Tag Archives: contemplative photography

Notes toward a New Course

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In a previous post, I hinted at a new course I want to develop in my “ReFrame” classroom on Teachable.com. I’m thinking about how words and images, especially paintings and photographs, seems to fit together almost perfectly, as if cut out to make a jigsaw puzzle. In particular, I am exploring the idea that writing and photography are both contemplative practices. I won’t give away everything I’m thinking in the blog entry, but I will give you some “sneak peaks.”

Andy Carr, a “contemplative” photographer and author of the Seeing Fresh website, defines the term contemplative photography this way:

Contemplative photography is a method for seeing and photographing the world in fresh ways, to reveal richness and beauty that is normally hidden from view. Instead of emphasizing subject matter or the technical aspects of photography, the contemplative approach teaches you to see clearly, and make images based on fresh perceptions.

Notice that contemplative photography is not about the subject or the technique. It is all about seeing. It’s about noticing the “richness and beauty” of things that we often overlook. We often use the expression that we can’t see the forest for the trees when we get so caught up in details. However, sometimes, all we see is the forest, and we overlook the trees that make the forest beautiful and rich. (One reason for that, I believe, is that we live in a world that is too fast paced, and beauty rushes by us.)

Simply slowing down and paying attention to what catches our eye forces us into “noticing.”

I know that light shines through the windows at my house. There are two eastward-facing windows in my living room. As the sun rises in the morning, the room fills with light. I could be satisfied with that idea of “lightness” in the room. But one day, this caught my eye:

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This image is not technically perfect. The white balance is all out of whack. Composition is “off.” Cropping leaves a lot to be desired. Yet, it is rich and beautiful and reminds me of golden light. This is contemplative photography.

Contemplative photography is not about making images for others’ “consumption.” It is about YOU, the photographer. These are things that speak to YOU, first and foremost. I share a lot of my images, and if others relate to them in some way, I am glad, and if not, that’s okay, too. Contemplative photography is all about the noticing.

Contemplate, the verb, is defined this way

to look thoughtfully for a long time at [something]; to think about; to think profoundly at length, meditate

Do you notice that first definition, “to look thoughtfully for a long time at”? When we approach photography from a contemplative practice, we don’t always just press the shutter at the first thing we see, or the first thing we notice. We look at the thing thoughtfully for a bit to see if it resonates with us somehow, and then we press the shutter.

This is one of the practices I’ll take up in the upcoming “Words and Images” course. And I’ll explore writing as a contemplative practice that also slows us down to “think profoundly at length.”

Today, take a walk and slow down. Notice what catches your eye, and then stop and look at it at length. If you should have a camera, even your phone camera, with you, make the image. Don’t worry about the technical aspects. (You will be surprised, though, that you actually become a better photographer technically when you practice contemplative photography regularly!)

Enjoy your time of contemplation.

A Year of Living the Dare—the Second Quarter Begins

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It’s April already.  It’s the second Saturday in April, in fact. Last Saturday, I was getting ready for Aaron’s wedding, eating breakfast in a hotel in Greer, anticipating the afternoon.

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(Handsome couple. Photo credit to Grady, the proud father of the groom)

Three weeks ago, I entered into a new season of living the dare, or perhaps living the dare. As a member of a “mastermind group” of women who desire to create a business for themselves, I began dreaming again of answering a call that I’ve felt for some years—to take control of my living, to step out on faith, to envision the life and work I want to do.

I have to be honest: taking dares, even the ones I give myself, is scary. What’s even scarier than taking the dare, is owning that dare. And now that I have accepted the dare, I am in the process of defining the dare.

So. . . . I’ve written before that one of my goals is to create a “space” for photographers, women especially, to gather to practice the art and craft of photography, to share the images we receive and make, and perhaps, most importantly, to realize that private dream of being an artist, of living the creative life. For me, photography is often a contemplative practice, of way of orienting me to the world around me, to see what is here right now. Looking through the lens of the camera (my Canon 7D, aka “the big girl camera”) reminds me to notice things. I’ve also written before that more often than not, when I don’t have the camera with me, I see photographs to receive and make.

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There’s another element, though, that pulls me. The little girl who wanted someone to tell her that she could be an artist if she wanted to keeps calling to me. I know that day was a long time ago in that third grade classroom at Dutch Fork Elementary (the old one that burned in 1976 or so), but I still feel the weight of the criticism and the implication that I was not, nor would be, an artist. I want others to know that we are all born with creativity and artistry in us. I may never draw realistic horses the way my third-grade friend could, but I can still create.

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I am not sure where my creative business planning may take me this year, but I am exploring and thinking. I am creating space and time for this. And who knows to what this dare will lead?

