First Greetings


silence

Simplifying life is a desire for more and more people, especially for those living in fast-paced cities.

Yet, simplifying life can be a rather complex process simply because of the multitude of activities, things, and especially thoughts we have going on day in and day out; mind in and mind out.

For sure, I am one of them, too, who would love to simplify lots of things, but find themselves rushing and busying on and on, day by day.

Well, if we can find or develop some activity to become an actual practice of simplification we can reduce that activity to a bare minimum, not in terms of time spent on doing it, but in requirements for doing it. In photographic practice, for example, concerns about equipment, cost, preparation for a day of image work, etc., can become elaborate and extensive. The real simplifying comes less from reducing the number of things externally, though such reduction of material concerns and costs certainly is very conducive to it, but from reducing things internally. Our minds makes our lives more complex and busy than need be by the constant chatter, concerns, opinions, likes and dis-likes, and pre-conceived ideas about pretty much everything.

Simplifying in photography can mean many things to many people. Here, we will explore of the process of making images, their subject matter, the looking, seeing, and viewing of images will become a means and a tool for the practice of simplification and improving not only our image making, but also to let those insights inevitably flow into and influence beneficially other areas and activities in our lives, and, for that matter, maybe other’s, as well.

take care

peter

http://www.crimsonbamboo.zenfolio.com/

no time for creativity ??!!


Finally …. a briefly creative day again

…hmmm  …. coming to think of it, that’s not really correct to say, is it, for someone who professes to live a creative life?!
Well, March and April were filled with busily organizing, packing and storing a household in preparation for a move later this year, and then several weeks of travel on an educational tour (in my natural health work). Not much time for camera work; or any work as in the sense of creating some finished art-product.
But isn’t some finite product actually secondary to the process of, a result of creativity? I do feel like I have been starved for a few weeks of being creative, for sure, and many of you will know the feeling of not being able to nourish our souls by following that deep urge to just sit down and write, or paint, or photograph, music …

'water-colours'

And, here is the lesson I am reminded of, once again, in retrospect: during those last weeks I have indeed been creative, possibly more so than if I had been roaming with camera in hand. Simply by having the thoughts of doing things, making things, creating images, intrude every time I noticed something of creative potential, yet unable to pursue, my mind also remained free of being led onto any specific path of actual creation. I notice that ideas can flow with less intellectually imposed guidance, the imagination of creative exploration can soar more freely without the restraints inherent in the actual materials we normally use in our work.

inside Morteratsch Glacier, Switzerland

So, I will not fret again ( … yeah…right ! Ha ! ) when schedule and circumstances seemingly limit creative expression, but use the opportunity for mental exploration without the constraints and limiting physicality of tools and materials.
After all, the creative life is, firstly, a state of mind; just sitting on the porch and staring at the grass can be just as creatively artful as finishing a grand painting or poem

zen spring

happily keep exploring
peter

Book Review – The Practice of Contemplative Photography


If you are interested in seeing your world clearly, the book The Practice of Contemplative Photography provides an approach that is easily and effectively applied without having special prior training in either photography or contemplative practice.

Buddhist teachings may seem like a far-fetched approach to apply to photography, yet, Andy Karr and Michael Wood are able to make us realize how our mind both shapes and controls much of our awareness, understanding, and choices, but then just as well can also confuse those very same awareness and choices in many situations in our lives.

Whilst the Buddhist Way is a tool that enables us to explore a richer and more whole way of living in general, in the context of this book, the authors also draw on the long history and tradition of arts in the Buddhist teaching repertoire, and here we are shown a new and more liberated approach to image making.

In the end, we come away with a deeper understanding of our own photographic process, better pictures no matter the photographic domain of choice, and greater insight into the workings of our mind. The effects of contemplative photography will, no doubt, gratefully carry over into the remainder of our daily lives as well, and benefit not only ourselves, but also all and everyone else we come into contact with.

For those of us who have already had experience with some kind of contemplative practice but have slacked in consistency, reading this book may very well be the trigger to bring us back onto the path. For those of us who are new to and just exploring a life of mindfulness, it can solidify a practice and lead us into a greater life of insight and awareness.

GENTLY, WE ARE guided towards creating images devoid of showing what we imagined to see, expected to see, and without concern for technical skills and tricks. Not letting our seeing be influenced by the anticipation of an audience, judgment, or sales potential, we learn to let the image appear and be created without intellectual interference.

