Cardiff Mindful Photography Workshop

Book your place

I am delivering a full day Mindful Photography workshop on 15th October at Chapter Arts Centre in Cardiff. We will start at 10.00am and finish at 4.00pm and the cost (including booking fee) is £54. Want to know what it’s all about? Read on.

What is Mindful Photography?

Mindful Photography is an approach to photography and life that applies mindfulness to photography and through photography practices develops your ability to be mindful. Mindfulness is defined by Jon Kabat Zinn as “paying attention on purpose, to the present moment, and non-judgmentally to the unfolding experience moment to moment.”

At the workshop you will be introduced to practices and activities that use the visual experience to root you in the present moment, practices that encourage you to pay attention to what you are seeing and doing and in that moment create a personally resonant photograph.

Why get mindful?

You lead a very busy, active life. You constantly move from one activity to another and sometimes those activities overlap. Your mind is constantly busy, doing one thing and often thinking about others. Mindfulness encourages you to pay attention to the one thing that you are doing. It sounds easy, but because of your busy habits it is very difficult.

During your busy days you may experience feelings of frustration, anger, inadequacy or relentless drive as you try to cram in and achieve ‘stuff’ in your day. You are impelled by a desire to complete, succeed and achieve. Mindfulness encourages you to pay attention to these feelings. To notice what you are experiencing. Then you are able to make a choice. To react or respond.

React or respond?

You are hardwired to react to stressful events. This capacity for action and re-action developed to allow quick reactions when danger threatened. The oldest part of the brain, the limbic system, fires up at the first sign of danger or challenge. You know this as the ‘flight or fight response’. The brain readies the body for action, heart rate is raised as more oxygen is delivered to your muscles, you breathe quicker and your body is flooded with cortisol. You are ready to fight or run. You are ready for action.

This system still fires in our modern world when you are stressed. Being late for work, an argument with a loved one, your day going awry or simply being driven to complete a task so that it is perfect. These and many other similar events fire up the limbic system and you react in old familiar ways. You have, over many years, evolved ways of behaving when you are stressed. You will be familiar with your pattern of behaviour!

Mindfulness encourages us to be present so that you notice what you are experiencing. The first indicator that you are stressed might be noticing something physical (pounding heart, faster breathing) or it might be noticing feelings of anger or frustration – just before you erupt in action. In that moment you breathe. You pay attention to your body, notice the physical sensations; breathe.

Then you a have a choice. You may recognise the feeling, this experience. It is an old familiar acquaintance. You know how you normally react. Your choice now, fully in the experience and aware, is to respond. To respond with full engagement, knowing what is happening and knowing the consequences of your actions. How you respond is your choice. But it is a more skillful response than our habitual reaction and in that moment you burn a new pathway in your mind.

Motorways and off road routes

Your habitual response is like a motorway. It is the route you normally take, it is well prepared and you use it without thought. Engaging in a skillful response is like getting off road, with your machete, and carving a path through new ground. It is not easy. But each time you make that skillful choice the path gets a little more used. The way becomes a little clearer. Imperceptibly you develop a new way of responding. A new habit.

Why photography?

Photography is a familiar and creative activity. Attending to the visual experience as your mindful anchor, the thing that you return to when you notice you have started thinking about other stuff, attunes you to the moment. Applying mindfulness to photography expands your perspective. As you use the visual experience as the one thing that keeps you present, you see more. As you pay attention to the thoughts and feelings that play through your mind you have the opportunity to create a photograph that responds to that experience. Mindful Photography leads to greater personal engagement in the process of creating a photograph.

Why not come along on the 15th? Expand your perspective. Learn about an engaging and stimulating approach to photography. Learn more about mindfulness. Learn more about yourself and create intimately resonant photographs.

Book your place

Blue sky thinking, feeling and seeing

A Mindful Photography practice

I saw the sky and I could not resist: a one hour mindful photography practice with blue sky as the theme. Every photo created to have blue sky in the frame, either as the background, feature or reflection.

It is a stimulating practice to limit your creative options. By choosing one theme this also provides an anchor. Whatever is going through your head (thoughts, feelings or sensations) you can return to the theme, to seeing the blue sky.

I also wandered about with my camera in a particular and familiar set up. I had a prime lens on, so no zooming, only moving my feet and body. I had the camera in aperture priority, f7.1 and the ISO 100 (as it was a bright sunny day). This allows the technical choices to be limited (encouraging you to be with the visual) or to be subject of the practice, an element of being present.

This then allows me to create photos where depth of field is not a concern without further thought. The photographer Bryan Petersen calls this a ‘who cares’ aperture. From this point you can choose to change the aperture for creative reasons; a small aperture (f16 or above) for landscapes or a large aperture (f2.8 or below) where a shallow depth of field would help to isolate the subject from its background.