Decisions Decided

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So Monday, I wrote about the decisions I needed to make regarding my writing and the blog. I hate to admit it, but sometimes, blogging regularly does bog me down. There’s not that much to write about with feeling that I’m repeating myself. Maybe it’s because I still haven’t found my ideal focus.

But, I have decided: I will do my very best to do the Write 31 Days challenge in October. I don’t promise to have every entry ready to post by 7:00 a.m. in the morning, nor do I promise to write the requisite 800 words (or is it no more than 600? I never was very good at following strict rules). I have chosen my “theme:” Thirty-One Days of Photography. I need work on my skills again, and I will use some of the tools I already have—a few classes that I need to finish, a couple of books with exercises and opportunities to play, and other sources of inspiration. I think I will also look at the post-processing process to work on those skills as well.

Mixed in with these posts will be some reflections as I add the contemplative element to my photography.

I will be back on Friday!

Coming out of the Abyss—Day 8

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It is by going down into the abyss that we recover the treasures of life. Where you stumble, there lies your treasure.

Joseph Campbell

Today, it is time to start the climb out of the abyss and return to the known world.

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Today, I took out the camera and my trusty Zune player, loaded my “Fun” playlist. It is mid-October, and the world is beginning to shift from its summer greens to the oranges, reds, and browns of autumn. The sky this morning was a clear blue, and the atmosphere was clean that the light almost hurt my eyes. Everything seemed brighter, clearer, and sharper.untitled-2

It seems that I have been in the abyss for awhile, wandering around, trying to find my way out. One thing that helps is to look for beauty in whatever form I can find. And using the camera helps me find it. Beauty becomes the boon that lifts me back into the known world.

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Day 6: Photography and Recovery

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Today, the sun shone. I thought I’d need to look it up on Google just know what I was seeing. (Yes, this is a bit of sarcasm and hyperbole, but it seems so long since I’ve seen sunshine!)

I went for a walk today, and I took my mp3 player with some happy music and my camera to see what there is to see. After being inundated with images of destruction, all I could see today is beauty. God provides.

I had a plan for this month’s series. I really did! It’s in my planner, but the events of this weekend, the flood, the destruction—well, my thinking about what photography means to me. I needed to see beauty today in the midst of the destruction. I needed to see the beauty of nature. And taking the camera out with me allowed me to see.

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After days of gray, these blue skies and white clouds are welcome.

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After my walk, I sat in the “John Deere” yellow swing to soak up the vitamin D. Peace. . . .

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A Walk in the Park

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I went back to Dreher Island State Park this afternoon to walk with the camera. I’m still working through that post-winter funk. Although the morning was rather gray and cloudy, by lunch time, the sky was blue and there was gorgeous sunshine. I couldn’t help myself. I packed the camera and checked my playlist on my now obsolete Zune player. I added a couple of upbeat tunes, “Uptown Funk,” “Sugar,” and “Rock Bottom Blues.”

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I had to give the playllist a name, so I’m calling it the “Fun Walking Playlist.” The selections do change according to my mood and my current “likes.”

I am a voracious reader. I have experimented with Amazon Unlimited, which allows the subscriber to download and read up to ten books at a time for free. I have to admit that I was a little disappointed that not every author that I enjoy reading is not part of the Unlimited program. Then I started seeing ads for Oyster Books, marketed as “Netflix for Books.” I signed up for the two-trial, and discovered more books that I wanted to read than I did on the Amazon plan. So, I cancelled Amazon Unlimited. I confess rather sheepishly that I love Barbara Cartland historical novels. And Oyster Books has them! I’ve already read/reread three of them.

But back to the topic—the walk in the park—I also found Susan Tuttle’s books, The Art of Everyday Photography and The Art of Everyday Photography Companion. I skimmed the first chapter, which has her tips for better photographs. The first tip is to shoot from the gut. She says to take the camera for a walk and take photographs of whatever strikes the photographer’s fancy, to take the picture without judgment. And that’s what I did. It’s like last week’s assignment: walk in a familiar place and take fifty images.  These assignments tie in with the idea of contemplative photography and looking at the world through a softer gaze.

Because it was a  beautiful day, I went looking for the emergence of spring. Now, I’ve grown up with southern pine trees all my life, and it’s not one of my favorite trees in the spring. Pine pollen is everywhere! But for the first time, I noticed the beginnings of the pine cones!

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Some of those little cones are pink! I’ve never noticed that before.

The jasmine is beginning to bloom as well.

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And the dogwood as well.

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There were other things that caught my eye: the odd red leave on the ground—a spot of bright color,

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last year’s pine cones,

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and lichens growing on the side of the trees. Don’t you think this looks like the profile of an old gentleman overseeing the coming of spring?

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I think I need to seek more opportunities to shoot from the gut.