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1 KEEP THE FOCUS Thomas Ludwig A Meditation Guide for Street Photographers 2 Keep the Focus Welcome to this practical guide on how to improve your street photography with three meditation techniques. The more you familiarise yourself with these techniques, the more you will find yourself able to better concentra- te and focus when taking pictures. This will have a visib- le impact on the quality of your photos! It may even sti- mulate your creativity and create new potential and possibilities. Furthermore outstanding street photographers Mike Boening, Valérie Jardin, Eric Kim, Marco Larousse, Thomas Leuthard, Spyros Papaspyropoulos, Rinzi Roco Ruiz and Forrest Walker will share their experience and thoughts on focus/concentration and its effect on their respective street photography. Just as photography needs practice, so does meditation. Don't expect to see immediate results right from the start—it will take some time. In order to see results, you will need to integrate the techniques presented in this guide into your daily routine. When you succeed in doing this, you'll start noticing subtle developments pretty soon. The ability to better focus on what you're doing will have a positive effect not only on your photo- graphy, but also on your daily life. This practical guide is intentionally kept short and covers the theoretical aspects of meditation only to a necessary extent. Its main focus is on three meditation techniques and their respective practical application. Most medita- tion techniques have their roots in Hinduism and Bud- dhism. However, this guide ignores the religious context whatsoever and focusses only on the factual, practical aspects of meditation. Visit the ‚Keep the Focus community‘ on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/keepthefocus/ Website: www.keep-the-focus.com 3 About the Author Thomas Ludwig, born 1968, took most of his street pho- tos in African countries and European cities. He's been practising meditation since 1999 and has been studying Buddhism since 2010 at the Tibetan Centre in Hamburg/ Germany under patronage of HH the Dalai Lama. Thomas is the CEO of German camera bag manufacturer COSYSPEED and is living close to Hamburg with his fa- mily. Parts of this booklet are extracts of Thomas and Günter Lehmanns book ‚Ich geh‘ offline‘, a book about sports and meditation which was published in 2013 in German language only. Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/cosyspeed/ Instagram: @tom_camslinger Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ thomas.ludwig.7370 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/keepthefocus/ Acknowledgements Like many things in life, creating this booklet would not have been possible without help. The decisive motivati- onal push came from a conversation with Marco Larous- se in April 2016, which laid the foundation for bringing my initial idea for this guide to life. Marco contributed to this book his answers to three questions that I also asked Mike Boening, Valérie Jardin, Eric Kim, Thomas Leuthard, Spyros Papaspyropoulos, Rinzi Roco Ruiz and Forrest Walker. Their answers are very inspiring and we- re very important for the development of this little gui- de. Each of these highly experienced street photogra- phers contributed furthermore one image that they re- late to focus/concentration. I owe a debt of gratitude to all of them and would like to advise my honoured rea- ders to study the work of each of these outstanding street photographers. Furthermore, my thanks go out to Felix L. Esser for translating this booklet into English. 4 Content 06 … Preface 11 … What is meditation, anyway? 14 … Meditation 101 16 … Meditation and brainwaves 17 … Three types of meditation for street photographers 23 … Practical application 26 … Assess your achievements 29 … Tips, tricks and troubleshooting Interviews 33 … Mike Boening 34 … Valerie Jardin 36 … Eric Kim 37 … Marco Larousse 39 … Thomas Leuthard 41 … Spyros Papaspyropoulos 43 … Rinzi Roco Ruiz 45 … Forrest Walker 5 ______________________________________________________ Stay focused, no matter what... Thomas Leuthard 6 Preface Street photography is a relatively young artistic genre that gained much popularity in recent years. Thanks to the possibilities of digital photography and social media, more and more photographers develop a passion for documenting life “as it is.” No matter whether it's a quick and stealthy snap or a portrait of a stranger taken with permission, architecture, a city, a country, home, a distant place, social commitment or private pastime— forms and motivations are manifold. So what is it that makes a great street photo? We can probably agree that it's important to have mastered the craft of photography in order to be able to take great street photos. For a solid foundation, I advise to spend a couple of months or even years studying the basics of photography and composition as well as the technique and aesthetics of some great street photographers. Add a bit of talent into the mix and you could end up crea- ting something special. Such as photographs that have a radiance difficult to describe. They speak directly to your gut, and it almost seems as if they emanate this special energy of the scene and the photographer that captured it. The photographers be- hind this kind of pictures usually have one special skill in common: they're able to relax and become completely absorbed in what they're doing. This way, they're able to better make out details and connections and develop an intuitive sense for situations. It is this very skill of being focussed that makes it possible in the first place for a hidden talent to show itself, undisturbed by any distraction. But you can't learn a talent—or can you? I think that in general, if you feel allured by a certain hobby or profes- sion, then you probably also have a knack for it. Why else should you be motivated to do something? And I assume it's the same with street photographers. The dormant talent is probably just inhibited from develo- ping and needs to be released from its cell first. The key to releasing it could be the ability to focus and become completely absorbed in what you're doing. Developing this ability will allow your talent to emerge. 7 Concentration and focus are terms that both mean the same thing: to reduce distracting thoughts and emotions to a level where it's possible to perform a certain task with the highest possible attention. This way, you will stay fully committed to what you're doing—street pho- tography, for example. If you're distracted, though, your mind will disconnect from what you're doing. You're no longer fully absorbed, and the results will lack perfec- tion. Meditation—no matter of which kind—will boost your ability to concentrate the more you practise. An example Let's imagine a street photographer standing at a train station in a big city, waiting for an interesting scene to unfold before his lens. These could be his thoughts: „That guy over there is wearing a really funny hat! Wicked! As soon as he comes close, I'll press the shutter button! Now he's stopped and studies the timetable. Well, I'll just wait a little longer then. That's gonna be an awesome photo! I wonder how many likes it'll get? What's that woman over there holding in her hand? A slice of pizza, yummy! I ha- ven't had pizza in ages... I'll send Sandy a message right away. We could have dinner at Luigi's tonight. I shall have a Pizza Rustica. Or should I rather go for the gnocchi with tomato sauce and lots of Parmesan? I wonder what Sandy is going to have? Sh*t! Now the guy with the funny hat is go- ne! I didn't even notice! Where did he go?