Seeing with the Heart

My job keeps me away from home for 5 to 6 months at a time. I’m not complaining. These days it’s good to be employed. And, actually, it’s a pretty cool job, all things considered, and I get to see some pretty cool places. But it does mean that I miss out on some of the creature comforts common to being in one place all the time, like regularly delivered mail and magazine subscriptions. I do, however, have a subscription to Outdoor Photographer magazine, courtesy of a friend, so I don’t always buy an issue off the shelves, sometimes opting to wait till I get home to read them. I am home now, for a little while, and I was catching up on my reading this morning over coffee. The January/February issue of OP has a few quite useful articles. The first I read was “Timeless Moments: The Mauna Loa View” by David Muench.

Muench addresses the spiritual aspects of landscape photography. He suggests that a great photograph conveys the sacred qualities of the land. To be honest, it’s a short, but powerful article, and I don’t really want to try to condense it here. It’s worth reading for yourself.

Reading Muench’s words reminded me of a time when I would venture out with my camera, day after day, and notice things. I’d stop and look at whatever had caught my eye, study it for a minute, decide “that would probably make a good picture”. Then I’d carry on, without ever removing my camera from my bag. At first I thought the problem was that I was getting lazy. I tried starting out with the camera already in hand. Same results. I didn’t bother lifting the camera to my eyes. On the occasions that I did, I walked away with a decent shot, but nothing I was too excited about. Reviewing those images later, I considered them to be humdrum at best.

Why was this happening? I had become closed off. My eyes still saw, but I could not feel. It took me a while to figure out what was going on. I had let other areas of my life come in and affect my photography, which, ironically is what I reserved as a break from the other areas of my life. But it lead me to an important lesson. There are beautiful, interesting and moving images everywhere. But to see them, to capture them, to be able to make that communication through the lens, I need to be present in the moment. I need to be open to feeling my surroundings, to look at my environment with fascination and wonder. Perhaps a great image isn’t seen with the eyes. Maybe it’s the heart that sees, and our eyes are just the tools it uses.

Muench closes his article with this advice:

“… just stop.

Put your ego and purpose aside.
Open up.
Feel the earth.
Respect everything that comes to you — an urge, an impulse, a sense of the magical. Then start photographing.”

1 Response to “Seeing with the Heart”

  1. 1 Jannell
    May 20, 2011 at 2:44 pm

    That last bit is BEAUTIFUL!

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May 2010


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