In clouds, I find endless joy and food for both emotion and meditation. People often say, humorously, “You seem to be able to get clouds to do things for you!” I’m not sure that’s the case, but I am sure that I have an affinity with the sky and with the formation, shape and movement of these wonderful entities – and that has altered my way of seeing.
As a photographer, I’m always looking… and that’s the key. What’s out there is the same, but, because I’m watching on a subconscious level, the things that will be of interest come to my attention and ‘alert me’ to take a closer look.
Also, I’ve found I don’t ‘look’ with ordinary consciousness. What I’ve discovered I do, after years of taking such photos, is ‘constantly scan’ for a certain symmetry, a certain harmony, a pleasing sense of proportion or an unusual mixture of colours. But I don’t do this with the conscious mind. My regular attention will suddenly be alerted to the potential of another shot for reasons I’m not initially conscious of.
And it’s not just clouds. I’m constantly looking for the visual experience of the beautiful and the unusual. Even an ordinary line of buildings can, with the right light, become a object of fascination. My wife, Bernie, has become used to me darting off – often with the collie in tow – to try out ‘that shot, over there!
The shot may be fine as it is, or it may lack what a thought I saw when I had that flash of potential. For the latter, I will later use the iPhone’s editing suite of ‘sliders’ to see if I can restore what I felt when I first saw it. I’m not trying to take ‘purist’ photos; I’m looking for a combination of technology and art.
It doesn’t always work. Of the hundreds of thousands of photos I’ve taken, only a few hundred have been notable successes. We are lucky to live in a digital age where the rejects are simply deleted from the computer, instead of the former piles of expensive prints, laboriously dropped off and collected from the local photo processing store.
Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye, a journey through the forest of personality to the dawn of Being.