As you may know, my main income is from running photo tours which involves taking people to great photo locations at great times. But sometimes, customers want to try other parts of Icelandic culture such as remote coffee stops in fishing villages. One of these coffee stops exists in the little village of Arnastapi on the Snæfellsness Peninsular.

The region had been hit unexpectedly by some April snow and after such a mild Winter, this April snow was the talk of the town. We were in the middle of a great Snæfellness tour and we swung into a snow covered drive up to the door of a cottage with an information sign in the window – as well as the tea-cup sign. Coffee was great but not as welcome as clean restrooms and a warm parlour. Our Icelandic host made a pot of hot water for teas and a coffee for yours truly.

icelandic cafe

We got busy talking about photography…

Photography, I consider as a form of active meditation. There are many similarities as photography attempts to capture ‘the here and now’. There are terms such as ‘focus’. Photography is very much about truth although it is ultimately a subjective version of it. The act of taking a photograph leaves the photographer without any worries or stresses about the world.

The here and now
Awareness of ‘the here and now’ is the ultimate aim in meditative practice. Meditation is about freeing yourself from the guilt of the past and the worries of the future. To be able to slow down and appreciate each breath as you sit perfectly still, is to be able to experience the raw beauty of the physical world. The most notable thing about regular meditative practice is the physical sensations as deeper and deeper states of relaxation are reached. Being so intimately aware of the body is a beautiful example of being in ‘the here and now’.

Why does a well taken photograph look better than a video footage of the same scene? It is because the photograph attempts to capture ‘the here and now’. The ability to freeze a moment – even if the following moments look exactly the same – is to be able to enhance each aspect and bring all the colours and details to life.

Another good similarity is the thought of your camera as an eye. It is possible to take a step back from the eye so that you are aware of the light falling on the retina. Maybe you just experienced that? It would have been a split second and difficult to achieve again. This is similar to meditation practice where we take a step back and observe the observer. In photography, the camera becomes an observer over which you have awareness.

We also discussed the need for a landscape photographer to allow themselves to be haunted by the landscape, like a good actor allows themselves to be haunted by their characters, or like a blues guitarist has to live the blues to play the blues.


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