Essence Photography by Don Mendenhall: Blog en-us (C) Essence Photography by Don Mendenhall (Essence Photography by Don Mendenhall) Tue, 12 Jun 2018 13:28:00 GMT Tue, 12 Jun 2018 13:28:00 GMT Essence Photography by Don Mendenhall: Blog 120 96 Light and Shadow Light and Shadow

I once wrote, “If you deny the shadow in life, you are only living one-half of your life.” I find photography or any art medium subject to this same insight. The play of light and shadow, their discourse so to speak, is critical to communicating thought, emotion, and/or story. In the book ‘Reverence’, Paul Woodruff wrote, “We know where light is coming from by looking at the shadows.”

What is prompting the shadows in our personal, spiritual, social/political, and physical lives? And, then we may ask, where is the light coming from? Light is always there, but from what source? Are shadow and light on speaking terms? I believe that the photographic magic of masters like Adams, Cunningham, Brandt, and Weston was found in how they made sure that light and shadow played well together.

Today the dark times of our economic, social, spiritual, and political lives may not in be any direr than other times in history. However, one must ask is the play of light and shadow working well? Polarizations are separating communities in strained and sometimes dangerous ways.  With these thoughts in mind, is this a time in which photographers and other artists could take advantage of how the light and shadow life today can be visualized?

For example, a new photograph of mine would communicate clearly a growing fear of how light (in the form of hopefulness) is being suppressed by shadowy ideologies? Is there a subject, approach, or style that would communicate this growing sense of fear? What kind and level of light would come through if any and, from what source?

I know one thing for sure, the photograph (if successful) would share a deep foreboding. The shadows, more than likely, would dominate. And, they would capture how I sometimes feel lately, overpowered and lost as to what one can do to bring more light into being.

On the other hand, I might take the path of this adage, “It is always darkest before the dawn.” With this more positive outlook the photograph would have light clearly prevalent and even diffusing the blacks and shadows.

One of the reasons I so like doing what is called light painting is that I practice bringing light into a completely dark situation. I feel the responsibility of applying just the right amount of light in manifesting at least one positive aspect or character of the subject. To at least bring enough and the right kind of light into illumination even though the negative space darkness persists.

On a personal level, what frames your life? Is it a frame of fear and foreboding? Or, is it held by a frame of some position or way of being in life? Can it be filled with just the right amount of light to illuminate one’s most noble self? What kind of frame holds your life and can it be changed to allow the best light in?

]]> (Essence Photography by Don Mendenhall) communicate fear hopefulness life light photography play of light shadow Tue, 12 Jun 2018 13:11:05 GMT
Second Language Second Language

Master photographer Paul Strand October 16, 1890 – March 31, 1976, chose to go to France in exile because of the anti-socialist McCarthyism in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s. This was due to his socialist orientations that appeared unaccepted at that time. Living in France without begin able to speak French caused him to use his photography to speak…to communicate.

For several years now, I too have been using photography as a second language. I have noticed that when I embrace this way of communicating while in the process of subject capture, the results are significantly different from those captured with other perspectives and approaches. I even feel the difference internally. The interest, energy, passion, for the work is so much stronger. The internal feelings and external results are maintainable throughout the total workflow from vision to presentation.

The main thing I have always wanted to communicate to and with others is to encourage civility and a sense of calm in this sometimes harmful and noisy world. Many times, amid offering my work in art shows people come into my booth saying, “We just came back to calm down.” This is said without any need for me to say even one spoken word.

Capture with me for a moment. What if we were to try to communicate photographically the meaning of love, hate, passion, apathy, confidence, fear, happiness or sadness? How would we capture and thus communicate the very essence of who we are as an individual? I have noticed as well that when I am overly preoccupied with other life issues, the photographs I make seem to  image that preoccupation. Maybe even the subject of my preoccupation! I feel it is true that no matter what image is made by the photographer, it is a tell, it is divulging a self-truth.

When it comes to photographic approaches, technical manipulations, subject matter choices or the metaphysics of imaging or making art, I believe those aspects to be only my personal dialect of my second language.

I now answer the question, “do you speak a second language,” by saying yes. My second language is photographic art.

The next time you go about your workflow pretend whole-heartily to be unable to speak or write. Tell somebody something through your photographic language.  See if you notice a difference in how you feel and see?

