Sunday, 29 September 2019

GREEN MEDICINE - visual forest bathing / shinrin-yoku




We have a long and deep relationship with trees. Humanity has historically looked to trees for their healing properties and medicines. While we’ve made preparations from the leaves, bark or roots, humans have also known that to simply be in the presence of plant beings can be healing and can be ‘plant medicine'.

Trees are potent living sources and symbols of spiritual and physical healing, regeneration, immortality and salvation. Tree medicine also works on us at a deep psychological/spiritual level beyond our awareness; trees have been seen as channels for divine energy for millennia. I believe we are still touched by that ancient world view even if we aren’t consciously aware of it. This can be seen in the recent phenomenon of Japanese ‘forest bathing’ now reaching the West, where people are guided into forests so they may be washed, cleansed and purified by the spiritual forces that pulsate through the woods in an all-encompassing unity – like a green baptism.

The impetus behind this series comes from my empathy for indigenous culture and spirituality - many thanks to the generous indigenous elders and friends who've guided and taught me along the way. They shared with me ways and viewpoints that provided a roadmap that’s helped me to feel Spirit in my own culture and everywhere around me. Using this roadmap brought about a shift in my worldview – a shift that opened me to the beauty of nature again. Now I use photography as a tool to explore the raw elemental power of the natural world by visiting and re-visiting places I’m drawn to in order to be touched by their spiritual essence. I try to receive images from these sacred places that contain this essence so it may be shared with others.




Tuesday, 19 March 2019

A PORTRAIT OF JEFF THOMAS - INDIGENOUS PHOTOGRAPHER




Jeff Thomas is a 2019 winner of the Governor General's Awards in Visual and Media Arts. Directed by Pixie Cram.
Co-production of the Canada Council for the Arts and Saw Video Media Arts Centre. Presentation of the Canada Council for the Arts and the Independent Media Arts Alliance

Monday, 25 February 2019

THE POWER OF LIGHT COURSE - some comments by students


“Michael O’Brien’s “The Power of Light” course gave me a deep appreciation how important the elements of light and exposure are to photography.  Michael taught me how to seek out interesting light and use it properly in my composition. Now my photos have more emotional and visual impact.”…….from Lee-Ann Richer  

“I really like the structure of the lessons and the examples that you show us to help us understand the concepts. I also like the assignments. After the shadow and reflection assignments it made me look differently at incorporating these details to make a more interesting picture. I'm a "big" picture person and don't focus on the little details but it made me realize that these things can make a picture more interesting. So I'm enjoying the content, the context you provide via examples and on-site shooting with all the tips you provide.” …….. from Priscilla Yu


An excerpt from a letter to GBC administrators:
“I especially wanted to mention how much I enjoyed the Power of Light course. The material taught in this course is critical for any photographer to understand. It is not limited to any specific type of photography. Understanding light is vital in any photographic situation. It is for this reason I feel very strongly that this course should be a required course for the program. I can't imagine anyone completing the current requirements, and attaining the certificate without ever having taken a course dedicated to understanding light and then calling themselves a photographer.”……..from Deepak Verma


“Hi Michael - thank you for the great course you gave on the Power of Light. It really helped me understand the potential of light in photography, and how to deal with light in the digital age.
   The course was a great motivator to get out and shoot pictures - it really gave me an opportunity to experiment and grow as a photographer, all under your expert guidance.
   It was clear to me that you have great passion for your craft and I found that contagious.  I know it is important to share the experience and expertise in photography that you have, and the passion that you show. There are lots more photographers out there who can benefit from your great POL course.”
from Mike Campbell

CLICK HERE for course description and enrollment information. 

Friday, 20 April 2018

HOW TO MAKE INSPIRED PHOTOGRAPHS

High Park - Spring, Toronto
©Michael O'Brien


Four ways to find good ideas

Good photographs are usually based on good ideas, concepts or viewpoints. The methods we employ to craft these photographs are called techniques. Much is written about technique and too little about concepts. Quite often the ideas find us. Although there's no single way to do this, I'm offering four steps to get started.
Once in motion, a good idea will keep us engaged with our photography. Of all the skills that keep highly creative people producing works, the ability to find inspiration and then act on it ranks very high.


