moving car: it gave me the opportunity to move the camera around while photographing and pulling the manual focus in and out.

If you were wondering what all these images with lights littering this article are, then I must explain now: these are my first experiments at painting with light and long exposures.

Images of lights on the motorway. Photograph by 4toconvert.

Maybe when I have mastered the form, I will remember that my first painting with light abstracts were performed on the M4, M1 and M25, keeping up the history of my firsts.

Retracing the map of my hinterland reminds me of where I am coming from, my journey and where I am headed.


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