Tag Archive: light

Lotus Light

Temples bring out the contemplative, even if we have no clear or strong beliefs.  The years of meditation, saturation with prayers, blessings, pleas all linger and create a place where we can slow down and look inwards.


Again it seems no matter what our beliefs, we relate to symbols very strongly.  In the business world, we look at logos; in the physical realm we see symbolism in mountains or oceans or rivers; in our homes, the symbols of peace or love can be many – from Nanna’s favourite piece of crystal sitting on a shelf to a special mug we use for a warm drink.  Religious symbols connect us to a spiritual world and create meanings within ourselves, not always dependent on how the priests or religious leaders interpret them.

Prayer wheels and flags

We have many ways of sending our thoughts into the universe.  Through formal church or temple rituals, through personal meditations, through feeling the beauty of what is around us in our hearts and minds.  No matter the form, for me it is the connection to something deep within myself that relates to the universe that is important.  This connection should create peace, within ourselves and maybe across our relationships with all others.

Fire prayers

What I have found fascinating though, is that all spiritual experiences seem to deepen when there is fire present.  Candles, campfires, incense, fireplaces… wherever there is flame it seems as if a part of us meditates.

The most powerful weapon on earth is the human soul on fire.

Ferdinand Foch


A new light

When I admire the wonders of a sunset or the beauty of the moon, my soul expands.
Mohandas Gandhi

I’m back in Australia for a couple of months, visiting family and friends.  It is wonderful to see them again, to join in activities, to greet the newest addition to our family, and to see the changes that have occurred n the last few years.

The joy of blue skies – intense blue, clear blue, real blue!!  Mists and sunrises, clouds and sunsets. It is hard to explain the joy of seeing these again, after years of living with pollution and the most washed out of blue skies.

The light that bathes this country is intense.  Its quality is hard to describe, and the changes I need to make in my photography to adjust to this intensity are interesting.  Mid-day light is so strong and clear that it blows out many of my images.  Evening light or early morning last such a short time, by the time I race inside to fetch my camera, the light has changed.

This is so much like changing patterns of living.  The changes are breathtaking.  The new light cast on our previous pattern can be so strong we cringe away from it.  The changes we see in ourselves can be so fleeting that we are not sure if they are real or reflections of what we are hoping for.

As with everything else though, we soon adjust to a new life, and learn to manage the new light.  We soon know when is the best time to take our photographs.  We soon learn that the changes we see are not fleeting, but real and that we can see them again in the soft light of meditation or inner growth.

New light and new life – a joy and a learning experience.

“Light glorifies everything. It transforms and ennobles the most commonplace and ordinary subjects. The object is nothing; light is everything.”  Leonard Misonne

Photographers have a close relationship with light.   It excites and frustrates us.  We look for lovely light, wake early to find the best light, wait patiently until the light is just right for the shot, look for ‘magic hour’.  We write with light.

But – our relationship with light is always in the context of what light DOES to other things.  What it does to the landscape, figures, buildings etc.

Light has power – power create growth, power to desiccate; power to guide, power to blind.  We look at the power of light, want to harness it, control it, see it as a tool, or an effect.  But we never look beyond the power, or the need to control.  We love light for its transforming power, but rarely think about it as a separate entity.

Light is.  Light exists by itself.

In our lives we look for enLIGHTenment – light’s effect on our understanding; we hope light will show us a path through the darkness; brighten the tunnels we must traverse in search of new life.  But we are seeing light, again, only in relation to dark, only in its effect.  Not as something we need to be aware of as independent.

If we look for the light itself, not as a tool, not as an effect, what then? In our physical world, seeing the light (the sun, the moon) as an independent entity creates a new awareness.  We see more of the impact on the world, but we can take it further and go back to the source.

Becoming aware of the light within us allows us to see that it is more ‘there’ than the darkness.  That, in fact, we have within us more light than we believe, and this is important.  We need to know that light outweighs the clouds and the darkness we see in our spirit.  We need to trust that no matter how dark our ‘self’ seems, or how dark we see our days, our light is strong.  It does not just exist in relation to dark, it does not come into being just to change the dark or highlight the hidden, show the way.  It exists as it is.

Knowing that my light within is a source, independent and constant, gives me strength.

We need to celebrate the light for existing, and be grateful for its usefulness and effects.

The ‘good eye’.

Light and Water

My readings in the world of wabi-sabi have also lead to readings about ‘miksang’ – a Tibetan Buddhist philosophy of seeing.

Miksang is a Tibetan word meaning “good eye” and represents a form of contemplative photography based on the Dharma Art teachings of Chögyam Trungpa, in which the eye is in synchronisation with the contemplative mind. The result of this particular perception of the world, combined with photography, produces a peculiar and open way of seeing the world. Miksang pictures tend to bring the observer back into the original contemplation  state of the author of the picture. The pictures can bring one back to a purer perception  of reality that is often neglected. Miksang involves nothing fancy, no special setup; only a visual capture, in the proper state of mind, of everyday reality .

