Simplify your camera setup

I have written in the past about how imposing limitations can fire up your creative juices, but simplifying your camera set up can also allow a greater connection with the visual feast in front of you. Let me explain.

I believe that the greatest area for development for a photographer is in our seeing. This is at the heart of Mindful Photography. There are two primary aspects to this seeing.


The first is using what we see as our anchor; rather how a meditator uses the breath. As a photographer we can always return to what we are seeing when we notice that our mind has drifted off into thoughts, or we experience emotions, whilst photographing.

This thinking may be do with future events or past happenings. Perhaps a more common thread would be to experience judgmental thoughts about our photography. These can often be related to your photographic fears: fear of making a mistake, missing the shot, our photos not being good enough, a potential subject saying no and so on. With the practice of using our seeing as an anchor we can notice the thought and return to what we can see. Focusing our eyes upon the visual elements and what is in front of us.

This relatively simple instruction is of course difficult to maintain. Our thoughts are tenacious, particularly those that have fear as their root. But the practice of returning to an anchor can provide a little space for some of those thoughts to dissipate.

Seeing like a camera

The second aspect of our seeing development is in the process of learning to see like a camera. Slowly over our developing photography practice we begin to learn how what we can see can be replicated, and also completely different, from how a camera sees.

This area of knowledge can be studied and practiced and encompasses aspects that include: lens choice, point of view, our camera’s sensor size, framing, dynamic range, shooting in raw, direction of light and more. Each area of knowledge can be investigated and practiced to develop our understanding of the similarities and differences between our eyes’ and the camera’s light collecting abilities.

Simplifying your camera set up

Choosing to set up your camera in a simple way – that you are confident in using – allows you to concentrate on these two areas of practice: the seeing anchor and how a camera sees.

When considering which of the following set ups to use, one should choose a set up that feels instinctive. The priority is to practice the seeing. There is a time to practice and become more confident in using the manual features of a camera and there is a time when simplifying those choices allows you to practice the seeing. These are your set up choices.

  • Auto – camera makes all the decisions
  • Program mode (P) – camera chooses aperture and shutter speed but you can override those choices. Camera chooses ISO
  • Aperture Priority (Av or A ) – you choose aperture, the camera chooses shutter speed. You or the camera can choose ISO
  • Shutter Priority (Tv or S) – you choose shutter speed, the camera chooses aperture. You or the camera can choose ISO
  • Manual – all the decisions are taken by you

When practicing the seeing – mindful photography – I usually use aperture priority. This is a setting that I can use and adjust without even taking my camera away from my eye, almost intuitively. That is the kind of automated action you want to be looking for. So choose a setup that allows you to feel that way about the photographic process. Then you can pay attention to what you see, not having to stop to think about technical choices. A more intuitive reaction to what is in front of you becomes possible, and that has the potential to transform your photos from good to great.

Interested? Find out more by enrolling on Mindful Photography 101

Askıda ekmek – Suspended bread

Askıda ekmek is a Turkish tradition that goes back centuries and means ‘paying it forward’. When you go to a bakery you pay for two loaves and leave one at the shop. The second loaf is then suspended on a hook and those who are need can come in the shop and ask for ‘Askıda ekmek’.

Why I am I sharing this? It kind of explains my reason for sharing of a free online course. Developing Resilience through Photography is available for free, and it sits alongside my other course offerings in content, style and mindful photography philosophy.

I believe that this loaf of bread can then be picked up by people who may benefit from it. Maybe you need the bread? Maybe you know someone else who could benefit?

Do feel free to share the link and the course as you see fit. If you do enrol there is an opportunity for you to make a donation to Mind UK – another way of paying it forward.

Foundations in Mindful Photography

Interested in developing your photography skills in a mindful way? Want become more mindful whilst using your camera? Then the Foundations in Mindful Photography Course Bundle is what you need.

Mindful Photography is all about aligning what you see, with what you know about photography and how you feel about what is right in front of you. My introductory course Mindful Photography 101 is for those of you who would like to start at a steady pace, developing both your mindfulness skills and applying mindfulness to photography development.

But if you are a little more confident with photography, and have some interest or experience of mindfulness (though that is not necessary) this course bundle will help to enhance your ability to see a photo opportunity. It will also develop your knowledge and understanding of both the technical and compositional skills required to create interesting photos.

Foundations in Mindful Photography is made up of two courses (offered at a discounted price – instead of £50 each, the two courses together are £70 if you buy them through the bundle). Let’s have a little look at each course in the bundle.

Seeing the Photo (Foundations 1)

In the online course Seeing the Photo (Foundations 1) you will learn the difference between seeing a photo, and looking for one. That might sound a little strange, but sometimes in your striving to create a good photo you miss the great opportunity that is just in front of you.

You can develop your seeing skills. You can become more skilled at seeing photo opportunities, and this course can help you to understand how to develop this key (but often overlooked) skill. Remember Jeff Berner’s wise words, “Looking is a gift. Seeing is a power”. Develop your seeing skills. Transform your photos from good to great.

Develop your ability to see by following innovative Mindful Photography Activities. Post your favourite photos in the Community Group and share your comments about other students’ photos. This is an interactive course that you can follow at your own pace, but you still get that ‘class community spirit’ by sharing photos and comments in the private social group.

Making the Photo (Foundations 2)

The Making the Photo (Foundations 2) online course will help you to mindfully develop your technical and compositional skills.

You will learn the technical photography skills through a mindful approach. The three key elements of exposure (aperture, shutter speed and ISO) are taught through video, text and activities. Something for every type of learner.

This course helps you to learn the many compositional guidelines using a simple framework. The technical and compositional skills are then developed through imaginative Mindful Photography Activities. And every activity can be used several times!

Like the Seeing the Photo Course, this online course can be taken at your own pace and you have a private social group where you can post your activity photos and comments. You also get to see and comment on everyone else’s photos, and I comment on every photo posted.

So, although both of these courses are online, and at your pace, you are not on your own. The community of fellow students and I will keep you engaged and motivated!

Foundations in Photography Course Bundle

The course bundle is the way to go! Both online courses; Seeing the Photo and Making the Photo, with 30% off the combined price. Take a look at the course pages, where all the detail is outlined and if you have any questions contact me. I’ll answer very quickly, promise.

