I am leading a small group called "Photography as a Spiritual Practice". We just started last year and our group is pretty small, but dedicated to not only the taking of photos, but also spending time contemplating them. Each month we have a theme, which happens to be "Serenity and Winter" for January.
My original intent in starting the group was to build on the inspiration that Freeman Patterson and Andre Gallant have provided for me over the past 7 workshops. I learned about seeing, creative expression, and then spirituality. A few workshops ago, Freeman made the statement...."Whenever we focus the lens of our camera on anything, we are also focusing on ourselves" This is the quote on the back cover of her book, "Embracing Creation" and is one of the quotes that I have in the introduction to this blog.
This all relates to "Serenity and Winter". I want to share with you two images that really spoke to me during this month as I contemplated the taking and the making of these photos.
My first photo was taken on a cold day after I had just gotten back from St Petersburg, Florida. I was out on a drive with the thought of Serenity and Winter on my mind. I was searching for compositions that would depict the theme in my mind. And drove to some of my favorite sites along the lake.
Most people at the park site next to the lake, stayed in their cars. They were either on the cellphones, eating lunch, or just enjoying the view before they drove on. As I walked around the park taking the scene in and looking for possible compositions for the theme of Serenity and Winter.
There was a certain aspect of solitude. I was outside; everybody was snugly inside their cars with their engine on and heaters at full blast. I felt the cold on my cheeks. As I moved around, I first spied the lone bench overlooking the lake. Normally, there is someone sitting there enjoying the view. But today was too cold. Then I noticed the stately older tree, with its interesting branches and stout trunk. One lone tree in the particular location. This added to the feeling of solitude in my mind.
I took off my gloves, turned my camera on, and walked around just a bit more. I wanted to make sure that I got the bench, the tree, and a sense of the lake in the composition. Plus, I wanted to make sure that there was an aspect of solitude in this scene. As soon as I captured the image, I knew I had what I had envisioned. In fact, afterwards, I didn't do any processing. The image is as I experienced it and captured it. To me, it represented "Serenity and Winter" and takes me to a different place. It gives me a sense of joy and gratitude that I can experience days like this, with a sense of contemplation and reflection. Even if it is cold.
The second image is an entirely different take on Serenity and Winter. It is what gives me serenity within my home. I decided to play around with my fish-eye lens to capture my piano with a big smile on it.
For this composition, I tried several different images. Sometimes, what you see in a Fish-Eye lens isn't exactly what you want to include....like your feet. What I was aiming for is having the keys wind around the piano and show both the actual keys and the reflections. I got most of that look when I captured the image, but decided to try a little post processing. I did some fine tuning and then decided that the image of the keys would even be more pronounced if I processed it in B&W. Immediately after I finished applying the B&W , I knew it represented an indoor serenity during the winter months. I enjoy playing my piano for hours and hours on cold winter days. It makes me SMILE. Just like the keys on this image.
This composition represents a different type of contemplation. I was thoughtful and intentional when I considered the composition and captured the image. But, this contemplation progressed a little differently. I was discovering more of its meaning for me as I played around with different aspects of post processing. I had a vision of what I wanted to achieve, but needed to experiment with different "looks" before I finally said...."yes, that's it". I usually save my different iterations so that I can see the progress, or in case a previous version actually said something to me. Although it's an intuitive feel that makes you realize that you have the "look" that you intended.
The first contemplation I would consider more of an "experiential composition in real time", as in the first image. The second contemplation happens during post-processing and I would consider it to be "intentional image processing", as in the second image.
So, these are two of my images that I took during the month of January to celebrate Serenity and Winter. And some thoughts on contemplation. Thanks for looking.