Much of my photography arises from a response to my environment. Pre planned and tightly described photo creation is something I have to work at. The reason I enjoyed the Photomarathon more this year was that I did not plan each shot beyond a vague idea. Often I didn’t even have a vague idea and just wandered until something stimulated one. So, how does creating a photo work for me?
I am out walking with my camera. If am practicing mindfully I am following my own 4 stage seeing practice. The nub of this practice is that the seeing is my Anchor. As I walk and observe the world my thoughts still intrude. Each time this happens I return to my visual experience. This is stage 1.
Stage 2 is Seeing and builds upon stage 1 so that when something catches my eye I stop. Stage 3 is Resting with that visual experience. Noticing what it was that stopped me. Stage 4 is Receiving and is creating the equivalent of what I can see with my camera.
The Receiving Stage is what defines us as creative photographers. It encompasses all our technical and compositional knowledge and learning. But it is more than just that. It is the reason that we were compelled to create a photograph that is our intuitive response and our window into our soul
Through paying careful attention to my seeing practice I am able to investigate what it was that stopped me and why. This consideration opens up the possibility that I may be able to intuit what it is about the visual stimulation that resonated. This intuition can be investigated by paying attention to my feelings: those in my body and those in my mind.
We may be able to instinctively name what it was that stopped us: a colour, a shape, a pattern etc. Then from that if we pay attention we may be able to follow the instinct toward the feeling. Sometimes this is clouded and hidden and it is enough to simply create a photograph we like. Other times we may be able, if we stay with the moment, to feel what thoughts and feelings run beneath.
Mindful Photography is more that just creating photographs. It is an opportunity to be truly present with ourselves
And then we look at the photo we have created. This will probably involve some judgement. The creative judgement that is supportive in this process is this question. ‘Does the photo capture the equivalent of what we saw?’
If it does not, there may be changes we can make to exposure, white balance, lens choice, point of view and composition that could bring it closer to our vision. This is to be encouraged. The more we can capture of our vision in camera the more our photographic skills will develop and the more we will attune our eye and camera.
Beyond that there are adjustments that can be made in photo software (Photoshop, Lightroom etc) that can move the photo closer to our original vision. Those adjustments are often to do with light and the dynamic range; the differences between how and a camera and how an eye sees.
This photo is an example of the process. I looked up and saw the sky. I felt the cold northerly wind on my face, countering the weak warmth of the sun. I realised that the cloudy wisps were caused by the wind and felt that they were beautiful and otherworldly. On there own they could represent a feeling of uniqueness or rareness. But they looked like a great background, rather than just a subject. (Alfred Steiglitz would probably not agree)
I wanted a subject that resonated with the other-worldliness I felt. 20 yards away I spotted these sculptures. I do not know what they represent or why they are there, but they create visions of alien craft in my mind (too much sci-fi). I wandered over found my preferred point of view and received the photo.
I made 2 creative adjustments. Firstly the sun was in front of me and so the side of the sculpture facing me was in shadow. I lightened this a little to represent the dynamic range my eyes could see (they are more sensitive than a camera’s sensor). Then I desaturated to turn the photo b&w. The blue was too dominant and earthly. The b&w accentuates that patterns and shapes, its other-worldliness.