Contemplative Photography Retreat

with Flint Sparks, John Barclay and Special Guests

Contemplative Photography Retreat

with Flint Sparks, John Barclay and Special Guests


Contemplative Photography Retreat –

A retreat about fully engaging body, heart and mind in the practice of photography.  Photography as a spiritual path.

Molokai, Hawaii
 December 6-14, 2024

The Retreat

Join John Barclay and Flint Sparks on the magic island of Molokai for a 8-day retreat as they teach both the technique and the practice of contemplative photography.

Seeing Deeply is a learned discipline and takes practice. Our intent is to encourage you to enter the embodied practices of mindful photography throughout the week during which we will learn to deepen our capacity for intimacy with our subjects, with our equipment and technique, and with each other. Seeing Deeply is an invitation to show up more fully in each moment, to be captured by the beauty of the world, and to become more skillful in the art of photography. We might be so bold as to say that this is an invitation to photography as spiritual practice.

We will photograph the highest sea cliffs in the world, wander through rain forests, swim in the warm waters of secluded beaches, meet both sunrises and sunsets, all as ways to be silent, still and blessed. We will explore the real reasons why we photograph and discover new ways to see more fully and to live more vibrantly. We will live together for the week as a family of photographers opening our hearts and minds to both images and insights.

Who is this retreat for?

If you are looking for something beyond a conventional photography workshop and want to engage in practices which will open your heart to the world in new and creative ways, this is an opportunity designed for you. At one level you will be offered mindfulness practices which will undoubtedly enrich your love of photography, but you will also be invited to enter a path of contemplative practices which will deepen your connection with yourself, your intimacy with others, and an embodied immediacy of the natural world through photography. This is a contemplative retreat in which you bring along a camera, not solely a photography workshop in which you learn new techniques. Your photography might very well improve as a result, but your capacity for loving presence will expand you heart and your vision, and this will show in your photographs.

You need not be an advanced or particularly experienced photographer to engage in this kind of retreat. We always enjoy a wide range of participant experience, from the seasoned photographer to the beginner with an iPhone. What is more important is that you bring awholehearted willingness to engage body, heart, and mind in the process. They representthe essential “equipment” of the retreat. A camera literally becomes an exquisite lens through which your personal and spiritual transformations are discovered and expressed. Please join us.



Who will be guiding your retreat?

John Barclay – John will inspire you to follow your heart and encourage you to create the images you see in your imagination. “As you master the technical aspects of photography and develop your vision, you must also engage your heart. It’s getting in touch with your emotions that will allow your images to sing! ”

John will help you focus on following your own vision, moving beyond imitation to find inspiration through your own voice. “We need to understand technique so well that we are freed from its constraints and liberated to pursue our vision.” John will instill within you a new confidence that will allow you to trust your instincts and to photograph without boundaries.

John will help you make the connection between the essence of what you see and the visual poetry you can create. “Photography feeds my soul.”

Flint Sparks – Flint will be your meditation teacher and mindfulness coach for the week. While not a professional photographer, Flint uses photography as a contemplative spiritual practice and as a vehicle for his teaching. He will lead you in mindfulness practices that will help deepen your sense of intimacy with the environment, with your body, your equipment, and with each other. “Learning to pause, reflect and connect in the moment opens our hearts and minds in ways that are not only revealed in our images but which ultimately transform our lives. Through mindful photography we learn the discipline of presence ”

Cartier-Bresson called the camera “an instrument of intuition and spontaneity.” There is probably not a better introduction to the fundamental qualities of mindful attention that Flint will be teaching. The great photographer goes further: “This attitude requires concentration, a discipline of mind, sensitivity and a sense of geometry — it is by great economy of means that one arrives at simplicity of expression. One must always take photographs with the greatest respect for the subject and for oneself.” Flint will be emphasizing these same qualities as we cultivate mindful attention in our photography.

