Daily Zen 2018-01-09

#zen #simple #minimal

A post shared by Suzanne Hight (@zen_of_zann) on

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The Daily Zen Explained

Last week I decided to start a new photo project for 2018. I wanted something that would challenge me to not only shoot more often, but more importantly to be more selective about what I shoot and publish. I wanted this project to not only develop my photographer’s eye, but also nourish my soul, and maybe even inspire others.

I’ll admit that the last year has been stressful for me. I got way too caught up in the negative news cycle, in the nastiness that is American politics and discourse. This year I’m determined (dare I say “resolved”) to step away from all that as much as possible for the sake of my mental and spiritual health. I’m trying to remember that my circle of influence is actually pretty small, and that cluttering my mind with upsetting things that are out of my control is not beneficial to me.

That decision led me to the theme of this project, the Daily Zen. My goal is to shoot and post one photo each day, usually with my iPhone, that represents the ideas “simple” and “minimal”. This challenges me to look for things in my everyday life that are beautiful, peaceful and uncomplicated.

I’m posting these photos to a new Instagram account that I created, zen_of_zann, that I hope you will follow. They are posted with no explanation, only the hashtags #zen, #simple, and #minimal. My hope is that viewers will find them beautiful and interesting, and that they will offer the mind some space to breathe without being told what to think or feel.

Of course, the photos will also be posted here on this blog, along with my other work as I gear up to shoot more this year with my Nikons.

So that’s the story of the Daily Zen. Hope you enjoy the series.

Suzanne

Back To the Beginning

Every new year calls for new resolutions, and this year mine is to seriously get back into my photography. For many reasons (I can’t really go into all of them yet), this is going to be an epic year for me and the hubby, and I want to make sure my skills and my equipment are ready to capture the moments ahead.

I recently went through my camera gear and sold a few things that I wasn’t using. I got rid of my Nikon D5000 and a couple of lenses, as well as a little point-and-shoot Canon camera that I had. I still have my Nikon D700, another point-and-shoot, a new GoPro Hero 5 Black, and my iPhone 8 Plus. Plenty of equipment and no real excuses for not getting behind a viewfinder.

It has been so long since I was really shooting a lot, and I found that I needed to go back to the basics, just to remember how the settings worked on the camera. I decided to challenge myself to do one photo or video shoot every weekend until I can feel confident enough to just grab the camera and go, without having to refer to the manual or fumble around with the buttons and menus. In addition, I’ve almost forgotten how to use my editing software (especially Lightroom), so that’s also part of my resolution for this year, to get my mojo back in the computer darkroom.

So, even though it technically was not the new year yet, I took my Nikon D700 out for a photo walk last Saturday morning, December 30, before the bitterly cold arctic front moved in. I challenged myself to shoot 100 images, and that’s what I did, walking around downtown Tupelo. There weren’t many people around, and I was there for a couple of hours, wandering through alleys and skulking around houses and businesses.

And I had so much fun! I had forgotten how satisfying it is to look for the beauty and/or interest in the everyday scenery of life. I didn’t limit myself to any one subject, I just shot things that caught my eye.

I spent some time over the past two days going through the images and doing some editing, trying to remember how to use some of my favorite tools (Curves, anyone?). Some images I processed both in color and in black-and-white (I shot everything in raw to make it more challenging and rewarding to edit). And then I picked out my favorite five (so far) and uploaded them to my Flickr site which has been sorely neglected for too long.

Here are my top five:

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I’m really looking forward to more shooting this year! My plan is to take a different camera with me each weekend, including my video gear (GoPro, iPhone, and gimbals for each). Repetition and practice, shooting and editing, learning and exploring….that’s my plan for 2018!

Spring Cruise with the Nikon Coolpix P530

I’m finally getting around to taking a look at the pictures we took on our last cruise, more than two weeks later. I’m a little late since I started a new job the day after we got back, so I’ve been a little preoccupied, but today I finally got a chance to check out the images.

We took two cameras with us, both point-and-shoots. One was our Coolpix S3500, a small pocket camera that actually does a decent job for snapshots. The second camera was our new Coolpix P530, which I purchased two days before we left on our cruise.

I wanted a camera that was sort of a hybrid between a point-and-shoot and a DSLR, so that Andy could use it as well. I wanted good quality photos, with a minimum of fuss. This model seems to fit the bill.

Here are some of the major technical specs:

  • 16.1 MP Low-light CMOS Sensor
  • 42X Zoom NIKKOR Lens and 84x with Dynamic Fine Zoom
  • Full HD 1080p video
  • Target-finding AF
  • Full manual exposure control (also has aperture and shutter priority modes in addition to program modes)

When I’m on a cruise to someplace I’ve never been, I don’t like to spend a lot of time staring through a lens, since it’s easy to get too caught up in the photography and miss actually seeing the sights. So I only took a total of 133 images with this camera while we were on our trip. But I was very pleased with how they turned out. Here are a few examples, and you can view the entire album on Flickr by clicking here. All the photos are unedited JPG files, straight out of the camera.

