the art of doing meditative nature photography

Archive for the ‘Welcome Posts! All about this blog and the book that led to it!’ Category

Welcome to balance through the lens!

So what’s this blog all about and how did it come to be?

Life is a Balancing Act

This blog is about meditative nature photography™, a practice I started when doing photography for my book, Life is a Balancing Act and Nature Understands: A Photographic Journey of Inspiration!

Here’s how it all began…

In the main hallway of our home is a collage of nature photographs I’ve taken over the years. They make me happy and remind me of the places I’ve been and the beautiful, humorous, and inspiring things I’ve seen. The photos touch me, center me, bring me back to places I was smiling.  

But one special day they had a different effect. As I walked mindlessly down the hall, I found myself glancing at the wall as I usually do, fleetingly noticing the images there.

But I slowly stopped, my eyes fixated on a photograph of a Golden-mantled Ground squirrel that I’d taken at Bryce Canyon.

(Click on any of my photographs to see an enlarged image)

I tilted my head and stared. It was as though he was looking right at me, and into my mind popped the words “Ahhh! You can’t see me! I’m blending in!” I giggled to myself at the thought of this creature wanting desperately to stay hidden in his shadows, and glanced around at the other pictures.

Opposite him on the wall was a bold yellow sunflower flashing its showy petals. “Hmm,” I thought. That flower certainly doesn’t seem to want to hide. It’s busy standing out boldly from the background!” I shifted my weight a bit as I scanned the other pictures.

Suddenly “stories” were popping out at me from the photos of my adventures. Another ground squirrel looked at me with a confused smirk.

A tiny blue-grey gnatcatcher in mid-air was telling itself “Keep reaching, keep reaching!” I noticed a picture of Blodgett Peak in fall and thought “That’s a blurry landscape of possibilities”. Flowers of various shapes and hues were splashed about the wall, some with their “heads” or “faces” drooping, while others cheerily turned their “faces” to the sun.

And then I saw a flower with awkward buds hanging around it. “Wow,” I actually said aloud, “some of those hanging around you sure look a little weird!” 

In that moment I realized that there was a book in those photos. My little flower, chipmunk and bird friends were seemingly reaching out to us humans through my lens. Through witnessing and capturing their experiences with the camera, I had given myself a gift: the gift of feeling understood. The gift of empathy. The gift of being reminded that in my best moments and my worst, I’m not alone in what I feel. Nature understands!

That small revelation felt so good. And I had to share that feeling. Besides, I had a quote taped to my computer monitor from Tama Kieves’ fantastic book This Time I Dance: Creating the Work You Love- “The path of inspiration defies navigation. We arrive by revelation.”  I wanted to run with this revelation.

I was later chatting with a particularly creative, insightful friend (amazing visual artist Alayna McKee). I couldn’t resist sharing my experience with her. When I confided the book idea she immediately “got it” and thought it was a wonderful idea. Thanks to her simple enthusiasm and encouragement that day, a year and six days later, Life is a Balancing Act and Nature Understands: A Photographic Journey of Inspiration was published.

As I wrapped up photography for the book, which admittedly became quite intense at times, I realized that I’d stumbled upon another revelation. While I’ve hiked in nature my whole life, I haven’t always done so with a camera. Spending a year in nature nearly every day, I noticed that my walks, hikes, and adventures took on a different quality when I had the camera with me. I was more focused; I slowed down. I saw more. I paid attention more. The camera, quite literally, focused me.  

Being the natural teacher that I am, I had to share this wonderful experience, this remarkable feeling of being understood and finding my focus with others. My life was now so much more balanced. How many others could I help find understanding and balance and focus in their own lives?  Thus a third revelation: I’d found my calling. So out of the making of the book, Balance Through the Lens™ The Art of Meditative Nature Photography™ was born.

follow the path that inspires you and leads you to glorious new things

I hope the book and this blog warm people’s hearts, make their days brighter, and helps them feel less alone and more understood. But more than that I’m hoping it gives them a new way to find their equilibrium- beyond reading the book- a way through doing nature photography to center themselves, focus, and find a restorative inner peace.

I’ll be writing expanded musings on all of the themes and page sets from the book and new inspirations from my adventures in the wild. Please share your own experiences! I’d love to hear from you!

But first,

There was another encounter with a friend, and a lizard, that inspired me to really pursue this blog…

A friend looked at a first draft copy of the book, and I was explaining to her how I got the photographs. She was flipping through the pages and came to the lizard…

“It sat still for you?  Wow. You must have been really calm!” 

I explained to her that when I’m doing nature photography, the world disappears for me. All I see is my subject. I become so calm, so focused, I feel suspended in time and everything else drops away, leaving me and my subject floating in a timeless dance of posing and viewing. I’ll often not notice twenty minutes going by, as I’m pulled in by the beauty of a flower’s petals, the intense focus of a busy, hungry bug, or the standoff-staring contests that squirrels like to engage in with me.  

“You’re in the zone!” my friend said. “Like an athlete. You’re in the zone- it’s like you’re meditating!” 

