January 19, 2021

Seeing with the Eyes of the Heart: Contemplative Photography (5)

Spring Morning Farm

Seeing with the Eyes of the Heart
Contemplative Photography, part five

We return to our occasional consideration of the insights of Christine Valters Paintner, author of Eyes of the Heart: Photography as a Christian Contemplative Practice. Paintner helps us learn how photography can become a contemplative practice, allowing us to “see” in different ways.

Today, and the picture I’ve put at the top of the post illustrates this, we consider the concept visual discernment, which comes to life through the practice of framing.

Contemplating the act of framing in photography can help illuminate the ways we need to frame our own lives, in terms of both the stories we tell and the ways we spend our energy. Paying attention to the decisions we make with each photograph can illuminate our own interior process of listening and making space. When I am receiving photos, am I so eager to “capture” everything around me that I miss being fully present in the moment? Or are there moments when I remember that this is a practice of saying both yes and no, of not “taking” everything around me but waiting to receive, to see what feels right and true.

p. 61

Here are some photos from a recent foggy morning in the country where I live. I doubt I’ve ever felt — as I did on that morning — that so much was “given” to me in terms of framed images to receive, along with an amazing light that illuminated everything at which I pointed my camera. And all within a few short miles from home!

One of my favorite images here is “Almost Home.” As I was getting ready to drive out of a little village near me into farmland, I noticed that the sun was highlighting a farm in the distance through the canopy of trees over the bridge in front of me. A glorious destination emerged, just a short distance away. A short span lay between me and glory. Almost home.

Click on each picture for a larger image.


  1. Christiane says

    so beautiful

    thank you!

  2. Rick Ro. says

    Breathtaking, CM. Every single one of them.

  3. senecagriggs says

    In third grade art, I had my first inkling that there was an artistic eye and that I, sadly, did not have it. The artist sees something that I cannot. Amazing photos there C.M.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says

      I spent less than a week in High-School Art class. First assignment was to cut random shapes from construction paper . . . I was told I was doing it wrong. I dropped the class; no way I was putting up a semester of that. Took two math classes simultaneously that year – which was beautiful.

    • Heather Angus says

      Yes, my mom taught art and loved to paint. When I was in fifth grade, the teacher picked up one of my (attempted) drawings and held it up in front of the class, and said, “Look at this! Can you believe this girl’s mother is an *art* teacher?”

      • Robert F says

        Can you believe that person thought he or she was a teacher? Well, I guess they were right, because they did teach you something: to be discouraged about your art. They did you a terrible misdeed.

    • Christiane says

      Hi Senecagriggs,
      at least you knew that you had seen something special . . . . and for art to work, there must be eyes to see it and be touched by what they see

      we all have something in us to share that is unique . . . . may we all discover those gifts in time so they are not lost to the world that needs them 🙂

  4. Adam Tauno Williams says

    Early morning is the best part of the day.

    • David H says

      I’ve always been more of a sunset than sunrise person. Neither my mind or body is in a proper state to appreciate the early morning.

  5. These are lovely, especially the old barns. Thank you.

  6. brianthegrandad says

    Old abandoned barns… I used to explore them as a kid. they were always full of treasures of one sort or another, an old saddle, some old bottles or insulators. One thing I’ve noticed. No one tears down a barn. It seems barns are left to slowly surrender to the elements, holding out to the end, before they finally collapse under their own weight and declining strength.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says

      > I used to explore them as a kid

      Same here.

      > No one tears down a barn.

      They are falling fast these days – that wood and timber is worth a fortune!

      “reclaimed” materials are all the rage. I am stashing what I can get my hands on for my next build – – – you can charge more $$$/mo if you can drop “reclaimed” in there. And, legitimately, it does have way more character than drywall and Formica; too many modern apartments are indistinguishable from the waiting room of a suburban dentist’s office – who wants to live in a dentist’s office?

    • Rick Ro. says

      Lord, breathe life into these barns.

