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Weekly Mindful Photography Challenge – Simple

Every week throughout the summer I will be posting a photography challenge that is designed to bring you into the present moment. They can be completed with any camera, even your phone. Your favourite photos are posted to our Facebook group, which is a public group so that you can invite your friends to join in.

This week’s mindful photography challenge is ‘Simple’ and is an invitation to create one photograph that illustrates the theme. It could be a photo that uses simplicity as its compositional guide, or it could illustrate the standard definition ‘easy to understand’ either directly or using a metaphor/symbol. There that’s given you something to think about. Just keep it simple! My photo below takes the first approach and was created today in the park to illustrate this post. I only created two photos. One for this post and one for next week’s.

When you go out to practice imagine that you can only create one photo. Walk around your chosen location. Observe your surroundings. Wait until a photo opportunity grabs you. Look at what stopped you and why. Consider how you will frame it (what is in the frame and what is out?) Consider how your camera will see the scene. Then create one photo.

Share your favourite photo here.

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Weekly Mindful Photography Challenge – Transition

This week I thought I would combine our mindful photography challenge with the The Daily Post’s own photo challenge which is Deltadelta as in a place and time that represents a transition or sliver of greater change. A river delta, where the river meets the ocean is a place of tremendous transition, and photography of course captures only a moment of that continuous change.

It is true to say that every photo represents a sliver in time. A photograph shows something as it was in that moment. That moment is then gone and the subject of the photo is no longer the same. How can that be true? What if you photograph a mountain? Everything is changing. Everything is impermanent, even a mountain. Everest was once the base of a valley. It is just that some of the changes are so slow as to trick you that they will always be that way.

So this week I would like you to create a photo that represents transition. One that represent’s a photograph’s ability to capture a moment of that transition, a moment that is then stilled for eternity. My photo is of a fragment of Swansea Bay. The photo was taken in the low early evening golden light, itself a period of transition and captures a moment and section of the beach at low tide. By using a wide aperture I have also suggested the tide’s return and the truth that this view will soon be gone, never to return in the same way again.

For your practice consider choosing a location where you feel each time you visit there is the potential for a different experience. When you arrive at the location sit for a while and really arrive. Then start to walk, not looking for a photo, only observing the scene. When an opportunity presents itself stop. Consider what it was that stopped you. Really look at it. Notice how far away the subject is. Breathe and tune in to how the scene makes you feel. When that feeling echoes transition in your heart and mind, press the shutter.

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10 Tips to Survive a Photo Marathon

Having completed a few Photo Marathons now, I thought I would share a few tips to surviving (and thriving) at a Photo Marathon. I’ll be explaining what a Photo Marathon is, why you should try one and illustrating this post with the photos from my most recent event – the Bath Photo Marathon 2017.

What is a Photo Marathon?

A Photo Marathon is a test of creativity, endurance, photography skills and sense of humour. It is usually a competitive event, often with prizes, and takes place over a set period of time. A common format is 12 Topics, 12 Photos, 12 Hours. In that format you have to create 12 photos to illustrate the 12 topics, one photo per topic and they must be in topic order. You start with a clean memory card and complete with only the required 12 photos, unedited.

Why you should do one

A Photo Marathon is a test of your photography skills, knowledge and observation. It will test your stamina and resilience, but ultimately it is a test of your powers of creativity. It is worth noting that the 5 Creative Habits of Mind are described as: Inquisitive, Imaginative, Collaborative, Persistent and Disciplined. A Photo Marathon tests all of those habits of mind!

Taking part will fire your creativity, get you exploring a new city, introduce you to people with the same interest and challenge your photography skills. What’s not to like?

