Quiet Photography with an older camera and a shiny lens.

Sundays are all over the map. Sometimes we're all going in different directions and sometimes they are quiet days that seem to exist just to regain our energy and have some mellow time before the start of another week.

A little while ago I spent way too much time thinking, talking and writing about photography but not enough time doing it.  It made me cranky and out of sorts. I figured a good Sunday walk would help take out the kinks.

In my mind I was looking for a sunny day so I could go out and shoot all kinds of contrasty stuff. The kind of images that make for good fodder in articles about sharpness and saturation.  But on this particular Sunday the sky was overcast and every once in a while there were little splashes of warm rain that left pockets of humidity in random spots around downtown.

I decide to go for a walk anyway. Just to clear my head. I looked in the equipment drawers and one comfortable, dependable and somewhat mystical camera called out to me and insinuated that I've have more fun if she went along.  It was my Olympus EP2.  The same one that went with me to West Texas and made such wonderful square images of Marfa and Marathon. The one with the paint wearing off.  My mood lightened. I put the ultra-shiny (disco finish) Olympus 45mm 1.8 on, shoved an extra battery in my pocket and drove close to downtown.

My intention to come away with fun or striking photographs kept blocking my seeing. The more I wanted to see the less I saw. When you are looking for a supermodel in a bikini dancing with reckless abandon in the middle of Congress Ave. you overlook all the quieter subject matter.  Your intention to find sparkle drowns out your ability to see something else.

I stopped and sat on a bench for five or ten minutes.  I closed my eyes and told myself that all I expected to get out of the afternoon was a good, brisk walk. (And maybe a cookie at the end, at Whole Foods...). I tried to take my photographer ego out of the mix. I reminded myself that, in the end, I was the only audience and it didn't matter what I saw or how I saw it.

For a couple of minutes I just concentrated on my breath. On the in breath and then on the out breath. Once or twice my mind tried to trick me into action. I let the thought that I was surely missing some unique visual opportunity interrupt my concentration on just breathing. But when I examined those thoughts and let them pass I went back to just concentrating on my breathe.

When I felt calm, relaxed and happy I stood up, tossed the camera over my shoulder and walked on toward Congress Ave.  Now I wasn't looking for anything special.  And now little details would peek out at me and I'd stop and photograph them.

As I finished my route through downtown, about a block from the end, I looked over the bridge that spans tiny, trickly Shoal Creek and saw the trees and the leaves. After last Summer's drought and the ample rain of the Spring they looked fresh and alive.  The rocks, the leaves, the trees and the little touches of color and texture.  That's what my walk wanted to be.  I just needed to get out of the way...


wjl (Wolfgang Lonien) said...

Wonderful. Love them.

Juan Carlos said...

I love the practice of contemplative photography. When doing it I am in the present moment. Nothing outside of that matters, and during those moments I am free from all of the hustle and bustle of every-day life -- it is a counterbalance.

Ron Zack said...

I have a very similar practice when I'm out doing nature photography and find myself getting frustrated because I can't find the "perfect shot." So I sit down somewhere, doesn't matter where, practice stillness, and then take my camera, and just take photos from the spot where I'm sitting....just finding something in that brief, small space. It's amazing things I've seen and captured, of great beauty, that I would not have looked twice at had I just kept walking and mumbling to myself....

The E-P2 is a little jewel. There a spark of fun and frivolity in those modern days Pens that's a breath of fresh air.

Stefan said...

That's what I'm doing all the time ... I'm not trying to take photographs (since I don't have any skills or education or anything helpful) but I just put a lens/sensor between my eye and the world. And I can tell you it's a wonderful world :)

And one day I'll have the guts and ask some stranger if I may take a photograph of him/her ... ;-)