Saturday, 31 December 2011

New Years Eve Night Photography

Let us leave behind sadness, regrets and painful moments and have a new start full of joy this year. - Unknown author

Happy New Years Eve

This past year has been a busy yet exciting one for me. The best part was having more time to practice using my camera in many creative ways. Tonight many people will be attending parties with others and ringing the new year with a glass of champagne and perhaps a kiss.  If you have no plans for partying, there is no need to feel blue. This is the perfect time to go try some night photography. Here is my first attempt at creating a sphere of light with a long exposure on my camera. It isn't perfect but it sure was a lot of fun trying. If you do a google search for night photography or light painting photography you will find so many tips and youtube videos. Check out the tutorial for light orbs at this link for PhotoExtremist at  This fellow can do amazing things with photography and he is quite inspiring. Tonight I plan to go outside and try making a star trail image. I've always wanted to try it and I figured that this would be the perfect activity for me to do on New Years Eve. Remember to be safe; dress appropriately for the weather, don't go alone to unsafe places, and taking others with you are just a few tips for staying safe when you go out at night to photograph. Here is hoping that the sky is clear tonight so I can get some star trail photos and I hope you try some night photography as well. Rather than feeling down about not attending parties, take a different attitude about it and give night photography a try. What better way to ring in the new year. You'll be focused on something positive and you're sure to have so much fun.

Happy New Years and all the best to you in 2012.

Sunday, 25 December 2011

Christmas in a Photograph

Photography, as a powerful medium of expression and communications, offers an infinite variety of perception, interpretation and execution.
Ansel Adams

A photograph, through the visual symbols embedded in it, can reveal so much about the artists inner life; emotions, values, and a whole host of unconscious messages. I chose this photograph to post because when I look at it I am reminded about some of the Christmas traditions I was brought up with. The decorated tree, Santa Claus, and gifts, were some of those traditions, and of course pets are always in the picture.  Family members are part of Christmas for me too of course, and so much more.  Pets bring so much joy in life and these 2 little guys are so cute, looking in their stockings for stuffed toys to play with. It's hilarious and including them in a photograph just captures memories of joyful times. Today, and over the rest of the holidays, I hope you take lots of pictures of the events and all the little details that express something about you, perhaps your own traditions, like special foods or that special gift, what brings you joy,  what is important to you at Christmas, and the special people who are sharing these memories in the making. The photo above brings a smile to my face when I see it. I hope you create some wonderful memories this Christmas and capture them in photographs to cherish for years to come. Merry Christmas everyone. 

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Winter Solstice Photography and SAD

Today is winter solstice, the shortest day and longest night of the year; the time when the earths axis tilts farthest from the sun. For anyone who experiences the "winter blues", or some degree of seasonal affective disorder (SAD),  spending more time outdoors and getting light is one option (among others) to help treat the winter blues and photography is the perfect excuse to get out into the light. If you live where there is snow and it is cold, just bundle up and get out there making photographs. Not only will you get more light, but it is a great opportunity to photograph the beauty of the season. And remember, starting tomorrow the days are getting longer and spring is on it's way.

Friday, 16 December 2011

Finding Joy Through Photography

There are those who give with joy, and that joy is their reward. - Kahlil Gibram

I've been thinking a lot about joy lately and I concluded that we experience millions of joyful moments in various forms and degrees of emotion, and that it is subjective. We are all different and find joy in different things, yet there are some similar themes. Also, it doesn't have to be the really big things that make you jump and scream with excitement, like winning the lottery - it can be little, everyday things that happen that bring the feeling of happiness. Joy can also feel like comfort, satisfaction, gratitude and feeling blessed, or feeling at peace and connected to a higher power or faith. I reviewed a lot of information in books, magazines, and the internet to see what others said about joy and I found several themes - people, spirituality, pets, nature, helping, gratitude, success, seeing joy in others, activities & events, being creative, and other (i.e. chocolate).  The people theme was at the top of the list to describe what brings joy. We feel joy when with children, other family members, and good friends. We celebrate special occasions, engage in fun activities, laugh with one another, and help others. We may enjoy helping others and touching other's lives, doing kind things, sharing, seeing joy in the faces of those we care about like the cooing of an infant, or the smiles and bright eyes of children. We may feel joy when we are grateful and feel blessed for what we have, be that good health, a job we like, a roof over our heads, or the people in our lives to name just a few. We may feel joy when we sing, dance, write, cook or bake, or create in some way. We may feel joy in faith in a supreme being or the feeling of a presence of a spiritual divine with or within us. Pets bring many people joy - they seem so excited to just see us or to go for a walk. We can feel that sense of joy when we have accomplished something, big or small, such finishing a university degree or merely mastering a new skill. And many of us feel joy when we venture out into nature and marvel at this earth and all it's amazing glory. Little things bring others joy throughout the day, such as that first cup of coffee and watching the sun rise or a delicious meal. So, there is no final definitive description or example of joy that applies to all people, but for many, joyful moments involve others in some way. When I think about what brings me joy, I could add so many items to that list. 