PS The course photo was created by remaining mindful of how the bull was feeling about this strange man. I took my time, allowing him to get comfortable with my presence and holding the camera, which he was curious about, at waist level. I used my technical and compositional skills to create the final photo. Mindful Photography in action.

Multiple Exposure – Additive Mode

During my initial forays into Multiple Exposure (ME) I could not see any use for Additive Mode. If you have never heard of this then I congratulate you at not being as immersed with ME as I am. I bought a Fuji X-T4 just so I could have access to the four modes that more advanced digital cameras have, to understand what they were and explore their use.

Now 2 years, 1 self-created online course and 1 online gallery exhibition later, I am still discovering some of its mysteries. So this little blog post will share what I have learnt to date about Additive Mode and invite you to follow me down the rabbit hole!

Here’s what Fuji say about Additive Mode, “The camera adds the exposures together. You may need to lower exposure compensation depending on the number of shots.”. The important thing to note here is that it ‘adds the exposures together’, so with each added layered exposure the final photo will get brighter. That is why Fuji recommend lowering the exposure compensation.

When I first wrote about what I had found I commented, “This mode adds each frame on top of the next, in a kind of light accumulation process. It is possible that if you used this on a sunny day that by the time you had added nine images to one exposure you would just be left with a white rectangle. I have not yet explored its creative possibilities, as the other modes have been calling to me. But maybe its limitations would be something that could create unexpected possibilities.” This post is all about those unexpected possibilities.

But first let’s just pause and recap on the other 3 modes that are available of advanced digital cameras from Fuji, Canon and Nikon.

Average – This mode layers each image on top of the next, averaging the opacity, to create a balanced exposure. This is the standard mode for digital exposure and is available on older digital cameras.

Bright – This mode preserves the brighter elements of each image. For example, if your first image was of a silhouette or shadow, the second if brighter could layer the brighter elements over the areas of darker exposure from the first image.

Dark – This mode does the opposite to Bright mode. It preserves the darker elements of each image. Where there is light, there can be dark! Darker pixels are preserved over brighter ones.

Additive Mode’s Unexpected Possibilities

What Additive Mode is supposed to do is replicate how a film camera added one exposure to the last if you didn’t wind the film on. It does do that. The final photo gets brighter the more frames you add. Any final photo with 3 or more combined exposures will result in over exposed sections if you are not mindful about where the brighter sections are. However, if you are careful about where the dark pixels are and use them to place your brighter pixels for the next exposure, you will replicate that old film double exposure look.

However (and it is a big however) something else is going on too. Within the over exposed elements of a final exposure (usually with 3 or more layered exposures) something strange happens to the colours. This is only revealed after you rescue the highlights in Lightroom or similar software. Initially, they just appear white and overblown.

As you can see above and below, after you have pulled back the highlights, sky blue, pink and yellow emerge. Initially I thought that the blue was to do with the sky being present in a frame or two. But the two photos either side of this text are just of a wall – all of the layers are either part of a wall or a tree trunk, no sky.

My working theory is that there is something going on with the white balance algorithm during the in-camera processing. So, with that in mind I have started experimenting with my own white balance choices on each exposure. The next two photo are Additive Mode photos of 3 exposures after the highlights have been rescued in Lightroom. The first photo uses red and purple extreme white balance choices and as you can see the blue has disappeared. The second photo was created at the same location and has no white balance changes. The blue, yellow and pinks are all present.

When I choose bluer extreme white balance settings the pink almost disappears. When I choose blue and purple extreme white balance settings pink dominates.

In summary, I don’t know why these colour shifts happen, but knowing what happens to the final photo is the first thing to be aware of. I will continue to experiment. I don’t know what purpose the photos I create serve, yet! But the experimentation is interesting and I like some of my creations. And that is the main point. You only have to please yourself. Sometimes a purpose or reason for your photographic creations is revealed in time. A period of settling and reflection may lead to greater knowledge or it may not! Meanwhile, I will continue my exploration.

I should also mention that all of the wall related photos in this post were created whilst listening to KIWANUKA by Michael Kiwanuka. When I use music as a stimulating sense, I just let the music wash over me, not paying close attention to the lyrics. However, during the creation of the wall photos I did notice that the lyrics were of urban life.

If by any chance this post inspires you to experiment, do let me know how you get on. I would love to know if Canon and Nikon cameras have similar colour shifts in their Additive Modes.

Happy creating!

Developing Resilience

“Resilience is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress…..It means bouncing back from difficult experiences.”

American Psychological Association

Resilience is what gives people the ability to cope with change, loss and difficulty. It is the mental reservoir of strength that you are able to call on in times of need to carry you through without falling apart. Psychologists believe that resilient individuals are better able to handle such adversity and rebuild their lives after a catastrophe.

Dealing with change or loss is an inevitable part of life. At some point, everyone experiences varying degrees of setbacks. Some of these challenges might be relatively minor (not getting the job you wanted), while others are disastrous on a much larger scale (death of a loved one, major health crisis, end of a major relationship, pandemic). How you deal with these challenges can play a significant role in not only the outcome, but also the long-term psychological consequences.

Your life flows against a backdrop of continual change. There is nothing that remains constant or static. A few of these changes are instant; with others the speed of change is so slow that you can convince yourself that all is as it has always been. You know that there are distinct stages of life, yet often it is difficult to live harmoniously through each stage. Instead of embracing or adjusting to the challenges within each stage of life you may gallop through the early stages, with one eye the next. Then, beset by early indications of your mortality, you cling to the middle stages, believing you are still young, refusing to accept the inevitable. I know, I’ve done it. And look what a mess I got into!

What force impels us? What is it that blinds us to reality? The answer is both simple and complex. It is your mind’s habitual thinking. That is the simple bit: knowing what it is. Responding differently to change, rather than reacting in your characteristic manner is the challenging bit. This is where resilience can help. Some of us may be more naturally resilient than others but we can all develop greater reserves of resilience.

How can you develop resilience through photography?

This pandemic life is unprecedented in our lifetime. The volume and nature of the changes we are experiencing are unexpected, unwanted and so very difficult to live though. I have been shielding for nearly a year and I have used photography to help me through some of the more challenging thoughts, feelings and experiences. I believe that photography can help you too. Specifically, I believe that photography can help you to develop the resilience to cope with these massive changes. So, I am putting together an online course to do just that. It will revolve around the five pillars of resilience that I have outlined below.