]]> (Essence Photography by Don Mendenhall) communicate essence language photographic communication photography second self-truth Thu, 01 Mar 2018 21:37:48 GMT
Alpha State and Creative Art ALPHA STATE AND CREATIVE ART


Currently, I am working with a wonderful group of photographers who are desiring to explore what it means to create a masterwork. Though there are many definitions of masterwork or masterpiece, we are trying to determine if one of those definitions can be applied to our own workflow in creating a photographic image. Two definitions I would like to use in this blog are:

In paraphrasing another way of describing a masterwork;

  • Once you have seen a masterwork, you will never forget it.

Both definitions resonate well with the word and meaning of authenticity. Basically, I question whether an artist’s masterwork could be a masterwork without being authentic to his/her unique vision and workflow. For example, I have admired Edward Weston’s pepper image ever since I first saw it many years ago. I have even attempted to make such a photograph myself. I would have to say that yes, it is a work I have never forgotten; and yes, it is perhaps a masterwork of Weston’s. Yet, no matter how well made my reminiscent ‘pepper’ is, it can never be a masterwork of mine. It was not my vision.

Now the question becomes, is it possible for me make a photograph that is truly authentic, and made with a unique workflow, then be seen and experienced as something unforgettable?

For many years, I have been interested in and experienced the effect ‘alpha state’ images (visions) have had on my artist within or my way of seeing. An alpha state is that half awake and half asleep awareness that can be experienced going into or coming out of sleep. It can also be brought about through a wide variety of meditation practices.

When I am in a more alpha state of awareness the most beautiful, and what I believe to be most authentic, images present themselves. They appear undirected by my conscience mind; they just appear, as it would seem, on their own. They are not reminiscent of any artwork that I can recall.

I believe, or, at least, I am considering, that if I have a good chance of creating a masterwork under any definition, it may well have to come from this alpha state resource. Even though I cannot know from where or if these images have an ‘outside’ influence, they do appear as the purest form of authenticity that I have to offer.

Now comes the concern of how a workflow, coming from my conscience and awake mind, honors the perceived authentic nature of the alpha state vision. The faces, lines, macro-level detail, moody light, and 3D shapes are so varied. They almost insist on their own unique photographic capture and post-process workflow. The razor-sharp lines and intimate fractal design workflows are counter to what is needed for the faces and shapes that are more pictorial in presentation.

I do not have an adequate answer to this concern. I do believe that learning and experiencing more about how an alpha state awareness affects the creation of art has high merit.  For this artist quest, I feel a certain excitement.

]]> (Essence Photography by Don Mendenhall) alpha state artist within authenticity creativity masterpiece masterwork photographic art photography salon workflow Fri, 24 Mar 2017 15:08:44 GMT
Veil of Unknowing There are times in which I experience an artist's block. Is my signature style still resonating with what I want to communicate? Do I listen too intently to what others say about my work? Am I truly creative in making a photograph, or, am I merely taking or capturing something that appeals to me at a particular moment in time?

As I was going through some earlier writings of mine, I came across this prose from 21 years ago! What interested me about this writing was the word veil. Veils tend to allow only a partial vision. We are not quite sure what is being felt, seen, heard, or touched.

When I am making a photograph I at times wonder the same thing. What am I actually seeing and how much remains hidden or unknown? How this veil or barrier can be lifted? 

The following is one perspective about veils as they affect our creative work and in many cases certain aspects of our lives.


Can the veil between what is known and unknown be lifted to truly see the other?

After all, it is only a veil made by we who insist on being apart from the other side.

Perhaps it is the artist who has felt the veil's rending, if only for a moment's moment.

The artist continues the 'genesis' not through selfish design but by illustrating dreams unfolding.

There is no act more noble. It is a partnership with that of the highest order. 

Feel, see, listen, dream, perform O' artist of creative passion, yours is the flower of all humanity.


Adapted from March 14, 1995

]]> (Essence Photography by Don Mendenhall) Veil artist creative noble photograph Mon, 07 Nov 2016 15:59:41 GMT
Listening The more I use all of my senses, the better I feel about the captures I make. Listening is one of those senses that bring an additional perspective and way of seeing. It can lead to positive change within one's personhood as well.


Listen, listen closely.

Only the silence will bring forth

                ribbons of aliveness the past affirms.

Our ears still hear the faintest

                of cries for help.

Works of love and empathy

                Survive yet another moment.