“ Can you relate to this situation, waiting for something? What if, in a situation like this, you were fully focussed on what you're doing—street photography—and not distracted by thinking about pizza, tomorrow's meeting or the movie you saw last night? 8 ___________________________________________________________ I lose myself while at the same time I am completely and utterly focused Spyros Papaspyropoulos 9 The Zone Marathon runners are familiar with a thing called “the zone.” This term refers to a state of consciousness whe- re one is fully focussed, which makes it possible to finish a marathon with ease. This phenomenon has been well studied scientifically. People experienced in meditation are known to be able to induce a similar state without running a marathon— through meditation. Once they enter it, everything becomes a cakewalk and is done effortlessly. Their thoughts take a back seat and they just do what they're doing—flawlessly. Intuition becomes the basis of all ac- tions and decisions, and thinking becomes merely the tool for making it happen. However, reaching this level of concentration is no easy feat, and here as well the rule is, “10,000 hours of prac- tice will make you a master.” You've probably guessed it already: chances are you won't be able to enter “the zone” through meditation after only a couple of days or weeks of practice. But practising regularly will gradually boost your ability to concentrate and will have a positive effect on the quality of your photographs. 10 _______________________________________________ Immerse in what you are doing Thomas Ludwig 11 What is meditation, anyway? The historic origin of meditation can be found in the area of present-day India. Modern meditation techni- ques can trace their origins back to those developed in Buddhism and Hinduism over 2,500 years ago. Take, for example, meditation with a focus on breathing or awa- reness, which can be practised for wellness and fitness, but also during psychotherapy. Yoga, too, can be regar- ded as a meditation technique. Meditation is also the topic of scientific research, as is the case with MBSR (Mind-Based Stress Reduction, a modern form of awa- reness meditation.) Studies on MBSR have shown huge mental benefits and improved well-being for some test persons. The religious background is hardly noticeable in most modern forms of meditation, though, as they have been adapted to our contemporary ways and philoso- phies of life. Meditation can be seen as a mental techni- que to achieve greater performance or to reduce stress. Many successful people use these techniques quite pragmatically, in order to achieve their goals faster and with better results. To meditate means to turn your attention away from thinking. This will slow down or even completely halt the continuous stream of thoughts that everyone expe- riences and that is so difficult to ignore. Most people aren't even aware of the fact that they constantly “have” to think. It just happens. It's almost like our bloodstream which circulates all on its own and without us even noticing. However, unlike our bloodstream, we can actively stop our thoughts, or at least slow them down significantly. The key to this are time-proven meditation techniques that have been used for thousands of years. With a bit of practice, it's possib- le to halt one's thoughts for a couple of seconds or mi- nutes, which has a very relaxing effect and helps boost intuition and creativity. Thinking will no longer distract from the task at hand, and hidden talents are free to surface. The task itself is now at the centre of attention, free from distractions, and success is guaranteed. The biggest obstacle to successful meditation is our most valued tool at the same time: the human mind and its ability to think! It wants all of our attention and usu- ally soaks up 100% of it without ever taking a break. It begins with our first thoughts in the morning, having just woken up: “What did I just dream? Huh, I can't re- member. I think I'll stay in bed for three more minutes... 12 It's raining again! I need a cup of coffee first thing. Just one more minute... I don't want to attend that meeting today. Okay, time to get up...” And it ends with our last thoughts in the evening when we go to bed. Thinking from dawn till dusk without interruption—can you rela- te to that? Most meditation techniques are of one of the following types: concentrative meditation analytic meditation visualising meditation Concentrative meditation This type of meditation aims at slowing down the stream of thoughts by focussing on an object—say a bright light that you imagine in front of your “mental eye.” Alternatively, you can focus on breathing or on perceiving your body. Another well-known technique is to repeat a mantra. Buddhism advises to think of some- thing you like, something easy to imagine. As a street photographer, you could try and imagine your beloved camera for this exercise ;-) Ideally, the continuous stream of thoughts that is usually flowing around in your head will come to a stop, and you will experience a state of being thought-free. Basically, this is a concentration exercise which, the more you master it, makes all thin- king and the resulting actions in your daily life more lu- cid and more effective. Analytic meditation This type of meditation focusses on changing your atti- tude, habits, and perspective. By concentrating on a spe- cific question or problem and deliberating over it, this technique helps you to come to a decision on how to deal with it. Let's take a look at a typical example for a Buddhist meditation: someone thinks that it would be great if people were nice to each other instead of fighting and causing trouble. However, as a “normal” person they have hardly any influence on global events, only on themselves. So it seems obvious that they start with themselves and train their attitude to always be 13 nice to other people. They deliberate the reasons for such a way of acting and decide that from now on, they will be nice to everyone without exception, even to tho- se who act impolitely. Through meditation, they emb- race their decision more and more, until this new attitu- de of kindness becomes completely natural to them. They started out by establishing an intellectual realisati- on, used meditation to translate this realisation into an emotion, and finally made this emotion part of their character. This chain of actions ultimately leads to an automated behaviour of spontaneous acts of kindness. Visualising meditation “Visualisation exercises,” as this type of meditation is also called, are a vast field. There are two general types of visualisation exercise: 1. Visualising an object in front of the mental eye, such as a source of light that emits positive energy which can be absorbed. 2. Visualising an object in front of the mental eye and transferring positive energy to it. In Buddhist meditation, it is common to visualise a lumi- nous Buddha figurine in order to receive positive energy and all kinds of beneficial qualities. To give an example for the second type of visualisation exercise: imagine a person close to you, maybe someone who isn't feeling well at the moment. Send them positive energy, for exa- mple in the shape of a beam of light. 14 Meditation 101 1. Decide on which type of meditation you'd like to practise. 