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Discussion: Mindful Photography

Discussion in 'Tech Talk' started by FundyBrian, 20 March 2018.

  1. FundyBrian

    FundyBrian MobiStaff Site Staff MobiSupporter

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    Mindful Photography

    Considering the interest in meditation I have seen expressed on MobiTog I think the time is right to open this topic as a discussion. I would like to hear from people with an interest in mindfulness how you think we can apply mindfulness in photography.

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    Mindfulness is a state of being we try to achieve through the practice of meditation where our mind and our body become reunited in the present moment. All of our awareness, senses, and mental focus are active in the “Now”. We leave thoughts of the past and the future aside for the moment and bring our undivided consciousness to this moment right here now. With enough meditation practice we get better at staying in the present moment and resisting the pull of the past and future. It is already widely known how valuable mindfulness is in so many aspects of life so it seems natural to me to consider mindfulness in photography. What happens in your head when you are out photographing?
     
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  2. FundyBrian

    FundyBrian MobiStaff Site Staff MobiSupporter

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    Some background on Mindfulness.

    People are thinking beings. We think all the time. A lot of the time our mind is preoccupied with planning the day, worrying about the uncertain future, or belabouring the past - things we really can’t do anything about. Our body exists only in the present moment. Life is to be found only in the present moment and living it fully requires bringing our mind and body back together into the present moment where we can experience life. All of the time we spend thinking of the past or the future is time taken away from real life in the present moment. We may be sitting at the supper table with our family but our mind is busy going over events of the day or problems to deal with in the future such that we are not really present and paying attention to what is happening right now. The “now” soon disappears into the past and before you know it, the moments have gone. We cannot live in the past or the future. The road to the future is paved with the events you live in the present. If you fail to live the present where is your road to the future?

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    When you ask people what they think about as they photograph you can get the wildest answers. Many people photograph as a way to relax, to get away from the busy aspects of life. Perhaps they are “seeking ground”. Looking for “home”. Looking for their lost youth, or something vaguely remembered from childhood. Unconsciously looking for something they lost a long time ago.
     
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  3. FundyBrian

    FundyBrian MobiStaff Site Staff MobiSupporter

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    Have you ever had this experience? For some reason you feel your lucky charm has come alive. You have hit a state of mind where you feel can do no wrong. You are golden. Your every move is brilliant and effortless. You are “in the zone”, or “firing on all cylinders”. Now we know exactly what that is. Mindfulness.

    We may have a certain pride that we feel we work well by instinct or intuition. These are unconscious thoughts. We have unconsciously seen something and the response is almost automatic. And we think, wow, where did that come from? Imagine how much better they could be if they were brought into conscious awareness. Often we react to a set of parameters we have learned to recognize and our response is equally learned, to the point that we are not always fully engaged. You could say were are on auto-pilot.

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    One way you can get back into the present moment is to stop and really see what is around you. Have a meditative moment to appreciate your surroundings and your opportunity to be there to enjoy it. Perhaps you think, “This is something I want to remember”. Perhaps you’re thinking this is something you would like to be able to share with others.

    Another way is to ask yourself some questions that force you to pay attention and focus your thinking on the task at hand:

    • What am I doing here?
    • Exactly what is here that has attracted my attention?
    • How can I show that better?
    • What am I trying to achieve?
    • What is my intended outcome?
    • What message or emotion do I want to convey and how can I best do that?
    • How can I express what I feel at this moment in such a way that others can get my message?
    Really, the process of making photographs is all about asking questions and trying to find the answers. A process of focused thinking. Exactly what we learn from mindfulness. How to pay attention and focus our attention fully in the present moment.
     
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  4. dscheff

    dscheff MobiLurver MobiSupporter

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    Well. I know what happens to my mind when I see this after a day of upgrades, ransomware removal, and impending doom: exactly what you set out to achieve. Thank you Brian for a truly magnificent capture :notworthy::):thumbs:
     
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  5. FundyBrian

    FundyBrian MobiStaff Site Staff MobiSupporter

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    Apparently it is a very common thing for people on their death bed to say, “I spent so much of my life planning for a future that never came and I didn’t stop to enjoy life as it passed me by”.

    Life is entirely made of moments lived fully in the “now”. There goes one, and another. Were those moments lived, or wasted? The time that passed while you were not present is wasted and gone. It drifted away while your mind was wandering.

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    I’m finding as I get older, and people I know have died of cancer, I’m getting much more conscious of making the best use of the time I have left. This has brought forward a new focus on making the moments count. Mindfulness and meditation are making it easier to set sensible priorities.
     
