The Long Slow Look - jwardenphotography
This article was originally published in the 2012 edition of Nature Alberta Magazine.
By John Warden

There is a deliciousness to that phrase. I wish I had come up with it. It expresses so eloquently how I ‘feel’ about nature photography, the beauty, mood and sensuality. The phrase though belongs to Roger Housden who uses it as a chapter title in his book 'How Rembrandt Reveals Your Beautiful Imperfect Self - Life Lessons from the Master' . He talks about needing to spend at least twenty or thirty minutes with a Rembrandt painting in order to contemplate and feel the “poetic depth” of the masterpiece.  

Most of us involved with experiencing and appreciating nature have our own recipes for slowing down and taking the time to look, see and feel the wonders of nature around us. For me, it starts with finding or following the light. Then I pause in what some call the zen or haiku moment to look for the color, light and line. They are the tools that will help me to communicate what I am seeing and feeling.

Sometimes though, my camera gets in the way of a long slow look. Out in nature, there’s so much going on. There are bugs and birds and critters, light and composition and exposure, focus and depth of field. And often, there’s action. When a trumpeter swan is spreading her wings in the golden light of dusk, then it’s time to seize the moment. But when the action slows down and I can pause and breathe out, maybe that’s the time for a long slow look across the winter ice of Astotin Lake in Elk Island National Park, to watch the sun rise. Maybe that’s the time to revel in the beauty and mood of the moment.

In his book, Housden goes on to say that after spending time with a Rembrandt, the experience changes him. Leaving the gallery or museum and going back out into the world, he notices more and in the noticing, it makes him more human. I can do that. I’m adding a long slow look to the practice of my art and to how I polish my spirit. If, through the practice, I too, notice more and look more, well… that can only be a good thing.

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