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Mindful Photography

Next time you head off to do a spot of photography make the effort to look, to actually really look at what you are capturing. Take the time to do it with true intent and purpose, but without any attachment to the outcome of your images. No judgement, remember! Try not to enter into thoughts about what could go wrong, what didn’t work in the past, what you want to achieve with the shot, how you want it to look, how you might edit it, none of that. Seriously. Just remain open to what you are capturing and explore it fully.

 

This is a very different approach to photography from how most all of us learnt to go about it. We normally have a head full of thoughts about how to compose an image according to various rules and guidelines. We limit ourselves to what we are comfortable capturing and what we know that we can do well. Where is the challenge or potential for growth and new experience in that? Where is the deep focus and connection to the process of photography, place and subject?

 

Limit yourself to exploring a single subject or theme at a time. Then really explore it, investigate it in every way you possibly can, try and capture every aspect of its persona in a wide variety of photographic ways.

 

A great way I like to get the juices flowing is to spend some time investigating my potential subject before even getting the camera out. Notice its structure, how it is positioned within its surrounds, it’s textures, patterns, colours, shape, dimension, form, the way light plays across it.

 

Then, pick up the camera and explore it fully, really get engrossed and intrigued by your subject to the point of everything else disappearing from your mind so that your subject is your only thought!

 

Make photography an investigative exploration of your chosen subject. Don’t make it a chore though! Enjoy the process of unravelling the character of your subject, whether it is a person/persons, a place, a building, a plant, an animal, or a thing of any variety. Mindful Photography is about the journey and your absolute and full immersion in that process. It is through deep observation, inspection, surveying and probing of a subject that we form a bond with it, allowing us to truly be able to gain insight into its nature. From there we can play with how to present that in a creative and insightful way with a camera.

 


 

 

A very high proportion of images posted to social media every day are the here-I-am with [insert name/s here], here-I-am at [insert place here], here-I-am doing [insert activity here], here-I-am eating [insert foodstuff here], here-I-am wearing [insert favourite fashion label here], etc… They tend to lack a real exploration of subject and place or a contemplative attitude to the taking of them. Photography seems to have taken a turn towards merely being a quick snap without forethought, capturing proof of something having taken place in our lives to then be shared immediately with our friends, family and world at large.

 

I think the functions of photography are changing because of the technology. I don’t think we’re necessarily taking photos so we can remember our experiences. I think some of the photos we’re taking are so we can brag about our experiences and post them on Instagram and, you know, Facebook and just show other people, oh, look at the fabulous life that I’m having. And so, you know, if those are the functions that you’re trying to serve, the new technology may be doing that really well. But I don’t know that the new technology is serving the functions of preserving memories quite as well unless you take the extra step and actually look at the photos and revive those memories from them.

– Psychologist, Linda Henkel

 

 


 

 

Here are some simple suggestions and exercises that you can easily incorporate when next you find yourself out photographing.

♦ Choose a single subject or theme for your outing.

♦ Find a subject and take 20 photographs of it, allow yourself permission to explore it in ways you normally wouldn’t and DO NOT enter into processes of self-doubt and criticism at your efforts, enjoy the process and immersion of investigation through photography.

♦ Don’t look at your images, checking each and every one on the back of your camera immediately after taking them, like you normally might do. Wait till you get home before looking at the results of your efforts, allow yourself to have some failures in amongst your successes.

♦ Set your camera to shoot in jpeg and turn it to monochrome (black and white) for an entire session.

♦ Explore the myriad of patterns available in nature.

♦ Go to a place in nature and explore how many different ways you can present it through different points of view, compositions and framing of images. Maybe introduce an item that you bring along with you.

♦ Join in with a 52 week theme challenge on social media, this will give you a huge amount of themes to play with investigating over a year.

♦ There are a multitude of techniques based on camera operation available to investigate too. Choose one and investigate it thoroughly on your next outing.

mindful

Mindfulness

Mindfulness – a simple explanation.

Here are a few definitions of Mindfulness to get you going.

  • “Mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment.”  1
  • “Mindfulness is wordless. Mindfulness is meeting the moment as it is, moment after moment after moment, wordlessly attending to our experiencing as it actually is. It is opening to not just the fragments of our lives that we like or dislike or view as important, but the whole of our experiencing.”  2
  • “Mindfulness is about training yourself to pay attention in a specific way. When a person is mindful, they:
    • Focus on the present moment
    • Try not to think about anything that went on in the past or that might be coming up in future
    • Purposefully concentrate on what’s happening around them
    • Try not to be judgemental about anything they notice, or label things as ‘good’ or ‘bad’.”  3
  • “Mindfulness is the act of being intensely aware of what you’re sensing and feeling at every moment – without interpretation or judgement.”  4
  • “Mindfulness is the psychological process of bringing one’s attention to the internal and external experiences occurring in the present moment, which can be developed through the practice of meditation and other training.”  5
  • “Mindfulness is the aware, balanced acceptance of the present experience. It isn’t more complicated than that. It is opening to or receiving the present moment, pleasant or unpleasant, just as it is, without either clinging to it or rejecting it.”   6
  • “Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgementally.”  7

So as can be seen, it has two major components to it. Firstly, there is observation and genuine acceptance of what is observed, which leads to being engaged in the moment. Secondly, there is the action of choosing not to react with judgement to this observation and experience of being present in the moment. Sounds easy, but it actually takes a lot of practice and commitment to consistently achieve this state of being! Especially in this day and age with so many expectations and burdens put upon us all by ourselves, those around us and our larger communities.


ISN’T MINDFULNESS JUST FOR BUDDHISTS?

Absolutely not! In my opinion, this is a key instruction of all religions and spiritualities, getting us to be truly living in the moment and without judgement of the Self or others, regardless of what is occurring. This is something that many religious and spiritual texts talk about at length.

I recently read a beautiful quote of Sylvia Boorstein, in this regards and would love to share it here:

  • “The Dalai Lama once said, “My religion is kindness.” I think everybody’s religions are about kindness even if they don’t frame it that way. Either explicitly or implicitly the core teachings are that it’s a kindness to give up egocentricity and to love your neighbour as yourself.”

ISN’T MEDITATION THE SAME AS MINDFULNESS?

No, Meditation is a tool which can assist with accessing a state of Mindfulness, but it is not actually Mindfulness itself! Through practising Meditation one eventually gains the ability to quiet and still the Mind from intrusion, allowing one to be in the moment of quietness, but you can actually be Mindful at a loud concert, quietness is not necessary to be in a Mindful way. There are many things one can use to become Mindful, for some it could be playing golf, for others it could be jogging, for others it could be any process that induces a state of being in the zone, such as the process of preparing the veggies for dinner! And that is what Happy Snappers is all about. Getting in the zone, easily, through the use of photography, which has been shown in studies to be one of the simplest activities that induce this state of genuinely being in the moment. Check out our “Benefits” page for some extracts from these studies.

1Greater Good Science Centre – Berkeley
2White Wind Zen Community
3Reach Out
4Mayo Clinic
5Wikipedia
6Sylvia Boorstein
7Jon Kabat-Zinn

 


 

RUSS HARRIS ON MINDFULNESS MYTHS