1.) Open yourself to the possibility of creating something 

Something a bit different than you have done in the past; or to go deeper. Acknowledge your desire to do so. Put the intention out there. Read things like the book 'Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain' by Betty Edwards -  it's a classic on the inner workings of the creative process.

2.) Figure out what you love to photograph 

It doesn't have to be forever, but what interests you right now? Is it people, bugs, mountains, or cats? What are you drawn to photograph? Some people say 'everything' - it's worth the effort to reduce that huge list down to a few things. Many aren't sure. That’s okay - just look at earlier photographs you've made or images by others that you like. Is there something that keeps showing up? Ask someone who knows you. Ask an expert to help you see the hidden themes and threads woven through your photographs – this is what my pathfinder sessions are for. 
Some people find writing helps to bring out ideas. You are in the exploratory phase – there is no such thing as a mistake. Start planning, organising, researching, and inspiring yourself. Try looking at images you see in magazines or onlineon sites like 500px. You may say 'I'm drawn to Bali' - then put off working on your idea right now because you have neither time nor money to get to Bali. Remember, you are trying to find something you can work on now, not when you have the right equipment, the planets are in alignment etc. etc. To do that, ask what it is about Bali that draws you. Is it the ocean, the lifestyle, or is it the creative spirit that flourishes there. Is it the fact it is far from your daily grind? Whatever it is try to find those qualities in subjects near to you now so you can start working right away. Start planning, organising, researching, and inspiring yourself with examples of photos you love. Find and study the masters. Some people find movies to be a wellspring of ideas for their still photography – allow yourself to be moved.

3.)  Immerse yourself in your subject

If you are truly called to go to half way around the world to create, then make a plan and get going on it. In the meantime find something close to home that you can work on. Keep using your camera all the time so that, in this instance, you aren’t rusty when you get to Bali. Keep the juices flowing; research books, online resources etc and immerse yourself in your subject. Research possible locations, events, people or landmarks that are a must for you to work on. If traveling, why not try to be more than a tourist? Volunteering to help in your host country deepens the experience and your pictures….all of a sudden, doors open. “At first you carry the idea, then the idea carries you…” Give yourself permission to start and to make whatever it is you’d like to create. Give yourself the green light. Commit to action and keeping moving ahead so you gain momentum. At first you carry the idea, then the idea carries you. If you have to start by making straight imitations of images that inspire you, just do it with passion – don’t worry no one does anything completely original. Just keep making pictures without being too critical of them – do your best. At first, only share the resulting images with people who encourage you to make more photos. No ‘helpful critics’. 

4.)  Display and share your photos

Finally, enjoy the images you've made, print the images, hang them on your walls, make a Blurb or iBook, then share them online with whoever you wish. Now that you are finished go ahead and evaluate the work. Interestingly enough, at this point you may be flooded with many fresh ideas and inspirations – write then down and act on the one’s that feel right to you.





Wednesday, 18 April 2018

BEHIND THE CAMERA: Creative Techniques of 100 Great Photographers: by Paul Lowe

Cast Iron Confessional, Paris
by Eugene Atget
one of the photographers talked about in 'Behind The Camera'


This book by Paul Lowe is a well written, very ambitious project that involves looking at the work of 100 photographers across several genres and periods throughout the history of photography. 

Lowe shows examples of their work to highlight the technical and aesthetic approaches each photographer uses in their creative process. Lowe covers a lot of ground here. His insights and observations into working methods and approaches of each photographer offer valuable teaching moments and demonstrate the real depth of understanding he has of his subjects. 

From looking at the work of the great Nadar to Richard Misrach and Laura Pannack, Paul Lowe has produced a useful reference tool that will inform and inspire students of photography at any level. 




Sunday, 8 April 2018

"ARTISTIC WORK IS SPIRITUAL: A PERSONAL MEDITATION..."

“Artistic work is spiritual; a personal meditation that provides food for the soul of others. Creative work connects us to what is fundamental, enduring, and eternal.”