It is an automatic process of our mind, in the moment of perception, to place a label onto that perception. This instantaneously inhibits the continuity of pure perception of the world as it is in this moment. Furthermore, we see a sunset and immediately the photographic mind imagines some previously categorized labels, such as glowing-warm-orange, dramatic and sweeping wide-angle view, romantic. Thus, we end up re-creating some pre-existing label.

However, this book is about more than image making. Andy Karr and Michael Wood not only teach us photography without teaching camera work, they also teach us the Good Life without preaching right or wrong. Everyday is a good day, if we only allow ourselves to see mindfully.

wrapped hay bale

PRACTICE assignments for going out with camera in hand are provided in a sequential manner as travel, work, and move through the book. Specifically, these assignments guide our mind to connect directly with the visual world. The flash of perception becomes our glimpse of living life in the present moment. Colour, light, texture, shape, line, pattern, are what our visual world is, nothing more, and are the building blocks of contemplative photography.

Seeing mindfully can become an integral way of how we live our daily lives, and living our lives artistically will increase our appreciation of the world as it is. We are promised that, if we find the discipline to engage the practice of contemplative photography, though sometimes frustrating, the rewards and pleasing results will keep us going. Being unplugged from the external world of constant stimulus, we may actually find the opportunity to make friends with ourselves. “Solitude is the home of contemplative mind and the space where creativity flourishes.” Solitude can be found in any place if we have the state of mind for it. Exotic places, grandiose Nature scenes, “beauty”, and “photogenic” motives are concepts to free ourselves from in order to see the world as it is, and are not required to practice contemplative photography.

TECHNICAL skills are not the focus of this book; yet, the authors manage elegantly to include concise and easily understandable guidance for the camera novice. Shutter speed, aperture, focal length and distance, focus and depth of focus, automatic and manual settings are all covered with due measure and, in the spirit of contemplative photography, with appropriate simplicity. Basic camera technique, and skills of working with the camera are included. It is, though, kept to a bare minimum of description, and will neither overwhelm nor waste valuable pages of the book’s focus on the contemplative practice of the art.

In the appendix topics such as camera choice, post processing in the digital area, and post-“processing” the images mentally and emotionally are touched upon; all in keeping with the aim of creating a clear image of the original fresh perception.

Rock - Newfoundland Shore

PLENTY OF IMAGES by Miksang photographers accompany the text to give us visual examples for studying what contemplative photography looks like in actual picture form.

This practice, in its entirety, is very much about sensitizing our whole being to be more perceptive to life as it happens moment to moment. We become more in touch with the joy of seeing as one of life’s grand treasures.

For all of us, reading, and putting it into practice, can be an inspiration to today go out and see not only the world as we never saw it, but also finding ourselves in the process.

peter
www.crimsonbamboo.zenfolio.com

sharing


“ We study and educate ourselves not only for our own good, but for the benefit of all”

This is one of my favourite quotes; James Robertson Marshall, one of my early Natural Health teachers was a kind and gentle soul always concerned about making sure everyone, not only his students, would get the most from his experiences and teachings to take along onto their own path.

As we always grow on the visions, experiences, and achievements of others who have gone before us and have shared their learning in some way or other, here is a short list ( to not keep you clicking away for too long) of links to some of the resources that I have found inspiring and useful for my own creative path; more to be added over time.

http://www.lenswork.com/     Brooks Jensen publishes one of the best photography magazines, podcasts, articles, interviews; all fabulous insights and inspirations on the creative process

http://www.luminous-landscape.com/index.shtml     Michael Reichmann’s is one of the largest photography sites; tutorials, product reviews, creativity, arts, and more

http://kelbytraining.com/   Scott Kelby’s all things about Photoshop and Lightroom; tutorials in form of articles and videos

http://strobist.blogspot.com/     articles, examples, videos and tutorials on lighting and photographic tools and technique

psychologyforphotographers.com      very interesting short articles by Jenika on why and how people do what they do both as artists as well as clients and buyers

http://www.terryanncarter.ca/     former president of Haiku Canada, well known poet, teacher, and activist

http://www.haikucanada.org/

http://www.haikunorthamerica.com/

http://tobaccoroadpoet.blogspot.com/    Curtis Dunlap’s site with plenty of literature and poetry

