Photography and mindfulness

I tend to live my life at turbo speed. Owner of two major online broker dealer businesses, an entrepreneur, venture capitalist, and board member of numerous other initiatives, sometimes I feel like my life is moving at the pace of the high frequency trading happening on my online platforms.

I am not alone. The advent of social media exemplifies the rapid, hurried lives we are living today. Rushing through thousands of Facebook posts on our walls, skimming through the best Instagram posts, darting out 140 characters at top speed… In a world where we are constantly bombarded with information, stimuli and tasks we rarely make time to slow down and take it all in.

Ironically, those symbols of modern bustle social media and modern technology, have put in the hands of millions the very same tool that helped me to slow things down. A camera. Instagram, with its easy filters and 400 million subscribers has created an amateur photography boom like we have never seen before. The introduction of the camera to cell phones and the ubiquitous selfie to the internet resulted in a deluge of photos, with 2015 estimated to have created more photos than were taken within the entire history of the analogue camera.

I am quite a fan of the occasional selfie. However, I stepped on the other side of the lens by happy accident. An ex, fond of capturing memories on camera, reeled me in as her one-man camera crew during our time together. A little reluctant at first, I allowed her to employ me to snap away and capture our adventures and travels together.

A former model, she used her industry savvy to school me on the best lighting and angles for portraits and with every click I got both better at it and fonder of it. Soon I saw my photography evolving, I wasn’t just taking photos of her more photogenic side, I was capturing moments, memories, life and laughs. I was catching picturesque shorelines and skylines of the places we visited and the smiles of the people we met. The relationship didn’t last forever, but she left with me a passion for viewing the world through a camera lens.

Since then my love for photography has grown; I bought myself a Sony A6000 – small enough to carry just about everywhere, but powerful enough to turn out a quality photo by most standards – and began clicking away.

Peering through a camera lens, I began noticing things I hadn’t before – the variety of vegetation in my neighbourhood in Miami, the swell of the waves, the many different colors of the buildings in Nassau, Bahamas where my second business is located. Framing shots – looking for the light, composition, color – it got me in the habit of focusing on all the wonderful little details we rush by every day. The lens serves as a set of blinders, blocking out the unnecessary stimuli so that I can zoom in, literally, on the beauty in front of me.

In taking a photograph I am fully present, something my yoga instructor always urges as part of our practice. It is perhaps no wonder that yoga blogs are always strewn with perfectly posed photos of people practicing against the backdrops of sunsets and mountain ridges.

When I travel, which I do quite a bit, I find that photography transforms and enhances my experience. As a tourist it is easy to feel very apart from the people, scenes, and life of the location you are visiting, as if separated by a pane of glass. Paradoxically, putting another pane of glass, a lens, between me and my subjects can at times allow me to more readily immerse myself in the new world that surrounds me. I love to capture life in action, as I often say, and through my lens I can unabashedly peer into the lives and culture of the people as I travel. Capturing busy scenes most especially requires a patience and inner tranquility allowing you to pull out the narrative and capture the right moment.

I am not alone in feeling that photography can enhance the way that we interact with our surroundings and experience life around us. T.A. Hoffman writes a whole book on the concept of Photography as Meditation. I am not sure I would describe it being quite as spiritual as Hoffman suggests, ultimately my photographs preserve great memories and moments, telling a story for me to revisit later. But in the moment, photography serves as way to separate myself from the distractions and stress of the everyday and immerse myself in the beauty of life.

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