Photography as Meditation

short windmill

I received my copy of UU World (The Magazine of the Unitarian Universalist Association) a couple of days ago and finally had time to start reading this morning. I haven’t read it all, but an article entitled “Deeper Attention” by Anitra Lavanhar immediately caught my attention.

Lavanhar referred to the deeper attention she paid to her surroundings when she carried a camera. That thought really resonated and as I read her article over breakfast, I thought of my own blissful hours carrying a camera.

Those hours began when I worked for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission as a public information officer. The agency proved a training ground for me when the powers that be decided they needed people who could both write the articles and take the pictures. At that point I had two small children, no camera, and no money to buy one, so the company camera became my life line.

Thinking about photography, I remembered a spring trip, just a couple of years ago and long after I left the G&PC. By now, I have my own camera, a Nikon D80 and a few accessories. Driving through Nebraska’s Sandhills, I couldn’t help stopping every few miles. I became completely focused on the camera and what I found in front of the lens.

All my other identities slipped away and I became what master G&PC photographer, Lou Ell, used to call a photo-snappy-shooter. I took pictures of the Sandhills’ ridiculously short windmills, with black Angus cattle strung out to the left—with a bald blue sky and spring-green hills in the background.

Black cattle coming to windmill with tall grass-covered sandhills in backbround
Cattle at the windmill.

I would walk a few steps and see a flower I wanted to photograph.

white, almost circular flower with yellow center
Prickly Poppy

I found pelicans and ducks and I tuned out everything but the critter and the angle and trying to get close enough to make the shot count. As I think about it now, I realize that, in those hours I had nothing in my life but the warm sun on my back, a little breeze in my face, the musty smell of sub-irrigated meadows in my nose, and my attempts to bring it to life in images I would store on a memory card.

Duck floating on still water
Blue-Winged Teal
Four white pelicans
Grooming Pelicans
A string of Canada geese seen through grasses
Canada Geese



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