Kim Manley Ort Contemplative living through Photography Thu, 21 Sep 2017 20:47:42 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Kim Manley Ort 32 32 19438708 Times of Transition, Times of Possibilities Wed, 20 Sep 2017 14:00:00 +0000 On a recent walk through a forested trail, I was astonished at the abundance of colour and blooms. It’s that time of year, at least where I live, where summer is not quite over but signs of fall are creeping in. Leaves are beginning to turn colour and seeds are dropping. Summer blooms are near […]

Times of Transition, Times of Possibilities

photo walk, transitionOn a recent walk through a forested trail, I was astonished at the abundance of colour and blooms. It’s that time of year, at least where I live, where summer is not quite over but signs of fall are creeping in. Leaves are beginning to turn colour and seeds are dropping. Summer blooms are near their end and new fall plants are sprouting.

It’s a time of transition. It’s a time of new possibilities, even if I can’t quite see them yet.

What is Transition?

According to several dictionaries:

* the process or a period of changing from one state or condition to another
* movement, passage, or change from one position, state, stage, subject, concept, etc.
* in music, a passing from one key to another; modulation
* in life, a passing from one stage to another, i.e. adolescence to adulthood
* an evolution of thought or change of perspective
* like a butterfly, metamorphosis from one form to another
* in language, words (or phrases) that connect ideas; a bridge

Transitions as Edges

A favourite photographic theme of mine is that of edges in nature. My friend, Norah, and I once did a project where she wrote poems about edges inspired by my photographs. It all started after I heard this quote from poet, Stanley Plumly,

“In ornithology (the study of birds), there occurs the phrase, the abrupt edge, which is the edge between two types of vegetation, where the advantages of both are most convenient.”

A transition is an edge between one thing and another. The edges in nature are where the greatest diversity is found. The edges in life may be where our greatest possibilities lie.

Transitions in Life

transitionLife is one big transition from birth until the final one – death – because nothing ever stays the same. We are always evolving, developing, becoming. Yet, there are some transitions that stand out more than others. They are marking points in life which can be gradual or abrupt. Sometimes, they’re forced on us when, for example, a marriage ends and you cross over from being part of a couple to being single. Or, a parent has Alzheimer’s and you go from child to caregiver. Some are more natural – you graduate from school and get a job, transitioning from student to working adult.

But some transitions are more subtle. You might know (in the body) that something is happening, something is changing, that one stage is ending and a new stage is on its way. You might not be able to put your finger on what it is quite yet. At times like these, you need a pause, a time to listen, to explore, and then make new choices when the time is right. Jeffrey Davis calls this time (in business or in life) one of fertile confusion. There’s something you need to discover. You need to take the time to sit with the confusion and explore possibilities.

We can easily get stuck in this place if we’re not paying close attention. The confusion – the not knowing – may be too much to bear. We’re uncomfortable with the uncertainty. So, we dig in our heels and try to make what we’ve already been doing work better. Or, we drop everything we’re doing and plunge into something new without giving it due diligence.

Transitions in Business or Creativity

Over the past seven years in my business, I’ve followed my own interests and instincts, as well as what seems to be needed in the online community of fellow contemplatives and photographers. It’s definitely evolved since that first Photo By Design workshop in 2010. Of course, there are external factors at play as well – the changing Internet, the economic situation, and other world issues. All play a part in where the business goes next. Currently, I’m sensing another time of transition. Some of my workshops have run their course. My interests are changing. I notice that even the podcasts I listen to and the books I read are a little different. I’m feeling a call to do more writing and taking a course on reading poetry. Who knows where all this will lead? I do know that I’m paying attention.

“For me, creativity is the stuff you do at the edges. But the edges are different for everyone,and the edges change over time. If you visualize the territory you work in as an old Boston Bruins sweatshirt, realize that over time, it stretches out, it gets looser, the edges move away. Stuff that would have been creative last year isn’t creative at all today, because it’s not near the edges any more.” ~ Seth Godin

My plan is to continue blogging as usual until the end of the year. I’ll finish up the exercises in the Adventures in Seeing book with our fabulous group on Facebook sometime in November. Also in November there will be the very timely course for times of transition, Celebrate Impermanence – 15 photographic prompts to get you seeing impermanence differently.

