This morning as I was waiting in line for a ferry, the clear pure notes of a robin’s song came to my ears. A pause, then that lovely clear song again. I stopped and just listened, and said out loud, “Thank you for your song, lovely bird.”

My photographs are the song I offer the world. They are my Namaste, my way of saying to the subject, “I recognize and salute the Divine within you”.


I am keenly aware that like the robin, I am allotted a finite number of days on this earth. Many hours are devoted to the mundane tasks of life, of course. But when I set aside time to make images, I have the opportunity, like the robin, to add to the beauty of the world.

And so, for me, photography is a spiritual practice. It’s about stopping to notice the beauty around me, the many blessings offered in this world, and composing from these blessings a hymn of praise to offer back to the world.

It a way of saying to the viewer of my image, “Stop weary traveller. Rest here a moment in the beauty of this image, and remember that you live in the midst of miracles.” Just as the robin shares the gift it has been given, I am moved to share whatever gifts I can with others along the way. Some will receive the gifts; others will not.


If this resonates with you, you can start right now. There are “schools” of contemplative photography (I took a Miksang course) and they can be inspiring and helpful, but you don’t need them to get started. It starts with noticing, with looking without an agenda, just open and receptive in each moment.


When something grabs you, stop and become still inside. Notice. Let the subject speak to you. Take your time.

Try to let words and judgments and even identifying objects drop away and just notice – lines, shapes, forms, textures, patterns, colours, and above all – light. You can practise this even without a camera… riding in a car, for example… but these days I carry a camera pretty much everywhere I go.


The things I photograph are often pretty mundane, but by opening my senses and attuning my eyes to the sacred, I can notice and then with my camera, reveal the sacred beauty that is hiding in plain sight all around us. A fallen leaf, a dead bird, a shrivelled flower, a weed growing out of a crack in the pavement… let these touch your soul and be fodder for your lens.


We’ve had quite a few hummingbirds dying around the building where I live, due to some architectural “features” that are now being addressed to prevent further deaths. I’ve been sad about this, but I’ve also let my sense of awe and wonder fill me when I see these tiny bodies.

I’m amazed at the perfection of these tiny beings, who weigh almost nothing yet fly up, down and backwards and also hover. What miracles!  I hold one in my hand and am overcome with reverence. They are so achingly beautiful and like everything else – like me, eventually – they return to the earth. In a spirit of honouring this tiny life, I pull out my camera.


So when you notice something, stop. It might be as simple as a flower growing up through the pavement. Notice what drew your attention. Look closely and tune in to how you feel. Breathe in the beauty and the reverence you feel in the moment.

Allow yourself to be inspired. (The word inspiration has to do with breathing.) Let your subject take your breath away. Then – and only then – raise your camera and frame the shot in a way that captures what captured you.

When you are finished, pause again in gratitude. You might bow to your subject, outwardly or inwardly. Bless it and continue on your way, noticing all the while.

The voluptuous essence of the anthurium shines on in exquisite textures and light long after the heedless gardener might have discarded it.

If you shoot in this way, you will find that your soul starts to shine through your work. Some of your viewers (not all, of course) will have their breath taken away by an image when their soul “rings” in tune with your vision and your presentation of the miracle you saw. That’s a pretty remarkable and gratifying impact to have as a simple photographer!

Happy shooting!


Judy Hancock Holland is a fine art photographer living on Vancouver Island, BC. Canada. You can see more of her work at and at


  1. Jason July 7, 2016 at 8:01 pm

    Wonderful! Amazing! This is what it’s all about. Thank you Judy.

  2. Karen Filo July 7, 2016 at 8:06 pm

    ‘Capture what captured you!’ Love that. Great article, thanks.

  3. Gene July 7, 2016 at 8:06 pm

    What a great example of the beauty of the world around us! Thanks for sharing and for your inspiration!

  4. Cindy July 7, 2016 at 8:06 pm

    I thoroughly enjoyed this post. When I create something that touches me or someone else, I am so grateful. And losing myself with a camera is soul touching. It may not happen often enough but when it does. …..

  5. Colleen St Claire July 7, 2016 at 8:41 pm

    Your comments are noted, as well as your beautiful shots, but I do believe you must mention the Creator of all you have shot, it is His Beauty. God created all the wonder in the world we see around us. I too shoot many macro shots, to highlight what God Has created, it is truly beautiful.