2. Look for a quiet spot and let those around you know that you'd like to remain undisturbed for some time. 3. Take a comfortable posture and start your medita- tion. It's possible to meditate while lying down, but by doing so you may risk falling asleep. At the beginning and at the end of your meditation, you might find it helpful to concentrate on breathing. Try to stay focussed as best as you can during your meditation. 4. Try to keep the things you experience during your meditation in your mind as long as possible. 5. Don't be upset when you get distracted by your thoughts. Just try and continue your meditation. 6. Start out with shorter exercises and gradually in- crease their duration. This way, you won't lose motivation quickly. 7. Try to meditate regularly and systematically. The classical Asian posture for medita- tion. Keeping a straight back is ea- sier when sitting on a pillow. This impro- ves the energy flow in the spine and prevents fatigue. When meditating on a chair, spread your legs a little and don't lean back. This makes it easier to keep your back straight. Also pos- sible on an exercise ball. Sitting on a table. This posture is ideal for longer meditati- ons. By letting your feet dangle and not touch the ground, your back straigh- tens almost by it- self. 15 ______________________________________________________ Letting go of control of what might happen Rinzi Ruiz 16 Meditation and brainwaves In the past forty years, scientific interest in meditation has continuously increased. Today, neuroscientists have a pretty good understanding of what happens in a per- son's brain when they meditate. Electroencephalography (EEG) is a way of measuring brainwave activity. With increasing alertness, the fre- quency of the brainwaves also increases. Delta waves: 0.1–4 Hz / deep sleep Theta: 4–8 Hz / dreaming Alpha: 8–13 Hz / relaxed state of being awake/The Zone Beta: 13–30 Hz / state during the day Gamma: > 30 Hz / reaction to acute danger During the day, the beta wave frequency range is predo- minant. And within the beta wave range we stay 70% of the time in the upper beta wave range of 21–30 Hz that occur in stress situations. This frequency range is charac- terised by reactions to external stimuli; when it occurs, creativity and directed, relaxed focussing are impossible. For many people, it's common to experience the upper beta wave frequency range during work hours. Urgent tasks that need to be finished quickly, dealing with dis- putes, solving with all kinds of problems—many of my readers are probably familiar with this. Pure stress. During meditation, the brain wave frequency decreases into the lower beta, alpha or even theta ranges. While there is virtually no interaction with our environment when in the theta wave range, we feel relaxed and our thoughts slow down when in the alpha wave range. However, the alpha wave range also allows us to learn more easily and to better focus on things. Furthermore Alpha is the state, when one enters „The Zone“ Unless you have profound experiences in meditation, it is unlikely that you're able to keep your brain waves within the alpha frequency range while out on the street taking pictures—there are just too many external stimu- li. Therefore in the beginning, your goal must be to use the methods introduced in this guide to lower your brain wave frequency as far as possible—ideally into the low beta wave range or even temporarily into the alpha wave range. As soon as we leave the upper beta wave range, stress subsides, we feel more comfortable and are able to relax in order to creatively focus on our pho- tography. 17 Three types of meditation for street photographers Which meditation techniques can be used on the street? 1. Breathing meditation as a general and introductory exercise 2. Meditation on feeling your body in order to keep the focus; let's call this the street meditation 3. The “cat in front of the mousehole” to focus on wai- ting for the decisive moment These meditation techniques are simple, time-proven and many readers might be familiar with them already. All three of them are types of concentrative meditation. The basic exercise is the breathing meditation, which is already quite powerful on its own, but also works great as an introduction to other types of meditation. The street meditation reinforces your concentration when out and about and helps you calm down and centre. The “cat in front of the mousehole,” a method that was spe- cifically developed for this guide, can be used when, for example, waiting for a person to appear at a specific po- sition within the frame. 1. Breathing meditation Concentrating on breathing is one of the easiest and best-known meditation techniques. It's pretty strai- ghtforward actually: Close your eyes and focus on your breath. Feel that soft sensation when the air streams in through y- our nose and softly flows through your throat and into your lungs. Feel it leaving again on the same way, warm and soft. When a thought comes up in your mind, try to let it go and turn your attention back to breathing. Stay calm and don't be upset when a thought distracts you, just carry on. When you feel that the time is right, open your eyes 18 again and try to hold on to the sensation from your meditation for as long as possible. When you're completely absorbed by focussing on brea- thing, your mind will stand still and you'll be free of thoughts. They'll be back within seconds, though, which is perfectly normal. The great thing about the breathing meditation is this: it becomes evident immediately that by concentrating on breathing, it's possible to slow down or even halt distracting thoughts completely. Who would've guessed that it could be so easy? Due to its immediate effect, the breathing meditation is also a gre- at introductory exercise for other types of meditation. And that's how we're going to use it for street photo- graphy. It will be our introduction to the physical awa- reness meditation. By shortly concentrating on our brea- thing, we calm down our thoughts and smoothly transi- tion over to the feeling your body meditation—street mditation. 2. Street-Meditation This method is the main exercise to be used on the street and focusses on feeling your body. As an intro- duction, you can start out with a breathing meditation. This is followed by a so-called “body scan” which some readers may already be familiar with. But what does “feeling your body” mean? Try con- centrating on a single part of your body to begin with: Close your eyes and find out whether your right hand is still there. Now, you might think, “Of course, I just saw it a second ago!” But concentrate on being aware of it. What do you perceive at the place where your right hand is located? Do you feel a slight tingling sensation? That's it! Introduction Close your eyes and focus on your breath. Feel that soft sensation when the air streams in through y- our nose and softly flows through your throat and into your lungs. Feel it leaving again on the same way, warm and soft. When a thought comes up in 19 your mind, try to let it go and turn your attention back to breathing. Body scan Now move on to perceiving your body. Start with your right foot. Do you feel a slight tingling? Stay there for a couple of seconds or as long as you feel comfortable. Now move your attention to your right leg. Again, remain there for a couple of se- conds and try to feel that tingling sensation. Gradually move on to your left foot, left leg, your abdomen, your belly, your upper body, right hand and arm, left hand and arm, your spine, neck, cheeks, your forehead and finally your head. At each part of your body, stay for a couple of se- conds and try to feel the slight tingling. Main meditation Now that you went through each part of your bo- dy, try to perceive your body as a whole, as a unit. Try to keep that feeling up for several minutes. Fade-out Let the meditation fade out by going back to focus- sing on your breath. Open your eyes again and try to hold on to the experience from your meditation for a while. It's probably going to take a few hours of practice before you become familiar with this meditation. The great thing about the “street meditation” is that it allows you to centre yourself once you're proficient in it. It makes you aware of your physical presence, which in turn “anchors” you within yourself. The benefit for street photography is that you'll be able to roam the streets with your camera and analyse the things happening around you from a distance. Potential scenes and sub- jects will appear more clearly to you since you won't be as easily distracted. Instead of being “forced” by your subconsciousness to respond to each person, sound, or stimulus, you'll be able to stay focussed on the task at hand. At the same time, your attention will be much im- proved and more directed. 