I originally posted this article last July and decided to re-post it now as I have another photography and meditation workshop coming up on October 5 at Penuel Ridge Retreat Center. If you’re in the Middle Tennessee area, I hope you can join me. Info is here.
As a visual artist, painting was my primary form of expression for many years. It still plays a large role in my creative retinue, but over the last several years I have discovered and fallen in love with mindful photography. This type of shooting, also known as contemplative photography, is accessible to anyone who cultivates mindfulness in their lives – no special equipment or technical skills are needed.
Many people think of photography as an activity that creates separation from present moment experience because the photographer is always seeking that perfect shot. From this perspective, the great shot is always in another moment, something to strive and search for. But every good photographer knows the value of training the mind to be completely present and aware in each moment, where great shots often reveal themselves, no seeking required.
When I use my camera in a receptive and open state, my shots reflect how the moment presents itself in its myriad, ever changing forms. I’ve found that this approach yields unexpected results that often differ from conventional shots. Advanced camera equipment isn’t important; being present and open is. A simple, yet profound joy arises as my sense of “I’” as the photographer dissolves into the alliance of mind and heart, camera and surroundings. When the shoot is complete, I am always deeply relaxed and refreshed.
One of my favorite places for contemplative photography is Reelfoot Lake, in West Tennessee. In mid to late summer the lake is covered, even clogged, with huge yellow lotus flowers. Often the park rangers have to thin the plants out a bit. The endless vista of lotus flowers across the lake is truly an amazing sight. Locally my favorite place is Radnor Lake, just a block from my home. I can go any time of year and enjoy the ever changing weather conditions and seasonal transitions. To me, they are all beautiful although I have a special affinity for foggy mornings and icy winter afternoons.
Although I use my photographs as the basis for many of my paintings, I do most shoots simply to experience the joy of the moment, immersed in my surroundings with a camera. Occasionally an image stands out that I want to paint, such as this one, “Lotus Lake” from a shoot at Reelfoot Lake a few years ago:
Lotus Lake, Acrylic on Canvas, 48″ x 36,” private collection
If you’ve never experienced mindful photography before, I hope you’ll give it a try. All you need is a camera and an hour or two to shoot. In September I plan on offering a meditation workshop where we will practice the art of mindful photography in a rural setting. The day will include meditation, photography and group interaction. No special photography skills are needed; any camera will do. I’ll post more details soon.
Reelfoot Lake at Dusk