Marg’s Tip for December

Contemplative Photography


Henri Cartier-Bresson said: For me the camera is a sketch book, an instrument of intuition and spontaneity.
In order to”give a meaning” to the world, one has to feel oneself involved in what one frames through the viewfinder – Must always take photography with the greatest respect for the subject and oneself.

Preparing for your Journey: Simplify.

Heavy tripods, huge lenses and expensive cameras are not necessary for Contemplative Photography – an open heart, unfettered mind and infinite patient are.
Equipping the Mind:  Probably more important than what you carry on your back, is what you carry in your heart.  There are two approaches.  You “shoot” your subject, you “take” photographs.  We use telephoto lenses to get close to a subject without their knowledge. It is photography as voyeur, as hunter.  The other way is to engage in a dialogue that respects your subject.  A Contemplative Photographer understands that photograph is a two way street and waits for the landscape to invite them in.  The four B’s.  Be still, be present, be patient and be persistent.

The Contemplative Eye:

  • Sees beauty in the commonplace
  • Looks for the subtle language of pattern and texture
  • Seeks out the metaphoric capabilities of the landscape
  • Is unhurried and patient
  • Looks beneath the subject qualities to reveal the hidden layers of meaning
  • Revels in the interplay of light and shadow.

Contemplative Thought Flow:

Approaching:    As you sit in the landscape, try to engage with what is in front of you.  Journal your thoughts and be patient.
Engaging:      What in the landscape draws your attention? Does it require you to move closer and step back?  Use you viewfinder to try out different compositions.
Reflecting:      Play back your photograph.  Do any of them illustrate the feelings you have for the landscape?  Sometimes you need to return again and again before you capture the essence of the place.
The outer landscape becomes a metaphor for the unknown inner landscape.
The essential tasks of every Contemplative Photographer is to seek out and resonate with those metaphors., which include, shadows,play of light on subjects, contrasts of texture, colour, man-made elements, architectural features, weather effects, trees, especially unusual ones,plants and flowers and water-still and moving.

Changing your Lenses:

Traditional photography puts an emphasis on technique and subject matter.  Contemplative Photography emphasises the individuals interpretation of the landscape through the lenses of our heart.
Images are taken Image received
Concern for control Openness to Surprise
Photography as aggression Photography as an act of respect
The camera as a weapon ( point and shoot) The camera as translator
Subject as object Subject as co-creator
An attitude of judgement An attitude of wonder
Photography is “detached” Photography forms an interconnection
After you have created your photograph, there is always the issue of what to do with it.  It all comes down to what you hope to convey in the photograph and you might not know till long after it is made, after you have had time to sit with the image and reflect on the meaning to you.  This is the Contemplative part of the process and it takes time.



This hint is condensed from A Field Guide for the Contemplative Photographer by Patricia Turner.