Mindful Photography Course – Week 3

Week 3 was our second week looking at Clear Seeing. In particular this is about establishing Seeing as an anchor; the foundation of our Mindful Photography Practice.

To do this we use the 4 Stage Seeing Practice: an activity that encourages us to use Seeing as an anchor in the same way as we can use our breath when we meditate. So we walk and we do not look for a photo. We observe what we see. We notice what we see. When something catches our eye we stop. We pay attention to what it was that stopped us. And before we press the shutter we consider where we are going to place the frame. Then we press the shutter and move on.

Throughout this practice when we notice our mind shooting about – thinking about photos, thinking about whether we will be able to create a ‘good enough’ photo, thinking about ourselves doing the activity – we notice and return to what we can see. It is a practice.

A Small Space

The Mindful Photography Practice (photo activity) we all followed this week was called ‘Small Space’. In this activity everyone chose a small space to remain and walk around for 40 minutes. 20 photos were created, composed through the viewfinder (or screen where this was not possible) and not reviewed after creation!

Only when we returned to the classroom were we allowed to review the photos. During the review stage I encourage everyone to notice their thoughts, particularly the judgemental one, ‘I like that one. I don’t like that one.’

Everyone then got to share and talk about one of their photos. Here they are.

 

A Tour of my Online Course

LIVE! with a 20% discount until 18th October 2017

Mindful Photography 1 – How becoming mindful can help you to create fabulous photos is LIVE! Maybe you have not yet enrolled on the FREE Introduction to Mindful Photography 4 Day Challenge and wonder what it is all about.

How about a little tour of the content of the full course so you can get a little feel of what to expect?

 

Course Content

Mindful Photography 1 – How becoming mindful can help you to create fabulous photos is the world’s first online course in Mindful Photography. It will help you to develop mindfulness through photography. And you will create fabulous photos!

This course will develop your ability to see a photograph. It will demonstrate how seeing can be used as an anchor and turn photography into a mindful practice. It will share mindful photography practices that support your development as a photographer, whilst also becoming more mindful.

The course draws inspiration from two key sources. The Four Foundations of Mindfulness (from 2500 years ago) and the modern application of mindfulness to support us in stressful times (the MBSR – mindfulness based stress reduction).

This is Part 1 of a fresh and innovative way of developing your skills as a photographer and will cover three key topics:

Clear Seeing

This topic is all about turning photography into a mindful practice. I share a Four Stage Seeing Practice that will develop your ability to use what you see as an anchor, to bring you totally back to the moment. This will develop your ability to see everything that is front of you. Yes, everything. Just like a camera does. Oh, did I mention that you will also learn how to see like a camera! And you will discover the barriers that can get in the way of clear seeing.

Photo Thinking

This topic will support your development as a photographer. Offering mindful photography practices that support your journey to photographic brilliance. These practices support you to hold all the technical and compositional knowledge and skills gently, whilst being rooted in the moment and seeing the photographic opportunities.

Each practice provides a way of developing your photography skills whilst your ability to see the potential of a scene for a personal and resonant photo is enhanced.

Mindful Attitudes

This topic is an introduction to ten attitudes that support the development of a mindful life. Each mindful attitude is described with a personal interpretation and then is applied to photography. A Mindful Photography Practice is provided for each attitude to support your personal and photographic development.

What does each topic include?

There are 2 Modules in each Topic – that’s 6 modules in all.

Each module includes videos, slideshows and Mindful Photography Practices.

There are 20 Mindful Photography Practices all together. These photography activities will help you to learn and develop mindfulness and photography skills, and compliment the videos and slideshows. Every Mindful Photography Practice can be done many times. They truly are mindful practices that will help you develop as a photographer and in life!

Each Mindful Photography Practice will result in you creating some fabulous photos which you will then share with the Course Community in our private Facebook group. I will comment on your photos and look forward to discussing your experiences with you in the group. This is a fabulous support for everyone who enrolls on the course, providing guidance,discussion and contact with like minded people all over the world!

There are 3 eBooks too! One for each topic- with the whole text, illustrative photos and the mindful photography practices.

What are you waiting for?

If you are an avid photographer and have a curiosity about mindfulness then this is the course for you.

If you would like to develop your ability to create personal, resonant, fabulous photos then this is the course for you.

You can try the Introduction the Mindful Photography 4 Day Challenge for FREE. This 4 day video course will provide greater detail on each of the three course topics, a mindful photography practice designed to slow down your photography process and an invitation to join our private Facebook Group.

Just click on the button!

 

 

Mindful Photography Course – Week 2

This week was all about developing a Mindful Photography Practice where Seeing was our anchor. Clear Seeing was the key topic and we looked at what that is and how it is that we see. We then compared how we see to how a camera sees and began the process of noticing those differences.

The foundation of Mindful Photography is the Four Stage Seeing Practice. This is the practice I share on all of my courses and workshops and stands at the heart of developing our ability to be present with our desire to create photos.

Like meditation the Four Stage Seeing Practice is easy to understand, but difficult to remain present with. But if we are to create fabulous photographs then we must learn to see – everything that is in front of us. And seeing everything that is there is not as easy as it sounds. Our minds consistently trick us, presenting those things that we are interested in, rather than the totality of all that is in front of us.

