contemplative photography 13

At the start of this photo study project I had a bit of doubt about being able to make it to the finishing line…once a week, 52 blogs….three 16-week college semesters plus one summer semester…no holiday or vacation breaks – was a huge challenge.  And today, I’m posting the final blog of this year-long learning project.

This Study was inspired by a number of bloggers:


So where do we go from here?  May I recommend: 

Photography books are a great resource especially those that focus upon particular photographers.  Look for them in your local library, used book stores, yard sales.  My favorite photo books are those published by Aperture Magazines.

Online galleries are also a great place to study particular photographers.

Supervision New York is a great place to visit especially if you are interested in Michael Kenna’s work  @


Thank you for joining me in this journey of discovery.  If a blogger, site, book, or video has inspired your photography I would appreciate hearing from you.  Again, thank you and I do hope you had fun, lots of fun.

Today,  is one week shy of my year-long photo study project! I began this blogging journey with the intention to explore, experiment, and learn about various aspects of photography.

Through the unparalleled sharing of knowledge Ted Forbes’ offered through his YouTube videos, The Art of Photography, I was able to set out learning about the basics of composition within photography: the rules of thirds, odds, and space; as well as, the elements of lines, shape, simplification, negative space, repeating patterns, sub framing, and triangles. And from this ground work we explored perspective, seeing, low and high angles, tone, color theory, and the characteristics of light.

The genres of abstract, landscape, sequence, contemplative, and street photography were introduced with the assistance of photographers such as:

Four posts ‘focused” on The Photographer, the person who stands on one side of the photography triangle which supported the Developing your Photography Style exercises. These 4 posts were drawn from Ted Forbes’ Master Class Live series in which photographers were offered exercises designed to exhaust all possibilities in order to awaken our unique individuality.

And yes!  Throughout the year there were exercises that I undertook with an egg, or two, or three as the subject.

This was an autodidactic journey undertaken to share and expand through exchanges with others. Each posts defined the next topic throughout this project.  It has been both a challenge and fun.  You will find each of the post listed as standalone lessons on the home page under A Photo Study.


Was there a specific topic or post that you enjoyed the most, the most beneficial, the most challenging? I would enjoy seeing 1-7 of the images you created during the past year. Let’s tag with #aphotostudy.


Ted Forbes brings his Master Class Live series to a close by identifying a number of important reminders for amateur and professional photographers:  

photographs come from your mind, your talent, your skill level, your experience, your sense of creativity…. 

…what you are as a photographer is a sum of all your experiences and everything you have done up to this point comprises your skill level.

…the camera doesn’t make images you do

Developing your style as a photographer is:

…an ongoing process…this is something that you get better and better and better and better at, and I think, hopefully, one day you get really good at but it never stops….


Exercise 1:  tell a story without words

  • identify a story or how-to-series you would like to create
  • use your camera to create a series of photographs 
  • use as many perspectives as possible
  • keep it simple
  • think about composition, that is how could various elements assist in telling your story
  • create a lot of images…15-30+
  • edit the series of images 
      • identify those that specifically show what you are trying to communicate
      • removing those that are not essential in the story’s key points
      • edit again to pare the number down to as few as possible.  Can you remove all but one and still tell the story?

sequence2The absolute goal of this exercise is to tell a story with one image that interacts with a viewer and evokes an emotional response, a reaction, or a change in perspective, thought, or understanding.


A number of various genres that may inspire you are: 


Duane Michals @

Eadweard Muybridg @

Movies and short videos: 

Ted Forbes’s Photo Assignment #6

A photo study 

a photo study:  story photography

Looking forward to your images and thoughts.  Let’s tag with #aphotostory.

…what we’re doing here is getting you to think…over the course of a long period of time you may see some of it very quickly, some of it in a matter of weeks, depending on how hard you work, it may be a couple of years before you start really feeling like you defining yourself as a photographer…the catalyst, which I think is really important…what we are looking for right now…is to get you to start thinking differently…

The first part of this Developing Your Personal Style series invited us as photographers to learn how to see and think–visualization. The second encouraged us to utilize the meditative process of concentration and returning to the object as a means to extend our creative endeavors by encouraging us as photographers to “exhaust all possibilities”  and “to train the brain to think.”  

