Contemplative Photography – A Fresh Look

IMG_46581024W I was around the age of ten when I first held a camera up to my eye and snapped that first picture and as you would expect I was instantly hooked. Of coarse back then it was film, mostly Black & White. Those were the days…really! Those were the days when you could point your camera at anything that flew, walked on two or four legs or was a zillion stories tall without worry of getting the boot or being arrested. Much has changed since then. As a photographer in today’s world we either reluctantly choose to pass up opportunities to avoid confrontations or we adopt the philosophy of “it’s better to ask forgiveness than to ask permission”.  As photographer’s, we seek to capture those most memorable or intimate moments in time, a keeper of times moments, in hopes the world will embrace them.

At some point in our creative adventure we find ourselves trying to crawl over the wall that stands between our cluttered reality and our creative imagination.  We begin to believe that it is impossible to photograph something original, pieces of our creative work that will standout as an original creation. We fail to realize that we have shifted our mind from seeing to thinking.

feather on asphalt

What happens to our perception, the freshness of what we see when we begin facing life’s challenges and responsibilities with camera in hand?  When we were young in age we looked at the world through the eyes of innocence, virgin in perception, not applying labels to what we saw . Our experiences were simple and what we saw were fresh experiences without definition or preconception, not diluted by thoughts of definition.  Is it the responsibilities of life, or the burdens we pile on ourselves that immunize us from experiencing life on a simple plane of energy, without labels or preconceptions. Is it possible to look at a mailbox, or a stop sign, or any familiar object, and not immediately label it through your conception of it? Instead of seeing a stop sign, see the color, shape, letters, light, see it without what you already know to be true.

How can we change this evil curse that awaits?  Simple, yes simple. See it simple and begin to see it in a freshness. Remove those conceptual thoughts, worthiness, beauty, correctness, and more.  It’s all about perception and conception. It is how we process what we see, unadulterated and absolute in originality. We have to train our eyes to talk to our brain and our soul, so they see and feel a perceptional vision on the same plane. For many years I have told those that attend my workshops, “don’t photograph what you are looking at, instead photograph what you see”.  My intention is for each to learn to see beyond the entire picture, seeing their perception of  shapes, colors, textures and or light, and photograph only that.  When we instantly and maybe only for a brief  moment see, this it is called Flash Perception. That and only that is what we want to photograph.  When you bring your camera up to your eye capture only what brought your eye, mind and soul together for that instant.

IMG_46771024WSeeing fresh is not about creating a photograph with the correct composition in the proper format. It’s about our flash perception of what we see, feel and interpret as our eye, mind and soul connect.  An experience that only you are experiencing, not requiring composing, forethought or evaluation.  Through this fresh perception we expand our visual perception and we begin seeing what is in front of us and capture it as we are experiencing it. If we envision a scene conceptually before we photograph it, we apply constraints to the composition based on our preconceived ideas that form in our mind. Thus, upon returning home to view our days adventure we discover that we have closely duplicated what others have already captured, or fallen short of our own expectations.



The Art of Contemplative Photography is not new. It’s not about the proper choice of photographic equipment, using special effect lenses or creating that beautiful moment through software. It’s about capturing your perceptual vision, that flash perception, as your eye, mind and soul experienced it in a natural realistic photograph.

There is much study to be done in this expression of photography and for some it will be a paradigm shift of great magnitude. To start, all you need is a fresh pair of eyes, a mind free of labels and conceptions and your camera. When our eyes, mind and soul become one we will then begin seeing and not just looking.  We will begin to recognize that flash perception that caught our eye, and we then can record it with our camera.  As for equipment, you be your own judge of what works best to bring your visual perceptions to life.




• Miksang Life with Julie DuBose

• Seeing Fresh, The Practice of Contemplative Photography

Both of these books are included in my library and I highly recommend both to those seeking knowledge in The Art of Contemplative Photography.



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