A mindful photowalk – it’s been too long!

It’s been a hectic few months where I have not had time to think about my art and haven’t even picked up my camera. Now things are settling, I did some indoor shots yesterday and today, got out for a mindful photowalk which I loved!

Click for a larger image….

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It’s all about attention to detail…

I have been quiet on my blog recently, mainly because I am working hard towards a large exhibition in October but also because I also have a day job to pay the bills!

Each art project I do teaches me so much and I learn and grow a great deal.  This growth is hard, frustrating and painful but it is so important to be open to change and learning new things.   I emerge from each experience a different artist to the one who started.

One of my hardest lessons has been having an attention to detail – in being very very strict about what artwork is good enough.  This is also required for the organisation of an exhibition and workshops – but since that is my day job, I find that easier! Interestingly, my work is about attention to detail and contemplative photography as well.

I am organising an exhibition which is largely photographs.   However I am keen to add my own slant to an often photographed subject (Portsmouth Cathedral) and I have had to work hard to produce the type of work that I feel is saying what I want to say about the wonderful building and space within.   I have taken 100’s of shots (and will be there again tomorrow, taking more).

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The choir practice on a stormy sunday evening

This has not been easy,  I have had to be very critical of my work and reject 99/100 of the pictures I have taken.     This week I realised that my camera equipment was holding me back, I had an entry level camera which has served me well, but recently I realised that some of my frustration was in fact limitations of my camera, I’d outgrown it.   So now I am the proud owner of a Fujifilm XPro1 – not a new camera by any means but a huge step up and it has given me the ability to take pictures that are a new level in quality and ones I am very excited to show in October.

But then there is the other side of an exhibition – I find that producing a body of artwork to show is mostly about organisation and very little about art!  This is also frustrating as really I would just like to be painting and producing all day, but there is marketing do do, websites to design, presentations to write and a lot of things to buy in order for my exhibition to kick off successfully on October 16th.

I’ll keep you posted on my progress!

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More beautiful detail from Portsmouth Cathedral

Finding Peace will open at Portsmouth Cathedral on October 16th 2017 and include two free workshops to practice contemplative photography.   More details soon!

Goodbye Gosport Queen!

I am genuinely sad to see Gosport Queen go although obviously pleased she’s getting a new life on the Thames, she was always my favorite and I would love it when she stepped in for one of the newer ferries from time to time.   I have travelled on her most of my life, we are almost the same age, and I love the quirky design and of course all the wood.   Below a little tribute to Gosport Queen with some pictures I’ve taken recently.

Mindful massage insight!

I was lucky enough to have a lovely head and shoulder massage today and I suddenly had an insight into mindfulness and our need to ‘switch off’.

Having the massage, with my eyes closed, I lost myself in the relaxing feelings and realised that it was akin to mindfulness – that ability to switch off, to step away from our normal thought processes and be in the present moment.

We often have hobbies or pastimes that do this – anything where we might say “the time flew”  “I was in the zone”  “I lost track of time” – they are all forms of being in the moment, experiencing ‘Now’ and perhaps we do these activities because we need this peace, we need to have some space from the incessant thoughts in our heads – worrying, planning,  berating ourselves for something….

I often try to explain mindfulness to people, and yet, it is merely cultivating the ability to conjure up this feeling and peaceful space at will – without having to distract or occupy yourself in order to achieve it.    With practice, mindfulness means you can find these little pockets of peace more easily and eventually they fill all the little spare moments in your day, and I believe that this leads to very positive changes in mental health, which is increasingly important these days.

Find out more about mindfulness from a previous post.

 

Europe’s largest beer tent? Right in the heart of Portsmouth!

Went for a lovely (and much needed) mindful photowalk around Portsmouth Guildhall Square today, partly to record the incredible temporary entertainment venue that has sprung up (for Oktoberfest)  and partly because it was such a beautiful day and I needed some sunshine.

Even Queen Victoria is enclosed in the tent!

So here is a mix of pictures from around the square today (click to see larger copies) – it certainly looks like it’s going to be an amazing weekend for the ticket holders.

I confess that I will look forward to having our lovely square back though!

The feature picture above is one of three iconic Portsmouth buildings, the Norrish Central Library, The Guildhall, and the Civic Offices.

Release the voice that refuses to acknowledge the real me…

Self-Observation Without Judgement

Release the harsh and pointed inner
voice. It’s just a throwback to the past,
and holds no truth about this moment.Let go of self-judgment, the old,
learned ways of beating yourself up
for each imagined inadequacy.

