At the Brian Kest workshop at Thrive Yoga a month ago, I took it upon myself to be the official photographer of the event. I took my Nixon D40 and kept it near my mat. A couple of times a session, I got up and took some photos, as many as I could because so many uncontrollable factors (and my own inexperience) can cross up a photo. You can see a selection of the shots at the Thrive Yoga Facebook photo gallery
Kest was cool with the distraction of a flash and shutter going off. Susan told the people that if they objected to any of their photos that showed up on Facebook, they could drop her an e-mail and we would remove it. I made a point of taking lots of shots of student greeting Kest after class. Several people specifically requested photos as mementos. Saturday class was more packed and it was really hard to move around. For the workshop weekend, I positioned my mat in a spot in the corner that allowed me a little more leeway because it was “leftover space” — no one could fit another mat in there. On Saturday and Sunday mornings, it became so hot and humid that the lens started fogging up and everything took on a halo-like glow. I caught it on Sunday and could wipe it clean with a towel, but I was afraid that I would scratch the lens.
There were times when I did not feel comfortable taking pix. For instance, during the Long, Slow and Deep (LSD, get it!) session on Saturday afternoon. People were really zoned into their experience. Besides, by the time, we had actually tunneled into the sequence and deep restorative poses, I didn’t know if I could get up. And if I got up, whether I would be able to get back down again and in the same mind and body set. I decided that meditative sets were off base (well, the whole practice is meditative, but you know what I mean).
I don’t have any other lenses so I had no way to get around the limited anlges and focus depth. Susan had commented that I tend to show panoramic views of the whole (really a large segment of) class. I tried to focus in on individuals or smaller groups. As evident in this blog, I am working on a series of photos that concentrate on isolated shots, a hand, a foot, clasped hands in a bind. Rather than looking at the whole pose and the full practitioner, I am focusing on a small slice of practice — a kind of drishti.
There is this obsessive idea of the perfect pose in much of the Western practice of yoga, that you have to get the alignment just right, find your edge with ease and grace. So we want to see lanky models pose with perfect lighting. That’s why I like the isolation shots because there is no presumption of perfection. The foot of a novice on the mat is just as eloquent as the foot of a master. It tells a lot of things. My daughter, for instance, saw a picture of a foot and hand on a mat and immediately noted that the ball of the foot was slightly raised, putting more weight on the outer edge of the foot. In yoga, you’re supposed to distribute the weight over all “four corners” of the foot.
I find myself really draw to this subject matter. In part, I am grappling with words to describe the experience and frequently coming up short. Photography offers another approach, more spontaneous, direct, succinct. But you’re only working with the surface, which is only the first layer of the senses.
Taking pictures is a great excuse for stopping in the middle of a demanding vinyasa and taking a breather. It was a demanding practice so I welcomed the opportunity to get out of more hard stuff. I also welcomed the chance to get around and look at other people’s practices more closely. It was enriching to see the diversity of experience and ease on display.