“You can never get a cup of tea large enough
or a book long enough to suit me.”
― Lewis Carroll

Imagine a mixture of warm scents, earthy, sweet, spicy… you can feel it immediately as you enter the small tea room, the fragrance of jasmine tea intoxicates the air, mixed with old wood, silence and shadows.
There is a fresh breeze coming from a near by window left open, but it feels surprisingly good.

I usually stay in the corner, legs crossed, sipping my tea. There are fluffy pillows to sit on but i like the touch of the wooden floors.
Every so often, my hand touches the floor, secretly, as a hidden romance, and I am lost in sensory overload when Elke arrives.

Elke Sewöster is a Yoga teacher, of groups and individuals. She has also written a book about Yoga for kids.
She is also a big fan of tea so after I pour some into her tiny blue cup we get to talking.

“To me, Yoga is all about mindfulness towards your body, your breath and your mind. The meditation part of it the most essential to me. And I strongly believe when you commit to practice mindfulness regularly in your formal practice on your mat it is most likely that gradually your daily living, your life off the mat becomes a more full and mindful one.”

Suddenly I become even more aware of the wooden floor and its touch, the pattern created by the smoke fleeting from Elke’s cup, a reminder to fill my own cup.

“To be present, to witness and from that point be able to act in a purposeful and kind way. And doesn`t this sound a whole lot like photography, to be really there?”

Tell me about it. I wish one of us would take a picture of the amazing floor.
Both our mobiles are off the table, so that’s not going to happen.
Just imagine it.

As it is, it seems everyone goes back to the special moment when photography was born in their memories, no one knows the exact date, nor the actual first moment but rather what came afterwards.

“I´ve been taking pictures regularly since our first son was born in 1995. Nothing fancy, an analogue point and shoot which turned into a digital one later on. Along the way our second and third son were born, birthdays, Christmases and vacations were captured and most of the images ended up in a drawer. It clicked when i got my first iphone in 2011. A camera that was constantly with me, apps to play with, a whole new world.

I took online classes, discovered an amazing community on Instagram and Flickr, embarked on a self-portraiture journey with the NOWYOU girls, read and read and read on – and offline.”

The community I found on Instagram and e-courses was amazing. I didn`t think it possible but it still makes me so happy that real friendship can grow out of virtual ones. Beautiful meet-ups in person happened with Nina when we realized we only live a 100km apart.
An exchange via flickr-mail about favourite lenses with Corinna first turned into a penpalship and grew into a deep connection when we decided to collaborate on Instagram with our Deux Pieces project which is great fun.

We are all sailing the same waters. Which is something that never ceases to amaze me. I always imagine what it would be like to look at us tiny humans from the outside of the book of our stories. As our paths cross or almost touch, the expectation of the observer as our worlds finally collide.

270:365 - chilly morning
“What i realized…to have a camera with me all the time heightened my awareness, mindfulness came easier, looking became seeing. You know, it was like the camera was my „Bell of mindfulness“ a beautiful idea and possibility Thich Nhat Hanh, the vietnamese Zen-teacher, is talking about in his teachings: Use a recurring event or activity in your daily life to be reminded of your willingness to be mindful – the ringing of the phone, queuing for the bus, the minute it takes your computer to boot – time received as a gift to root yourself into the present moment, to exhale deeply.”

I like this idea, very familiar to me, as I often lose myself in the beauty of the everyday. Not a moment is lost, in fact, I make sure a good amount of minutes is spent looking at clouds. Or touching floors. Either way, both ways.

shadow lines
I wonder if Elke creates photography with images in mind, what is the creative process.

“With a theme or an image in mind I shoot for Deux Pieces, yes. One of us shoots an image and sends it to the other. The match-maker is absolutely free of how to answer to it: the opposite, something that mirrors the image, a reversed pattern…it totally depends on the liking and creativity of the responder and of course on the image given. It`s great fun to share the love of photography together. The name „deux-pièces“ came to us by serendipity: two images, each could stand alone, but sometimes it takes two.”

Oh feeling the diptych love. MmmMmm.

“For my 365 and in general i let the images come to me. The more I want or feel the pressure to „take good pictures“ the more likely it becomes I won`t shoot a single image or delete everything when i take a look at the shots later on. I do love to take photo walks on my own. And it needs some walking first, some tuning in…then eventually my mind and my eyes open up and I start to see. And then images are everywhere! I shoot what I perceive and I tend to perceive details, snippets. I guess I could return from a famous city without having taken the usual sights. I do see them and i admire them but what sticks is maybe the light on the sidewalk, the graffiti on the wall etc. There are recurring themes though but they evolve in a more organic way not in a planned hunt. I realized I unintentially did a “locked” series.

I`m drawn to decaying beauty, old doors and windows, peeling paint, overgrown walls and buildings….”

The teapot is empty. Elke chooses a “nice green tea scented with ever so sweet smelling cherry blossoms” which is, trust me, just as cool to drink as it is to write about it.

We move from photography to our love of books, to a side talk about the book we are currently reading in our Book Club and I can feel we are about to get lost in the universe of Jane Austen.
So I gently pull us back, keeping us grounded in the moment, just a little longer, while you are still with us.

“A year and a half ago I bought my first DSLR. The big camera and the ever-present mobile camera are equally dear to me and in daily use since I started my first 365 on January, 1st. Something shifted for me earlier this year. It started with Kirstin`s review of Contemplative Photography – seeing the world with fresh eyes“ by Andi Karr and Michael Wood on MM.”

Did you just smile? I did.

“I ordered a copy and was intrigued. No, not only intrigued, I could have cried happy tears (maybe i did). No hunting for interesting or „exciting“ images – „Just“ seeing and beeing fully there, present… and that that`s enough and more.

I learned about Miksang photography and been following this path with gratitude and pleasure since then.

I just finished Julie Einstein`s ecourse „Seeing drala“ which I can highly recommend to anyone interested in seeing fresh and learning with a dedicated teacher.”

A branch outside scratches the window and with a song from the wind both our heads turn.
I know when she leaves, a picture of this moment will be captured. Which makes me ask, how about apps and editing?
How much of it is left to reality?

“I like to keep it simple. For shooting I like ProCamera, I edit in Snapseed or pictapgo. I`m not a fan of heavy filters. I sometimes play with them but almost every time I drop it and turn to, if at all, a basic editing of contrast, exposure, highlights etc.
I think it`s because I want my images to express what I saw the moment I released the shutter. I like hipstamatic in some situations though and find it fun to use.
But the images that feel the most „me“ are the simple, unaltered ones.”

old zoo
Simple. Real. In the moment.
That would be Elke.

Thank you for today.

More of Elke on Flickr and Instagram.

Now go outside and click.

… but before you run out the door, share your favorite workshops, e-courses, books, apps and anything that caused a shift in the way you feel photography.