The Art of Mindful Seeing

This is a newspaper article to promote a photography workshop I’ll be giving on November 15, 2014.

The Art of Mindful Seeing
by Jennifer Schlick

IMG_2014 - Back Lighting, Backlit LeavesIt can take as long as twenty minutes to give myself full permission to forget the worries of the world and be mindful as I walk.  To be fully present to this moment.  To see truly what is in front of my eyes.  I may snap pictures before that state of mindfulness settles in, but I know, even as I snap, those pictures will fall victim to the delete key once I see them on the computer.  I take a deep breath and let go of worry and stress.  I invite my eyes, my mind, and my heart to align and be open to visual flashes of color, light, texture.

IMG_1955-2When something catches my eye and stops me in my tracks, I rest with that flash of perception in an inquisitive way, without judgment, without struggle.  I may walk around the object whose color or texture attracted my attention.  I may study the way the light is reflecting off of, or shining through, or just laying softly upon the object.

Eventually, I will raise my camera and attempt to capture an equivalent of the perception I just experienced – nothing more, nothing less.

IMG_1930This photographic practice, described in detail by Andy Karr and Michael Wood in their book The Practice of Contemplative Photography – Seeing the World with Fresh Eyes, will be the focus of a workshop offered at the Nature Center on Saturday, November 15, 2014, 1:00pm-3:00pm.  Think of it as a book report in the form of a workshop.

There are many reasons to make photographs and many approaches to the practice of making photographs.  This is only one.  For me, this approach has been akin to drawing in a sketchbook.  I am not trying to create great works of art, I am simply practicing the art of seeing, and of capturing in a real, uncontrived way exactly what I see.

IMG_1785The practice continues when I get the images home and onto my computer.  Cameras are computers that are programmed to make decisions on our behalf.  Sometimes those programmed decisions distort the image we perceived.  A few adjustments are often necessary to make the captured image match our original perception.

I have found that my practice images are often so beautiful I want to print them and hang them in my home or office.  I have also found that this practice continues to help me see in fresh ways, even when my purpose is conceptual or journalistic.  I find that instead of photographing what I think I ought to, I photograph what is really there.  The book, The Practice of Contemplative Photography, is sprinkled with quotes from great photographers.  Here’s one from Aaron Siskind that expresses what I’m getting at here:  “We look at the world and see what we have learned to believe is there.  As photographers, we must learn to relax our beliefs.”

Students should dress for the weather and bring their favorite cameras as we’ll be making photographs outside.  Any kind of camera will do.  This is not a class about how your camera works.  It is about an approach to using your camera that will improve your ability to see the world with fresh eyes.  We will review the concept of contemplative practice and try some of the exercises put forth in the book. Finally, a few tips for post processing will be offered to improve your captured images.

The deadline to register is Tuesday, November 11th.  The cost is $33 or $25 for Friends of the Nature Center members.  For more information, or to register, call (716) 569-2345 or visit http://jamestownaudubon.org.

The Audubon Center & Sanctuary is located at 1600 Riverside Road in the town of Kiantone, one-quarter mile east of Route 62 between Jamestown, New York and Warren, Pennsylvania.

Jennifer Schlick is the nature center’s program director.   Photography has been her passion for many years and she began practicing photography seriously in 2006 when she purchased her first digital SLR camera.  Her work has been displayed locally in both group and solo shows.

Celebration!

Smaller Enchanter's Nightshade

Enchanter’s Nightshade

We’ve been trying to do it for years.  Something always distracts.  A different creek to explore.  Getting lost confused bewildered.  Starting too late to finish.  Too much snow.  My camera.

Today we finally accomplished our goal.  We were determined.  We set out early.  We refreshed our memory on how to REALLY use the compass and topographic map.  Not the pretend way:  “I think we’re right about here…  That’s cool.”  And most importantly, I left my camera at home!  (The pictures in this post were taken at other times.)

The thing is, the path we hiked used to be a road.  If you look it up on Google Maps, it will show as a road.  But I’m here to tell you:  It ain’t no road!  Not any more.  Some of the sluice pipes designed to divert water away from the road are still in place.  Others are tossed about, rusted, useless.  Some parts of the old road are clear, wide open, easy to walk.  Other parts are so densely covered you can barely fight your way through them.  Or they are completely impassible due to a beaver pond that must be circumnavigated.

100% DEET kept the bugs at bay.  A 12-inch sub and a tub full of watermelon and cantaloupe kept the hunger at bay.  And away we went paying attention to the wildflowers and the beauty and the signs of  wildlife along the way.  Lack of a camera, kept distraction at bay to a minimum.

Leaves from some of my favorite spring wildflowers remained – Foamflower, Trillium, Hepatica.  I even saw leaves of flowers I DIDN’T see blooming here before – Bloodroot – and made a mental note to come back next spring to watch for their blooms.  Midsummer flowers in the woods are not as plentiful, but you can find them if you pay attention.

Enchanter’s Nightshade takes advantage of tiny pockets of sunlight that filters down through the trees.  The tiny white flowers of this native plant have bits of pink if you take the time to look closely.

Enchanter's Nightshade

According to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center website, the genus name, Circaea, comes from the Greek enchantress Circe who “possessed magical powers and a knowledge of poisonous herbs; she could turn men into swine.”  (Source: http://www.wildflower.org/plants/result.php?id_plant=CIAL) Whether this species is magical or poisonous, I could not say.