Flint will assist you in softening barriers to clear seeing and, in the process, unleashing the flow of nourishment that arrives automatically when you allow the world to come to you fully. “The grace of each moment with my camera leads me to a heart filled with gratitude, a generosity of spirit, and an appreciation of the mystery in which we reside.”

About the Teachers


Me Head ShotJohn Barclay

John Barclay is an award wining freelance photographer based in Bucks County, PA.  John is a passionate photographer and enthusiastic workshop leader. He is also an inspirational speaker, presenting his programs to audiences around the world.  John’s work has been published in a number of books and magazines and is treasured by a number of private collectors. Recently, John was the recipient of an excellence award from B&W Magazine and chosen by Dewitt Jones to participate in his www.healingimages.org program. You can see his work and view his workshop and tour schedule at johnbarclayphotography.com

Flint Sparks

DSC_0124_2Flint Sparks is a meditation teacher, Zen priest, and former psychologist dedicated to assisting people on the unending path to growing up and waking up. He is an experienced therapist and master teacher who assists people in softening barriers to love, both inside and outside. He is a clear and caring resource with nearly four decades of experience of exploring the path of freedom from unnecessary suffering. This experience is now extending to the creative world of mindful photography.

Dewitt Jones – Special Guest Lecturer

Dewitt Jones is one of America’s top professional photographers. Twenty years with National Geographic photographing stories around the globe has earned him the reputation as a world-class photojournalist. As a motion picture director, two of Dewitt’s films were nominated for Academy Awards.

Dewitt’s column Basic Jones has appeared in Outdoor Photographer for the last 25 years. He has also published nine books including California! and John Muir’s High Sierra. His most recent book, The Nature of Leadership, was created in collaboration with Stephen R. Covey.

Dewitt is also recognized as a world class lecturer and speaks to audiences around the world on creativity and vision. His genuine style and ability to communicate with audiences make his presentations truly outstanding. Dewitt’s inspirational messages are further discussed in his best selling training programs.

He is a graduate of Dartmouth College with a B.A. in drama and holds a Master’s Degree in filmmaking from the University of California at Los Angeles.

Dewitt makes his home on the Hawaiian island of Molokai.

Find Dewitt’s daily posts on his Facebook fan page HERE.

Rikki Cooke – Special Guest Lecturer

Rikki Cooke, has been a professional photographer for 40 years. Much of that time he worked as a freelancer for The National Geographic Society, where he traveled to much of the world on a variety of assignments. His main interest is focusing on the innate beauty of his subjects and honoring that.

His assignments included shooting two books: America’s Ancient Cities and The Blue Ridge Range as well as work in other National Geographic publications. He also photographed a book for the Smithsonian on Hawaii. His experience touches the full spectrum of photography, from lighting pyramids to photographing polar bears in the Arctic as well as national advertising campaigns for commercial clients.

Rik and his wife Bronwyn are the authors of the award-winning book, Molokai, an Island in Time. In the early 1990s they moved back to Molokai. This island was part of his childhood, and today they live on lands that have been with his family for 100 years. They run the educational and arts center, Hui Ho’olana, which is dedicated to healing its lands as well as the students it helps to inspire.

To see some of Rikki’s images go to his website at RikkiCooke.com or read his blog at TheAlohaBear.com.


Course Description – Contemplative Photography

The Goals of the Course Are:

FIRST: TO EXPLORE BOTH THE SPIRIT AND THE SPIRITUALITY OF PHOTOGRAPHY — The reasons we photograph goes far beyond just making a good image. It’s a desire for direct connection with the beauty and magic of life. This part of photography is seldom spoken about. During this retreat, we will be discussing it every day. Hopefully, by giving each other permission to share the best of what we have learned from our images, we will grow more and more comfortable with spirit of our photography and the spiritual path it opens to us.

SECOND: TO TRAIN AND ENHANCE YOUR TECHNIQUE — No matter where you are in your photography (beginner, advanced amateur, or professional) vision without technique is blind. Mastering your technique will help you achieve your vision. We will work with you both as a group and individually to make sure your technique is based on a solid understanding of both the camera and computer.