That’s it. A simple camera set up. One theme. Return to the seeing (blue sky – in this case). Here are my favourites.

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Fragile

I was reminded today of the fragility of life. You would think that after a few life experiences that have demonstrated that it is a truth, I would have it at the forefront of my mind. But the idea that we are immortal is tenacious.

We carry on through our busy lives, racing from one important task to the next. These tasks define who we are. They shape our life and determine how our days are spent. And then, from left field, something occurs to remind us that it is but a gossamer thread connecting us to this entertaining video we call life.

Today I heard from a friend who has recently lost somebody very close to them. In fact over the last few months she has been training and then swimming the Channel to raise money, inspired by the circumstances her friend was struggling with. And then, just after the event, her friend died. As if this tremendous loss was not enough, life had another in store. Very soon after her friend died, the swimming coach who had been supporting their endeavour had a heart attack and died.

Even when we know something is likely to happen, the actuality and finality of death is still a huge adjustment. We have the practicalities, and friends and family, to support us through the early days of adjustment. But then, as life falls back into its rhythm, we may begin to lose our bearings.

The grief attached to any loss has to be lived through. The stages may be well documented: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance, but we still have to live through them. We have to live with the confusion and feelings of deep uncertainty. And of course we may be reminded of our own mortality.

Perhaps it is this reminder that can support us through towards the acceptance of the loss of our loved one. For this reminder of the gossamer thread can attune us to our loved ones, to how we are spending our time, towards what is truly important in our life.

We will always have the loving memories of our departed friend, but the most valuable lesson this difficult adjustment has, is to remind us to wholly engage in every moment. To tune in to what we are sensing, thinking and feeling. To be truly present in every glorious and grimy minute, for it will very soon be gone. Carpe diem.

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Fragile

Feeling your edge – learning to fly

The edge is a useful metaphor. Where and when do you feel your edge? Do you notice and carry on? Do you notice and ease back? Or do you not notice and plough on regardless?

Feeling your edge implies that you are tuned in, paying attention to your life. In the moment that you teeter on the edge of something you can notice a feeling of discomfort, just as if you are on the edge of a precipice and looking over. In that moment you can choose to feel your feet on the floor, to breathe in deeply down to your roots – the part of us that is connected to the rest of the world – and then make a decision. To step back or to jump.

There may not actually be a big leap between your edge and the future. It just feels that way at the time. The edge may be acute because of a potential change of environment, the road beneath your feet may not be that which you were used to, or it may be inhabited by strange new people!

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These are often big moments in your life. Moments when your choice may define how your future is shaped. As a long distance runner I learnt to push on beyond my edge; those feelings of huge physical discomfort are noticed but the drive is to carry on, to move forwards. To keep going.

This drive is essential to your life. Without drive you would achieve very little in your life. But when you reach an edge, you are there because of your life, your choices, who you are. Honoring yourself is paying attention to what is at that edge, why you are there and what lies beyond.

Paying complete attention to the edge, how you are and what might lie beyond is the first step in learning to fly. For if you are to leap off the edge you will learn to fly. You may not think that you can. But there is often only one way to find out. Leaping off, leads to flying. It is scary….and it is exciting.

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You can support the experience by paying attention to how you are. Notice the sensations playing through your body; they will be exhibiting in your belly, chest or throat. Breathe to that area and feel your feet on the floor or your bottom on its seat. Attune yourself to what you can see, right now in your immediate environment. Keep breathing deeply. Notice what you can hear, noises that are distant, the sound of your own breathing, maybe even your heart reminding you that you are alive. Notice the breeze on your cheek, the smell of the season on the air and those butterflies in your belly.

By tuning in to our senses and paying attention to our breathing we soften into the moment. Then we have space to notice the thoughts and feelings that are rampaging through our consciousness. Those familiar ones, the ones that are often fueled by your internal critical voice can be noted, just as you would a familiar acquaintance who you really do not like but have to work with. Note the thought, note the judgement, say hello and then breathe. Come back to your breath.

And there you are, stood at your edge breathing into the sensations, attuned to the thoughts and uncomfortable feelings. Slowly and often imperceptibly the sensations will dissolve, the fear will soften. You will look at the edge and know that you are alive and you can fly!

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Edge

My Peg Talk

Three months ago I gave a talk at the now locally famous Peg Talks. These talks are by Swansea people who have an interesting story to tell and occur every 6 weeks or so at the Square Peg Cafe. If you live in Swansea or close and have not been yet then I encourage you to take one in.

