Category Archives: contemplative photography

Pond Walking in July

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Those seven ponds my husband’s grandfather made way back when are a treasure.  There is always something to notice each time I take a walk around them. We’ve had some incredibly hot weather until just a few days ago, and I haven’t walked around the ponds since July 6.  Today, I made myself get out and stroll around with the camera. 

I thought about the colors I usually see this time of year—green, light green, lighter green. Oh, there’s some green, and maybe a little darker green.  Many of the wildflowers have stopped blooming for the season.  I had to look.

The crepe myrtles are in full bloom.  I love the delicate blossoms.  They look so fragile.

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I’m not always sure of the names of the various trees in my backyard.  Somehow, it never seems important to know, but I wish I knew what tree these beautiful red leaves belong to. These remind me that fall will be coming in just a couple of months.

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I am no flower gardener, but I do love wildflowers.  These purple beauties are all over the place around the ponds.

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A neighbor farms a small field next to Gramps’s pond, and right now the field is fallow.  These beauties are all through the field.

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And the butterflies!  I wish I had kept count.  I know I saw two black and blue ones on the dam of the Big Pond (yes, that’s the “name” given to the pond—each one of the seven has a specific name), but they wouldn’t be still long enough for me to snap some pictures.  The butterflies below did oblige me, though.  I just wish I had the longer zoom lens with me for these shots.

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There is so much beauty in the world.

Today Was Supposed to Be the Day

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Today was supposed to be the day that I would go for a photo walk.  That was the plan when I woke up.  I dressed appropriately, put on my tennis shoes (Southern for sneakers), gathered all my camera gear this time, and headed for the lake.  The swamp roses, wild hibiscus, are blooming on the lakeshore—beautiful white and pink blossoms, some as big as my hand. 

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I was also testing out my camera and camera card.  I’m having some problems with the images.  It may be that my camera is just OLD.  The sensor may not be working properly, or something.  Anyway, things are not going well at all, and I’m not happy.

This morning things seemed to be going well.  I was able to get some nice closeups with my Lensbaby Sweet 35 optic with Composer Pro (yeah, it’s as old as the camera, I think). The lakeshore was not crowded.  There was a couple fishing near the edge of the church’s property, but I was going the other way anyway.  No problems with anyone being disturbed or interrupted or bothered.  It was getting hot, though, and it was only 9:30 a.m.! I walked down to the cross on the point, noticing that someone had left a very wilted wreath on the cross.  I’m afraid I’m not tall enough to take it down. Then, I headed toward another little neck of land to get some pictures of the yellow flowers.

That’s when my plans blew up in my face.  I stepped on a fire ant mound hidden in the grass at the edge of the path.  Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever been stung by fire ants, but their name in appropriate.  I must have had thirty or more of those little bugs crawling over my right ankle, and each one of them was biting me.  They were in my shoes, around the top of my sock, and heading for my knees!  I wiped, and I brushed, and I stomped.  Then I headed for home to get the Benadryl gel on those bites.  So, here I set hours later, my ankle a bit red and swollen.  For now, the pain is not bad, and the welts are not itching—yet. I hope I got the gel on in time.

And the result of my photo walk.  I had to discard about half of my pictures.  Some were just badly exposed because I have forgotten how to use my Lensbaby.  Others had that weird coloration, like this one I took earlier in the week:

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See that pink corner?  Yeah, that’s what’s happening with my camera.

But I think I did get some pretty pictures of the hibiscus known as the swamp rose.

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Procrastination: Putting off today what you can do tomorrow

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Or can you?

Yesterday, I walked around the ponds, headphones on, water bottle slung over one shoulder, step tracker clipped on my shirt. I was out for exercise.

That did not stop my roaming eye. As I walked up the powerline right of way, I saw another purple flower—a Maypop blossom! (Some people may call them passion flowers.) These vines grow wild in these parts. After they bloom, they bear fruit. I’ve heard you can eat the fruit, but I never did. When I was a child, I played with Maypops, using sticks to make animals out of them.

When I saw the flower, I was excited! But I was midway through my second lap, and I did not want to interrupt the momentum of the walk. I did not go back for the camera.