Looking at other photographer’s images is always a source of inspiration, of course. It provides direct examples and ideas that may be translated into our own process and projects. When we, however, move to other, seemingly unrelated, art forms for inspiration we can expand not only our repertoire of actual imagery but we expand our own vision, imagination, and potential right from within. While reading haiku, if I may use this as an example of my own experience, I cannot but notice the mind wandering and imagining scenes and contexts and ideas emerging for possible future images and projects to create. Not other haiku, but photographs. This is a process that not only adopts from the external stimulus, but involves one’s own mind to move creatively whilst actively (or is it passively?) engaged in another experience; a transfer or translation of sorts is required from taking in one art experience into creating another.  And so our all-shared creative process keeps on expanding and growing ceaselessly and almost inevitably simply through enjoying the endless stream of creativity around us.

and while I am at it, a few photography related quotes

This benefit of seeing… can come only if you pause a while, extricate yourself from the maddening mob of quick impressions ceaselessly battering our lives, and look thoughtfully at a quiet image… the viewer must be willing to pause, to look again, to meditate.  Dorothea Lange

When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs. When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence.  Ansel Adams

Consulting the rules of composition before taking a photograph is like consulting the laws of gravity before going for a walk.  Edward Weston

In photography, the biggest difference between an amateur and a professional is… the size of the wastebasket.  David Timms


namaste

peter

Do you visualize before you press the shutter


follow up on previous post  from  30 Nov 2011
In previous ( date ) post you read about not being too concerned about the result, looks, and artistic value of an image beyond the moment of clicking the shutter. Avoiding intellectual discourse before and during the image making process allows for the awareness of perception as it arises in the moment. Pre-conceived ideas, concepts, ideas from past images lingering in the mind, and labels all interfere with the eye and mind perceiving things as they are. Images can thus be just as they are, fresh and childlike.
Not pre-visualizing can be a good thing


Camera work can be for fun, for contemplative practice, earning a livelihood and paying the bills, to make pictures for others, for memories, for specific projects and intentions of use, and many other motivations may get us to pick up a camera and explore the world close and far.
With specific intention and purpose for an image being pre-determined, we can then guide the image making process accordingly toward the intended final image, and possibly towards providing an image that satisfies a customer and pays for our rent.
Pre-visualizing can be a good thing

Gaur - a type of cattle; on the list of endangered species

In the beginning, the less images we have made, and the less images we have edited, developed, processed, the easier it is to not pre-visualize and anticipate an intentional outcome, as we do not really have much imagery experience for the mind to draw upon. Eventually, however, with more and more images in our repertoire of practice and experience, it will also become easier to be aware of the process that goes on in the mind as we walk with camera in hand.

We can practice both; we can know when one or the other is appropriate, and we can also become aware to notice when our mind drifts into one or the other at times when it may be inappropriate.
Soon, technical considerations of shutter speed, aperture, lens choice, etc., artistic deliberations on subject matter, composition, lighting, etc., all will become part of the intellectual mind blending  with the creative mind without either fencing the other in and limiting the possibilities of a free flow of ideas, insights, perceptions, and intentions.

When we pay attention to what we are thinking, what we are looking at in the view finder, why we make selections of framing, focus, composition, etc., our images become more and more a reflection not only of the world, but also of ourselves.
And it is those kinds of photographs that can touch us and the viewer; arrest the minds, and make us stop and linger in the image, absorbed by we do not know what.

wishing all good health, joyful thoughts, and plenty of fine pics for the New Year

wishing all a serene, joyful, insightful, and healthful New Year

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

peter
http://www.crimsonbamboo.zenfolio.com/

Rules or No


Rules or No

Camera work, as any work, can benefit from learning the basics. Basics include knowing the functions and effects of shutter speed, aperture choice, ISO, the multitude of combinations of these, lens focal length, tripod use, flash and other external lighting if desired, and others. A foundation in image making ought also teach the basics of composition, perspective, and how lens choice affects the image, use of focus and out-of-focus area; using light and shadow, shapes and lines, and colour and black and white in the image.
The technical and mechanical aspects of camera and lens are not subject to personal interpretation or opinion. They are simply the physical and optical facts that we all use and rely on the same way.
However, as soon as we move on to all the other variable options in choice of specific camera settings just before we click the shutter for an individual image, it all becomes a free game of opinion, interpretation, preference, like and dislike. Often, though, and especially during the early phase of our practice, these are based not in understanding and/or experience of how specifically those settings can alter the image. This makes the creative process a rather haphazard one. Haphazard in and of itself is not undesirable, but, if left unchecked, can lead to never reaching beyond a trial and error approach, which, though an important phase in the learning curve, prevents the development of being able to pre-visualize the image before clicking the shutter. Having an idea of the final image in advance is an important aspect of the creative process in general, not only in photography.