  6. Kenton Cornelson July 7, 2016 at 8:42 pm

    Love it, thanks for the inspiration

  7. Jeanne Hampshire July 7, 2016 at 8:43 pm

    Beautiful images- thank you. My vision of photography and artwork too…

  8. Keonaona July 7, 2016 at 8:49 pm

    Allow me to honest and direct. When I first started reading this article I said to myself “what a bunch of hocus pocus dribble”
    But soon I found myself relating to the experience and realized that I felt exactly the same way but I never took the time nor do I posses the skill needed to articulate these emotions. As I am recognizing my shortcomings. I am realizing the shortcomings only hinder my experience of beauty shared by others. I have truly been blessed by this article… Thank you

  9. Jennifer July 7, 2016 at 9:10 pm

    That’s a wonderful way of looking at our incredibly beautiful world and one I can completely relate to.

  10. Marlene July 7, 2016 at 9:11 pm

    Exactly. It’s how I connect with what’s around me, and what I do to calm my mind, heart, and spirit.

  11. Wally July 7, 2016 at 9:19 pm

    Yes, Judy, a great reminder of needing to honour what we experience and to be thankful for the opportunity to celebrate our life while taking photos to freeze the moment in time. Much appreciated.

  12. Jackie Mullins July 7, 2016 at 9:37 pm

    Your soul shines through in your images, Judy. Thanks for the inspiration!

  13. aris antoniou July 7, 2016 at 9:44 pm

    I like too much all i see.I feel your feelings. You are great!

  14. David Faulkner July 7, 2016 at 10:08 pm

    Interesting, Mike, thanks for publishing this. I note that the author is approaching this from a perspective of ‘Eastern’ religions. There are also Christian approaches to seeing photography as a spiritual discipline, e.g., in Howard Zehr’s ‘The Little Book of Contemplative Photography’. For a Christian such as myself it’s not only about recognising the beauty of creation through photography and offering praise to God, it’s also about photographing the ugliness of the world and then praying and working for social justice.

  15. Wayne July 7, 2016 at 10:36 pm

    It is inspirational that of the journey of ones eye thru the lens of a camera…thank-you

  16. Kim July 7, 2016 at 11:21 pm

    Thank you for sharing that, Judy – your words and images are beautiful. I’m not a professional photographer, but I record subjects for some of the very same reasons that you do. I feel that recording something preserves that beauty and uniqueness beyond the fleeting moment of its physical existence. Even if I’m the only one who goes back to look at it, it is still remembered.

  17. Ralph July 7, 2016 at 11:44 pm

    Don’t be afraid of your camera
    like I have been, don’t be obsessed with having a ” theme ” you can photograph anything you want, there are no rules, just the usual snobbery just comes with most things.

    Be inspired by photographers like Alistair Ben or Jimmy McIntyre, and of course take a
    look at Ansel Adams landscapes.

    And don’t forget to read your camera’s manual !!

  18. Don July 8, 2016 at 12:06 am

    When people view your photos ( and mine) they get a glimpse of something God created for our enjoyment. To look at the color and detail in something we normally would not pay attention to is a true blessing

  19. Mary Anne Harris July 8, 2016 at 1:21 am

    With beauty in word and photo you have articulated what I have believed for so long. God is in the vastness of the universe and in tiny, everyday mundane things. My calling is to be a visual storyteller of God’s beauty.
    Thank you for you inspiration.

  20. Jan Bolders July 8, 2016 at 2:30 am

    Thank you Judy, you touched my heart with your photography and your words. We live amongst such beauty in a world seemingly focused of the negative aspects of life. How inspiring and refreshing your work is, it’s so important! Do keep up the great work and thank you again. :-))

  21. Allan Cleanthous July 8, 2016 at 2:31 am

    What a beautiful reminder of the need to appreciate all of creation. Even the little dead birds are honoured – thank you for some great thoughts and fantastic photos

  22. Greg Hintermeister July 8, 2016 at 2:45 am

    Outstanding message and outstanding photos.

    If I can ask, how do you capture the colors of the leaf while the background is entirely black?

  23. Peter July 8, 2016 at 6:59 am

    Great pictures to underline your message

  24. Uli July 8, 2016 at 7:06 am

    Thank you for the gift of your inspiring words and your awesome images.
    Some of my photography already goes in this direction but your work and philosophy inspires me to follow this path even more.

  25. Ken July 8, 2016 at 7:09 am

    Seeing the divine in everything is a great gift.
    ‘Melodious music the birds perform
    To the King of heaven of the clouds, Praising the radiant King
    Hark from afar the the choir of the birds.’ 9th cent

  26. Stan Head July 8, 2016 at 9:57 am

    I Love how you SEE the World, with its awesomeness and how you bring forth that seeing into art.

  27. Nancy Merolle July 8, 2016 at 10:08 am

    You have expressed the exact same way I feel when I walk in this world, and so much better than I. That is exactly how I shoot. Thanks for saying it so well.