This combination of the contemplative mind with looking deeply at things from daily life seems to fit beautifully with the wabi-sabi concept of seeing the beauty in impermanence and the peace within natural objects and shapes.  Wabi-sabi and miksang both call for an acceptance of things as they are and of allowing our inner being to respond to the beauty of the imperfect, of the melancholy of the beautiful, of seeing ourselves within these deeper simplicities.

Both philosophies call for a stripping away of the externalities and complexities that fill our lives, asking us to see more clearly and more deeply.  Looking at the world this way from a meditative state where the eye and the camera become one,  expresses the inner sight and at the same time, the inner being.

Miksang photography or art takes us into the small hidden things of the world – the patterns that create the world we see.  Examining the patterns of sand or leaf veins or the patterns made by bubbles in water opens our minds to the patterns we create in our own lives.  Are they permanent patterns, or like bubbles, transient?  Are they functional patterns, like those found in rings on a  tree or have these patterns lost functionality and we now follow them without thought, because we have always done so, or because it is the accepted behaviour for ‘people like us’?  Are our patterns of behaviour and thought natural or forced upon us?  Did we chose them to meet a need, now long forgotten?

Nature’s patterns have a purpose and we can examine them in detail to understand the reason.  We need also to examine our own patterns to see if they too have a purpose, and to see if the purpose behind this pattern is still good.  Do we hide behind the patterns we create to keep ourselves safe or protected from the world?

If we work with these ideas we may find that our patterns of thinking and seeing and behaving are no longer patterns, but prison bars, limiting our functionality, limiting our creativity, limiting our understanding..

A shot into the psyche

The limitations of photography are in yourself, for what we see is only what we are.Ernst Haas

For the seeker of the soul, photography and all other arts become the window to the inner world.  We look at the world with our eyes, seeing the things that resonate within us.  We take photographs of what catches our psyche, and therefore catches our eyes. To explore this is to find out so much more about ourselves.

I take photographs of things that fascinate me, and in doing so, I expose my view of the world, and my inner being to others.  When I spend so much time on finding the beauty in the imperfect, the transient, the dying – does this echo my preoccupation with my own imperfections, my quest to create beauty and goodness within my transient self?

When I walk through the streets taking photographs of faces, am I looking for myself within those crowds; searching for someone that I can see myself in?  The photos of foibles – lovely shots of touches of humanity in an increasingly homogeneous world, are they signs of my search for my individuality?

Each shot I take means something to me, and places me ‘out there’ to be interpreted as others wish.  I have no control over those interpretations, and occasionally when someone interprets one of my photographs in a way that I didn’t see, didn’t intend, I cringe, wanting to shout “But that’s not what I meant!”.  Yet, that person is interpreting my work through their eyes, their experiences, and from that I can see another way of looking at the world, and I can see a little way into that person.

What does the photo above mean to me?  I see many things.  New growth – always something I am looking for.  For me, to see the end of growth is to experience death.  Light – light is so glorious.  I can stand transfixed by light and how it touches the world.  Light creates glow and warmth and joy.  These are things I want to echo in my life.  Contrast – bright and dark, new and old, the shadow and the light.  The yin-yang of the world.  I am seeking balance in my life, and examining contrasts clearly shows that I need opposites to create balance.  Quiet times need to be balanced with energy; sleep with wakefulness; work with rest … the list is endless.  And yet we often strive for an unbalanced life – calling for happiness without sorrow, growth without pain or change without loss.

The more I look at my photographs, the more I ask WHY that shot needed to be taken, the more i can see into what motivates me.  It is a fascinating journey.

The Visual Language

Light within, light without

Learning a language is hard.  Figuring out what each sound means, how they relate to each other, which sounds to use when.  This all takes time and practice.  At least when we see, that is simple.  We just see, right? Things are in front of us, around us – easy as.

However, when we aspire to be photographers we need to learn a visual language.  We need to learn light and tones and intensity.  We need to see relationships between shade and light, between form and colours.

Our early shots are ‘happy snaps’ – pictures of things that catch our eye, of family and friends, tourist snaps and of days out.  But as we slip deeper into the addiction that photography becomes, we start to want more from out photos and we start to learn a visual language.

Unlike other languages, this one is intensely individual. The elements are the same – light and form, colour and space.  But with a photographer’s visual language, the expression is different.  Photographs will not be exactly the same.  We use similar tools, but each photograph will ultimately be totally individual.  Capable of being understood, but not completely replicated by another.

The same photographer will not take the same photograph on succeeding days – the language has changed, been modified by the previous photograph and the photographer is looking for different expression this time.  The light will change, the position, the internal vision of the photographer will develop.

For in this visual language, the photographer is using an external language – that imposed by the sun, the lighting, the clouds, the natural and man-made world – to express an internal vision.

The external becomes internal becomes external again when seen on the computer or in a print.  The photographer has used a special language to create and convey something from deep within. The viewer reads this language and enters the internal world of the photographer.

Knowing this, the photographer must make choices.  To retain the internal world as private, only for close family and friends, or to light the the internal??  To shoot ‘happy snaps’ or to express part of the soul?