Ten Tips to Survive (and thrive) a Photo Marathon

  1. Read the rules and guidelines. Make sure you understand the timescale, photography requirements, locations, pick ups, final deadline etc
  2. Start with an empty memory card and a charged battery. Carry spares of both. Spare battery and charger will keep you in the game. Spare memory card means you can create other photos as you go (if you have the energy)
  3. Wear the appropriate clothing. Comfortable shoes, trousers that will get dirty and pack clothes for possible weather changes
  4. Enter the event with a friend. One of you has the camera, both of you fire off ideas at each other. Two heads are definitely better than one. You also get to spend time with that person and get to know how they think. Probably a good thing huh?
  5. Pace yourself. Make sure you build in breaks and refreshment; it is an endurance event. Often you are more creative during the first half, but more decisive in the second half. Excitement at the beginning creates more ideas and photos. Tiredness makes you more decisive.
  6. Aim to do a negative split. Be decisive in the first half and then you’ll be more creative in the second half. (That’s a running joke!)
  7. Decide on each final photo as you go. Do not leave that until the end, you’ll be tired. Do each topic in turn. Complete and choose the final photo and then move on. This provides creative clarity.
  8. Discuss and view topic photos together, but decide in your pair who makes final decision on choice of photo (usually the photographer)
  9. Use insider knowledge. It is helpful if one of you knows the city. If not then talk to locals. Ask for advice. However don’t let your knowledge or information about the city limit you seeing what is right in front of you.
  10. In a standard Photo Marathon with the same number topics as photos and hours choose a simple overarching theme to link the photos. Some use a prop to do this (like a mini lego figure who appears in every photo). Others use in camera processing (usually allowed) e.g Black and White. Or choose a theme, like a colour or technique – red or low/high point of view. Surely someone will soon submit a set using a drone camera, if they haven’t already!

Bath Photo Marathon 2017

I did this year’s Bath Photo Marathon with my old friend Simon. It was a great excuse for us to meet up – as Bath was kind of equidistant – and we got to catch up and have a few beers after.

Our photos are below. They are in the order given, the titles are underneath and have an over arching theme – Scarlet. Well, it was red really, but a little orange crept in! We had to create 20 photos in 10 hours. These were provided in two sets of ten, with a location to pick up the second half.

Our favourite photo after all this was the ‘Fashion’ photo. This best illustrates our collaborative process and sense of the absurd!

Your Entry Number

Contrast

Red

Looking through

Fashion

Fragment

Corner

Refreshing

Control

Crossing the line

Next Generation

Street Life

Movement

Self Portrait

Abstract

Missing

Found

Show off

Sign

The End!

 

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Slow down your photography

Digital Photography is fantastic. Its ability to capture what we see and allow instant review has revolutionised photography. It has changed how we create photographs and how we edit them. But perhaps the most fundamental change is that it has supercharged the creation of a photograph. Photographic creation and sharing is now more like a Ferrari 812 Superfast, when back in the film days it was more like a classic mini.

Maybe you still hanker for that classic mini experience. We are currently experiencing a growing interest in film photography. Perhaps there are elements of that slower pace, more engaged process and almost ritualistic nature that we are missing from the digital experience. But there are ways of experiencing a film like experience with your digital camera. Ways of slowing the process down and re-introducing some ritual.

So, in honour of Slow Art Day 8th April, and in a desire to provide you with techniques to connect you with the creative experience, I offer you the following 10 tips for slowing down your photography. See what I did there – or didn’t do? A whole three paragraphs without using the word ‘mindfulness’. Whoops. Now I have. But mindfulness is about paying attention to the present moment and these tips will help you to do that too!

10 Tips to slow down and connect with your photography

  1. Turn off your review screen or tape a small piece of card over it – Just like a film camera you can’t see what you have just created. This assumes you have a viewfinder to compose the photo. If not you could still do it and shoot blind, imagining what is in your frame.
  2. Limit the number of photos you create – go filmic with a 12, 24 or 36 limitation
  3. Use a small packet of sweets (Skittles work well!) to count/remember the number of shots you have used – Count them out before you start. As you can’t see the screen (using number 1) use 12, 24 or 36 skittles in a little bag. After every shot eat one sweet. It’s a win win!
  4. Limit your location area – Combined with 1, 2 and 3 this encourages you to really notice what is around you. Limit the area to a 100 yard square area, or less if you are feeling bold.
  5. Turn your lens into manual focus – Turn off the auto focus. It is a great art re-learning how and where to focus, and it also slows you down!
  6. Shoot from the hip – Now this one could actually speed you up. But if you hold your camera at your hip, and compose by imagining what your camera can see, you will slow down. Especially if you combine it with 1 and 2.
  7. Return to the visual – Whenever you notice your mind thinking about your next meal, tonight’s activities or some aspect of photographic skill, STOP and return to what you can see in front of you.
  8. Do not download your photos for at least 2 days – Back in the day we had to wait. Unless you were developing your own film, but even then it took time. I used to send my film off for developing and then wait a few days before looking through the returned photos, hoping at least one was a keeper. So, wait for a few days – at least 2 – before downloading. When you do look through them, pay attention to your thoughts and feelings. Notice the judgement and the commentary.
  9. Set your own mini photo marathon – Randomly choose 4 words, set aside 4 hours and create 4 photos in order, to represent the words. Photos must be in the word order and you must finish with only 4 photos. You could limit and slow yourself even more by ONLY shooting 4 photos. No deleting.
  10. No deleting allowed – Closely linked to number 2, do not allow yourself to delete any photos. Knowing that you cannot delete will encourage choice: whether to photograph or not, and this will slow you down.

