What do you do and where do you go when you want to isolate yourself from everyone and everything?
I am very fortunate to live in Nelson County Virginia. Some of you (older folks like me) may remember the television show "The Waltons" that ran for several seasons. I do not live far from where John-Boy (Earl Hamner) grew up. His home is now an historic landmark. I have visited the home on several occasions and photographed it for clients, and I have photographed John-Boy's desk.
Life has not changed too much here in Nelson County. A traffic light was installed in Lovingston, (the County Seat) awhile back, and several wineries, breweries, and distilleries have been built. In 1976 Wintergreen Resort opened and it is the county's largest employer. But still, Nelson County is a sleepy kind of place where people from Metro DC, Tidewater Virginia, and Raleigh, North Carolina come every weekend to get out of the hustle and bustle of city life. Generally they arrive on Friday evening and leave on Sunday. I live a stone's throw from the Appalachian Trail and the Blue Ridge Parkway. I have lived here for over 20 years and the very thought of moving back to an urban area causes me anxiety. Of course there are some downsides. You can't just drive a couple of blocks to the nearest grocery store. The nearest grocery store (like Kroger®) is about 17 miles away, so you have to plan accordingly. Making a shopping list is an absolute necessity. As far as culture goes (I love classical music and opera), the nearest major city is Richmond which is about a two hour drive on Interstate 64. It's a nice drive because there are no stoplights until you get to Richmond.
Okay, so what does all this have to do with photography and meditation? Well, I had to give some background about myself and where I live before I could proceed further.
During the spring, summer, and fall, when I am not on a photo assignment, I love to go to one of my favorite places (like 20 Minute Cliffs at MM 19 on the BRP) and photograph the grand vista from that location. So where does the meditation part come in? The art of meditation is being able to shut down your mind to any kind of stimulus and being present in the moment. That is what photography does for me. I am focused on only one thing and that is what is happening in the current moment. I tune everything else out to the point that if there is an external stimulus, I get startled. I once read that a photographer is the opposite of a painter, albeit we are both artists. The painter starts with a blank canvas and adds things in. A photographer does just the opposite. He/She removes objects in the frame to eliminate distractions and isolate the subject. Doing such requires total focus, at least it does for me. I am totally focused on what I want to do. And by eliminating all the distractions, I also eliminate the worries and concerns that creep into my mind and won't let it go. When I am doing photography, I am in my own little world separated from everyone, and everything.
And that my dear reader, is bliss.
Here is my photograph from 20 Minute Cliffs on the BRP rendered as a painting. The cloud formation is real. There was no photo editing trickery.
HEAVEN'S GATEOf all the nature works I have created, this one is my favorite. Processed as an oil painting, it would look fantastic if it were printed on a 32" X 18" canvas. As a matter of fact, a canvas print of this particular work hangs in my living room. The location of where I took the photographs that became this work is at Mile Marker 19 on The Blue Ridge Parkway.
I broke every rule of nature photography in this work. I did not wait until the golden hour and I had to do some cropping to get the composition I wanted. But I really like how the shadow and highlighted areas of the work combine to give it depth.
I hope you enjoy it too.