Allow the dialogue within the mind
to grow friendlier, and quiet. Shift
out of inner criticism and life
suddenly looks very different.

I can say this is only because I make
the choice a hundred times a day
to release the voice that refuses to
acknowledge the real me.

What’s needed here isn’t more
prodding toward perfection, but
intimacy – seeing clearly, and
embracing what I see.

Love, not judgment, sows the
seeds of tranquility and change.

One Soul: More poems from the heart of yoga, Danna Faulds

I got this from a mindfulness course yesterday at The Mindfulness Project in London and this poem was in our handout.  It’s beautiful and something we could all do with more of, self compassion instead of listening to our inner critic!

You will love again the stranger that was yourself….

Love after Love

The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was yourself.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

I went on a fascinating mindfulness course yesterday at The Mindfulness Project in London and this poem was in our handout.   It really impacts on me, I will have to read it a few times to really take it in.    What a wonderful sentiment.

Mindfulness – is it harmful? How can it aid creativity?

There seems to be a backlash against mindfulness at the moment, with several articles saying it is harmful and some downright scaremongering about what it is.   A religion?  A cult?  Something dangerous that is going to mess with your head?

Personally, mindfulness is a big part of my life and a big reason why I have found so much more peace in recent years.

My mind is a busy, flighty thing and I need to be able to still it every now and then, to create some peace and space in there!

Below is a list of what mindfulness means to me:

Mindfulness is:

  • Taking an extra minute to feel the wind on my face when I leave the house in the morning
  • Walking slightly more slowly, and noticing the world around me
  • Having moments when I am not worrying about the past or anxious about the future – moments of NOW.
  • Numerous moments through the day when I do a “body and mind scan” how am I feeling?
  • Noticing that I feel scared / anxious / sad and wondering why – without judgement
  • Really seeing that beautiful rose in the garden
  • Stopping to smell it
  • Sometimes I stop and list what I can feel (my clothing, a shoe rubbing, a cold wind on my face) what I can hear (birds, cars, people talking….) and what I can see.  I find this especially grounding if I work myself into a state where my brain won’t stop buzzing.

I don’t sit and meditate for hours.  I don’t mumble mantras (although both can be very beneficial for some people).  I don’t prescribe to any organised religion.  I’m not a Buddhist because I think this way.   I just try to stop regularly and see.   See the world.  See how I am feeling.  Observing yourself, like an impartial recorder of interesting facts about human behaviour – it is crucial to have no judgement.   I am learning not to beat myself up when I realise I have done something or thought something, but rather just to notice it and after a while you notice patterns – “that’s the second time I’ve had a chocolate bar after xxx happened…..”.

After practicing this, I can stop the chatter in my head, even for a moment or two and I experience a wonderful peace and clarity.

It doesn’t matter what it is called, mindfulness is just a word for calming the mind, paying attention to life within and outside.

Photography and art

I use mindfulness in both my photography and art.  I need to be able to see in order to take the type of photograph that I want to take.    Take the above shot of water droplets on some grasses.   I had been out on foot and was on my way home when I saw this beautiful result of a lot of overnight rain.  The sun was out and I knew that it wouldn’t last much longer before the water dried.   But I didn’t have my camera!    Luckily, I was only a 1/4mile from home so I went home and went back and I am very glad I did!    If I had either been in the car or rushing without seeing the world around me I would have missed this wonderful shot.

And I am grateful to Lee at Photential for teaching me that.

I also use a form of mindfulness in my art.   I cannot paint if my head is full of chatter.  It just won’t happen.  For years I painted by having Radio4 playing (in the UK Radio4 is a news / information / documentary radio station) – I found that having the talking in the background occupied my busy conscious mind, and I could paint with my subconscious mind.

Since I have been getting better at thinking mindfully, I find that I can calm my mind without outside assistance and my latter paintings have been done in silence, which I like.

Call it “getting in the zone” or “finding your groove” “getting in the flow” “focus”- it’s that feeling when you can stop the chatter, concentrate on what you love and lose yourself in the creative process.   Initially it will be fleeting, but over time you can maintain it for longer periods.   It is incredibly rewarding.

Looking inwards…..

Mindfulness involves looking inwards.   Sometimes our minds are busy as a defence against dark and harmful thoughts and so for some, this may be best approached with professional help.  If you practice mindfulness techniques and find the experience uncomfortable, please seek help.

