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What is mindful photography?
I got asked the other day if I could help someone with Mindful Photography? It was a question that threw me, as at first I didn’t have a clue what they were talking about, so I left the question with an… “Errmm, can I get back to you?”
My first thought was this is just something that they had their own name for, however, after a bit of research with my friend Mr G O’Ogle I found that it was actually was a thing. I also found that it was something that I had already found myself doing.
I also found that it is a subject that I’m not going to be able to cover in a single article.
So what is mindful photography?
So mindful photography is the process of creating a photograph. Okay, so that part sounds straight forward, it is after all what a photographer does. They create photographs.
Have a look at what comes next though as this is the important part.
It starts with seeing and then extends through the technical and compositional choices. Now this is where there are times when I am guilty as charged. I go out with a specific image in my head of what to create and how I want to create the image. I will go out at set times of the day to catch the right light or visit certain places because I want to photographs a windmill, a lake or woodland.
It would seem that mindful photography puts the emphasis of this the other way around. It’s about seeing something then using the technical knowledge that you have to interpret what you see in the way that it spoke to you.
Mindful photography is about not having something in mind for the photograph but about being open to what you see in your daily life.
How do I do mindful photography?
It is a question I was asked and one that I have asked. When and how do you do mindful photography? Is it something you should put in your diary?
I guess there is no set way to actually do mindful photography. It depends on what you are thinking and the way that you see things. What I see while out walking could be totally different to what someone else sees. It is about where your mind puts the emphasis on what you see. Think of it as being like reading a book, or a text message if you are not a fan of books. The way that you are feeling will put a different meaning on what you read.
Let me try to explain that with an example. I am a Christian so I will use a verse from the Bible that I have used before to explain how this works.
It’s a simple four word sentence that on it’s own sounds straight forward. Now though try that same sentence putting the emphasis on a different word. You will see that the meaning of the sentence changes by adding more weight to a single word.
Christ died for me
Christ died for me
Christ died for me
Christ died for me
For those who have managed to stick around don’t panic this isn’t going to turn into a sermon about this. I just used those words to describe how we can see the same thing but also see it differently.
Mindful photography isn’t about going to a photographic location that has been visited by everyone else and trying to create the same image. It’s about being open to how you are feeling and allowing that to flow into what you are seeing.
Let’s have a quick look at this from another different angle.
Take a great big lump of stone. To some it will be just that, a great big lump of stone. Put that same stone in front of a sculptor and they will see the veins in the stone or the way the texture moves. They will see something inside the stone just waiting to get out.
This is mindful photography. It’s about seeing something and trying to express how the image makes you feel.
What equipment do I need for mindful photography?
The great thing about mindful photography is that it about expressing what you are seeing and not making sure you have everything with you.
There is the part in the definition that says about the technical aspects but that isn’t about having the right camera or lens. It’s about using what you have with you.
Okay, so in most cases this phrase is often used by photographers who haven’t taken the right kit with them. In the case of mindful photography though this really is the case, the best camera is the one that you have with you.
For mindful photography you are meant to be open to what you see. If you are going out and have all of your camera equipment with you it means that you have already thought about what you want to photograph and how. For me it means that I have selected the camera that I will be using and which lenses.
So, what is the best camera for mindful photography? Being a professional photographer my next sentence is really going against the grain here. It’s possibly the one that most of us will have with us most of the time. The mobile phone.
Yep, I can already hear those other photographers shouting at me for saying that, but it is. I’m not going to break my back carrying all of my gear around with me everywhere I go, just in case some sort of inspiration hits me about something I see.
For mindful photography you just want something that you can pop in your pocket and have with you.
That said, I do have a camera which I bought for those occasions when I just want to go out for a walk and take a photo if something does catch my eye. For me, this is a small Fuji camera (it’s the X100 S if you want to get technical). It doesn’t have all of the functions of my big DSLR’s or the ability to change lenses. It has a fixed 35mm (the closest focal length to the human eye) so I don’t even have the luxury of zooming in and out. What it does do though is take some great sharp photos.
It’s also small and light so I can just have it in my pocket ready for if it is needed.
Apart from the camera there is also one other thing that could be useful and which will help you later when it comes to editing your photos. A notebook (if you are using your mobile phone you don’t need this as you could always use a notepad app or simply send yourself a text message).
The chances are that there will be some time between you taking the photo and editing it. Time for the kids to drive you mad or the TV to distract you. Time that will stop you feeling the same way that you did when you were taking the photo.
After you have taken your photo write down what it was about it that made you want to take it. What were you thinking at the time? Did you have an idea of what the edited photo was going to look like? Where were you and who were you with?
When you look at that photo again you will need to try and put yourself in a similar place to get the emotion across when you edit it. If you don’t have it written down somewhere all those things would be lost.
More on mindful photography next time...
I think that is enough for the moment and I hope that it has already started to get you thinking about what mindful photography is and how you could do is as well.
My next section on the topic of mindful photography is going to be about taking the photograph itself, however if you have any specific questions or things that you would like to be covered please let me know either in the comments below or contacting my directly.
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High Wycombe, Aylesbury, Chesham, Beaconsfield, Marlow, Cookham, Wendover, Great Missenden, Slough, Maidenhead, Thame, Chorleywood, Burnham, Gerrards Cross, Little Chalfont
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