That’s exactly it. I wrote about that in the last pages of the book, how calming, restorative, exhilarating this is in a healthy, positive way. Like an athlete, sometimes my work in the field is physically demanding, exhausting even. But like an athlete, my adrenaline flows and there’s a euphoria I feel after a long, contorted, thigh-busting shoot that felt like a half-hour of squats! It’s rewarding. It’s worth it. It’s healing. It’s ecstasy.

In that moment I decided that this was something I could teach to others. A new way to become mindful, to be in the moment, to find a state of prayer or meditation, and to be in balance.

 So that’s how this blog came to be!

Read on to:

The Art of meditative nature photography™?

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Choosing a New Path in Life

Choosing a new path in life sometimes involves climbing mountains,
getting a little dirty, breaking a sweat, and
finding yourself lost in the magnificent forest of “new possibilities”
Follow your heart and walk on…

This blog represents a new path for me…

I walk it in the hopes that many others not only follow me, but find their own amazing, inspiring trails…

Life is a winding adventure, replete with myriads of twists and turns, hills and valleys, fabulous sights and stretches of drudgery. But it’s a grand journey. And the path we choose to follow reflects who we really are. I can be the shiest, quietest person in the room, or the biggest squirrely spaz you ever met. I have a tremendously intellectual serene side (I am a trained philosopher, after all), complemented with an insatiable curiosity and love of exploration. So it’s not surprising that the paths I wander reflect all of that.

In my outings in nature I experience hushed soft whispers from forests so quiet that all I hear is the wind in the trees. But I also feel my heart race at the sound of a raven calling as it soars overhead. I felt my heart pound the day I heard a mountain lion growl.

At times I’m nearly running down the trail, giggling as I follow a flock of feathered-something- or-others. At times I’m completely startled to round a corner and find a deer on the trail, or a chipmunk hurriedly crossing my path.

And then there are the moments when time stands still. Like the moment the fledgling nuthatch landed in front of me, only to become so tired it began to drift off to sleep. Inches from my lens, I breathed with it in the moment, click…click…click… mindlessly I just clicked away as I stared through the lens at this darling little creature snoozing before me. One click finally woke it up with a start. I smiled, and breathed slowly. So still, so completely, hopelessly, in this moment. This one sweet little moment when the nuthatch let me share in its nap.

(Click on any of my photographs to see an enlarged image)

That’s why I love nature photography. That’s why I’m out on the trails. To make friends with baby nuthatches, listen to whispering trees, and take photographs to remember those delicious moments in time, learn from them, and share them with you.

But it’s all new for me! I’ve never blogged before. This is a new fork in the trail. Publishing the book was a towering mountain to climb. I broke a sweat. I even panicked a few times. I dared to look down and thought “What on earth am I doing?” But then I looked back up. I looked ahead. And I saw the vast forest of “new possibilities”. It beckoned.

So I followed my heart and walked on…

You might be wondering, “So what did the camera add to this experience? Couldn’t you have just looked at the bird?”

The camera, as it almost always does, added dimensions. On the one hand it zoomed me in. I was nowhere but right there, right then. When you zoom in, several things happen all at once. On the one hand it blocks out. Try this. Put your hands up, cupped around your eyes, narrowing your field of vision to a “tunnel” in front of you. That’s blocking out the extraneous. That’s focusing you in on something more specific than your peripheral, easily-distracted normal viewing mode allows. You’re just hovering, you and your subject, in a moment of timelessness.

The camera also brings you in to something else’s perspective and scale.  Tightened in on just the nuthatch, I was seeing the world the way he does, from his vantage point, on his scale of things. That sensation takes you out of yourself and into another being’s shoes, or paws, or feet. Your everyday concerns drop away. You’re in the bird’s world right now. Your perspective has changed. Life looks very different when you’re standing in the feet of a tiny young nuthatch. His world is so different from yours. He’s not stuck in rush hour traffic or worried about next month’s bills.  So, breathing in to this timelss moment…at least for right now, neither are you.

It’s very mindful. Something holds your attention. The camera blocks everything else out. You focus on the here and now. Time seems to change. You seem to change. And your troubles melt away.

So go get out there. Breathe in to the experience. Listen. Look. Feel.

Find your forest of new possibilities. Find some dreams to dream about and some epic scenery to inspire you to new heights. Let go. Let time stand still. If you just look, you’ll see the forest of new possibilities, too. Because that’s what happens when you clear your mind, regain your balance, and open up again. A little time away from “regular life” breathes a new life into your journey.

And if you can’t get out there today, or this week?

I’m here for you… me & my camera. Ready to share what we find.

The Art of Doing Meditative Nature Photography

So what is meditative nature photography™?

It’s what I create books and blogs about, and what I want to inspire others to try!

It is a way to creatively use nature photography as a tool for relaxation, healing, meditation, and finding deeper meaning in life. A way to bring mindfulness and joy to our lives that I discovered while doing photography for my book Life is a Balancing Act and Nature Understands: A Photographic Journey of Inspiration.

