What is Photo Worthy?

 Small moments

Small moments

What is Photo Worthy?

Last week while on the train from NY to Boston I was taking some photos out the window. I love to get the window seat in the Quiet Car so I can enjoy the view of the coastal wetlands and marshes. Most of the photos are blurry because of the train motion but I like that since it is how I am seeing the scene.

Out of the corner of my eye a flash of color caught my attention so I turned my camera in that direction and clicked. Yes, true enough it is just a photo of someone with pink nails using their iPhone. And yet, I felt this small moment was as photo worthy as the breath taking scenes flying by outside my window.

This is an example of mindful photography. One of the guiding principles is to be open to seeing beauty everywhere all the time. The unexpected small glances that result in a fresh image are of equal value to the long studied composition choices of an expansive landscape.

Try this: Next time something small catches your eye, don't hesitate, or think, or decide if you should take a photo or the moment will be gone. As soon as you see it, shoot it. It will be perfect enough. And worthy of your photo.

Seeing With Heart to Take Better Pictures

 Even the most ordinary subject becomes beautiful when seen with the heart.

Even the most ordinary subject becomes beautiful when seen with the heart.

Often in my photography classes I encourage you all to capture a feeling or mood in your photos. This can sound vague and you may not have a clue how to do this. You have to see with your heart. True, it is a more subtle skill to sense the feeling a subject can evoke but you can do it with practice. Feeling is activated when we connect to our subject. One way we connect to our subject is to observe some human quality in our subject.

A flower can have a quality of tenderness, determination, or resilience for example. Or a landscape can have a quality of expansiveness, or wildness.  It is all a matter of how you experience the subject and then use the visual elements to translate your experience into an image.

 Here is a basic three step process you can use to express more of the essence of a subject.

  1.  Stop and really spend time being present until something about the subject catches and holds your attention.
  2.  Ask yourself what you love most about what you are seeing, is it the color, the light, the texture etc.…
  3.  Use your composition skills to amplify the essence of the visual element you love.

Try several different compositions until you feel a click of satisfaction. It is like when you are playing tennis or golf and you hit it just right. You will feel that with your photography too. It will happen more and more often with practice. In the photo above you can see that anything, even a feather, can evoke a mood or express a feeling if you take the time to really see it with your heart. Why not give it a try next time you pick up your camera. I would be curious to know how it goes for you. Suzanne

Why your silent pictures speak volumes.

 Suzanne Merritt©

A picture is worth 1000 words, but silence is golden.I have been thinking that silence offers a welcome and needed respite from the noise of daily life around us and within. Especially following the 4th of July!

 As I explored the 7 forms of silence described by Paul Goodman below, I became curious about to create a silent picture. Then I realized I already had created quite a few. As I looked through my files of favorites, many spoke to me in a whisper that satisfied my deep longing for quiet and stillness.

The visual qualities these images seem to have in common are monochromatic colors, minimalist style and soft lighting. I invite you to read the passage below and then try to respond with a silent picture of your own based on which ever form of science speaks to you…..

“Not speaking and speaking are both human ways of being in the world, and there are kinds and grades of each. There is the dumb silence of slumber or apathy; the sober silence that goes with a solemn animal face; the fertile silence of awareness, pasturing the soul, whence emerge new thoughts; the alive silence of alert perception, ready to say, “This… this…”; the musical silence that accompanies absorbed activity; the silence of listening to another speak, catching the drift and helping him be clear; the noisy silence of resentment and self-recrimination, loud and subvocal speech but sullen to say it; baffled silence; the silence of peaceful accord with other persons or communion with the cosmos.” Paul Goodman


I have set up a new group on my Facebook page called the Curious Soul Camera Club. You are invited to join and post your photo of silence there.
https://www.facebook.com/curioussoulphotoschool/


 

Welcome Beauty

red door suzanne merritt copy.jpg

This week a new member of our group sent me a link to a fascinating article. (Thank you Meg) I felt it did an excellent job of describing some aspects of mindful photography so I wanted to share it with you.  I really like the idea of welcoming beauty.  What could you do this week to open the door and welcome more beauty in your life? Love to hear from you.

“Stéphane Barbery, a French photographer living in Kyoto, whose photographs capture the mono no aware and hors-temp aspects of reality according to Japanenese philosophy, has emphasized photography as a process of "welcoming" soul, world, and beauty.

This is a poetic way of thinking about mindfulness in photography. It is a state of mind that is welcoming, receptive, and opening up to the beautiful visual possibilities within the world, as well as to the many dimensions of our mind and soul that enables us to see those possibilities.” From Photographic Psychology: Image and Psyche by John Suler. http://www.truecenterpublishing.com/photopsy/mindfulness.htm

Mindful Photography Class 3 Tips to Try

 Fern in the sunlight. Arnold Arboretum

Fern in the sunlight. Arnold Arboretum

Here are three simple things you can do to bring mindfulness into your photography today. But what is mindfulness and how exactly could it improve your photography?
Mindfulness is defined by Jon Kabat - Zinn as “Paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, without judgment.”