This week Ted Forbes has offered three separate photo assignments that blend two things together…emulating an identified feeling state of experience and engaging with a subject in such a way as you create a portraiture that represents an identified feeling. 

Exercise 1:

  • Start with a basic feeling…identify an event or something that happened in your life that is associated with a feeling — happy, angry, sad, worried, etc. 
  • Visualize and mediate upon this feeling state. 
  • Get your mind to think differently….how do I bring that certain feeling into an image?  How do I just shoot something that represents that state of experience?  What do I need to do to get that feeling to be represented in a photograph?
  • Replicate this feeling through a still life, landscape, or abstract image.
  • Don’t expect to be good…it takes time to emulating feelings.

The initial photographs we create during this time “…may not be great, but the whole point is [we’ve] got [our heads] thinking and [we’re] getting [our] mind around composition and possibilities and that’s what’s really important…”

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Exercise 2:

  • Go to the library or book store and find a photo book of a photographer whose work touches upon the multiple emotions within the human experience; e.g., Cartier-Bresson, Walker Evans.
  • Ask yourself what is it about this photographer that inspires you to start seeing the varied possibilities of photographing and evoking feelings.  
  • Remember you don’t have to try and be like him…just see the possibilities.

Exercise 3: 

  • Create a portraiture of someone that demonstrates an identified feeling state.
    • Engage with your subject, share what feeling state you wish to convey, develop a sense of trust, be like a movie director encouraging an actor to communicate a specific feeling. 
    • Keep in mind
      •     there is discomfort for the viewer when she can not see someone’s eyes.
      •     people communicate emotions all of the time through their facial expressions and body postures. 
      •     interacting with people will help increase your comfort level
      •     experiment with how to evoke feelings of people so that in time your work demonstrates your individual touch and people will “want you and no one else.”

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I hope you will enjoy these challenging exercises that encourages us to stretch our imaginations while creating images that represents your personal style.  As always, I’m looking forward to seeing some of your work and reading your thoughts.  Let’s tag with #aphotostudy.

This week’s a photo study continues with Ted Forbes’ Master Class series, Developing your own Creative Style.  Last week’s blog reviewed and invited us to open ourselves to visualization by remaining in a selected location, without a camera.  Within the second episode, he defines meditation and then offers two exercises designed to increase our awareness of mediation within the creative process.

In the world of photography, mindfulness has been described as “meditative” or “contemplative” photography.

While out on a photo walk, my eyes scan the environment, searching for that something (shape, patterns, color, light/shadow, story) that draws my attention or for the perfect background scene.  As I move through my environment, my mind begins thinking about a photo article I read earlier or an image created by one of my favorite photographers.  I then consider the various camera settings and variations that may help me recreate an image or avoid repeating a past mistake.  For a moment or two, I ponder about what kind of image would be a great accompaniment with a particular haiku.  I begin composing and designing my next post which then invites me to slip into a fantasy about recognition and praise and then silence an inner smile as unease creeps in with, “Most likely your pictures will not be good enough” 

All of this invites me to question, “Am I really on a photo walk or am I engaged in a private screening of movies of my own making?”   This mindlessness chatter of thoughts, expectations, and desires are like dense clouds that prevent me from really being present with and seeing the world around me.  To see requires a meditative mind.

For some people meditation is shrouded in esoteric mystery.  Others understand it through images of a person sitting in the lotus position with eyes half-closed.  Others associate it with holiness and spirituality.  In its most general sense it is deciding exactly how to focus the mind for a period of time and then doing just that.

