Photography as meditation

Tree swing on the back lawn, Manresa retreat center. (Copyright 2013 / Andrew Boyd)

Tree swing on the back lawn, Manresa retreat house. (Copyright 2013 / Andrew Boyd)

Manresa Retreat House

I was back at the Jesuit retreat house, Manresa, recently and spent all three mornings before dawn out making photographs. The retreat is a 3-day silent experience: you do no talking for the duration. I’ve always found predawn photography to be a meditative experience and in this situation it was the perfect activity.

The front facade of Manresa, the Jesuit retreat center near Convent, Louisiana. This is a predawn exposure. (Copyright 2013 / Andrew Boyd)

The front facade of Manresa, the Jesuit retreat center near Convent, Louisiana. This is a predawn exposure. (Copyright 2013 / Andrew Boyd)

The grounds are old and beautiful. The main alley of live oak trees was planted over 150 years ago. Your brain slows down, you relax. There’s time to reflect and think about what’s really important.

Predawn sky over Manresa. This is a 2 minute exposure on tripod, Canon 16-35 f2.8 lens at 16mm, f8, ISO 50. (Copyright 2013 / Andrew Boyd)

Predawn sky over Manresa. This is a 2 minute exposure on tripod, Canon 16-35 f2.8 lens at 16mm, f8, ISO 50. (Copyright 2013 / Andrew Boyd)

Shutter speed, aperture, and ISO: these building blocks of exposure are still in play here. But when your shutter speed is measured in minutes instead of fractions of a second, you have lots of time to think as your exposure is being made. There’s time to roam around and try other compositions in your mind while your camera is perched up on top of that tripod. Your whole creative process shifts into a slower gear.

Manresa front gallery at dawn. Canon 16-35mm f2.8 lens at 27mm, 30 second exposure @ f14, ISO 50. (Copyright 2013 / Andrew Boyd)

Manresa front gallery at dawn. Canon 16-35mm f2.8 lens at 27mm, 30 second exposure @ f14, ISO 50. (Copyright 2013 / Andrew Boyd)

Dawn slowly creeps up on you, then the beginnings of a new day. The light changes and shifts, more things become discernible. You make a few more images and start to think about coffee. You’re done for this morning.

Hi, I’m Andrew Boyd, a.k.a. The Discerning Photographer, and I hope this post has been interesting and informative. Please leave me a comment about it, let me know what you’d like to see more of on the site! You can also sign up for email delivery of all future articles or my RSS feed. Or subscribe to our Facebook page ,Google+ pageor our Twitter feed. Thanks!–DiscerningPhotog

Posted in: Inspire

About the Author:

Photographer, videographer and photo editor. Host and creator of The Discerning Photographer web site. Currently a Canon shooter.

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