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.

Nothing Special

Minimalist Composition

Minimalist Composition

This morning I woke up to fog and snow. The perfect combination for my favorite type of photography. Macro minimalist. To just slow down and focus on a single detail is very relaxing. I love to just stand still in one spot and slowly scan the area for any little thing that can become the center of attention. I use a shallow depth of field like 4.5 to blur out everything except the one thing I want to appreciate. And suddenly, the most ordinary thing is transformed from nothing special to a show stopper. Yes, one leaf on one twig is photo worthy.

And the best thing is it is a mindful moment that requires nothing but your full attention. I wish you happy holidays and hope you find something special to enjoy every day. I am taking a few weeks off to focus on my photography and design new programs for next year. So check back in a few weeks and see what’s new. Suzanne

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

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

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.

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

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?

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