Bringing into being.

fresh out of the nest

fresh out of the nest

Many of my students want to take "more creative" photos. At first this may seem like something you can do by applying a colorful filter or by shooting at a quirky angle. But eventually these “creative techniques” fall sort and when the novelty wears off you are back in your visual rut.  This is because you have remained one step removed from the true creative process. I can tell you how I step into the creative flow. It is simple  and you can do it if you take the time. Creative photos come from connecting to your subject. How do you do that?

First step is to be fully in the world. Being in the world takes time. Slow down and settle into your surroundings. Take three whole minutes to really see where you are without expectations. What do you actually see in the distance, mid range and close to you? What catches your eye? What touches your heart? What do you feel? Stay with that. Observe it, appreciate it, connect to it. Don’t photograph it.

From this point of connection you will notice something fresh and can bring into being an image that expresses your new experience of beauty. In his book The Courage to Create, Rolo May tells us that creativity enlarges human consciousness by bringing something new into being.  You can do this by simply bringing your being into your seeing before you click. You will see the creative difference in your photos and in your Self when you take time to create a connection by being with your subject. Give it a try!

depth of field depth of feeling

Students often ask me how they can create more of a feeling of depth in their images. Photographing a meadow across from my home in PA I suddenly realized why I have photographed this same scene a thousand times. Because it has depth. It attracts and holds my attention in three ways.

1. interesting subjects in foreground, mid ground and back ground.

2. three levels of details, small blades of grass, medium size flowers, and large trees.

3. psychological depth, the dark area of the forest in the distance evokes a feeling of mystery. For me is a bit scary, and I wonder what might be lurking in those woods. Perhaps a bear?

The technical challenge in creating a sense of depth is to use a small aperture (large number) so the details are in sharp focus in the foreground, mid ground and background.  To accomplish this in the soft early morning light, you might need a tripod. The smaller aperture setting will let in less light, so you need longer exposure. 

You can see I also used the rule of thirds in my composition, one third meadow, two thirds forest. When you are successful in creating a feeling of depth, the viewer wants to visually walk right into the image and explore. Rather than feeling flat, there is dimension.

Spring is the perfect time to practice your landscape skills. I invite you to find a spot, sink in deeply and capture the deeper feeling of the place. Visual and emotional depth are a perfect mindful antidote to our fast pace daily life. Enjoy!

Ambiguity engages imagination

Charles River Boston

Charles River Boston

Here is an idea for you to try. Rather than showing us everything in the scene, leave something to the viewers imagination. Leave space for us to fill in the blanks, connect the dots, or guess at what is just beyond our visual grasp. This will invite the viewer to linger, look deeply and really savor the experience rather than just recognizing the scene and moving on.

Just as I am always encouraging you to slow down and take your time when creating photos, the same advice holds for viewing images. Take your time. Slow down an participate in the scene using wonder and curiosity. I invite you to try it out with this image. Click on it to view full screen and then just relax your gaze and look beyond the obvious to see the invisible.

Some tips for creating ambiguity: over expose, use weather like fog, snow, or rain, shoot through windows, use reflections, soften your focus. Just be sure your are not creating visual confusion. What you are going for is revealing the subject layer by layer in collaboration with the viewer. Give hints, and nudges but let them find the soul of the image in their own way based on their own life experiences.

Information - Knowledge - Wisdom

Night Photography Class Cambridge MA

Night Photography Class Cambridge MA

Do you ever feel stressed by information overload? There are thousands of tip, tricks, filters, fixes, and gear to help you take better pictures available through YouTube videos, classes, e-books, and more. But if you don’t put into practice what you already know, you will never feel happy with your photos. You will keep jumping from one technique to another in search of ….. something else.

It may seem like a contradiction for an educator like myself to say learn less, but what I mean is go for QUALITY rather than QUANTITY of information. Then turn that information into knowledge by practicing it and applying it until you don’t even have to think about it.

Then knowledge becomes wisdom. You intuitively sense how to simply BE a photographer when you SEE something that takes your breath away. And you will see beauty everywhere every day. It is this experience of BEING IN SEEING that offers the greatest reward, we discover something about our world and our self in the moment we click.

What is one thing you learned this year you can focus on and practice, practice, practice?

If you would like to spend some time with me focusing on what matters most, I am now scheduling private sessions for 2019. I can help you create a learning path that cuts thru the clutter and keeps you growing forward as a photographer step by step. Contact me directly suzanne@curioussoulphotos.com

Gift Certificates also available for purchase on the Curious Soul Photo School website.

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

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.

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!

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

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