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Zen photographer - Part 1
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 a past article on the beginners mind, I already touched on these ideas.
“In the mind of the expert, there are very few possibilities, in the mind of a beginner there are an infinite number of possibilities.”
When I heard this phrase in the book, I immediately knew that I had struck gold. This single sentence summarizes my previous article.
It is hard to maintain a beginners mind. We know so many things, why make mistakes again.
If you finally deflate your head and start to take in new ideas and a fresh perspective you will start to notice how your expertise got in your way of taking better photographs. It does for me.
Every moment in your life is new. You have never seen it before and you will never see it again. Savor it, enjoy it and do not take the attitude that you have seen it all. With a fresh open mind, you will be able to see compositions and colors other people miss as they are preoccupied going through the moves they have exercised thousands of times. They have become photographic robots.
“Things unfold in their own time.”
It is a sign of our time that we are constantly under pressure. We need to meet deadlines, we need to rush a print to a customer or answer phone calls.
This transpires to photography as well. You spend most of your time running your photography business and making money as a photographer and when you finally do get out taking photographs you feel rushed and impatient. You need to be at some place for sunset and another place for sunrise. You need to capture a long laundry list of photographs.
Step out of time and start living in the moment. Catch every moment and lose track of time. This is hard, as your minds are constantly preoccupied. Clear your mind before you go on a shoot and try to limit your goals. Enjoy your life, the wind in your hair, the smells the sounds, the colors and the people that travel with you.
Lose yourself in the moment. Whenever I achieve this state of mind, I completely lose track of time. I do not worry about anything anymore and I become one with the world around me. I can feel the fabric of the universe and when I come out of it, I have often taken some of the most amazing photographs and discovered a new way of seeing. One of my favorite pictures “happened” this way: The Bristlecone Pine.
People are judgmental. I am as guilty as everyone is. We “know” why certain things happen and we see the world through a filter. Not a photographic filter but a judgmental filter full of bias. This filter distorts our view. In photographic terms, this filter lowers our exposure, it limits the amount of light that reaches our mind and requires us to use a tripod. It makes us static and ties us down.
Throw away your judgmental filter, adjust your lens and look again. Things that we did not like before now become worth of photography. We suddenly extended our horizons beyond the blinders that we carefully strap on each day.
Conclusion of Part1
I do not expect all of you to believe in this spiritual way to take photographs, but I ask you to keep an open mind and to live in the presence next time you go out for a shoot. Take your time and do not rush.
Children are a good example of beginners mind and non-judgmental behavior. We are mortally afraid of failure to the extent that we stop trying. However, as children we learned to walk by falling. Walking is nothing else but controlled falling. Our bodies wobble along a path always slightly out of balance. When we learned this graceful dance we continuously landed on our behind or face, but we kept trying. We had the right mind for it.
Follow Up Reading
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