In theory, focusing the mind upon an object sounds very easy, but practice acquaints us with a mind that seems to have a will of its own as it drifts from one thought, image, conversation, or memory to other remembrances, conversations, concepts, and thoughts.  This internal stream goes on and on like a personal conversation with oneself or a perpetual story upon a movie screen…

…at the point when one realizes that the mind has traveled here and there, one is simply to note this to oneself and with acceptance gently return again to the meditative object…cited: A Meditative Journey, b c koeford

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Even though they may not specifically use the word “mindfulness,” many of the great masters talk about photography as awareness of the present moment in which we forget ourselves. We let go of the goals, desires, expectations, techniques, and anxieties that make up who we in order to more fully immerse ourselves into the experience of seeing. We open up our receptive awareness to what the world offers us…. We’re not looking for anything in particular. We’re not going anywhere in particular. We’re not expecting or trying to control anything in particular. Instead, we’re wandering, perhaps rather aimlessly, without a goal or purpose. We’re fully and naively open to the possibility of the unexpected, the unique, the moment when things come together… to the flow of life. Under these conditions, when we let go of the self, “it” appears to us. We don’t find and take the picture. The photograph finds us. It takes itself. We unite with the scene not so we can see a shot we want, but rather what the scene offers. The experience comes to us and the photograph is simply the icing on the cake. cited:

In photography, mindfulness is like observing something for the first time, even though you may have looked at it a thousand times before.

With an understanding of the importance of returning, again an again, our concentration to the moment, Ted Forbes invites us to

1.   Spend 30 minutes to an hour creating a still life.  

      • Use an ordinary everyday item
      • focus on that one object
      • exhaust all the possibilities
      • when you become aware that you mind has begun to wander then—with acceptance—just return to this still life project
      • ask yourself what am I not doing, what if I introduce motion? what would be different if I would do….? what would this look like  in different location—outdoors, on the floor, different table?
      • if it seems as though all possible angles, ideas, etc., have been exhausted, remain focused on the exercise for the rest of the time by jotting down thoughts and engaging in visualization. 

2.  Spend 30 minutes to an hour with a building or an outdoor space. — If you have chose a building that is in a public space and not a building that may arouse anxiety, a government building.

      • sit and explore ways to photograph.
      • just remember to keep returning to the exercise when you mind begins to wander.
      • exhaust all possibilities
      • use your journal to write down your ideas, frustrations, future projects.

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If you are interested in meditation within the street photography genre, I invite you to visit Keep the Focus website.  The Keep the Focus is a project initiated by German Street Photographer Thomas Ludwig who wants to bring the benefits of meditation techniques into street photography.  On the site he offers a free ebook. A Meditation Guide for Street Photographers

I enjoy reading your comments and viewing your creative work.  Thank you for sharing. Let’s tag with #aphotostudy.

Nikon D750   f/8  1/400s  300mm   1250 ISO

With five weeks left of this year-long project, it is the time to explore how we as photographers

…eventually get to a point where we are comfortable with a certain look, a certain subject, or genre. Our work becomes recognizably ours. Sometimes this is done intentionally, sometimes we become well known for a subset of our work and everyone wants more of it. ~Dan K (Japan Camera Hunter)

I found that Dan K’s last two learning steps — Find Yourself and Reinvent Yourself —   dovetail nicely with the Master Class Live series that Ted Forbes created a number of years ago, Developing your Creative Style. 

The first of this Master Class series, Developing your Eye, begins with an introduction of his intention for this four week series:

To introduce exercises that will help us improve our creative work as photographers and to encourage us to allow our images to emerge through the camera from the source of our individual selves:

      • silence the negative voice that demeans our creative drive.
      • accept and embrace the uniqueness of our individual selves absent a tint of arrogance. 
      • find our own creative voice. 

To understand photography as an art form

  • Photography is: 
      • a representation of an idea that is created using light sensitive material. 
      • a visual recording of a scene that is reconstructed in the darkroom or in a software program into a a final image.
      • a two-dimensional representation of a three-dimensional space created through the use of contrast, lighting, and depth of field. 
      • the combination of light through a lens or pin hole with a chemical process, silver gelatin or other materials, or digital process. 
      • a continuum of creative endeavors that extend from commercial  work to fine art.  
  • Visual art is:
      • the organization of visual elements in empty space to form a composition.
      • the use of visual elements such as, shape, line, contrast, color, object(s), light, empty space.
      • created with an audience in mind.
      • includes a degree of manipulation whether it is pre or post production.
      • composition that is created to evoke a reaction from the viewer — effecting ways of thinking, bringing awareness to social, environment, political, commercial issues, engaging through emotion, or creating something that is aesthetically pleasing.  
      • on a continuum range of aesthetically to conceptual.