My talk was all about paying attention: what happens when you don’t, and how I managed to get myself back to stability by bringing paying attention into my life as a practice. We currently call this mindfulness and I now practice and share Mindful Photography through this website.

If you missed my talk there is good news (or not depending upon your viewpoint!), it is now available to listen to below.  I was supposed to keep it to 15 minutes, all power to you if you manage the full 25 minutes!

If the link doesn’t work for you, Google soundcloud. Then sign up and search for Peg Talks. I’ll be listed. Happy listening.

Still Point

There is a still point between the in breath and the out breath. And another between the out breath and the in breath. Each is milliseconds in length. Each is a time when the world is in balance. You may not be aware of their arrival and passing. But they are always there, always available.

The in breath requires us to do something; our body has learnt to drawn in breath, to extend effort and air is drawn into our lungs. The out breath is a release, we let go and air passes back out through our respiratory system. In between the effort and the release, the release and the effort are the still points.

I am writing a book on Mindful Photography at the moment that is about paying attention to the still point. Staying with that moment when all is in balance. It is about developing a way of extending its influence throughout every breath, in and out. It is about paying attention to the effort that has brought us to this point and paying attention to what we can release. It is about paying attention to our life, our choices and the ripples of consequence that resonate through our being and beyond.

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Mindfulness is paying attention

This paying attention has become known as mindfulness and it is all the rage. But whilst it may provide the media with regular column inches, for me it is more than just a fad, it has become a way through tremendous personal difficulties and a practice that is now central to my life.

Mindfulness is intended to be a way of living through every aspect of our life. The suggestion is that we pay attention to what we are sensing, thinking, feeling, and doing. Through that practice we learn to respond in ways that support us, rather than instinctively reacting in ways that cause us stress.  Most mindfulness books provide philosophy and guidance that allow us to apply the practice to our life. They are often written by Buddhist sages or learned psychologists. I have no such claims. However, I have learnt through personal experience how mindfulness can support a greater understanding of myself; my choices, my habits, my behaviours and the full engagement in every aspect of my being.

I have lived through the study, the reading, the courses, the sitting, the dreaming. I have thought that I was applying the philosophies, the practices. I have imagined that I was mindful, that just because I meditated that I was ‘being’ rather than ‘doing’. It took ten years before I began to recognise that this mindfulness thing is an ongoing practice. I knew that’s what it was called; a practice. I understood the idea intellectually, but I was not living it. The possibility that you never really crack it, that there is nothing to achieve, that it is a lifetime’s practice was a slow coalescing realisation. One that occasionally seems obvious and at other times remains elusive.

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A Personal Approach

My book takes a personal approach. It draws upon my midlife experiences of choices and consequences, of striving, of not paying attention and of the health challenges that developed. It focuses upon a particular application of mindfulness and shares methods, practices and activities that I have found of immense help.

I do not claim to be a mindful master, but I have found an application for mindfulness and a way of continuing to develop a mindful approach that I believe is quite unique and may be helpful for others. I call it Mindful Photography.

We are all photographers now. Most of us carry a smartphone with the capacity to create and share fabulous photographs of our world. Many of us also have a digital camera. The potential for creating a visual record is now part of our everyday life. My book is for everyone who wants to create personal and resonant photographs: photos that say something of who we are, what we think and what life is like for us. However, it is not just about how to create profound, expressive photos; it also is about living life, making mistakes, facing unexpected events, understanding ourselves and responding, rather than reacting to life’s difficulties.

In the book I will reflect upon the habits and behaviours I developed in my thirties and the midlife choices I made later that impelled me down the path towards a chronic health condition. Sometimes I may shed a little light on the culture at the time, but this is not shared as an excuse for my choices. It is more an attempt to unravel the impact our modern life and behaviour has upon our well being. I contrast these life experiences with the ideas and attitudes that underpin a mindful life.

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Why Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is about paying attention. My life choices clearly demonstrate that I was not paying attention. However, over ten years the message begins to percolate my consciousness and I start to incorporate mindful activities into my life.

Have I got it all sorted? Do I live a mindful life every day, every minute? Don’t be daft. Mindfulness is an ongoing practice. However, mindfulness and mindful photography have changed how I live. Mindful Photography offers a path to becoming a conscious and fully awake photographer, and because we cannot separate the photographer from the person, it also investigates a way of being. Balancing photography practices that develop mindfulness with an exploration of how life’s choices are determined, I will share an intimate and truthful map of our midlife travels, arriving at a midlife manifesto that is my work in progress and could be yours.

Mindfulness has changed my life and developing this practice through photography has been and continues to be one way in which I have explored how I live now and how I can continue to live with authenticity, truth and love. Once you pick up a camera and start using it in the ways that I suggest your life may never quite be the same again.

