Zen of Seeing: Blog https://www.zenofseeing.com/blog en-us (C) Braulio Montesino (Zen of Seeing) Mon, 16 Mar 2020 06:47:00 GMT Mon, 16 Mar 2020 06:47:00 GMT https://www.zenofseeing.com/img/s/v-12/u799040981-o1035576799-50.jpg Zen of Seeing: Blog https://www.zenofseeing.com/blog 120 100 Are You Ready For The Coming Dark Age? https://www.zenofseeing.com/blog/2015/6/are-you-ready-for-the-coming-dark-age We are on the edge of a new dark age. According to one person, “Our 21st Century will be an information black hole.” The ravings of a Luddite? The rantings of a computer-hating lunatic? Hardly, these were the words of Google Vice President and Internet pioneer, Vint Cerf. At a recent speech to the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Cerf warned that a second dark age may be looming because the majority of our documents and images are now kept in digital formats.


Cerf spoke specifically of the potential loss of personal photographs. According to Cerf:


We have various formats for digital photographs and movies and those formats need software to correctly render those objects. Sometimes the standards we use to produce those objects fade away and are replaced by other alternatives and then software that is supposed to render images can’t render older formats, so the images are no longer visible.
Foolishness, you say? Well, when was the last time you listened to those eight-track or cassette tapes? Do you have any documents or images stored on floppy disks? If so, you may want to know that the upcoming update to Microsoft’s operating system (Microsoft 10) will no longer provide support for reading floppy disks. Unfortunately, the problem is not solved by backing up your data. It is possible to have perfectly good image data and no way to view it. What will happen when someone comes up with a format supperior to JPEG for saving images and new software no longer supports reading those “antiquated” JPEG files?
You may conclude that you don’t have any photos that are so important that they need to survive for generations. But, you may want to rethink that attitude. Remember the first time that you looked at photos of yourself, your parents or grandparents as youngsters. Those old, faded, black and white pieces of paper probably brought you a great deal of joy. It would be a shame if your grandchildren, or their children didn’t have the same opportunity to see what your life was like.
So, what can you do? According to Cerf, “If there are pictures that you really, really care about then creating a physical instance is probably a good idea. Print them out, literally.” That’s right, one of the most prominent men of the digital world is telling you to make physical prints of your images!
There is no need to make prints of every photo you make. But there are probably a few images that you would like to keep for future generations. You know the ones: the pictures of you and your spouse together, the shots of your child with their first car, graduation pictures, birthdays. They are all worth keeping. Even those landscape and cityscape shots may be important. That lighthouse or old barn is unlikely to be there forever and don’t you love seeing those old photos of how your town looked in the “old days”?
Fortunately, you have several options for making inexpensive copies of your images. I’m sure that you are aware that Costco, Target, and several other retail outlets will print your photos for a small fee. Or, with an inexpensive printer, you can print them yourself?
It may seem like a lot of work to make those prints. But how much will your history be worth to your loved ones? Maybe it’s worth a little money or work to shine some light into the coming “dark age.”
(Zen of Seeing) Cerf Google Vint Cerf digital images digital photographs jpeg print prints second dark age https://www.zenofseeing.com/blog/2015/6/are-you-ready-for-the-coming-dark-age Fri, 19 Jun 2015 21:22:23 GMT
The Time is Now https://www.zenofseeing.com/blog/2014/8/the-time-is-now Have you ever looked back on your life and regretted not doing something that you dreamed of? Oh, sure you have. It’s a rare person who can honestly say that they have lived their life with no regrets. Never climbed Kilimanjaro? Never became a doctor? Never became a rock star? Maybe it’s not too late.


You may not be able to climb Kilimanjaro any more, but a rock-climbing class is available just about anywhere. You may not be able to go to medical school, but you can take an anatomy or physiology class (or find a book in the library). Better yet, volunteer at a local hospital or hospice. Rock star? Oh com’on, there’s an app for that. If you really want to do something, don’t let it go. It’s worth remembering one of my favorite Chinese proverbs . . .


The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The second-best time is now.


Your time is NOW.

