We’re just as guilty as the next person of snapping photos when we see a beautiful sunset. Many a beautiful sunset and sunrise have inspired our artists, too. In different mediums, they capture the beauty of the sun’s rays in both realist and abstract ways.
Our artists definitely know how to find beauty in the everyday. After all, that’s what our Everyday Masterpiece series was all about.
But what really strikes me in these photographs is the way artists make even the most abandoned, unstable places look gorgeous and intriguing. Check out the way these stunning photographs make you think twice about where to find beauty.
If you’re tired of shooting the usual late-summer subjects, try some mindful photography, as practised by photographer and Buddhist Kimberly Poppe.
“Contemplative photography is a way of exploring or discovering the beauty in your everyday life – the extraordinariness in ordinariness,” she explains.
“Anything can be a suitable subject for contemplative photography. You can start right in your own kitchen, back yard or city street.
“If you take the time to actually slow down and look, there is an incredibly rich source of photographic material right around you.”
Something about the color blue feels calming. I always associate it with waves in the ocean or a cloudless sky. I think it’s the color we notice the most during quiet moments.
From beach photos to abstract compositions, UGallery artists are experimenting with blue in this week’s new art. Check out some of my favorites. Which one speaks to you the most?
Shadows can add dimension, depth, and drama to your images. Last week, we asked you to capture photos of striking shadows, and share them with us. Scroll down to see 30 of the 500px team’s favorite shadows and silhouette images!
Mindfulness is the latest buzzword in pop psychology. It's about being totally in the moment and focussing on what you are doing, aware of your thoughts and feelings but not being tossed around by them.
If you’re tired of shooting the usual late-summer subjects, try some mindful photography, as practised by photographer and Buddhist Kimberly Poppe. “Contemplative photography is a way of exploring or discovering the beauty in your everyday life—the extraordinariness in ordinariness," she explains. "Anything can be a suitable subject for contemplative photography. You can start right in your own kitchen, back yard or city street. If you take the time to actually slow down and look, there is an incredibly rich source of photographic material right around you.”
Kimberly reckons contemplative skills are important for post-processing too. “Try to clarify with software what it was you actually saw. In this age of digital manipulation, where many images are highly manipulated, over-saturated and over-processed, experimenting with contemplative photography can help bring you back to the freshness and the joy of actually seeing. As Saul Leiter said: ‘Seeing is a neglected enterprise.’ ”
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* For one day (or one week), focus on simply seeing colour; or texture, for example the roughness of an old brick wall or the smoothness of a silk shirt; or light itself, as it might fall on your morning coffee. Strong sunlight can be the easiest to start with, but you can also work on noticing patterns of artificial light as well.
* When something strikes you or makes you stop for a moment, simply stay with what you are actually seeing, then try to capture it as authentically as possible. This means shooting what you actually saw, without spending time to try to make it more dramatic.
* In your composition, try to capture the essence of what you’re seeing, rather than squeezing everything in. Less is more in this type of photography.
Comfort zones are like comfort blankets, they are cosy and reassuring for a while, but eventually they start to get scruffy, smelly, and other people want us to grow out of them.
5. Go further afield — or work closer to home
If you find yourself shooting the same old things, then start thinking about new subjects.
Photoshop guru Scott Kelby put it very well in a recent interview. “Rather than investing in more new gear you don’t really need, invest in your photography by going somewhere really amazing.”
It doesn’t need to be abroad, but maybe put aside one weekend a month to shoot in new location. At the other end of the scale, you can find lots of inspiration around your home or in your neighbourhood.
Some documentary photographers only work within a few miles of where they live, and contemplative photographers like Kimberly Poppe take inspiration from household objects and scenes.
There are images everywhere if you look hard enough.
Edyta is the creator of Edyta & Co, a design firm with a primary objective of creating meaningful interior environments that are clean line, chic and fresh.
We asked her to put together a collection of her favorite works. She chose quite a stellar group of artworks. Browse them below and see the full collection here.
From author and contemplative photographer Andy Karr comes the latest “Seeing Fresh” contemplative photo of the week, submitted by Kimberly Poppe. Andy’s comment: “This is a subtle and elegant perception that could have easily pass unnoticed. Kimberly nailed it. This is wonderful example of fresh seeing.
Kelly Beall is the voice and style behind Design Crush, an art and design blog that shows off everything Kelly (a graphic designer and creative consultant) is inspired (and distracted!) by.
Check out some of her favorite UGallery works below and see the full collection here.
2. Get inspiration everywhere
Related to the above point, don’t beat yourself up about not living in an amazing place or being unable to afford trips to Bhutan four times a year.
Contemplative — or mindful — photography is popular at the moment, where you make interesting images from the everyday things and situations of your life.
Much of it is influenced by the currently fashionable concept of mindfulness, which derives from Buddhist philosophy — check out Kimberly Poppe’s serene everyday images.
An accidental design in the shadows. An artsy swirl in your latte foam. The sun setting in a kaleidoscope of colors.
What do these things share in common? They happen during an average day and give us little bursts of beauty. In a way, all of these are a work of art!
"Art is everywhere, except that it has to pass through a creative mind." — Louise Nevelson
What inspired you initially to engage in contemplative photography?
One particularly green day in early summer, I just started playing around with the camera on my phone taking pictures of how the light danced on and through different shaped leaves in my garden. I have always enjoyed photography, especially since I took my grandfather’s old 35mm camera with me when I took my first trip around Europe, but that camera somehow got misplaced amidst all the moves since, and I got busy with other things. The good thing about cameras in the phones these days is that you can easily have a camera with you all the time. I became fascinated with color and started to notice color more and more wherever I went. I made different series of photos with just one main color that dominated each image—blue, red, yellow, green, orange or purple. A friend who had noticed my photos was reading The Practice of Contemplative Photography at the time and thought it would resonate with me, which it did. So, I ordered it straight away and started practicing the exercises on the Seeingfresh website.
