Making Photographs and Pema Chödrön’s “Three Conscious Breaths”


As a born-again sitter, I find that meditation plays a number of roles in my life. It helps me improve my concentration, regulate my mood, and relieve my body of stress. Meditation also makes me a stronger photographer.

As I’ve noted previously in this blog, I’m drawn to large format photography over other formats due to its meditative qualities. Nothing happens fast with LF, whether in the field or in the darkroom, and the more impatient you grow, the more disaster you court and the more your day will be ruined.

But there are times when, regardless of intention, we’re frazzled when we pull out the camera, and that can spell catastrophe later. We set our exposure wrong, we forget to meter at all, fail to stop down the lens before releasing the shutter, or to load the holder with film- the possibilities for LF disasters are endless.

One solution is Pema Chödrön’s three conscious breaths. Also known as pause practice, it works by creating space between whatever it is that has you frazzled, so that you can stop thinking about it and focus on the task at hand. Just stop and take three conscious breaths. Then climb underneath the dark clothe and look at the ground glass.

(I may have gotten this site from another photo blog which I now can't find. If so, please let me know so that I can credit them.)

But what if your monkey mind won’t take the hint and leave you alone? Here’s a great breathing technique I’ve learned from the Calm app on my iPhone that I love. Breath in for a four count, hold your breath for a four count, and breath out for an eight count.

Using this technique for three breaths leaves me feeling light headed enough that my monkey mind isn’t a problem anymore, but not so light headed that I can’t function.

Give either technique a try if you find that distractions interfere with your photography and keep you from a state of beginner's mind.