birch forest panorama

Then, to make the creative process a conscious, deliberate, and intentional one, we turn to learning composition, to learning how to tell stories with photographs by use of perspective, lighting, colour, placement of compositional elements, to learning how to look at and interpret images. Photo magazines deliver articles on composition every month, books are written, and courses taught plentifully on all these topics. Mostly, we learn of the ‘Rules of Composition’, such as Leading Lines, Fill the Frame, Rule of Thirds, Leave Space in Front of the Subject, Never use Wide angle Lens for Portrait, Always have a Focus. These ‘Rules’ are acceptable, though not necessary, guides for the first and early days of our path of image craft. Very soon, however, they can become hindrances and limitations to free creativity *if* followed and adhered to routinely.
For sure, in many of my images I use one or the other of these rules, but it is always a choice made case by case, image by image, whether or not a rule is supportive to the image vision and intent. Many strong images work exactly because composition, technique, or camera settings do not follow a common rule, because the frame was not filled and leaves emptiness to let the mind wander, because of not having leading lines towards to subject but causing diversion of interest and focus, because the subject is boringly smack centre, or shutter speed, aperture, lens, were chosen contrary to ‘normal’ recommendations.

forest in passing

Ultimately, all the variables have to come together to form the final image in accordance with the vision intent for the image. And those are the very creative core of which there are no fundamentally right or wrongs. Subject, vision, intent and purpose, the audience if any, the technical factors of camera settings, lens choices, lighting, timing, composition, and even where and how the image fits into the larger context of the long progression of images that came before and will come after, all contribute to the one question of whether or not an image fulfills and succeeds as a ‘great image’.
But beware …. as in so many areas of skills and life, one can only abandon rules and techniques when and after one has put in the time and effort of learning a rule or technique to abandon in the first place.
For example, as much as I dislike the term ‘Rule’ of thirds, I do apply it in as many images. Sometimes obviously, sometimes subtly but always as a conscious decision. Besides, there may be many layers of how to apply the somewhat recipe-like rules in any give image and I may find new ways of using leading lines, or patterns, or colour etc. for a specific photograph. We both may be following the same recipe, but still yours tastes slightly different than mine. That’s fabulous!

Rules or No
Well, how about we call them suggestions and options, learn them, use them, discard them, then use them again, and have them as one of many tools in our camera bag to be chosen wisely.

take good care and keep seeing pictures
peter

follow up on Are you creative


With Rifqui’s comment ( thank you kindly for bringing it up) on mind, maybe there are a plentitude of possible definitions of ‘creativity’. Is it about ‘what’ is creativity? Or a matter of degree; some people are more creative than others. If so, what is the measure of ‘more’ or ‘less’? Maybe it is concerning ourselves with a result that conforms to some specific pre-defined outcome, standard, who’s standard?
Let’s look at that early-morning wardrobe thing. Sure, it may not be new clothing, or clothing that you invented yourself, and we may have worn it many times before. When we consider, however, that specific morning, the specific mood we may be in, the weather, for a woman maybe the make-up she has or ran out of, and the many other variables in combination, we come up with new choices each day.
When does something move from being non-creative to being creative. Is there a line between, and if so where and how and who draws it? What is the difference between being creative and being inventive, as in creating something new. If Claude Monet, and Renoir, are considered the first impressionist painters, inventors of sorts and creative, how creative then do we consider all subsequent generations of impressionist painters.
And let ourselves not be misled to think creative must equal skillful! Doesn’t matter if you can’t photograph and print like Ansel Adams or Imogen Cunningham, or draw like Leonardo da Vinci, you can move a pencil across paper so you can draw. Even creatively as in inventive. Haphazardly scribble a bunch of wobbly circles and pretty much we can assume that there has never been an exact same scribble ever before. Is that creative as inventing something new? Absolutely. Is it creative as in skillful? Not necessarily. Is it creative as in a human being creating something? Absolutely. Do we like and admire and stand in awe of this drawing? Not likely but who cares, that exactly is what the point is not.