    • Christiane says
  7. john barry says

    CM, Spring Morning Barn is worth a thousand words. I love to travel though America and see the beauty in this great land, beauty we overlook that your picture expose but thankfully do not over expose as overexposure is not good.

    I still carry a small little Canon pocket camera , do not use smart phone for photos and most people react like I am using a Polaroid Land Camera or I am Matthew Brady using a tin type.

    I find the pictures relaxing and will perhaps make me more aware of the inherent beauty of many things if framed and appreciated properly. Beauty is in the eye of the camera holder.

  8. StuartB says

    I need more fog and greenery in my life. Beautiful.

    I think my calling in life is to live in the hills of Ireland.

  9. I grew up in rural Georgia. Now, being a cityslicker, when I see those pictures I think of how quiet they look. If that makes sense.

  10. Chaplin Mike, in the past I have used many of your photos as screensavers. You certainly have a great artistic eye. I especially loved going home. Maybe it’s my age but going home has been on my mind a lot lately. Thanks again for sharing these with us.

  11. Heather Angus says

    Beautiful pictures, CM, and Almost Home is pretty much my favorite too. And I love old barns.

  12. Radagast says

    Photos of quiet… nothing like standing out early morning in the mist with quietness enveloping the landscape… and yet not so quiet as the birds are echoing through the mist…. this is what I feel these pictures capture – beautiful.

    But did you all notice all the dandelions? Looks like a commercial for Scott’s Weed and Feed…..

    • We’ve had a record crop of dandelions this year! Purdue put out a paper saying dandelions support the bee population, and we all decided to go pro bee!

      • David Cornwell says

        The fields behind the sub division where we now live have a very beautiful field of dandelions. Early in the morning, with the right light, and a good sky, the photographic possibilities are very inviting. Early morning fog, a tripod, and a long exposure….

        • Christiane says

          fresh dandelion greens with clabbered goat’s milk . . . . . a great seasonal favorite of my Canadian grandfather, of blessed memory

          . . . . it tastes awful but it’s extremely good for you 🙂

  13. David Cornwell says

    Wonderful post today. I love the element of fog in photographs. I remember the first poem I was ever asked to write in high school involved fog.

    I’ve recently been limited in my chance to get out an seek new photographs but each spring the desire returns intensely. But even when I cannot get out and take new photos, I avail myself the opportunity of returning to the digital darkroom and working on hundreds of unprocessed images. Or of finding a new vision in older ones.

    There is one place near home I love to go to. Few people are around. And one thousand acres invite me to enter and get a little taste of Eden. I can listen, observe, and receive invitation to a close up of all manner of nature.

    Two years ago, in the fall season, I went to my home state of West Virginia and spent time in the New River Gorge and the high hills and old mountains that close in on it. I had mapped out a place to go in early morning. The road was narrow, with steep rocky embankment on one side and quick drop off on the other. However there were no cars other than me. This wasn’t a tourist spot. Women in summer shorts and towing designer dogs wouldn’t be comfortable with a quick walk from the car, a glancing look, then back to the car. Men doing their working vacation on a cell phone would be distracted by undignified mountain dirt sticking to their shoes.

    So I was just as happy without them, or anyone else at all. But walking upgrade on this road filled me with a sense of awe that I had not felt as deeply for some time. I rejoiced in the air, the trees, wildlife, and color. I breathed deeply while giving thanks to God.

    I had no fear that I’d have problems finding photos to take. My fear was that I’d have little time to take in the whole. I walked a path to a high cliff. And over that natural outlook and far down into the gorge was the railroad and an old village built by coal miners and the companies that hired them. The mines were closed. The village remnant was a showplace rather than a working town.

    I took my time. First I just stood and observed, taking it in, absorbing. And then for the asking the images appeared. Framing presented itself. I clicked a possible photo and thanked God for the awesome beauty I wanted to remember and preserve.

  14. Robert F says

    the mist that burns
    so quickly off the fields
    endures in the heart

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