Zen photographer - Part 1

Read about a secret I discovered.

Enjoy the momentWhen 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.

Beginners mind

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.

No judgment

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

Zen Photographer Part 2

Zen Photographer Part 3

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Wow. Do I ever love your

Wow. Do I ever love your stuff on mindfulness. So very true. I'm helping a friend of mine set up his site and he talks about the very same thing. Have a look: www.digital35.ca. His images are of China but he has the same thoughts as you have, on seeing things differently and being in the moment.

Great images that you have as well.


your thoughts

Your thoughts are so true and very insightful, not only regarding photography but life as a whole.thank you for creating this site.


That was sch an inspiring article. I'm relatively new at photography and am still finding my own way through all this hullabaloo. Your article is very insightful and I'm so glad I was given the chance to come across it.

I enjoy reading post secrets

I enjoy reading post secrets and i think that your analysis was a good one. I feel that it is healthy for people to be reading some of the informative and new things that can be found on post secret. you shared your point of view in easy way.


Well that was amusing to read! :) Longevity in the industry sometimes has that numbing effect -- the beauty and simplicity of things sometimes take a back seat. It is good to try to enjoy each moment rather than just breezing through every opportunity just to get things done.

Stop and smell the flowers!

When I quit the corporate world 5 years ago, it gave me the opportunity to take things slower. Breakfast no longer consisted on me driving with a pancake in hand. Lunch no longer meant salds in front of my laptop. Since then, I actually lived in the present -- instead of rushing on to somewhere or sometimes else. I guess the same mantra should be taken up with photography. After all, a good photographer must be able to perceive the beauty and the core of his/her subject in order for him/her to be able to bring it out in a photo.

thanks for teaching me to be

thanks for teaching me to be a photographer i just cant wait!

take a step back and breathe :)

Getting back to the basics is what it's all about. It's so easy to get in all the rush that you feel overwhelmed and stressed all the time. Learning how to take a step back, and breathe, can do so much towards improving your craft and improving your outlook in life as well.

Talent and technique

Your description of how you have taken great shots without being really aware that you did it reminds me of what an old schoomaster once told us in class. He described how a truly talented sports person will achieve a move or ball-play in an instant without ever having really thought about it. De-cluttering one's mind of rules, correct settings and other distractions will always help, but I guess you need to have some talent to start out with.

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That you feel overwhelmed

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It is anything anymore and I

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