Friday, August 31, 2012

Everyday Ordinary

Today I am preparing to ship the first orders for my new Creative Photographer Exploration Cards to Expand Your Creativity, and wanted to share with you one of the cards.

The focus of this card is finding  beauty in the ordinary things around us.  We rush through our days so fast that we often forget to slow down and see with eyes of wonder.  We also become habituated to our environment so that things that were once meaningful no longer call for our attention.  What is it you are not seeing?  Is there one thing that is part of your everyday routine that you can see with new eyes today?  Find one thing a day that is simple and ordinary, and see it in a new way.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Darla's Dewdrop

Last weekend I hosted a retreat at Waterfall Mountain Retreat Center entitled "Drawing with Light: Photography as Spiritual Practice".

One of the exercises I shared with participants is the "One-Hundred Images" Exploration on page 37 of The Creative Photographer.  In this exercise I suggest you find a subject and take one hundred photographs of your subject, in different lights, in different positions, at different angles.  This is an exercise I consider to be akin to the writer's "first draft".  There will be some photographs you will want to delete, but there might be some good ones, and every now and then, you may even get some great ones.

One of the retreat participants, Darla Davis, shared the above photograph with me with this note: 
I thought you might like to know that the photo I sent you of the leaf stem with the dew drop came from the 100 photos of the same subject assignment.  I don't think I would have found this image without the encouragement to keep looking deeper and differently at the same subject.  I started out photographing the poke berries, drawn to the contrast between the green berries and the magenta stems.  It was late in the 100 photos assignment that I noticed the little dewdrop on the green stem.

I believe that if this is the only exercise you ever do from my book, your photography will improve.  It is an exercise in practice, in patience, and in seeing.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Face in the Tub

This weekend, traveling back to Charlotte after teaching a photography retreat in Warrensville, NC, I saw this strange sight on the side of the road: outside an old antique store stood rows and rows of old bathtubs.  Now, this isn't the sort of thing one thinks of as the perfect photography subject, but for some strange reason I was intrigued by these rows of tubs, and stopped the car to investigate further.

On closer inspection, each bathtub seemed to have its own personality, and I couldn't resist sharing the faces I discovered in the bathtubs!  Sometimes the camera can be a way to discover the unexpected and to give us an opportunity to have fun and laugh.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

The Secret Life of Trees

"I am affected by a visual experience - it is meaningful and beyond articulation.  When I look at a tree, I cannot forget the invisibles - the ants, the water system inside the tree, the birds, the insects and other animals who depend on the tree for shelter and food.  I try to make the invisibles felt.  I have a deep empathy with nature, and when I am photographing her I feel a certain communion.  I feel in love."
Ruth Bernhard
American Photographer ( 1905 – 2006)

Think about the secret life of a tree ("the invisibles") when you make a photograph of a tree and consider how your image can reflect this magical inner life that is present in most living things.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Abstract Photography Exploration

Let me share Exploration 3 on Abstract Photography from the chapter on A Whole New Perspective in The Creative Photographer with you today as it is a great exploration to take on during the summer when you might be taking time to look at life differently!

Ordinary things take on different dimensions when we focus on the details or photograph from unusual angles to highlight shapes and lines, or color, pattern, and texture.  The resulting images may not remind you (or the viewer) of anything you know, but it will engage your brain as you try to make sense of what you are seeing.  Viewing abstract imagery engages our vision in a different way.  I believe our creativity is expanded when we see things we have to think about, without knowing exactly what they are.

Take the opportunity to focus on things that draw you in, that make no sense as conventional photographs, but that speak to you through their shape, color, pattern, or some other abstract element. One has to employ careful observation to discover an effective abstract image in the multifaceted world we live in.

What abstract elements appeal to your senses?

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

This Summer take your Camera on an Artist Date

The Exploration on page 44 of The Creative Photographer suggests that you take your camera on an Artist Date. I first learned of this idea from the book The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron.  Julia suggests that one should always go on an artist's date alone.  I like to think of my camera as an extension of myself and an artist's date as a kind of play date with myself and my camera.

