Be open…

doorwayWhen it comes to advice on photography, there is no shortage out there — and in the hopes of improving my photography, I’ve read and watched a tremendous amount of it. You too?

But one piece of advice — from the incomparable photographer Jay Maisel, who I’ve mentioned before (see some great quotes here) — has always resonated with me, and so tends to rest there in my unconscious every time I go out into the world with my camera.

Be open. 

That’s it, that’s all.

Don’t go out looking for something specific to shoot — be receptive and willing to let that something come to you.

This is what happened to me recently when I was visiting a friend, who has, with her partner, created a magical garden in a minuscule space in the city.

The garden is as much vertical as it is horizontal, with climbing vines everywhere, producing amazing veggies and flowers throughout the growing season.

At this time of year, the arbour drips with concord grapes and the musky rich smell is intoxicating as you enter the gate.


I had in my mind that I wanted to capture the whole thing with my camera, and I busily set about shooting this view and that view. I took pictures of squashes, jalapeño peppers, nicotiana, cosmos, morning glory vines and much more… It was all truly lovely.

cosmos heart leavessq

I was losing the light so I noticed myself moving very quickly, not wanting to miss anything. But I had this feeling that I wasn’t connecting enough to this beautiful space. My preconceived notions were getting in the way.

How many times does that happen to me — to you?

So I deliberately slowed down and let the expectations go. I walked through the garden again at a slower pace, really taking in what was there. I tried to stop looking for the view I thought I should be capturing and just left myself open.

That’s when I saw the seedheads on the dill. I hadn’t noticed them at all before — they were brown and blended into the background   — kinda of mousy — not showy at all. I had been more fixated on the brighter colours and bolder shapes.

magical seedheadsrgb

But, this time they captured me. Their delicate, intricate beauty became evident when I paid them the attention they deserved.

And they turned out to be magical, even luminescent, in the fading light of the garden.

As well as a great reminder of some of the best advice ever.


21 thoughts on “Be open…

  1. You always leave such heartfelt, lovely comments, Cheryl. I really truly appreciate them and your friendship and support. It is so great to connect with you on our respective photography journeys…and all the other journeys we share too!

  2. Oh the garden is definitely that, Nancy. And I’m kicking myself that I missed her white sunflowers earlier this summer. (Coconut Ice) Hopefully I will grow my own next year.

  3. Beautiful photography! I love your words…so important to remember. I’m always deciding before I even leave the house what kind of photo I’d like to capture…of course, I never find it. My goal of late is to be more open and listen with my eyes while holding my camera. I have so much to learn. Thank you for your thoughts today!

  4. Ah, Sherry – perceptive, timely, and wise….I’m reminded to stop rushing through my crowded e-mail inbox, pause, breathe, and notice the tinges of yellow on the basswood trees outside my window. Thank you! ML

  5. A beautifully written story with wonderful photos to illustrate, Sherry. I was in the garden with you, sharing and understanding your process. Sometimes my friend and I have an agenda for our weekly photo outings but usually we just wander down dirt roads and take what fate brings us. We may stop for something and end up shooting so much more because the images called to us.

  6. Very beautiful garden images! I love the grapes with the light and translucent colors. You are right though, we often get focused on an intentional shot, and miss the nuggets of beauty hidden right in front of our eyes. The dill image…perfection!!

  7. Just what I needed to hear today…I am always in too big of a hurry and it shows in my photos…I am glad you remembered the quote and was able to go back and get that beautiful shot of the dill. It sounds like your friends space is a photographers delight….

  8. I’m not sure where I heard that quote early on either Sherry but I also go with that thought…and it always produces my best photo’s…particularly in nature…no expectations…I just wait to see what “finds me”…
    I love this post and I love that you had the time to go back and capture the beauty in what so many would have passed by..reminds me of another quote I love..”everything has beauty”…I do believe that’s true and you prove it here… Now having said all of that, can I tell you that the grapes are filling me up…the way you describe the smell…most people like of grape jelly, that’s what my girlfriend makes with her grandfathers grapes, that still grow on the vine, well over 100 years old…of course, you and I think of wine….

    This is a beautiful post for all the beauty and senses it opens up in each person who visits.
    Personally, I am so happy to connect with you…so happy to “see” you again…enjoy your week.

  9. oh how beautiful!! and yes your right on every count:) im glad you took your time, these are so lovely, you make me want to go out and shoot again today.. but im canning some more tomatoes to make room for the market …again:)))

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