Five Pillars of Resilience

Self-awareness and self-care
Taking time to readjust to changing circumstances is essential for taking care of yourself. Meditation and Mindfulness are great for developing your mind’s ability to focus on one thing at a time. Through mindful practices you can then develop clearer awareness of how you really are, and from that authentic position move towards accepting how you feel and how your life is.

Photography is a mindful practice that encourages you to focus on the present, to see clearly how things are. It also provides an opportunity to create photos that reflect what you are thinking, feeling or experiencing.

Problem Solving
Learning to accept what you cannot control or influence is a powerful problem solving skill. Photography provides you with ways to develop this skill. When you are out creating photos, you have to notice how things really are; weather, light, subjects and so on. Then you adapt to the conditions – how it really is – and change your camera settings and maybe your ideas about what photos you might create. You are problem solving by paying attention to how things really are.

Using your mind to understand and accept what you cannot control in photography, helps you to do the same in other areas of your life. This activity burns new neural pathways. As Donald Hebb said, “Cells that fire together wire together.” So, the more you do this, the more the new way of thinking becomes available to use in other areas of your life.

Positive Outlook
Reframing how your world actually is, is one of the best ways to shift from a negative to a more positive view of any situation. Fortunately, photographers reframe all the time. You may explore a subject through different frames until you find the most effective photograph. You may take a wide-angle view, or use a macro for a close-up. You may look at a subject from different angles to find the most effective version that communicates your core idea. You reframe all the time.

Looking at your life and developing a more positive outlook can be difficult when external changes have re-shaped your world in a way that you do not like or find uncomfortable. There are emotional skills that you can develop through specific photography activities that can support you to develop a positive outlook. These emotional skills include adaptability, perseverance, resourcefulness, gratitude and generosity. All of the photo tasks and activities on this course will develop these skills.

Meaning and Purpose
Photography can provide you with a passion and purpose. You can learn new skills, develop existing ones and create photos that you really love. Following interesting and challenging photography activities can provide motivation to get up and out into the big wide world, to take part in some physical activity and to interact with nature. Recent research has proven that creating and posting one photo a day supports your well-being. This type of photo activity can be a springboard to developing all of the resilience skills mentioned here.

Each of the photography activities on this course will include these six features:

  1. Creativity – Improving your seeing skills, learning and developing your photography skills and creating photos that you love.
  2. Being in the great outdoors.
  3. Gentle physical exercise.
  4. Development of emotional skills that support your development of greater resilience.
  5. Mindfulness – through a Mindful Photography Practice.
  6. Social interaction by sharing your favourite photo, thoughts and comments.

Social Support
Having strong social networks provides you with people who share things in common with you, who understand about you and what you are experiencing, and care about how you are. There are many ways that these networks develop; you will have several family and friendship groups that you belong to. Each of these may provide different types of support.
Photography can also provide you with social support. Following a course with a group of people with a common goal, especially when that common goal is developing resilience through photography can really help you through challenging times.

Developing Resilience through Photography Course

I am offering a FREE online course from 1st April 2021 which will help you to develop resilience through photography. This course will help you to not only develop resilience, but will also improve your photography skills. The course will take account of the five pillars of resilience as discussed above, and is suitable for all levels of photographer and all types of digital cameras including smartphones.

The course will be delivered online and will include a private online community group where you can share your photos and comments. This will be a secure group which only allows access to students following the course and myself. The course will also offer interactive videos, downloadable resources and mindful photography activities. The activities and posting your photos and comments to the group are what will support your development of resilience.

This course will be free, to support you at this challenging time. There will also be the opportunity to support others finding life challenging at the moment by making a donation to a national mental health charity. Let me know if you are interested and I will let you know when the course is open for enrollment.

More news soon!


Merry Christmas

As promised above here are a few gifts for you:

First up here is the Four Stage Seeing Practice which you can use with the Sun Salutation Photography Activity, which follows it. The activity is ideal for a sunny day, whatever the temperature and is designed to support your well-being.

There are 14 more activities like this in my eBook Photography for Well-Being 1, available from all major online booksellers.

Four Stage Seeing Practice

Follow this Four Stage Seeing Practice to develop your ability to see everything that is there, encouraging seeing to become a centering experience when you are creating photographs.

  1. Anchor – When you arrive at your location take a moment. Sit somewhere and observe. Notice the breeze on your cheek and the smells that are about. Then tune into your visual experience. Notice the colours, lines, shapes, textures, and depth. Notice where the sun is and the direction of light. Notice bright areas and shadows. If it is cloudy notice how this affects the scene. Spend at least 5 minutes paying attention to what you can see. Whenever you notice your mind thinking, about the photos you may create, about what you are having for tea, about how daft you feel, return to what you can see. This is your anchor. Throughout your practice return to what you can see.
  2. Seeing – Walk at a gentle pace observing, but not looking for a photo opportunity. The photograph will find you. This is a challenge. There is a difference between attentive observation and looking for a photograph. The difference is this practice. All you have to do is to stroll and observe; wait for something to catch your eye. This should be a natural occurrence. Trust that something visually stimulating will arrive. That is all. You are attuned to your visual experience. Something will suggest itself as a photographic opportunity. When it does, stop.
  3. Resting – Look at what stopped you. Really look. Stay with the visual experience and breathe. Try to remain free from thoughts, ideas, action, consideration or internal chatter. Particularly notice any photographic thinking that creeps in. Just come back to the visual experience.
  4. Creating – Before you bring your camera up to your eye consider how you will use the camera’s frame to create an equivalent photo of what stopped you. Do you need to move in or out? What is in the frame? What is not in the frame? Do not overthink the photo to create a ‘better’ image. Press the shutter and receive the photo. Then walk on.