In early 2018, I’ll take some time off of blogging and social media and workshops to create! I have no idea what will come of this time. It could be a new course, an in-person experience, another book, or a photo exhibit. Some ideas are already brewing. The possibilities are endless.

Are you in a time of transition? How are you handling it?


Times of Transition, Times of Possibilities

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A Mindfulness Exercise for your Photo Walks Wed, 13 Sep 2017 14:00:00 +0000 “Mindfulness means learning to pay attention to what’s happening in the present moment. In the mind, body, and external environment, with an attitude of curiosity and kindness. Mindful awareness training tunes the region of the brain called the posterior insula. This is the place of our moment by moment awareness.” ~ Meg Salter, Mind Your […]

A Mindfulness Exercise for your Photo Walks


“Mindfulness means learning to pay attention to what’s happening in the present moment. In the mind, body, and external environment, with an attitude of curiosity and kindness. Mindful awareness training tunes the region of the brain called the posterior insula. This is the place of our moment by moment awareness.” ~ Meg Salter, Mind Your Life

Meg Salter’s book, Mind Your Life, is full of practical exercises, both sitting and movement, for bringing greater moment by moment awareness to your life. There are many benefits to practicing mindfulness. Here are just a few – reducing stress, feelings of well-being, greater empathy which leads to better relationships, increased emotional intelligence and resilience, and more focus on what’s important.

According to Salter, there are three fundamental attentional skills which can be developed: concentration, sensory clarity, and equanimity.

  • Concentration – Selective attention through an effort of will. Choosing where we place our attention. Focus on what matters. Noticing habitual patterns of distractions and preconceptions. Realizing that we see the world in light of those preconceptions. Not letting our blind spots control us.
  • Sensory Clarity – Perceiving with more vividness and seeing subtle details. Feeling and naming emotions. Getting in touch with your body.
  • Equanimity – Allowing sensory experiences to come and go through surrender of will. Letting things be as they are. Responding from a deeper level. Developing empathy.

Since attention is a contemplative habit, I wondered whether some of Salter’s exercises could be used in preparation for or while photographing as a way of enhancing our perceptions and what we choose to photograph. There are many different types of exercises in the book, but here’s a simple one to start, called Focus Out. Try it on your next photo walk.

A Variation on the Focus Out Exercise

1. Go for a wander (no destination, at least 20 minutes).

2. For the first five minutes, feel out. Notice body sensations. What does the air feel like? How are you feeling inside? Is something nagging at you? What’s your emotional state? How does your body feel? Do you have any itches, aches, pains, fatigue, hunger? Accept it all. Feel your feet on the ground and the movement of your arms. Notice your breath.

3. For the next five minutes, hear out. Notice the sounds around you and within you. Notice how they rise and then fall away. Think of all the sounds together as one big symphony of life.

4. For the next five minutes, see out. Let your attention wander. Notice what comes to your attention, without rejecting anything. Photograph what you feel needs your attention.

5. For the last five minutes, focus out on all. Notice how your body feels now, the sights and sounds and smells. Take it all in and appreciate this time you’ve taken.

As an alternative or addition, do this exercise as a sitting practice before photographing. Times for each step are not set in stone. Adapt according to the time you have.

My Mindfulness Walk

I did this exercise today. It’s a gorgeous September day and all of the windows are open. It’s sunny and warm, oh and there’s also a loud machine that’s been running for hours now non-stop at a home down the street. It was starting to get to me.

So, I sat and did the exercise at home first, giving about two minutes for each step. When it came to noticing how I felt, the sound outside lessened because my attention was elsewhere. I noticed the agitation I felt and took a deep breath. When I did the hear out section, I let the sound of the machine in without rejecting it and then tried to notice if I could hear anything else. I could! There were some birds singing and there was a tingly hum in the air underneath everything else. Otherwise, there was silence.

