Can photography be a spiritual experience? Well, I believe just about anything can be a spiritual experience if approached in right frame of mind and spirit. It certainly helps if you approach life as not divided into Sacred and Secular. For me, life, the universe, and everything exist and are upheld by God. There is nothing here we see or experience or feel that cannot be traced back to God. By that I don’t mean that God is the author of pain and suffering, or acne, or traffic jams, or paper cuts. I mean that God is all and in all and above all, y’all. So, yeah, taking pictures can be a spiritual experience.
Photography is an art form I have come to recently. I am most certainly a novice at it and make no claims at being the next Ansel Adams. However, that doesn’t stop me from getting out there are shootin’ away. The digital world means so much freedom in photography; freedom to shoot way more photos than you’ll ever need, for example, but also freedom to experiment and to have easy ways to crop and create after the shooting is done. For me, the whole process has become a marvelous form of self-expression; another way to express myself creatively. And, I would hope, another way to open up the world for others through a creative medium.
A few years ago I began taking hikes with camera in hand. There are many, many beautiful spots very close to where I live. My preferred method is going on my own and finding paths and places with few people. There is an element of spiritual retreat in my photography/hiking trips; I like the solitude and the quiet, when I can hear the leaves shuddering and trees creaking and acorns thumping to the ground. I have also discovered that taking along a camera makes me take my time on the trail; I stop and look and listen far more than I used to. I am constantly looking around at textures, the play of light and shadow, the colors and lines that surprise and entangle you.
When I come home with my photos, I enjoy the time spent in downloading them, looking at them again, making discoveries, cropping and playing with bits of a photograph or looking at it from a slightly new angle. Then it is fun to share them with others, which I do through the format of Facebook.
I used to call these trips my “Photojaunts”, after the term a former Art teacher at my college used to use. But now I prefer the term “Walkabout”. Walkabout is an Australian Aboriginal term referring to a spiritual journey that adolescent males take as part of their culture. Unfortunately, “walkabout” has taken on a derogatory meaning connected with the transience of aboriginals in the country. Because of this, the term has lost a lot of its spiritual significance. By using the word, however, I wanted to apply a spiritual reality to my outings, that this wasn’t just about getting outside or getting exercise; it wasn’t just about taking photos. For me the word “Walkabout” informs my reason for doing this and helps keep me accountable for what it is all about in my own life.
When you consider things this way, it is hard not to see God in all things.
Last week Friday I took my first Photo Walkabout of 2017 at the Mer Bleue Conservation Area, just a ten minute drive from my home. Unlike most of my trips, I took along someone special: my lovely wife, Monique. I may have to do that more often! At any rate, below are some of the photos I took on that hike on a cold, grey February day. I am always amazed that when I hike and take photos at this time of year, Winter loses its bleakness and shows itself for the Beauty it truly can be.