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An hour meant that I not only had time to walk to and from my elementary school, but also time to eat my lunch and practice the piano. Every day, Monday to Friday, I faced thirty minutes of practice at the piano: warming up with the basics, scales and arpeggios, repeating them over and over again. Then I’d turn to whichever piece of music I was studying at the time. Slowly I came to understand that the path of the piano student is the way of practice.

The visual arts require that same dedication of practice. But it’s not scales and arpeggios for the photographer or painter. It’s looking and seeing. And those are the skills I focus on in my own nature photography. The great Canadian photographer Freeman Patterson tells us what the practice of seeing really means:

'Seeing, in the finest and broadest sense, means using your senses, your intellect, and your emotions. It means encountering your subject matter with your whole being'.

My practice then, is to experience nature with my whole being. Such was the case the past summer. A lone Sandhill Crane took up residence at Martindale Flats in Central Saanich. Every morning I’d go out to see what my crane was up to. Once located, I’d look for the compositional opportunities presented by colours, light and lines. Over time, through the repetition of days spent together and hundreds of practice photographs, I started to learn a bit of the crane’s behavior. I began to anticipate when he was going to leave one farmer’s field for a new feeding area. Putting what I’d learned into action, I quietly walked myself into a natural blind where, when the time came, the crane would fly right by me. My photograph here is the result. The crane and I, encountering each other with our whole beings.

Common to the Zen arts of Japan, the phrase heiso ni ari, means ceaseless daily practice. Such practice has allowed me to hear, up close, the wild, ca-ruing call of the sandhill crane, to see the translucent light of seashells and to the feel the awesomeness of sunrise. Practice feeds my spirit and informs my artistic journey. Through practice, I am finding my way.

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