See You in September


During the month of August, I’ll be taking a break from blogging and my weekly newsletter.

It will be a time to simplify, create, spend time with family and friends. I’ll be wrapping up my Adventures in Seeing workshop and getting ready for a Labor Day weekend on Star Island, New Hampshire.

We all need a break sometimes. Here are some photography ideas for the month.

Susannah Conway’s August Break – Susannah offers a daily photographic prompt (and email) and an opportunity for everyone to share their images.

10 Tips on How to use Photography as a Tool for Personal Development – Catherine Just. I thought the description of her Nap Series, a way to use photography to shed new light on a “problem” is fascinating, and one I will do sometime myself.

* And, check out this post on ideas for photo walks, inspired by the book On Looking.

“Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.” ― John Lubbock, The Use Of Life

See you in September

Registration is now open for fall workshops – The 50mm Project (September), Keeping It Simple (October) and Going Abstract (November).

I hope you’ll join me for one or more.

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Playing with Window Reflections


Woman in Space

I’m often drawn to reflections in any surface. They hint at another world, a somewhat dreamy, surreal mirror of the real thing.

Window reflections are another subject altogether. Most photography articles teach how to avoid window reflections. This past weekend, I went out in search of them.

With an effective window reflection, we get a picture of everything – the window, the inside, the outside, and often the photographer too. All of life is blended together into one image, creating something rather other-worldly.

Normally, when we look in a store window we see what’s inside and don’t even notice the reflection. Going out in search of reflections requires a different way of seeing – a more playful one.

It’s a fun photographic exercise in seeing.

When I went out this past weekend, I set an intention to just photograph window reflections and nothing else. This way I trained my eyes to see this way and not be distracted (by regular subjects).

It felt like play and I knew that many of the images would not work out. But, there are always surprises. The images here in this post are some of my favourites.

Green Jeans

To see more images from my photo walk, check out my Window Reflections Album on Flickr.

And here’s an e-book that I highly recommend if you’re interested in this type of photography, Chasing Reflections by Eli Reinholdtsen – available through Craft & Vision ($5 download).

See some of Eli Reinholdtsen’s reflection images on Flickr and read an interview with her here.

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Sailing Away


“Sailing a boat calls for quick action, a blending of feeling with the wind and water as well as with the very heart and soul of the boat itself. Sailing teaches alertness and courage, and gives in return a joyousness and peace that but few sports afford.” ~ George Matthew Adams via Brainy Quotes

Living a contemplative life is not all about slowing down or doing nothing. Far from it. Some of the most contemplative people I know are “do-ers” and very curious people. They’re interested in everything.

Last night, I finished my beginner sailing lessons. I’ve never been a boater, but I do love the water. I live in a town where sailing lessons are available close by. And, I was curious to learn more.

My goal wasn’t to complete the beginner class, the intermediate class, the advanced class, and then buy the boat. That’s what several others in the class had planned.

My goal was to try something new, learn a little about sailing, and experience life from a different perspective – from the water.

It was a very contemplative experience.

I was open to learning something new. I accepted that there would be some hard work and a steep learning curve and it was humbling at times.

Now, I can say that I do know the very basics of sailing; at least some of the terminology. I experienced some beautiful evenings and sunsets out on the water. And, I have great respect for sailors.
I don’t plan to continue on to the intermediate and advanced classes – kayaking is more my style – but trying something new added some adventure, exercise, and beauty to my summer.

The quote above says it well, and this song, Sail Away, sung by David Gray, describes the metaphor of sailing as an adventure into the unknown.


Have you tried something new recently?


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Art Wolfe’s Abstractions

Recently, in my weekly newsletter, I shared a video of photographer Art Wolfe giving a talk at Google. This video struck a chord with many.



Art Wolfe is a world-renowned travel and wildlife photographer, as well as art educator. Even so, he tells us that he’s not very technical. As a matter of fact, he may only know 4% of what his camera can do.

His point is that his strengths lie more in the composition and seeing aspects of photography.