During the week we will focus on techniques both in camera and in the digital darkroom that will help you achieve the vision you have for your images.

THIRD: INSPIRE YOUR CREATIVITY — During the week, we will share a myriad of techniques, ideas and styles both photographic and philosophic. Our goal is to expand your vision, and give you permission to try new things. In short, to unleash your creativity as it opens your heart. For example, John will offer a presentation about how to “Master Your Craft and Honor Your Vision.” Flint will challenge you to consider “The Shift From Answering Your Questions to Questioning Your Answers.” We have the great honor of sharing the week with Dewitt Jones and Rikki Cooke. These master photographers will join us as we explore what it means to engage in contemplative photography!

Notes from the Hui Ho`olana

Please remember check in time is 2pm. Before 2, we are preparing for you and we cannot accommodate early arrivals.

Check out is by 12 noon on your departure day. That is when the staff begins our ‘down time’ and clean up – your timely departure is appreciated.

Our guests can look forward to an experience that is simple and close to the earth.
Be prepared for natural, uneven walking trails as you go to the meeting hall, the shower houses, cabins and the main lodge. This requires some fitness and a willingness and ability to hike short distances up a gradual 20% incline. For those staying in cabins, and for staff as well, it is a short walk to the bathrooms. All cabins and the lodge have electricity and most cabins have access to WIFI, but we still encourage you to bring a small reading light for late night reading in your bed.

It is very quiet on Molokai and especially here at the Hui. As is typical in the tropics, the buildings are single wall construction. Unless you are a couple, you will probably have a roommate. Therefore, simple noises can seem louder than usual. If you are a sensitive sleeper, bring earplugs. Again, make sure you bring a flashlight, batteries and a quart sized water bottle. There are no guest laundry facilities. We suggest you bring clothing that can be hand washed and line dried.   

The Hui is known for its fabulous homegrown salads and delicious healthy cuisine. Meals are mainly vegetarian plus fresh local fish and beef. The food is exceptional! However, we do not have the appropriate staff or facilities to accommodate unusual dietary needs. If you are on a restricted diet of any kind, please be sure to notify John Barclay and he will work with you to let you know if you need to bring anything to supplement your meals.

Karma Yoga represents time offered to support the needs of your retreat and is an intrinsic part of living in community. Staff and guests all participate in karma yoga on a daily basis. You will each be given a small job like sweeping a deck or wiping down the tables after meals. We greatly appreciate your willingness to help in this way during your stay at Hui Ho’olana.

All together this is a full experience of earth, sky and community with – na ohana hoaloha – a family of friends. We look forward to being with you and welcoming you home!

Aloha from the Hui Staff!!

Guest Lectures
Dewitt Jones  Dewitt spent 20 years as a photographer for National Geographic; another 10 years shooting major national ad campaigns. He makes great images. He is also a great teacher who will inspire you to create your own extraordinary visions, both in your photography and in your life.

Rikki Cooke will be our guest lecturer and our island guide. Rikki has shot extensively for National Geographic Magazine, and has taught at many photographic workshops over the last 20 years. He is a resident of Molokai, and will lead us to places far beyond the snapshot spots, he will lead us to the hidden places tourists never see.

The Location

TFS-141204-3193The seminar will take place at Hui Ho`olana, a beautiful 80 acre retreat center on the island of Molokai. Formally part of the Cooke Ranch, the lodge sits at 1100 feet offering wonderful panoramic views of Molokai, Lanai, Oahu and the Pacific Ocean. Fresh, abundant meals are prepared daily by the lodge’s gourmet chef. Much of the food is grown right on the property. Tropical gardens and a large swimming pool make the Hui a truly luxurious experience. Sleeping is dormitory style with 1 to 3 participants to a room or cabin. Enrollment is limited to 17.