The photographer version of the Artist Date is an outing where you go not to take "good" photographs, but to just experience being in an interesting place where you can observe everything around you and become more aware and sensitive to your surroundings.  Yes, you might go home with many new images, and perhaps these new images will serve as inspiration for you in some way, but the main objective of the outing is to experience time with yourself and become present to the moment and everything around you.  By giving yourself permission to take these outings you will expand your creative horizons and you will begin to think of yourself as an artist. In addition you will come to understand that time alone with no expectations of yourself to achieve anything profound, is an extremely important part of the creative process.

You can also expand this idea into something a little different by asking a group of friends to bring their cameras and come along with you.  Pack a picnic lunch and head off on a road trip, stopping whenever you see something you would like to photograph. It is my experience that when you are seeing the world through the lens of your camera you are in a world of your own and very often forget you are with other people.  You can also plan a trip to a specific location and draw up a list of things you will all photograph.  Each of you can then take time on your own exploring this location with your camera, re-grouping after a couple of hours to share photographs over a cup of tea or coffee. If you photographed from a list you will notice how everyone experienced seeing things in such different ways.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Seeing with Quiet Eyes: Photography as Meditation Retreat

Last month I was fortunate enough to teach Photography as Meditation to a wonderful group of 31 photographers ranging in age from 17 to 73 at the Buddhist Retreat Center in Ixopo, South Africa.

One of the ideas that I shared was approaching the practice of photography with "beginner's mind".  This Zen Buddhist concept encourages one to enter into the study of a subject with a lack of preconceptions and an attitude of openness and eagerness.  Seeing with the eyes of your inner child or with an attitude of wonder can also take you into this space of being present to beauty.

The poet John O'Donohue in his book Eternal Echoes says this about wonder: "Wonder is a beautiful style of perception; when you wonder at something, your mind voyages deep into its possibility and nature.  You linger among its presences.  You do not take it for granted and are not deceived or blinded by its familiarity.  The sense of wonder keeps experience fresh and original."

Would you see differently if you saw with the eyes of your inner child, seeing something for the very first time?  Wouldn't the whole world seem full of wonder?

Surrounded by the natural beauty of the rural countryside of South Africa no-one had any trouble with this idea.

The teaching studio at the Buddhist Retreat Center

The library at the Buddhist Retreat Center -
a wonderful place to spend a quiet afternoon

A corner of the Zen Garden

Thursday, April 19, 2012

"The Creative Photographer" wins a 2012 Silver Nautilus Award

Nautilus Awards recognize Books that promote spiritual growth, conscious living and positive social change,  while at the same time stimulating the "imagination" and offering the reader "new possibilities" for a better life and a better world.  Jean Houston says: "These books are creating a curriculum for a world that longs for a new story."  I am honored and grateful that my book has been presented this award.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Photo Linocuts

In the chapter on Photography as Meditation in The Creative Photographer, Exploration 8 (page 140) shows you how to make linocuts using leaves from your garden. 

However, this method can be applied to any of your photographs as well.  This is how I created this black and white linocut of a photo of this Barn Owl using Photoshop Elements:

1.  Open your digital photo in Photoshop and make a duplicate layer.

2.  Go to Enhance > Unsharp Mask.  Set the Amount to 500% and the Threshold to 0.  Try a Radius setting of 8 to start, but also adjust it to see if you like any of the other settings better.

3.  Go to Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur and set the Radius at about one quarter of the value of the Radius setting in Step 2. above.

4.  Repeat the Enhance > Unsharp Mask step in 2. above.

5.  Finally, go to Filter > Adjustments > Threshold and adjust the Threshold level until you create an image that you like.

You now have your black and white linocut! I printed my linocut barn owl out on white paper with my laser printer, then used the packing tape transfer method on page 95 of The Creative Photographer to make a transparent image which I pasted on a green background after cutting around the owl.