20 3. The cat in front of the mousehole Employ this method when waiting for a scene to unfold in front of you—e.g. when you want a person to enter your composition at a specific location. It can easily take up to 30 minutes or more until everything is in place. So what can you do to resist the urge to walk away? Of course you can always exercise the street meditation. If you find this difficult, though, try the following: Set yourself up at the place from which you want to take a picture, plan the composition, and prepare your camera. Introduction Close your eyes and focus on your breath. Feel that soft sensation when the air streams in through y- our nose and softly flows through your throat and into your lungs. Feel it leaving again on the same way, warm and soft. When a thought comes up in your mind, try to let it go and turn your attention back to breathing. Main meditation Visualise your photograph in front of your mental eye, with every detail, the way you want to take it. Don't close your eyes, but rather project the mis- sing person, the passing car etc. at the very positi- on where you'd like them to appear in the final photograph. Concentrate on your desired picture until it actually comes together. Fade-out Let the meditation fade out by going back to focus- sing on your breath. Try to keep the experience from your meditation in your mind for a while. Behave like a cat sitting in front of a mousehole, waiting for its prey to come out. Stay calm and take your shot when you see the composition you envisioned unfold in reality. 21 With all three meditation techniques that were presented so far, it will probably take some time until you're able to really keep your focus up for a significant amount of time. If you have to abort a meditation attempt because you're having difficulties to keep up your concentration, or because you haven't yet fully mastered the technique, then take it easy. Imagine a small child that is just learning to walk. It will topple again and again until it is finally able to take its first steps. Even though it continues to tumble, its parents are happy to see it grow and make progress. 22 ______________________________________________________ I enter a state where I am fully-aware of the streets Eric Kim 23 Practical application Now you've learned about three meditation techniques for street photographers. But how do you best proceed to exercise them and apply them practically? My sugges- tion is a two-phased approach over the course of two months. With the beginning of the third month, the initi- ation phase will be over and you can start to practise these meditation techniques on the street. 1st month In the first month, familiarise yourself with the breathing meditation. Do this in a secluded space and not in public. Option 1 Practise 3 times a day for 5 minutes each. Option 2 Practise for 10 seconds each hour. Option 3 Practise 3 times a day for 5 minutes each and addi- tionally for 10 seconds each hour. These short intervals will allow you to slowly accustom your mind to meditation. Also, they will prevent a loss of motivation, which can easily happen when pushing y- ourself to do longer sessions too early. Beginners will quickly be frustrated when attempting to meditate for a whole hour right away, since concentration can easily fade. So it's better to take small steps at the beginning ;- ) If you wish, you can of course try to apply one of these meditation techniques on the street already after a week or whenever you feel like it. 2nd month In the second month, familiarize yourself with the street meditation. As in the beginning while practising the bre- athing meditation, do this in a secluded space. Option 1 Practise 3 times a day for 5 minutes each. Option 2 Practise for 10 seconds each hour. 24 Option 3 Practise 3 times a day for 5 minutes each and addi- tionally for 10 seconds each hour. Option 4 In addition to one of the options above, practice for 10 to 30 minutes once each day, if you feel comfor- table with it. When you feel that the time is right, start applying these meditation techniques on the street. Also, you can adjust the duration of each exercise to your personal prefe- rence. From the 3rd month on Now get out on the street! It will probably still be benefi- cial to practice in isolation in order to consolidate your technique. Once you feel that you've mastered the brea- thing and street meditations, you can start practising the “cat in front of the mousehole.” You can do so directly on the street. 25 ____________________________________________________ I move and capture my images purely by instinct and not by an intellectual thought and analyzing process Marco Larousse 26 Assess your achievements In order to assess your achievements, you'll need to look out for subtle changes especially in the beginning. It's quite possible that you will find yourself in a situation where you're uncertain whether all that you're doing is actually leading to anything. You'll notice this by feeling uneasy and having the urge to do something else instead of meditating. When you manage to overcome this phase of uncertainty after a couple of days, you'll have made the first important step. How do you know that you're making progress? You manage to perform the suggested exercises regularly. Your ability to focus increases. You feel calmer and more composed. You're more attentive while taking pictures. Your photographs change/improve. You're more satisfied with your photos. People around you start noticing that you've chan- ged. The most important and easily recognisable sign of pro- gress is that you're more satisfied with your photo- graphy. If you notice that your satisfaction is gradually rising, then you're on the right way. During this process, you should also refrain from taking pictures for others— meaning for likes and praise. Rather, do it like exceptio- nal street photographer Thomas Leuthard: “I take pic- tures just for myself and nobody else!” Let me elaborate on two more factors that will help you measure your progress. 