As well as the instruction at the Hui, we will be taking photo excursions throughout this island paradise. We have special access to Mo`omomi Preserve, one of the last protected Hawaiian Coastal ecosystems. We’ll shoot waves at dawn, hula dancers in a palm grove at sunset, flora and fauna beyond your imaging. You will find enough beauty here to last a lifetime.

Come join us. Add richness to your photographs and your life as you expand your creativity. Mindful Photography is a retreat for sharpening the eye, expanding the mind, and opening the heart.



December 6-14, 2024, $4,295.00 This includes all retreat costs as well as room and board.  Please register via this link.

Transportation from and to the airport as well as transportation during the retreat is included. Airfare to Molokai and any personal rental car costs are not included. A non-refundable $1000 deposit will hold your place. The balance is due October 6, 2024  for the December 2024 session. Cancellations after the final payment due date will forfeit the complete registration fee, unless the space can be filled. ***Note***: We highly recommend travel insurance like TRAVELEX. Anything can happen, and you can recoup expenses if you are insured. Due to the limited space available, we highly recommend you register as soon as possible. Scroll down for course description, and travel recommendations.

What to Bring for the Photogrpahy

Participants in this class range from semi professionals to beginning shooters. John and Flint recommend that you bring whatever camera gear you have to the seminar including but certainly not limited to:

    • Your digital SLR camera.
    • Your tripod.
    • You will be photograhing during the retreat in the RAW format. In our experience, you will shoot alot of images, therefore we recommend you bring around 50GB of memory cards for your camera OR you have 50 GB of free space on your laptop computer on which to download your memory cards.
    • A laptop computer with Adobe Photoshop Lightroom installed.**
    • A backup hard drive for your laptop computer.
    • A card reader for your camera.
    • During recent seminars we have spent time discussing the iPhone and its use as a digital sketchpad in the field as well as a powerful creative tool in its own right. If you have a iPhone – bring it!

Pretend you are going to camp and remember the following

    • December is one of the cooler months on the tropical paradise of Molokai, check the forecast before you depart.
    • Bring 2-3 light changes of clothing that can be rinsed out.
    • A fleece jacket.
    • A light rain jacket and/or an umbrella.
    • A pair or two of warm socks.
    • A bathrobe if you want one.
    • Slip off shoes (Hawaiian custom is to remove your shoes before entering a home).
    • A flashlight.
    • A water bottle.
    • A light beach towel (the Hui Ho`olana provides bath towels).
    • A small reading light (for late night reading in your room).
    • Either checks or cash if you anticipate buying a souvenir from the onsite gallery or getting a massage from the massage therapist. The Hui Ho’olana is unable to take credit cards and the closest ATM is a 20 minute drive from the retreat center.
    • Be sure to bring your own toiletries and any prescription medicine you need as they are unavailable at the Hui Ho’olana.
    • If you are a light sleeper – bring earplug

What to Expect

Before you come to Molokai you will want to be sure to go online to check the weather forecast, noting that we are several degrees cooler and wetter than the general Molokai forecast.


Travel Information

Arrival and Departure Information

Plan to arrive at the Hui Ho’olana after 2pm. Snacks will be offered at 3pm and the formal opening of the retreat will be at 5pm.

Plan to depart before noon on the final day. Breakfast is the last formal meal during the retreat followed by our last morning session that will be finished by 10am.


We highly recommend travel insurance like Travel Guard. Anything can happen and you can recoup expenses if you are insured.

Flight Information

There are no direct flights to Molokai from the USA mainland. The most convenient way to fly to Molokai is to first land in Honolulu, then catch a connecting flight on one of the following airlines: Mokulele Airlines, or Ohana/Hawaiian.

Allow a minimum of 1 hour 15 minutes between mainland and inter island flights.

Be sure to check your bag all the way to Molokai, your destination is Ho’olehua Airport, and your baggage sticker should say MKK on it.

Ferry Information

Another option is to travel to Molokai from Maui via the daily Molokai Ferry.

How to get from the Airport to Contemplative Photography at the Hui Ho`olana:

We will pick you up from the airport at the start of Contemplative Photography and drop you off to the airport at the retreats conclusion.

