In a photography blog, when you see the word “zone” in the title of a story it is not unreasonable to assume you may be reading about the Zone system—the schematization of the relationship between tonal values in a final print and the exposure range in a photographic subject, first popularized and proselytized by Ansel Adams. But no, the subject of today’s story is a very different kind of “zone”: the feeling that combines, in an apparently paradoxical way, mindfulness and loss of a sense of self when photography comes together right.
Athletes, musicians, and visual artists (to name a few) share the possibility of peak performance when they hit this zone. Mindfulness means that you pick up on details and quickly sense compositional and emotional connections. Loss of a sense of self means that you are not thinking about how to sell your photo, or photography competitions, or your kids, and that your sense of time passing has vanished in an ecstasy of creativity. The craft of photography seems innate, and the choices you make with that craft automatically serve your vision.
Being in the zone doesn’t happen that often (at least to me), and it is to be cherished when it does. The other morning, photographing following an unusual summer rain storm, the garden heavy with waterdrops and fragrant in the still air seemed in the zone—and so did I.