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Mindful : December 2015
Your cat’s paws cross and rest gently on your bedroom floor, soft light refracting each hair. Rust caked on an old nail bleeds streaks of deep orange-red into the dry, split wood of an ocean dock. A garbage pile, glis- tening in the sun, strikes you with its off-putting-yet-captivating sliminess. So, you grab a camera. Click. Photography, like meditation, can be a mindfulness practice. Like following your breath, the camera can become an anchor—a gentle reminder to notice your perceptions, without letting the filters you put between what you’re seeing and what you’re thinking carry you away from the present. When you take in your surroundings, camera in hand (or in mind), your eyes open up to the textures and forms and colors that make up our world. Not all photographers take this approach, but those who do often wind up with striking and unusual images that pack a serious punch. Here, we’ve selected a sampling of powerful images shot by five different photog- raphers, who also answered some of our questions about their work. None of these photos were staged. As with everyday life, each image captures its own expression of light, shadow, color, shape, and emotion. They represent the photographer’s raw experience. □ See something exquisite and eye-catching? Take a picture of the ugly thing sitting next to it. □ Take one photo a day— and share it online. It’ll keep you sharp and accountable. □ If you usually take lots of shots when you’re taking a picture, only let yourself take one. □ Shoot only blue things for a week. □ Take a picture of the same thing at different times of day. □ Imagine you’re a toddler. Try to see from their perspective. Snap out of your habitual way of seeing with these simple exercises. Try a new one every week. What’s Right in Front of You That’s the beauty of this kind of photography—it’s spontaneous, and it’s available: most of us carry wee cameras everywhere we go, on our cellphones. You don’t need to buy (or lug around) expensive equipment in order to practice photog raphy. In fact, longtime meditator and photo blogger Corey Kohn (see her photo “Dojo4 Morning Fire Escape” on page 65) says she takes most of her photos on her iPhone. “ Having the ability to notice something,” she says, “and just take a picture of it—that’s more important than having the ‘right’ equipment.” Noticing, says Kohn, is also more important than coming away with a “good” photo. “Try to relax your ideas of what you think is a ‘good’ or ‘not good’ photograph,” she advises. “ Even before it’s a photograph—try not to think about what’s worth or not worth shooting.” Some of the most evocative photos come through when a photog- rapher abandons their opinions and shoots what they see, as they see it— no filter necessary. You might not like every photo you take (no one does), but, just as medi- tation doesn’t demand that you stay with your breath for 15 straight min- utes, with photography, what matters is that you practice paying attention. — Claire Ciel Zimmerman “Vantage Point” (right) Photographer: Cameron Wittig Advice for newbies: Look for what’s not there How did you come across this sight? I was driving by looking for an address on a house, and saw it line up as I passed. I pulled over and shot it with an old Polaroid camera I had in my car, to see if what I saw in 3D would translate. It worked per fectly, so I returned the next day with a real camera. What makes a good photographer? It’s learnable. You can tune your eyes the way you tune your ears. You don’t have to have per fect pitch. “Boulder, CO” (previous page) Photographer: Julie DuBose Go-to camera setting: Aperture priority How does photography affect the way you see? Most of what we see, most of what’s in our range, we don’t even look at. When you learn to synchronize your eye and mind so they’re in one place, one moment, your mind can relax. Perceptions star t to manifest out of nowhere. What makes this image so vivid? I saw one thing and I understood it with simplicity. You’re seeing exactly what I saw in that moment. 60 mindful December 2015 creativity