(Zen of Seeing) Kilimanjaro plant a tree regrets rock star https://www.zenofseeing.com/blog/2014/8/the-time-is-now Thu, 21 Aug 2014 22:58:14 GMT
When Is Enough, Enough https://www.zenofseeing.com/blog/2014/6/when-is-enough-enough When I taught Tai Chi, I would begin each class with a Taoist parable intended to illustrate a key concept of Taoist thought. I find this one useful:


Long ago, in ancient China, there was a humble farmer who tilled land that had long ago been depleted. Although he labored every day, he was barely able to feed his family. In a lean year his family had barely survived the winter. In his desperation, the farmer decided to clear a field that had long been considered unsuitable for farming due to the many large stones scattered on it. The farmer struggled to exhaustion each day digging out stones and carting them to the edge of the field. One day the farmer pried a particularly heavy lump from the rocky soil. When he heaved the oddly-shaped object onto his cart, the farmer noticed a yellow glint under the dirt and mud. The farmer dragged his cart to his home and washed away the soil that clung to the surface. When the farmer completed his cleaning, he discovered a golden statue. It was one of the lost gold statutes of the Seven Sages of the Bamboo Garden. His family rejoiced! They were now wealthy beyond their dreams. While the family and neighbors celebrated the farmer’s good fortune, his wife noticed the farmer sitting alone looking despondent. His wife said, “My husband, you should be joyful. Your family will never go hungry again.” The farmer slowly nodded and said, “Yes, but I don’t know where the other six statues are hidden.”


We often have to remind ourselves that having enough, is enough.


By the way, that new Nikon is sweet! Hmmm. . .

(Zen of Seeing) Bamboo Garden Nikon Tao enough is enough farmer sages tai chi https://www.zenofseeing.com/blog/2014/6/when-is-enough-enough Fri, 27 Jun 2014 19:01:43 GMT
Welcome H.P.H.S. Alumni https://www.zenofseeing.com/blog/2014/4/welcome-h-p-h-s-alumni I’d like to offer a very special welcome to my fellow Huntington Park High School alumni. Thanks for coming to my website. If you visit the various galleries on the website you’ll get a pretty good idea of what I’ve been up to for the past few years. I hope that you enjoy them.


I’d love to hear from you. Drop me a message by clicking the “Contact” link and, if you leave your email address, I’ll be able to respond and get to hear about how you’re doing as well. Thanks.




(Zen of Seeing) Braulio Montesino H.P.H.S. Huntington Park High School welcome https://www.zenofseeing.com/blog/2014/4/welcome-h-p-h-s-alumni Tue, 22 Apr 2014 22:34:53 GMT
Afraid of His Shadow https://www.zenofseeing.com/blog/2014/4/afraid-of-his-shadow Once in a while, when I’m out in the field making photographs, a strange feeling comes over me. I feel pressured to find a subject and I start hunting for a photograph. I’m rarely very productive when in that frame of mind until I remember an old Chinese story from the Taoist text, The Complete Works of Chuang Tzu . (Coincidentally, the story is a favorite among my Tai Chi students.)


Long ago, there was a man who was afraid of his own shadow and hated his footprints. He tried to avoid his shadow and his footprints by running away. But, no matter how fast he ran, his shadow always kept pace and his footprints were always there. Thinking that he was running too slowly, he ran faster and faster until he was exhausted and fell down dead. He didn’t understand that, had he relaxed in the shade, he would have rid himself of his shadow and by resting in quietude he would have ended his footprints.


In today’s frenetic society many of us try to resolve our problems by working harder and moving faster. Sometimes slowing down can be of much more help. I know that when I remember this story I relax and am much more productive.


Thanks for dropping by.


(Zen of Seeing) Chuang-Tzu Tao Tao te Ching afraid of his shadow footprints shadow tai chi taoism https://www.zenofseeing.com/blog/2014/4/afraid-of-his-shadow Thu, 03 Apr 2014 21:32:39 GMT
Visiting a New Friend https://www.zenofseeing.com/blog/2014/3/visiting-a-new-friend In my last post, I discussed how rewarding it can be to visit and photograph a place that you have visited before. During my last trip to Joshua Tree, I made some time to visit a place where I had never been.