Look quickly now,

                to the conforming shapes and lines

                that blur in the now

                of shadow and light.

Touch the harsh texture of

                risk and feel the sinking flow

                of anxiety that greets perseverance.

These are the hallways of transition

                and the doorways to transformation.

Sense the rhythms of

                community flowing through

over and around that which blocks

Let the music of civil living

                guide the way.

Listen yet again, be very still and

                hear the gentle and persistent hum

                of energy not yet lost.

Experience the diversity of a people

                and experience the common likeness!

It is the symphony of possibility,

                an instrument of peace and hope.

Out of the test come

                the authentic call, touching the world.

From the moments of loving empathy

                come openness and acceptance, touching the heart.







]]> (Essence Photography by Don Mendenhall) caring civility community transformation Thu, 06 Oct 2016 12:16:17 GMT
Chair Simply Sat A chair simply sat

empty of thought or action

fall heartbeat slowing

]]> (Essence Photography by Don Mendenhall) Fri, 01 Apr 2016 14:37:10 GMT

One single melting

stolen moment of mid-pause

new consequences.


This is a contemplative pause entertaining a pathway known to me but not yet intentionally or fully explored. It is a pathway that I believe may well connect to my ‘artist within’.  Or rather the essence of what I am to ‘be about’ in communicating via the photographic arts.

It is the rediscovering of haiku and haiga, early forms of Japanese poetry and art.  I am finding that they are re-energizing my search for the what and how I want to communicate whatever wisdom I can share.

As I look back over my way of speaking and photographing, I see there is a pattern in both that tends to use limited words and images. Haiku and haiga use similar brevity patterns. In haiku every word is significant and integral; in haiga every line, texture and shape is integral. In addition, and as in these ancient forms, I have also tried to include the five senses of hearing, tasting, touching, smelling, and seeing while keeping the essence of the subject authentic and simple to its basic form.

To test if there is a compatibility between these ancient Japanese art forms and my current way of seeing photographically, I chose several photographs and made a novice effort to write what I feel to be some form of haiku. In this effort, I found that at first blush the words came easily, perhaps too easily. Yes, they all had 17 syllables and using the common 5-7-5 formula. (I have come to find out that both of these ‘rules’ are not absolutely necessary.) Though haiku, especially when it first became a known form, was to be solely related to nature, my photographs and words were not based on nature. Again, not necessary in this modern day.

So what is the point?

I often speak about signature style and prompt other photographers to at least explore what that looks like for them. I do this knowing that their search may never reach a conclusion. Just read about other ‘master’ artists and become aware of all the ‘phases’ or styles through which they worked. The best way I know of determining if one is on track toward discovering a so-called signature style is by sensing a resonance with a perceived or experienced approach. This resonance, a tone or timbre within, feels like a very positive wake-up or aliveness that directly relates to something that has made itself present in one’s life. When I connected a few of my photographs with my own form of haiku poetry it did feel like a powerful resonance. The search for a signature style suddenly became connected to the what and how I want to communicate with the world at large rather than, what style of photography do I want to exhibit, sell and/or publish.

Perhaps the next step is to begin to de-clutter my photography files by reviewing their affinity with these ancient forms of haiku and haiga. This may be the best way to further test the ‘resonance’ I am feeling and the pathway it appears to announce.

]]> (Essence Photography by Don Mendenhall) Thu, 10 Mar 2016 17:06:27 GMT
Teaching and Creative Tension

Teaching and Creative Tension

Out of all of the careers I have experienced, life-long, the most rewarding is that of teaching. This is especially true about the time I taught, mentored, or coached the photographic arts.

I recently had the pleasure of working with a number of photographers one to one in addition to teaching two classes, one on black and white landscape and one on seeing in black and white. For those of you who have taught, you know that teaching is one of the best ways to learn and grow in one’s own work. Here are just a few of the insights gained from these experiences:

•    Becoming aware that photographers are truly open, even somewhat vulnerable, to expanding their photographic voice.

•    Being prompted to further explore aspects of one’s own photograph making that may have been left dormant for a while.

•    Realizing how important it is to be aware of the difference between ‘taking’ and photograph and ‘making’ a photograph. There is also the felt distinction between the attitude of ‘shooting’ a subject and the ‘momentary capture’ of the subject’s essence.

•    Being cognizant of cross-over learning moments that could be shared between the student and teacher. This realization is essential for mutual respect and openness in the learning environment.