Mindful Photography Activity for Well-Being – Sun Salutation

  1. On a sunny day choose a location you love.
  2. Allocate a solid period of time – 1 to 3 hours would be ideal.
  3. Choose your favourite camera and lens or smartphone.
  4. Choose a camera setting you are most comfortable with, one that allows you to centre on what you can see rather than worrying about the technical choices. Smartphones will be on Auto.
  5. Follow the Four Stage Seeing Practice: Anchor, Seeing, Resting, Creating.
  6. Walk and do not look for a photo, let the photo opportunity find you.
  7. After you press the shutter, do not review your photo. Press the shutter and move on. If you can, turn off the review screen to support this intention.
  8. Do not delete any photos. You are not looking anyway, are you?
  9. Stop for rest and reflection when you are ready.
  10. Review your photos, looking out for those that you like most. Consider why you like them.
  11. Continue the photoshoot until you are at a natural end.
  12. When you return home and review your photos choose at least one to share.
  13. Repeat often.

This Activity comes from Photography for Well-Being 1. Each activity in the eBook has a common structure, they all include these six aspects designed to support your well-being:

  1. Creativity – Improving your seeing skills, learning and developing your photography skills and creating photos that you love.
  2. Being in the great outdoors (there are one or two indoor exceptions).
  3. Gentle physical exercise.
  4. Love – of a place, person, thing or experience.
  5. Mindfulness – through a Mindful Photography Practice.
  6. Social interaction by sharing your favourite photo

A Mindful Photography Activity for a difficult day

If you are new to my blog you may have missed this activity. It’s designed to support you through a time when you are experiencing thoughts and feelings that you do not like. You may be angry, upset, annoyed, frustrated, fearful or confused. Whatever it is that you are finding uncomfortable this activity is for those times.

• Set up your camera in a shooting mode that you can use instinctively. Auto is fine, or if you prefer a little more control use aperture priority (choose an aperture of f8 and ISO auto).
• Turn off your view screen so that you cannot see or review what you are creating.
• The purpose of this is to tune you in to what you are feeling and release the control you may experience about creating photos.
• When you are experiencing strong emotion, set your camera up as explained above, and go walking with your camera.
• Choose any location you feel drawn to.
• As you walk do not look for a photo opportunity, just walk, paying attention to what you can see.
• Notice the thoughts and feelings that relate to your difficulty.
• At some point something will catch your eye. Stop and consider what it is.
• Move closer. Frame tightly. Create the photo and move on.DO NOT look at the photo.

• Repeat this, paying attention to your feelings and the visual feast before you.
• Act instinctively and release your attachment to what your photos look like.
• Finish when you feel ready.
• Return home and DO NOT LOOK at your photos! Leave it a day.
• Next day review your photos and notice the feelings you experience.

‘A Guide to Multiple Exposure and Intentional Camera Movement’ (a self paced online course will be available in early 2021). Keep a look out for the launch date.

That’s all for now. I hope that you have a wonderful Christmas and manage to get out with your camera.

Pandemia Launch

Pandemia, my exhibition that explores our thoughts, feelings and experiences during the Covid Pandemic this year, will launch on Thursday 21st January 2021.

The exhibition will share my 18 most personal and resonant photos, each one representing a different day, feeling or experience from the last 10 months. As you probably know I have been shielding since mid March, and I imagine that this will still continue for a while, these photos have been part of my coping mechanism.

I started the project as a way of both developing my creative skills – in Multiple Exposure and ICM – as well as providing a means by which I could process the challenging thoughts that I found uncomfortable.

The exhibition will be available here from 6pm on 21st January, in an online gallery that replicates as closely as possible the live exhibition launch experience. The link will be private until the launch day. Unfortunately, you will have to bring your own wine!

I hope to see you there.


Mindfulness encourages you to see things as they actually are in the present moment. As the present moment plays out, you practice noticing your feelings, your physical sensations and the thoughts that flit across your mind. It may well be that you do not like what you are experiencing. You may try to avoid, distract or just deny the experience.

Acceptance is the quality that allows you to be with all the difficulty, without turning away. Acceptance encourages you to turn towards the difficult experience. To sit with the feelings, sensations and thoughts, allowing them to ebb and flow and slowly, bit by bit allowing them a little space in your life.

“Just accept it,” friends may say after you have spent several days moping about after the end of a relationship, “There are plenty more fish in the sea.” Helpful? Of course not. Those wise friends know that you have to accept the situation to move on, but you are caught in the moment, trapped by the loss you are experiencing. Acceptance is part of the cycle of adjusting to loss.

This was first described by Dr. Elizabeth Kübler-Ross as the Grief Cycle and related to the stages we live through after the death of a loved one. Kübler-Ross pioneered methods in the support and counselling of personal trauma, grief and grieving, associated with death and dying. The stages she identified are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. They are equally transferable to our adjustment to other losses; the end of a relationship, being made redundant or serious ill health.

I never realised that I was living through a grief cycle until more than two years after the initial acute ill health and the end of my college career. It only became clear after I had written a memoir, it had lain about for a while, and I later returned to read it and realised that I was describing myself in a depressed state. When I was living it and writing about it, I was unaware. It was only after I had experienced distance from the changes that I could look back at my behaviours and identify that I had been adjusting to great loss: the loss of my health and the loss of my career.

Mindfulness offers a practice to support living through this experience. In the secular mindfulness practice this can be described as a meditation that invokes wishing yourself and others well. This was developed from the Buddhist practice of Maitri – loving kindness or compassion for oneself and others.

This practice encourages you to be compassionate with your present experience. To accept and love yourself, in all the glory and the grime. Tara Brach (meditation teacher and psychologist) describes this as “Radical Acceptance, which means clearly recognizing what we are feeling in the present moment and regarding that experience with compassion.”

This is challenging. To regard the experience with compassion, first you have to understand, to witness what you are feeling. I don’t know about you, but I have always found this difficult.

Maybe it’s my British upbringing. What I do know is that I have had to spend many years since my loss, learning how to talk about what I feel and believing that it is OK to do so. Only with a cultivation of this ability to notice what I was feeling could I then begin to explore the possibility that I could be compassionate to myself, to recognise my feelings and not be judgemental about them. I have found this radical, maybe you will too, or maybe you find it natural.

“The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.” – Carl Rogers (psychologist)

As applied to photography

We can practice acceptance through photography in two key ways. The primary opportunity is to use a photography practice as a method of understanding and processing your current experience. In many of my courses and books I offer mindful photography activities that encourage you to attend to your present moment experience, particularly how you are feeling and representing these experiences through photos.

