Driving Forces in Photography – Zen Before the Shutter


Let’s take a step back for a moment to talk about something different.  Let’s cast aside the technical aspects of photography.  Forget about the rules, forget about the postprocessing, the colors, the elements of design, the equipment and the final product.  But wait, isn’t that what photography is all about?  Well, yes.  And no.  What we’re talking about here is the why.  The why for me has three elements, two of which all photographers share:  1)  Experimentation and learning and 2) The final product.  But the third element is what I’d like to focused on.  This last element is different for everyone.  I of course intend to share my own, but I would like you all to share your thoughts as well so that we can all get a better understanding of the forces that drive us.

For me, that third element is the most important:  Something I call the Zen Before the Shutter.  I love searching for the next photo opportunity.  I love getting the zone where the shot is everything.  My left brain takes a nap while my right brain does it’s thing – my inhibitions, stresses, unrelated thoughts and fears forgotten.  My world, my environment and my mind are all focused on the creation of an image.


Like many adults, I lead a relatively chaotic life.  I work a full time job as a manger handling hundreds of projects every year, I am the father of two children (ages 1 and 3), and I am part of an incredibly large family.  I’m very happy with my life and have very little to complain about, but there’s no greater stress relief than getting behind that camera.  I feel like I’m able to step outside myself – outside my normal personality – in order to do what’s best for my photographs.  It’s something I can compare to being a parent.  There are things I’ve found myself doing as a parent that I never would’ve thought I could do.  Things like confronting another adult who is acting inappropriately in front of my child, something I wouldn’t be able to bring myself to do if it weren’t for my child.  Similarly, I find myself talking to complete strangers or putting myself in awkward positions in public.  Ever laid on your stomach in the middle of a busy sidewalk in the middle of the city?  You get funny looks, even with the camera around your neck.  But without the camera, I would care what others thing.  With the camera, it’s about me, the camera and the shot…and nothing else matters.

Zen.  There’s nothing greater.  My few hours each week with my camera fulfills my spiritual desires.

So here’s your chance to share what really does it for you.  Do you have a similar zen experience with your camera?  Or are you an experimentalist?  Perhaps you’re a statistics junkie or you’re just exploring a world through macro photography that can’t be seen with the naked eye.  I would love to hear your thoughts, and I’m sure the community would like to see as well.


About Author

D. Travis North is a professional Landscape Architect, a Freelance Photographer and founder of Shutter Photo. Ever since he picked up his first SLR, his father's Nikon N2000, he's been hooked on photography. Travis likes to photograph urban environments, architectural details and has a new-found interest in close-up photography. His work can be found at D. Travis North Photography. Follow Travis on twitter: @dtnorth.

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