1. Let your thoughts pass Maybe you've heard the notion already before reading this booklet that during meditation, you should let your thoughts pass when they come up. What does that me- an? Occurring thoughts usually... a. ...carry us away b. ...or displease us so that we try to think of something more pleasant and get carried away by that. 27 Both options are detrimental to our concentration, since they keep us from properly focussing on our goal. And as a newbie to meditation, you'll probably notice this particularly strongly. And there's something else you'll notice: It's your choice whether to pay attention to a thought or whether to let it pass—to consciously realise this fact can be a very enlightening experience. Therefo- re, it's an important step to succeed in becoming the “observer” of your thoughts. This can also be described as a “meta-consciousness” on a level above your thought processes. As a street photographer, you're already in a good posi- tion, since it's your habit to observe things. You notice interesting people and scenes and press the shutter button when you see a great picture. Apply this behavio- ur to your thoughts. Think of them as the scene you're observing. Just like you let both interesting and uninte- resting people pass by—so you're able to focus on a spe- cific picture you're waiting for—also let both interesting and uninteresting thoughts pass by. The more you practise it, the more the street meditation will support you in taking the position of an observer. Being anchored in feeling your physical presence is the most solid base for becoming the observer of your thoughts. Just like you feel your feet on the street when people pass by you, you feel your body when thoughts pass by you. 2. The Zone Becoming more familiar with the observing position is another achievement—and also necessary in order to enter “the zone,” the state which we desire and that was already mentioned earlier, by meditating. How do you enter the zone? The specific point during meditation exercises at which a person is able to enter this state—if at all—is entirely individual. However, the more you practise meditation techniques, the closer y- ou'll get towards achieving this goal. How do I know that I've entered the zone? You'll know. It'll be almost as if you remember, since this state has always been there—it was just hidden beneath the noi- se of your consciousness and the continuous stream of your thoughts. 28 ___________________________________________________________ I can see and feel everything happening at once Forrest Walker 29 Tips, tricks and troubleshooting What to do when things don't work out the way you imagined? When you just don't manage to suppress y- our thoughts and focus? Are there any tricks to make things easier in general? Make no mistake: Practising and making progress with meditation techniques is a process—there is no end- point. And even if you manage to enter the zone, you still need to become acquainted with it in order to enter a new stage of development. So the most important thing is to always stay calm and relaxed. It is of course important to set goals, but you shouldn't push yourself too hard to reach them. Just be happy about every small achievement you make, and watch how your photo- graphy improves and how you become more satisfied. Thoughts: stop! When you notice that you're being carried away by your thoughts during meditation, stay calm and go back to your observing position. If you're having a bad day, which can easily happen, and you just can't manage to let your thoughts pass, give yourself this order: Thoughts: stop! This should help you to momentarily free yourself from the “thought carousel.” The right food When you're repeatedly having trouble calming down your thoughts, at least give your mind the right food. Think of something that is beneficial to the task at hand. For example, you could mentally repeat sections of this booklet, or analyse your latest photowalk and try to fi- gure out if you've made any progress yet. You can repeat to yourself, “I will manage to calm down my thoughts.” This will help slow down the stream of thoug- hts, which is basically the way a mantra works. Or you might find it helpful to count: “1, 2, 3...12” and then start over again. 30 Topics and stories Hit the street with topics for your pictures. You could try to photograph only yellow things or people wearing yel- low clothes, for example. Or only reflections, only in square format, only macro shots... You could also try to create a little story about your day out on the street. Such as “Life at the subway station,” “Rush on the way to work,” “Lunch break in the park” etc. Whichever of these suggestions you're going to try, they will all have the effect of helping you focus on your pho- tography. Waiting is great For most people, waiting is frustrating. When you're stuck in traffic, waiting for the elevator, sitting in the waiting room at your doctor's office—use the time for a breathing or street meditation. This way, the time spent waiting gets a purpose. And since you can't do anything about the situation anyway, just make the best of it. Workout During workout, your brain discharges endorphins. They make you feel good and boost your energy and motivati- on. If you haven't been exercising so far, now is a good time to start. The positive effect of endurance sports on your ability to concentrate is scientifically proven. Drinking and diet Two to three litres of water is the minimum of what you should drink each day. Here, too, the positive effect on concentration is proven. The same is true for your diet. Eat a lot of fruit and vegetables, stay away from “heavy” food that his hard to digest. This will not only improve your health, but also your well-being. And trust me, it's much easier to meditate and/or concentrate when y- ou're feeling well. Learn more about meditation You can further motivate yourself to learn more about meditation by reading about it, watching instructional 31 videos or maybe even taking a class—e.g. on MBSR (Mind-Based Stress Reduction.) This well-known and well-studied method is absolutely free of any religious context and is highly effective. And if you're searching for even more information, just ask Google ;-) How street photographers use focus in their daily routine I asked eight extraordinary street photographers about the importance of concentration and the zone in their respective daily routines. I also asked each one of them for a photo from their portfolio on the topic of concent- ration. The following questionnaire was given to Mike Boening, Valérie Jardin, Eric Kim, Marco Larousse, Thomas Leuthard, Spyros Papaspyropoulos, Rinzi Roco Ruiz and Forrest Walker. Is focus important for your street photography? How does shooting on the street feel to you? Which method helps you concentrate? A huge thank you goes out to Mike, Valérie, Eric, Marco, Thomas, Spyros, Rinzi and Forrest! 32 ______________________________________________________ I try not to overthink, I follow my heart Valerie Jardin 33 Mike Boening Mike commonly finds his inspirati- on on the streets of his hometown, Detroit, Michigan as well as any city he may travel too. A travel jun- kie, Mike specializes in street and urban photography. He works to document life in daily situations making the most of what others might consider mundane. An Olympus Trailblazer he also in- structs and leads workshops in nu- merous cites across the US. Is concentration important for your street photo- graphy? Yes, I believe it is important knowing what you are loo- king for and why you are out shooting to begin with. I always try to understand what a city is about, it’s people and environment before I try to take images of its peop- le. Knowing the general area’s environment can help plan your day I have found. How does it „feel“ to do street photography? I think Street Photography feels like no other type of photography to me. When I do any type of photography other than street I am always more inclined to be tech- nical in my approach. With Street Photography I know exactly what settings I like and I focus solely on the sce- ne or waiting for the scene to develop. I am much more of a “feeling” street photographer by letting my walks take me where they will. Planning and techniques are second to feelings and emotion created in the streets. What is your method to get into concentration? I think my method is more about the train ride or car ride into the city. I would have already studied the city and its people knowing what I was looking for. Links Website: www.mikeboening.com Twitter: @memoriesbymike Instagram: @mbphotography Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/ memoriesbymike/ 34 Valerie Jardin My passion for humankind drives me to shoot mostly street photo- graphy. I thrive on searching and waiting for just the right moment when a story unfolds in a single fra- me. I also look to shoot the extra- ordinary in the ordinary - it's in the details. I've learned to see when I look, to find beauty everywhere. Although I love wandering the streets of large cities, the natural world always amazes me. I feel so privileged to see it all through my lens. Is concentration important for your street photo- graphy? Absolutely! That is why street photographers usually do their best work when they roam the streets solo. When I hit the streets, I love the sounds and smells, it’s all part of the experience. They help me get in the zone. I don’t listen to music or anything. The city plays its own music to my ears. Some days I go out with something in mind, but most of the time I let the streets surprise me. There is a story happening on every street corner. The street photographer constantly scans his or her surroundings, nothing escapes us, we are ready to immortalize the sto- ry in a frame in a fraction of a second. If we walk with other photographers, they completely understand that we may disappear unexpectedly in the middle of a sen- tence because something caught our eye. The non- photographers in our lives need to adjust to our quirky ways… How does it „feel“ to do street photography? Being on the streets with my camera is like therapy. So- me days I will walk endlessly, other days I will find a gre- at backdrop or shaft of light and wait patiently for the perfect subject to enter my frame. It’s important to be very discerning and not click the shutter needlessly for just any subject walking by. It’s important to be patient and be ready, learn to observe and anticipate, The sub- jects or scenes that I will react to on any given day will often reflect the mood I’m in. Some days I have a more minimalist approach, other days I will be much closer, see more humor or interact with my subjects. I comple- tely lose the concept of time when I’m in the zone. Hours and hours can go by and feel like minutes. 35 What is your method to get into concentration? I try not to overthink, I follow my heart and I simply let the street surprise me. I avoid crowds, I look for authen- ticity or for something I’ve never seen before. Links Podcast Hit The Streets with Valerie Jardin: http:// valeriejardinphotography.com/podcast/ Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ valeriejardinphotography Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/valeriejardin/ Website: http://valeriejardinphotography.com/ 36 Eric Kim Eric Kim is a photography teacher whose passion is spreading “open source” information and knowledge to empower photographers all around the world. Is concentration important for y- our street photography? Concentration is one of the most important things in street photo- graphy and life for me. I am easily distracted, and I feel that without getting into the “zone” or into a “flow sta- te” — I can’t see the world creatively, and capture the meaningful images I see before my eyes. How does it „feel“ to do street photography? For me, when I shoot street photography, I enter a state where I am fully-aware of the streets. My hearing is mo- re enhanced, my eyes can notice subtle details, and I feel more confident. I also use my fear and intuition to judge whether I want to make an image. I only take pho- tos when I feel there is an urge to capture that scene, moment, or person. I listen to my heart to guide me. What is your method to get into concentration? My method to get focused is to turn off all my distrac- tions. I turn off my phone, I walk slowly, and I try to quiet my mind. It also generally takes me an hour or so before I let my thoughts settle, and I feel myself become fully-integrated into the streets. Links Website: erickimphotography.com/blog Facebook: facebook.com/erickimphotography Instagram: instagram.com/erickimphoto 37 Marco Larousse I’m a street- and documentary pho- tographer, teacher, writer, curator and podcast producer of photo- graphy related topics, based in Hamburg/Germany. I have started to take photos on the street in the mid 90s and the passion for street photography has grown more and more over the years. I see a huge social importance of street photo- graphy for future generations. Uns- taged photos of people on the street create our collecti- ve visual social memory and will gain in importance in decades to come. Is concentration important for your street photo- graphy? I certainly get better results when I’m more con- centrated during my street photography. If I focus on a scene, the people and the general mood of the place, I see more interesting situations and I can predict good frames that are about to happen. I also manage to be more efficient when I’m photographing on the street by myself instead of with a group of photographers. But I do enjoy to sometimes go out with one or more street photographers and enjoy the social aspect and friends- hips that street photography has gifted me with over the many years. How does it „feel“ to do street photography? When I go out on the street with my camera, it feels to me like the first day of spring after a long and cold win- ter. When I exit the subway station and dive into the busy streets, looking at people doing their ordinary everyday life routine, I all of a sudden see structure in the perceived chaos. I see a rhythm and a flow in all this, and it seems to me like pieces come together to comple- te a puzzle. Once I’m in that “zone”, I move and capture my images purely by instinct and not by an intellectual thought and analyzing process. What is your method to get into concentration? I guess that I have learned over the past 20 years to flip 38 a “street mode” switch once I have the camera in my hand and focus on subjects and scenes on the street. Sometimes I also do wear large noise-cancelling headphones to disconnect my audio from my visual ex- perience. When I choose my own tunes I can start to collect a visual story to go along with my own beat. But what probably helps me most to focus on my street photography is feeling at ease about what I do and why I do it. If you feel at ease and relaxed, you will be more open and your environment will generally feel the posi- tive energy from you, too. Links Website: www.MarcoLarousse.com Twitter: @HamburgCam Podcasts & publications for Photofocus: https:// photofocus.com/author/hamburgcam/ G+: https://plus.google.com/ u/0/111311750914753343348 39 ______________________________________________________ Planning and techniques are second to feelings and emotion created in the streets Mike Boening 40 Thomas Leuthard My name is Thomas Leuthard and I am a passionate street photogra- pher based in the heart of Switzer- land. I travel to the big cities of this world to witness and document life on the street. I currently work with an unobtrusive mirrorless camera to capture the essence of the ordinary life happening in public. For me, the camera is a black box capturing the moment seen by my eyes. There