This leads me to encourage us all, who have a certain measure of confidence in the photographic endeavor, to find ways of not only sharing learnings by presenting our work but experiencing formal/informal conversations with others.

One aspect of being in conversation about photography or any other art medium is the tendency to fall into critiquing whether it is desired by the other person or not. In order to keep the critiquing mutual and helpful is important to be clear about the type or level of critique needed by the photographer who is sharing their work. There is a fine line between being ‘fully’ honest and perhaps hurtful, and being honest in a more ‘limited’ way unless a more ‘detailed’ critique is requested. Teaching or mentoring when a critique is expected does require a finesse and awareness of what is supportive and helpful and what is hurtful when there is not a fully disclosed readiness on the part of the one being taught or mentored.

It is in the interplay of these teaching exchanges that makes a wonderful opportunity possible for a creative experience even when there are times in which the conversation becomes tension filled, creative tension so to speak. My encouragement is, for all who feel confident readiness, to share what you have learned with others. You are going to like it!

]]> (Essence Photography by Don Mendenhall) Critique Photography Teaching authenticity capture classes coach creativity mentor moment teach Wed, 09 Mar 2016 18:24:49 GMT


Naming my art work Essence Photography was and is important for me to do. It had a direct affect upon developing a signature style before I knew what having a unique style meant. The naming insists that everything I do from capture to presentation communicates the essence of form and how it receives play of light.

Perhaps the most critical moment of essence awareness is during the time of photographic capture. I like George DeWolfe’s understanding of the capture time when he says “feel, see, click”. I believe that my very best captures, even when I first photographed years ago, were those that I remembered to ‘feel’ first. To feel utilizes all of one’s senses, taste, smell, see, hear, and touch. And of course and not least of all, intuition.

For example, if one were to photograph a glass of wine, the question becomes; what is the essence of this particular setting of wine? To discover its essence, why not touch the glass, smell the aroma, taste the depth, see its color, or hear the sound of the pour before any composition/technical considerations are made?

What does it feel like…

…to hear a bottle of wine’s contents being poured into a glass?"

…to see the unique color of a particular type of wine?

…to touch and sense the shape of the wine glass?

…to first smell the wine’s aroma?

…to then taste the wine and discover in one sip its heritage? 

One of the definitions of essence is the word ‘lasting’. In photographing the subject of wine one might determine which of its characteristics has the most lasting quality? What intuitive sense speaks to you about what quality brings forth a ‘significant moment’ or ‘form presence’ that will last and last and last.  The more compositional work and technical steps can then be engaged.

All of this is intimately linked to relationship building with those moments and subject forms that reminds us of the phrase, “…love at first sight.”  Is it not the essence of one person immediately recognizing the essence of another with an emotional affinity quite similar to how an artist might connect with a subject or object? For me, this ‘essence’ relationship allows a photograph to be seen as a  work of art. Art is a love affair between the artist within and the essence of another identity.



]]> (Essence Photography by Don Mendenhall) Essence Essence Photography affinity emotional feel, see, click five senses signature style Sun, 10 Aug 2014 17:52:20 GMT
Mastery Out of the Thin Place

Mastery Out of The Thin Place

Just to say that I want to become a master photographer is difficult. It feels almost disingenuous because how does one really know if one has all that it may take?

Steven Pressfield, in his book "The War of Art", along with Robert McKee, who wrote its introduction, speak about the powerful roles 'resistance' and its companion 'fear' play in our efforts to live creative lives. And, while resistance and fear are very much a part of the everyday human condition, the question becomes to what extent they affect creativity, which to me is the primary pathway to mastery.

McKee agrees with Pressfield that it is in the day-by-day, step-by-step actions of preparing, ordering, and being patient, while facing fears and failures, that will lead the talented toward mastery.

Making the bold assumption that I do have ‘what it takes’, what is it that keeps me from demonstrating signs of this eventual mastery?

Here are my questions of self.

Resistance: What prevents me from fully opening an authentic channel to mastery?

Fear: Why do I fear becoming over involved in a work that shows signs of high merit because I question my ability to maintain the creative energy required and thus, potentially fail?

Day-by Day: Why do I often work in intense spurts rather than a steady day-by-day approach?

Step-by-Step: Why is my workflow inconsistent?

Preparation: Why do I tend to often work haphazardly?

Order: Why is my work environment not well ordered?