Just east of the southern entrance of Joshua Tree National Park is a place out of history. About a 40 minute drive east of Palms Springs on I-10 sits the George Patton Memorial Museum. It was built in an area where Patton trained troops destined for the war in North Africa. For the grand sum of $5 (or $4.50 if you are a person of a certain age) you can view rooms of military memorabilia (read guns) and can watch a documentary about the man himself. However, the real show is outside. In a fenced area adjacent to the museum are tanks of many varieties dating from WWII through Desert Storm. The fun for me, however, was out back. Behind the museum lies a graveyard of tanks that have not yet been restored (and may never be unless they start charging more for admission). These rusting hulks make for some great – sometimes ironic – photos. I’ve set up a gallery of a few images I made at the museum. Have a look at “Recent Additions – Patton.”


These subjects aren’t my usual cup of tea, but I wouldn’t be surprised if some of these images make it to the “Unfinished Stories” gallery. I believe that most photographers get better results once they have time to get to know their subject. As Andreas Feininger said, “The more thoroughly a photographer explores his subject . . ., the more he sees . . . .” Who knows, maybe I’ll make another trip out to the Patton Museum and visit a new friend.


Thanks for dropping by.



(Zen of Seeing) Feininger Patton desert tank https://www.zenofseeing.com/blog/2014/3/visiting-a-new-friend Thu, 20 Mar 2014 13:31:41 GMT
Visiting an Old Friend https://www.zenofseeing.com/blog/2014/3/visiting-an-old-friend I recently paid a visit to Joshua Tree National Park. Since I’ve been photographing there for almost 40 years, I’ve grown rather fond of the place. I first went there carrying a 4x5 view camera. Now my camera sports a tiny photo sensor rather than a large sheet of Tri-X film. Still, it’s a rewarding experience to climb the ancient boulders, get some sand in my boots and make some images. Not long ago I wrote a post about never being able to step in the same river twice. While true, that doesn’t mean that we can never visit a familiar haunt. I cannot re-create those photos I made decades ago - why would I want to?  But, each time I revisit the park I get a different view. It’s a little like visiting a (human) old friend; you feel comfortable in each other’s presence, but you can still occasionally discover a new facet in the old gem. After all, as stated in the Tao Te Ching, “Return is the movement of the Tao.”


If you’d like to see some of the photographs from my most recent visit to Joshua Tree N.P., check out the “Recent Additions–Joshua” gallery. (Once there, click on "Slideshow" to view the largest images.)  I’d love to hear what you think!


Do you have any "Old Friends" that you like to visit?  I'd love to hear about it.  Just use the comments section below.

(Zen of Seeing) Joshua Tree National Park Tao Tao te Ching revisit step in the same rivier twice visit again https://www.zenofseeing.com/blog/2014/3/visiting-an-old-friend Fri, 07 Mar 2014 16:00:00 GMT
It’s the Image, Stupid https://www.zenofseeing.com/blog/2014/1/its-the-image-stupid  

Okay, I admit it – I tend to get too involved in my photo equipment.  In my experience, most photographers do.  We spend an inordinate amount of time and energy thinking about the latest cameras, sensor resolution, maximum lens apertures, etc.  Of course, ultimately it is the image that’s important not the equipment.  The equipment is only important to the extent that it is needed to create the final image.


I am reminded of the first GPS unit that I purchased for one of my motorcycles.  Since they are exposed to the elements, GPS units that are used on motorcycles must be able to withstand some exposure to water.  I was discussing my purchase with another motorcyclist who insisted that the only logical choice of unit for use on a motorcycle was one that was designed for marine use.  “After all,” he said, “yours is only rated to withstand a depth of 3 meters.”  I laughed and replied that “if the GPS unit on my motorcycle is under 10 feet of water, I have bigger problems than finding my next waypoint!”


As photographers – and as people – we need to keep an eye to what is truly important.  As Alfred Eisenstaedt said, “You can have the most modern camera in the world but if you don’t have an eye, the camera is worthless.”

(Zen of Seeing) Alfred Eisenstaedt GPS camera image https://www.zenofseeing.com/blog/2014/1/its-the-image-stupid Sun, 19 Jan 2014 18:20:47 GMT
Beginner's Mind https://www.zenofseeing.com/blog/2013/12/beginners-mind A seminal concept in the practice of Zen is that of the “Beginner’s Mind.” Known as Shoshin, to have a beginner’s mind is to cultivate an attitude of openness to all possibilities. In his book Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind, Shunryu Suzuki explained that, “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few.”