PS The three photos accompanying the post follow some of these tips

Paradise

On a Thursday I work on an Intergenerational Project called BoomerZ. This is part of my Dylan Thomas Centre work and encourages the participants to create new stories and poems. Yesterday Sion, our tutor, lead us through some prompt based freestyle writing. We wrote solidly for 30 – 40 minutes, prompted every five minutes by a symbol of some sort.

My story evolved into one that related to today’s WordPress word prompt, base, so I’ve included that here. Anyway enough of me wittering on here’s my story.

Paradise

I stand at the edge, soup sea lapping my toes, imagining something, anything, appearing on the blood soaked horizon.

The unctuous water flows over my feet like a blanket as they sink into the pearl white sand. I track the bloodline ahead, its edge pristine, unbroken by hope or possibility.

Sometimes I collect driftwood from the ocean’s edge and arrange them to form huge letters spelling my name. Sometimes I close my eyes and I launch those branches with bloodied feet. When I look at what is left I see her name. I always see her name in the wooden detritus and blooded sand. Then the shapes resolve back to chaos and she is gone.

Later in the day, as the suns fall into their scarlet slumber, I sit, propped against the old carved tree stump and imagine another world, another reality.

She always holds my hand as we leave the restaurant. We approach the busy intersection, pausing to allow the gargantuan steel trucks to streak past. The sharp air slaps my face, sucking pleasure from the dusk.

I squeeze Marie’s hand, she squeezes back, then lets my hand go to point at a Slowship ascending over the silver turrets of homebase.

“Won’t be long now Charles.” she says smiling at me

“I know. I’m counting the days.”

Marie turns her face up to catch the first drops of the evening’s fall. “I won’t miss this though,” she says wiping her face with her hand.

Sometimes, at this point, I turn my face to the emerald heavens and plead to whatever deity rules this planet for some rain. I don’t care what colour it is. I don’t care if the drops are misty soft or a thundering monsoon. Any rain would bring her back.

It is the sound that haunts me: the solid thump. One second she was there. The next she was gone. If I had not let her hand go would she have stepped forward? I was gazing at the Slowship, pendulous and inexorable, as Marie left me. The coroner said that she would not have felt anything, it was all to quick, too final, too momentous.

I left earth on the next Slowship. I did not care about the destination. I just had to leave. Part of me imagined Marie was travelling with me. Part of me was still at the intersection.

The Slowship took several lifetimes to reach Wanatu. Maybe those lifetimes were lived by others but when I awoke Marie was still with me. Just like she had always been. By my side.  Holding my hand.

Each morning I fish. I fillet. I cook. I eat. I walk. I gaze at the horizon. Sometimes I see other wanderers, but I step back into the deep shadows. I move on.

Each afternoon I check the traps, clean out the catch and store what I do not need in the deep pool. I eat the charred meat at the sea’s edge and throw the brittle bones into the ink green depths. Each bone is launched with a wish. Each wish is wrapped around a hope that will never be granted. The Gods are unforgiving on this island paradise.

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Teaching photography

I have had a few careers, but the skill perhaps that I am happiest sharing is teaching. Over the years I have taught many subjects, some I knew lots about, others I was a couple of weeks ahead of the students (teaching Word Perfect in 1986!) I am now fortunate enough to be teaching photography; through this website, at workshops and occasionally face to face.

Today I met up with Pallavi (pronounced to rhyme with c’est la vie) who is studying in Swansea and hails from the USA. Pallavi was bought a camera to capture scenes from her travels, but has little family history of using one, so she wanted a little guidance.

As the day was a little chilly we wandered up to the Botanical Gardens in Singleton Park, where I introduced her to the wonders of the creative opportunities presented by understanding how aperture choice influences the depth of field created in a photo. Of course being an advocate of mindful photography I also talked and explained a lot about seeing: particularly seeing without naming the objects, learning to see like a camera.

We finished up with a 20 minute activity where we both created 20 photos each and without looking at our photos headed off for a cup of tea and a piece of cake. Here are my favourite photos of the activity; two of them just begged to be converted into B&W.

IMG_4129 IMG_4130 IMG_4131 IMG_4135

 

 

 

 

 

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Using one focal length

Mindful photography is about being present with what you see. It is also about adapting to the situation. I often use a simple set up for my practice; usually a single focal length lens (a 40mm) on my DSLR. This is my go to, walkabout lens.