  28. June July 8, 2016 at 1:11 pm

    What a wonderful gift!
    Your photos are so inspiring, true beauty that surrounds us all but few stop awhile to notice. Thank you for sharing

  29. Michael Thomas July 8, 2016 at 3:26 pm

    I have always thought we were closer to the universe when engaging in our artistic pursuits. I love these photographs and the emotional mosaic behind them.

  30. Amy Combs July 8, 2016 at 5:00 pm

    Beautiful article. I loved the pictures you chose to show with your POV. I see the world in the same way. Photography brings me peace and it helps my soul heal. I loved this. Great job!

  31. Peter Jackson July 8, 2016 at 6:33 pm

    How wonderful!
    You’ve put how I feel into words.
    I’m moved and inspired in equal measure.
    Thank you

  32. Judy Hancock Holland July 8, 2016 at 7:01 pm

    Glad to see this is resonating with some of you. The world needs more awareness of the beauty and sacredness all around us. Keep shooting and contributing to that!

  33. Judy Hancock Holland July 8, 2016 at 11:09 pm

    Greg Hintermeister – You asked how I shot the red maple leaf. It’s simple shot in window light on a black mirror, with a black background. Some burning done in Lightroom for consistency. I was moved to do this when I saw the leaf, so beautiful, lying on the ground and thought to myself… this will soon be ground into dust, just as we all return to dust. I wanted to preserve and honour it’s beauty before its inevitable return to the earth.

  34. Judy Hancock Holland July 8, 2016 at 11:15 pm

    David Faulkner – My intention was not to represent any particular religion, but to zero in on the sacred beauty all around us. I, myself, don’t identify with any particular organized religion, although I am moved by the traditions of many of them. I might say “Namaste” one day, “God bless” the next, and “Shalom” the next. I see and celebrate the Divine everywhere, and strive to see it in everyone.

  35. Paul July 9, 2016 at 12:55 am


    This blog post was very interesting and struck a cord.

    When I was a student about 35 years ago, I had a friend who was studying to be a priest and he gave up his religious studies because he found photography. I suggested his choice was a poor substitute for a “Supreme Being”. I have since lost track of him and I hope he has found his spiritual goal. I have also thought a lot about my former opinion.

    That being said, I know of a few people who use photography as a tool to help them find peace, relaxation and enlightenment. I think there many ways explore your individual spirituality with photography being a very valuable mean to do so.

    As a photo teacher in a public high school, I plan to use this post a discussion point to explore a different aspect of photography and the media in general.

    Thanks for this post. It was refreshingly different.

  36. Judy Hancock Holland July 9, 2016 at 3:14 am

    Paul… Thanks so much for your comment. It warms my heart, as a former teacher, to know that you can use my post in a classroom. How wonderful! – Judy

  37. Roy Bennett July 10, 2016 at 2:00 am

    As a person of faith who values my spiritual path through life I would thank Judy for putting into words feelings I have often had about my photography. I love that photography slows me down to look and look again, to see things from another perspective. I believe that all photography has the ability to look inside the moment and make the viewer pause and ponder. Thank you Judy for a thoughtful and thought provoking article.

  38. Kim July 10, 2016 at 2:13 am

    I really enjoyed this post. Photography is a meditative practice for me…many do not understand why I take so many photos and spend so much time with them. Sometimes I worry that my photos are cliche, but the bottom line is that by taking them, I interact with the world in a way that is not otherwise possible.

  39. Donna kujat July 10, 2016 at 1:04 pm

    Judy…beautifully written! I can totally relate…..I play piano but when I discovered photography, I discovered a whole new passion and another way to express myself. It has been a joy to slow down and notice the very things I took for granted before. Thank you for sharing your gifts!

  40. Carolyn July 19, 2016 at 12:43 pm

    You expressed so beautifully the things I feel about photography. Noticing the beauty that surrounds me, acknowledging and feeling grateful and humble I could experience it. Thank you for sharing your insight. ~ Namaste

  41. Scarlett July 29, 2016 at 12:57 pm

    By breath. By breaths lack. By beauty. Inspired.

  42. Cecilia Prest September 18, 2016 at 1:07 pm

    Thanks for sharing this Judy. I can relate to every word. I don’t take photos-i pray and paint with my camera :) Your images are beautiful in their simplicity. Thank you so much. Bless you…

  43. Terri Cummings July 6, 2017 at 12:48 pm

    Thank you Judy. I saw your presentation last night in Qualicum Beach and it really spoke deeply to my heart. I enjoyed you, your beautifully expressive photography and words, and I’ve enjoyed reading this article this morning. Thank you for inspiring me!

  44. Mike Newton July 6, 2017 at 8:32 pm

    Thank you for the kind reply Terri! I’m glad you enjoyed it!

  45. Jiyce September 12, 2017 at 8:14 pm

    Just amazing photos!! Very well done!

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