Contemplative Photography: Can You Live in the Present While Photographing It?

Lawrence Camera - Contemplative PhotographyJust as many writers experience life in stories (how they’re going to tell it later), many photographers experience life through the lens (how they’re going to capture it through the viewfinder). Do you ever wonder if you’re losing a piece of an experience because you’re so busy trying to capture it?

Years ago, I heard a friend describe a trail ride she took through the high desert of Arizona. While the ride itself was beautiful, it was the Australian expat cowboy leading it that really stuck with her. He spoke colorfully about traveling the world and his many extraordinary experiences, putting her in mind of what it must be like to be a National Geographic photographer. But when she said to him that he must have some amazing photographs, he shook his head and told her, “I don’t take pictures. I think you lose a part of the experience when you stop living it to try to capture it.”

What do you think of that?

When I’ve shared this story with others, I get a mixed bag of reactions. Those who are casual photographers are apt to look puzzled. After all, they’re not setting up tripods and whipping out light meters and fidgeting with lens changes and worrying over which F-stop to use. They’re quickly whipping out their iPhones or point-and-shoots and grabbing the shot as is, hardly a moment lost. And those who are beyond the novice stage tell me that it’s second nature to them figuring out how to artfully capture a moment without having to separate from it, so to speak. Plus, photo-editing software gives them extra wiggle room to be quick (and a little messy) about grabbing the shot.

Still, there are those who nod and agree, who seem to feel a little trapped by a sort of frantic need to capture it all through the lens. Certainly I’ve seen relatives of such photographers nod and smile a bit at the story. Was the Australian cowboy onto something or was he missing something? Seems to me that, for him, it was all about being fully present in each moment and every experience in an almost Buddhist manner. But there are whole books written about how to both live in the moment and photograph it. It’s called contemplative photography.

What are your thoughts: Can you be fully present for your life but still photograph it?


A Different Kind of Froggin’

It’s not for everyone, but Missouri’s official frogging season officially kicks off on June 30. If you’re not up to hunting them for your supper, why not hunt them for a photo session instead?

Our state is home to heaps of frogs, which can make beautiful—and sometimes comical—little subjects. According to the Missouri Department of Conservation, we’ve got a whopping 26 species and subspecies of toads and frogs. Gray Tree Frogs, Peepers, and Plains Leopard Frogs are just a few of the froggies you can find all over Missouri.

Traditional froggers target the big bullfrogs, but if you want to snap the critters’ portraits instead of gobble their legs, you can expand your hunt to a much wider variety. Temperature dictates where you’ll find frogs in and around water. This time of year, you’ll want to look in shallow water where they call, breed, and lay eggs.

Photography for the Frogs!

Smile Pretty for the Camera!

Tips for photographing frogs:

  • Walk slowly, stop frequently, and keep your distance so as not to startle.
  • Look for frogs scoping out prey out on the edges of ponds and lakes.
  • Use a long-zoom lens.
  • Set lens on smallest f-stop for maximum depth of field.
  • Set ISO as high as possible.

Leading Lines in Photography and Interior Designs

If you’ve reached a point when your photography qualifies as wall-worthy art, you know what leading lines are. These visual lines in the space of a photograph draw the viewer’s eye to a focal point or, in some cases, right off the frame but are usually talked about only within the context of the photograph itself. That is, where in the photograph do they lead the viewing eye? Ever thought about the way a photograph’s leading lines can impact the interior design of a room where you have it displayed?

Because leading lines do sometimes lead the eye right out of the frame, they can actually be used to lead the eye to décor around the photograph. This is why you should be conscientious about where you hang a photograph with strong leading lines. After all, you probably wouldn’t want to lead the eye toward, let’s say, your thermostat.

Leading Lines in Photography

Likewise, you can take advantage of those off-the-frame leading lines by having them point toward something you’re actually happy to showcase—another favorite photograph, a shelf of books, or even a picture window. If you do place photographs with leading lines next to each other, make sure their leading lines work well together. For example, if you want to highlight the center photograph, leading lines in the flanking photographs would do well to lead the eye toward the center.

When composing a photograph using leading lines, remember not to put too much emphasis on the lines such that they overtake the composition. They’re there to be just one part of the composition of the photograph—and perhaps, eventually, of your room!

Telling a Photo Story Using Triptychs

When we look at a scene or person, we often first see the whole before letting our eyes wander to the parts. But sometimes a slight anomaly or a little detail is what captures our attention from the get-go: A ring on a bus driver’s finger, paint peeling on a park bench, one dead leaf amid a sea of green ones.  The rest of the scene fills in around that detail as we continue to look. Triptychs are good photography tools for showing more of what we see when we’re seeing, all in one work.

Triptychs in photography

Photographs by Roddy McInnis

Some triptychs are equally (if not solely) about the aesthetic—interesting repetitions of patterns, colors, and details from different subjects, or perhaps a single shot through different filters, exposures, or tints:

Triptychs in Photography

Photographs by Matt Weber

And then there is the triptych that’s made from a single shot, and the appeal of it is more about where you “cut” it and why:

Triptychs in Photography

Photograph by Kim Lewandowski

Clearly, there are a lot of ways to create a triptych. Photographs can be taken over multiple sessions and from places far-flung from each other. They can include polar opposites to make the viewer think, to show a contrast of ideas, aesthetic, or emotion. They can capture related elements from totally different subjects. They can have themes of color or patterns. Talk about versatile! They are a great way of showing how you as the photographer saw something in the world.

If you’ve never tried to create a triptych, you should give it a shot. Then let us help you come up with the just-right way to show it off. One very cool way we’ve helped photographers show off their triptych photography is by printing on stretched canvas. Come in and see us to talk about ways we can help you piece together those images in a way you’ll be proud to display.