A beginner has no concept of the “correct” way of doing things. Edward Weston once said, “When subject matter is forced to fit into preconceived patterns, there can be no freshness of vision.” A beginner is willing to try new things because a beginner has no fear of failure. A beginner accepts his ignorance and is open to see and experience without preconceptions. As Dorothea Lange put it, “The best way to go into an unknown territory is to go in ignorant, with your mind wide open . . .”


Do not be afraid to be a beginner – regardless of how long you have practiced.

(Zen of Seeing) Beginner's Mind Dorothea Lange Edward Weston Shoshin Zen Mind expert's mind https://www.zenofseeing.com/blog/2013/12/beginners-mind Thu, 12 Dec 2013 22:54:22 GMT
Taming Your Tigers https://www.zenofseeing.com/blog/2013/11/taming-your-tigers An ancient Taoist story tells of a young man who was walking through the jungle. He rejoiced in the beautiful colors he saw, the rich smell of the fertile jungle, and the feel of the soft earth beneath his feet. He was throughly enjoying his day until he heard a low growl. He looked in the direction of the sound and saw a pair of large yellow eyes. Connected to those eyes was an even larger yellow tiger. The young man, being wise beyond his years, ran. The tiger, being hungry beyond measure, ran after him. As he ran breathlessly through the jungle, the young man could hear the tiger approaching ever closer. Suddenly, the young man came to the edge of a precipice. He looked around and, seeing only the approaching tiger and the looming fall, he grabbed a nearby vine and leapt. The vine held and he found himself dangling with a roaring tiger only a few feet above him. He began to climb down and was relieved to hear the tiger’s roar receding. Before long, however, the young man noted that the roar was getting louder. He looked below only to find that a second tiger was awaiting him at the bottom of the cliff. The young man saw few options and realized that he had a long wait until one of the tigers left. Shortly after resigning himself to a long evening, he felt the vine beginning to weaken. He looked up and saw that a rat above him was gnawing on the vine and it was only a matter of time before the vine would give way. The young man looked around and saw a bush. On the bush he saw a red-ripe berry. The young man picked the berry, popped it in his mouth, and thought to himself, “delicious!”


Now that, I submit to you, is living in the present moment.


Do you have the courage to set aside thoughts of the tigers of your past and future long enough to experience the now? If you do, you may be surprised at what you see.

(Zen of Seeing) Tao Taoist awareness seeing the now the present tigers https://www.zenofseeing.com/blog/2013/11/taming-your-tigers Fri, 22 Nov 2013 02:36:43 GMT
What is Your Legacy? https://www.zenofseeing.com/blog/2013/11/what-is-your-legacy What should a photographic artist’s legacy be?  This question was answered quite differently by Ansel Adams and Brett Weston, two renowned landscape photographers.


Ansel was a classically-trained pianist.  This may explain the metaphor that he used frequently.  The negative, he said, is akin to a musical score – the resulting print is like a performance.  That is consistent with his willingness to have others make prints from his negatives (under limited circumstances).  Ansel was willing to permit others to have different interpretations of his “score.”  During his life, Adams permitted sales of (carefully labeled) prints made from his negatives that were made by a trusted assistant.  Therefore, when his time came, Ansel left all of his negatives to the Center for Creative Photography at the University of Arizona.  Ansel instructed that, after his death, his negatives should be used to teach young photographers.


Brett Weston, however, felt differently.  “No one can print another photographer’s negatives,” he wrote in his 1980 monograph.  “It’s just too personal,” he wrote.  Brett felt that the process of making photographs was an emotional continuum from visualizing the image to making the print.  This process could not be started by the photographer and completed by another.  Consistent with his principles, on his 80th birthday Brett destroyed the vast majority of his negatives.  Only his prints survive.  Brett’s attitude on the issue, however, may have been at least partially influenced by his family history.  When Brett’s father, Edward, passed away, he left his negatives to another son, Cole, who made a career of making prints of his father’s works.


So which approach is better?  Should a photographer leave his or her negatives (or digital files) for future generations to study, or is the process just too personal to the photographer to permit continued use after his or her death?  I suspect that there is no “correct” answer other than that each photographer must make a personal decision.


What would you do?  I’d love to read your thoughts in the comments, below.