Patience: Why is it that when a project's workflow seems to be dead-ending I rush to finish rather than find a way toward qualifying?

As I write this blog I am looking at two photographs I recently made. One is what could describe as a competent work but I have no desire or passion to ever make another like it again. The second photograph is one that inspires me in extraordinary ways every time I look at it. In other words, I feel I could make photographs like this day-by-day, step-by-step in preparing, ordering, and enjoying the patience required. When I see this photograph my resistances and fears melt away.

Then there is this concept of 'thin place', where there is an awareness of a place the spiritual and cognitive worlds touch. Or, it may be where authenticity and in-authenticity meet. Perhaps it is within this very thin place we are able to know our authentic self. Is embracing the thin place part of mastery? An Apache proverb states, "Wisdom sits in places."

There is so much in the larger universal context that is ‘thinly’ separated by something like a membrane. This mysterious line of separation involves almost everything from the smallest cell structure to multiple universes touching each other without inter-awareness. And, can it also be what separates the master photographer within from a current way of approaching artful work? And, if it is so thin, why is it so difficult to employ? Is it because this thin membrane is opaque in nature not allowing shapes, shadows, or lines of consequence to be clearly seen, understood, or trusted...thus feared.

Is it fear and resistance that prevent me from living through this thin place where mastery may reside and is it worth the effort to engage? Most assuredly yes! I do have an intuitive sense that when one lives out the authentic self, braving its true vocation, and communicating well with the essence of who we are and relating honestly with the outer world; aliveness in mind, spirit, and body become more and more our way of living and acting. I wonder if this 'thin place' is to be made known in the feelings and understanding that come while comparing photographs that encourage with those that deplete the resolve to become a master. The thin place step-by-step, day-by-day, day-by-day, day-by-day!

]]> (Essence Photography by Don Mendenhall) (thin Photographer authenticity creativity mastery place) Sun, 15 Jun 2014 15:15:18 GMT
Prose and Photography

Prose and Photography

The freedom to express, communicate, learn, and be in a relationship with our surroundings is so very critical for the well-being of our human nature and condition. To be and feel isolated from letting others know a bit about who we are and what we seem to be learning is but a step or two away from living out a sense of oblivion. This may be especially true even when we have trouble knowing or communicating with ourselves.

Why do photographers and other artists create? Out of a long list of whys, I would place (whether self-acknowledged or not) communication as number one. When setting internal goals or naming insights the likelihood of actualizing a result is severely limited if one keeps it all to oneself. As the number of people with whom the information is shared increases, the chances of follow-through with a good result also increases.

The question of who is our audience is a vital key for how we approach our artistic work. It may well be that a work is for only one person; the self. As with this blog perhaps I am writing more to myself than to anyone else. However, it is my hope that these thoughts have enough merit to at least be a prompter for additional thinking and revision for you the reader.

After a three-year pause in writing and photographing a book on pause; I became more aware that though I am a photographer; I find that photographs are not always able to communicate all of what I have to share. In this new project, Pause: Embracing the Hesitations in Life (Blurb Bookstore, I wrote as if I were being asked what story a particular photograph, related to these hesitations, was trying to tell. In this way an effort was made to be a storyteller of personal other words, to communicate.

When I do place prose with my photographs, my orientation is to have both mediums weighted equally for impact. It is important to encourage alignments among the writer/photographer, reader/viewer and the word/photograph. After writing the prose and feeling a sense of integrity with those words, it did take a while to feel as comfortable with the photographs.

May I invite you to choose one of your more meaningful photographs and write 1-3 paragraphs that enhance your communication with self and others?

]]> (Essence Photography by Don Mendenhall) Communicate Embracing Integrity Pause Prose Sat, 08 Mar 2014 17:30:00 GMT
With Whom Am I Communicating?

With Whom Am, I Communicating?

So many times I have heard myself say; "No, I am not a landscape or nature photographer." Instead, I seem to use words like fine art, abstract, close-up, still life, or even metaphor. I follow these responses by stating that my style is contemplative. Then why is it that I am still making photographs of trees and water bodies with a landscape format?

The closest I can come to an answer is that I find significant metaphors, as do so many other artists, connecting nature with the human condition. For me, one of the best subject for this type of photography is a river. Rivers have been and continue to be strong thematic in song and prose. They have been visualized in stories carved, scratched, or painted upon the walls prehistoric caves, illustrated in ancient manuscripts, and now digitized for the Internet.

