Meditating + Photography = Zenagraphy

I recently photographed my first wedding of “wedding season,” (more about Tiffany and Bryan’s super fun hockey-themed wedding at a later time.)

At one point I’m standing still on the dance floor staring straight ahead and I hear a familiar comment directed towards me from one of the guests:

“Are you ok? Smile!”

I hear this very exact phrase a lot. Or sometimes close variations such as “Are you mad? You look tired. You must be bored!”

This is the curse of having an unfortunate “resting face.”

I have to take a breath because the nonprofessional me, the says-first-thing-out-of-her-head-which-is-not-nice-nor-necessary-part of me wants to say “Ag!! I’m a friggin happy person! I’m perfectly fine! Do you see tears? Blood? Torn ligaments? No. So quit bothering me, I’M THINKING.

At this particular point there was a very loud dance song blasting, guests were dancing and bumping into me, and I noticed this one guy sitting all by his lonesome observing the chaos. I was mesmerized by his expression, the look of that moment. I was waiting to see what developed. (Photo pun intended.)

This is a common moment for me as a photographer during wedding receptions. With all the pulsing music, flashing lights and chaotic dancing, it takes a bit to tune it out and really see what’s going on and what I might want to photograph. It requires standing still, crawling into my head, and checking in with the moment.

Sometimes zen photo moments happen when the bride gets her groove on among blue lights and dancing guests.
Sometimes Zen photo moments happen when the bride gets her groove on among blue lights and dancing guests.

On a very basic level, this is what working is for a photographer. This is how a photographer creates their product and makes a photo. By observing, framing, judging light, and then taking a shot.

On a more deep-thinking, metaphysicalish, new-agesk type of level I refer you to a recent discovery of mine, a book titled “Photography as Meditation” by Torsten Andreas Hoffmann

In the description it states:

“Meditation and photography have much in common: both are based in the present moment, both require complete focus, and both are most successful when the mind is free from distracting thoughts.”

The author is offering the book as a guide to help photographers perfect their craft, using meditation. He goes on to state: “Photographing busy scenes, especially, requires an inner calm that enables you to have intuition for the right moment and compose a well-balanced image amidst the chaos.”

And in the first chapter he says; “Photography reflects external realities, but also reflects the expression of your individual thoughts and feelings.”

Photo zen can also occur after a storm, among tenting high schoolers, and under a lovely cloudy sky.
Photo Zen can also occur after a storm, among tenting high schoolers, and under a lovely cloudy sky.

I like this.

There is that moment, as a photographer, where you cease being just a person with the camera, but you are the photographer. That in-the-zone, heavy-concentration, the world-is-buzzing-around-outside-your-head-but-you-are-submerged-in-your-thought-so-deeply-that-you-barely-notice type of moment. It’s a moment you are waiting to see unfold, light that you are following, the lines and curves in architecture that show promise, the background that is compliments a subject in front of it, some visual irony that you can play off, SOMETHING is going on right there, and you see it, maybe someone else sees it, but you’re ready to capture it. That Zen moment, that meditative place you’ve entered is for a photo.

If anyone has this book let me know what you think.

And if anyone has advice on how I can enter my Zen state without displaying a bitchy-looking resting face, I’d be happy to hear those suggestions as well. Although to be honest, if the result is a photo I’m happy with…

Be well friends.


One thought on “Meditating + Photography = Zenagraphy

  1. You do not have resting bitch face. I can give you some solid examples of people who do, but you are, thankfully, immune. However, if your mood is incongruent with the situation, you can’t blame people for pointing it out. Yes, you’re working, but imagine the funeral director who is happy with all of the business walking around with a joyous smile on his/her face. People want you to feel the same way that they feel or it weirds them out. There’s some really neat studies on this, remind me later. Nice post.


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