Shinleaf in the Grass

Shinleaf

Also plentiful on the forest floor were Shinleaf (Pyrola elliptica or maybe it was P. americana… See: I should have brought my camera).  According to the Lady Bird Johnson website, “The Pyrolas yield a drug closely related to aspirin; the leaves have been used on bruises and wounds to reduce pain. Such a leaf plaster has been referred to as a shin plaster, which accounts for the common name of this plant.” (Source:  http://www.wildflower.org/plants/result.php?id_plant=PYEL)

Shinleaf Closeup

At the far end of the road, we emerged from the woods and in the open spot were all the sun-loving roadside flowers – Crown Vetch, Oxeye Daisy, Day Lilies and more.

Lolli scared up a turkey that turned to feign attack.  I wonder if she could be sitting a second clutch of eggs?  We were most impressed by signs of bear activity.  A large puddle in the middle of the road had recently been stirred up, the mud not yet settled.  The grass around the puddle was spattered with fresh mud from what must have been a delightful wallow!  There was a perfect bear track in the mud of the road, and the grasses and plants off the road were beaten down, showing the direction of the bear’s travel.  We couldn’t have missed him by more than an hour.  A few steps beyond the bathtub puddle was a patch of grass and plants that was completely beaten down.  We wondered if the bear had slept there, or even just rolled around.

It was a great day of hiking and exploring.  I want to go back and enter from the other end of the road – WITH my camera this time!

 

 

 

River Walk

Because Jamestown Audubon is working on a project that involves taking people to the River Walk, I took my camera for a walk down there last Wednesday.

Holts Run Road… Again!

It’s new every time, because we hike it differently every time. This time, we went “backwards.” And by going backwards it was much easier to find the old Holts Run Road.

IMG_8148

We followed it to the beaver pond that is close to Crick’s Run.

IMG_8147

As we arrived, it started to snow. So pretty!

IMG_8140

These tracks confused us. I think they must be fisher… but I don’t know for sure. What do you think?

Hey Ladies! Save the Dates!

October 3-5, 2014 on Grand Island, New York – Wild Women Unite!

IMG_4878

That’s me – being a wild winter woman.

I’ll be teaching a photography workshop at this event. I’ve never been to it, but when Yvonne approached me about teaching, it sounded like so much fun, I think I’d go even if I weren’t teaching! Here’s what Yvonne asked me to share:

This is an event for all women: whether we are looking for a weekend relaxing with friends or looking to sharpen our outdoor skills. You can find it all at our Wild Women Unite weekend October 3 – 5 on Grand Island. The weekend is packed with learning, laughter and fun.

It begins Friday, with a meet and mingle happy hour, presenting our very own “Wild Woman Song” written and performed by Gina Holsopple. The adventure starts here, so come and sing along!

Later Friday evening there will be a presentation by Jennifer Haddow, owner and director of Wild Women Expeditions. Jennifer has been providing outdoor adventure travel for women since 1991. Listen and learn how to be brave enough to release your inner Wild Woman. She will talk about her world aventures from Iceland to Thailand and beyond. Our own Canadian Wild Woman!

On Saturday, everyone is given a chance to participate in four (out of thirty) beginner level workshops providing hands on opportunity to learn to play outdoors. This year for the first time, we are offering a “seniors” track of four workshops providing very “first step” lessons to start moving and get healthy (Grandmas allowed). Our workshops are designed to support all sorts of interests, from easy living to heart racing adventure, allowing every sort of woman to participate. Take a look at the workshops choices on our website.

Saturday evening is a barbecue and relaxing around the campfire with an Alaskan Wild Woman. CarolAnn lives in the Alaskan wilderness where her only neighbor is nature. Come listen to her stories.

This is a unique opportunity for women, 16 and older, with any level of outdoor experience to become more familiar with and comfortable in the environment while learning new or enhancing existing outdoor skills.

Warning: Be prepared to meet new friends, let your hair down, kick back and kick some butt!

Just go to the website!! https://www.wildwomenunite.com/

I Come Alive

I awoke to snow on Tuesday morning and I was (to borrow a phrase from Karen Eckstrom) irrationally happy. I come alive in winter. The air is fresh and crisp – not heavy and humid. I sweat only from exertion, not from merely sitting. There are no bugs pestering my ears and neck. And the world is pure and clean. I decided to get to work early so I could start the day with a walk.

The light changed several times during the walk, the sun peeping out sometimes, then clouds dumping more snow at others. Here are the pictures I took in the order I took them so you can walk with me:

IMG_7646

IMG_7653

IMG_7655

IMG_7656

IMG_7659

IMG_7665

IMG_7668

IMG_7680

IMG_7691

IMG_7692

IMG_7700

IMG_7704

IMG_7706

IMG_7710

IMG_7714

OK, now get to work!

Rails to Trails

Chautauqua County has several trails converted from old rail beds. Today I walked on one that starts on Route 430 not far from the intersection with Route 394 in Mayville NY. I hiked in as far as the power line, then turned around. It was cold, but once I got moving, I was comfortable. The sky was partly clear… once in a while the sun peaked through. Mostly there was nice diffused light. Some of the puddles and parts of the marshy pond were frozen.

IMG_7555

A lot of the leaves were already down, though a few still clung to branches.

IMG_7549

IMG_7542

I didn’t have a long lens on my camera. Can you see who is in the trail:
IMG_7557

Here’s the same photo cropped real close (and not very sharp):
IMG_7557-2

He could see us, but he couldn’t smell us, because the wind was blowing toward us. We looked at each for a long time before he ran off:
IMG_7558

Back almost to the car, we saw these four lovelies:
IMG_7578

It was a gorgeous day and a lovely little hike.