Mindfulness in Photography

I love photography for many different reasons, but one of them is that in my mind, photography is an exercise in mindfulness. Whilst there is still some prediction and forward planning required in photography (i.e. the moon will be here, the landscape will be lit this way, the animal will land / takeoff / do something), ultimately photography is about being in the moment and being present.

What is Mindfulness?

There are a few different definitions of mindfulness, but for the purpose of this article, I will consider mindfulness to be the ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we are doing, and to not be overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.

In today’s society, there is often an issue around people being so worried about what the future may hold, especially due to COVID, that they stop living in the present and always worry about the future, and what-if scenario’s. Now don’t get me wrong I am not saying there is anything wrong with worrying about the future, but where it becomes a problem is when you worry so much about the future that you no longer enjoy life, or you no longer live in the present.

Why does Photography help with mindfulness?

I believe that photography helps with mindfulness as it is a way to re-ground yourself to the present, whilst as I discussed earlier there may be some planning to get the photo you are after, ultimately if you are so focussed on the future you will miss the present and you won’t be able to take the photo you are trying to capture. In many ways you are forced to be in the present to see how the present is unfolding and then to capture the image you are after.

Take the example of the picture below, when we noticed Dolphins swimming around us, I was able to focus on that moment and capture an image of the dolphin, if I spent all the time trying to get the perfect shot or spent all of my time worried about what-ifs then I would have missed the experience, I was forced to focus on what the animal was doing in the moment, not worry about what might happen in 1 weeks time, 1 years time, 1 decade’s time.

Images of the Dolphin, Seal and Bird Spotting in December 2019 run through Sea All Dolphin Swims in Queenscliff, Victoria, Australia.

This is clearly an example of animal / wildlife photography, but there are many more examples, in the image below there was some planning (I knew there would be fireworks and an event) but ultimately to capture the shot I had to be in the moment, focussed on the present.

Long exposure night photo at Docklands, VIC, Australia

Beyond the initial future planning that is involved in photography (i.e. a specific event, a specific composition, or a specific outcome) ultimately photography is about capturing moments, and without being present in the current moment (i.e. mindful) you will miss out.

To me, photography is the simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance of an event.

Henri Cartier-Bresson

That is why I love photography, it forces me to forget about worries for the future, and to focus on the moment I am currently in, to focus on the shot I am after, the conditions in the present, and the local environment to get a specific picture, its a nice break from the worries of the world!

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