The inspiration for this blog came from, http://www.shambhala.com/the-practice-of-contemplative-photography.html. This is not your normal photography book offering tips about aperture and shutter speed settings - the authors' approach is more Zen like, suggesting ways to Synchronize Eye and Mind, to mention one of the creative chapters. They share many of their own images as well as others' helping the reader understand their unique method for looking and feeling before taking the shot. Each chapter ends with an assignment so I took off for a beautiful park on Lakeside Drive in Dallas to try and get into this Zen space. The images to follow are some from my contemplative morning at the park. With the first one below, I was observing life in and around the pond, noticing all the nuances of various textures when I saw this mirrored lily pad folded in half, looking somewhat like a tongue. It kind of has a dirty mouth and reminded me of my dirty mouth awhile ago after I lost everything I had written and had to start over!
Let's talk about texture... notice the smoothness of the water and the blurred effect of most everything except for a few lily pads/leaves. I was in a Zen space thinking of nothing else but what I was seeing and feeling. I noticed how my mood changed once I got into this space and my earlier frustrations of the morning had now vanished. I love capturing reflections - this type of shot puts me into a reflective state of mind. Let's look at another shot in this same theme…..
I like the way this image makes me feel…a slight soft movement of the water with the brown female duck reflecting and blending into her environment. Then the leaves curl and twist in and out of the water creating a lovely multi-dimensional texture. Notice the reflection of the trees also blending in. Photography is very subjective and I know some viewing my images may wonder what in the world I was thinking…that's okay. I follow my own gut when it comes to finding inspiration for my next shot. I love most of my work because I remember how I felt when I shot it and how I feel when I look at it afterwards. It's kind of like a good golfer. They remember what they shot and which club they used on almost every hole - going back many years. That's crazy, right? I used to think so until now.
Here we get a sense of a family enjoying an early spring day out with their dogs, probably wishing for green grass and summer to get here. We're starting to bring in some pattern….see the stone wall. Let's look at a few shots I took on the bridge.
Check out the morning light creating the shadows of the old bridge. It looks somewhat like an old train trestle supporting a railroad track. Perhaps this once was a railroad track instead of just a bridge….it's fun to dream. We can sometimes just look at the shadows of something and the story is told. We know the light is still low and what the bridge looks like. Try just shooting patterns one day - you won't believe how many different looks you will find. Here's another element from the bridge…...
The bridge railing is iron, strong, and has interesting round bolt covers making it almost an architectual art piece. Here's one more shot supporting the pattern theme. It's important to have one element in focus when using the larger aperture settings, as in the center. On the railing below, notice the many layers of paint on the center piece which gives it more texture and personality. The pattern repeats all the way down the bridge.
Personally, I think the individual elements of the bridge are more interesting than the whole. The other side dropped off into a waterfall and more of the beautiful park area. Each of the chapters included photo examples and assignments which could keep a photographer busy for a year! The Simplicity chapter stresses the importance of "doing one thing at a time" - very Zen. This chapter helps bring it in, so to speak…focus on one thought or thing and set your intention for the shot. It's all about form and space and creating contrasts - "where the experience of the form is heightened because of the space around it. Here are a couple more examples from my outing…..
I think this single lily pad represents simplicity along with form and space, don't you? Below is a tennis ball that was lying in the brown grass, just waiting for a dog to come along and retrieve it...
Another simple shot (on my belly) and sure enough, right after I shot it a dog came along and grabbed it. All of these exercises help an artist to develop their craft. For me, it's hard not to notice interesting angles, objects and the way light showcases these things. Try it sometime if you haven't already. Just look, observe and let the next shot come to you. Practice shooting into the light as well as with the light behind you…I know, you're breaking one of the rules! That's ok, once we know the rules, we are supposed to break them. Have fun!