Zen and the Art of Photography Pt 2

After my previous post I have thought of even more active practices to apply a mindset for more purposeful photography.

Thirty-Six Exposures

36 exposures waiting for something beautiful

When shooting digital images in the past, I would try to capture anything and everything with little to show for it. Using a 35mm film camera, you have only 36 exposure of film in one roll so every shot has to count. Digital is cheaper than analog so I can snap all I want, but with film, you have to be more intentional, more deliberate. Setting a limitation of only 36 images with my digital camera is a good thing. I can relax, focus on the present and focus on those images I want.

One Camera, One Lens
In the past, I would walk out with a camera and multiple lenses because “You never know when you’ll need it.” How many of those lenses were used- only the one. How liberating and relaxing is it not to think about that extra weight carried in the camera bag? Again, setting out with limitations creates intentionality.

Simply The Workflow
Shooting in jpeg as opposed to RAW format produces smaller images and faster transfer times to speed up the process. Removing Adobe Lightroom from the workflow allows me to work faster. Apple Photos app has improved to a degree where no other software is needed. However, if I want to process images even more, I have Pixelmator. Both are tied into the Apple photo ecosystem and allows you to focus more on what I want to do, such as make more images.

Delete Social Media
Followers, Likes and heart emojis do not ascertain your photograph’s worth. They do not reflect on what the image means to you. I publish photos without expectations or delusions of grandeur on my own websites because it makes me happy. With your own website you control the aesthetics, no algorithm, no tracking and no advertising. This is Zen.

Also, publish your work digitally, in the form of an e-book or portfolio. It is a better way to distribute to your website followers and loved ones in a .pdf format than print is. This is the way.

Less Gear, More Comfort
Instead of investing in that shiny new camera or lens, put your money into yourself such as a good pair of shoes. When I plan for a photo walk or hike, I want to enjoy the experience, in the moment without discomfort. If possible, donate your unused gear to someone just starting out. New photography from other budding artists is always a good thing.

Airplane Mode
The desire to check your notifications, read email or catch up on the latest news in your feed distracts focusing on the here and now. Your image quality will be affected. Be present in the moment.

Seeing your image materialize on photographic paper in a darkroom is one of the most amazing experiences you can have in photography. Likewise the experience when reviewing on your digital device. Apple Photos displays images much like an analog contact sheet. On an iPad it is glorious to swipe through, favorite, delete, edit and save. Looking at each image with intentionality is a rewarding experience after all your time and effort.

Reconnect with yourself in the outdoors while shooting. Focus on your breathing while focusing on your image, then snap. Create opportunities to get out and enjoy your surroundings, there is beauty in everything now go find it.

More Practices To Be Discovered
That’s it for now, but until next time- This is photographic zen. This is the way.

Zen and the Art of Photography

After studying but putting forth little effort into the zen philosophy last year, I think I will attempt it again this year. But what if I can apply those principles into something I enjoy such as photography? I can create a hybrid of the two and enjoy both even further.
There are more than seven practices of course, but these seem to be fundamental and can be applied to photography.

Having a camera is a passport to explore the world with different perspectives. By keeping an open mind and seeing your subjects differently we can open up new opportunities and more rewarding images.

Sure, I desire to fly towards exotic destinations and capture those epic scenes, but reality says I must be present in my current situation. This requires the discipline of focus. Likewise if I try to capture all the things around me, I will capture nothing of consequence. Focus on the moment, the subject and the outcome for best results.

I am generally an optimistic person but I haven’t been lately. Staying positive in all situations makes me and those around me better. I can get frustrated if a scene or shot doesn’t go my way. If I remain calm, slow down and focus this will lead to happiness with my photography and my life. Fun fact: zen is dependent on happiness.

Seek beauty in all things
Admittingly, this is a challenge for me. I’ve been disappointed in shooting my current surroundings because they were boring, over-shot, repetitive, and wanting more. If I slow down, focus and stay positive. A good photographer sees something in the moment that no one else does. All things do have a certain beauty in them.

Live in the moment
This can be applied under “Focus” as well. A general acceptance of the here and now. An acceptance of myself, and of others. Minimizing distractions and enjoying where I am currently.

Minimalism or simplicity
I’ve done what I can do minimize possessions and to simplify my life, why not do the same for photography? Why not minimize distractions in the viewfinder and focus on something simplistic? This can include simplifying subjects or a scene, simplifying your gear and enjoying the process.

Walking meditation
A lot of issues can be solved with walking. It offers clarity, strengthens the mind and the body. Taking a camera along for a photo walk affords a lot of opportunities. Your mind and body are clear, so now too your images.