When you apply this mindful practice to your photography you can create images that translate your experience of beauty into an image that is more deeply satisfying and surprising. It will simply delight you and those you share it with.

It is so easy to do, why not give it a try next time you pick up your camera. The only difficult thing about it is remembering to do it rather than just clicking away. Let me know how it goes.

 

  1. Stop before you start. When you arrive in a location with the intention to DO some photography. Don't just start doing. First stop and just BE there. Take one minute to physically stand still and be in this place.
  2. Next center your self by slowing your breath. Just focus on each inhale and exhale making each one a bit slower and deeper. This will result in helping you relax into a deeper state of awareness of your surroundings.
  3. Notice what attracts your attention from this deeper state of awareness. Is it the color? The quality of the light? The textures? Begin to explore this slowly and in a playful, open way staying fully present to what is there.

Simply allow yourself flow into the moment. When you feel a deep connection with your subject and then and only then click. Connection can take form of a sense of wonder, love, appreciation, or sheer joy.  How you connect is up to you. But you feel something. You know something. You discover something new about your world and your self.

More mindful methods can be found in my book Flow-tography available for ipad on the itunes bookstore or in PDF form for pc users on my website. You are invited to take a look and see if this method could help you improve your photography and take your photos from like to LOVE.

http://itunes.apple.com/us/book/flow-tography-better-photos/id499049037?mt=11&uo=4

Seeing something new in old familiar places.

 Rockport MA Lobster Traps

Rockport MA Lobster Traps

Next weekend I am leading a photo field trip to Rockport MA… again. Several people have, signed up to go because they have never been there before. They are excited to see a new place camera in hand. Other people are joining even though they have been there before. They join because I will take them to new places in Rockport they had not discovered on their own. Going with a guide will be an adventure.

And then there is the third group, the type of photographers that have been there many times, know all the secret spots, and yet, realize that it is never  the same place twice. The light is different, the colors are different, and they are different. This third type of photographer is learning to really see creatively and be present to what shows up.

By this I mean to look at something they have seen many times before but notice something new and fresh. In this noticing and appreciation, they are able to translate an insight into an image to share with other. At this third level, photographers start creating images that reflect something of their inner experience or the of the spirit of the place.

I noticed this little bird inside a lobster trap feasting on the barnacles and bits of shell inside the trap. I had been to Rockport at least 30 times before and yet, I had never observed this before. Who knows what I might see next time.

Why not revisit a destination this summer you have been to many times before. Try to go with out expectations of what you will see. Just slow down and take a path you never wandered down before with your eyes. You are sure to discover something new in this place and in your self.

Sometimes it is just about the Ahaaaaa.


I hesitated to post this photo because it was so darn cute. My creative critic voice said, "don’t post this sentimental, spring cliche photo of a gosling. What will people  think. "  I am a serious photographer and I don’t do cute. I photograph rusty pipes, man hole covers, old tractors or urban grit. Oh and flowers. I do love flowers. Most of all I love to teach people who are serious about becoming better photographers.

In fact, the story behind this image is actually the blossom petals on the ground. I was working with a private student by the Charles River. We were there to photograph the Cherry Blossoms by the lagoon. One problem, the previous night there had been a violent rain storm in Boston and the blossoms were no longer on the trees, they were on the ground.

I suggested my student “photograph what was there” and forget about what she expected to see or how she want things to be. WE were presented with a pink and green carpet so

But you can only take so many photos of petals on the ground. We were just about to head to the Boston Gardens and a family of geese showed up and started nibbling on the grass. Right on cue, the little one at my feet picked up a blossom.

Ok I could not resist the click.  Blossoms + Goslings = Seriously Cute.

Advice for the serious photographers out there this week, lighten up! Take photos just for the joy of it. You may not win a contest, but you might create a smile.

Daily Dozen

 Taking soup out of the frig.

Taking soup out of the frig.

Here is something new for you to try. For one week, starting now, take 12 photos a day with you smart phone. Photograph ordinary things that catch your eye. Don't judge if they are photo worthy. You could take all 12 first thing in the morning like the Julia Cameron practice of morning pages. Or you could take them during the course of the day.

The purpose is simply to shift your attention so you are noticing visual elements all the time everywhere, and acting on it by capturing an image.  To BE a photographer is to SEE. And to see is something you don't just do when you pick up your camera. You can see like a photographer by noticing the small magical moment presented to you every day.  Why not try it and let me know how it goes for you.

