When most people think of the word Zen, a meditating monk in a monastery comes to mind, a practice of enlightenment, a person being in the present or someone without attachments. When I think of Zen, I think of a lifestyle that has profoundly influenced my photography practice. I would like to dive into the ways of zen photography and how it might enlighten your creative practice.
There is something all-newcomer photographers tend to do, they either dream of camera gear or buy a lot of it. When I started in photography I went through the same thing. I thought that I needed all the lenses that my idols used, I believed I needed the biggest megapixel camera, with all the film features just in case a potential client wanted video. But over time with age came wisdom.
The amateur compensates with the many, where the master relies on the few. One camera, one lens, one light, focusing on the moment. Capturing what matters instead of focusing on the gear, giving attention to the photograph being framed.
After many years of experience using different lenses, I now have resorted to only using a single prime lens. I started with a 50mm then added an 85mm, 35mm, 100mm and 28mm to my collection, and I’ve played around with zoom lenses. But now I exclusively use a 50mm lens. No more zooms and no more choices. But why would I volunteer to limit myself?
I finally found the perfect camera, This camera does everything you could ever need or dream of. From capturing the perfect frame and exposure to developing your skill and photographic eye.
I’m not talking about a video or multiple purpose camera that does it all. I’m talking about the perfect stills camera. A camera that helps you composite the frame, it knows the best time to press the shutter button for that perfect image quality. The amazing thing is, and don’t ask me how, but when I use it, it just knows the settings you need automatically. The depth of field, shutter speed, iso and it all syncs perfectly.
When I go to a photography exhibit or show, I find myself looking at similar work. Photographs made from an inkjet printer, that are just stylised archives. Be it a photo of a bird, a photo of a dress, subject or event. Whatever it is, it’s just a photograph. A photograph that can be easily duplicated with the simple press of a button. A print on a piece of paper, nothing more, nothing less. But where is the artist’s brush stroke? Where is the photographer’s unique thumbprint, aside from on top of their shutter button?
I had everything I ever needed, all the dream gear, Broncolor lighting, the latest Professional Canon cameras, and all the fastest Canon lenses. I had the latest Apple laptop, C-stands, tripods, all the gear I could ever dream of. I had it all, and at the time it was good. So why did I decide to get rid of everything after only a few years.
I used all my gear, I used it all the time. Everything I purchased I needed, or so I thought. I would do a studio photo shoot every weekend for personal work, and client work throughout the week. I got to a point where purchasing everything would be cheaper instead of renting. So over time I purchased all the gear I could ever need.
What I’m getting at is that the internet is most likely the course of your impotence when it comes to productivity. How many people pick up their smartphones and check something online or in an app in the morning. Instead of picking up a camera and getting a sunrise. I bet 99% of us look at a smartphone before anything else in the morning. If only your first thought out of bed was what photo will I capture today, think about how much more you would achieve.