Interior of the ship, the Carnival Elation, looking down into the main lobby from a couple of decks up in the atrium:

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The ship in port in Cozumel, Mexico on a beautiful sunny day:

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Took this shot from the Lido Deck looking down at one of the crew waiting to cast us off from Cozumel. The zoom lens on the camera is very steady and sharp!

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Caught this image of a large iguana at the Uxmal Mayan Ruins in Yucatan, Mexico. Once again, the zoom lens did a great job, and this was in full program mode.

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And here’s a wide-angle view of the ancient city:

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So, after my first test run, I’m very pleased with this little camera! It will never replace my DSLR’s, but when I need a lightweight point-and-shoot to capture moments on the fly, this will be my go-to Nikon.

Look for me here!

WordPress Blog: http://zenofzann.com
iPhoneography: http://zanntastic.com

Sedona and Oak Creek Canyon

If I won the Powerball Lottery and could live anywhere in the United States that I desired, I would happily settle down near Sedona, Arizona, where I could have a view of the magnificent red rocks and hear the peaceful sounds of Oak Creek.

But you can’t win if you don’t play, and the lottery isn’t legal where I live, so I’ll have to be content with an occasional vacation trip and a collection of photographs to look at from time to time.

Hubby and I got to spend a few days in Sedona early this month on a combination work/vacation trip. Even though we were both sick with sinus and upper respiratory infections while we were there (I even wound up in Urgent Care), I still managed to spend some time outdoors getting some landscape shots with my Nikon D700 and my 14-24mm glass. It’s always a bit of a pain in the ass to haul all my camera equipment, including tripod, on a business trip, but since Andy was with me this time to help share the load, it wasn’t too bad.

My first round of shooting was done just north of Sedona at Midgely Bridge on Highway 89A. There’s a trailhead at the bridge, so a lot of people park here to hike off in several different directions, but it’s also a wonderful place just to sit and soak in the view. Because we were at the bridge in the middle of the day, there was a lot of contrast between dark and light areas. I chose to shoot brackets so I could use HDR processing to draw out the details in the shadows and highlights.

Click on the photos to view large!

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This next shot was taken from about the same spot, but with the camera turned about 45° to the left:

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A little further up Highway 89A, we found a place to get down to the creek. Unfortunately there was a good bit of natural debris along the edges of the water, and the trees had not completely leafed out yet, but it was still a beautiful day. This image is not HDR, but a single image.

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Stay tuned for my next blog post where I’ll show you some images taken at Lizard Rock, one of my favorite formations in the Sedona area.

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Arizona Faces with Topaz B&W Effects

I seem to have drifted away from my weekly challenge topics lately. Oh, well, at least I’m still working on my photography, and that’s the real point here.

I’ve been watching the webinars from Topaz Labs this month, and they’ve been concentrating on their B&W Effects product for the last couple of weeks. I love working in black and white, so this week I pulled out some old shots from when we lived in the Phoenix area, and tried using some of the techniques I’ve learned to these images.

Unfortunately, the photos themselves weren’t as sharp as I would have liked for them to be. When I took these, I was still pretty bad about checking my ISO, shutter speed and exposure before I pulled the trigger. But I still like the way these came out.

Note: Click the photos to view larger in Flickr.

This first one was taken on Grand Avenue. The older gentlemen was being pushed along the street in his wheelchair by his son. I used the B&W Effects filter to add highlights to the older man’s face and hands, while keeping the son’s face hidden under his cap. I wanted the focus of the observer to be drawn to the bottom of the image.

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This next image was taken while we were riding the light rail. I used to love getting on the train at one end of the route with my camera, and riding it all the way to the other end and back, getting off at different stops along the way to shoot. Many times the most interesting faces were actually in the train car with us, right across the aisle. This lady was in her own little world, and I just loved the character lines in her face.

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This last image was also taken on the same light rail ride, as we were about to board. This guy reminded me of a NASCAR driver, at least from the waist up. Just check out those shades, and the rings on his left hand. A close look at his feet, though, make it clear that he’s not a well-to-do race car driver.

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We’re going back to Arizona next week on a work/vacation trip, and I’m looking forward to doing a lot of landscape shooting around Sedona. I’ll eventually get back to my weekly challenge, but as I said, the point is to be shooting and processing as much as possible, no matter what the subject matter!

Look for me here!
Facebook: http://Facebook.com/zannwalker
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Wordpress Blog: http://zenofzann.com
iPhoneography: http://zanntastic.com
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Flickr: http://flickr.com/photos/suzannehight