Monday, October 27, 2014

Pause, Focus, Connect

   During our contemplative weekend on Star Island over Labor Day, workshop leader, Kim Manley Ort encourage participants to follow a three step approach to their camera work...Pause, Focus and Connect.  I've been thinking a lot about this process of approaching the landscape since.

   PAUSE:  It is very hard to make photographs on the run yet so many people seem in such a hurry to get from here to there.  Pausing allows you to take in your surroundings.  You can try this little exercise I did at the pond awhile back.  Take ten (or 20 or 15) steps and stop...wherever you find yourself.  Even if it doesn't, at first, seem very appealing.  Spend time really looking around yourself...up, down, right, left, forward and back.

FOCUS:  On our Star Island retreat, I introduced people to my visual listening exercise.  This co-ordinates very nicely with Kim's encouragement to focus in on one part of the landscape.  What drew your attention?  What about this fascinates you?

CONNECT:   This is the moment when you forge a relationship, a more intimate embrace of what you at first merely witnessed.  This is the contemplative portion of the equation.  Traditional photographers, I believe, stop at the "focus" stage.  They literally focus the camera's lens, make the photograph and move on.  But the connection part is very important to me.  It allows me to move from the witness role to become more of a partner with the landscape.  The resulting image is really a co-creation.

   There are many ways to connect and it must really happen in the gut more than in the brain.  A recent article I read about the dynamics of a forest's web of connection made it more concrete to me.  In it, forest ecologist Suzanne Simard reveals how the trees communicate with other plants through this underground network.  It was mind boggling to say the least.  Now, when I get to the "connect" stage in my walk, I feel like I am part of that amazing web of communication.

    I encourage you to try this process when next you are out in the landscape and check out Kim's website for more information.

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