Weekend Walk

It’s been a couple of hectic weeks—three, in fact. There was a week of Vacation Bible School and the photography for that event, and then the July mod at Remington College started the next week. We are halfway through the four-week term. The weather here in SC has been been brutal. If I heard correctly last night, we’ve had nineteen days of triple-digit temperatures in the state. It is hot.

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This morning, I had to get out and walk around the ponds in spite of the heat. I took the camera with me. I did not plan to walk for exercise or fitness. I did not have a “destination” in mind, other than to walk the circle around and between the seven ponds. I just went.

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Christine Valters Paintner and Julia Cameron, among others, advocate the daily walk. Julia Cameron recommends a thirty-minute walk a day. Some call it “contemplative walking,” going out with an “empty” mind so that one can be receptive to all that is around, to be open to receive whatever speaks or draws notice, to have no preconceived notions about what to see. In doing so, sometimes, we are surprised by what we see.

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Today was no different for me. I saw the “usual”: the crepe myrtle bloom, the zinnias and other “wildflowers” in my small flower patch, the hibiscus buds, roses, greenery everywhere. Purple flowers, dandelions, button bushes, dragon flies—all of these danced in the breeze (thank goodness for breezes); corn is maturing in the field.

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The Canada geese are making their annual appears and overlay on the big pond; the heron flew over. So much of what I received is the same as every other time I’ve walked, and I’ve been walking around these ponds for over thirty years. And yet, so much is different, still beautiful, still inspiring.

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I think that’s what draws my camera and me to these places—the “sameness”, the familiarity, the comfortable nature of things. And yet, there is something new to see: the dragon flies, some “new” foliage, the textures of the field, even the juxtaposition of an older rural way of living just across the road from the modern electrical sub-station.

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I don’t know what my children and their children will make of these hundreds of photographs in the future. I hope they see an appreciation of creation and beauty and a desire to tell the story of what my small piece of the world looked like during my life time. After all, that’s what photography and art and writing are all about.

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Nine Habits of Mind for the Contemplative Photographer

First, what a long title! I’m sure I’m breaking some rules of blogging with an eight-word title, but I didn’t know what else to use. After all, my topic today is the habits of mind that characterize contemplative photographers, writers, or anyone else for that matter who lives a contemplative life.

Contemplative photography is not a technique or a genre of photography, really. Contemplative photography is more a practice or a state of mind when photographing anything, whether it’s a portrait session with family, friends, or clients, or travel photography or just personal projects. The contemplative habits take us more into the image before we take the picture (as well as after). When we engage in a contemplative photography practice, we engage more than just the technical; we begin to see things through the heart as well as the mind.

There are so many definitions of “habits of mind” and equally as many lists of specific habits. I come from an education background. I taught high school English for thirty years or more, and now I continue to teach post-secondary English at a local career college to students preparing to enter the medical field. I teach them “habits of mind” that will help them be life-long learners, and some of those habits for students cross over into the field of photography.

One photographer and teacher whose work I have followed for several years now, and from whom I’ve taken online classes, has a list of nine habits of mind that characterize contemplative photographers.  Kim Manley Ort provides this list:

9 habits for a contemplative life

See her explanations and definitions of this list here.

When we go out with the camera to see the world through any one of these habits, we see differently. And we probably see more. I especially like the first one, openness. Openness means that I am not limited to certain types of photographs and certain ways of doing things. I can be open to try new things, new techniques, new equipment, new subjects. I am not limited to choosing only the perfect things to photographer, only the beautiful, only the standard way of doing things.

Each week, I want to take up one of these habits to explore in  more detail.

This week, I will be thinking about how to incorporate each of these habits into other things that I do, whether it’s photography or playing the piano or preparing a simple meal of hamburgers and French fries.

I’ll be back next week with some thoughts about “openness” as a contemplative habit.

Welcome

I have had a love affair with cameras since I received my first Kodak Instamatic, the one with the square flash cubes that snapped on the top.

But this blog is not going to be about MY dream of photography, but about Contemplative Photography. It is a place to share what I have learned over the last couple or three years of developing a contemplative photographic practice. I hope that you will join me in pursuing this dream of photography and exploring the many ways we can use photography to tell stories with emotion, to develop a more contemplative practice, and perhaps to develop a spiritual or meditative way of using the camera to see the world through the eyes of the heart and not just through the lens.

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