The materials used in the Master Class series are: a camera (exception for the  “Wish I had my camera” exercise), framing template, small notebook, pencil/pen, photo browser software like Adobe Bridge that allows you to view images that do not have post adjustment tools.  

Exercise I: I Wish I Had My Camera

 tear down walls to get from the concrete to the imagined

This exercise is designed to encourage awareness of photographic memory through the use of a journal to record spontaneous creative ideas that generally fade after a few seconds and incorporate pre-visualization as a creative tool.  It is common for creative people to experience creative moments during times of disengagement — in the shower, while falling into or awakening from sleep.  

    • Leave your camera at home and sit for 30 minutes to an hour somewhere in a chosen location.  Repeat 2-3 times in different locations.
    • At the beginning you may become bored, uncomfortable, and/or question the purpose of this exercise.  Write down your initial thoughts/feelings in your journal.  If it is boring, write down why.  Jot down the feelings or thoughts that arise.
    • When you see something that catches your eye ask yourself why and get that in your mind.  What is interesting about it?  Is there a narrative or story here?  How could you use this to create the perfect composition? 
    • Imagine different composition elements: light, perspective, low-high angle, time of day, different weather conditions, etc that would bring about a perfect image.
    • Silent any negative reactions, or practicalities that block this creative play. 
    • Journal your thoughts…short phrases, diagrams, and record them before they fade. 
    • Be the camera and open yourself to what is absent of a chattering/planning mind.  Did you notice something now that you did not initially notice?
    • If you remain in this location for at least 30 minutes, you will begin to notice things and say to yourself, “I should have noticed that.”
    • Ask yourself, “how can I make this more interesting?” Do I need to move to a different location?  Write it down…write down everything that comes to your mind. Don’t be inhibited in what you write in your journal.  Nothing is silly.  Your words do not need to be beautiful, grammatically correct…you are just jotting down your thoughts, triggers, imaginations, questions.  You are retaining the spontaneous, imagination, creative you. 
    • Use your framing templates to experiment to see if there are objects that get in the way…to frame up the image…zoom as you move the template close to your eye or further away. 
conttemplative 7
Sony RX100 III    f/2.8   1/100s  25.7mm  800 ISO

…just let your imagination flow.  If you have an image in your head it may take a number of times to create the image or it may even takes years.  

Exercise II: Finding Your Own Creative Voice 

  • Introduce yourself to the history of photography
  • Begin an exploration of photographers to find those who inspire you and influence how you see and understand photography.  
  • Study their work and try to replicate their use of shape, line, contrast, color, object(s), light, empty space, composition, attention to detail, manipulation, use of tones, etc. 
  • Recreate their work.  You may begin by coping their work, but eventually use this as a door way to your own creative space
  • If you find yourself favoring one end of the conceptual-aesthetic continuum try exploring the other end.

I would love to read about your experience with “wish I had my camera” and about the photographers who resonate with your creative soul.  Let’s tag with #aphotostudy. 

The Master Class YouTube videos and the history video are around an hour long. I have found that it is difficult to sit and view a video for this period of time, so I generally break it down to 20 minute segments. 

Below are the The Photographer posts that reviewed Dan K’s steps to becoming a better photographer.



My brain is tired.  After fourteen posts in which my thinking/photographic self weaved in, through, and out of contemplative photography, I decided it was time to shift “focus” to the genre of street portraiture by inviting a number of amazing photographers to share their creative endeavors.

But first, what is street portraiture?

Well to me, a street portrait is just a photograph/portrait of someone you meet on the streets (stranger). Generally it is focused on their face, but doesn’t need to be. A “portrait” just means a “likeness” of someone. For example, you can shoot a “full body portrait” of someone, and you can also shoot a closeup face portrait of someone. ~Eric Kim

On the photo forums they are always debating whether street portraiture is street photography.