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Mirror of my soul

It doesn’t take much encouragement to get me to create a selfie. Not only is it a genre I regularly explore, I’ve also done a monthly photo project with FB friends (Beyond the Selfie) and I am just about to write the last chapter of my book about Mindful Photography; and that’s all about me!

So when I saw this weekly photo challenge title from The Daily Post I determined to create a selfie and write a post today. Even though my camera is tucked up at home.

And no, you should know that I am not self obsessed. Any more than the average egocentric human being. But I am fascinated by this thing we call the self.

The Self in the Selfie

There are many interpretations of what the self is, they vary from the classically psychological to the philosophically challenging. But one thing is certain. If you cut me open you will not find it. The core essence that you think that you are, your beautiful self, is not a pearl to be discovered residing in the oyster that is your mind. Perhaps this is what the Buddhists mean when they explain that there is no such thing as self; that it is not a physical thing, not something you can point at.

The explanation of the self that resonates for me is that it is a constantly evolving, multi-layered, and infinitely possible reflection of all that you do and all that you are.

So it seems entirely apposite that the mirror reflects an image of me, but I know that this is merely a physical and momentary sliver of the whole. All that I am and all that I can be resides in the possibility of the evolving self.

Exploring the Self

There is an inevitable consequence of living a mindful life. The more you practice, the more you pay attention to your thoughts and feelings, the better you get to know yourself. Sometimes stuff arises that you thought long forgotten. Sometimes you are unaware that you have drifted away down a side stream of thought, far way from the days happenings.

Other times you begin to notice some of your habitual thoughts. Maybe you notice that small nagging voice that criticizes what you are doing, or how you are doing it, or what you have not done! Or maybe you start to become more attuned to how you feel about the people in your life, your job, how you spend your spare time.

I find that it is an inevitable consequence of meditating and practising mindful photography that I become more self aware, more attuned to how I am in the moment right now. And in that moment I know myself a little better.

The Final Chapter

The final chapter of my book is all about the personal photo project I have been following throughout the last 12 months of my life. Every three months I have spent one week creating only one photo each day. Each photo is intended to represent me, how I am, what is happening and how I am being. It is not easy only creating one photo, and I will be sharing some thoughts on how to best do this, but it is challenging and fulfilling.

As the photos build up over the week, months and year a story begins to emerge; a visual storyboard of the year, one week at a time. So far I have completed the practice 4 times and therefore have 28 photos. It is these photos that I will be sharing in the final chapter and telling the story of the last turbulent and marvellous year.

Many of the photos make use of metaphors to represent a thought or feeling, some document what happened and several make use of reflections. The mirror of my soul!

Mirror

September – the second new year

I like September. Do you? I like it because it is a start of new beginnings in the West; it feels a little like a second opportunity at the New Year. Another chance to review where we are at, how we are living, and consider how we might change things.

Of course the truth is that every day brings us that opportunity, but we get so wrapped up in the doing, the striving to keep everything on track that we loose track of the important stuff. Immersed in our tasks and activities we forget to be compassionate for ourselves. We only see what we are not achieving, not completing.

Instead let us take this month, with its new start, to stop a moment and breathe. Consider for a moment all that you have achieved over the last twelve months. Reflect upon the moments of joy and love that have lit up your world. Hold gently those times of difficulty and confusion and know that through it all you are loved and that the sun will still rise tomorrow.

Try a little photography workshop this September

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Plop

I have been occasionally following the post topic suggestion from Word Press. When today’s topic of ‘Plop’ plopped into my inbox it was directly after another email, one of rejection, from a public sector provider and the word seemed entirely apposite.

Rejection is a common part of any artistic endeavour. When I first started as a photographer trying to gain commissions I soon learnt that for every proposal I made to a prospective client there would often be a resounding silence. I would put a lot of work into the sales pitch, considering how they could benefit and genuinely sharing how I believed I could provide photographs they would cherish.

Most often there would be no reply to my proposal. Many people do not like to say no and often choose to not reply as the simplest form of rejection. The not knowing why you had been passed over was often the most frustrating part, though my normal suspicion was that it was financially based.

Eventually over several years you harden to this inherent part of the process of creating photographic work for others. You tell yourself that it is inevitable and that it is not personal, but if you are honest, nagging doubts still persist.

Rejecting my baby

Recently I have developed an 8 week mindful photography course that is very close to my heart. It is very much part of what is important to me in the congruence of living with authenticity and creative photography, and as such is like a new born baby. So this rejection, whilst not entirely unexpected, is felt more keenly.

Of course noticing this attachment to my desires for success and blogging about it is part of processing the feelings. Now all I need to do is follow my own advice and go out with my camera and create some photos to accompany this post. And that I shall do any moment and you will see them below.

