October is my Memorial Day extended to 30 days. In truth this time of remembered grief and loss ebbs and flows throughout each day of each year. The intensity of these emotional tides are at the mercy of a lunar moon that has a cycle that begins to tug at my heart in September and slowly releases me in February. It is October, the high tide, the felt-sense zenith of grief.

The continuation of contemplative photography through October was a means to be with the world as it is…and not as I so wish it would be.

the path is hidden by Dharma,

invisible, yet…

memories of you lead me onward.

September was the month when the American political environment had me wonder if I, like Washington Irving’s character, Rip Van Winkle, had slept through a cultural change so profound that my childhood values, morals, and guiding principles were left to rot in the wave of adults regressing back to the elementary school playground’s name-calling, bullying, and violence that left me cringe and hide with overwhelming fear and confusion.

What has blinded us to empathy? When did social justice become a basis of negation? How did human rights become a political loss? While the Great Wall of China is one of the great architectural wonders of the world, does anyone remember the lives of those encircled by the Warsaw Wall or the delight when the Berlin Wall came down?

If I didn’t have photography which invites me to shift “focus”, would this social regression have me rise up in anger and resentment? Would I become blind and deaf to my own moral shame and moral dread? So…in reflection contemplative photography invited my internal voice to become silent and see the world through a different lens.

In September, one of the blogs I posted noted,

“Henri Cartier-Bresson… is reported to have said,  “Thinking should be done beforehand and afterwards—never while actually taking a photograph. Success depends on the extent of one’s general culture, on one’s set of values, one’s clarity of mind and vivacity.

…the creative mind of a photographer is like a piece of unexposed film. It contains no preformed images but is always active, open, receptive, and ready to receive and record an image.~Minor White cited: W Rowe, Zen and the Magic of Photography

I invite you to spend some time with “To Live”, an amazing story of a family’s survival through times of change.

As I review the blogs posted in August, I noticed an increased shift away from black and white images to color. I attribute this to the increased “focus” on the various elements of contemplative photography and an intention to seeing what is as opposed to compositional elements.

contemplative photography


June brings to mind the summer between the fifth and six grades when a family move felt like an earthquake…an unexpected event that shattered my pre-adolescent footing.

Life seems to be filled with those moments…those moments when the phone or doorbell rings and in the summoned steps between here and then we are, unknowing, moving towards a voice…a presence that messages the unimagined without a return to the life we embraced. These life changing moments occur throughout our lives…some of them are, in hindsight, minor losses that resolve through a period of resistance, anger, tears, and sleep. Then, there are those losses and deaths that first numb us and then leave us so shaken that our life view… our life scape is forever altered…

I found that the resistance to those moments has the potential to open doors to new understandings that will, in time, bring an acceptance to or intensify the various elements of grief and loss. These sacred journeys also have the potential to inspire creative endeavor that gives voice to loss that is heard and felt by others and begins to ease an unimagined loneliness.

Photographers have written about the healing that rises from the creation of their images. This art form does invite us to see life through different perspectives, to open our eyes to the magic of light and shadow, to engage in mindful walking, and yes, to connect with nature and/or people.

My review of the posts made during last June was an exploration of opening myself to seeing the mundane anew, to exploring high-angle photography, and to introducing my self to the process of contemplative photography.


high-angle photography

contemplative photography

Why do you photograph, paint, draw, write, cook, knit…create?

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.