“Sometimes I do get to places just when God’s ready to have somebody click the shutter.” – Ansel Adams
The camera has long been a companion and guide to my life’s journey. Whenever I have camera in hand, I begin to see the world through a more receptive mindset, opening myself to the spirit of the subject and my own feelings about what I’m seeing.
Both the act of shooting in the field, and the post-processing of images become a personal practice that reveals new opportunities to create and experience the life I wish to live. That requires a mindset of openness and receptivity to the world around me, and exercising my power to choose what I want to put in or leave out of the camera’s frame of view.
Practicing photography in this way got a huge boost during the height of Autumn color from a week long workshop my wife Bonnie and I attended in Maine with photographer, artist & teacher, John Paul Caponigro. If you don’t know of JP, be sure to check out his website for a wealth of resources on creativity through the art and craft of photography.
With JP as our guide and coach, the 9 workshop participants visited beautiful spots along coastal Maine and Acadia National Park. JP’s instruction during daily meetings as well as in the field centered on building a “project” around which to create a set of images that communicated a specific idea or theme that we felt passionate about.
My project took on the form of a series of images that I feel convey the idea of Transitions in life that present opportunities to break out of old paradigms & beliefs to create anew. The theme is relevant for me personally, as I enter a transition from full-time employment in consulting sales to my own business offering mentoring in creativity empowerment for entrepreneurs and artists / creators.
I also believe there is a lesson for us all in this time of national and global turmoil to center ourselves in the power we have as individuals to create what we wish to have in our own lives; and not depend on others to do it for us.
There is so much beauty in the world, and so much potential in human consciousness to create a life of abundance and possibility rather than violence, aggression and divisiveness. I hope the images in this post and the related slideshow give you a few minutes of solace and reflection as respite from the turmoil going on in the media and political events. The 5-minute slideshow is here in YouTube.
All photos are my own. Music and quote is credited in the last slide.
You can also find (and purchase) these photos in my ChrisAllenImages portfolio site.
“There is nothing worse than a sharp image of a fuzzy concept.” – Ansel Adams
Having well developed skills in the technical aspects of photography are certainly important in making impactful images. To riff on the comment from Ansel Adams, I would say that the artist’s intention and feeling of connection with the subject are perhaps even more important.
In this post, I explore three ideas that I keep in my back pocket when out on a photo shoot: Visual Metaphor, Imagination & Story.
Metaphor is defined by Random House as, “something used…to represent something else; symbol; emblem”. In the visual arts, we often create images that make us think of something else, or represent something beyond the literal. The image above isn’t unique in it’s use of the visual metaphor of a path or trail leading into the light. Many paintings through the centuries invite the viewer to think of life’s journey by including a winding path in the image. For me, this scene used that visual metaphor, and I consciously worked the composition and sun’s rays through multiple shots and angles to express what I was feeling — a sense of my own life journey finding fresh ways to see and experience beauty in the world and the opportunity to bring more light and happiness into my own life and those whom I connect with. Let me know if the image evokes that feeling for you.
Imagination is defined as “the faculty or action of producing ideas, especially mental images of what is not present or has not been experienced”; also “the ability to face and resolve difficulties; resourcefulness.” Similar to metaphors, this idea takes us beyond literal interpretations into something we can create or dream into existence through our own creative power. Abstract compositions like the Lotus blossom invite us to imagine or create worlds of our own beyond the actual subject of the image. What do you see in this image? By the way, have you noticed that the word “imagination” originates from the word “image”?
Story is defined as “a narrative, either true or fictitious, in prose or verse, designed to interest, amuse, or instruct the hearer or reader; tale”. Everyone says, “a picture is worth a thousand words”, so we all know that images can be powerful ways to tell a story. Journalism, both in print and online, uses photography and other visual arts to illustrate the story being told. Conveying a story in a photograph is obvious in street photography, or images of people like the one above, but conveying a story in nature photography is a bit more challenging. My last photo below of a magical valley of fog at sunrise attempts to invite you into your own story, and perhaps uses a combination of all three ideas, visual metaphor, imagination and story.
Story in Nature
Check out my portfolio site at: chrisallenimages.com for many more photos available for purchase. And subscribe to my blog on the home page of the blog site to keep up to date with my latest “Photo Musings”.
“Touch seems to be as essential as sunlight.”
Diane Ackerman; author of two dozen highly-acclaimed works of poetry and nonfiction, including the bestsellers “The Zookeeper’s Wife” and “A Natural History of the Senses,” and the Pulitzer Prize Finalist, “One Hundred Names for Love.”
Those of you who read my May 1st post will know that I have been on a healing journey from an April 25th fall resulting in two fractured vertebrae. I’m almost fully recovered and 95% pain free after 3 months of physical therapy, massage, chiropractic and acupuncture sessions. I have continually maintained a mindset of gratitude and patience with the healing process and never bought into suggestions “why aren’t you better already?”. These things take their own time, and I find that a mindset of patience with the natural healing process is really important.
When you look at the modalities I pursued for healing, you will see that they all involve hands-on bodywork and the sense of touch. Those who need scientific verification of the healing power of touch can find ample evidence in the literature, but for me it needs no proof beyond my own experience. I know that there is research on how receptor cells in the skin carry electrical impulses to every part of the body including the brain and all the organ systems. Chinese medicine and acupuncture are based on ancient wisdom about meridian pathways in the physiology that carry impulses from the skin’s surface to very specific organs and this is used for healing effect, including pain relief and actual restoration/balancing of proper body functions.
Connecting these ideas to photography and the focus of this post is an idea inspired by my own journey of spiritual and creativity development that all the senses are intimately connected with one another; and with our inner consciousness or sense of Self. As a visual artist / photographer, I always seek to create images that engage the viewer on an emotional and deep level of awareness that simultaneously reveal the beauty and inner essence of the subject, as well as serving as a mirror or window into our own Soul as human and spiritual beings.