There are no hard and fast rules. But in general, if a picture contains a person on the street and is posed / staged, it is street portraiture. If the photo of the person is candid,  it is street photography. Street portraiture may come under realm of street photography, but it is not to be confused with candid, non staged street work. Now, there are no photo police to decide such matters, so people are free to call em as they see em. ~ Daniel D. Teoli Jr.

Now let’s visit the website 123Photogo who shares with us that …character portraits is a whole different type of portrait photography, but, truly an art form that is just totally fun


Jamie Windsor offers us “Tips for taking portraits of strangers”:

Mikaël Theimer’s talk about his connecting with strangers

Amazing examples of street portraiture to inspire you to pick up your camera and connect with life on the street.

I am looking forward to seeing one or more of your creative connection with people on the street.  Let’s tag with #aphotostudy.  Thank you for being a part of this learning journey.

I’m continuing this series of contemplative photography with an exploration of the element of space.  Andy Kerr and Michael Wood at Seeing Fresh note that the challenge in their space assignment is to shift our intention from seeing forms in space to seeing visual space itself; that is, the space that surrounds things and space that is between things.

Opening myself to seeing space as around and between objects

John McQuade and Miriam Hall invited me to drop my orientation to things by introducing dot-in-space.  My understanding of dot-in-space began with a review of a previous post a photo study: negative space in which I wrote:

In photography negative space is perhaps the most important element as it embraces the subject within your image — the element of interest — helping it stand out and inviting the viewer’s attention.  It is the aspect within a photograph that generally doesn’t attract much attention.  It is sometimes referred to as white space and has the potential to change what appears to be an average subject into an outstanding image. 

It is easy to focus our attention on the subject, on what we see as the most important element of the photograph. Adding to or taking away negative space affects the subject within an image as they effectively become smaller or larger within the frame of your image. 

simplification and negative space

McQuade and Hall write:

When we see, we always see something. … Seeing something means that we see a foreground dot against a background space…you cannot simply see or make an image of space. An image of the clear, blue sky would not likely be a perception or an image of space.  It might look somewhat blank and not very dynamic, but perception is always dynamic… A cloud in the sky would cause the sky itself to fall into the background of the cloud, which then becomes the foreground (the dot.)

dot in foreground
space in foreground

In photographing space, McQuade and Hall suggest that I invert the relationship between the dot and the space so that the dot becomes a supportive element for dynamic space.  When the dot recedes to the visual background, the space element assumes the function of the foreground.   The dot (which often occupies an edge or corner of an image) then, serves as an anchor.

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McQuade and Hall furthers their discussion of space by encouraging the photographer to open the self to the subtlety of space which moves beyond the dot and to the experience of space.  Within this level, a trace element of the dot within these images are always present, but it is not the focus.

…the main quality of visual space is that it is pervasive…it is a feature of the whole perception.

…pay attention to how your eye and mind react. If one, your eye doesn’t land somewhere, but instead, is buoyed by an overall space; and if two, your mind does not fixate somewhere but, at least initially, rests in a sense of expanse, then this is an equivalent image of space. 

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As with all mind shifts this aspect of contemplative photography has nudged me outside my usual way of seeing the world.  Negative space in other photographic genres is a means to embrace the subject within your image — the element of interest — helping it stand out.  In contrast, contemplative photography invites the subject to move into the background so that space becomes the element of interest.

As always I would love to read your comments and view your images.  Let’s tag with #aphotostudy.

Within the website Seeing Fresh, visitors will find an introduction to Karr and Wood’s discussion of contemplative photography as well as a series of photographic assignments on color, texture, simplicity, light, and space that include representative images.

contemplative photography 8

This year-long project seems to be drawing upon composition elements that were covered at the beginning of this study.  Recently, I revisited the post which explored the elements of simplicity as part of this series on contemplative photography.