Further information

There are a couple of excellent phone apps that have a series of training exercises to get you into thinking this way – they also have longer meditations – but as I have said above, I don’t think these are a necessity.

Reading The Power of Now and Practising the Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle will give you an understanding of that space between the past and the future – NOW – the space in which we live but seldom savor.

Mindful photography and a photomarathon – join in!

This week I was invited to take part in a photomarathon – I’d never heard of one!   A friend is doing one in Cardiff soon and wants to train, so we are doing a practice this weekend.

The deal is this, we will have six hours to produce six pictures.  Sounds ok so far!   However, each of these six pictures will have to conform to a different theme that we will be given at 10am.   Since it’s just the two of us, we are actually choosing them ourselves – I am going to do a random book search and look for phrases that jump out at me on Saturday morning (if I do it any sooner, I will start to plan my pictures which I don’t want to do).      Lee is supplying three and I am supplying three and we will order them alternately.

But…. and this is a big but, the pictures must be taken in order, with no processing.  The idea is that at the end of the six hours, I have just six pictures, in order, on my memory card, which I’ll show Lee (and he’ll show me his and no doubt we will have a little discussion about them too!).

I am very excited about this, it challenges the very essence of the way I photograph.  I seldom go out with a subject in mind, I take lots of pictures that appeal to me, I come home and process them (not much, but I do crop into pictures a fair bit, I will sharpen, boost the colours or make them monochrome.)  I won’t be able to do any of that except the monochrome because I have that function on my camera (luckily!).

It’s going to be hard work but I will post the results here on Sunday (if I have recovered sufficiently!).

When Lee does the full photomarathon in June he will have 12 hours to produce 12 pictures!   That is quite a feat.

Stalking my husband on the shores of Portsmouth Harbour!

Stalking my husband on the shores of Portsmouth Harbour

Lee is the mindful photographer who taught me so much in January when I first got a proper camera.  I will, with the restraints of the above rules, endeavor to be taking the pictures mindfully.   This, I interpret as:

  • Going to an area to photograph – usually I do not have a subject in mind, but I might be in a particular mood and want to reflect that.
  • I wander around and soak up the area, I might sit and breathe and relax – I practice mindfulness anyway so it is not too hard for me to zone in and focus on ‘now’.
  • I become aware of the beauty and interest around me.  Things start to catch my eye (Lee calls this ‘receiving’ a picture).
  • I take some pictures.
  • When I am happy that I have captured what it was that appealed to me, I move on.

If you want to know more about mindful photography, I recommend Lee’s site: Photential  or see his twitter stream @Photential – we are still looking for people to join in on Saturday!  (We are not geographically close so we are not doing this together in person, so it doesn’t matter where you are – I’m in Portsmouth and Lee is in Swansea).   Get in touch!

The picture in the header was taken over the weekend in Gosport.   I was walking through an industrial estate to get to a beautiful peaceful beach and this caught my eye…. “Rotation”.   The second picture was actually taken about 50ft from the first.

Ailsa

One a day photo challenge – day 6 – got my paints out!

Day six, I am quite impressed with myself for getting to nearly a week without cheating.   For six days I have taken one picture only, no deleting, and posted whatever I took.   I can’t say it’s been high art but it has been very interesting.   I have found it hard, not the bit about finding my subject for the day, they always jump out at me, but only taking one picture of it.  Normally I would set about trying to capture what I saw by trying different angles, different crops, different exposures etc.

I had a profound thought about creativity when I was painting the fence at 8 o’clock this morning – but unfortunately I have completely forgotten what it was, which is annoying and I blame old age!

However, interestingly, I just got my paints out and did 3 paintings just now.    All rather experimental and I am not sure if I have anything worth keeping but I haven’t painted for months.     My paints are held in various ice-cream containers and I loved the way they tumbled onto the desk in all their colourful glory – as if to say “Here we are!  What are you going to do with us?”

So perhaps there is a certain amount of creativity in me and if I am not using it up on photography, it’s going to leak out into watercolours!

Unfortunately, I can’t take a picture of my finished pieces to show you!

I am very excited about tomorrow.  I have the chance to attend a workshop with two local street artists who I greatly admire – I have no idea what we will be doing, but just to meet them and learn from them is a huge thrill.   I will be taking my camera and I think, I will probably be breaking my one a day rule tomorrow.   The opportunity to go to the city, travel on the ferry and the train and mix with other artists in an urban setting will, I suspect, be too much for me not to capture.

I’ll let you know tomorrow!