are more important questions in street photography than asking about what gear we are using. Is concentration important for your street photo- graphy? Yes, of course concentration is important on the street. You can see that, when you talk to someone while shoo- ting on the street. You will not see as many things, as you see, when you are focused only on shooting. Another important aspect is that you focus on a project or something you want to see. The better you know what you want to see the more likely it is that you will see it. How does it „feel“ to do street photography? This is a very difficult questions. I think for everyone street photography is something else. They go out for different reasons. For me it was more like a social thing for the last few months, where I met people to go out with. But this is in contraction with the focus and con- centration on something. When I go out alone, my con- centration depends on my personal feeling on that day. When I can focus I see more things and will bring more keepers home. This happens only when you can get rid of all your thoughts on your mind. It works best without any distraction in your head. What is your method to get into concentration? The best way is to go somewhere a bit further. For me Zurich or Lucerne is about a 30 minutes train ride. On the way there you can start focusing on the project you want to photograph. This helps you to get rid of all daily 41 thoughts which doesn't belong to photography. When I arrive at my destination, I'm ready to shoot. Other peop- le told m that it takes some time to get into the mood of shooting. For me the mood comes through the journey. Links Website: thomas.leuthard.photography Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ ThomasLeuthardPhotography/ Google+: https://plus.google.com/ +ThomasLeuthardPhotography Instagramm: https://www.instagram.com/ thomas.leuthard/ Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/people/thomasleuthard 42 Spyros Papaspyropoulos I am a Street Photographer based in Crete, Greece. I am originally from Athens, Greece. I have been shoo- ting Street Photography since 2012. I am one of the co-founders of Streethunters.net, one of the web's definitive sources for Street Photo- graphy and I run it together with the amazing Street Hunters co-founder Andrew Sweigart and the multita- lented Digby Fullam. Is concentration important for your street photo- graphy? Yes, in my opinion concentration is one of the most im- portant things in Street Photography. Without it I can't perform. I have noticed that when I am preoccupied I return home "empty handed", without any keepers. I believe that being focused and concentrated in Street Photography is just as important as it is in any other art, skill or task as a matter of fact. When I am "in the zone" everything happens in a fun, easy and enjoyable way and the results of my efforts are usually to my liking. How does it „feel“ to do street photography? Excellent question! When doing Street Photography I feel like I do when I am watching an amazing film, or reading a fantastic book. I feel immersed into it and I lose myself while at the same time I am completely and utterly focused on what I am doing. It is a weird and ful- filling feeling that I could probably describe as a "natural high". When I spot a scene in progress or about to hap- pen I get the sense that time slows down and that I can predict what is going to take place. I feel that I can see everything develop in front of me slowly and precisely. This "ability" or "skill" helps me analyse the scene and that is how I know when I have to press the shutter, from which angle and how many times. What is your method to get into concentration? The method I use to concentrate is simple. I try to relax before I hit the streets. I think it is very important to be stress free and to go for a Street Hunt without thinking 43 about work, family issues, money issues or whatever anyone might be thinking about. If I feel a strong lack of concentration, I then like to have a pint of beer. I am not advocating drinking, but as far as I am concerned one beer before shooting usually helps me unwind and gets me into that mental state where I find myself to be most productive. Other ways I get myself to concentrate are to focus on a specific theme while I am shooting. The reason why I do this is because sometimes I feel overwhelmed by the various visual stimuli and I can't seem to nail a single shot, so when I focus on a specific theme, e.g. people in hats, then it becomes easier for me to concentrate. I suppose this happens because I tell myself not to look at other things, but to just focus on what I have planned to shoot. Links Website: www.streethunters.net Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/ spyrospapaspyropoulos/ Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/spyros Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ spyros.papaspyropoulos Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/spyros 44 Rinzi Roco Ruiz Rinzi Ruiz is Fujifilm X-Photographer and a freelance photographer spe- cializing in portraits and weddings based in Los Angeles, California. His personal work in the genre of street photography focuses mostly on the Los Angeles area and its people. He focuses on light and shadow throughout the majority of his black and white photography, which has been featured in Los An- geles Times SoCal Moments, Rangefinder Magazine and other blogs and websites. Is concentration important for your street photo- graphy? I think being observant with what’s going on in my field of view is important. Getting into a creative bubble, zo- ne or flow while I’m walking around is too. Concentrati- on, I think, is one the first parts of the process but then I sort of just have to let it go and allow my intuition to guide me. How does it „feel“ to do street photography? I suppose I feel differently shooting street depending on the day. To me it sometimes feels like I’m going on an adventure. From preparing and packing my bag to getting out to go somewhere familiar or unfamiliar, I ne- ver know what to expect and what I’ll be able to take a picture of. So there’s like a childlike excitement feeling I’m experiencing. But then there’s also when I do get really into the zone and it becomes something like medi- tation. Distractions go away, my mind has slowed down, my eyes wander and I’m seeing compositions. So there’s a feeling of peace I’m experiencing when I get to that point. What is your method to get into concentration? From the time I wake up, I choose at that moment to have a good day and believe that good things will hap- pen to me. When I’m standing on the sidewalk about to begin a day of shooting, I close my eyes and take a few deep breaths. As I breathe I’m getting into the right 45 mindset, summoning a positive energy and letting go of control of what might happen. Then I prepare my came- ra settings and go. Links Website: www.rinziruizphotography.com Instagram: @rinzizen Twitter: @rinzizen 46 Forrest Walker I’m originally from Portland, Oregon, USA, but am currently ba- sed in Vietnam while traveling the world photographing 100 cities for a large street photography project. I’ve created a blog to let people follow along, while also providing in -depth street photography guides to each city I visit, interviews with some of the most talented street photographers from around the world, tips, photography, and more. Is concentration important for your street photo- graphy? Yes and no. In one sense, I concentrate on street photo- graphy by feeling my surroundings, observing everything around me, and