This can be achieved with an understanding how of the elements of photography composition can be used to embody emotion. This includes knowledge of representational ideas for colour, shape, line and so on, as well as the use of visual metaphors and symbols to communicate ideas and feelings.

On a more instinctive level you can also practice responding photographically to your environment when you are experiencing a strong emotion, creating photographs that spring from an intuitive response. These may well include knowledge of the visual language of a photograph, as described above, or your response maybe less planned and controlled. It may run contrary to popular ideas, resting instead on how the visual experience echoed how you felt.

The second opportunity is to understand and accept the kind of photographer (and person) you are. This is partly about what it is that you like to create photographs of, and partly about what those photographs can say about you, as well as about the subject. It is a study in how the outer world can reflect your inner world.

Mindful Photography Activity – One Object

The purpose of this Mindful Photography Activity is to remind you that things are how they are. Moving towards acceptance is undermined by your dislike of how things actually are and your attachment to how you would like things to be. When the cause of this is some kind of significant change in your life, your habitual thoughts, ideas and beliefs can obscure your ability to see how things really are. 

Moving towards acceptance initially requires tuning in to your sensations: what you can see, hear, smell, touch and taste. This reality is often your anchor in a mindful practice and it provides a foundation from which to notice how you feel, think and are acting.

You will cultivate this ability by attending visually to an object that you are attracted to. I suggest that you choose something in nature, a tree, rock, bush, hill, mountain, stream, river or beach.

• Set aside at least an hour for this practice.

• Use your usual camera setting and lens, and turn off the review screen.

• Go for a walk at a favourite location and find an object you are drawn to.

• Spend time with your object.

• Sit. Have a picnic. Have a cup of tea from a flask. Settle.

• Spend time looking at your object. Notice its colours, patterns, structures, shapes, smell, feel and so on.

• Take this process slow, very slow.

• Create photos of your object that you are drawn to. Do NOT review them. Do not delete. Just be with the practice.

• When you feel the practice is finished go home. Download your photos and review on a large display.

• Notice your thoughts and feelings as you review the photos.

• Choose a few photos that best reflect how your chosen object made you feel.

• Looking at the other photos you have not chosen, consider how they make you feel and why you did not choose them.

• Repeat the activity.

I’m in the Amateur Photographer!

Last week I was fortunate enough to be featured in the UK’s oldest national photography magazine, The Amateur Photographer. In an interesting article about Mindful Photography I am one of three photographers who get to explain their take on this approach to photography.

When I first started using the term and developing my approach to Mindful Photography in 2013, I can’t say that I ever expected any degree of national recognition. The term was barely used and little understood. My development of this approach into an all encompassing way of mindfully developing your photography skills, has been 7 years in the making. It is now more than just applying mindfulness to photography.

What a joy to be asked to contribute to the article and to be seen as an authoritative voice on the topic. If you would like to know more about my approach do download the free eBook available here and maybe consider doing my 101 course – an introduction to Mindful Photography – it’s a bargain!

Living well with difficulty

This post is shared in support of World Mental Health Day (10th October)

Yesterday started with difficulty. I was unsettled, ragged, insecure and confused. What was going on? There was nothing I could identify as a cause. I had slept well, was generally content and the day ahead looked interesting. However, I could not shake the feelings. I became uncertain about every little thing, unable to decide what to do next.

It took me a while to realise that I did not need to know what was going on; to accept that I did not like my feelings. Finally, I remembered my own Mindful Photography Activities, and particularly the one I have created for exactly this experience. So, I picked up my camera and favourite lens, set it up in my normal mode, turned my phone to ‘Do not disturb’, set a meditation timer for an hour and set out to my local environment to complete the activity.

There is something about being out in the fresh air; creating photos that respond to what I see and how I feel. It is a grounding and enriching experience. I found that the photos I initially created were full of simple lines and barriers. Later on, as I noticeably felt calmer, they lightened in tone, even became humourous. I had returned to myself.

The photos in this post are my favourites from this mindful photography activity.

Mindful Photography for Well-Being (Zoom Workshops Course)

I have decided that I need to share my thoughts, experience and mindful photography activities that can help you to live well with difficulty.

We can all get overwhelmed by difficult feelings at times. Without doubt these challenging times we are living through can magnify this experience. Sometimes the feelings manifest as discomfort, sometimes anxiety. Sometimes it becomes debilitating. At these times we need help. Professional help can be essential, but also practical creative activities and genuine community support can help to shift our feelings.

This course explores living well with difficulty. It reviews the impact major change, significant loss and ongoing difficulty can have in our lives. I know, I have lived through some major life changes, and significant losses. I have used mindful photography to help understand what was happening and to slowly move towards the acceptance of the changes.

The course will be delivered in 6 live workshops with me in January and February 2021. There will be a maximum of 12 places available. This is so that I can support you, keep the space safe and explore the challenges in your life with compassion, honesty and authenticity, through the creation of mindful photos.

It is suitable for all levels of ability, and all cameras. And you can see more about the content by clicking on the button below. If you have any questions about the course please use the contact form

Practice makes perfect

Or does it? There is some disagreement. It generally goes like this: if you practice the wrong skills everyday you will ingrain bad habits, not perfection. I prefer Michael Jordan’s take on this.

“You can practice shooting eight hours a day, but if your technique is wrong, then all you become is very good at shooting the wrong way. Get the fundamentals down and the level of everything you do will rise.” Michael Jordan

Michael knew a thing or two about excellence. Sure he was super talented, but he still practiced – a lot. Practice is a habit, but it also needs to be mindful. You need to pay attention to what you are doing. You need advice, guidance, support and a compassionate, curious, constructively critical mind. Practice for me is honing my skills, but I know I will make mistakes. That is part of the practice; noticing them, correcting them and absorbing the difference. Then practicing again.

As Michael Jordan suggests the fundamentals are everything. So what are the fundamentals (or as I call them the Foundations) of Mindful Photography?

The Foundations of Mindful Photography

The photo above and the others illustrating this post are from one of my recent Mindful Photography Practices around a local park. I use the Insight timer (a free app) to set a one hour period and followed some creative limitations that I recommend to help develop your seeing skills and support the development of your photography skills. What are they you ask? They include the limited time period, a limit on the number of photos you create (20 in this case), no deleting, and no reviewing of each photo created.

