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Canon 1Ds Mk III, 1/125 sec@f/5.6, ISO 800, 85mm (EF70-200L 2.8IS)

Canon 1Ds Mk III, 1/125 sec@f/5.6, ISO 800, 85mm (EF70-200L 2.8IS)

 

One of the most important skills a landscape photographer can develop is a deep sense of awareness. This is defined as a deep knowledge or perception of a situation or environment, and as you might imagine, extremely useful when working in nature. Why? There are many reasons, some of which I’ll outline here based on my own experiences. But in general the more you’re aware of your surroundings, and more importantly how you perceive them, the easier it will be to connect with what you’re feeling inside. Without that critical insight, it becomes very difficult if not impossible to make images that convey what you see and feel to others.

So much of a successful photograph is about conveying personal opinions and perspectives, your unique vision. That comes from seeing deeply into nature in a way that goes beyond the obvious. Our senses are constantly feeding us with all sorts of valuable information, yet often only a small percentage is consciously recognized. This is because our brains are constantly thinking, judging, grasping, and doing all sorts of other mental gymnastics that keep us from perceiving what is actually happening in the moment. Whether the movement of light across a meadow, the gesture of a tree, the subtle colors of the sky during twilight; all of these become more interesting and potentially more enlightening the more aware we become. And as they say, it’s all in the details. Without a certain amount of mental silence, these details often go unnoticed.

“When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs. When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence.” – Ansel Adams

Mindfulness is the key to awareness, and the best method known to develop mindfulness is meditation. I’m not referring to anything religious based, or new agey, but scientifically proven techniques that allow us to recognize our constant thoughts for what they are, thoughts and not reality. I’ve been meditating for almost six years now, and I can honestly say its helped me with stress, anxiety, and deepened my experiences in nature both as a landscape photographer and human being. We have so much going on in our daily lives that often gets in the way of creativity. Taking a relaxed walk or hike in nature is certainly a great way to reduce some of that mental baggage, but combining that with meditation really helps to see what matters from what doesn’t. I’m not at all suggesting that this is some sort of panacea or solution to better photography, but rather another tool you can utilize that has stood the test of time.

Recently meditation has become more mainstream and popular, largely because it has been scientifically studied and shown to provide numerous health benefits. I think it’s a great way to gain a broader perspective on life, reduce stress, and practice photography in a more relaxed, open minded approach. A simple exercise consisting of following your breath every morning for 10 minutes is a great way to start the day, and can lead to more profound benefits down the road. If you’d like to explore mindfulness, here are some great resources to get started. I highly recommend giving one of these a try…there’s not much to lose, and much to gain.

Books

Apps and Websites

Meditation Center and Mindfulness based workshops

Has meditation been beneficial for you?

Thanks for reading as always, and any questions or feedback, please leave them below.

RR Jr

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This Post Has 7 Comments
  1. Well presented, Robert. Simple and to the point.
    Yes mindfulness and meditation so very much enhance my experience of the outdoors, lending new dimensions to the experience in deep gratifying ways. And yes, that then becomes the ground for engaging in landscape photography.
    Thank-you!

  2. I just discovered your wonderful photography through your videos with B&H. I’m truly enjoying working my way through your galleries -your use of light is amazing.

    Chloe M.

  3. Hi Robert,
    Your views on awareness and mindfulness, as well as your thoughts on the inner world of photography and confidence have very much touched me. I live in NYC now; but came from Katonah NY, so relate to your love of the Hudson Valley. I hope to go on one of your workshops.
    I have thought about returning to mediation. I took some courses with Lordro Rinser at Shambhala in NYC.
    He has written some books; one I like is:
    “Sit Like Buddha”-but also more advanced ones. Maybe you would like his views on Mindfulness and Awareness.
    Your views have motivated me.
    Thanks,
    Alex

    1. Many thanks Alex, really appreciate that and so grateful for you and your feedback. People often think that meditation has to be an all or nothing practice, and that you only get the benefits when you sit. But there are many ways to become more present – walking meditation, or hiking, sitting by a stream and listening to the sound intensely, or simply being as present as possible when making photographs. I like to take the practice into the real world as much as possible – after all that’s what it is, a practice to use in real life. I highly recommend books by Thich NHat Hanh, especially Peace Is In Every Step, a practical down to earth approach to developing mindfulness day to day.

      thanks for the book recommendations as well.

      RR

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