Is that really possible? Well, I don’t know for sure, but it’s a passion that I seem to be called to explore and share!
Hallgrimskirkja Church ceiling in Reykjavík, Iceland
In this last of three posts dedicated in turn to the Energetics of color, typography and touch I’m sharing some of my photos that to me, enliven the sense of touch through the capture of textural qualities that “painting with light” through the photographic medium has a unique ability to produce.
While the application of textures in post-processing through software presets is all the rage among digital photography enthusiasts right now, and I have explored them a bit myself; I still find that the technology of the lens and the camera’s light sensor are already capturing an element of texture in the image and can awaken the sense of touch for the viewer. My journey of exploration is whether or not the combined visual/touch sensory perception of the photo can enliven a healing effect in the physiology of the viewer. For me as the creator of the image it certainly does.
My images are interspersed through the text to hopefully keep your interest through a rather long post! I invite your comments on my rambling, or as I call them, “Photo Musings”.
“How then to express oneself clearly? By image and by myth, as the sages of all time have done.” — Rene Adolphe Schwaller de Lubicz (1887-1961); Egyptologist, author of The Temple in Man: Sacred Architecture and the Perfect Man.
In my last post, I explored the energetics of color, drawing from my own exploration of ancient wisdom teachings about the frequencies of light expressed in different colors and their impact on mind, body and spirit. For this post, I researched the evolution of alphabetic forms of writing and how the forms and shapes of different typographic fonts might also have an effect on our psyche and emotions.
The earliest forms of written communication were through pictographs or symbols used to represent ideas and things, rather than sounds (Egyptian hieroglyphics for example). Through my research, I learned that circa 1100 BCE, Phoenician traders developed the beginnings of the modern day phonetic alphabet. This earliest alphabet consisted of 22 letters to represent consonant sounds, and was much easier for traders to learn than Egyptian hieroglyphics prevalent at the time.
This sound based form of writing also facilitated use across multiple languages which probably accounts for it’s adoption and expansion into ancient Greece by 800 BCE, and further evolution and use through most of the world.
When I think about the power of pictorial forms of communication to evoke an experiential connection between author / artist and reader / viewer, it makes me wonder if we have lost something by not using more pictorial forms of written communication. Yes, the phonetically-based alphabet lets us communicate more easily across multiple languages and cultures, but how do the letters on this page convey any of the emotional impact that pictorial forms of writing might have done?
Well, perhaps that’s were the imagination of the creators of different type styles comes to the rescue! Just think about the increasing proliferation of type styles that have evolved since Gutenberg’s first printing press. Fast forward to modern day print and digital media, and we can see how different type styles are used to generate emotion, incite action, or otherwise assist in conveying a deeper or fuller connection to the idea or concept being conveyed in the written word. Type styles are clearly an art form, and their creators put lots of thought into the objectives and intended use of the type styles they create. This became very clear to me as I explored blog sites of typography artists and what they wrote about type styles they have created.
Bringing all these ideas back to my passion for exploring photography as a medium of self-discovery, expression and even personal healing, I decided to experiment with the use of text and different type styles within some of my photographs. My goal is to convey ideas in a visual form, with writing and type styles that compliment or enrich the idea or visual metaphor that I wish to communicate through my images.
Of course, we are all familiar with the use of inspirational messaging in photographs or other forms of visual art. All too often they come across as rather trite or perhaps “preachy”. I hope to avoid those pitfalls in these images, while at the same time, sharing a few ideas that have become important in my own life experience; exploring the emotional or even healing effect of words and images combined with typographic styles that further support the intent of the image. I welcome your comments!
In the world of artistry and art therapy, there is much study of color and it’s visual impact in painting or other mediums of expression. Among the most interesting to me is the concept of complementary colors as shown in the color wheel below.
Complementary Color Wheel
In photography we make use of complementary colors to create more impact and power within an image.
However, there’s a more esoteric field surrounding the theory and study of color that derives from ancient wisdom teachings. I have studied a bit in this area, and find the insights to be fascinating with deep application to the visual, as well as the healing arts.
Photography for me has always been a medium for self-discovery, not just self-expression, and in this sense engaging in image making is a form of personal healing. Making use of the esoteric teachings on the energetics of color can enrich our image-making process and open new doors of discovery, self-expression and healing.
The study of physics tells us that light expresses in a spectrum of frequencies, or vibrations, each having it’s own properties that we perceive as color. To me, its a simple progression to understand that the frequencies or vibratory qualities of different colors would have different energetic properties or effects on the human psyche and even on the physiology.
Remember, there is an intimate connection between Mind, Body & Spirit, so the energetic qualities of light and colors would naturally have an impact on all aspects of who we are as human beings. Many of the healing arts make use of colors of light, even for example with modern cold laser modalities that use different colors of cold laser light for different healing intentions.
So, let’s take a look at some of the ancient wisdom teachings about the energetic properties of color, and their impact on human consciousness. I’ve included my photos as illustrative examples with 6 colors. Read the captions for the colors & related qualities.
RUBY/GOLD: Peace, Balance, Harmony
BLUE: Divine Will, Protection, Power, Initiative & Clarity
YELLOW: Intelligence, Discernment, Wisdom, Illumination & Perception
GREEN: Healing, Concentration & Truth
ROSE/PINK: Divine Love, Tolerance, Gratitude, Happiness & Joy
VIOLET: Forgiveness, Service, Culture, Refinement & Diplomacy
Perhaps we can explore this model with our color photography and see if the images we create might elicit viewer responses that on a very subtle level, generate the associated qualities in our emotions or awareness?