Of course they do this to help to support our progress through the day and to keep us safe. But it also limits our visual experience and if we are to create fabulous, resonant photos then we need to develop our Clear Seeing.

Ordinary Beauty

We followed two Mindful Photography Practices to develop our Clear Seeing. The first one was based on a quote by John Updike – ‘giving the mundane its beautiful due’ and challenged everyone to create beautiful photos from an ordinary object. Here are our favourites

Seeing in Colour

Our second Mindful Photography Practice centred upon the creation of photos where colour was the key feature. It was fascinating to reflect that whilst we followed these two practices students following the full Online Course in Mindful Photography were doing the same activities in different parts of the world. Here are our favourites.

 

Ruth’s Story – How Mindful Photography helped me

Today’s blog post is a personal story from a friend of mine who is also a Mindful Photographer. Ruth’s story is a personal account of how mindful photography has helped with her wellbeing and mental health. It is an honest account of living with difficulty and how mindfulness combined with a creative outlet can support you to live with the experience.

Mindful Photography: a tool for improved mental health

In September 2014 photography started to take on a whole new meaning to me. For some time I had struggled with episodes of anxiety and depression and I was going through a particularly challenging time. I decided to attend a retreat “The Photography of Being” in Scotland for a week.

I allowed myself to feel the debts of my thoughts and spent a couple of days immersing myself in the darkness of the dense mossy wood where I was staying. As the week went by I started to feel lighter and found myself coming out into the open, where I observed the movement of the running stream and the beauty of the nearby Loch.

The warm autumn colours were already in their full glory and I lay on the ground and bathed in their warmth. My series of photographs from the week show my process of being in the dark and coming out into the light. The experience was incredibly therapeutic.

Breakdown

A year later, I experienced what at the time I called a full on breakdown. I was overwhelmed and burnt out and my body forced me to stop. Fear got the better of me and I was not able to work for a few months. As part of my recovery I went for walks in the beautiful woods and commons where I live in Stroud in the Cotswolds. I took my camera or my mobile phone with me and found myself asking nature to support me.

I allowed myself to be guided instinctively towards particular places, objects, colours, textures, shapes, patterns, and areas of light, dark, or shadow that caught my eye. I looked at the detail as well as the bigger picture. I started to ‘be’ fully present in the moment, to breathe and to experience what I was looking at, not only through my eyes, but through all my senses. Sometimes I would take photos; sometimes I would simply look. I found that nature would ‘speak’ to me through my eyes or the lens and help me look at my life with a fresh perspective.

Mindful Photography

As part of my recovery I also renewed my interest in mindfulness; I had participated in an 8-week mindfulness course some years previously, which was helpful but in some ways added to the stress I was feeling at the time – it was another thing I had to do! This time though, I instinctively thought: mindfulness + photography = mindful photography.

Over the past year or so I have been sharing mindful photography through the photography walks, workshops, commissions, projects and talks that I offer through my photography business Look Again, which I launched in 2012.

And it was with great delight that I found that other people were also practising mindful photography. I was particularly drawn to the work of Lee Aspland, who I have since met and has now kindly asked me to write this blog!

Breakthrough

What I realise now is that my breakdown was in fact a breakthrough. Mindful photography has become a practice that I use to help myself deal with my own mental health challenges and that I love to share with individuals, communities, organisations and businesses through my work with Look Again. It’s wonderful to slow down, look, look again and see with new eyes.

Please contact me or visit Look Again to find out more.

Mindful Photography Practice on the Gower Peninsula

As you may have seen in my last post 5 Mindful Photography Tips to help you create fabulous photos I recently followed a mindful photography practice on the beautiful Gower Peninsula.

I am fortunate to live a short 15 minute drive from the south coast of this ‘Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty’. The beach at Pwlldu was viewable on my circular walk, one of my favourites on this section of the glorious Welsh Coastline, and features in this small selection of favourite photos from the practice.

 

5 Mindful Photography Tips to help you create fabulous photos

I have just got back from a mindful photography practice on the beautiful Welsh coastline and I was struck by the thought that it had provided me with an experience that I would not have had unless I had followed the practice.

Immediately I thought, how can I share this in a way that helps you! 

So here it is, a concise version of what happened and how mindful photography practice can support your creation of fabulous photos and reverberate mindful awareness through your life.

The Experience

I parked the car in a safe quiet car park, set my camera up in  Camera Scan Practice set up I use (Aperture Priority, f8 ISO 200 – it was a sunny day) and set my meditation timer to 1 hour.

I already had my 35mm prime lens attached to my Fuji XT-2 (roughly equivalent to the human eye’s focal length) and had a simple circular route planned to walk at a gentle pace. My intention was to use my 4 Stage Seeing Practice, and to return to what I could see every time my busy mind took me off to future plans or reviewing past events.

I walked at a steady pace, enjoying the warm sunshine on my face, the edge of autumn on the air and the signs of nature turning down towards winter. Each time something caught my eye I stopped, observed completely what it was that had taken my eye and then made choices about how to create the photo, before pressing the shutter and moving on.

