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Learn how to have more fun taking better pictures.
This article is part three of my series on the Zen photographer.
In part 1 I introduced some concepts of mindfulness and how they apply to photography and in part 2 I talked about Silence and Trust. Reading the articles in order may yield a better understanding of the subject.
The article series is part of a larger series on better photography. I hope to answer some questions on inspiration and stimulation of the brain with this series.
Letting go - non attachment
The thought of a place is not the place.
Our minds are like magnets that catch every thought passing by. We ponder what was and what will be, what we have said, what we should have said or what we will say.
Thoughts create new thoughts, which feed other thoughts. Our mind spins endlessly faster and faster until we get distracted with new thoughts.
There is no way out of this maze, but our mind will not recognize this. We often cannot solve our problems by thinking about them, but we keep thinking.
We are always preoccupied. Many thoughts do not even make sense, but we think them anyways. Can you focus completely on this article or are other thoughts going through your head RIGHT NOW?
We need to break this endless cycle and learn how to let go, how to recognize our thoughts for what they are and let them pass without clinging to them.
Learn how to take better pictures while enjoying your time more.
This article is the continuation of my series on the Zen photographer.
The benefits of mindfulness are many, I already outlined some in part one of this series. Although it is probably better to read the articles in order, you can also start here and work your way back. As a mindful writer, I realize there is no wrong way. ;)
We all strive to become better photographers. Some of us actually become outstanding photographers, while so many others become obsessed with technical jargon and camera resolution.
Read about a secret I discovered.
When I listened to an audio book on mindfulness, I discovered new secrets to better photography. The person reading the book talked about what mindfulness means and suddenly it occurred to me how we all can benefit from this to create more beautiful photographs and to open our eyes and mind to really see things and capture them.
As a technical person, I had a very pragmatic approach to photography and while my photographs were technically correct, I found that photography is much more than capturing light with a digital camera.
A photographer must achieve a state of mind that allows him to see the world like nobody else does, cutting right through the clutter in our minds and our environment.
In Part One of this series, I wrote about ways to make money besides by selling photographs.
The photography business is tough. Many people dream of being photographers. It surely must be wonderful to make a living traveling the world with our camera and having others pay the bill while we snap a few pictures along the way.
You are dead wrong. Photography is a tough business.
Time well spent
It may come as a shock to some of you, but pro photographers do not spend most of their time taking photographs. Running a successful photography business requires a lot more than taking pretty pictures. You need to find the right balance that works for you and find out what you want to do with your time.
How far do you go for your photographs?
As travel photographers, we never have enough time at a location. We have to face the weather and make the best of any situation. The last time I went to Canyonlands National Park, I had to compromise between False Kiva and Aztec Butte. I chose False Kiva and I have not regretted it. False Kiva is one of my all-time favorite photographs. Even NASA linked this picture from APOD.
On my way back to Wupatki National Monument for some Golden-hour photography, I passed along scenic Sunset Crater National Monument. I was not expecting to take any photographs here, but it is hard to stay focused on the icy roads when driving through a landscape of great beauty. As we were passing through the lava fields, I was struck by the stark contrast of the shades of black peaking through the snow of the lava fields. Tourists were more interested in sliding down the slopes on a pair of tires.
The scene passed by my car in less than a second, but I was so struck that I pulled a 180 degree maneuver on the tiny road, scaring passengers and passersby.
I pulled into the lava beds overlook parking and made my way across the street towards the other lava bed, the one nobody cared about. Not a single track disturbed the snow that had fallen several days ago. I jumped into the snow and headed out for the lava beds.
I hadn't counted on the ruggedness of the lava beds though. Suddenly I sunk into the snow and got wet feet. I knew where I wanted to be. Just a few hundred yards out where the road should be invisible and the sun behind my back when shooting the lava beds, while aligning Sunset Crater to create a superb background.
I pressed on, but the snow became deeper. Suddenly my right leg hit hole in the rugged lava beds. I immediately sunk in waist deep and scuffed my leg on the sharp lava rocks. It was painful and yet I ignored it until I reached my destination. I hurt my hands too, catching my fall several times, but I didn't even notice.
Follow your intuition to find unique compositions. When you head somewhere for a photography session, open your mind to the things you see along the way. If anything catches your attention, ask yourself why. What is it that attracted you to the scene? Why did you look?
When you train to ask these questions and consciously focus to find out what attracts your attention, I guarantee that you will see something unique. Our mind is often preoccupied with a shot we have in mind causing us to skip over excellent photography opportunities.
I took a couple of shots of the lava and headed back for the car, where Dani insisted that I treat the bleeding wounds on my leg and my hands with rubbing alcohol and disinfecting creme making my eyes roll back in my head in pain. I guess living with me for so long, she learned to be prepared. I didn't even wonder where the stuff came from.
Today I stood at the South Rim of Grand Canyon again, peeking into a large hole in the ground together with hordes of tourists and photographers alike. Nevermind the ice on the roads or the featurless sky making for one of the least attractive sunsets I have ever seen. As the sun went down, everyone and their dog went crazy. A flurry of activity developed. People whipped out lenses so big they needed a trailer to be towed behind those guys cars and cameras the photographers could duck behind and survive a nuclear blast.
Amidst them, I stood and wondered if the storm system that rolls in tomorrow will bring good light. I wondered if it is still possible to create a unique photograph from the canyon rim, esp. with boring weather such as this.
On this road trip I mostly avoided the large parks and focused on the smaller nature trails in the four corner states, hoping to avoid the tourist crowds while staking out new angles. In some areas I was completely alone and in some others a few die hard hikers and photographers would accompany me.
Sometimes, I couldn't get where I wanted because of weather conditions. I returned from a trail exhausted after hiking through the snow for a good hour or so. After sinking in almost waist deep I admitted defeat and returned to my car beaten. Nevertheless I think I had a lot of fun and I didn't miss out on anything.
Finding a unique angle from the Grand Canyon overlook is almost impossible with hundreds of photographers pointing their cameras in every possible direction. This makes the Canyon Rim one of my least favorite places for photography.
Arches National Park is different. Combining foreground, middleground and background elements, finding unique points of view with unique focal lengths is much easier here.
With the National Parks overshadowing the often more serene and equally beautiful state parks, tribal parks and backcountry, I am glad they act as giant tourist magnets, sucking in the crowds.