Mindful Photography Course – Who Am I Now?

Last Friday I started the first week of eight delivering ‘Who am I now?’ to patients from Morriston Hospital Brain Injury Service. This is the second Mindful Photography Course I deliver and the students had all completed the first course with me last Autumn.

The first course’s aim was to encourage students to apply and develop mindfulness to photography. At the heart of this was the intention to use what we see as our anchor, much in the same way as when we meditate we use the breath. The course developed the students attention to the moment and shared many photography practices that develop mindfulness and inspire the creation of personal, resonant photographs.

This second course has a different focus. In this course we will be travelling through more challenging territory, particularly using photography to explore how we are living now. This intention is relevant to all of us who are facing the difficulties that manifest when we experience great change or significant loss. These experiences throw up all sorts of difficult thoughts and feelings and generate powerful fears.

Over the next 8 weeks we will be looking at four key areas:

  1. Becoming present – The first week is a re-tuning into how we can use photography to encourage us to be present in the moment. This includes the Four Stage Seeing Practice, introduced in the first course as well as some Mindful Photography practices to create some personal photographs about how we are today.
  2. Experiencing your thoughts and feelings – Over three weeks we will be looking at how we can use photography to illustrate and explore how we are feeling and what we are thinking. We will do this by considering how we behave and feel when difficulty manifests in our lives. We will explore how we can use abstract photographs that represent our feelings, incorporating the seven elements of visual design and the use of metaphors and symbols.
  3. How it is now – Weeks five and six use photography to consider how our life experience is now. This is challenging territory and includes a consideration of how we react to major change and loss, how we can allow ourselves to be vulnerable and how we can use gratitude to develop positivity for our life as it is now.
  4. Who are you now? – Adjusting to major loss and change means developing acceptance of who we are now and learning to love ourselves no matter what. For the final two weeks we will be exploring how mindfulness and photography can support this courageous work.

Each week I share some theory, both mindfulness and photography based and then everyone completes at least one mindful photography practice. These are photography activities that develop an attention to the moment and a mindful attitude to life.

Each of these mindful photography practices are an end in themselves. The practice being part of the process of developing mindfulness. However they also produce some photos which I will share each week

Week 1

In our first week my intention was to gently re-introduce the students to mindful photography. I provided a simple overview of the course to come and then we got down to some experiential learning!

The first activity encourages the use of touch and sight to develop the ability to use our camera as an extension of ourselves. It’s called ‘Be the camera’ and it’s a form of guided meditation practice.

Then we followed a mindful photography practice called ‘Right Here. Right Now’. This practice challenged the students to produce 10 photos in 50 minutes, with no deleting and no viewscreen to compose or review the photos to bring them into the moment.

After the practice we all sat down and before being allowed to review the photos (‘Notice how you feel!’) we did a 5 minute silent meditation. Then we all reviewed our work and chose two photos each to share and discuss.

The sharing and discussion is a key part of the practice. Everybody is encouraged to share why they chose the photo and describe how the photo made them feel. And here they are below. Next week  – experiencing your thoughts and feelings!

Find out more

This course is rich territory for people who are experiencing great change or loss. If you work with people who you think might benefit and you would like to know more please contact me.

Prolific

When I first saw this week’s Word Press Photo Challenge theme of prolific I was stumped. Later as I was looking through some photos I had created at last week’s first session of a new live course with Brain Injury patients (news later this week), I realised there was potential in my favourite form of selfie.

I often create selfies that use my shadow, so I did a trawl through my photos and found loads of examples. Almost prolific. All that required to do was to create a compilation. Here it is.

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Waiting

As I type this I am sat in a cafe drinking tea (of course) waiting for a garage to phone me back and tell me that my car’s brakes are not a problem, or more likely that certain costs are due. The waiting, any waiting, is an exercise in patience and perhaps one that in our fast paced modern life we resent. How does a mindful photographer occupy his time when he has to wait?