Don't hesitate, create!

 green background statue

Don't you just love Spring? Finally little green sprouts are appearing, the days are longer, and nature invites us once again to come out and play. This Sunday is Earth Day. Why not spend some time paying attention to the beauty of the earth. That might be in your own back yard, or if you can, make time to take a walk. And of course, walk very very slowly. Now and then, just stop. Be very still and focus on your breath.  Watch the way the light dances on the leaves, or the way the surface of the water shivers at the touch of a breeze.

This practice is good for your heart and soul. Hand your camera over to your curious soul and see what images are created. Your creative self has been waiting for Spring your entire life. Don't hesitate, create something of beauty to express your love of nature. Bringing some mindfulness and creativity into your photography is the surest path to deeper satisfaction.  And if you want to join us, there will be a Flow-tography workshop to celebrate Earth Day on Sunday April 22. See the program description under contemplative classes. Love to see you there! Suzanne

Don't forget to follow me on instagram curious soul photo school and I will follow you too. Have a great weekend!

Why do you love photography?

petals on the ground.jpg

Last weekend in Chinatown one of the participants in the street photography class asked me an important question. Or actually he was asking himself. “Why am I spending my Saturday morning out here taking pictures?”   I could only answer by telling him why I take pictures.

To deepen my experience of life and feel more alive. To slow me down and help me notice what I might otherwise miss. My life is richer and more interesting because of photography. And I always learn something about my self in the process. “Exactly.” he said and headed down the street.

Today when preparing this post, I remembered I had illustrated a nice page in my book Flow-tography about why I practiced this particular form of photography. I thought I would share those reasons with you today along with an image I feel was created from within the flow state.

Ill be leading a Flow-tography workshop on Earth Day April 22nd. You if you want to join us and explore why you love photography. Understanding this is the first step toward developing your own style and visual voice. We will explore the 8 Universal Archetypes of Beauty. If you can't make the workshop you can still get the book. See details on the website.

  1. Makes me slow down to be intensely present
  2. Connects me more deeply to my life
  3. Brings me into tune with the infinite
  4. Offers me life lessons
  5. I feel more joy and less fear
  6. I appreciate something of Beauty daily
  7. Helps me remember small moments
  8. Makes me feel happy and energized
  9. Brings me a sense of wholeness
  10. It is FUN
  11. Encourages spiritual growth
  12. Inspires my creativity

I am Curious, Why do you love photography? Leave a comment and let me know.

The Next Move

 © SUZANNE MERRITT CURIOUS SOUL PHOTO SCHOOL

WE are headed to Chinatown this morning for our photo class on street photography. One of skills we will work on is moving into a spot where all the elements of the scene come together. In this moment, I loved the way the light was striking the face of the man as he considered his next move. And I was lucky to catch that small bit of red in the sea of black. 

Street photography requires that you watch and wait so you are ready when your subject makes a move. It is fun to read the scene and anticipate what might happen next. And best shots are usually the ones you did not plan at all, but happen to capture because you were in the right spot at the right time.

ready, set, go dog go

Dogs in Snow

While I am longing for spring, waiting for the first buds and bright colors, there are some among us who know better. They know that today is a day to play in the snow. To romp and run, jump and roll. Ready, set, go dog go. Soon enough the snow covered field with be grassy and green. And guess what, these three will play just the same on that sunny day.  It was a good reminder to me that it is my attitude, not the weather that determines what I make of the day.

To take this photo I set my white balance on 6200k so the snow would not be blue. I used a fast shutter speed 1/700 to catch the action  and then I moved around to all sides of the trio until I had a nice clean background.

Wizard of Oz in Boston

Sometimes there is the promise of snow, the possibility that Boston will be transformed overnight. This week the promise was kept. And I was ready. Batteries charged, boots by the door, alarm clock set. I thought I was ready, until I actually stepped outside. It was impossible to prepare for what Boston looked like completely coated in white.

Every branch, bench and brick was now candy coated. It was like stepping out into a black and white movie. Like that scene in the Wizard of Oz when Dorothy opens the door and the film goes from black and white to color, but the opposite.

 At first I was so excited by the scene I just just started snapping away for fear that it would all vanish any moment. The wind might pick and knock the snow off the trees.  Eventually I realized that the snow was here to stay so I could slow down and be more relaxed. That shift made all the difference.  Instead of taking photos, I was giving attention and enjoying the moment that ended up out lasted my batteries. 

To see the world in a grain of sand...

 To see the world in a grain of sand and heaven in a wild flower, hold infinity in the palm of your hand and eternity in an hour. Blake

To see the world in a grain of sand and heaven in a wild flower, hold infinity in the palm of your hand and eternity in an hour. Blake

One of the fastest ways to improve your photography is to slow down. The slower you go, the more deeply you can connect to your subject. It is this deep connection that creates images that feel satisfying and fresh.  Try this simple practice and before you begin snapping away. Simply take three slow, deep breaths and just stand very still. Then see what shows up for you to focus on. It may be something small and unexpected and wonderful.