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  6. RoseCat

    RoseCat MobiStaff Site Staff MobiSupporter

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    The images you included in your posts - especially the first two - are so beautiful! :inlove: :notworthy:

    I think I’m most mindful when I’m out walking on nature trails. Sometimes my mind wanders to thoughts outside of my surroundings, and then I try to catch myself and bring myself back to the present moment, but that doesn’t happen often. I’m usually absorbed in what I’m seeing, hearing and smelling. It’s almost an instant thing....happening as soon as I get there. That’s why I much prefer going on walks alone. I’ve tried it a couple times with a friend, but they literally talked the whole time. :barf: :lol: After once or twice I know NEVER AGAIN, lol. I understand, it’s because we haven’t seen each other in awhile, and also that’s what we do when we get together - we chat. None of my friends are nature people, so I don’t think they *get* it. They don’t see that tree with the amazing twisty branches, or hear the woodpecker off to the right and stop to try and spot him, or see the lichen on the log, or suddenly smell something sweet waft by and breathe it in deep.

    I almost never have a plan about what I want to photograph. It’s really almost like a diary entry... a visual story about my experience. Most images never get shared, but I love looking at them and thinking “Oh, I remember that stream/tree/mushroom”, whatever. These days almost all my photo making is in nature, partly because I live farther away from the city now. But I don’t get in the same “zone” when I’m wandering Manhattan as I do alone on a nature trail. I guess one has really reached enlightenment when they can wander NYC and stay totally zen. ;)
     
  7. RoseCat

    RoseCat MobiStaff Site Staff MobiSupporter

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    Yes, I understand. Realizing the years of your life you’ve lived are now exceeding the years ahead of you makes one think differently. I have some regrets that I never had a job that filled my heart, or gave me bliss. I’ve worked just for a paycheck, living for vacation. I wish the older me could have gone back and told the younger me to screw the regular job... do something you enjoy! As I’m getting older the desire to do something with meaning is stronger than ever. But then I get “practical” (AGAIN....have I learned nothing?) and think that now more than ever, I need that health insurance, need to save money, I love all the paid vacation time I get, etc. and “It’s not that long until you retire (10+ years actually :barf: ) then you can do whatever you want”.... But that doesn’t quite resonate. So when I meditate, or have these regretful thoughts, I try to center myself and ask the universe to lead me on a path to my higher good, and have faith.
     
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  8. lisamjw

    lisamjw MobiStaff Site Staff

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    I highly recommend the book featured on this website http://www.seeingfresh.com. I think it speaks directly to what you are saying. My heart sings when I see the fabulous photos in the book. To me, the images (and the words) are so very inspirational.
     
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  9. FundyBrian

    FundyBrian MobiStaff Site Staff MobiSupporter

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    Thanks, Lisa.
     
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  10. FundyBrian

    FundyBrian MobiStaff Site Staff MobiSupporter

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    I think so many people are exactly in this same position. Perhaps the best we can do is make the most of the “moments” we have. Make them count by living them mindfully. What can I do right now in these ordinary moments that will be meaningful to me.
     
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  11. dscheff

    dscheff MobiLurver MobiSupporter

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    OMG. It’s like you live in my head :p;) I do all the things you do. However, I cannot go for walks alone and expect to get anything worth sharing. I’m blessed with Dawn. She stops and looks with me, at trees, or bushes, or creatures, or leaves flattened into the path :) We photograph, often, the same things and share images for Instagram.

    On MobiTog I have a tendency to stare at Brian’s images more, I believe, than any other. I’m sure he is going to read this response. It’s like his captures are deliberate, yet not. For me, they are so relaxing. Mindful :)
     
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  12. RoseCat

    RoseCat MobiStaff Site Staff MobiSupporter

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    LOL :thumbs: :D :D :D

    It would be nice to have a partner to share this type of thing with some day.... but if not, I do enjoy my quiet time alone.
     
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  13. FundyBrian

    FundyBrian MobiStaff Site Staff MobiSupporter

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    Years ago I remember reading, “Retirement is wasted on the old people. We should start out retired and later settle down to work.”
    I thought being self employed was a pretty good compromise. The mistake I made, though, is not charting my course more carefully. I ended up accepting work from clients doing whatever they needed done. All sorts of work, often interesting, but not leading in any particular direction.
     
