Title: Looking and Seeing: Nalanda Miksang Contemplative Photography by John McQuade and Miriam Hall
I read it as an: eBook
Source: Leslie Key’s own collection
Length: 6 hours/more if using as reference
Publisher: Drala Publishing
Staying in One Place
Could it be that we like to stay
where it’s comfortable even to our dismay?
What turns the tide to rescue us?
How many turns must we pass,
before we choose the Way?
This poem and image were created during the moments of reflection on an experience I had with contemplative photography.
The book Looking and Seeing was my first formal introduction to the idea of contemplative photography, which is a focused and mindful visual experience with intention. Looking is the moment of perception that takes you into seeing, creating the personal connection. With my camera as my tool, it is a Way of Seeing the world around me, a perceptual wonder. McQade and Hall describe a Way as a path or practice to perception (seeing) (2015). In the second section of Looking and Seeing the authors explain what it means to have “view, motivation and intention” as it relates to capturing images through experiencing them with mind, body and spirit. I have used and am using this concept for several photographic projects now.
For example, over the 4th of July this year I visited friends in San Diego, CA. Every year they head down to Ocean Beach and typically arrive around sunrise to ensure they land a good spot near the pier. This year I decided to commit to Ocean Beach on the 4th of July and join my dear friends Benny and Shari each year to follow. I’ve also committed to visually capturing Ocean Beach in each visit during the wee hours of the mornings of each 4th of July. The images I captured in July of 2017 proved to be different than what I saw during my July 2018 visit.
This year during these wee hours the sea shore showed me places that were soon hidden by the high tide. I had several hours to capture the shore at low tide. I titled this photographic project “Staying in One Place.” The first image below captures the crevasses and streams of sea, sand, stone and shell. In contemplative photography I take the time to experience the environment that I plan to capture with my camera. This year I spent about two hours walking, listening and standing still with my eyes closed to listen carefully to what this place could show me. This is when I can hear what I see. McQuade and Hall call this a mind-set of practice using “view, motivation and intent” to be “fully human and awake” (2015, p. 19).
My view or orientation of the scene is when I can understand the journey in capturing the image. This is how I captured the image below and my perception when I clicked the camera shutter. As I angled my camera and tripod securely on a mossy and somewhat slippery stone, I began to compare the elements of sea, sand, stone and shell to people; people (including myself at times) who have decided to stay in their crevasses and still water, passing every opportunity to move on.
How many times in life are we forced to move and change? How many times is our positive, yet painful change forced by circumstances we are in through choices we have made? This can sound dreadful yet is a natural path to discovery.
The following three photographs are from my photo project “Stay in One Place.”
Another recent photographic project I titled “From My Car Window” gave me a new Way of Seeing. I focused on using contemplative photography on a recent road trip to Ottawa, Kansas. Because of a short time-frame and urgent need to get to my destination, I realized my car window was my only chance to capture some incredible scenes with full intention of using the “discipline of relaxation,” which McQuade and Hall describe as a moment of contemplative practice or intent. Here are a few images that I captured from my car window. The experience offered me a “Way of Seeing” while moving fast enough that if my camera settings were not perfect, the image would not display what I saw. In other words, I synchronized.
The following four photographs are from my photo project “From My Car Window.”
McQuade and Hall frequently refer to a “flash of perception” through synchronization or creating a state where eye, mind and world all come together at the same time (p. 21). To prepare for this experience, I ensure that my camera and equipment are ready to be put to use, a time when my logical, organizational mind begins to prepare for the contemplative photographic event.
In the final chapters of Looking and Seeing the authors give me a chance to put the concept of contemplative photography into practice. McQuade and Hall bring me into a world of new perception and thinking about what a miracle vision really is. The authors call it an unconditional miracle of “sheer manifestation” (p. 32). For example, we see color every day, right? Using the concept of contemplative photography, I first contemplate the color by first looking, then seeing (perceiving) the color, to making an image of the color. This same exercise is applied to light and shadows, texture and patterns. This is a process, an exercise in contemplative photography.
In closing I would like to say that I love capturing what I see and feel. I love the idea that sharing images for the sheer pleasure of sharing, is my goal. This book is for all types of photographers, from film and digital, to iphone, to the snapshot wonder. Looking and Seeing is a form of mindful meditation through a Way of Seeing and capturing the world we live in.
Leslie Key is, by profession, a full-time faculty of higher education. By hobby, she is a photographic hobbyist who loves to capture what she sees and feels, with intentions of becoming a professional nature photographer.
As a full-time faculty with the University of Phoenix, Leslie teaches courses in critical thinking, and general life and study skills to first year college students. She finds that she connects well with these students who are either returning or new to college. She identifies well the struggles to balance family, career, and college because this is what she did.
Returning to college at 45 years was interesting and scary, but Leslie achieved her goals and earned a master in adult education and learning theories. She then began her second career in higher education and has worked in student services, academic affairs, administration and now as full-time faculty.
Her background in photography started at age 5 when her father introduced her to a point and shoot camera, so she could take photos alongside him. Her interest continued through the years photographing people, places and things. Today, her intentions continue, and her focus deepens.
Leslie hopes you enjoy her guest blog post and photographs. She is in the process of creating her professional website, which is now under construction. In the meantime, please check out her Photography Profile.