blocking out distractions. On the other hand, I try not to think about it. So focus is important, but you don't want to overdo it. If I concentrate too much, then I won’t see as much. So I try to relax, tune out any thoughts or stress from my life, and see what I can discover and capture. If I can get into a zone, there are no distractions, I can see and feel everything happe- ning at once, and can react with my camera. I try to cap- ture before my mind starts telling me what to do. I re- cently heard photographer Henry Wessel refer to this as “seeing without recognizing.” Reacting by feeling and instincts tends to give something more real and original, and in tune with your eyes. Once you start analyzing, you tend to move away from what you first saw, and felt, in an attempt to perfect the shot technically. For moments and feeling, my first photo is usually the best, no matter how much time I had to technically perfect the 3rd, 4th and 5th shot. While not always the case, I find it is most of the time. Now for shots dealing with layers, lines and where composition is most important, then analyzing and concentration can become more im- portant. So it does partly depend on the shot, but perso- nally, I trust my eyes, feeling and instincts more than my analyzation. For me, Concentration in Street Photo- graphy = Being Free, Open and In Tune with Your Surroundings. 47 How does it „feel“ to do street photography? If it’s a good day of street photography and I’m really in tune with seeing, feeling and capturing, then it feels al- most like being in a zone. I could walk for miles without noticing it. My mind sees and is focused on everything going on around me. It feels like an escape from any worries and I feel the life and energy of the place I’m in. When it comes to specific scenes, it’s more about the feeling than analyzing it. Many times, it’s more instinctu- al with how I capture the scene, with maybe a bit of quick analyzing. If I have more time with a specific scene then I might analyze to some extent to feel the best composition, how and what I want to include in the fra- me, and if there’s any way I can capture it to make it more interesting. But I usually go by my feeling for a sce- ne more than anything. What is your method to get into concentration? I like to be very minimal when I’m out shooting. So, no bag, or even a neck strap. Just my camera, a wrist strap and a couple of extra batteries in my pocket. I use a mir- ror-less camera that I keep ready in my hand at all times and zone focus 95% of the time. It feels like an extension of myself and allows me to focus on photography wit- hout distractions. Other than that, I just start walking and observing. Sometimes it can take a few shots to warm up and get into the photography zone, but after that, it’s all about discovering. Being present in the mo- ment, people watching, observing everything, and see- ing little things that catch my eye. I try to stay open to everything happening around me. The rest just goes by feeling my surroundings and trusting my instincts and intuition. Links Blog: www.ShooterFiles.com Portfolio Site: www.fdwalker.com 48 ____________________________________________________ Keep the Focus – even if you're being distracted Thomas Ludwig 49 KEEP THE FOCUS COPYRIGHTS eBook and images on pages 1, 10 and 47 copyright by Thomas Ludwig Images on pages: 05 … Copyright by Thomas Leuthard 08 … Copyright by Spyros Papaspyropoulos 15 … Copyright by Rinzi Ruiz 22 … Copyright by Eric Kim 25 … Copyright by Marco Larousse 28 … Copyright by Forrest Walker 32 … Copyright by Valerie Jardin 39 … Copyright by Mike Boening I’ve created a blog to let people follow along, while also providing in -depth street photography guides to each city I visit, interviews with some of the most talented street photographers from around the world, tips, photography, and more. Is concentration important for your street photo- graphy? Yes and no. In one sense, I concentrate on street photo- graphy by feeling my surroundings, observing everything around me, and blocking out distractions. On the other hand, I try not to think about it. So focus is important, but you don't want to overdo it. If I concentrate too much, then I won’t see as much. So I try to relax, tune out any thoughts or stress from my life, and see what I can discover and capture. If I can get into a zone, there are no distractions, I can see and feel everything happe- ning at once, and can react with my camera. I try to cap- ture before my mind starts telling me what to do. I re- cently heard photographer Henry Wessel refer to this as “seeing without recognizing.” Reacting by feeling and instincts tends to give something more real and original, and in tune with your eyes. Once you start analyzing, you tend to move away from what you first saw, and felt, in an attempt to perfect the shot technically. For moments and feeling, my first photo is usually the best, no matter how much time I had to technically perfect the 3rd, 4th and 5th shot. While not always the case, I find it is most of the time. Now for shots dealing with layers, lines and where composition is most important, then analyzing and concentration can become more im- portant. So it does partly depend on the shot, but perso- nally, I trust my eyes, feeling and instincts more than my analyzation. For me, Concentration in Street Photo- graphy = Being Free, Open and In Tune with Your Surroundings. 47 How does it „feel“ to do street photography? If it’s a good day of street photography and I’m really in tune with seeing, feeling and capturing, then it feels al- most like being in a zone. I could walk for miles without noticing it. My mind sees and is focused on everything going on around me. It feels like an escape from any worries and I feel the life and energy of the place I’m in. When it comes to specific scenes, it’s more about the feeling than analyzing it. Many times, it’s more instinctu- al with how I capture the scene, with maybe a bit of quick analyzing. If I have more time with a specific scene then I might analyze to some extent to feel the best composition, how and what I want to include in the fra- me, and if there’s any way I can capture it to make it more interesting. But I usually go by my feeling for a sce- ne more than anything. What is your method to get into concentration? I like to be very minimal when I’m out shooting. So, no bag, or even a neck strap. Just my camera, a wrist strap and a couple of extra batteries in my pocket. I use a mir- ror-less camera that I keep ready in my hand at all times and zone focus 95% of the time. It feels like an extension of myself and allows me to focus on photography wit- hout distractions. Other than that, I just start walking and observing. Sometimes it can take a few shots to warm up and get into the photography zone, but after that, it’s all about discovering. Being present in the mo- ment, people watching, observing everything, and see- ing little things that catch my eye. I try to stay open to everything happening around me. The rest just goes by feeling my surroundings and trusting my instincts and intuition. Links Blog: www.ShooterFiles.com Portfolio Site: www.fdwalker.com 48 ____________________________________________________ Keep the Focus – even if you're being distracted Thomas Ludwig 49 KEEP THE FOCUS COPYRIGHTS eBook and images on pages 1, 10 and 47 copyright by Thomas Ludwig Images on pages: 05 … Copyright by Thomas Leuthard 08 … Copyright by Spyros Papaspyropoulos 15 … Copyright by Rinzi Ruiz 22 … Copyright by Eric Kim 25 … Copyright by Marco Larousse 28 … Copyright by Forrest Walker 32 … Copyright