Jess agreed that yoga photos are getting beyond the point of cheesy and cliche these days and was keen to jump on board with my personal photo project—Painting With Prana (PWP). I too felt a disconnect with the perception vs. reality of yoga photography and what yoga is really all about (for me). The fact of attempting to capture a pursuit of movement and mindfulness is inherently difficult with still photos, and really, no one is actually out there doing downward dog on slippery moss covered boulders as regularly as the yoga media would have you believe.
After originally talking about the idea about a year and a half ago, we arrived at the frequently packed Stawamus Chief parking lot. Only one car remained, possibly belonging to the two headlamps hanging in a portaledge on the vertical Tantalus Wall above us. As Jess and I set off up the Chief Trail in the fading light, we chatted about the project, the difficult week she was experiencing, and with all things considered—what exceptional timing it was after so long of making tentative plans which hadn’t come to fruition until tonight. Doing some yoga in the dark on top of a giant granite monolith might be the perfect recipe for recalibration.
Two-thirds of the way up, we parted ways to reconnect at our chosen locations via radios—Jess on First Peak, and myself on Second Peak. Like any professional night operation, the first order of business was to obtain proper radio handles (Jess as “blue heron” and I chose “golden eagle”). The radios only worked for a few minutes, so we resorted to cell phones for the specifics and yelling for general banter. I’m sure the guys looking for a quiet night in the portaledge below were wondering what all the ruckus was about on the summit.
In the hauntingly calm light of the “blue hour,” we exposed our first frames. After a few slight tweaks, we started finding usable images and could let the creativity flow.
“Initially, my experience was directed by the play / pause nature of Ben setting up the shots—dialing in his technical settings and framing. I don’t really paint or draw, but I am a very creative person so being able to have a creative output through movement and feeling is so important,” says Jess—a yoga instructor being one of her many hats.
Personally, my favourite part of this project is the collaborative aspect with each of the exceptional yogis and their choice of sequences and asanas—all respectively distinct, reflecting the individual in that moment. Watching the raw movements unfold in the stillness of night, the motion traced by tiny lights and preserved against a resplendent jumble of mountains, ocean, and ancient forest was brilliancy. A tiny ball of light in an immense dormant landscape.
“At one point, I just released myself from everything–not really concerned as much about the shot as I was just feeling the energy right then and there–the moon was out, the wind was blowing, and that place is just so powerful. It felt incredible to surrender to all of it and just be in the moment,” commented Jess.
Our results were varied, and all incredible in their uniqueness. The profile of a predatory bird, a lotus flower growing a giant brain, a robot with bull horns, a spartan’s helmet, and a giant leaf were all visions open to the viewers interpretation as everyone sees things a little bit differently.
Happy with our session, we descended from our respective summits into the inky blackness of the forest.