In retrospect, I think I had been searching for a way to re-awaken my creativity that was in alignment with the main focus of my life. I was looking for a way to be creative that would help me to cultivate mindfulness and awareness in my ordinary everydayness, something that would not distract me but help bring me closer towards seeing things as they really are.
Also, I think I was looking for something that would help get me moving and walking around! I spend a lot of time sitting these days, either studying and meditating, or more often at my computer or in a plane. As is true for most people these days, I don’t have a lot of time or at least I think I don’t. What is wonderful about photography is that it is an art form that doesn’t have to take a phenomenal amount of time. All it takes is one click!
What does contemplative photography mean to you? How often do you practice it?
I am passionate about it! As well as helping me to bring mindfulness and awareness into my everyday life, it is also a lot of fun. Sometimes, people may hear the word “contemplative” and associate it with something very somber, serious or humorless. This is not at all the case. Seeing things freshly can be incredibly joyful and playful. It is so exciting to discover what we haven’t seen before, but that is actually right here at every moment, right in front of our eyes. I always hope that this experience translates to whoever sees the final photographs, that they can also experience that same sense of freshness, space, openness, or clarity, where the ordinary thinking mind stops, even if just for a moment.
In terms of how often I practice, the circumstances of my life don’t lend themselves to being able to have a regular daily routine as each day tends to be different and I am often traveling. So, I have started keeping my camera with me all the time (I’ve upgraded from my phone!), and I try to practice this way of seeing all the time. Trying is not succeeding of course, but the trying—the practice itself—is perhaps the real point. I also have friends who practice and we have had a lot of fun doing contemplative photo walks together. For example, you can meet somewhere in your local town, spend the morning walking and photographing, then stop for a nice lunch out, and after lunch either call it a day or continue.
This is a goofy little video we made of one of our first outings:
Has contemplative photography affected your everyday experiences - if so, in what way?
Yes, it has helped me to be more present and aware of what is actually going on around me, in the world that exists outside of my own head.
What do you find most challenging when doing contemplative photography?
Letting go of expectations—to just go out without any expectation of wanting to “get” a “good” picture, but to just be open to what emerges. I think this is one of the most challenging things about life in general, not to have expectation or hope about getting something that you do want and not to have fear about getting something that you don’t want. Even a small moment of being free of these hopes and fears can be incredibly liberating. I have found that practicing contemplative photography makes me more aware of these tendencies of “wanting” and “not wanting” in my mind, which then makes it easier to notice these habits when they come up in other aspects of my life. Being aware then gives you a choice of whether you want to continue to follow a particular train of thought or not.
Name a few photographers who in your opinion best represent contemplative photography. Are there any websites / blogs you often visit for inspiration? What is your favorite photography album (book)?
Of course, Andy Karr, Michael Wood, Julie DuBose and all the photographers featured in The Practice of Contemplative Photography. I particularly love Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche’s photographs. There are also many wonderful photographers whose work you can see on the Seeingfresh website and I often visit the site for inspiration.
Then, of course there are the greats like Henri Cartier-Bresson and others, who did not think of themselves as “contemplative photographers,” but who were true masters of “seeing”. There is a fantastic short video about Henri Cartier-Bresson called “The Decisive Moment” which is definitely worth watching:
The works of Vivian Maier and Saul Leiter also captivate me.
Vivian Maier worked as a nanny for 40 years in Chicago and she would walk the streets photographing in her days off. She took more than 100,000 photographs and her work was not discovered until after her death when someone bought what they thought were historical architecture photographs at an auction of an abandoned storage unit. She is now termed a street photographer, but what I find most remarkable about her is how and what she saw:
There is also a film that was made about her that was released last year.
I also love Saul Leiter’s work and his book, Saul Leiter: Early Color. He recently passed away and there is also a lovely film that was made about him called “In No Great Hurry”:
Some of my favorite images of his can be found in the slideshow on these pages:
http://www.howardgreenberg.com/#artists/64 (particularly Through Boards, Snow, Red Umbrella, and Taxi)
He wonderfully said, “Seeing is a neglected enterprise.”
In terms of other websites I visit, I am active on 500px. I try to bring the contemplative approach into more mainstream photography sites in the hopes that more people might connect with and start to try contemplative photography.
What advice / starting points would you give to someone who might be interested to explore contemplative photography?
Just begin! Start playing.
Is there anything else you would like to share on this topic?
No, except to thank Andy Karr & Michael Wood!
This week’s “Seeing Fresh” contemplative photo is by Kimberly Poppe. The soft light and shadows give it such strong presence. It’s a lovely example of fresh seeing. Needless to say, we are fans of Kimberly’s.
Contemplative photography is a method for working with the contemplative state of mind, seeing the world in fresh ways, and expressing this experience photographically. Each week we choose an image that’s been submitted to seeingfresh.com that really exemplifies this practice.
Every week we choose a photo submitted to Andy Karr’s contemplative photography site seeingfresh.com that really exemplifies the practice. This week’s photo, by Kimberly Poppe, has so much going for it: texture, color, and the fine form of that arrow. It’s a great example of fresh seeing.
Every week we choose a photo submitted to Andy Karr’s contemplative photography site seeingfresh.com that really exemplifies the practice. In this week’s photo, by Kimberly Poppe, two visual planes align in a surprising way, to produce a very pleasing image. It’s a great example of fresh seeing.