One way I experience joy is to give to others so I thought I would attempt to spread some joy in a very small way and make a photograph of it. I purchased some inexpensive joy Christmas ornaments to hang up around the community for people to find and keep. If you've ever reached into the pocket of an old coat and found a dollar bill, you'll remember that tinge of excitement when you discovered the unexpected nice surprise. I wanted to do this for others, but with these decorations. Another aspect to this project was to use the actual word, thinking that the word "joy" may be a psychological trigger that would evoke a joyful emotion.  The photo above is one of the ornaments, and I hung it up at a local park where people walk every day. On the tag I wrote a note about keeping the ornament as a reminder to find the little joyful moments in their lives. I hoped that finding some tiny little treasure, and the word "joy", might get them thinking about the little joys in their life and have more of a lasting impact. Then I photographed the ornaments hanging in the city. It would have been fun to stick around to see the face on the finders, so I'll never know whether it had an impact but I just have to imagine that it was a good feeling for a moment at least. When we feel good, we act differently. Our feelings and our behaviour are connected, so the change in behaviour will trigger more happy feelings. 

So how does photography come into play you may ask? Well, the possibilities to use cameras to give or receive joy are endless. Think about what brings you joy and go make a photo image of it. It may be your happy pet, or your child giggling, or a sunrise. If you find joy in doing something or giving to others, you might consider photographing a happy family event and printing out pictures for family members, or yourself, to enjoy. You could make interesting photos of nature to print out and give as gifts to spread joy. You could share your photography talents by participating in an event such as or use your talent to become involved in a social activist event.  If pets bring you joy, photograph your pet and hang the print in your workspace. Where do you find joy? How have you, or might you, express joy in a photograph? How could you give to others with your photography? Think about what brings you joy, and have fun creating your own joy image. 

"We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think. When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves". - Buddha

Friday, 9 December 2011

Finding Joy

Joy is not in things, it is in us. - Richard Wagner

What is joy? It could be described as a feeling of intense happiness or satisfaction. Many people, who celebrate Christmas, might say that this is a season of joy but not everyone is feeling it. The Christmas season can be quite stressful for some, with shopping, extra expenses, and all of the expectations that people have us, or that we expect of ourselves. Others may be struggling with poverty, illness, relationship difficulties, or other challenges that have zapped the joy from their lives. It makes me want to know more about joy; what it is, how to find it, and how photography fits in. Since this is the season for joy, this month I plan to learn more about joy and I'm taking my camera with me. What brings you joy? What has brought about that intense emotion of happiness within you? Is it something that happened to you, or something you did, something small or big? Where have you found joy and how do you find joy in your life currently? Now think about creating a photo image of that which brings you joy. 

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Mindfulness Photography 2

"The present moment is filled with joy and happiness. If you are attentive, you will see it." - Thich Nhat Hanh

When we pick up a camera it is done with a purpose in mind, which in most cases is a thought about the future and the purpose of capturing an image in a photograph. What if we instead thought of the camera as a tool for mindfulness meditation like some people use a candle, music, or the vibrating tone that lingers when a wooden mallet rubs along the rim of a Tibetan singing bowl or it strikes a bell? Perhaps the camera can be that tool that allows us to practice mindfulness meditation and experience the present moment. So many people say that they struggle with mediation because their mind wanders off in all sorts of directions. Now I don't pretend to be an expert on mindfulness or meditation and I  sometimes struggle to let go of competing thoughts and just be in the now.  I just know that, from what I have read about mindfulness meditation, I have experienced this when I immersed myself into photography and I want to continue to develop mindfulness in my photography and in my life in general. 

As I've said before there are so many benefits of practicing mindfulness meditation and photography can help us to develop this within ourselves. When you pick up your camera today, let go of any notion of achieving an outcome. Whether you take, or make, a photo isn't important. What matters more is that the camera is allowing you to enter that mindful meditative space. Experience the moment. Take a deep belly breath and feel gratitude for that basic function that we take for granted, that some others struggle for. If you walk, like Thich Nhat Hanh has said "walk as if you are kissing the earth with your feet".  As thoughts arise, notice them like you would a cloud in the sky and then let it go as the cloud floats out of sight. Don't give it your attention but don't fight to push it away. It may be a thought about the future or something from the past. Just notice it, let it go, and bring your attention back to your breath and the moment. Notice what is around you, the sounds, smells, and what you see. Like I said in a previous post, there may be something that catches your attention. Notice what you feel when you see it. Make a photo of it if you like. If there is any purpose to this exercise, it is not necessarily about the photo but about becoming more mindful. Enjoy the peaceful mind that you find yourself in.  I hope you have a wonderful day.