In the Zone

Summer Rain © Harold Davis
Summer Rain © Harold Davis

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.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Most of my best images have come from being in the Zone. Jazz pianist Ted Gioia calls it being in the flow state. I relate most closely to this with music. Here’s how I describe my experience, “When I picked up a flute for the first time it was me and the flute and occasionally music. Then after some time it got to be me and the flute and the music. Then one day it became me and the music. then one fine day the window to my soul opened and when I picked up the flute and began to play, there was just the music.”

    It is much the same when I do anything creative. This is the thing that makes the difference between a technician and an artist technician, being able to step out of the way and let it happen. When I stood behind the pulpit many years ago on occasion I would have the feeling of stepping outside myself and sitting down in the front row to listen, generally those were some of my better sermons.

    The water drops in today’s blog are magical, you must have been in the zone when you captured that image.

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