Meanwhile I will tie this up neatly by returning to the ‘Plop’ of rejection. That sound of something small dropping into your pond of tranquility sends ripples through your day. Simply noticing the small waves pass by and attending to what you are experiencing is enough to allow them to fade and dissipate. For that it is the way with all feelings. If we pay attention to what is happening and choose not follow the doubt and fear up its blind alley we will be able to accommodate its presence, allow its appearance and know that it is just passing through.

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Plop

 

 

 

Mindful Photography for life’s difficulties

I am currently immersed in re-writing and editing my resources for my forthcoming online course on Mindful Photography. Apart from honing my ideas and explaining how photography can help you to develop a mindful approach to life I will be sharing more than 20 mindful photography practices.

Each one of the practices is an activity designed to either apply mindfulness to the art and science of photography, or to support you to develop your own mindful life. Within this exploration of life and photography there is an opportunity to become more familiar with who and how you are. There is a mindful photography practice I will share here that can support you on this exploration.

What happens when we practice mindfulness?

When we practice mindfulness, be it simply sitting for meditation, following a mindful movement practice like yoga or engaging in a mindful photography practice, we have the potential to notice what our mind is doing. Many people new to mindfulness have an expectation that it will help them respond skillfully, rather than react habitually, to the stress in their lives. This is true it will, but there is more to be aware of.

As we focus upon just doing one thing we begin to notice how busy and noisy our mind is. As we continue to practice over many days and months this experience allows us to become more aware of our mind’s habitual thinking. It is quite possible, even likely, that the more we practice the more older thoughts and feelings will arise.

These previously well buried thoughts and feelings emerge into the space and quietness that we have created. And we may find this very uncomfortable. I have a mindful photography practice I am going to share here that may help you hold this experience with gentleness, as you move towards acceptance of what you are experiencing.

Mindful Photography practice – Feel the photo

This practice is 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 practice 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 f8 and ISO auto).
  • Turn off your view screen so that you cannot see or review what you are creating. If you are not sure how to do this tape a piece of card or paper over the view screen, taking care not to cover any essential buttons. You can create photos by looking through the viewfinder or just shooting blind, from the hip!
  • 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.
  • 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.

It you find this practice of use please share with your friends.

The photos accompanying this post were taken when I was experiencing difficulty with major changes in my life

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Writing Retreat

I have just got back from a few days in the glorious English countryside; Holton in Somerset to be precise. This is a small little village about 7 miles from Wincanton. Not that I was actually in the village. I was about 1/2 mile outside the metropolis, house and pet sitting.

My main charge was Chiecco (pronounced Checko), a young energetic black labrador who ensured that I got out and about at least twice a day. Most of the rest of the time I spent writing and editing my planned book on Mindful Photography.

Some solid progress was made. I have re-structured the content, dumped a lot of the autobiographical stories and re-written much of the second half. I have almost completed 6 out of the 7 planned chapters, which is more than I anticipated at the beginning of the process, and I am pleased with the way it is shaping up. I have not counted yet, but there must be around 20 or so photography practices, all of which are designed to encourage the development of mindfulness through photography.

The next stage will be sending it to reviewers and getting some feedback. So if you feel this is something that you would be interested in please contact me.

Whilst I was there I practised what I preach and the photos below are a selection of favourites from several mindful photography practices around the area.

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Develop mindfulness through photography

My thoughts of late have been much around how I can share more effectively what I have developed. It has taken me 55 years of living, a couple of years of development, an online course, live workshops and some significant life events to really bring my thinking on delivering mindfulness through photography – or Mindful Photography as I usually call it – into a coherent whole.

I now believe that I have reached a key point. I have several live workshop sessions I can now deliver anywhere, and I have three planned for September and October in Swansea, Porthcawl and Cardiff. I have an 8 week Mindful Photography Course planned and have started to approach private, public and third sector organisations with a view to delivering this course for their staff, volunteers or participants. This week and next I am re-visiting the work I have created to date on my Mindful Photography book and once I have completed a second draft I am hoping to re-develop an online course.

It remains a challenge to develop and deliver all of this whilst still working part time, but regular income is of course essential. Keeping all of this on track, whilst also working through personal challenges and falling in love provides rich territory for practice. I try to sit quietly once a day and also share my gratitudes for the day with my sister (in Canada). These are practices that keep me present with all that is passing through.

Lately, I have been reading a passage from a book just after I have sat. The book is called Perseverance by Margaret J Wheatley and she shares little vignettes and quotes a page at a time that build towards a way of living with challenge. This morning’s offering included this quote below which summarises clearly how I believe our life is, and it is also enlivening to see yourself as a warrior. In fact, I imagine that I am a spiritual warrior and that my offering of Mindful Photography is my way of sharing that potential with the rest of the world.