Note – If you are not renting a car, please be sure to inform John of your arrival time and cell phone number so he can coordinate your pickup at the airport.

If you wish to rent a car to explore the island on your down time during the retreat, Alamo car rentals are currently the only rental agency operating on the island.

If you are renting a car – please print these directions to get from the airport to the Hui Ho`olana:

Turn right as you exit the airport
Turn left onto Mauna Loa Hwy (460)
Turn left up the Kalae Hwy (470)
Take a right at the green 3 mile marker sign and go to the end of the private drive


Shipping and contact info for the Hui Ho`olana

If you need to ship anything to the Hui Hoolana ahead of the retreat use the mailing address: PO Box 280, (Or for UPS: 1476 Kalae Hwy), Kualapu’u, Moloka’i, HI 96757.
The emergency number at the lodge is (808) 567-6403.

If you choose to extend your trip:

Accommodations on Molokai

If you are interested in spending a night or more on Molokai before or after the seminar, there is one hotel on the island, Hotel Molokai. There is also a working ranch at the east end of the island that provides accomodations as well as horseback riding, Puuohoku.com.

Other accommodation information can be found at VisitMolokai.com and molokai-hawaii.com.

Activities on Molokai

A list of Molokai activities can be found at VisitMolokai.com
Here are a few of our favorites;
Molokai Fishing for deep sea fishing trips, whale watching and snorkeling – Mike Holmes 808.336.0047 or 808.567.6789
Alyce C Fishing for deep sea fishing – Joe Reich – 808.558.8377
Molokai Fish and Dive for whale watching, snorkel and scuba trips and ocean kayaking – 808.553.5926


We are looking forward to being with you, old and new friends alike. This is a reminder for some and new information for others. ­

One of the most important things guests have learned over the years is: PACK LIGHT! You need very little here.

What Participants Are Saying....

Trudy says…  “John and Flint are a perfect match.  Their vision to include spiritual gifts made for something few get to experience. Little did we know when we discovered your cancellation how meaningful this would become!  My husband said it best when we returned home…”Most of the time when we travel we conclude with a ‘been there done that’ but this time it stole my heart!””

Tina says… ‘The contemplative retreat approach to the way of my ‘seeing’ is a powerful and rich discipline.  With an invitation to more intimately explore those people, places and things that ’turn my head’,  I have taken an even deeper dive into the world as I see it.  Inviting curiosity, again and again.  I am learning more about ‘how’ I see.  Which connects me at a deeper level with what I see and how I see it.  THANK YOU John and Flint, for your collaboration and creating and offering this powerful approach to photography.

Roxanne – “By far, one of the most unique and rewarding photography retreats I have had the privilege of attending. John Barclay’s Contemplative Photography Retreat includes opportunities to see wild, untamed and undeveloped Hawai’i. John partners with legendary National Geographic photographers and a renowned Zen teacher to take you places you cannot go as a an ordinary visitor. I always come home with beautiful images, feeling centered and inspired.” 

Laura – “This workshop takes a truly unique approach to photography. Instead of rushing to get the shot, they taught us how to slow down and connect to the scene before we even clicked the shutter. That connection produced better, more thoughtful photos, as well as a better, more thoughtful approach to how we live our lives.”

“By learning how to slow down and connect to the scene before even clicking the shutter, we came away with not only better, more thoughtful photos, but a better, more thoughtful approach to life.”
Steve – “This retreat was remarkable in all respects, and so very different from traditional photography workshops. John and Flint combined to provide a unique experience that for me was life-changing in many ways.”
Ken – “With sincere gratitude and appreciation… Experiencing the beauty of “Mother Molokai”, with an open heart and a quite mind, facilitated the discovery of my own light and my ability to create images that reflect my deep emotional connection to this mystical place.   The presence of John and Flint with their support, encouragement, and teachings, provided me with the opportunity to discover a deeper way of seeing.”


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