What is the purpose of these limitations? To encourage you to pay attention to what is in front of you – what you see, and to focus upon your use of photography skills – technique and composition. There is more to it than this brief explanation, but that is at the heart of it and is at the core of the next online course I am developing, ‘Foundations in Mindful Photography’. The course will cover these foundation skills:

  • Mindfulness and meditation skills – to develop your ability to be mindful throughout your life
  • Seeing skills – “Looking is a gift. Seeing is a power” Jeff Berner
  • Technical photography skills – knowing how your camera works, lighting, exposure, focus, lens focal length, camera maintenance
  • Compositional photography skills – the guidelines for effective composition, 7 elements of visual design, framing the photo

These are the foundations of photography. Learn and practice these and you are on the way to creating great photos. Of course, I teach these foundation skills in a mindful manner. I share methods, ideas and practices that you can follow to develop and hone these skills wherever you start from. If this is of interest to you, do download the eBook below and you’ll then be on my email list, and all the news about the course launch and Mindful Photography 101 will arrive in your inbox – with special offers for early enrolment (of course).

Let me finish with a great artist’s advice on this topic of practice making perfect.

“As practice makes perfect, I cannot but make progress; each drawing one makes, each study one paints, is a step forward.” Vincent Van Gogh

PS I have shared a number of thoughts and mindful photography practices on this topic over the year, you can link to them here

PhotoBARRYthon is coming!

I am helping to organise PhotoBARRYthon, a photomarathon that takes place next month, in Barry, South Wales. The official press release about the event is below, with a web link for more information. All of our meetings to organise this, since the pandemic, have been online. So I thought I had better get myself to Barry and create some photos, just to get in the mood and possibly inspire you to join in. My favourite 12 photos from a 2 (not a 12!) hour photo walk around The Knap towards Barry Island are below. Below that is a panorama I created from 6 separate photos.

Press Release

Calling all professional and amateur photographers looking for an opportunity to capture the sights, sounds and characters of Barry.

Taking place on Saturday 10th October 2020, the inaugural PhotoBARRYthon is organised by the Barry Making Waves project and gives local people the chance to document the town on a particular day, using a variety of topics with mobile phones or digital cameras. Visitors to the town will be able to explore Barry and discover how photogenic a place it is.

Photomarathons are fun but are also competitive events. PhotoBARRYthon will be two competitive events – a 12 hour event with 12 topics, to create 12 photos, and a shorter family
friendly 6 hour event, with 6 topics, to create 6 photos. Winners will be selected in each topic category and there will be a prize for the two overall winners.

The topics will be released every three hours throughout the day, with the first 3 topics given at registration at the Memo Arts Centre. A number of cafes, shops and other locations in Barry and Barry Island will then release the topics at various times throughout the day, as well as on social media (@BarryValeofGlam).

The event is ticketed and participants will need to pre-book. It will not be possible to join on the day. Tickets will be released soon on Ticket Source – look out for further updates.

The event is being organised as part of Barry Making Waves and Mererid Velios, Place Manager at the Vale of Glamorgan Council is working with local photographers Lee Aspland and Michael Goode, in partnership with Memo Arts Centre.

For more information please visit

5 Benefits of Daydreaming

I have had two conversations with close friends in the last week where we have discussed the absence of daydreaming from our lives. This has set me thinking and daydreaming!

Being a man of late middle age, I remember a time before smartphones, computers and being constantly connected. In that space I daydreamed more; stared out of windows and contemplated, or just sat there and noticed what was going on around me. I believe that daydreaming has particular benefits that are being overlooked in our busy world. In fact I believe that they may help you cope with your crazy, busy, fully engaged world.

  1. Screen free time. I am never far from a screen. My smartphone is usually next to me, most of my work is online and I watch TV to relax. I have noticed though that when I sit for 10 minutes with just a cup of tea and no smartphone, computer or TV that I daydream, that other thoughts and feelings arise, that other possibilities emerge. Constant stimulation from a screen robs me of the other possible benefits of daydreaming.
  2. Rest, relax and recuperate. You are always busy. 10 minutes away from the striving to get something done will not make a big difference. I know, sometimes it might. But usually, 10 minutes spent relaxing will benefit you far more than another 10 minutes wrapped up in the striving.
  3. Clear the clutter. If you collect slow moving water from a pond or lake in a glass it will look murky. 10 minutes later it may be crystal clear. The floating residue will settle on the bottom of the glass. Daydreaming allows the head noise space to settle. Of course it might not for happen in the first 10 minutes, because that stream of consciousness in your mind is used to racing fast downstream. However, the more often you sit and daydream the more likely you are to notice the noise, and just in the noticing you are making a space for it to settle.
  4. Create space. If you create more unstimulated space, thoughts and feelings will rise in your conscious mind. These may be welcome visitors, or they may be undesirable guests. My first action is to notice where my mind has gone. If I don’t like the ruminative thoughts I choose to focus on a physical sensation; the tea on my lips, the sun on my face or just my body on its seat. This allows the thought to dissolve, although some thoughts may require more returns to the physical than others! However, there is also an uplifting side to this creation of space; positive thoughts, feelings and creative ideas may emerge. These can be cultivated and explored, whilst you sip your tea and notice your mind suggest that you take out your phone and take notes!
  5. Develop a creative idea. This period of daydreaming can be used to deliberately explore a creative idea or challenge. This is a space, without any other stimulation when you allow your mind to roam around the shape of an idea or challenge. During this exploration you notice any tendency to focus on the negative, balancing those thoughts with the potential, the positive and the beneficial.

Can you think of any more benefits? Me? I’m off to sit with a cup of tea and no phone!

Mindful Photography 101 – Coming Soon!

Mindful Photography 101 – your detailed introduction to Mindful Photography will be with you later this month. Want to know a little bit about what it covers?

Your guide to the what, why and how of Mindful Photography is coming later this month. It will include: The relationship between mindfulness and meditation, how they blend with photography to create Mindful Photography, 10 Golden Guidelines and the 4 Stage Seeing Practice. All this and 6 mindful photo activities, downloadable meditations, a private community group and a live workshop with me!

What’s not to like? More detail very soon.

If you would like to be kept in the loop, download the free eBook below!