Rivers align with the flow and journey of life:

The Narrows - options are limited and the pace quickens.
Whirlpools - the feeling of being drawn into something, but not as a clear choice.
Eddies - momentarily being caught in a what feels like a never-ending cycle.
Passage - the natural pathway. (riverbed)
Rapids - again, fast moving with broken surface...exhilaration mixed with fear
Falls - deep dissent into a new stream.
Cataract - over a precipice.
Back-flow - return to source.
Current - going with or going against.                                                                                                                                                              

Even the images of trees appear to speak to something inside us. Don't we feel connected in some way to how they are standing and situated with their environmental surroundings? I have heard some suggestion that a person’s character can be recognized by what kind of tree they like best! What is yours?

I do believe, like many others, the art we create tends to reveal much about ourselves; almost like looking in a mirror. Are my photographs of rivers or trees linking to an internal communication telling me of a self-understanding and flow of life? Do I then present these photographs to others as a way of telling them about who I am?

Is photography simply a means of talking to ourselves and allowing others to listen in?

]]> (Essence Photography by Don Mendenhall) art communication contemplative fine landscape nature photography Fri, 06 Dec 2013 20:42:52 GMT
Enlarging a Moment


Regarding those captured photographs when one uses a camera for the first time; I wonder if is not done in the hope of keeping that 'visual moment' alive and retrievable. In other words is it actually an effort to ‘enlarge’ a momentary experience of high interest beyond a present time?

I suspect that many of these first captures are of family or friends overtly expressing themselves. This was true for me as I was making my first photograph featuring two younger sisters playing with (you guessed it) an active litter of puppies! You know I still have that photograph, now decades old, and remember everything I saw and felt in that captured moment. Why? It was simply a moment that had a flurry of happiness needing to be retrievable. Though 'enlarging that moment' was not consciously in my mind when I released the shutter, I do believe it was the main reason.

Okay...that was then, how about now? How does the motivation of enlarging the moment affect my ongoing body of work?  Here are the questions:

First, what is it about a subject that draws my momentary interest? If it doesn't then why in the world would I want to enlarge that story (or lack thereof) any further?

Does the subject actually have any distinguishing features that change or vary moment to moment? However, it is good to know that when a changing pattern of light is at play then any subject, animate or inanimate, has, at least, the possibility of momentary significance.

Then again, do I really want to make this a moment that is retrievable for me or anyone even though the photograph can be made to be technically competent? Most importantly, is there a quality that prompts a significant energetic response from a potential viewer including the photographer?

And, as I consider my past, current, and future body of work, which I desire to name as photographic fine art, could the concept of 'moment enlargement' be used as at least one test to distinguish a photograph of merit?

So now the question becomes; how courageous can I be using this concept to cull a much too large set of photograph files? Or, at least not putting new 'bland' moments in the file!

One thing for sure...I am keeping the sisters and puppies pic!


]]> (Essence Photography by Don Mendenhall) capture fine art high interest moment retrieve Fri, 01 Nov 2013 14:41:30 GMT
Why Do We Desire the Task of Making Photographs?


English painter William Gilpin in an essay during the late 18th century related the following:

Nor is there in travelling a greater pleasure, than when a scene of grandeur bursts unexpectedly upon the eye, accompanied with some accidental circumstance of the atmosphere, which harmonises with it, and gives it a double value.

He also felt in the noticing how certain scenes in nature were so perfectly and aesthetically composed, that it was regretful the ‘picturesque’ moment in passing could not somehow be captured for continued enjoyment. In that expression, he was one of many during that early time who prompted innovation within the artistic movement toward the inventions of photographic brushes (cameras) and printing processes (treated surfaces and papers).

Is not true that many of us, as artists in one medium or another, desire first to capture those momentary views of what was seen and felt; and second, to then express to others the beauty or story of the world we live in?

I am not particularly motivated to capture the picturesque that Gilpin was referring to. However, when I instead use the word essence as a replacement, the desire to first save that moment of seeing is similar, I believe, to the need of capturing a picturesque scene in nature. And then, of course, moving on to the second step of finding ways to re-communicate, in my case, the essence of the subject to myself and others.

As with the early innovators, we too are constantly discovering and using new ways to communicate our captured views and perspectives. Not so much, I dare hope, for achievement vanities, but rather to simply add another voice. Again, first to ourselves and then to the at-large public.