This is a great way to use your photographs in art projects.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

A World of Magic in a Blade of Grass

There is a world of magic hidden in a blade of grass, but it is so easily passed by as we rush through our morning routines. Our cameras allow us to see things that our eye often overlooks. 

Taking my camera out into my backyard yesterday morning felt like an act of prayer as it allowed me to see more deeply into the beauty of the every day objects I take for granted. 

It gave me time to focus on my breath as I needed to make sure that I pressed the shutter in between breaths so as to keep the camera as still as possible.  It made me look deeper.  I was drawn to the dew on the grass but when I looked ever closer I was mesmerized by the drops of water clinging to the blade of grass.

It made me aware of the magic of life.

Sunday, January 22, 2012


I find it interesting that the more technology improves the more I seem to want to recreate photographs that have a retro feel to them.  However, I love the fact that digital photography allows me to play and experiment as much as I want without spending money on film. So when I found the website Poladroids I was very excited as I can now create polaroid-looking photographs using my digital photographs! The fun thing about the application is that once downloaded (this is free) a Polaroid camera appears on your computer screen.  You then drag and drop your digital image into the camera and it makes a noise like a Polaroid camera and then ejects the print onto your desktop.  And to make the experience even more authentic you have to wait while the print fully develops - just like a real Polaroid camera.  I can see myself spending hours playing with this application!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

"Photo Transformations" at Art and Soul, Virginia Beach

Join me at Art and Soul in Virginia Beach on Monday, March 5th, 2012 for "Photo Transformations".

Using old photo prints we will create journal background pages of depth and interest. We will add color to these photo backgrounds and then using our photographs we will cut and collage these onto our backgrounds and add meaning with words and embellishments. We will learn to draw on our images to add our own “mark” and style to our photographs. You can even use transparencies of your photographs to add mystery to the pages. We will learn how to use old film negatives to add interest and framing to a series of images and how to create a foil background to our images. The pages we create can then be used individually in our personal journals or can be joined together with lace and fabric to create an individual one-of-a-kind book. We will be working on 5”x7” old photo prints which the instructor will provide (the instructor will also have 8”x10” and 3”x5” sizes available if you would prefer to work on this size). A sewing machine will be available so you can machine sew your books pages together.

Between now and March is a perfect time to think about the images you want to collect for your creation, and go on an artist’s date with your camera to find them. It might be statues in an old cemetery, some close-up flower images, photos of your collection of frogs or owls. Use the time before Art and Soul to start looking around you for inspiration. You’ll find when you focus on finding something you want to photograph you start seeing more of them.

For more information and to register visit Art and Soul Retreats.

"Inspired Vision" at Art and Soul, Virginia Beach

Join me at Art and Soul in Virginia Beach on Sunday, March 4th, 2012 for "Inspired Vision".

We don’t just use our cameras to make an image; we use every part of ourselves to envision and create it. Our “vision” is both literal and metaphorical, encompassing not only our eyes but also our intellect, our emotions, and our other senses as well as our passions, our likes and dislikes. We put all these things into each moment of observation. The photographer Dorothea Lange said: “In a sense, your photographs are your autobiography.” Our images show how we see the world and what is important to us. To express ourselves in a powerful and meaningful way we need to know the language of vision to understand what makes an image come alive.

We will spend the first part of the morning exploring the language of vision which will guide us to become more soulful photographers. We will talk about composition, how to experiment with different perspectives, and most important how to open our eyes to see the world in a whole new way. With this new knowledge we will then take our cameras on a scavenger hunt to gather images to play with once we return home.

After lunch, using photographs of doors we have brought with us (or those provided by the instructor) we will create one or more symbolic Doorways of Insight. Doorways have a symbolic significance in our lives. They are thresholds to our inner and outer realities. Your camera is a tool for rediscovering the world outside – and inside – your door. We will learn a number of different ways to add meaningful words to the image hidden behind the door. We will mount these doors on canvas panels, but you can also bring your journals and create Doorways of Insight directly on to your journal pages.

For more information and to register visit Art and Soul Retreats.