Carol Eikleberry
author of ‘The Career Guide 

for Creative and Unconventional People’

"I don't think that art comes from art. A lot of artists apparently think so. I think it comes from the awakening person. Awakening is what you might call the spiritual. It is a linkage to something flowing very rapidly through the air, and I can put my finger on it and plug in, so to speak. Do artists need a spiritual way or do they need art? You can say one is the same as the other. Everything tends toward awakening, and I would rather use the word awakening than a word derived from some system - because there are many systems."

quote from Adamu Noguchi


From the HORIZONS portfolio
©Michael G. O'Brien


HORIZONS 

These images of Lake Ontario grew out of the ongoing work that I have done for an Indigenous organization here in Canada. During the time I have spent with this group, I have been fortunate to hear teachings that resonated with me while simultaneously revealing to me a worldview quite different from my own. This worldview was one centered on the primacy of relationships and connections.

The teachings have given me a roadmap that has helped me find a way back to, a return to, the ancient memories of what it meant for me to be a human in relationship with a creation more vast then anything that I could imagine.

In light of this new perspective, making this series of photographs became a process of return - of returning repeatedly to the same place by the Lake so that I could experience deeper levels of meaning, of relationship, of observing the light, water, clouds and the earth that make up the visual and spiritual aspects of the environment.

The Lake took on a new meaning to me, as I now wanted to explore the spiritual essence of the place rather than construct an abstract 'narrative'. It became important for me to work in one place close to home and to sink roots as deeply as possible while immersing my heart and soul into the process. I became-fully engaged. My commitment to showing the subtle and sometimes dramatic changes of the lake organically became a reflection and symbol of my shifting worldview. I want to share with viewers the sensations of seeing nature without, concepts or filters; letting her speak and providing an opportunity for us to connect directly with what is. The series is ongoing.

Saturday, 5 August 2017

F.A.Q. What kind of photography do you do?

Lake Ontario
©Michael G. O'Brien 2017

Some of the most FAQs I get in Toronto are: 

1. What do you do? 
     answer - photographer

2. What kind of photography do you do?  
     answer - that depends

There's many projects going at any given time - often in different genres of photography. Some on the back burner, some on the front. Some that make money, some that might. I love photographing WATER. It's alive, ever-moving, ever-changing. Shorelines are boundaries and edges where two worlds overlap, blend and create a third. Where do humans belong in this?
The photo above is the result of my ongoing exploration of the Lakeshore in Toronto - it's a long term project that's already resulted in a whole series. Click to see series. Thanks for looking. 



Wednesday, 29 March 2017

THE 'ONE PLANET: HARNESSING HOPE' PROJECT: A VIDEO BY IRENE BORINS-ASH







The “One Planet: Harnessing Hope” project contains an exhibit, a thirteen minute stand alone video and a three minute trailer video about the exhibit, all regarding what some multicultural and multi-faith individuals and organizations are doing to help the environmental situation we are all experiencing.

I partnered with the “Faith and the Common Good Greening Sacred Spaces program” in this endeavour. The entire project is educational, inspirational and hopeful providing what many diverse groups are doing in a difficult time.

There will be an exhibit at the Toronto City Hall Rotunda, date TBA with a large launch attended by people that reflect the diversity of Toronto and there will be dignitaries and politicians in attendance. The exhibit is being proposed to be hung at “The Parliament of World Religions” in Toronto, 2018 and there will be around 10,000 people of all faiths there.



Irene Borins Ash


www.ireneborinsash.com

Thursday, 9 February 2017

THE POWER OF DEDICATION TO ELEVATE YOUR PHOTOGRAPHY

Two Worlds
Cowichan Bay, Vancouver Island, B.C.
This image, from near Cowichan Bay, Vancouver Island, was made on a special trip to honour the memory of a dear friend who lived in that community. It reminds me that some of our best work comes when we dedicate it to someone or something else. It can be an entirely internal and personal act, or it can be more public. The choice is ours.

To feel the power of dedication, try this exercise the next time you're a bit stuck or bored with your photography (or anything else) and want to go deeper. Before going out, take a minute to hold your camera and start thinking about to whom or what you might like to dedicate your photos. It can be a friend, a mentor, a hero, a value, or an idea such as 'freedom' or 'joy....it can be your pet. 

Set the intention to dedicate to them the photos from that day, week or month. The results are not always immediate; however, if you stay with this practice for awhile you may be led to make some of your deepest, most heart-felt work.

Friday, 20 January 2017

WHY PHOTOGRAPHING WHAT YOU LOVE IS SO IMPORTANT

Click here to see more of the 'CLOUDS' series by Michael O'Brien


Click here to go to the January 2016 Edition of my monthly Newsletter where you can download your free copy of 'The Creative Gift' desktop/screensaver or read about recent findings that illustrate the importance of personal work for our growth as photographers; I got goosebumps reading this research which shows that what we knew all along in our guts is true;  acting on what we are deeply interested in and curious about is really important.