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  14. FundyBrian

    FundyBrian MobiStaff Site Staff MobiSupporter

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    My dad developed Alzheimer’s shortly after he retired. He was in excellent health and should have enjoyed a long retirement. He looked and seemed perfectly fine on the outside. It was sad to see it snatched away from him. It is shocking to see how many men don’t live long enough to enjoy their retirement.
     
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  15. FundyBrian

    FundyBrian MobiStaff Site Staff MobiSupporter

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    For years I have experienced my greatest focus when out photographing in nature. I could easily spend day after day photographing and never get tired of it. (In the old days, with film, that’s exactly what I did. Digital caused us to be chained to the computer for countless hours editing & developing images.) The sense of exploration and discovery is continuously exciting. There is also the occasional sense of one-ness you get spending time in nature. I’m not sure what brings it on but when it happens it is a very powerful experience. Usually it happens if I have been wandering and happened upon a particularly enchanting spot where I would stop, maybe sit for a while if the ground was dry enough. Then it’s as if you suddenly feel a part of history and a part of everywhere, everywhen, and every size, from the tiniest insects to the hugeness of the sky, all at once. You see the biggest trees and the smallest seedlings as part of the same story, as if only moments apart, as if time meant nothing. You see a bare hillside turn into a mature forest and little rivulets erode channels to become rivers. Maybe the experience is too big to grasp for long because the bubble pops and suddenly we feel “back” in our normal perceptions and there’s a sense of awe but also a sense of loss at not being able to hold on a little longer.
    I think the experience of being in nature is part of our species memory from our earliest history. That was home to us and when we’re separated from nature we feel the pull of it calling us back. This new lifestyle of cities and cement buildings is such a short period of our overall history. I think we recognize something about it doesn’t feel sustainable.
    I think people who approach photography in an all-consuming way must be experiencing something similar to the mindfulness gained through meditation. I’m guessing that because in meditation it feels so familiar. Like, I know this place.
    Anyhow, that’s the whole point of this discussion. Making the connection.
     
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  16. RoseCat

    RoseCat MobiStaff Site Staff MobiSupporter

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    :(
     
  17. RoseCat

    RoseCat MobiStaff Site Staff MobiSupporter

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    I much prefer variety... I think I’d like doing something different all the time. I’d also much prefer a job where I used my hands.
     
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  18. FundyBrian

    FundyBrian MobiStaff Site Staff MobiSupporter

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    Yes, I’m reading your response and trying to imagine what you see. I’m really thinking about it. That’s very interesting what you have said and I can see there are implications that could be very important to grasp. I use a tripod for my photography whenever possible. That seems pretty deliberate to me. I’m also conscious that if I can uncover the mystery the spell may be broken and that might ruin it for you.
    I wonder if you can feel the amount of time I stood there taking in the scene and trying to absorb every part of it. I sometimes feel a sense of awe that I have been able to have this experience, and when I’m done I have to back away, not step on any part of the scene. It is like sacred ground that I can look upon but not set foot on. I often explore all around my subject, photographing when I feel moved to, but there comes a point when I feel I have arrived at THE point where the treasure is hidden and then the photograph seems like the natural result, and all the others could be discarded. Maybe you feel I have found the one right spot to take it all in. The one place where a natural balance occurs. Other times I do the best I can with what is available but I know the treasure has not been found.
    There’s a book I read called The Zen of Seeing - seeing/drawing as meditation. To simplify his approach: he advocates sitting and staring at your subject for 20 minutes or more until you feel you really know your subject. Then you take up your pencil, and without looking at your paper, you draw what you see. The drawings are fairly loose but quite interesting. There4’s something to be said for taking your time and paying attention to every detail. I don’t sit still quite that long but explore all around my subject, but to spend 20 or 30 minutes isn’t at all unusual. Also, I’m not there only to photograph. The experience of being there, remembering the moment, is every bit as important. My photo can’t capture the feeling of the breeze, the smells, subtle sounds, distant bird calls, the feeling of the sun, etc. Those have to be experienced. I also feel some special affinity with the meeting of sea and shore, especially with bare exposed rock, sea and sky. The most basic elements. That’s why kayaking appeals so much to me.
    Photographing in the snow or at the beach does require a certain amount of forethought. I don’t want to leave my tracks all over the place and ruin the pristine nature of the scene. I look ahead and see the likely spots I expect to stop and what will be within my field of view and then decide on the sequence. Have you ever heard of zero-impact camping? That’s when you set up your camp and stay for the night but after you have gone no trace remains that you were ever there. That’s a philosophy I aspire to. Sometimes on the beach I look ahead and plan my path to leave as little trace of my passing as possible. Even the way you place your feet on the ground shows in the type of tracks you leave.
    OK, I’ve been thinking about this for an hour now and I’m wondering if it comes down to this.
    It is my objective to find the one true place where the scene feels exactly right to me. It often happens that moving the camera 1/2” in any direction just doesn’t feel right. And I want the viewer to feel the scene is unfolding right at their feet. Here’s something I teach at my photo workshops: If you want the viewer to get the feeling they are seeing the scene as if they were actually there then you have really to be in the scene when you make the picture, not standing back looking at it from afar. What you want is if they had the picture in their hands and they feel that if they took one step forward they would be in the picture. And I provide the stepping stone inviting that step.
     