(Zen of Seeing) Ansel Adams Brett Weston Center for Creative Photography University of Arizona legacy negatives https://www.zenofseeing.com/blog/2013/11/what-is-your-legacy Thu, 07 Nov 2013 16:00:00 GMT
Rules of Composition https://www.zenofseeing.com/blog/2013/10/rules-of-composition I am amazed to see how much credence is given to some “rules of composition.” If you search the web for these rules you will find dozens of websites informing you that certain principles of composition must be applied to obtain “optimum” results. One of the most popular is the Rule of Thirds. That rule specifies that if one draws lines dividing the frame into thirds horizontally and vertically, the optimum placement for the subject matter of the photograph is at one of the intersections of these lines. I have no objections to the use of these “rules” as guidelines that may be helpful in some situations. However, a few days ago I attended a gathering of photographers at which images submitted by members were critiqued by a “professional judge.” The person deducted points for any photograph in which the primary subject matter was placed somewhere other than one of the points dictated by the rule of thirds. Really?!


I am reminded of a story told by photographer Brett Weston about a day on the beach with his father, Edward Weston. Brett had set up his view camera to make a photograph but was struggling because he felt that the composition was not quite right. His father came to him, looked at the image on the ground glass and rotated the camera back 90-degrees to convert a horizontal to a vertical photograph. According to Brett, that change was exactly what the image needed. 


Edward Weston noted that rules of composition were devised by looking at images after the fact.  He once stated that consulting the rules of composition before taking a photograph, is like consulting the laws of gravity before going for a walk.


Sometimes, the best composition means placing the subject according to the rule of thirds. Sometimes the best composition is to center the subject in the frame. Sometimes the best composition results from ignoring all of the rules. Ultimately, the strongest photograph results from choosing a composition that suits the subject. To me, the most important “rule of composition” was stated by Edward Weston, “To compose a subject well means no more than to see and present it in the strongest manner possible.”

Consulting the rules of composition before taking a photograph, is like consulting the laws of gravity before going for a walk.
Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/e/edwardwest141171.html#KtLPgJhaoF3bXg1p.99
(Zen of Seeing) Brett Weston Edward Weston composition rule of thirds rules of composition https://www.zenofseeing.com/blog/2013/10/rules-of-composition Wed, 23 Oct 2013 15:00:00 GMT
The Way https://www.zenofseeing.com/blog/2013/10/the-way Once upon a time, a tired musician was walking along the streets of New York City on his way home from a difficult rehearsal. A tourist, seeing the violin case under his arm asked, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” Without looking up, the violinist responded, “Practice kid, practice.” An old joke, I know, but one that holds a great deal of truth.


In his excellent book, Mastery: The Keys to Success and Long-Term Fulfillment, George Leonard describes the path that one must take to master any non-trivial subject. Mr. Leonard, an aikido master, explains that the road of mastery is never linear. That is, a given amount of effort does not result in consistent progress. Instead, if we practice diligently, we spend much of our time on a plateau that, after time, is followed by a brief spurt of progress. Each episode of rapid progress is followed by a slight decline to a plateau slightly higher than the one before. Most of our time along this road is spent on the plateaus. Thus, Leonard explains, mastery “is not a goal or a destination but rather a process, a journey.”


The Tao Te Ching states, “A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent upon arriving. A good artist lets his intuition lead him wherever it wants.” (Stephen Mitchel translation.) Therefore, travel the path without regard to a goal. Perhaps less profound – but just as insightful – photographer Elliot Porter once said, “You learn to see by practice. . . . The more you look around at things, the more you see.”


Works for me!

(Zen of Seeing) Carnegie Hall Elliot Porter George Leonard Mastery Practice kid, practice Tao Te Ching aikido https://www.zenofseeing.com/blog/2013/10/the-way Thu, 03 Oct 2013 23:02:56 GMT
The Thing Does Itself https://www.zenofseeing.com/blog/2013/9/the-thing-does-itself Wei-wu-wei – doing without doing.


A number of years ago, I taught Tai Chi Chuan at a local community college. The concept of wei-wu-wei left many of my students entirely flummoxed. “How can I do something without doing it?” My response – that the student should allow the thing to do itself – was understandably unsatisfying to beginning students. “When you relax and take yourself out of the equation, you can permit things to happen without your guidance,” I would explain, “You live under the misconception that nothing happens without your willing it to occur.” In response to the confused looks on my students’ faces, I would usually respond, “Don’t think – do this.”