“The basic difference between and ordinary person and a warrior is that a warrior takes everything as a challenge, whilst an ordinary person takes everything as a blessing or a curse.”

Don Juan, Carlos Casteneda

 

 

Mindful Photography Walking

Once a week I intend to get out with my camera and do a mindful photography practice. This involves walking with my camera, following the 4 Stage Seeing Practice – always returning to the visual feast before me when my mind drifts off – and then creating a small set of photos that reflects that experience.

More often than not this happens on a dog walk. This morning was no exception and I chose to just centre upon my stroll along Swansea beach from the entrance opposite Singleton Park down to the small stream towards Mumbles. Limiting the space you practice is a fine way of grounding yourself and noticing more.

I find these little practices really helpful in reminding me what it is to pay attention and of course they also provide me with some photos I can share. This morning’s selection have a theme of simplicity and clarity. Something that is foremost in my mind at present. I hope that you like them.

If you would like to learn more about Mindful Photography then take a look at my Workshops page.

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A little practice

Usually when I deliver a workshop I do the activities whilst the students are out and about creating their own photos. This idea that everybody in the room does the activities provides a common reference point for discussion later when we feedback our favourites. But it does mean that only one or two of the photos from each person’s set gets shared.

Last month, during a workshop with the Swansea Carers, I did the first activity ’10 photos in 100 yard space’ in the old Pilkington Glass Factory, behind the Dylan Thomas Centre. It is now used as an overflow car park but the shell of it has not been touched.

I really liked the slightly abstract set I created so I thought that I would share some of them here. I particularly like the ‘Boots’ photo with its echoes of abandoned work boots and a little self reflection. Nothing is forever huh?

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Mindful Photography Workshop – Swansea Carers

Today I delivered a Mindful Photography Workshop to participants of Swansea Carers. We were fortunate that the morning was bright and dry, which allowed everyone to get out and about the SA1 area of Swansea – a great venue for a photography workshop.

My main intention of the session was to slow people down and root them in the visual opportunities available. Mindful Photography uses the visual feast before us as our anchor: just as meditation uses the breath. After an introduction to the idea and a little meditation I set the group their first task – ‘Shooting from the Hip’.

If you would like a Mindful Photography Workshop for your organisation or workplace then take a look at what I offer here

Shooting from the Hip

Before we started this activity I introduced the idea of the 4 Stage Seeing Practice, this simple practice describes how we can use what we see as our anchor, the thing we return to whenever we notice thoughts and feelings rising in our mind. The activity encourages us to slow down and to imagine what it is that our camera receives. We cover up or turn off our viewing screen and take a set number of photos in a defined time. These limitations are chosen to support a connection to the moment through the visual stimulation available.

Each photographer chose a small area to practice the activity and they had to create each photograph holding the camera at their hip. This meant they had to imagine the view that the camera could see and then press the shutter. Of course, they also could not see how many photographs they had created, so they had to keep count.

After the time was up each of us chose one photograph to share and discuss, and here they are

Anne Cath Christine Jude Justine lee Peter sandra uma

I am Great /  Right Now

The second activity imposed different limitations. This time we all had only two photographs to create, but there was a catch. We were not allowed to look at the photograph created, nor were we allowed to delete. This turns our camera back into a film camera and encourages us to slow down and pay attention to the process of creating a photo.

Everyone was also given two themes; one for each photo. They were ‘I am Great’ and ‘Right Now’ and a time limit for the whole activity was agreed. I have separated the photos below into the two topics.

I am Great

Anne (1) cath (1) Christine (1) Jude (1) lee (1)Justine Peter (1) Sandra (1) Uma (1)

Right Now

Anne (2) cath (2) Christine (2) Jude (2) Justine (2) lee (2) Peter (2) Sandra (2) Uma (2)

 

Mindful Photography Course for your staff

Mindfulness is now recognised as practice that is supportive to all aspects of our lives and something that can enable us to respond positively to stress, rather than react habitually. It is for this reason that many corporations, public sector organisations and businesses encourage staff to follow mindfulness sessions at work. With this is mind I have developed a Mindful Photography course for employed staff.

What is Mindful Photography?

Mindful Photography is the development of mindfulness through photography. The sessions can make use of mobile phone cameras or staff can bring in their own cameras. Either way the experiences and activities will encourage an attention to the moment whilst also exploring skills that are relevant to work. These skills include: team work, self-confidence, responding positively to stress, communication, creative thinking and negotiation.