Sometimes this process took a few minutes, sometimes only seconds. The length of time is immaterial, it is the attentive presence that is at the heart of a resonant photo that inhabits how that moment was for you.

Over the next hour I walked though my route and created around 15 photos. I did not review any of the photos as I created them, just pressed the shutter and moved on.

After completion I still had a little way to walk, and all uphill. As I reached the top of the lane, a flock crows flew over and I was aware of first my desire to create a photo of them flying over, and then my judging mind as I responded too slowly to capture the experience.

I stopped at the top and breathed. Partly to recover my breath and partly to attend to those feelings. I smiled to myself, compassionate with my judging mind and pulled my camera in front of me. As I did this a few crows flew back over, I lifted my camera and instinctively created the photo at the top of this email.

Of course as I was using a 35mm this photo has been cropped quite a bit, but I was struck by how my presence and timing had been able to create an image where this was possible and the crow was sharp against a blue, blue sky.

This experience is the inspiration for these 5 tips below that highlight the benefits of a mindful photography practice. I hope that you find them useful.

5 Tips for Fabulous Photos

  1. Plan a regular photography practice. Set aside at least one hour, once a week when all you are going to do is practice photography.
  2. Regularly use the same lens and camera set up. Familiarity with how the camera sees in relation to how you see will develop. Your ability to see like a camera will develop.
  3. Use a meditation timer to formalise your practice. I use the free Insight Timer app. This works even when there is no signal. This is ideal for then you can also turn your phone to airplane mode, to avoid distractions, and then the timer will log your practice when you next connect.
  4. Do not have a goal to create photos! Your intention is to walk with your camera and observe what presents itself to you. When something visually attracts you stop, breathe, really pay attention to what it is that has caught your eye. Notice the strong desire to ‘take’ a photo. Breathe. Consider how you will frame the photo. Consider if you have to move your feet or camera.
  5. Press the shutter and walk on. Release your desire to look at what you have created and return to your walk and the seeing.

After your practice don’t look at the photos straight away. Take your time, notice how you are. Return to somewhere quiet, get a cup of your favourite hot beverage and sit peacefully and review your photos.

As you look through each image be aware of your mind. Be gentle with the judging thoughts, the mind that says this photo is good and that photo is bad. Notice the judgement and smile. It’s OK, you noticed. Breathe and look through the photos. Notice how you are after the practice. Has it made a difference?

You can see my favourite photos from the practice here

 

Enroll on the FREE Course in Mindful Photography

All of the Mindful Photography Practices and ideas are introduced on my FREE course. It’s a 4 day video challenge that includes one practice and a link to a private Facebook group where you can share your favourite photos and comments, and see other people’s.

Just click on the link on this post and enjoy creating fabulous photos!

Happy Creating

 

 

 

 

Mindful Photography Course – Week 1

This week I started the delivery of my 8 week course in Mindful Photography for Morriston Hospital’s Brain Injury Service. I was particularly excited to start this as it is the first occasion I have delivered in this format, although I have worked with the service delivering other provision since 2012.

My intention over these 8 weeks is to introduce the students to mindfulness, meditation and mindful photography. The aim of the first week is to provide an overview of those topics and start the practice of slowing down the speed at which we create photos.

Slow Down!

Digital cameras are fantastic in many ways, but your disposable relationship to the photos created has underpinned a disconnection to the present moment. When I used to shoot film there were a limited number of shots on the roll. I could not see what I had just taken. The cameras were often manual. I had to attend to what I was seeing, and to what I was doing with the camera, to be certain that I was creating the best representation of my visual experience. This meant that the process of creating several photos was slower than it is now.

Now you can take eight photos per second. Take fifty of a scene, review them instantly and discard the ones you do not like. Throughout my courses and workshops (online and live) I encourage a greater attention to this experience and share mindful photography practices designed to slow you down and truly connect to the visual moment.

It was entirely appropriate then that the first activity I shared in Week 1 is called ‘Slow Down’. In this practice (I call the photography activities practices because it implies that you don’t have to get then ‘right’ and that they can be repeated, again and again) the students cannot see the viewscreen and have to imagine what the camera is receiving. They are also only allowed to create 10 photos in a set period of time. All of these limitations slow the process down, or encourage a slowing down! Some still find it challenging.

The Photos

After the activity the students return to the class and look at their photos for the first time. During this process I encourage an attention to the thinking that is taking place, particularly the judging mind that reviews each photo and determines whether it likes or dislikes a photo. This is the first time of many that I relate the mindful photography practice to life. For your judging mind, and its interpretation of experiences as ones you like or dislike is echoed in the ‘Slow Down’ Mindful Photography Practice.

Each student then chooses one photo to share with the group and we all follow a ‘Creative Review’ mindful practice where we practice connecting to how the photo makes us feel, rather than critically reviewing its composition or technique. Of course those critical thoughts also pop up, but the practice of connecting to how the photo make us feel is a foundation for future mindfulness and mindful photography work.

Here are the students favorite photos. How does each one make you feel?