Crouched down in the dark forest I carefully position pieces of moss and fronds of fern on a piece of bright white paper.
Hovering over with my camera mounted on a sturdy tripod I steadily gather images of these tiny stories of nature, one by one, ready for the next step which will take several days.
Time out in nature creating photos can be a therapeutic process, especially when the light behaves and I can maintain my focus. However, sometimes I yearn for more. Maybe it comes from my background as an editorial photographer when I needed to create to a tight brief. Most of my shooting time now is relatively ad hoc, unplanned, as I like to see what nature wants to offer me.
Occasionally though the old patterns of wanting to exert my will over the process comes back into play, and I go out with a firm intention. A few years ago that intention was to create photographic nature mandalas like no other and I’ve just rediscovered the joy of this quite involved process.
Not wanting to bore you with the intricate details I’ll just say that the work, for me, involves shooting bits of nature on a pure white background out on location and then arranging them on a blank canvas in photoshop to see what I can come up with. Typically I use several hundred elements to create each mandala and as a result they have a real depth ready for exploration.
It’s perhaps the quickest way to get in the flow. Methodically moving the nature finds on the screen, noting the interplay between moss and fern, petal and feather is quite addictive and never fails to engage me. In fact, having rediscovered some of my old nature mandalas I’m quite tempted to give it a try again when space opens up for me.
Mandalas are traditionally associated with Hindu and Buddhist traditions, and to a degree with Native American cultures, but their appeal has spread worldwide. Evidence suggests that our long-ago ancestors also created mandalas in their cave art, sigils with hidden messages lost in the mists of time.
Magic practitioners often use sigils to manifest their will and mandalas can have a similar purpose although they are usually called on to aid concentration, deepen into meditation or engage in spiritual practices.
The mandalas I’ve created are no less intentional. Each one has a purpose in mind since the point of creation and many have been utilised in ceremony and ritual. Experiments in radionics a few decades ago show how images of a subject can contain something of the spirit of the original and that is the principle behind my mandalas.
Alternatively, cutting out the woo woo spiritual stuff, maybe they’re simply attractive patterns that can be immersed into for a while, giving our minds some downtime.
Whatever approach is taken, nature mandalas can play a part in our mental wellbeing and I’m pleased to now offer a set in my Earthlight shop. My Medicine Chest of Mandalas is just that: a small collection of creations ready to offer their mental medicine via everyday objects. Whether it’s a framed canvas to grace a living space, a hanger print for a treatment room, small prints for an altar or a printed coaster to ‘charge’ drinking water there’s something for every approach in this collection.