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.
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
- Plan a regular photography practice. Set aside at least one hour, once a week when all you are going to do is practice photography.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?