All photos copyright Catherine MacDonald

I was introduced to photography as a spiritual practice or discipline while participating in Spiritual Director’s training in 2013 and since then it has become an integral and essential part of my life in all kinds of ways: social, family, ministry and especially spiritually.

I ‘see’ differently, there are times when I see my surroundings and interactions as a series of still photographs and in doing so, I am more mindful and present than I have ever been. My default norm has often/always (?) been to rush through things, always thinking about the next thing I have to do and anticipating how much energy I will need to fulfill my various roles and responsibilities. Sacred photography instills the present in me, where I am not consumed in thinking about what I have just left nor about what is next, but am simply, prayerfully present. It is a blessing and has impacted my preaching and worship leadership. For the first time in fifteen years of worship leadership, I often feel as if I am worshipping along with leading.

Pathway through the trees taken at Carter’s Beach, Nova Scotia, 2016
Heart shaped puddle on the rocks taken at Terrence Bay Nova Scotia, 2014

Things I have learned from photography as a spiritual practice:

  1. You can always take another shot, with digital, there is always another shot.
  2. There are multiple ways of looking at something; there is beauty in the midst of decay.
  3. Sometimes you need to zoom in; sometimes you need to zoom out.
  4. Get down on the ground. It’s amazing what you see from that vantage point.
  5. Stay open, be curious, pay attention; I can photograph the same small forested area behind my house every day and ALWAYS see something different.
Autumn Leaves taken at Tatamagouche, Nova Scotia, 2014

You don’t need a fancy camera to engage in photography as a spiritual practice. When I started I had a Sony point and shoot. My son advised me on my next purchase, a basic DSLR with interchangeable lenses, but I usually shoot on auto. It’s not so much the equipment as the eye and being mindful. And most of today’s smart phones have cameras that are far better than my first point and shoot. As I read somewhere, ‘The best camera is the one you have with you.’

Baby bird, taken this past Sunday with a Blackberry!

Rev. Catherine MacDonald was ordained in the United Church of Canada in 2004 and is currently serving the people of the Elmsdale Pastoral Charge in Nova Scotia as an Interim Minister. She sings with a community choir, enjoys gardening, grandchildren, theatre, reading and of course photography.

She blogs at My Window on God’s World.

Would you like to contribute to our summer series on spiritual practices/disciplines Email Read earlier posts here: Sewing, by T. Denise Anderson, and Never on Pointe, by Mary Beene.

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8 thoughts on “Our Spiritual Disciplines: Photography

  1. Love this! I have been practicing this for the past five years, but recently did an on-line 7 week group retreat on the subject between Easter and Pentecost. I was moving house and dithered about signing up as life and head and heart were already full to bursting. However I got so much from it and it helped enormously process this transition from liminality into the unknown. I will post a link, shortly.


  2. Wow – can I relate to this: ” My default norm has often/always (?) been to rush through things, always thinking about the next thing I have to do and anticipating how much energy I will need to fulfill my various roles and responsibilities.”

    I don’t leave time for celebrating what just happened or enjoying the moment. One November I took a photo every day about something for which I was grateful. I got a LOT of that practice. I need/want to determine how photography can help me become more mindful and present.


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