Then, I went out to wander. I realized that I normally would try to walk away from the loud noises, so instead I walked towards them, which also took me to a busier street. I found that there were many loud noises, other machines, car traffic and they all mixed together. I was still seeing and noticing the quieter things – a family of mushrooms at the side of a fence, a squirrel scurrying up a tree to get away from me, and the breeze blowing grasses through the slats in a fence.

I realized that mindfulness practice helps me to accept what is, and not let things that are out of my control take over my life.

Read: David Cain’s The Big Three Benefits of Daily Mindfulness Practice at Raptitude

A Mindfulness Exercise for your Photo Walks

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Why You Should Go Abstract Tue, 05 Sep 2017 14:00:00 +0000 Why You Should Go Abstract


Tomorrow, we begin my annual offering of the Going Abstract workshop, one of my favourites. If you haven’t tried going abstract before, I invite you to join us. Here’s why. As time goes on, I find my work becoming more and more abstract. I think it’s because it’s the best way I know how to express the whole of an experience. I can appreciate the aesthetic beauty of subtle details. My composing skills have improved. And, I’m better able to get to the heart of an image. And, all of these benefits affect the rest of my photography.

Abstract photography allows me to show a scene or subject in a different way; it can express an idea or a feeling.

The word abstract is defined as an idea, an extract, or a summary. It’s a part of the whole. In that case, every photograph is abstract, as John Paul Caponigro states in this comprehensive article, The Power of Abstraction. He describes abstract photography as a worthwhile endeavour on many levels, but mostly in that it enables you to express more clearly in all of your photography. Specifically, he outlines four functions – to stimulate, structure, inform, and express. I looked for examples of these in my own photography.


“Amplifying the graphic qualities of images makes them more eye-catching or visually compelling.” ~ John Paul Caponigro

You can stimulate (not over-stimulate) by moving in close and isolating details, or simplifying to only a few elements. This is where you can practice incorporating visual design in your photographs. In this example, I created a closeup of these colourful wine barrels, emphasizing their colour, shadows, and shapes.


“Even the most literal and detailed representations are more easily grasped and have more impact when they’re put together well.” ~ John Paul Caponigro

Through structure, you form order out of chaos. It can be a way to lead the eye to focus on what’s most important. It’s a way to practice getting to the heart of a photograph. What is it really about? Again, simplification is key.

This image may not be so obvious. Take a look at it for about 30 seconds. Do you see the shape I wanted you to see? I’ll give you a clue in that I called the image “Wholeness.”

I wanted you to see the circle within the chaos, the deeper order within that Caponigro talks about, and composed accordingly. That is the main idea or the heart of this photograph.


“It can reveal principles or processes at work in a subject and illustrate related concepts.” ~ John Paul Caponigro

Abstract photographs are a way of showing patterns, connections, or invisible processes at work. Where I live, there is almost always a breeze and I often try to show that invisible process in my photographs from this place. It’s evident through grasses, trees, scattered leaves, and water movement. I use long shutter speeds, intentional camera movement, and intentional blur to convey movement. The image below of blowing grasses in a nearby park informs the viewer of the time of year (spring) and the invisible force of wind.


“Selectivity, stylization and distortion can all be used to reveal ideas and emotions.” ~ John Paul Caponigro

My favourite function of abstract photography is that it can move you beyond the literal to the poetry. You can reflect your own mind. Abstract photographs can express ideas (what’s important to you) and emotions (your inner state).

The image below is one of my favourites from this year. You may know what it is, but it’s an abstract view. I find reflections to be emotional. They give me a different glimpse of how everything is connected and that there is always more beyond what we normally see.
I hope these examples help you see why going abstract is good practice on many levels. As well, you can create some beautiful photographs too. Which function needs the most practice for you?

Would you like to Go Abstract with us beginning tomorrow? Sign up now at the button below.

Why You Should Go Abstract

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