I used to love going out with my camera. There were days when I truly ‘had my eye in’; I recall one Sunday morning in particular. I lived in Brighton and on this day the light was amazing, the colours seemed enhanced and at every turn there was something unusual; an office chair base by a tree stump, a bike chained to railings with the wheels removed, street signs covered up and altered. I meowed at a snoozing cat and it woke up and meowed back at me.
Back then I used to take a camera with me everywhere. Before digital cameras, before smartphones. For a while I had a vintage Pentax where I would have to physically wind it on and then wind the film back in at the end. I developed it in the darkroom at college where the most exciting alchemy took place; dipping paper in solutions in the red light, rubbing the surface of paper until an image appeared.
I used to wish for a tiny, compact camera that would fit neatly into my pocket, with my iphone that wish has been granted many times over. I have a digital SLR camera too although that is reserved mostly for specific photography outings as these days I seem to have enough other stuff to carry. Both of these are fantastic in their own way, giving me so many options both creatively and conveniently but I found myself missing the importance of careful consideration.
With my old Pentax, every shot mattered. With only twenty four opportunities to take something special and then wait until I got to the darkroom or had the prints delivered a week or so later, the process had a necessity to tune in to what I needed, that ‘having my eye in’. To be more vigilant and responsive to my surroundings. To do justice to the scene in front of me. To capture it.
This year for my birthday I got an old manual camera. Not quite the same or as old as my Pentax, but one that requires film and a couple of black and white films to go with it. It took me a little while to get the hang of it and this week I finally dedicated a morning to entertaining it. I went to a nearby woods and gardens. The sun was bright and despite the camera having black and white film in it, there were some great opportunities with contrast.
I noticed I was much more in tune with my surroundings. The air felt heightened, colours more intense. My senses on high alert for the juxtaposition, the texture, the details and patterns. Birdsong chattered everywhere and clusters of little flies danced in the sunlight. This is the mindfulness of photography, it is a dialogue with the self, an understanding. That internal leap when something beautiful presents itself which may be only beautiful to you but that doesn’t matter because it is all that matters.
Mindful Photography is one of the modules on my digital course, Creativity for Wellbeing and Happiness. If you are curious to try out more Mindful Creativity and Attentive Art, I have created an offer just for you. This week only, use the code HAPPY60 at checkout to receive 60% off the course. I hope you enjoy it and please let me know your results if you want to share.
I will share mine when I have finished the film, wound it in, sent it off and received the prints back, it may be a few weeks, but that’s half the excitement. In the meantime you can see some of my pictures on instagram at @sophiehannahphotos
Happy snapping and have a great week,