In his book “Zen in the Art of Archery ,” author Eugen Herrigel writes of an exchange with his archery master. “The right art,” cried the Master, “is purposeless, aimless! The more obstinately you try to learn how to shoot the arrow for the sake of hitting the goal, the less you will succeed . . . . What stands in your way is that you have a much too willful will. You think that what you do not do yourself does not happen.”


But, wei-wu-wei is more than “do nothing.” Contrary to being in a state of uninvolvement, the “non-action” of wei-wu-wei is a form of relaxed alertness in which one is moved not by the desire to attain a goal, but rather by a sense that one does the appropriate thing to do at the time. It is natural, it flows with the Tao, it does itself.


The photographer Ruth Bernhard once said, “I never look for a photograph. The photograph finds me and says ‘I’m here!’ and I say, ‘Yes I see you. I hear you.’” Thus, the photograph makes itself.

(Zen of Seeing) Ruth Bernhard Tai Chi Zen in the Art of Archery doing without doing wei-wu-wei https://www.zenofseeing.com/blog/2013/9/the-thing-does-itself Thu, 19 Sep 2013 15:00:00 GMT
The Devil Is In The Details https://www.zenofseeing.com/blog/2013/9/the-devil-is-in-the-details Chuang-tzu, a Taoist philosopher, described the difference between “Great Understanding” and “Little Understanding.” He said that, “Great Understanding is broad and unhurried; Little Understanding is cramped and busy.”


Little Understanding includes knowing things like when the bus arrives or what the keyboard shortcut is for “copy.” In the photographic world it includes things like knowing how the aperture, shutter speed and ISO can be adjusted for the proper exposure or how to manage those elements to achieve a specific effect.


In contrast, Great Understanding includes notions such as openness, receptivity, artistic vision. These are concepts that can be vague and difficult to understand, but are vital to a deeper understanding of the nature of things leading to a more fulfilling life.


At first blush one is tempted to reject the “cramped” Little Understanding in favor of the “broad” Great Understanding. However, Taoist philosophers would reject that notion. The Tao is, after all, about balance. So a sage is one who can maintain a proper balance between Little Understanding and Great Understanding.


The renowned photographer, Ansel Adams, was a master of applying precise techniques to achieve a photographic goal. While looking at a landscape, he “previsualized” the appearance of the final photograph and would apply his detailed knowledge of the photographic process to achieve that goal. This was a man who, while driving towards the town, calculated the proper exposure for the famous photograph “Moonrise over Hernandez, New Mexico” based on his knowledge of the precise luminosity of the moon (in foot-candles). He was a master of Little Understanding. But he used his knowledge in service of his artistic vision. He realized that (if he drove fast enough) he would arrive in Hernandez in time to include the sunset’s reflection on the church cross at the same time that the moon rose over the town – an image that popped into his mind before he arrived. Balancing his technical knowledge with his artistic vision, he was able to make a powerful and moving image in the few moments between the time he arrived at the town and the time the sun set.


So, what did Adams think about this balance between Little Understanding and Great Understanding? He was reported to have said that “technique is unimportant, unless you don’t have it.” Now, that’s balance.

(Zen of Seeing) Ansel Adams Chuang-tzu Great Understanding Little Understanding balance https://www.zenofseeing.com/blog/2013/9/the-devil-is-in-the-details Thu, 05 Sep 2013 15:00:00 GMT
No One Steps Into The Same River Twice https://www.zenofseeing.com/blog/2013/8/no-one-steps-into-the-same-river-twice The Greek philosopher, Heraclitus, once wrote, "No man ever steps into the same river twice, for it is not the same river and he is not the same man." This thought comes to me each time I revisit a place at which I have made a photo that I enjoy. The place is never the same: the light changes minute to minute, the clouds move continuously, and even the stones evolve. More importantly, as living beings, we change. We age - we mature (or not) - we live. Is it any wonder that a treasured moment can never be duplicated? But this is nothing to be grieved. Even a familiar place (especially a familiar place) must be seen through fresh eyes at each moment. It should be approached not with a goal in mind, rather with an attitude of joy and anticipation. What will I see today?! As stated in the Tao te Ching, "If you realize that all things change, there is nothing you will try to hold on to." (S. Mitchell translation.)