Mindful Photography Online Courses – coming soon

I have recently been awarded a grant from the Arts Council of Wales’s National Lottery Fund that will change the way I work, and what I offer, as well as providing some stability at this challenging time. Many thanks to them and the National Lottery. This will also change what I can offer to you. Here is what I have planned.

New Online Courses in Mindful Photography

I will be creating and sharing online courses in Mindful Photography with an engaged, supportive community of like minded people – just like you! These courses will include live workshops, webinars, videos, and downloadable PDFs, audio and eBooks. The courses will support you to become more mindful and create personal resonant photos; whilst also sharing with you how Mindful Photography can help you to understand, process and accept your emotions that arise from ongoing difficulty, major change and significant loss. They will cover the three core elements of Mindful Photography that are outlined below and will include a free Introductory course, staged Mindful Photography courses and a Multiple Exposure/Intentional Camera Movement (ICM) specialist course.

The three core elements of Mindful Photography

  1. Seeing Practice – I share the Four Stage Seeing Practice in all my work. It contains two key aspects; the practice itself and the regular application of that practice.
  2. Foundation Skills Development – The foundation skills fall into two areas: mindfulness and photography. Each involves learning the skills through regular attentive practice. Just like mindfulness, all of the photography skills can be learnt with regular practice, in this case with mindful photography practices (activities).
  3. Exploring Your Life – Exploring your life experiences, events and emotional reactions is possible through the application of your mindfulness and photography Foundation Skills. These experiences, events and emotions can be illustrated by personal photographs, the creation of which supports you to process the emotional upheaval brought on by loss, change and difficulty.

Online Exhibition

The second part of my grant application is to create a series of photos, using multiple exposure and ICM, that represent our emotional experiences of lockdown and the pandemic. These photos will be inspired by mine and your emotional experience of this period and will initially be shared in an open and accessible for all Online Exhibition. I am interested to know some of the emotions you have experienced and how you think they could be illustrated in a photograph. If you would like to take part and influence my photographs please answer this question (you can use the contact form to send it)

What feelings spring to mind when you think of the lockdown, the effects of the pandemic on your life and your immediate future?

All answers will be treated confidentially and used to inspire photos that illustrate your emotional experience.

This work was made possible through funding from the Arts Council of Wales’s National Lottery Fund.

10 ways Mindful Photography can help you

Imagine that you press your camera shutter and create a photo that is imaginative, personal and that you feel great for doing it. Imagine doing this regularly. Here are 10 ways that Mindful Photography can help you to achieve this. 

  1. Learn how to use what you see as your anchor – In meditation the breath is often used as an anchor; the thing you return to when you notice sensations, thoughts or feelings playing out across your mind. A mindful approach to photography means that when you notice your busy mind you return to what you can see. Every time you notice that you’ve a busy head – planning the next shot, looking for a photo opportunity or just thinking about what you’ll be doing later – you return to what is in front of you. With this as your regular practice you will begin to see more, more of what is there and you will see more how your camera sees.
  2. Learn how to see like a camera – A camera does not know the name of anything in its viewfinder. You do. You are quite attached to the name of things. As Claude Monet said, “In order to see, we must forget the name of the thing we are looking at.” Your camera sees light. You may describe the way light plays out in your frame as including shapes, forms, colours, lines, patterns, textures and space. You can learn to see the light, but you have to practice forgetting the name of things.
  3. Don’t look for a photo, let the photo find you – This is quite a slippery idea. Almost Zen like. There you are out with your camera, with the intention of creating photos, how can you not look for a photo? It’s a state of mind. You don’t look for a photo, you see what is in front of you. You pay attention to the visual feast; the light, the shapes, forms, colours…. You know what I’m going to say. Yes, seeing like a camera, is seeing what is there. That’s all. Trust me, the photo will find you.
  4. Develop your photography skills and knowledge whilst remaining connected to the visual feast before you – My mindful approach to photography starts with the seeing practice, but extends to a mindful approach to learning photography skills and techniques. My eBook Mindful Photography: How to use photography to develop mindfulness explains how.
  5. Learn how to express how you are feeling with a photograph – Photography can be used to explore and represent emotional experiences that are current or past. It can be literal, metaphorical or symbolic. Or it can just be a photo of something that resonates for you.
  6. Learn how to use photography to help you understand and accept your difficulties – The more that you practice mindfulness the more you discover about yourself. This can be challenging. The more you notice what you are thinking and feeling, the more you need a way to help process those difficult thoughts and feelings. Mindful Photography can be used to explore your world, your thoughts and feelings. It can act as the intermediary between your inner world and the outer one. Allowing you the space to process what you are experiencing. My eBook Mindful Photography 2: How to use photography to explore your world explains how.
  7. Develop patience in your world through understanding and accepting your development as photographer – The journey to mastery in any skill may take 10,000 hours (Malcom Gladwell in Outliers), but there are mindful photography practices you can follow that support this development. These allow the quality of patience to rise unbidden as you pay attention to the challenging thoughts and feelings that arise as you learn your craft. I’m sure you’ve experienced the thought, my photos are not good enough. A mindful approach to your photography can support you to recognise this thought and treat it like a relative you’re not too fond of. You acknowledge it, but don’t spend any time with it, returning to what you can see in front of you.
  8. Develop your ability to see the world as if for the first time – Beginner’s mind is a mindful attitude. It’s one that you can apply to the practice of creating photographs. If you choose to return regularly to the same location, to spend time slowly exploring the visual feast available, you may begin to see beauty which once eluded you. As John Updike said, you can practice, “Giving the mundane its beautiful due” . This ability, cultivated through photography, can support you to look at your daily experience with fresh eyes.
  9. Develop trust in your own feelings – If you are to create photographs that are personal, unique and authentic then you must listen to your heart, as well as your head: learn to trust and follow your own intuitive guide. If you cultivate this skill it will begin to seep through to the rest of your world.
  10. Bring mindfulness into another aspect of your life – Mindfulness does not have to be limited to the meditation cushion, that is merely the training zone. As Jon Kabat-Zinn said, “Mindfulness applied to any activity turns it into a kind of meditation.” By applying and developing mindfulness to photography we expand our potential to be fully present in our life. A mindful approach to photography can help you learn and develop your photographic skills, but it can also support your well-being. My eBook Photography for Well-Being 1 shares 15 photo activities designed to develop your photography skills and support your well-being. 