“The hardest thing for a photographer is to find a compelling image in that 360 degree world we live in. What I try to teach is how to find your subject as you’re walking down the street in any location on the planet and pull out something that 99% of the rest of the population would never see.”

The entire video covers a wide range of subjects and is well worth watching. However, I was particularly drawn to his abstract work. Art Wolfe has a background in painting and he goes on to say that his greatest influences in photography have been painters.

He was first influenced by the Impressionists of the late 1800′s, particularly Georges Seurat, who painted everyday life in Paris in the pointillist style.

Wolfe goes on to show many examples he’s found in nature that reflect this style. The example, above right, is one of my images of this style. By the way, all images in this post are mine. You can see Art Wolfe’s wonderful examples in the video.

Another example he cites is Monet, a very well known impressionist, who used imprecise brush strokes. Wolfe began experimenting with longer shutter speeds or taking advantage of wind blowing or snow falling to create impressionistic images – something near and dear to my heart.



Van Gogh is another example of an impressionist painter, although his paintings are completely unique and surrealistic. Wolfe describes how reflections that distort reality can often look like a Van Gogh painting, something I find as well.



Wolfe goes on to show how he finds Picasso’s cubist-style in overturned boats and Georgia O’Keefe’s flowers in icebergs in the Antarctic.

At first, he didn’t understand the chaotic abstracts of Jackson Pollock, until “he saw a Jackson Pollock in a mud-spattered vehicle in southern China.”

In his early years, Wolfe became known as a wildlife photographer. Today he says,

“I’m shooting rusting cans in a gutter, to the grand landscapes and everything in-between. As an artist, and having a background in painting, and illustration, and graphic design, I shoot without prejudice. And, it just opens up the world. I never run out of ideas.”

I love that saying – to shoot without prejudice. It opens up so many possibilities.


Wolfe goes on in the conversation to explore composition (something he teaches), the value of leading lines and different lenses, as well as showing some of his newest work.

One project, called Migrations, is about animal migrations, but is really about patterns.

In another, he photographs cultures from above, creating abstract views of people.

“The trick and the challenge is to constantly come up with perspectives, points of view, that haven’t quite been done before. That’s what gets me out of bed, that’s what motivates me.”


You might also like:

Post: What do Abstract Expressionism and Graffiti have in common?

Post: The Fun of Abstract Photography

Urban Decay Series – Part 1 (Rust), Part 2 (Wabi-sabi and Wood), Part 3 (Walls and Roads)

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Inspired by … Sandra Favre-Byles

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Image with permission from Sandra Favre-Byles

Every time I finish a workshop, I marvel at the people who are a part of them – thoughtful and kind, as well as excellent photographers in their own right. They all seem to have a thirst to continue to grow and evolve, and to do it with others. We really do learn from each other.

So, I thought I would start to feature some of these wonderful people on this blog – to show you their work, and allow them to tell their photography story.

First up is Sandra Favre-Byles, who hails from Switzerland. Sandra has been a part of my Photo By Design, 50mm Project, Going Abstract, and Keeping It Simple workshops (sometimes multiple times).

Not only is she a stunning photographer, it is obvious that she is a contemplative at heart, and always a kind supporter of others. She makes my work in the groups easier with her beautiful examples and supportive comments.

Meet Sandra Favre-Byles

K: How and when did you get started in photography and what drew you to this medium?

S: In 2005, I bought my first point and shoot digital camera and that’s when I started really being interested in photography. Seeing photos on the big screen of my computer showed me the real beauty of the scenes I was capturing. I knew then that photography had entered my life on a whole new level, even with that first simple little camera: a Canon Digital IXUS 50 point and shoot.

Before then, my photography had been limited to taking pictures of family or on holiday or of my garden. It was more about recording memories and moments rather than an art form, which is what I consider it to be now.

K: Describe your evolution as a photographer. Who are your mentors?

S: When I decided to buy my first DSLR camera, I knew nothing about the settings and was even reluctant to look into that part of things! So, for nearly a year I was still in automatic mode! It was time to learn the basics.

