Every so often, once a week or so, sometimes, only twice a month, I take my trusty “big girl camera” out for a walk around the ponds on the property where I’ve lived for the last thirty-two years. You’d think I’d know the landscape and the scenery well by now, and I do. I know where to find the acorns, the grape vines, the persimmons, the ragweed, and the goldenrod. I can anticipate where I’ll have a smattering of red leaves on the dam between Gramps’s and Herbert’s ponds. I can even anticipate seeing a heron fishing in the shallow waters of one of those ponds. I know them well.
Yet, when I walk with the camera, I am open to receive whatever there is to see—something new, something old, something rather ordinary. This is what contemplative photography practices allow us to do—to open ourselves up to the experience at that moment but with no preconceived ideas about what we may allow our cameras to receive.
That is the first step in my process—to go for a walk without expectations.
Now, I do admit that I do think about the technical aspects of craft usually before I walk. I admit, openly and unashamedly, that 90% of the time, I set my camera for aperture priority (AV on the Canon). I want to control the depth of field because I love that creamy out-of-focus background, and the easiest way for me to achieve that effect is to set the aperture “wide-open” and keep it there. Today, however, I used an aperture of f16—the “sunny sixteen” setting. I was still able to get an out-of-focus background on most of the images I took, especially on the closeup shots, but I was also able to keep more of my main subject in focus.
The editing process today was pretty simple in Lightroom. Now, I do have a bunch of presets (I just bought some more today. . . .). I may go back and fine tune my editing later with the presets, but today I manually edited. I read an article on editing that recommended cropping the image first. So, each selected image was cropped. I found that today, I preferred the 1:1 crop (square).
Next, I adjusted the sliders for black and white, finding that “absolute” black point first. I turned on the the little triangles to show the clipping, and I pulled the black slider all the way to the left to get a big blob of blue; then I eased the slider back to the right until I had just little sprinkles of blue in the darkest part of the image. For the white point, I moved the slider as far to the right as I could, and then pulled back to the left until there were just sprinkles of red in the white sections. I then adjusted the shadows and highlight sliders until I liked what I saw.
Folks, that was it. That’s all the editing that I did today. Nothing hard and tedious. I think I spent about an hour culling my images to nineteen that I liked out of seventy-two. There are some others I want to play with later.