I lost the opportunity to take the photo of the purple passion flower//Maypop blossom. Surely, it will be in bloom tomorrow. . . . .

Well, here is what is looks like today.

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It is beginning to close.  It’s a strange-looking thing at this stage.  The good news is, that while I was taking this photo, I saw that there are a few more buds that haven’t opened yet. I will be watching these so that I can get the picture.  And I will be watching for the fruit, too. I may even make a Maypop animal!

Here are some other things I saw along the walk around the pond today.

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Roses in the backyard

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Wild blackberries beginning to ripen

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An interesting bent tree

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The grand oaks that line one side of the dam between “Herbert’s” pond and Gramps’s pond.

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Mushrooms, moss, and fallen leaves—an interesting combination of textures. (No, I did not stage this.)

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Red trumpet vines.

All I have to do is keep my eyes open.

By the way, I’m not exactly upset with myself that I didn’t go back and take a picture yesterday. I carry the memory.

Notes toward a New Course

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In a previous post, I hinted at a new course I want to develop in my “ReFrame” classroom on Teachable.com. I’m thinking about how words and images, especially paintings and photographs, seems to fit together almost perfectly, as if cut out to make a jigsaw puzzle. In particular, I am exploring the idea that writing and photography are both contemplative practices. I won’t give away everything I’m thinking in the blog entry, but I will give you some “sneak peaks.”

Andy Carr, a “contemplative” photographer and author of the Seeing Fresh website, defines the term contemplative photography this way:

Contemplative photography is a method for seeing and photographing the world in fresh ways, to reveal richness and beauty that is normally hidden from view. Instead of emphasizing subject matter or the technical aspects of photography, the contemplative approach teaches you to see clearly, and make images based on fresh perceptions.

Notice that contemplative photography is not about the subject or the technique. It is all about seeing. It’s about noticing the “richness and beauty” of things that we often overlook. We often use the expression that we can’t see the forest for the trees when we get so caught up in details. However, sometimes, all we see is the forest, and we overlook the trees that make the forest beautiful and rich. (One reason for that, I believe, is that we live in a world that is too fast paced, and beauty rushes by us.)

Simply slowing down and paying attention to what catches our eye forces us into “noticing.”

I know that light shines through the windows at my house. There are two eastward-facing windows in my living room. As the sun rises in the morning, the room fills with light. I could be satisfied with that idea of “lightness” in the room. But one day, this caught my eye:

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This image is not technically perfect. The white balance is all out of whack. Composition is “off.” Cropping leaves a lot to be desired. Yet, it is rich and beautiful and reminds me of golden light. This is contemplative photography.

Contemplative photography is not about making images for others’ “consumption.” It is about YOU, the photographer. These are things that speak to YOU, first and foremost. I share a lot of my images, and if others relate to them in some way, I am glad, and if not, that’s okay, too. Contemplative photography is all about the noticing.

Contemplate, the verb, is defined this way

to look thoughtfully for a long time at [something]; to think about; to think profoundly at length, meditate

Do you notice that first definition, “to look thoughtfully for a long time at”? When we approach photography from a contemplative practice, we don’t always just press the shutter at the first thing we see, or the first thing we notice. We look at the thing thoughtfully for a bit to see if it resonates with us somehow, and then we press the shutter.

This is one of the practices I’ll take up in the upcoming “Words and Images” course. And I’ll explore writing as a contemplative practice that also slows us down to “think profoundly at length.”

Today, take a walk and slow down. Notice what catches your eye, and then stop and look at it at length. If you should have a camera, even your phone camera, with you, make the image. Don’t worry about the technical aspects. (You will be surprised, though, that you actually become a better photographer technically when you practice contemplative photography regularly!)

Enjoy your time of contemplation.

While I Was Not Looking

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THIS happened:

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Things started blooming.

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I have “prided” myself on being observant, of seeing the world, but somehow, all of this happened, and I didn’t notice.

I’ll blame it on

getting ready for Aaron and Sherry’s beautiful wedding on April 1.

going back to work and writing lesson plans and grading papers on March 20.

being “busy.”

getting ready for Easter.

coming down with bronchitis and sinusitis.

