“Go to the limits of your longing. There you will find your creator’s thumbprint” – Rilke (paraphrased)
Somehow, I fancy myself as a blogger and chronicler of patterns in Nature, connections in Nature, and sustainability education. My goal has been to do my small part to help create a new Nature consciousness. While people comment positively about my writing, a common comment by people who visit my blog is : “I love the photography”. Yes, I am a Nature photographer as well as a writer. Indeed, it is through photography that I engage Nature and develop the inspiration for many of the blogs on this web site. You might be interested in the patterns in Nature section of my gallery
People occasionally ask me about the process that goes through my head when I do photography. It is a good question. In reality, nothing goes through my mind because I live in the “Now” as I make connections with Nature.
The experience is more a spiritual adventure than it is a mental process. I first set my camera aside – within easy reach but not in my hand. Then I acquire a quiet spirit as I focus on the present moment, setting aside the past and the future. I then let Nature come to me rather than me pursuing Nature. Only when my contemplative spirit and my sensual perceptions feel a connection do I slowly lay hands on my camera and attempt to capture what I’m perceiving. You would be surprised how animal life adjusts to your presence and resumes their activities if you simply stay quiet.
I like to call the entire process “engaging Nature”. It is that act of engaging, of making a connection, that brings my perceptive senses into focus. And, it is the act of engaging Nature that creates a consciousness within my soul. You might be interested in seeing some of my work in a free eBook that I offer on this blog site. You can sign up and download the book just to the right of this post.
Does this sound a bit abstract to you? Actually, it is all quite real, down to earth, and wonderfully simple. Find a quiet beach, a patch of forest, some desert, or a meadow. Open your folding chair, get comfortable, set your camera and binoculars next to the chair, and just wait for Nature to come to you. I guarantee you, in some way, Nature will pay you a visit. Wait for your perceptive senses to give you a clue that something wonderful is happening. Maybe it is the colorful texture of lichen on some tree bark. Or, the glow of morning light on a big cactus. Maybe it is the cautious deer who slowly moves with dynamic tension as he comes closer to you. If you are lucky, there might be black storm clouds, or a raging stream, or an egret poised to strike a fish. These precious moments will light you up with a strong urge to capture the moment. Only then do you slowly lift your camera. Almost magically, your feeling of that moment will be captured in your image and be transformed into the souls of your viewers.
What I just described is a spiritual practice commonly called “contemplative photography”. There is a great book on the subject. And a contemplative blog site worth exploring . One of my favorite blog authors is Kim Manley Ort who talks a lot about contemplative photography. These three web sites ought to give you a feel for this spiritual practice.
I like to think that all photography, along with art in general, teaching, and writing are human activities that are greatly enhanced by the practice of acquiring a quiet spirit and letting things happen.
In a recent post , I discussed sustainability education for young people where they are asked to use their cameras to capture images of Nature. In reality, I was talking about the role of contemplative photography in helping young people develop a consciousness for Nature that we modern adults have lost.
You don’t need to be a guru to enjoy capturing a moment in Nature through contemplative photography.
What do you think?
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My name is Bill Graham. As a Marine Biologist who has worked in the US and Mexico for 30 years, I am a student of Nature, a teacher, a researcher, and a nature photographer. Through my work, I have acquired an ever growing passion for how everything in Nature is connected. Today, I travel extensively contemplating about, writing about, and photographing Nature’s connections. I also work with conservation projects in the USA and Mexico and mentor talented youth.