The photograph within this blog submission has that momentary “burst of grandeur” Gilpin was referring to. It  was captured in the briefest of moments and for me I did feel a strong desire to re-communicate the essence of his story.

]]> (Essence Photography by Don Mendenhall) Gilpin capture essence picutresque Wed, 02 Oct 2013 15:15:00 GMT
Photographic Practice

10,000  HOURS!

Malcolm Gladwell in Outliers: The Story of Success proposed that it took at least 10,000 practice hours to reach a master level of competence in most any chosen field of endeavor ranging from professional athletes to a Virtuoso in music. However, David Epstein, of ESPN, took exception to that theory saying that there were far too many examples where no set number of hours striving for and reaching a specific level of competence could be claimed.

Whether or not a set number of hours are required, it does seem reasonable that intentionality and a very significant number of practice hours are necessary. And, if the 10,000 hours theory were to be proven true, does the formula work for realizing a vision to become a master artist in photography? Perhaps, but it may be that it is more the quality of practice, rather than the number of hours, having the more effect.

For those of us who are more or less self-taught, the issue of practice quality is very subjective. It is difficult to honestly measure the quality of self-studies and exercises employed as we strive to improve our work...let alone critically evaluating any given photograph or project. When I participated in the Santa Fe Workshops conducted by Joyce Tenneson and Diane Fitzmaurice as well as with other workshop leaders like George DeWolfe, their professional expectations provided a clear qualifying environment.

Though I feel it is difficult to name one's own sense of high-quality practice, the catch phrase 'give your attention to your intention' does provide an internal sense of resolve to make qualifying attempts possible. Clear attention insists upon eliminating the clutter and noises that surround and distract us all.

An understanding of how this fully attentive approach to our chosen practice feels like may be to simply remind ourselves of the times when we are in the field or studio completely lost in the act of photography.  There is no sense of time passing and the noisiest distractions go unnoticed. It is amazing! Am I right?

When I made a wild attempt to count the number of photographs made over the years it seems to add up to a very conservative number of over 35,000! So I ask myself, is that 10,000 hours worth? Hmmm...


]]> (Essence Photography by Don Mendenhall) 10,000 Hours art competence hours master level photography practice quality Fri, 13 Sep 2013 02:39:11 GMT
Yahara Photographic  


One of the meanings of the word 'yahara' is, those who shine, enlighten. Since the art of photography is most clearly a medium that seeks the best light, the title Yahara Photographic will help keep these musings focused on just that...light and its power to enlighten.

Blogging provides one way to explore insights about the art of photography. Of course, insights can come via 'aha' successes as well as 'oh no' failures! Writing publicly about both of these avenues and alleys of learning does motivate one to be as authentic as possible whether speaking of perceived successes or failures. 

As with any "let's put it out there" endeavor the feeling of vulnerability makes itself known. With that said, you are invited to comment about these put forth insights for the purpose of good conversation.

Some Beginning Thoughts

One aspect, that may be determinant in regarding an approach toward making a photograph, is how one views a moment in time and experience. Allan Watts offers this understanding of moments; There is no reality than present reality. 

Can one call a collection of photographs, a collection of moments? And, just how long is a moment; a second, an eight of a second...thirty seconds? Or, is it simply to be still and know? How long does a moment have to be to tell a story or share an emotion? How can one photograph bring a welling of tears from one person and a burst of laughter from another....both expressions happening in a moment?

Now add the concept of living and acting authentically to a photographic moment.  For me, authenticity is the desire to be, and then being, truly yourself. Does authenticity + moment = insight? A picture of the scoop shovel brought tears to one of its purchasers because it was a reminder of a dear grandfather. The making of this particular photograph connected me to the feeling of 'work'. Whenever I was asked (directed) to use the shovel, the task was always quite labor intensive! This photographic moment is an authentic one for me, it demanded again the request to pick up that shovel and wear down its edge a bit more. The stories I can attach to the shovel are many! The story of the woman's grandfather is, as I can only imagine, heart-centered and numerous.

For me, a test of authentic art is knowing that the work relates to a reality moment, either within my own life or another's. Take a look at your photographs, do you have a few that speak to these moments?


]]> (Essence Photography by Don Mendenhall) Photographic artist authenticity conversation insights metaphysics moment photograph Wed, 21 Aug 2013 23:19:17 GMT