Weekly Photo Challenge: Object

abstract boat2

There’s a type of photography called contemplative photography that I first learned about from Kim Manley Ort that  makes me feel as though I’ve come home to myself.

Kim says this meditative form of photography is “about being present and open to life as it is, without judgment. It’s about being open to what the world offers up to me rather than looking for a particular shot.”

Today, for the Weekly Photo Challenge, I am offering such an image. In December I participated in a month focusing on the photography of simplicity, and many days I  chose to deliberately capture images following the principles of this type of photography.

Contemplative photography has been described as “a method for seeing and photographing the world in fresh ways, to reveal richness and beauty that is normally hidden from view. Instead of emphasizing subject matter or the technical aspects of photography, the contemplative approach teaches you to see clearly, and make images based on fresh perceptions.”

If any of this intrigues you, I urge you to have a look at the site Seeing Fresh: The Practice of Contemplative Photography. You can contribute to and receive inspiration from the amazing galleries there. And check out Kim’s site too to learn more.

When you see such an image, it is startling in its purity. For those who are used to seeing heavily processed and manipulated images, such an image can seem almost too simple. But really what it is is fresh and new and untainted.

These images suggest to me what is possible with photography when we are guided by our clearest visual perceptions and an open mind and heart…when we are able to leave our preconceived notions, judgments and expectations behind us.

Since I’m an eclectic photographer,  I plan to continue enjoying and practising many styles and schools of photography… But contemplative photography contains a treasure trove of insights and practices that can be used to improve and enliven our image-making.

For those who are still wondering what the object above is that I photographed, it’s part of a boat reflecting part of another boat.

The Simplicity Project, No. 9

I started my Simplicity Project at the beginning of December, inspired by Kim Manley Ort’s invitation to post one simple image a day this month. I joined up with a Flickr group of wonderful kindred spirits who also accepted this invitation with excitement. Everybody is welcome.

Decembers can be a frenzy of holiday-related activity, and I am drawn to the idea of a different kind of month. This year we are in a warm climate getting ready to launch our sailboat, and to live aboard it for the winter.

It’s a simpler life. I thought it would go well with a focus on greater simplicity in my images.

I expected that this practice of simplicity would affect my photography — in a good way, I hoped — since I find that  simpler images are often the most compelling. But the surprise for me was how quickly and drastically this new focus would change my very perception too.

Last week, I felt that things that were previously invisible to me came out of hiding. And that even everyday things started to look entirely different.

Last week I saw lights out the car window, lighthouses, grapefruit, hedge clippings, peeling boat paint and dappled light on a bedspread through fresh eyes. I noticed so much more when looking for images that would contain less.

I am now conscious of moving toward a more direct visual perception of things — I say moving toward because this is a lifelong process and practice. What this means for example is that instead of being preoccupied by the idea of a subject (say a simple piece of fruit), I now look at it also as a unique collection of lines and shapes and colours, with shadows and light falling in a particular way and constantly changing.

Before last week, I don’t think I would have taken a photograph of dappled light on a bed because, well, it was just dappled light on a bed. Or hedge clippings. Who photographs hedge clippings? I’m sure I’m not the only one who has the idea that those are not interesting subjects for photographs. But in seeking simplicity I was able to connect in a new way to the particular beauty of all aspects of my surroundings, not just the expected ones.

Now that I stop to think about it, I realize I have been heading in this direction for some time now. I just needed a practice like this to kickstart me and focus me.

So my intent for the rest of the month is to be more open to what I observe and faithfully capture and share my perceptions in a way that is less connected to what I have been conditioned to do and more connected to what my heart tells me.

In fact, this is a project that will occupy me long after December is over.