This is not to disregard actual work scenarios in which you are drawing, working, photographing, or inventing for a client or any other specific pre-determined purpose, after all, we got to make a living. Concerning yourself with the result-for-a-specific-purpose for whatever reason and intention is certainly a valid concern, though a whole other chapter not to do with ‘creativity’ in and of itself. Here I am rambling about the nature of the human condition being such that we can not but be creative, no matter how much we may tell ourselves we are not, and how that understanding may apply to and moves us, our minds, our actions, work, practices, and our awareness.

mizu wa mina   ne tatsuru yama no   fukasa kana    all sounds of streams   has faded   so deep the mountains  Haiku by Taneda Santooka (1882-19400, Japanese poet, photograph/ink-brush calligraphy in hentaigana script

mizu wa mina ne tatsuru yama no fukasa kana - all sounds of streams has faded so deep the mountains - Haiku by Taneda Santooka (1882-1940), Japanese poet, photograph/ink-brush calligraphy in hentaigana script

This awareness is, as I see it, the central idea around which creativity becomes manifest. It is the mindfulness, attention, conscious intent, even in the least of activities, that make the creative quality apparent and will, almost inescapably, lead to a richer experience. If practiced persistently, it can also become part of learning the skill component of the process, so we can put it to purposeful use, too, if desired.

Not to force and belabor a point construed, quite coincidentally just a few days ago, I came across another photographer’s mention of his father having taught him that any activity done with passion and pride was an art. Be it sports, painting or sculpture, running a business or being a parent. No matter what it is, when done with passion and conviction, it is art. Great father, I’d say.

So when you go out to photograph whatever you photograph, free yourself from seeing the final picture in advance. ( I’ll do another post, shortly, on why it is important to visualize the final image in advance – Ha !  go figure). Instead of going through the routines of our daily chores, photographing the same subject yet another time, or even when copying something that already exists, we may appreciate that this very moment, no matter how familiar it may feel, actually has never been before.
No matter how many times we have done something in the past, what we do in each and every moment is yet again anew.

It appears to me that shying away from defining creativity in specific terms leaves more room for actual experiences of it.

may your day be creatively mindful
peter
http://www.crimsonbamboo.zenfolio.com/

Are you creative?


Chances are you heard it many times from many people:  the ‘oh no –  I’m not good at drawing/painting/crafts/music …   I’m not really a creative type …’

Well, sorry to burst your bubbly perception, (actually, not really sorry at all), but anyone can draw, anyone can paint, and anyone can make photographs. It requires no special skills to put paint on paper and canvas, to hold the camera up to a scene and click the shutter, to klimper-tinker some sounds from an instrument, and glue some paper together to make not whatever it is supposed to be but whatever it turns out to become; I’ve done all of those, so no making me believe otherwise.

Sure, you may say, but the point is about how well can anyone do those things! Hmmm, really? Does being creative inherently imply doing anything well? And certainly it does not only relate to the so-called arts. Any thought process, act of speech, and physical act is, of sorts, a creative one. Living one’s life, for that matter, each and every day, requires constant and unceasing creative thinking and acting. Anytime a decision is to be made it requires some kind of creative choice, no matter whether minor or major. Early morning I gotta decide which clothes to wear, what to eat for breakfast, leave now to work or 3 minutes later, cross the road here as usual or walk to the next intersection today, sign up for this course or that one, read this book or the newspaper or not at all and listen to music, which kind, pick up the phone or let it go to the answering machine …. goodness me, it’s endless creative options. Coming to think of it, we cannot even escape being creative if we wanted to.

Yet, we still think we aren’t. Maybe because somehow we have come to consider creativity to narrowly only mean being ‘artistic’, as in … well, as in what? Maybe it is because we assume that being creative inherently requires some, often pre-judged, specific kind of accomplishment. Especially, of course, accomplishment in the eyes of others. Maybe it is because we have lost touch with what goes on in our minds all the time, and we don’t pay attention to what our moment to moment life actually requires from us and returns to us.

Here is a suggestion: be mindful of your choices, be they ever so minor and mundane, and pay attention to how and what you feel while making them. This is not about feeling ‘good or bad’ or judging those choices, but simply noticing a sense of the fact that there actually can be a conscious awareness of that moment of choosing to turn this way and not that way, to use these words and not those, to act like this instead of like that. Everything we think, say, and do is creative and will have consequences (take note).

Next time you pick up the brush, the pen, the camera, how attached are you to a particular outcome? Can you be creative simply for the sake of being creative? No worry the outcome, experience the process!

Told you! You are creative!

peter