I will be leading a macro class in Boston on Saturday March 17th from 10:00 to 12:30.  See details and sample photos on my website under classes/creative seeing. Love to have you join us.

I Believe in Beauty

I believe in Beauty. That it can save the world, change a mood, open a heart in an instant.  It lives in the small moments.  I judge beauty only by the the extent to which it makes me feel alive, connected and curious. Beauty is why I create photographs. When beauty calls, I respond with an image.  Life constantly surprises me with the forms of beauty it offers, unexpectedly, continuously, quietly, like secret notes being passed from the world to my soul. These moment enter my heart and live forever.

Read More

Ghost Ship

 Ghost Ship

Ghost Ship

Right now I am in the San Francisco area enjoying some spectacular weather. Yesterday we took a day trip to the SF delta and had an inspiring day photographing the unusual landscape full of twisting, turning waterways, bridges and small towns. My memory cards were nearly full, and batteries almost empty.

Just as we were pulling out of the parking lot to head home, this ship appeared on the far side of the river. It must have been there all along, but I did not see it before.  It seemed to glow in the light as day turned to dusk. This was a stop the car moment, no doubt about it.

As suddenly as it had appeared, it was gone. The light changed and the moment passed. The lesson I learned, don't hesitate. When something magical appears before your eyes, believe it is meant for you to capture and share if you can. This is my favorite image of the day. Good thing I had not put my camera away.

It's a mystery.

 Charles River Fog Lifting

Charles River Fog Lifting

This Tuesday, when I had so much work to do updating the website, writing new workshop descriptions, following up on critiques of past classes, the last thing I needed to do was spend the morning  roaming around Boston in the fog. But I could not help myself. When I woke up and saw a whole lot of NOTHING out my kitchen window, I knew I had to get out there as soon as possible. I headed out into the fog and wandered until I came to edge of  Charles River. This familiar spot seemed entirely new to me. The fog made the familiar strange and full of possibility.

Once I got my settings right, that is remembered to over expose by 2 stops, (the camera thinks the scene is brighter than it is with fog or snow)  and use manual focus (the camera can't focus on fog). I started to really enjoy what I was seeing and not seeing. There were stories everywhere I looked. So I had to stop, take a step back and ask myself, what story wants to be told today, about this moment this place, by me? What is the mood or feeling I am experiencing. What I love about fog, is the way it does not allow us to see everything clearly. It creates an experience of mystery for me. I hope I have captured that experience in this image for you.

I’m curious… what story do you see?

Inner stance of a photographer

 Reflect Inner and outer state of being

Reflect Inner and outer state of being

One of my biggest challenges is to be open to what shows up on any given day as the perfect experience for me to photograph. If I hope for a sunny day and rain comes, I try to see the reflections on  the pavement, the patterns on the surfaces around me. If I plan to do some macro photography of flowers and the wind picks up, then I have to sift my attention to the movement of the colors and be happy with the dance. 

I have learned and relearned many times to find the gift in the unexpected, under appreciated, disruptions that get in the way of my plans. Leading photography walks in Boston this is especially true. I can't control the weather but I can control how I respond to it. We always have a great time and learn something new if we are flexible.

Next time things are not going your way, imagine you can flip a switch inside your self that sifts your inner stance. Pretend for a moment that what is getting IN your way is actually helping you ON your way. See if you can photograph the disruption and appreciate what it helps you discover about your self and your world.

Wishing You Magical Moments of Beauty

 Snow Shower

Snow Shower

This week we had an epic snow storm followed by bitter cold. So it would be wise to stay inside by the fire and sip sweet hot coco. But being photographers, the crisp, clear light and the possibility of something unnamed calls us all to come out. Out to explore, to see something fresh and feel really alive.

As I walked through the dark, silent woods near my childhood home, I suddenly stepped out into a clearing. And in that exact instant the sun broke through the clouds and lit up the scene. Time stood still, the cold did not matter and I felt a kind of excitement and joy flow through my heart. I resisted the temptation to start shooting. I just stood perfectly still, slowed my breath, and relaxed into being and seeing.  The sun began to darken. I sensed the door was closing.  Staying as still as possible I raised my camera and clicked. 

AS I walked home I realized, this is why I teach photography. I simply try to create the possibility that each of you will have more experiences of beauty and magic. It does not matter if you get the exposure right, or if your composition is perfect. What matters is the magic of the moment you fall in love with life.

I'm Curious, Have you ever had an experience like this, where time stood still? Love to hear about it. Suzanne