(Zen of Seeing) Heraclitus Tao te Ching change fresh eyes return river https://www.zenofseeing.com/blog/2013/8/no-one-steps-into-the-same-river-twice Thu, 22 Aug 2013 18:15:00 GMT
Looking AT the Viewfinder https://www.zenofseeing.com/blog/2013/8/looking-at-the-viewfinder Although the methods used are different, a central tenet of both Zen and Taoist thought is that one should seek to clear one’s mind so that one can view the world without filtering it.  Interestingly enough, that is also a valuable practice in photography.


You may have had the experience of wanting to take a picture of your favorite Aunt Millie.  You look through the camera and notice her smiling face with those kind eyes and snap the picture at just the right moment.  But, when you look at the print, you notice the tree growing out of Millie’s left ear or the prominent red “stop” sign in the frame.  The reason, of course, is that when you pressed the shutter release you were reacting emotionally to the subject and forgetting that there was more to the photograph.  Not to say that photographs should be emotionless, quite the contrary.  But, you need to take a step back (figuratively) before pressing the button.  Remember to look at the viewfinder, and not through it.  When you look at the viewfinder, you see it for what it is – a rectangle enclosing an image.  You notice when there is something distracting at the edge of the frame or that the light striking the subject is casting an unattractive shadow.  Looking at the viewfinder alerts you so that you can see whether you need to change your angle of view or another aspect of the image so that you make the photograph that you want – one that allows the emotional content to come through.  Aunt Millie will appreciate the effort.

(Zen of Seeing) Tao Zen awareness clear mind clear vision frame https://www.zenofseeing.com/blog/2013/8/looking-at-the-viewfinder Thu, 08 Aug 2013 18:15:00 GMT
Is Photojournalism Dying? https://www.zenofseeing.com/blog/2013/7/is-photojournalism-dying Is photojournalism dying? That question arose late in May when the Chicago Sun-Times gathered its staff of 28 photographers to inform them that they were all being fired. The newspaper decided that, rather than pay a staff of professional photographers, it would issue iPhones to all of its reporters and give them training on “iPhone Photography Basics.”


In the days following the announcement, most of my photographer friends decried the decision as (at best) shortsighted or “penny wise and pound foolish.” While it’s true that an iPhone cannot compete with a professional-quality camera in providing high quality images, I believe that the technical arguments miss the point. The critical component of any photographic system is the one that resides behind the viewfinder. Years of experience and training make it possible for a professional photojournalist to make images that touch the soul as well as the mind. A good photographer will allow you to see what happened – a great photographer will help you feel what happened. It is the years of practice that make “effortless” image-taking possible. Imagine the iconic photos throughout history that would not have been made but for a seasoned photographer framing, focusing and exposing an image at just the right moment. Did the Chicago Sun-Times make an appropriate business decision? Only time will tell.

(Zen of Seeing) Chicago Sun-Times experience iPhone photographer photojournalism vision https://www.zenofseeing.com/blog/2013/7/is-photojournalism-dying Thu, 25 Jul 2013 15:00:00 GMT
Seeing What's There https://www.zenofseeing.com/blog/2013/7/seeing-whats-there “Most people only see enough to avoid bumping into things.” This gem is one of the first things that I remember learning from one of my many photographic mentors. In my experience, this insight is also extremely accurate. Most people tend to go from place to place as if they were wearing blinders. They become focused on one thing – say, getting to the nearest coffee shop – and lose sight of everything else around them. On one occasion I was in the desert with another photographer. As I was setting up my tripod he was a few yards away and said, “There’s nothing worth shooting out here.” I made my photograph anyway. Several weeks later he marveled over the image and asked where I shot it.


From an evolutionary perspective, I suppose that there are very good reasons for keeping your focus on an objective. If your life depends on finding food, it’s probably not a good idea to spend too much time gazing at clouds. But, take a chance and try it anyway. Once in a while stop in the middle of your day, open your eyes and really look at the world around you. Notice the shapes, the colors, the way the light caresses a textured surface. You may be pleasantly surprised.


(Zen of Seeing) awareness looking seeing https://www.zenofseeing.com/blog/2013/7/seeing-whats-there Mon, 08 Jul 2013 17:50:11 GMT