Practicing the art of zen photography emphasizes who we are and is reflected in the images we make. Do I make the world around me a better place, am I a better person for it and do my images reflect this? I don’t know but I am eager to apply these practices the next time I go out with the camera.

The Digital Life

I go back and forth a lot on physical and digital possessions. This week, I am all in on a digital kick. I’m sure in a few months I’ll start accumulating more physical items. Perhaps digital possessions are superior to physical possessions?

With digital items, I can take them everywhere I go. They don’t take up space. As someone who has moved back and forth across the country, this is always a good idea. This lines up nicely with my current desire to approach minimalism again. If that word or philosophy sounds too pious, I’ll simply call it “essentialism.”

The physical things I own are for me and the relatively few people who visit for me to show off to. I can easily share digital with potentially millions of people if they are interested.

Furthermore, in case of a disaster, my digital files are all backed up and archived. Just purchase another physical device to access, and I am good to go. In the same disaster, I would have more to lose had I invested in physical goods. Most could not be replaced so easily or cheaply.

Digital + minimalism = the way to go for me.


I caught the minimalism bug again. I recently decided to create a list of all the things that no longer served their purpose in an attempt to declutter and called it the mnmlist. Get it?

I emptied my bookcase of everything except sixteen books. Seven are about photography. The rest were donated to a local book store. From now until I change my mind again, I’ll be borrowing e-books from the library or online resources to view on the iPad. Done.

Next up, record albums. Earlier this year I caught the nostalgia bug and purchased a few recent releases and the rest were acquired at my neighborhood record store. The majority of those records were from mystery packs. Pick a genre of music and get 20 albums for $10. Only a few of those survived after I traded them in yesterday for store credit. That didn’t last long and I brought home a Jimi Hendrix, and Rolling Stones album for a grand total of $2.50. Most of my music is streamed through Apple Music from now until I change my mind again. Done.

Working from home during the pandemic made me realize how many dress shirts and slacks I have in my closet that I am not wearing. Throw in some old shoes, and they will all be donated very soon.

Up next I will be tackling my digital archives and reorganizing them in a way that makes it easier for me to find and access along complete with physical and cloud backups. I’ll probably log that in a future post.

Meditation Alternatives

“You need not meditate; just close your eyes and sleep or think about one of your fun moments in life.”

Is there an alternative for meditation besides sitting on a zafu, legs crossed and chanting “om?” Yes, there is.

Staring through the window

One of the benefits of working from my home office are the windows. Unfortunately it is next to an abandoned house but there are beautiful trees and all sorts of critters peeking in to watch me work. When I need to, I will stand up, lean on the window frame and stare out. This has many benefits:

  • Your mind becomes calm
  • Your concentration level increases
  • You will connect with nature
  • You will get instant relief from the digital world

Look at photos

The mobile photo gallery in our pockets is an excellent time to remember and reflect. I enjoy swiping and reliving these memories. I think about the people in these images with love and take the time to wish them well. When I have more time, I will bring out the photo albums because these old photographs bring me happiness and soothes me.

Nature Walk

Walking is one of the best way of relieving your stress and good for health, but what is a nature walk? Instead of walking on the same ground or park, try to walk in a different route every day. It gives you a new perspective of life for sure. Humans like to explore. The more you explore, the more you connect with yourself.
Most importantly, those thoughts that are going everywhere will slowly settle down, and you will soon enjoy the walk as your mind will think only one thing which is exploring a new route. It is why most creators can go for a quick walk and come back with a new idea.

Meditation does not mean it has to be done in a sitting position by closing your eyes and letting go off the thoughts. I enjoy changing it up and achieving similar results; a clear mind.

Practice vs. Belief

I’ve been taking a strong look at two similar but different philosophies recently and want to dive deeper.

Stoicism and Taoism.

I’ve studied, practiced and taught Christianity but these days I have a hard time coming to terms with so many things that I actually don’t know what to think anymore.

I understand the word of God but sometimes it is a difficult concept. It is mysterious, sometimes enigmatic, but not beyond my capability.

I’ve served in a few missionary trips overseas, witnessed modern day Biblical miracles so I’m not divorced from it, and would never call myself an atheist. Spirituality pervades everything I’m involved in, but I don’t know how to put my finger on it.

Studying other schools of thought is permissible, even encouraged. So I will do just that.

Stoicism is a philosophy of personal ethics informed by its system of logic and its views on the natural world.

The truth taught in Taoism is to embrace life in actions that support you as a person.

These philosophies don’t diminish beliefs but enhance by putting them into practical, applicable use.

I can believe in that. I can practice that.