I choose to use this lens because the focal length is very similar to how we see (which is around 43mm, albeit with a greater width and a mind that looks to zoom in). Using one lens regularly, particularly one that is similar to how we see improves our seeing and how best to create photos that reflect what we see. Using this one lens I become attuned to the camera’s way of seeing. I begin to think in terms of how the camera will record the scene.

Over time this photographic thinking, which includes colour rendition, the framing, composition and the dynamic range of the light, becomes learnt and familiar. With continued practice, reviewing the outcomes and adjusting my technical choices, I begin to know what to expect from my camera. Through this doorway lies the possibility of reacting more instinctively to the scene, allowing my subconscious to make more of the technical and compositional choices. In this moment I let go of trying (to take a great photo) and allow the creation to occur. Through this process the possibility that there may be something of me, and the way I feel about the world, in the photo becomes more likely.

When I first tried shooting a whole year using just one lens I did it for reasons of artistic impression. Using just one focal length creates a unifying similarity to your photos. This can be beneficial if the photos you are creating are part of an ongoing project. It is ideal for those 365 projects that comprise of one photo a day. Then along the way you will also reap the benefits of instinctive creation and greater connection between what you are seeing and how you feel about the the world you are experiencing.

The photos that accompany this post illustrate my musings. A visited Caswell Bay, the Redcliff end, with Taylor to take him surfing. However, I decided to take my camera with the 40mm lens on, rather than the big zoom, and not shoot surfing photos. Instead I would see what was there and respond to my experience. I chose a black and white edit because of the high contrast of the scene.

IMG_3822 IMG_3832 IMG_3838

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Beginning the Day

Recently I have considered the impetus created by our imaginative idea that we have now started a New Year. I say imaginative, because it is our ability to imagine that something exists – to give it structure, definition, and rules for its existence – that has produced the idea that we are in a New Year. Every other animal on the planet just carries on like it is any other moment.

I still feel very close to this concept. Maybe it is because I have been considering the Twelve Photos theme (Beginning) and following a mindful morning photography experience to start the day. So I thought I would share the activity to provide you with an opportunity to begin the day in a similar manner.

A Mindful Photography Practice

First up: you have to have a camera close to hand when you awake in the morning. Ideally you then lie there, camera in hand, slowly coming to, eyes open, paying attention to what you notice. Each time something attracts your eye you take a photo. Repeat for 5 photos. No more, no less, no deleting.

I have to admit that I wasn’t completely prepared, camera was downstairs, head was thick, stomach was calling. I first grabbed my little compact camera, made a cuppa and some toast and retired back to bed. After the refreshment had done its work I commenced the activity, as described above.

The photo above is the last one I created, contemplating the beauty of the morning. The full set is below. I enjoyed the experience, followed it with a 20 minute meditation and felt grounded and ready for the day. I commend it to you! Perhaps you could share one of your photos in our Facebook group?

Beginning-1 Beginning-2 Beginning-3 Beginning-4

 

January word

Have you joined the Twelve Photos Facebook Group yet? This is an open group who share one photo a month that represents a word. The word for January is Beginning.

I haven’t submitted my photo yet, but I have the idea I want to share and I am just waiting for the moment to occur. In the meantime I was reminded by the photo that accompanies this post, that every beginning is also an ending.

The photo shows the new Lifeboat station at the end of Mumble Pier. I was particularly struck how that every time the lifeboat descends to the water it is a beginning of a rescue. That the entrance to the sea is also an exit from dry land is immediately apparent. But I also reflected upon the way that the lifeboat’s journey was both a successful ending for those rescued (hopefully) and then a beginning. For any major event in our life is kind of a marker for change. A movement from before the event, to after the event.

This is the theme that the photo I intend to create will follow. Every beginning is also an ending and in between is a moment when the world shifted. I am really looking forward to seeing your photos on this theme and if you haven’t yet submitted, don’t panic there are still 23 days to go!

 

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Twelve Photos

Would you like to take part in a monthly photo project? All you’ll need is a camera and a Facebook account. It’s just for fun and for the pleasure of having a monthly photo challenge.

I will be posting one word a month that you will then represent in a photograph. There are no rules. Whatever the word suggests to you visually is OK. All you have to do is post the photo each month to the Facebook Group page Twelve Photos.

Feel free to share the group with your friends. Let’s get social! The word for January is Beginning

Looking forward to seeing your photos.