I bought the book Understanding Exposure, by Bryan Peterson, and also took an online group class to practice what I was learning and receive critiques from our teacher. Then, I had more control over how I wanted my images to look. I could feel at that point that the pictures I was taking were evolving, there was more depth and meaning to them; more emotion.

I took my first photo class with Kat Sloma. I learnt a lot from her and am grateful to her for helping me find my eye. She also gave me confidence to be who I am.

I am also very grateful to you, Kim, for having created photography workshops that correspond so well to my own aspirations. Your style speaks to my own way of interpreting what I see and feel. Your workshops push me to go further, delve deeper and develop and widen my visual capacities. Through you, I have been able to evolve into a simpler and more contemplative style which suits so well my inner philosophy and the way I like to see the world around me.

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Sandra Favre-Byles

K: Why do you photograph and what types of subjects are your favourites?

S: I take photographs because I am touched by something. It is often the mood of a scene which pulls me in, something which tells a story or the sheer beauty of something which takes my breath away.

My first love has always been about capturing nature, I also love doing macro very much and reflections have always held a deep fascination for me. Lighting is very important too and light and shade create a magic all of their own which I love to capture.

Since I have been doing your classes Kim, I have learned to enjoy street photography, abstracts, and especially simplicity. The simpler things are, the more they touch my heart and soul. The simplicity reveals the essence of the subject photographed. The subjects I choose and the way I like to capture them also reveal my own essence.

K: Do you sell your work? If so, where can we find it? Where do you most like to post your work online?

S: I have never sold my work, I’ve never thought about it so far! I mostly like to post on my own blog online. I also post on Flickr when I’m doing a workshop.

Thank you, Kim, for giving me the opportunity of speaking here. It’s been a pleasure to answer your questions and it has helped me define who I am as a photographer and allowed me to recognize certain aspects of myself which I hadn’t really considered before.

Photography has taught me to see and experience my life’s journey from many different angles; it has widened my horizons, lured me out of my comfort zones and I love the fact that I’m still learning and evolving and exploring different areas thanks to this art form which came into my life to give it new meaning.

K: I highly recommend that you take a look at Sandra’s blog, Reflections and Nature, where in each post, she takes you on a journey with her through her images.
Why not do this exercise and answer these questions for yourself? Like Sandra said, it might help you see your own evolution better.

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Learning to See

This post was inspired by an article in The Philosopher’s Mail – Why you should stop taking pictures on your phone – and learn to draw.

Firstly, we’re likely to be so busy taking the pictures, we forget to look at the world whose beauty and interest prompted us to take a photograph in the first place. And secondly, because we feel the pictures are safely stored on our phones, we never get around to looking at them, so sure are we that we’ll get around to it one day. ~ The Philosopher’s Mail

I’ve written about this before (Photography, Drawing, and Seeing), but think it’s worth revisiting.

A friend (thank you, Sonnie) recommended that I take a drawing class to help me with my photography. I followed through on that recommendation and took a class based on the book – Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards.

I learned two important things.

1. Anyone can learn to draw decently (I’m living proof). All you have to do is draw what you see in front of you and not the image in your head.

2. I learned about Frederick Franck (Zen Seeing, Zen Drawing), a draw-er and sculptor, who became one of my mentors for seeing and life.

Franck agreed with the article cited above – specifically, that photography can get in the way of actually seeing what’s there.

Drawing can teach us to see: to notice properly rather than gaze absentmindedly. In the process of recreating with our own hand what lies before our eyes, we naturally move from a position of observing beauty in a loose way to one where we acquire a deep understanding of its parts. ~ The Philosopher’s Mail

However, I believe that those who practice contemplative photography use their cameras in a way that helps them to see what’s really there – just like drawing does. Through careful observation and exploring multiple perspectives, we come to a deep understanding of the parts and the whole.

The camera is an instrument that teaches people to see without a camera. ~ Dorothea Lange


Does the camera get in the way of your seeing? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.


Further Reading

In her wonderful (and free) e-book, A Field Guide for the Contemplative Photographer, Patricia Turner guides us in spending time looking and sketching the landscape before photographing.

The Art of Seeing

Who is Frederick Franck?

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