Today, I find myself going back and re-reading the two separate post about rhythm.  Rhythm involves the same or similar elements repeating at regular intervals.  Repetition is easy to find…all around us are shape that are pretty basic and similar to each other.  We see them repeating at regular intervals within nature, design, works of art, architecture, and photography.

 The origin of repetition is from the French repeticion or Latin repetitio(n-), from repetere – repeat.  

When you repeat a certain size or shape or color you add strength to the overall image of a photograph.  If you want to make a statement, you repeat certain elements again and again. If you repeat something once or twice it becomes more interesting. If you repeat something many times it becomes a pattern and takes on a life of its own.

Patterns give us order in an otherwise chaotic world. 

A Karr and M Wood (The Practice of Contemplative Photography) invites photographers to  “see patterns of light–not things that are illuminated, or shadows cast by objects that block the light.”

I found that this exercise “seeing patterns of light” was a bit of a challenge for as I was more drawn towards patterns created by shadows.  Therefore, while on a photo walk, I found that when I connected with light, I had to actually stop and question, “is this a light pattern or a shadow pattern?”

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I challenge you to open yourself to seeing light…patterns of light. I would enjoy seeing your creations and reading about your experiences and thoughts about light patterns. Let’s tag with #aphotostudy.

Life seems to invite periods of time in which I think, “I’ve been here before.”  For example, my first readings about contemplative photography occurred about 6-7 years ago.  Even though this genre resonated with me, I chose to put it aside as there was limited resources on the internet and what training programs I was able to find were a bit outside of my financial resources.   

In June of this year, I began to explore contemplative photography as part of this A Photo Study project.  Today, this 12th posting of contemplative photography has been motivated by A Karr and M Wood’s discussion of “simplicity” within their book, The Practice of Contemplative Photography  What I find interesting is that the January, 2018,  blog of this project was, A Photo Study: Simplification and Negative Space, which was inspired by one of Ted Forbes’ composition videos.

Even though life seems to move in a linear progression from birth to death; at times like this I find myself wondering if there are periods of time in which there are episodes of circular movements within one’s life journey in which we are “presently” invited to pause and reflect upon our “past”  before time nudges us into a new present, our future.  

Well, I think I’ve digressed from this week’s photo study, simplicity.  Karr and Wood note that their simplicity exercise is to open us to the relationship between form and space, to open ourselves to the experience of simplicity without seeking an external validation of our concept of simplicity.

Space intensifies the experience of form, and simple form intensifies the experience of space.  … Simplicity and space are aspects of our perception. Visual space can be produced by a red wall, a length of gray fabric…a smooth beach…a backdrop of dark shadows, gray pavement…sky..  An object seen seen against any unadorned expanse will be surrounded by visual space. 

Their definition of space brings to mind the post, Negative Space,  in which I wrote:

In photography negative space is perhaps the most important element as it embraces the subject within your image — the element of interest — helping it stand out and inviting the viewer’s attention.  It is the aspect within a photograph that generally doesn’t attract much attention.  It is sometimes referred to as white space and has the potential to change what appears to be an average subject into an outstanding image

For this exercise, Kerr and Wood encourage a point of departure in which our intention should be to recognize perception where form and space produce strong contrasts—where the experience of form is weighted because of the space around it.   …to look at one thing at a time.  Look at objects and also look at their environment.  Don’t hurry. Proceed in a relaxed way that allow you to see the space around things, not just the things themselves.

The first series of the images in the slideshow below are of a couple of photo walks directed by my understanding, thus far, of contemplative photography especially in regards to flash of perspective, visual discernment, and forming the equivalent, comparable to what I perceived—nothing more, nothing less.  


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The second series of images in the slide show below are part of the images I created as part of the simplification and negative space blogs posted earlier this year.  These images, I believe, were created by a natural inclination towards flash of perspectives, visual discernment, and a bit of digital darkroom creative exploration.  


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I enjoy the creative playgrounds offered by Photoshop, Capture One, and Nik.  Am looking forward to a comparison of images you created in repose to the earlier blogs on simplification and negative space with those of simplicity as defined within contemplative photography.  Please tag with #aphotostudy.