Contemplative Photography: Nature in the City

Boy was it hot, near 40 Celsius in the sun. The ‘heat waves’ were visible, rippling above the sidewalk. Not a great day for an outdoor photography workshop. I didn’t think that anyone would come, and most didn’t, but my friend David Wray showed up, camera in hand, so after a cold drink at Cafe Ninety7 we headed off to capture some images of ‘nature in the city.’

It is amazing how living things find ways to thrive in the cracks and edges of our asphalt, concrete and metal: grass growing through the cracks in a sidewalk, a bird’s nest on a telephone pole, a family of ducks on the canal. Most of the time, we take this for granted, not thinking about what a miracle life is. lf we slow down and pay attention we will be surprised by it all, and photography forces us to do just that, slow down and and pay attention.

David and I found some great examples of green and growing things in unexpected places. I particularly love this one of a single blade of grass by David.


But, the real revelation came when I looked my pictures and realized that I had the theme backward: It is not so much that nature thrives in the city (against all expectation and in inhospitable environments), but rather that the city exists in nature. Ottawa is surrounded by the natural world and always will be, no matter how large it gets. East, west, north, south, up, and down, nature surrounds us, and always will!


Beauty over our heads

So, despite the heat, I learned (or remembered) something cool. And that’s what the spiritual discipline of contemplation offers.

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