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.
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.
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.
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?
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.