Moments in time

I chose a few photos that respond to this week’s Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Your Inspiration. Each photo was taken in a context (place, time, mood) that I find inspiring.

I tend to develop a strong connection with certain places and return to them again and again. However, it’s not the simple presence in those places that provides inspiration. It’s a mix of narratives and emotions built around them, sometimes linked to specific times of the day (or night).

Some other times, it’s the cool breeze of exploration and discovery. The thrill of the unexpected.

Dew-covered fields at sunrise (Belgium, 2018)
Afternoon sunlight in the backstreets of Alfama (Portugal, 2019)
The sea after sunset (Belgium, 2019)
The free-range horses of Transylvania (Romania, 2019)
Path towards the heart of the forest (Belgium, 2019)
Watching the sunrise from the dunes (France, 2021)

Who do we blog for?

Why do we write?

At first glance, it seems obvious: we write because we have something to communicate, something that we consider worth sharing.

But that only invites a second question: worth sharing with whom? With anybody out there? With people that know us? Friends? One single person? Ourselves?

I have more than enough followers to have a sense of community and to feel listened to. I don’t have nearly enough followers to feel like I have a real impact online.

And that’s just fine.

Wild flowers at sunset.
Evening among wildflowers (Germany, August 2021)

I am grateful for the audience I have. I am grateful for the people who take the time to read my posts and look at my photos. Time is a precious commodity. I genuinely enjoy the feedback I get and I always reply. I visit regularly a number of blogs and I like discovering new ones.

Would I want a larger following? There’s a part of me who would say yes. Then again, I see blogs with thousands of followers but very little engagement on posts. What is the point of having a large audience whose members never feel like interacting with your content? Do sheer numbers provide some sense of achievement?

There are so many things in my life that I would have done differently, that I used to regret, that I would have liked to undo. There were so many things that I wanted and expected.

I still regret, want, and expect things. But I’ve learned to pay more attention to what is there now. You know, the little things that happen right under your nose, so close that you can easily overlook them.

I also pay more attention to the things I want just because I don’t have them, and the things I want because they provide something of value.

I am fine with the way things are with my blog. It’s not indifference, passivity, or lack of desire to change and develop. It’s just an acknowledgement of the fact that I already receive a lot. And that things happen the way they happen for a reason. Whatever happens with the things I create, it says something that I can learn from.

Another thing that helps me maintain some serenity is that I pay attention to the content, form, and intention of what I publish. Even if I’m not that pleased with the result, I have confidence in the point I am trying to make, and I know it’s made in honesty.

I don’t care about “content creation”, I care about creativity that leads you to express yourself and expose yourself. I want to see the personal stake and involvement of the author. I don’t think there’s anything wrong in creating for money, influence, popularity or anything else, as long as it stays honest and does not try to pass as something else. There’s already way too much pretend expertise, authority and morality out there.

That being said, I’m not a zen monk. I wish I could say that, once I publish something, I send it out in the world and let it live. It’s not that simple. I sometimes second-guess myself. I happen to worry about likes and reactions. But I’ve come some way towards realizing that it’s just a little psycho drama in my head. It’s not a big deal.

I worry and I regret a bit less not because I don’t care, but because I am more accepting of what there is.

So, coming back to the question: for whom do we publish? Well, in my case it looks like this:

For those who like the language of photography and the confluence of photography and writing.

For those who struggled with trauma, depression, anxiety, and who have searched for a way to reconnect with themselves and with life.

For those who allow themselves to be touched by many things, from a stream hidden deep in the forest to small gestures of kindness.

For my younger self.

I’d love to know who do you think about when publishing on your blog.

Walking in silence

“Only by going alone in silence, without baggage, can one truly get into the heart of the wilderness. All other travel is mere dust and hotels and baggage and chatter.” (John Muir)

I feel the same.

Bluebell forest (Belgium, April 2021)

Going in the wild means deflating the ego. Accepting ourselves as a tiny part of something large and amazing. Challenging our need for predictability, comfort, and control. Trying to see and understand rather than imposing ourselves.

But isn’t this true of our other explorations too? How do we venture outside the box if not in silence and without the baggage of expectations and fads?

We are social animals. We need connection and sharing to thrive. But exploring or creating something, big or small, depends on the kind of self-reflection and self-confrontation that’s usually done alone.

Taking photos with the body

Taking photos depends on moving, exploring, changing the perspective. Approaching possible photo compositions and subjects from different angles. Dancing around them to find a good composition. Waiting for the good moment. It’s physical.

Foggy morning in the Belgian countryside / April 2021

I used to favor zoom lenses. It was convenient to be able to zoom in and frame from a distance. But my way of approaching scenes and subjects has changed. I’m more interested in what can be captured using my feet, my hands and my whole body. I rarely feel like changing the focal length.

This has little to do with the technical advantages of prime lenses. It’s more about the physical experience of taking a photograph and the way I position myself in relation to the subject.

Novice archers used to learn that the bow and arrow were an extension of their body. Great archers were perfecting the art of being one with their bow. Likewise, the camera is an extension of the body. The body is the one having the experience worth capturing. It is also the one positioning itself in time and space to take that shot.

When I say body, I mean the whole living, feeling, and thinking organism.

Using the camera as an extension of a living body changes the experience of taking photos. It’s a subtle change. It has to do with taking responsibility, being present, putting in the effort.

It has to do with accepting ourselves in our own body and accepting the results of our effort as they are.

Blend in

Villers-la-Ville, Belgium (2019)

The path is narrowing down. It’s getting late. I lie down among the flowers and the shadows. Waiting for the dark to set in.

Just before sunset, there is this brief moment of clarity and intensity. The colors become more vivid, the sounds of the forest grow louder. Everything is alive, fresh, and crisp.

The wind picks up from time to time. The tree crowns above me are dancing a weird dance.

We’re often afraid of anything that could dissolve our sense of being a separate ego. But right here, the borders and delimitations fade away. I let myself dissolve in the scene. Everything I could possibly say is already said, much clearer, by my surroundings.

My ego cannot really add to this perfect dance. So I blend in like a nocturnal animal.