Photography as a Spiritual Pursuit 2

November 20, 2017  •  1 Comment


Well, here we go, grab your camera and let’s have some fun. By the way, this blog is not going to cover settings, technical things, and the sort.  Those you can find anywhere and if you are not comfortable with your camera you need to study them and learn so that the technical aspect is in the back of your mind. If you have to keep calling it to the front it will get in the way of your photography and everything we are trying to do here.


We are going to try and learn to shoot with our hearts, with our spirits and the only way possible for that to happen is that we really can’t be spending time fidgeting with our cameras. If you haven’t spent the time to learn the camera, inside and out. Well, the basic settings so that you can get what you want in the image.


My method if you can call it a method is: see, feel, shoot, process. I spend no time trying to define what I am feeling, for me that will get in the way of execution and tend to preclude that I will get the image that touched me.


This is a right-brained process, and yes I know that the latest studies are wanting to refute the actual right and left brain understanding but for the sake of communication, I use right brained in the traditional sense.


The things that attract me reveal something about my spirit. A friend once said to me, “I love your work but your photographs are so dark.” Before I even thought out of my mouth came, “I am a dark person.”  Before this happened I just thought it was that I liked the dark moody photographs. Not the morally dark, even sick ones, but dark and shadowy. If you look at the photo I chose to head this whole blog, the tracks going alongside the cemetery in the fog you get an idea of what I mean.


I have not chosen the photo for this post yet but I am sure given the subject matter it will be of a similar nature.


You may always see sunny photos, cheery and that is fine. You may choose to shoot those because they are the antithesis of the darkness you are attracted to, also okay. Just shoot and don’t over think. Keep shooting what attracts you and see what appears. I would hope that it would go without saying here, that for our purposes, we want to avoid any type of photography that objectifies and demeans another person or treads on our most basic lusts. That is just way too easy and will not aid us here. Although it too is revealing. In the end, you will find your own path. However, at some point, a true spirituality will inevitably have to make a moral judgment. But before you run down that road please think of the puritan in the parable at the end of my first post on this subject. In the end, it is you who will have to figure out where the line is to be drawn and remember that is your line.


It will be easy here to go off thinking that the rules of composition and image are not necessary especially after what I said about the technical side. That would be a mistake. Good composition is essential to convey the feeling that attracted you to the image in the first place. Do your best. If you are a beginner you may find as I did many years ago that you see something, it touches you and you shoot it only to find that later the image has nothing of the feel you liked about it. Many times, in the beginning, we will shoot something that touches us and not think at all about proper composition, lighting, setting, and so on and get a photo that just doesn’t work. So when you find that thing you want to shoot, look at it, really look at it and find what conveys something, you don’t even have to understand what. In reality, your image probably if it touches someone will do so in a far different way that it did you unless it is some tragic event, and still it might.


Don’t worry about anyone getting it. That is not the point. The point is that you shoot what makes you feel. If you accurately capture what you are feeling, it will touch someone, just be ready to let it do so in that person's own particular way.


I learned this bit of letting go of the image from my wonderful wife. Darla is an amazing painter and writer. Probably the most talented person I know, and I know some very talented people.


I met her while I was in Seminary and she had just returned from a 4-year apprenticeship in Florence with a master painter and sculptor.  I was amazed how she could finish a painting and then just let it go. Things people said both positive and negative would not touch her. She was about the doing and was already on to the next one.


She is about to publish her first novel and I am so very interested in seeing how she handles the response to this. She has spent a decade writing this and six others in the series now are polishing up the first book and will release it by the first of the year. A painting takes her weeks, this has been her life for ten years, much more invested and I will be very interested in how she deals with this.


So, go out and shoot. Then process. For me, processing is just as important as the shooting, maybe even more so. When I process I don’t really visualize what I want I just begin and the photo will guide the processing. What to do will come as I go.


It is funny, I shot fashion and advertising many years ago and I found the same true. I would plan the shoot, work the plan and more often than not the photos I shot around the set and those became the ones the client would want rather than the ones we had planned together. As a pro, you need to be able to give the client what they want and that takes planning and ability but I also found that the spirit was in what was happening with the people during the shoot and I would try and catch that as well.


I call my landscape shots earth portraits, not sure where I heard that but it fit.  I am not a true landscape photographer. I can not often sit out there with my camera on a tripod waiting for that perfect light. I need to move, experience, see, and shoot as it prompts me. That is just who I am. I do however love good landscape photographers work. It always amazes me. Then there are times like the photo above where I had to use the tripod and wait for the composition and feel to be right.


I love street photography, the being out there among the people going about their lives. I love the energy and the ever-changing dynamic of each and every scene. Trying to capture a poignant snippet of that energy. A street photographer has to see and react quickly. It is so much fun.


This is one of the reasons I like shooting weddings. I shoot photojournalistic style if you have to put a name on it. I love shooting the candids and capturing wonderful moments in time, the emotions and love, trying to do so in an artistic way. When it works it is magical.

So go out and shoot, shoot what attracts you. Try it all, landscapes, street, portraits you name it and then process letting the energy and spirit reveal itself through the process. That is a great start. After a while you will begin to see things in your work, some calle it style, maybe it is, I think it is a bit of revelation into your soul and spirit.



Laurie johnson(non-registered)
You've given to the world, permission to create ...... once what has the technical aspects in hand to the degree needed and acknowledged, then that is the time to go and fly.thanks for the encouragement, Rick
It is not an easy task to break the constraints we've accepted....
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