Seeing One Thing Becoming Beauty

Spring Bud.jpg

Spring is just arriving in Boston. Slowly, slowly, small buds are appearing and possibilities are emerging. I really love to photograph nature in this state. What will it become? Will this bud be a leaf, a blossom, a branch? It does not really matter. I just want to see it for what it is in this moment. I won’t be back on this path again so what it is becoming will remain unknown to me. I only know what it is today. And that is more than enough.

I love to isolate my subject so I can really focus attention on one thing at a time. To do this I simply stop, center, start. Stop and appreciate what is right in front of me. Center my breath and attention, and then start to focus my camera on the simplest subject possible. Try using a shallow depth of field setting like f4.5 so the background will blur out. Remember, you need to have your camera close to the subject and the subject far from the background. It is also helpful to use manual focus since the camera may have difficulty locking on a single stick.

I love the subtle gradation of color in the background of this image. There were thousands and thousands of sticks just like this one that I blurred into a soft background. Next time you are in the middle of many flowers, many trees, many people, see if you can choose just one and simply see that one living thing becoming beauty before your very eyes. Magic.

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