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

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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

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

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

Looking or Seeing Images


10  October  2011

Image and Message

There are various approaches to assessing the merits of a photograph. One can look for  technical aspects, such as lighting and exposure, shutter speed chosen, sharpness versus blurriness, tonalities. Then there are artistic choices such as composition and framing, use of colour and monochrome, in printing the choice of papers and presentation. The choice of the subject photographed itself, can be made part of deciding on the merits of the final image; some people may consider a photograph of a socially important issue to be, by mere selection as the subject matter, to have inherently more value or importance than, say, a photograph of a natural landscape; others may decide vice versa.


As in so many areas of life, variable factors, circumstances, conditions, and timing determine case by case how to create, view, and relate to an image; rarely can we, even should we, use final and fixed statements about whether an image is good, great, or not worthy of consideration. It all depends and differentiation is a more appropriate approach when assessing a photograph, or art in general … and other people, for that matter, too!
Differentiation, for example, between images that are of journalistic and documentary nature,  intending to record and present our world as realistically as seen by the photographer; purely artistic purposes, abstract images, or those that show us that same world in a way we have not noticed before; private and personal work that may never be intended to be seen by anyone else. So many options for our creative work.
Then consider the countless and all valid reasons for doing what we do, even within each of the above mentioned types of image work:
we may create
– for our own satisfaction of creativity;  maybe we never intend the image to be seen by anyone else, but to satisfy our own growth as a human being, furthering our own creative process and learning;
– to understand our own life better; for example by observing ourselves, our emotions, hopes, desires, and anxieties, habits, during the process of creating, such as in the practice of contemplative photography ;
– possibly without even being interested in the final image, creating simply for the love of the process of working and experimenting with the gadgetry of camera work;
– for an audience  – to see what we saw   – to appreciate and show natural beauty or to understand a message we see or intend in the image, be it drawing attention to other people’s lives and circumstances; environmental messages; to change the world; encourage others to action, to think, to question;
– to receive approval for our own ego ( neither easy to acknowledge nor to get past … but maybe I am just talking of myself here … ), or to find approval for furthering our recognition as a photographer, artist, our business;

None of these are inherently better or more or less deserving or worthy than another. After all, who is to judge one’s fellow being’s creative process. What is valuable, however, is to become aware of our own intentions and purposes for being creative in a given way. Insights gleaned from such awareness can not only support and further our artistic path, but will naturally transfer to and inform all other areas of our daily lives to become more insightful and aware as well.
Here then are the questions: Does an image require a message? Does a photograph, in order to be a ‘great image’, need to convey a story? Does the viewer need an interpretation for or of an image in order to be moved by it?
Are there differences in the ‘value’ of images that depict a scene of Nature, a poor person in the street, or an abstract image of artistic merit? Can they each affect us deeply wether or not they tell a particular story or deliver a specific message?
Well, as for myself, I admit to rarely letting myself be pinned down to some final and one-size-fits-all definite statement … and this may give you a hint as to how I answer those questions for myself.
Might it be valuable to your own creative process, too, to become more clear about these questions ?

have a good camera day
peter

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