Fortunately, this morning the sun is shining and the sky is dazzling bolt blue. Bright low light abounds, shadows are out to play and the world appears vibrant. The garage I dropped the car at is on the edge of town, so I have wandered into the centre for a cuppa.

I like the town centre when it’s quiet and shiny. It imbues a sense of ownership when at any other hectic dreary time I want to be far away. I walked up from the garage just noticing the interplay of light, shade and colour. When something caught my eye I stopped, pulled out my glasses (the trials of using my second camera without a viewfinder) and created a photo.

I only stopped three times before reaching my destination and each photo here both represents those pauses and captures what attracts me on a bold sunlit morning. Waiting is easier with a positive way to spend my time. Using the time to take in my place and reflect it in a photo or two not only makes use of the time, in roots me in the moment and allows the morning to further brighten my day. Then I can write about it and share it with you!

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Mindfulness in the Woods Workshop

I recently took part in a great mindfulness in the woods workshop with Woodland Classroom led by Lea and James Kendall. We were based in Penllergare Valley Woods in Swansea and spent 3 hours following a variety of mindful activities.

We met in the car park at the re-imagined Penllergare Woods. From there Lea encouraged us to be present with the feeling of our feet on the floor and our movement of weight through our walk to the woodland base. Here we met James and sat in a circle around an open fire, acclimatising to the world around us.

Lea and James led us through a series of mindful activities that celebrated the woods and our presence in them. I found the session invigorating and grounding, feeling refreshed and breathing deeply and well. It is easy to forget how re-balancing nature is, Mindfulness in the Woods Workshop reminded me of its power.

Lea and James will be running another Swansea based Mindfulness in the Woods workshop at Penllergare Woods 2nd June. Book early to avoid disappointment, the last one sold out!

 

I’m hoping this makes you smile

This photo is for you. I had in my mind that I would try and create a photo to make you smile. So when I released the day into my bedroom and saw the dazzling blue sky an idea burst into existence.

I thought how could you not fail to smile at the sight of my sparkling white English legs, loose for the first time this year on a bracing Welsh beach? There were other factors I hoped would also help: memories of time spent at the beach, the sight of consistently sunny Swansea (joke) and of course, my smiling face.

Then if all that failed to turn up the corners, perhaps the tale of what happened directly after this photo was created would amuse you. There I was, my lovely new Fuji XT2 on a little tripod – only a foot off the sand, blithely imagining that the sea was in retreat. The shutter fired and I looked over my left shoulder to see a wave racing towards me. I dashed forward, scooped up the camera and tripod and sprung up the sloped sea wall.

Unfortunately, the angle and surface combined to make clinging there until the tide had once again retreated a trial. Watched by a mother and her two kids, who had also raced out of the way – although they were next to the steps – I slowly slid back towards the water. Inexorably I neared its pooled edge.  Visions of soggy socks and frozen toes swam past.

Then with a single bound I was free!

 

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Sunset Afterglow

I couldn’t let this opportunity pass without sharing a Rise/Set photo I created at a mindful photography workshop a few years ago.

I had booked the space, date and time in Llanmadoc on the Gower Peninsula in late September in the hope that we would be blessed with a great sunset. The reality exceeded my expectations providing one of those sunsets where the afterglow colours remind you of the unforgetable artistry that nature can provide.

Llanmadoc Beach faces west and America so the sunset was directly behind the retreating tide. This low tide also provided the opportunities for reflections of the swooning colours in the water sitting on the smooth slick sand. I decided to create something a little different, using a tripod, a low ISO and a slow shutter speed I slowly swept the camera through the horizon and back, creating the finished blurred effect. The colours are as close to the reality as my ability, recollection and software allows. I’m sure that nature’s reality was even more spectacular.

As a footnote it is interesting to reflect how this photo has come to symbolise my work in mindful photography, being used throughout this website, my business card and course promotion material. I even have a spectacular large print framed in my lounge. It has grown to represent this adventure in mindful photography I am currently living.