Mindfulness encourages us to pay attention to the moment. It is centred upon the idea that there are Four Foundations of Mindfulness that we can be aware of. These are

  1. Our sensations: what we see, hear, touch, taste and smell
  2. Our thoughts
  3. Our feelings
  4. The one thing that we are engaged with

If we can be aware of these foundations, pay attention to our experience, then we can be wholly immersed in the moment and our lives.

I use mindfulness practices developed from the MBSR (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction) to develop and share photography activities. These practices all relate back to the Four Foundations of Mindfulness and each is designed to encourage an attention to our daily experience.

In a work environment this paying attention leads to many benefits for the individual, which also spill over into the rest of their lives. The benefits to the individual staff member then accrue for the organisation, as staff become more centred, less stressed and more supportive of one another. Using photography as the vehicle for mindfulness allows something familiar to be used as our way in to the practice and we also learn how to create more interesting personal photographs.

Mindful Photography Course

The course is best delivered over 8 weeks of 3 hour sessions, though the total hours (24) can be split up in other ways to suit the needs of the business. An outline of the sessions follows and I would be delighted to meet and discuss how it could meet your businesses needs and to expand upon my philosophy and the course detail. Each week includes Photography activities and practices that develop a mindful attitude and specific personal skills relevant to a harmonious and effective work environment.

Week 1: Introduction to Mindfulness and Mindful Photography – Why Mindfulness? How can mindfulness support your life? Introductory Practices. Using photography to develop mindfulness. Photography practices and activities, including ‘Shooting from the Hip’

Week 2: Mindful Seeing – Using what we see as our anchor for mindfulness practice. Using the 4 Stage Seeing Practice. How we see vs how a camera sees. Photography practices and activities, including ‘Giving the mundane its beautiful due’

Week 3: Mindful Thinking – An exploration of how we can remain present with the one thing that we are doing when our mind is shooting about reliving the past and imagining our future. The application of this to photographic thinking. Photography practices and activities, including the ‘Camera Scan practice’

Week 4 Mindful Photomarathon  A pair challenge designed to practice and apply the mindful photography skills learnt to date and develop teamwork, negotiation, creative thinking and responding to stress rather than reacting. Photography practices and activities, including ‘Photo Scan practice’

Week 5 Mindful Reflection  A review of the Photomarathon experience. Mindful practices that support us in work. Photography practices and activities, including ‘A 50 foot space’

Week 6 Mindful Feeling – An exploration of our emotional world and how photography can be used to illustrate and understand this experience. Recognising our stress indicators. Developing positive responses to stress. Understanding our habitual reactions. Photography practices and activities, including ‘Equivalents’

Week 7 Mindful Emotions – Developing an understanding of our emotional world and how we can represent this through our photos: photography techniques vs an emotional response. Photography practices and activities, including ‘Right now’ and ‘It’s been emotional!’

Week 8 Mindful Being vs Doing – Understanding our personal fears. Mindfulness practices that can support our acceptance of those fears. Exploring fear through photography. Review of the course and a celebration of our favourite photos. Photography practices and activities, including ‘I love Selfies’

 

One popular adaptation is to take Week 4 Mindful Photomarathon out of the weekly schedule and turn it into a full day. This becomes then an even more immersive, team building exercise and can be used to explore the local town/city or a chosen environment.

The course will also produce many personal photographs from those taking part. All of the favourite photographs will be collated and shared with the business, providing an opportunity to use some of the photos to illustrate the skills and experiences of your staff.

If you would like to discuss any aspect of this course or other similar ideas you have please contact me.

Mindful Photography Workshop – Swansea

My last workshop was at the 360 Café in Swansea at the weekend. The theme centered upon the application of mindfulness to all the thinking that can swamp us as we are preparing to create a photograph.

Mindful Photography means the application and development of mindfulness through photography. The first stage is using what we see to root us in the moment. This is rather like when we meditate and we use our breath as an anchor to return to when we notice our busy mind. In mindful photography we use what we see as our visual anchor.

Each workshop I share the 4 Stage Seeing Practice which is a simple routine to follow when we are out with our camera. This is particularly useful when we are developing as photographers. That journey from beginner to master can be a long and noisy (mind) one. Malcom Gladwell in Outliers suggests that this journey for any skill is one of 10,000 hours. That is a long time, a lot of photos, editing, reading and looking at great photographers’ work. In fact if you did 2 hours of that every day for 13 years you would just about get your 10,000 hours done!

Meanwhile, what is needed is a way of holding all the photographic thinking (and the other thoughts that pop up) whilst we are out with our camera, so that we can still be connected to the visual possibilities. At the workshop I shared some practices that centered upon the technical choices (aperture and shutter speed) and compositional choices that we have swirling about as we consider creating a photograph of the visual feast before us.

