Contemplative Photography: Down to the River

This post has been a long time coming; sometime I’m going to write about the challenges of having too much to do, but not today.  Besides, there are lots of others out there writing about the time crunch, but none of them are going to write about our great photography event on the shores of the Ottawa River, way back on September 15th.

Kudos to Andrea, Christine and Marilyn who came out and made the afternoon a success.

It was a cool, windy day, with a constantly changing cloud cover, which made for some interesting lighting possibilities.

The sense energy pouring toward the camera was awesome.

Standing on the shore of a large body of water opens you up to the sky as well.  The expanse of the water, and the way it reflects the sky, creates a liminality, a threshold, between the world above and the world below.  I thought that, shooting on the shore of the river, this photography outing would be about the relationship between earth and water, but all four of us photographed the sky as well.  Our eyes and spirits were drawn upward as well as downward.

Here’s a picture of the sort that I set out to take, trying to capture earth and water in the same frame.

I loved the way the flowing water alters the appearance of the stones.

In this picture I was trying for a sense of the shoreline, to capture the way the waves roll in and over the shallows.

I took a bunch of pictures like this and I wasn’t satisfied with any of them.  Finally I realized that I cannot capture in a still photo the energy of the shoreline, the movement of the water and the sound it makes.  I needed a video camera!

Thresholds, transitional places are full of energy, moving from one state to another, constantly transforming what looks like an unchanging landscape.

Maybe that’s why we “go down to the river to pray.”

All sorts of regeneration happens down at the shore.

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Contemplative Photography: September 15/12

Have you ever noticed how looking at something out of the corner of your eye changes the way you see it? Using peripheral vision is one way to break free of conventional perceptions and open ourselves to new understanding. Too often, we look at things only straight on and take them at “face” value when it is their edges that are truly interesting.

At this month’s photography workshop we will explore the notion of liminality. As we continue to explore the ways in which the art of photography can enhance our contemplative connection with the world, we inevitably come to the edges of things.

What do we see when we look out of the corner of our eye?  What lies between? Between earth and sky, between water and stone, between life and death? Some transitions are gradual and others are abrupt. Some changes are insignificant, others are dramatic.

We’ll explore these themes along the banks of the Ottawa River.  Join us at the Remic Rapids parking lot off the Ottawa River Parkway on Saturday, September 15th at 4:0p.m. 

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.

The Art of Seeing: Photography as Contemplation

“True realism consists in revealing the surprising things which habit keeps covered and prevents us from seeing.”

Jean Cocteau

On June 2nd a small group of enthusiasts gathered in the Cottage at the Dovercourt Community Centre to explore ways in which photography can be a form of contemplation. With the able leadership of Doug Rowland and Jane Dawson we learned a little about how to look with the intention of seeing more clearly. By adopting a contemplative posture, slowing our minds and bodies, we were able to discover the wondrous and surprising in the mundane and ordinary. After a few exercises to free our imagination, we headed outside to contemplate our surroundings and see what was there through the viewfinders of our cameras. For a short time on a busy Saturday afternoon we were quiet and reflective, open to what the world around us had to offer. It was a time of learning, of serendipity. And it was fun! Here are a couple of my pictures.  Enjoy.

We are going to do it again. On Saturday, July 14th we’ll gather at Cafe Ninety7, 97 Main Street, at 4:00 p.m. After a quick orientation to our theme, “Nature in the City,” we’ll head out for an hour of photography around the Old Ottawa East neighbourhood, St. Paul’s University, and the banks of the Rideau River. We’ll gather again at the cafe for a drink and conversation about what we have seen and learned, and we’ll all be on our way by 6:00 p.m. This is an open event, everyone who is interested in exploring photography as a contemplative discipline is welcome. There is no fee, but there will be an opportunity to make a donation to the work of Faith and Arts Ottawa.