PS If this has intrigued you then you can find out more below and join me in a Mindful Photography Online Workshop 18:30 – 20:00 (GMT+1) Wednesday 29th July 

Mindful Photography Online Workshop

I have been developing and sharing my vision of Mindful Photography for the last 7 years; with online courses, live workshops and 6 eBooks. This workshop distills the key aspects of a Mindful Photography practice, providing clear explanations, examples and 10 guidelines for you to follow, to help you to become a Mindful Photographer. I will also be sharing how these practices can be used at challenging times to support your well-being.

Mindful Photography for these times will be online via Zoom and Eventbrite 18:30 – 20:00 (GMT+1) Wednesday 29th July 2020. Tickets are limited and cost £6.50


Dear Mr Johnson

Dear Mr Johnson

You would probably prefer Dear Boris, but we hardly know each other and I am not sure that over familiarity is appropriate right now. This open letter will not be as political as it might be. I do have daily reminders of how poorly we are doing as a country and it would be easy to slip in comparison, analysis and complaint, but I would like to focus on sharing how I have a managed to stay alive, so far, despite your best efforts.

I am shielding and I have been since 15th March. Around that date my girlfriend, who lives in a separate house, manifested all the symptoms of Covid-19. Despite working for the NHS, although not on the front line, it was impossible for her to get tested. We cancelled our holiday, as we were due to depart 16th March and discussed what I should do. Self isolation seemed the wisest option, so we made that decision immediately.

I have a number of health conditions that cumulatively made it quite clear that I was at high risk should a contract the virus, although that was yet to be confirmed officially. In the meantime I decided that I would stay at home most of the time, not visit my girlfriend and do any exercise in the quiet areas that I can walk to from my house. It seemed sensible that as long as I stayed some distance from everyone and did not touch anything, that I could exercise safely. I say this as the advice that came with the first government letter, 24th March, instructed me to stay in the house and not see anyone for 12 weeks. Whilst I understand the physical reasons for this, at no stage did the mental well-being of those self-isolating (as it was still called then) get consideration.

I noticed in that first week or two that my mood was quite up and down. I am a relatively stable guy, but the change and its impact upon my life was a significant shift. Some days were not OK. Fortunately, I have a great relationship with my girlfriend. She had by now recovered and we decided as she was also able to work effectively from home, that it would help our well-being if we lived most of the time together.

At the same time I started to work through my feelings and experiences by creating videos and a free eBook all called Stuck in the House. Both activities gave me a purpose, structure to my days and a feeling that I was helping myself as well as others. Reflecting back now I wonder why this simple advice was not included in your government’s first letter to those of us who were most at risk. Sure you suggested rigid and appropriate social isolation that would work, but by not also recommending strategies (such as developing structure and purpose in our new normal) to cope with the isolation, you left hundreds of thousands of people to cope alone.

I feel that this experience is symptomatic of your government’s approach to this whole crisis. My mindfulness practice encourages me to develop the quality of reflection and consideration for how things actually are. The idea is that in this space we may then respond with skill and wisdom, rather than react in our habitual ways. Looking back now at the last three months I see that your government has been consistently reactive, and unfortunately those ingrained habits of yours have not been conducive to a considerate, caring, compassionate and wise approach to our experience. Other countries have managed this, have suffered far less and are recovering so much better.

The next year or so are going to be a significant test of your government’s ability. Do you have the skills, wisdom and empathy that will be required? I suspect not, but I do hope that you surprise me.

Your sincerely

Lee Aspland



New eBook out today

My new eBook Photography for Well-Being 1 is available today from all major online bookstores. Yep, that includes Amazon (all countries) as well as Apple, Kobo, Nook, 24 Symbols and Angus & Robertson. Just click on the link above or the photo below and you’ll be taken to my book page with all the relevant links.

Just in case you are not sure what the book is all about, here is a quick summary.

Every one of the 15 photography activities in Photography for Well-Being 1 has been used to support my health and well-being and will support yours. These really work; I used the activities to support my recovery to full health after major surgery. I have continued to use them with huge benefit whilst ‘shielding’ during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Photography for Well-Being is all about doing creative, mindful photography activities and then sharing your favourite photos. Each activity has a common structure and they all include these six features:

  1. Creativity – Improving your seeing skills, learning and developing your photography skills and creating photos that you love.
  2. Being in the great outdoors (there are one or two indoor exceptions).
  3. Gentle physical exercise.
  4. Love – of a place, person, thing or experience.
  5. Mindfulness – through a Mindful Photography Practice.
  6. Social interaction by sharing your favourite photo.

It is this combination that works to create a sense of well-being. Creativity is mood-changing magic. Out of one set of ingredients, activity, situation or experiences, something else is created. In this case, photographs that would not exist if you were not out there, following my instructions, noticing what you see and creating photos that relate to the time, place, your feelings and your individual abilities. Creating photos whilst you walk in nature, feeling the sun (or rain) on your face, looking in awe at natural or human-made magnificence, has the capacity to lift your mood, illuminate what you are feeling, and allow difficult thoughts to settle and soften.

Each activity is also designed to develop a specific photographic skill. It does not matter if you are using a smartphone or a digital camera, you can do all of these activities with the camera you have with you. Some of the skills development is specific to digital cameras, but all of the activities can still be done with a smartphone and where relevant I have provided guidance specifically for smartphone users.

In each activity, there is a section called Photography Skills Development. Each activity looks at one specific skill, in a rotation of three topics: Mindful Photography (Seeing Skills), Composition and Technical skills. However you describe yourself as a photographer, each activity has the potential to improve your photographic skills. Learning new skills or enhancing existing ones, whilst enriching your creative powers, will boost your sense of achievement. You will feel purposeful and develop a greater belief in your photographic ability.

Creating personal, unique photos, out in the fresh air, learning and developing your photography skills, and then sharing the photos with other people can really help to support your well-being. Why not give it a go? Alongside the book there is a supportive Facebook group which you can join and post your photos from the activities, see other people’s photos and share positive comments. The header photo on this post was created following one of the book’s activities, ‘Sun Salutation’ on a glorious sunny day in mid February this year.

I look forward to seeing your photos!