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Foundation Skills Course – Week 3 Seeing the Photo

The beginning of the Foundation Skills Course in Mindful Photography is all about encouraging your ability to see a photo. An easy ambition you may think. Seeing a photo implies an ability to see a photographic opportunity. Perhaps the major challenge lies in that thought that may just have popped in to your head, “How do I create a good photo?”

The little voice we all have, can be curious about your ability to create a good photo. It may be particularly judgemental, saying things like, “Your photos are often no good.” “You can’t take good photos.” Or simply, “That’s rubbish”. This judging mind can be a real pain. And it gets in the way of what you are really capable of. My intention on the course is to connect you with what you can see and then to teach you the most interesting ways of representing that in a photograph. But what you have to do first is really strange, almost counter intuitive. I ask you to not look for a photo, whilst you are out creating photos.

I know, crazy right? How you can you not look for a photo and then create a photo. Ah well, that is what I teach on the course. It is a challenge, but it is also easy. What I encourage you to do is to remain present with what you can see. To walk in your location, not looking for a photo, but alert to what you can see. Then something will catch your eye. Only then do you stop and consider what it is. Really look at what is there. Look at where it is, how far away, what it is about it that stopped you.

Maybe you need to move closer. Maybe you need to change your point of view, move up, down, left right, in or out? Only after this consideration do you press the shutter, not look at the photo and move on. Walking, not looking for a photo.

I know. I said don’t look at what you have just created. This is helpful. It holds back your judging mind. If you don’t look at your photo, you will just move on, not looking for a photo. This way of being with your camera will improve your connection to what you can see. Then of course your photos will become more interesting.

This week’s mindful photos

This week’s task for our intrepid students was to create 20 photos in a small space in 45 minutes, not looking for a photo, not looking at what was created and just being with the seeing. Each photographer then shared at least 2 photos with the group and talked about why they shared them. Here they are.

Foundation Skills Course – Week 2

Using Seeing as your anchor for Mindful Photography

The Foundation Skills Course centres upon using Seeing as your anchor for Mindful Photography. If you are to create fabulous photos that say something of your world and are not just like anyone else’s, then you need to really pay attention to what you can see.

You may think that this is easy. It is easy to understand. However, to really see what is there and to overcome the barriers to clear seeing you first need to pay attention, to be really present with your intention to create photos. This week’s lesson and next week’s are the foundation of developing that skill.

This week I introduced the 4 Stage Seeing Practice. This is a simple structured approach to support your intention to pay attention to the visual feast in front of you. It turns the act of creating photos into a kind of meditation and is at the heart of Mindful Photography. Remember:

Looking is a gift. Seeing is a power Jeff Berner

The students were presented with a photography activity, or as I call them a Mindful Photography Practice. The practice was timebound, the number of photos they could create was limited to 20 and they were not allowed to review the photos as they created them. This was achieved by turning off the review facility and trusting them not to take a sneaky peak!

All of these limitations support the intention to remain present with the visual, to not be distracted by your judging mind as it reviews each photo as they are created and decides whether its good or bad. This is a theme I return later in this course – and on Course 2 – as it has familiar echoes through the rest of your life.

When the students returned to the class they reviewed their photos and decided upon the two they wanted to share and discuss. This section allows for understanding to deepen and learning to be mutually supportive and is often the most eagerly anticipated part. Here are their favourites.

Foundation Skills Course – Week 1

This week was the first of my rebranded Mindful Photography Course. I’ve changed the name of the first 8 week course to ‘Foundation Skills’. The content is still the same and covers an introduction to Mindfulness, Mindful Photography and three key topics. The first is Clear Seeing – how you can improve your seeing and use seeing as your mindful anchor when creating photos. The second looks at Compositional Guidelines and the third is Mindful Attitudes – how mindful attitudes can be developed through photography. The course also includes Mindful Photography Practices to support the development of your skills and understanding.

The name change is designed to clearly reflect what the course covers. It provides you with the skills which you can then develop and use on the second course: Exploring Life. Together the two courses support people who have experienced significant loss or great change in their life to explore the question, “Who Am I Now?”

Week 1 is an introduction to Mindful Photography. I cover what mindfulness and meditation are and link this to an outline of what Mindful Photography is, particularly describing how photography can be used as a mindful practice. I also run over the other topics that we are going to cover on the course: Clear Seeing, Composition skills and Mindful Attitudes.

Slow Down

The first challenge I set our new group was to slow down their photography practice. The speed at which we can create and delete photographs digitally has led to a disconnect with the present moment. This contributes to our inability to see what is really there. Digital cameras can take hundreds of photos in minutes and we can easily discard the ones we don’t like. This leads to a belief that because we can take many photos one will be good and we then don’t pay attention, as well as we can, to what can be seen. Seeing is at the heart of photography and is our anchor in Mindful Photography.

All photography activities on the course are called practices. Each one can be completed more than once, each one is an invitation to practice being present with your camera. My initial practices on the course encourage you to slow down and really connect with what you can see. This intention is supported by turning a digital camera into something like a film camera.

You too can do this. All you need to do is to turn off your viewscreen – for viewing and review. If you can’t, or don’t know how to, you can just tape a small piece of card over the screen. Then you limit the number of photos you are allowed to take. For example you only allow yourself 10 photos, with deleting not allowed.

Not being able to see what you have created (and if you have no viewfinder you have to imagine what the camera is receiving) slows you right down. Each photo becomes more precious, and just counting to 10 becomes a challenge! If you would like to know more take a look at the post ’10 Tips to slow down your photography’

At the end of the practice – which we did for 45 mins, each photographer chose one favourite photo to share and discuss with the rest of the group. Here they are.