Aperture

The first photo activity used Aperture as its key practice. Using a simple camera set up I encouraged the students to experiment with Depth of Field, finding an appropriate scene and capturing two photos that demonstrated the impact of different apertures. Here are some of their examples.

Sarah (4) Sarah (3) Rob (4) Rob (3) lee (3) lee (2) Jude (2) Jude (1) Glynis (2) Glynis (1) Beth (2) Beth (1) Barbara (2) Barbara (1)

 

Shutter Speed

Having control of the shutter speed allows us to create photographs that we cannot see. Slow shutter speeds allow us to demonstrate subject or camera movement. Fast shutter speeds allow us to demonstrate the what can be seen when we freeze the action. Using a simple shutter speed camera set up the students were encouraged to practice one of these possibilities and then share a photograph that they had created. Here they are.

Barbara (1) Beth (1) Glynis John 1 Jude lee (2) Rob (1)Sarah (1)

 

Composition

There are many compositional guidelines that are suggested and written about (in great detail) that offer advice for directing where to place that little rectangular frame when we are creating a photograph. Applying mindfulness to this area of photographic development provides us with the opportunity to consider using one guideline at a time as our mindful photography practice.

For example you could choose a simple camera set up and then decide to practice leading lines. Focusing on just one compositional guideline encourages experimentation: each guideline is there to suggest what might work. In a single guideline practice we can try out different arrangements of the scene’s features in our frame, we can play with the guideline and even see what our photos look like when we break the rules!

For our final activity each student chose one compositional guideline and experimented.  Here are their favourites, can you guess the guidelines used?

Barbara Beth Glynis John Jude lee Rob Sarah

 

Next Workshop

My next Mindful Photography Workshop will be in September and will be looking closely at the possibilities of using photography to explore and represent our emotional experiences of life. If that sounds interesting then keep an eye on the website (you can register to receive the blog below) news will follow soon.

 

Caswell – a mindful photography practice

A couple of weeks ago I spent an hour or so practicing being present at Caswell Beach on the gloomy Gower. Needless to say Taylor was in surfing at the time, so I thought I would cultivate a beginner’s mind, perusing a familiar place, noticing what was there and attuning to the visual as if I were a camera; as if I did not know the name of things. Then you see what is there; the shapes, forms, colours, patterns, textures…. After that all there is to do is choose where to place the frame and decide upon the depth of field.

If you are interested in how I actually set myself up for these practices, in ways that support the attention to the visual, whilst not being overwhelmed by the technical and compositional then I have a workshop coming up very soon!

The photos form an interesting set of those visual features. I turned those into B&W where that was what I had envisaged at the moment of creation. The exception is the selfie at the end, that just plain looked better in B&W!

IMG_6177 IMG_6179 IMG_6181 IMG_6186 IMG_6192 IMG_6197 IMG_6202 IMG_6203 IMG_6204 IMG_6205 IMG_6208

 

Embarrassing

OK here goes. In an attempt to get writing regularly again and enliven my posts I am gonna try responding to the Daily Prompts given by WordPress. As they are US based the prompt arrives at my desk around 1pm and I’m best writing in the morning, before the day’s busy-ness truly kicks in. So I’m gonna be one day adrift, every day, just to be awkward!

Today’s (yesterday’s) word is embarrassing. Of course it is just a prompt. I don’t have to respond directly, or even indirectly. It is just a verbal kick up the …… to get me going. My immediate thought was to blog about nearly getting cut off by the tide this morning, as Monty and I walked out onto the sand bar. Actually, we did have to paddle out. As I stopped to take the photo above the sand bar disappeared. I paddled out; old short legs bounced and swam. Getting cut off would have been embarrassing. ‘Local man (for 28 years!) misjudges tide’.

Instead I thought I would reflect briefly upon what embarrassment is. Well, it does give me an opportunity to return to one of my favourite themes. My instinct is that embarrassment is a fear based reaction. Fear of not being good enough. Fear of being seen not as we would like to think we are. Fear of not behaving as we think others would have us behave. Fear of being judged.

As those of you who have read my other posts about fear will know, I see fear as an opportunity and a practice. The opportunity is to notice that we have experienced or reacted in a fear based way. This is usually most noticeable in a physical response: often in our belly, chest or throat. That is our cue to stay with the physical. To come out of our flight/fight reaction that our old brain is stimulating and be with the physical sensations. Then just breathe into those sensations. Breathe. And breathe some more. Feel our feet on the floor and our bum on its seat. The practice is to remember that fear is a constant and to pay attention to its machinations.

Embarrassment also has the potential for us to experience vulnerability, which in turn can stimulate compassion for ourselves and others. Rich ground. Now, who’s gonna embarrass me? I need the practice!