My passion is to share this technique with others so they can discover how to get up close and intimate with nature’s beauty. I feel compelled to share this because it has been so transformative for me! I have gained so much from hanging out with leaves, lizards, and lenses, coyotes, cactus flowers and cameras! 

If I can help others to feel the same joy in their lives, experience the same improvements to their well-being, the same contentment, happiness, and sense of adventure that I’ve achieved… well, that would be amazing. And if I can help others find ‘balance through their lenses’, then my adventures in nature will take on a new meaning, a new significance… a new reason for being.

So I invite you to come enjoy this way to bring mindfulness and joy to our lives. 

What do you need to join in?

A camera, a patch of nature to wander around in, and a sense of awe, wonder, and adventure!

What does it cost? Nothing, of course! 

If you do take up meditative nature photography™?, just pay it forward! Teach someone else what you’ve learned. Share your joy and inspiration. That’s your donation to nature and to humanity!

Visit me here and take a read. Come join me on Facebook for daily giggles, smiles, and “Ahhhhhh” moments from the trails.

What I’ll be sharing are pictures and words… Not just a pretty quote to accompany a pretty picture, I’ll be “quoting nature”! I’ll be sharing the meaning I see in nature, unlocking and uncovering nature’s understanding, empathy, and wisdom in each photo.  And I encourage you to find your own meaning in the photos! And better yet, go take your own pictures and discover your own stories. Let nature whisper to you!

(Click on any of my photographs to see an enlarged image)

So come join in! Let’s crate a community of people who hear nature’s stories, are moved by nature’s wisdom, and are amused and touched by nature’s compassion for the struggles, triumphs, and complexities of our human lives! 

Together we’ll help each other find balance on our paths through life! 

For fans of the book:

I’m also going to do a series of blogs expanding on all of the page sets from the book.

Each set will have a longer look at the theme, and maybe some blooper pictures, too! Here’s a few ‘fan favorites.’

A  few thoughts on why this is so good for us.

I think we get in touch with something simpler, much more basic and uncluttered when we see a reflection of our own thoughts, emotions, and states of mind in nature. When we’re reading a book about “improving our lives” or talking about our problems, (which can certainly still be good things!), we’re doing something more complex; we’re doing analysis (I should know, I’m a philosopher by training- we analyze everything).  

Seeing ourselves through nature is much less cluttered, less analysis-oriented, and more of a word-less and implied understanding that we simply feel. We simply observe. We just see that the bird’s struggles are like ours- even without forming words about it. We just sense it all, on a somewhat subconscious level. We allow ourselves to just be with the feeling, the observation. We tune in to what nature has to say.  

It simply tells us, in unspoken terms, hey, you’re not alone, this is simply life stuff! 

We all deal with it, from the littlest inchworm to the biggest bear. Flowers experience the struggle to break through the cool spring soil. Chipmunks experience the triumph of hurdling a branch. Animals can be lonely, tired, or overwhelmed. Plants can get too crowded, or feel like their needs just aren’t met. We humans are not so different, not so special… if all the beings out there in nature could sit down and talk to us, they’d all say, “Boy do we understand!” 

It’s that understanding that will warm your heart, bring down your walls, catch you off guard, restore your humility, and let you just breathe in to life… good and bad, hard and easy, sad and triumphant. 

After all, it’s just “natural”…

As for me,

My days are profoundly different depending on whether or not I’ve been outside. Sometimes, especially if it’s early in the morning after dropping off the kids, I’ll think to myself as I arrive at my hiking spot, “Huh- I could still be sleeping right now! But instead I’m out here, in the cool morning air, birds flapping all about looking for breakfast.” I ponder how different their lives are from mine… the words drop away, and then, before I know it, I’ve lost myself once again in the gentle arms of a nature that really does understand.

Have fun on the trails, and see you here and on Facebook!

And make sure you read the previous entry!  “Welcome to balance through the lens”. It explains what this blog is all about and how it come to be!

 

About Photography…

I’m not the greatest photographer in the world. I don’t have particularly fancy equipment. I am admittedly less well-versed in f-stops, apertures and lens choices than I probably should be!

But there are books, classes, photography clubs and many other resources out there if you want to learn more about the technical aspects of nature photography.

What I’m sharing are my insights and experiences, through photography. It’s a tool, an artistic outlet of expression. My aim is not to take great photographs that will end up on the cover of a magazine. My intention is to have an experience that is enhanced by the act of doing photography. What I enjoy is the artistic, insightful telling of stories that nature shares with me. 

What I think is special about nature photography is that it really pulls us out of the built-up, demanding, modern world. It takes us out of the realm of culture, out of “words”, out of hectic, out of the everyday. I take pictures of lots of things (especially my kids and their activities!) but it’s the nature photography that quiets my soul, rejuvenates my spirit, and fills me back up when I’m drained and stressed out. It restores me.

When I’m in the eyes of a chickadee, there is no room in my awareness for bills to pay, errands to run, work stress or family hecticness. It’s just me. And the chickadee. Right here. Right now. Breathing, feeling, soaking in just this one moment… one moment at a time.

Try it. 🙂