You get the idea. I have a million and one excused for allowing all this beauty to go unnoticed. Yet, there it is. I noticed it Saturday, the first day I went out of the house for a reason other than necessity. I saw the white bloom of the blackberries, but I didn’t have the camera. I noticed it.

On my way back to the house (coughing, short of breath, thanks to the bronchitis), I saw the yellow and red of the trumpet vines (or whatever they are). I noticed it.

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And the red Knockout roses are in bloom.

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I noticed it.

This morning, I went out with the camera, and I noticed other things—holly berries, wildflowers, dandelions, even some honeysuckle. It’s all there.

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And today, I noticed it.

What did you notice today?

He Said, She Said

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I posted some pictures of “spring” that I received during my walk through the Dreher Island State Park on Thursday. Folks, it’s FEBRUARY, and I was wearing a short sleeved T-shirt. Temperatures are almost 80 degrees! It was gorgeous. My “fan club” appreciated them; I received a few “likes” and “Loves” and “Wows” and a couple of comments. And then, there was this:

You are an artist, lady.

This comment came from a colleague with whom I had taught for quite a few years. He taught chemistry and physics, and, interestingly enough, he has degrees in theology as well. And he said, “you are an artist.”

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My first response was (in my head), “Boy, do I have you fooled!” My written response was, “Well, thank you. It’s a passion.”

Like so many others I know, I have trouble accepting that label: “you are an artist.” I tend to compare my work to the work of other photographers, both amateur and professional, friends in-person, and friends on-line; and I feel that I come up short.

Last night, I stepped back a bit. I looked at the images I created. I thought a bit about what art is. And here is what I’m thinking this morning, at the edge of a weekend. Art is the way we share our vision of the world. For some, that sharing comes through painting or sculpture or sketching and drawing, through cooking and recipes, through musical compositions or performance, through writing poetry or novels or essays or nonfiction or drama; through acting, through designing and building—I’ve discovered there is an art to hammering a nail straight into a board! (I don’t have that art.)

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I choose to see beauty in the world, and my photographs receive that beauty. I, like so many, can get caught up in the “big picture”—the sight of that majestic pine that has stood in place for years and years and years; the expanse of water where it meets the horizon, a whole field of sunflowers or grain. . . . But then there are the details, that cluster of “baby pine cones” (did you know they are pink?), the end of the stamen covered with thick yellow pollen standing out like spider legs, the amazing depth of blue sky, white clouds rimmed with gray (for contrast!).

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I suppose I am an artist. I have “the art of seeing” and receiving those images reminds me that there is beauty everywhere.

A New Way to Create Art

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I enjoy playing with textures in Photoshop. I like the way layers of textures can transform an image to tell a new story. I have been looking at the art created by Tennessee photographer Jai Johnson, who also creates the Daily Texture collections. I’ve seen who she uses texture backgrounds with her images to isolate elements, and I wanted to figure out who to do that, too. By watching her videos, I learned that she uses Topaz Labs software for much of her work. However, I tried to do something similar in Photoshop. It’s not easy, and my results are not consistent—yet.

I’ll show you the original and the final product.

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I began with this image of the butterfly and the zinnias. I took this at the end of October. I really am not crazy about the background of dead grass and weeds.

I did something a bit different. I opened a new document and set the size as 10 by 8. Then I used the Place Linked command to open the background texture. Next I used the File Linked command to place the butterfly image over the background.

Next, I used the lasso tool in Photoshop to outline the butterfly and the flowers with the stems and leaves, and then used the Select-Inverse command. I added a layer mask, The background texture is revealed behind the image of the flower and butterfly. I thought the pink flowers were a little too bright, so I desaturated the image slightly and brushed back in the color of the butterfly.

I cleaned up the edges with a soft round brush, adjusting the size and the opacity of the brush as needed. Then I added another texture on top of the image at the soft light blending mode at a reduced opacity to tie the image together.

The final result is this.butterly-with-two-lil-owl-textures

It’s different, but I like it. My younger son says it’s really cool.

EDITED: Okay, I still had to play with more stuff. I created one more “look.” I really like this one!

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