Category Archives: The Zen Mind and Photography


High grass

For some time now I could not find a comfortable walking groove with a large camera and lens. I am 64 and hauling a large camera and a bag of lenses is no longer an easy task. I find that the less I carry the more photos I usually take. More important to me is what happens to my “head space” or state of mind when I carry a camera and keep it simple. When I have my camera at my side I feel differently because the camera triggers my visual attention and diverts my attention to all the other issues that roll around in my head. When I am taking photographs of a subject I become totally engrossed.

I recently purchased the Fuji X-E1. It takes great images and has some functions that my Nikon D7000 does not have. To be fair the D7000 has a few functions the X-E1 does not. To me it is very important to imbed in the metadata of my © and contact information. The Nikon does but the Fuji does not. I do like the images and the simplicity of the Fuji. I am comfortable with having it by my side so I tend to carry it more often. The X-E1 has become part of who I am and is part of my walking meditation or dare I say… prayer. I have finally learned the freedom when I keep it as simple as I can. I’ve heard this before from the old pros but never did really understand it. If you carry a camera often you will usually find one camera and lens that fits your needs and that is what you will most often. Many of us have more bodies, lenses, flashes, filters, bags and other “stuff” at home or in the car.

Some photographers say that if you have a 50mm lens you can always walk closer to the subject rather than carry a 70-200 2.8 and “reach out”. No matter how close you get a 50mm looks different than a 70-200 2.8. They are expressing what is “less is more” for them and the photographs they enjoy making. What is less is more for them and less is more for you may be different. With a 50mm there is the issue of getting in close proximity to the subject and perhaps making them self conscious or even rattling their cage in the process. Second is the issue that the moment you are trying to capture may be gone by the time you walk 60 feet. I love my 70-200 2.8 and I like my 50mm but my knees and wrists don’t enjoy the weight of the big lens. If your in the process of picking a camera, you might want to consider renting the cameras and lenses for a few weeks and work with them. You may be able to do both with a small professional photography store that knows the products. If they are selling and renting to the working professionals they have the great advantage of daily feedback from the pros. I have found Jeff Hirsch and the professionals at Fotocare in NYC to be very helpful and that’s who I buy from. I don’t get any commission from Fotocare but I thank Jeff for keeping me on the right track.

Hope this helps. I’m going for a walk.


A wise photographer told me  “when you can’t seem to find the photo. . . turn around or come in from a different angle”   Where is the light in reference to the subject.  Here is an example. During a cruse to the Caribbean last month I thought that great photographs would be easy picking.  This was not the case for me.  90% of what I came up with was what I call postcards.  It was not that these postcard photos were bad.  But they were not ka-pow either.   One afternoon I got out of the depressing downtown of cruise ship ports and out in the countryside. I came across a lady selling shells and tie die dresses.  The color of the dresses grabbed my eye and I began taking photos of the dresses hanging on the line.  The vendor lady began screaming at me “no photos”  I figured that she wanted some money for me to take photos of the dresses.   If she asked nicely I would have been happy to pay her.  But the screaming didn’t help my mood. I walked behind the dresses where she could not see me.   I managed to get off a few shots before she saw me and started up again.  

Barbados-tie-dye-dress-Al_Stegmeyer_AirFreeportJanuary 12, 2013


Cowboy Rancher with flowers

Making a good photo that tells a story usually takes some thought.  It is rare to pull your camera up and go snap, snap and have a unique photograph.   This business of pulling the camera up fast and blasting the motor drive is probably productive for a sports photographer, a war photographer or any photographer who only has a fleeting moment to capture a shot. Many times creating a good photo takes some thought and is more of a zen approach than the gunslinger approach.

The photograph of the cowboy with flowers for his better half can be photographed in a number of different ways.   You can go in from the front as a portrait or the back emphasizing the flowers behind his back or from above.  I could probably give you a lot of reasons why I like this perspective the best.  Most of all the photo is unique.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen it done this way.  There just happened to be an air duct above the door going to the second floor of the house.  A swiss army knife and a 60mm lens stuck down the vent just managed to get it done. . . at least for me.



Florida Sunset with Palm Tree

Palm Tree at Sunset

Palm Frond through a screen door

Palm Frond through a screen door

Palm Frond Close up grainy look

Palm Frond Grainy


Palm Tree Shadow on Old Metal Wall

Palm Tree Shadow on Old Metal Wall

Palmetto Frond

Palmetto frond

Jay Maisel tells a story about working on a photograph in front of him only to have his wife suggesting he turn around.   There was a far better photograph behind him.  The point of this is becoming aware of what is in front, behind, up and down, under and over.   Where IS the photographic viewpoint that is special to you.  Just pulling your camera up fast and blasting away is not exactly Zen vision.   My photographs of Florida palm trees were taken over time.   Each photograph provides a different viewpoint.   The quality of light has a lot to do with perspective and feel.



One of our greatest living photographers, Jay Maisel, speaks often about “going out empty.”  Jay carries a camera all the time as does Arthur Meyerson and Seth Resnick.  I can’t remember ever seeing any of teem without one.  Each of these guys give wonderful talks and awesome workshops.   Jay always hammers home the importance of going out empty.   Some days it can be raining so hard that you can’t go out.  If you’re empty you can see the truck through the wet window.