The other day I received an invitation from the local camera club to present or assist with a one day flower photography outing with interested club members. In the email I was told “an expert (like you) would help them set up, give some guidance (composition), use of black backgrounds, depth of field, zoom range etc.” When I read the above I could not overlook the irony. Here I am all about Mushin (no-mind) or Beginner’s mind and now I am to play the role of the “expert.” What in the world could I teach?
I took a walk. Using the sight of the dog running through the grass, the feel of the wind, and my breath to slowly bring me back to the moment – to a space within wherein I could see more clearly. And I saw how and what I wanted to teach.
I would teach that first it was good to jettison all the “this-is-what-a “good”-flower-photograph-looks-like,” and instead to simply relax. Leave the camera bag in the car and take some time to really arrive. Slow down. Get into garden time. I’d suggest they wonder around and find a flower or grouping that brings a smile, that lightens the heart a little when they look at it. Then I would have them sit down nearby and observe it. Advising them as Nancy Rotenberg did me, to “get beyond the handshake.” Maybe even ask the flower permission to photograph it and promise to do no harm to it or its surrounding “buds.”
Then I would make it a rule that whenever anyone received an image that (a) brought delight, (b) was a total surprise (c) made them laugh, (d) brought instant urge to delete, (e) all of the above, that they had to shout out with joy in whatever manner felt right in the moment.
If someone wanted to use a black back drop, that’s cool. Just make sure when placing it or any other intrusive apparatus that one is careful not to break, trample, or injure nearby flowers. For the sake of the flowers and for the pleasure of others to gaze upon after we have gone. Or if someone wanted to use multiple flash, I’d be cool with that, and honestly say “I have no clue.” So anything you do will be perfect.” And encouraging people to play – to find the way of the flower for themselves.
Finally, I would teach the importance of gratitude; the importance of giving thanks in whatever form, or language, creed, or faith, one wishes. I continue to see that it is, as Loori says in “The Zen of Creativity” (pg 90), crucial to the expression of one’s vision if “we need to return to our work and reawaken the bond that was initially created.” And so clearly us photo-makers nearly always have to return to the image and work it and that “editing process begins with reconnection with the feeling, the resonance, that was present during the creation, ” (Loori, ibid pg 91).