  19. FundyBrian

    FundyBrian MobiStaff Site Staff MobiSupporter

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    I find where I do best is combining an unusual assortment of skills into one direction. It’s absolutelt true that working with your hands is satisfying. So much of my work goes on and on and nothing ever shows, until the end. With something like building a house, you can see the results of each action building one upon the other. Shingling a roof is a clear example of seeing every single shingle adding up. You can look back to see what has been done and look ahead to see the part remaining is getting smaller. Drawing a picture. Making a painting. Mowing tha lawn. Immediate feedback. Working on the computer, you shut it off at the end of the day and it looks exactly the same. In fact, I keep thinking I would like to do some volunteer work at the habitat for humanity projects, helping to build affordable housing for low income people.
     
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  20. RoseCat

    RoseCat MobiStaff Site Staff MobiSupporter

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    That's on my list too! :thumbs: The challenge is finding something not too far away, and on a day I don't work.
     
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  21. FundyBrian

    FundyBrian MobiStaff Site Staff MobiSupporter

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    Here's another relevant book: The Biophilia Effect: A scientific and spiritual exploration of the healing bond between humans and nature. By biologist/writer Clemens G. Arvay.
    "This fascinating book from biologist and writer Clemens G. Arvay celebrates our interconnection with nature, and shows how to deeply engage the natural world wherever you live to dramatically improve your health."
    I haven't read it myself. I just came across it on the Sounds True website.
    There's something about this book that rings a bell but I can't remember why.
    Edit: I just looked this up on the iBooks site and found it (14.99Cdn.) and several others on the same topic.
     
    Last edited: 22 March 2018
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  22. lisamjw

    lisamjw MobiStaff Site Staff

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    Sounds very interesting!
     
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  23. FundyBrian

    FundyBrian MobiStaff Site Staff MobiSupporter

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    On the topic of interesting mindful books: this is an audiobook I have been listening to. 3 times so far. Modern Mindfulness by Rohan Gunatillake. This book focuses on the problem many busy people face when they want to start meditating - no time. This is sort of your street smart guide to meditation. How to find meditation time in the middle of your busy life, on the way to work on the bus or train, while walking, during a break at work, etc. Making meditation work for you. Meditation for the iPhone age. You might have noticed that most of the main mindfulness teachers are getting on in age, born well before the iPhone era. But what about the current generation of modern connected city dwellers. That’s what this book is all about.
    Along the way I discovered the author leads a 4 person team that has made a new mindfulness app called Buddhify. Naturally I got the app. Not free though. You will notice most meditation apps are free and then they nail you with the in-apps. Not Buddhify. It charges $6.99 (Cdn) up front with no additional iaps.
    Here’s the main screen & simple interface for Buddhify.
    IMG_8486.JPG
    It is rather flower-petal like. I tapped the Meditation 101 and it opens into this screen with a selection of starter guided meditations.
    IMG_8487.JPG
    Here I pressed and held the outlined petal and a description text appears telling you more about that one. Tap to play. I like it. But then I also have 4 or 5 other meditation apps.
    My main one I started with is Sounds True. It has some free content and then you can browse their impressive collection of meditation content by the best known meditation teachers and purchase what you like. You can’t purchase from within the app. You have to visit their website and once you have made a purchase it appears in your in app library. They have occasional sales with huge discounts so it pays to watch for those. They also sponsor online meditation summits with video sessions with major teachers. Sounds True is good stuff.
     
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  24. FundyBrian

    FundyBrian MobiStaff Site Staff MobiSupporter

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    I just got this book in audiobook form from the iBooks store. It is quite interesting. I think I heard some of this research on the radio sometime.
     
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  25. lisamjw

    lisamjw MobiStaff Site Staff

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    Good to know! That’s what I like least about most meditation apps...the iap! This one sounds like you pay up front and your fine.
     
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