Friday, 13 January 2017

Albert Camus’s Beautiful Letter of Gratitude to His Childhood Teacher After Winning the Nobel Prize

Click here to read article

To my friend Maria Vamvalis​ -  thanks for posting this article about gratitude and the value of true mentorship. Albert Camus was a hero of mine during high school.....I read everything of his that I could get my hands on. Please follow the link for it contains the letter Camus wrote to his childhood mentor and read while accepting the Nobel Prize for Literature. The compelling letter, and feeling behind it, show why Camus was a guiding light to many, during and after WW2. It also shows why he won the Nobel Prize.

Like so many others, I could relate to Camus' story -as a child my father was absent and I also had a mentor/teacher (he was our next door neighbour) that shone a light into the dark parts of my childhood, thereby saving me - his name is George Bays Wilson. I am forever grateful to him for taking me under his wing; grateful for his adventurous, generous spirit and for sharing with me his love of nature. But more than anything I thank George, for believing in me and for showing me what a real man looks like.



Thursday, 29 December 2016

FINDING GOOD IDEAS



Habana, Cuba

Good ideas, set in motion, keep us engaged with our photography. It’s now known that of all the skills that keep highly creative people going, the ability to find inspiration, and then act on it, ranks very high. Here are some tips that may help.

"Put the intention out there"

1.) Open yourself to the possibility of creating something a bit different than you have done in the past; or to go deeper. Acknowledge your desire to do so. Put the intention out there.


2.) Next identify what you’re are attracted to. It doesn't have to be forever....what interests you right now? Is it people, bugs, mountains, or cats?
 What are you drawn to photograph? Some people say 'everything' and while that's possible it's not helpful to the cause. Many aren't sure. That’s ok - just look at earlier photographs you've made or images by others that you like. Is there something that keeps showing up? Ask someone who knows you. Look for the hidden themes in your work – some people find writing about them helps. You are in the exploratory phase – there is no such thing as a mistake.

“Start planning, organizing, researching, and inspiring yourself”

Try looking at images you see in magazines. You may say 'I'm drawn to Bali' - then put off working on your idea right now because you have neither time nor money to get to Bali. Remember, you are trying to find something you can work on now, not when you have the right equipment, the planets are in alignment etc. etc. To do that ask what it is about Bali that draws you. Is it the ocean, the lifestyle, or is it the creative spirit that flourishes there. Is it the fact it is far you’re your daily grind? Whatever it is try to find those qualities in subjects near to you now so you can start working right away. Start planning, organizing, researching, and inspiring yourself with examples of photos you love. Find and study the masters. Some people find movies to be a wellspring of ideas for their still photography – allow yourself to be moved….cont.

“Immerse yourself in your subject”

If you are truly called to go to half way around the world, make a plan, then get going on it. In the meantime find something close to home that you can work on. Keep using your camera all the time so that, in this instance, you aren’t rusty when you get to Bali. Keep the juices flowing; research books, online resources etc and immerse yourself in your subject. Research possible locations, events, people or landmarks that are a must for you to work on. If traveling, why not try to be more than a tourist? Volunteering to help in your host country deepens the experience and your pictures….all of a sudden, doors open.

“At first you carry the idea, then the idea carries you…”

3.) Give yourself permission to start and to make whatever it is you’d like to create. Give yourself the green light. Commit to action and keeping moving ahead so you gain momentum. At first you carry the idea, then the idea carries you. If you have to start by making straight imitations of images that inspire you, just do it with passion – don’t worry no one does anything completely original. Just keep making pictures without being too critical of them – do your best. At first, only share the resulting images with people who encourage you to make more photos. No ‘helpful critics’.

“..at this point you may be flooded with many fresh ideas”

4.) Finally, enjoy the images you've made, print the images, hang them on your walls, make a Blurb or iBook, then share them online with whomever you wish. Now that you are finished go ahead and evaluate the work. Interestingly enough, at this point you may be flooded with many fresh ideas and inspirations – write then down and act on the one’s that feel right to you.





©Michael G. O'Brien 2014