Tag Archives: outdoors

Contemplative Photography #4

Contemplative Photography #4

My soul was long-overdue for another contemplative photography exercise. I try to discipline myself to reflect for only 10 minutes, which is rarely long enough but motivates me to focus on the image and not let my mind wander too far afield. This time, I brought a little of my experience on site when I received this photography into my reflections. I hope that perhaps you can yet benefit from imagining the tactile sensations that accompanied this visual experience.

Wurm’s Head is an interesting formation that is only accessible for a few hours a day when the tide is out. This scene is flooded and obscured every day. It is a difficult walk to make it from the mainland to the islands.

Wurm's Head (Gower, South Wales)

Wurm’s Head (Gower, South Wales)

I see > an anchor old and worn, weathered, experienced, abandoned yet frequently encountered by Wurm’s Head adventurers, the sometime island at the horizon, currently accessible with a daunting knife-life peak, millions–perhaps billions–of discarded shells, homes that are now tread upon, ground down to serve as a highway to a place only occasionally available, a big metal loop where the anchor was once attached to something larger than itself–a receptacle perhaps now vacant

I feel > a drab sky and little hope, Wurm’s Head is yet far away, the anchor invites me to stay right here with its roughness, rust, and barnacles; the path is not straight or smooth; shall I just sit by the water’s edge and go no farther?

I think > where am I anchored? is it a place I can stay, a place I should stay? is it for my own good, or a distraction from yet more incredible views, experience, and blessing? am I an anchor for others? a tool of protection and stability, or an abrasive distraction, interrupting a path that is already hard? have I landed too far from the water’s edge where I belong?

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Posted by on August 9, 2013 in Prayer


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Contemplative Photography #1

Contemplative Photography #1

A friend recently introduced me to the idea of “contemplative photography”–using this modern medium to encourage a spiritual discipline of seeking God. You can see the beginning of her journey here:

I have realized that there is something significant about photography in my own life: I become alive, present, adventurous, aware, and engaged in a very unique way when I have a camera in my hand. What otherwise would assuredly be a situation where I am very passive and uninterested becomes a life-giving, interactive experience when I have a digital SLR in my hand. It’s a phenomenon that I want to explore more deeply: what is God highlighting about who I am, and who He is, in this spectacular revelation of character?

There are actually a few books written on the topic of Contemplative Photography; while most of them feature a heavily Zen Buddhist perspective, there are others that are more neutral, or even Christian, in their framing of this pursuit. I’ve begun reading The Little Book of Contemplative Photography, by Howard Zehr.

One early exercise it promotes is to spend 10 minutes looking at an image that you’ve already taken, to really mine the depths of what you’ve captured, to take the time to process it…apart from the photo lab or digital darkroom. There is a framework of three questions to respond to: I see, I feel, I think.

I made my first attempt at this exercise just yesterday, and thought I would share my unedited meditations with you.

Ruins at Gileston Beach

Ruins at Gileston Beach

I see > stair steps, from an unbloomed, scrawny plant up to a mini Christmas tree, the sky also moving from brightest to darker up the steps, with the introduction of some wispy clouds into the clarity, a few crags of shadows, but not many considering the texture of the stone wall, one other little plant on the far left of the frame, begging for attention yet hardly noticeable

I feel > the opportunity to climb, to get a better view and a more verdant life, aspiring to be more than some almost blooms and to get to the place of being completely out of the shadow, there is hope, but it is not a smooth simple path–it will likely be difficult especially for one without proper legs

I think > if I am the unbloomed plant, who is the mini Christmas tree? what is the relatively high wall of shadow sitting immediately in front of me, impeding even the start of my journey? Who else is similarly looking up in aspiration? Can we journey together, or are we in competition? The sky has more texture at the pinnacle of the stairs; what else might I be able to see from there?


I limited myself to 10 minutes of reflection, but perhaps I could’ve gone for more. I invite you to share your own reflections on this image, or others, in the comments below. We are inundated by so many photographs these days, that it does take a significant degree of discipline for us to slow down and sit with a single image for 10 minutes. But doing so allows us to uncover the depth of beauty and the signposts to Truth that may be embedded there.

I hope to post here future weekly reflections in my continuing journey of contemplative photography.



Posted by on July 12, 2013 in Life, Prayer


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