Mindful Photography

Mindfulness is a word that is everywhere at the moment. Combining mindful photography and travel is the perfect way to experience a place and a moment with greater understanding. Being in the moment, enjoying what you are doing, not looking to the future and leaving the past behind. 

intentional camera movement at sunset with sea and orange sky

This is something I find hard.  Always having to have the future planned, not wanting the unexpected to catch me ever again.   

I am always moving onto the next thing scared of looking back or standing still.  However suddenly I realised (at 2am) that this is the reason for some of my angst in life.

Photography has been something that has always been in my life. 

I have snap shots of flowers from the garden as I grew up and my boys now enjoy playing with my little 35mm Minolta point and shoot not really knowing what the insides do or why there is no screen. I also believe that travel and photography are in my genes. 

My Great-grandfather was an amazing photographer and given the period in time his travels and those of the rest of my family are pretty extreme.  I have thousands of photographs on my hard drive and albums of prints from before digital was a ‘thing’ including those of my ancestors travels.  However the digital era has made me lazy. 

I see something and reach for my phone.  I don’t always bother to take time to enjoy the moment, take in my surroundings or absorb the smells and sounds or how the moment makes me feel.  This has got me thinking about how I can change my thinking to make my photography unique to me.

I hope these simple ideas help you to see your photography and travels however small in a different way.

Limiting Photography

It is all too easy with digital to just keep on with the photographs. 

No planning goes in to it. 

When film was used things were limited to 12, 24 or 36 pictures before you had to sort out a new roll of film.  This was a hassle when out, not only having to change the film but taking enough film for a day and making it last. 

There was much more of a thought process involved in ‘making it last’.  Limiting photography to one shot a day is hard and takes discipline, but is it possible to take just three special images from a day and still bring back memories? 

No back up or alternative exposures or angles ‘just in case’. 

Mindfulness comes into this; watching your environment, absorbing your surroundings and only capturing the moments that really matter.

Not always wanting the ‘perfect’ shot

Our world today is competitive. 

Everyone is striving for something better, something award winning or spectacular.  This puts massive stress on the photographer to get the perfect shot. 

There are only so many ways to photograph an iconic landmark or capture a mountain hare in the snow.  What is more important is capturing the meaning of the location or the personality of the individual in the shot.

Add to this your own interpretation and that of the viewer and you may have a technically imperfect image that shouts perfection to someone. 

Just because the light isn’t falling at the precise angle required, does it make the shot any less meaningful or a reject?

Sand and sunshine combine in a kaleidoscope of colour off Caldey Island

This photograph of sandy ripples was taken on Caldey Island in Pembrokeshire.

Caldey Island sat in the distance just a short boat ride from Tenby in Pembrokeshire.  The sun was promising a warm day and the salt spray as we headed closer brought back memories of warm summer days spent at the beach. 

After the bustle of coming into the quay and leaving the boat (which was a challenge for some who had left their sea legs in Tenby), it was time to stop and assess where we were. 

The information map of the island was busy as everyone planned their day and so we sat, our legs dangling over the edge of the slipway watching the family route marching over the beach to the ‘perfect’ spot, trailing balls and children in their wake. 

Looking down the sun started to reflect off the small waves that were continually washing in to the shallow sandy beach. 

The ripples forming patterns were sent to mesmerise. 

Golds and blues merging and unwinding in a continuous kaleidoscope of colour.  

This was the way to start a day on Caldey Island….

Journaling the special moments

The photograph isn’t everything.  Modern society is visual.  Everything is photographed, in detail multiple times. 

The Christmas meal where everyone takes their dinner and shares to social media, you can almost construct a panoramic 3D image from the posts. 

Surely we should enjoy the meal and company of friends and family taking time to enjoy the flavours, aromas and textures rather than have a static, digital memory of the moment shared with the world. 

Taking time to reflect in the moment, savour the memories and write to paper or memory those flavours or experiences will last much longer than one static image of one moment in time.

Switching Off

It is so easy to be digitally linked at all times. 

Before we even arrive at a destination we have already worked out the best locations, the perfect light for a photograph or the exact pose we want for an animal. 

It is all too easy to be blinkered to what is happening in the moment.  Wandering around a new location, exploring back streets and alleyways will present far more opportunities than following the GPS to the location that you know is good. 

Wandering without technology lets you form ideas and memories based on experience with no bias from others.  Your experiences are your own and without technology you will switch off to the outside world. 

There is no rule that you have to share every blink on social media, sometimes just being in the moment on our own is what we need. 

Over time, less and less of my adventures are shared and now I can say 100% that I do not share in the moment.  Something that a year ago would not have been achievable.

A lasting legacy and not just something for social media

Sorting through my great grandfathers photographs and journals has made me realise that he captured and sketched scenes that he enjoyed. 

There wasn’t the immediate rush to share it with the world on social media.  He couldn’t even see it until hours after he had made the exposure, but he chose the important images and saved them in an album that I am now exploring over 100 years later. 

This is something we should be thinking about. 

What is your lasting legacy on this planet? 

We all know our time is finite. 

Make the most of the time and experiences you have, but also leave something as a lasting memory of your special moments. 

Making memories with my boys is enough of a legacy but photographs and journaling will hopefully give their children and grandchildren pleasure and excitement when I am long gone.

 Mindful travel and photography inspired by my great-grandfather