Transient Light & Mindfulness

Blog - Phil-osophy on Landscape Photography > Transient Light & Mindfulness
08/08/2013 - 11:15



Photographing transient light - which moment will tell the story you want to tell about a time and place, in an ever changing state of light and shadows? Maybe mindful meditation can help...



“All things appear and disappear because of the concurrence of causes and conditions. Nothing ever exists entirely alone; everything is in relation to everything else.”









Looking in a northerly direction from Bel Tor Corner, as late afternoon transient light dapples the slopes of Wind Tor, Blackaton Tor, Challacombe Down, Birch Tor and Hookney Tor... under the base of a towering cumulonimbus cloud. A small and short-lived ‘cold-core funnel cloud’ can be seen under the base.


Dartmoor National Park, Devon, UK




I particularly enjoy this kind of dramatic lighting, watching pockets of the landscape be bathed in puddles of light and shadows in ever changing ways.




The fluxing changes in contrast seemed to draw my gaze into the depths of the hills by means of a journey between the ‘stepping stones’ of the brightest spots.




 Such events are mesmerising for me and as a witness to such fleeting moments it can be hard to know when to press the shutter... “Which moment will tell the story I want to tell?”




“Impermanence is a principle of harmony. When we don’t struggle against it, we are in harmony with reality.”

 (Pema Chodron)



 By trying to be mindful in a meditative sense, it  can allow the chance to both enjoy the hypnotic charms of such changing light, yet give one the awareness to look for patterns and flow in the movement of the puddles of light – to try and predict (as best one can) when the ‘decisive moment’ may be.




“When we are mindful, deeply in touch with the present moment, our understanding of what is going on deepens, and we begin to be filled with acceptance, joy, peace and love.”

(Thich Nhat Hanh)




There are a finite number of moments that will best fit one’s ‘vision’ of what we want to record in such ephemeral scenarios, yet by taking a meditative approach to both composition and waiting for the light to express your story about the scene – the quiet voice in your head will at some point say “right now, that’s what I was searching for”.



“When you realize how perfect everything is - you will tilt your head back and laugh at the sky”






Mindfulness applied to Landscape Photography



1. Find a quiet and comfortable place that you want to photograph, set up the camera & tripod and compose your image.



then sitting or standing..



2. Try to put aside all thoughts of the past and the future and stay in the present



3. Become aware of your breathing, focusing on the sensation of air moving in and out of your body as you breathe. Feel your belly rise and fall, the air enter your nostrils and leave your mouth. Pay attention to the way each breath changes and is different.



4. Watch every thought come and go, whatever it is about. When thoughts come up in your mind, don't ignore or suppress them but simply note them, remain calm and use your breathing as an anchor.



5. If you find yourself getting carried away in your thoughts, observe where your mind went off to, without judging, and simply return to your breathing.



6. As the time comes to a close, spend  a minute or two, becoming aware of where you are (observe the changes in light & weather going on around you).. Stand up slowly (if you were sitting down)



(The complexity of the world around you will hopefully have somewhat unravelled and you may end up make subtle changes to your initial composition as a result of your 'heightened awareness' of where you are and what you can see.)



7. Now it is time to assess/ re-assess the light in the scene, check the metering and then to make your photograph when you see the opportune moment arise.






Lucy Cioffi
08/08/2013 - 20:58
This is a very thoughtful piece of writing and there is definitely truth in being mindful when doing photography or anything else for that matter. It's very easy to get caught up in life's complexities and sometimes you just have to pause and appreciate what is in front of our very eyes.
Phil Hemsley
08/08/2013 - 23:49
Thanks very much Lucy for your very encouraging, generous and considered comments. I get a sense of such sentiments when I listen to your stunning and enchanting music. Your dulcet tones and the emotive lyrics are those of a person who engages with the world around them but one who stops to enjoy and consider the subtleties of life going on around them.

I wish you all the very best of success with your Little Lapin music

It is beautiful :)
09/08/2013 - 12:34
Your writing and use of quotations, for me enhances the pleasure and storytelling of your photos. Thank you for putting into words what photography means to me.
Phil Hemsley
09/08/2013 - 12:59
Thank you very much Colleen :) I enjoy writing about and sharing my thoughts, motivations and things that inspire me such as quotes by authors, poets & philosophers. I feel that trying to express my emotional response to a time & place through photographs is my goal and hope that the successful images are ones that invite the viewer to want to step into photograph. I want to encourage people to go and explore the wilder places that exist beyond our town and cities - to see waves crashing on a deserted rugged cove; to engage their senses in remote ancient woodlands; to relish in the stark beauty of the moorland's blanket bogs and lonely summits; to stop and listen to and observe the details of water tumbling down gorges, waterfalls and rapids. I write as a way of hoping to inspire people to take the time to gaze deeply into the landscape - moving beyond a cursory glance and instead to relish the visual details & sensory explosion that the natural world offers us, if we take the time to connect with it.

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