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.


Supermoon 2012

So, who DIDN’T go out last night to shoot the supermoon?

Since we don’t have any really high hills or mountains where I live, I decided to go for some moon-on-water reflection shots.  So I dragged the hubby along and we went to Lake Mohawk where my parents live, to grab not only some shots of the moon rising, but also of the sunset that would precede the big event.

The sky was mostly overcast with high, thin clouds all afternoon, but we decided to try for it anyway in hopes that the clouds would begin to break up in the late afternoon.  I decided to set up on a fishing pier about halfway between the east and west ends of the lake so that I could get water reflections from both the sunset in the west and the moonrise in the east.

We got there about 5:15 I think, which was way too early, so we wound up just hanging out for almost two hours before the sky got interesting, but it was pretty relaxing and gave us a chance to unwind a little bit from the week.  Just before sunset, I called my parents to let them know where we were, and they came down to the pier to join us for the festivities.

The clouds didn’t break up quite as much as I would have liked, and we were probably too close to the tree line to get the best angle on the rising moon.  But still I think I managed to come away with a few images that pleased me.

For the sunset shots, I used the Nikon D700 and shot brackets of five exposures for HDR processing.  I started off with the 14-24 wide angle lens, and finished up with the 28-300 telephoto zoom.  I’ve processed these as HDR’s using Photomatix v4, Paintshop Photo Pro X4, and Topaz DeNoise.  On a side note, since I used both lenses for the same basic shots, I’ve finally figured out that the spots that keep appearing in the photos in the upper left quadrant of the sky must be dust on my sensor.  Ugh.  I used the Object Remove tool in Paintshop Pro to get rid of as many as possible, but I may have to take the camera to have it cleaned.

Sunset Before SuperMoon 01

Sunset Before Supermoon 02

When the moon started rising, I used the zoom to try and get some of the detail.  Later I widened my zoom to capture the reflection of the moon on the water, which to me was a much more interesting composition than just the moon in the sky (which EVERYONE was shooting).  These are all single images processed in Paintshop Photo Pro X4 with Topaz DeNoise:

Supermoon Rising

Supermoon at Lake Mohawk 01

Supermoon at Lake Mohawk 02
If you like my work, please subscribe to this blog and feel free to offer comments. You can also find me on:
Facebook at ZannWalker Photography
Twitter @suzanne_hight
My Official Website at

Natural Zen in Sepia

Today was kind of strange.  It was Christmas Eve Eve, and a Friday at that, so it was a day that I really didn’t expect to get much work done.  But, adding to the weirdness of the day, my work laptop somehow acquired a virus, so it’s been out of commission since day before yesterday.  I spent hours on Skype with our helpdesk yesterday trying to get my system up and running, to no avail.  So today they’re shipping me a replacement laptop, which should arrive early next week.

There wasn’t much I could do today, other than check my email (using my own personal computer) and respond as necessary–and I only received two emails that required responses.  By lunchtime I was ready to get out of the house and away from the computer.  So even though it was a gray, overcast day, I decided to do a little shooting.  I’ve been wanting to take some Zen-inspired photos to have framed for my home office, and I thought today would be the perfect time to do that.

Andy went with me on the excursion, and we drove out to Elvis Presley Lake, just north of where we live.  We had not been there yet, so we weren’t sure what to expect in the way of photo ops.  We found a nice lake with camping spots, picnic tables, boat ramps and fishing piers, and very nice bath and shower facilities.

I wanted to get some shots using very shallow depth of field, so I used my 50mm prime lens.  We found a spot where there were some downed trees near the water’s edge, and I took a few shots before the cold wind literally drove us back to the car.  Here are three that I processed this afternoon, using Paintshop Photo Pro X4 and Topaz Black & White Effects using the Sepia presets.  I sized these to be 5 x 7’s, and I’m going to have them mounted in 8 x 10 or 8.5 x 11 frames to go in my office.  I used similar processing on each one as I want them to be displayed as  a set:

Pine Log in Sepia

Grass in Sepia

Pine Cone in Sepia

After warming up for just a minute, we walked over the hill where the wind was a little less biting, and took some shots of the boat docks and the fishing pier. There was a large sign on the pier that said “No Swimming”. Just a few yards from the entrance to the pier, I found this lying on the bed of pine needles, and couldn’t resist grabbing a quick photo to be processed in Topaz Adjust.  Needless to say, this image will NOT be joining the others on my office wall, but I did find the photo to be oddly compelling:



If you like my work, please subscribe to this blog and feel free to offer comments. You can also find me on:
Facebook at ZannWalker Photography
Twitter @suzanne_hight
My Official Website at

Magnolia at First Methodist

The more I process in black and white, the more I enjoy the way the images emphasize the textures and form of the subject rather than the color.  It’s so deceptively simple–shades of black, gray and white–but within those shades are shadows and highlights that help you feel the picture, rather than just see it.

I love this shot of the huge, spreading magnolia tree that sits on the lawn of the First Methodist Church in downtown Tupelo.  I started out trying to process the image in color, but I was so distracted by the red brick of the building that it was drawing my attention away from the tree.  So I decided to try the black and white approach, and voila!  It’s exactly what I wanted:

Magnolia at First Methodist

I used Paintshop Photo Pro X4, along with Topaz B&W Effects to process the image.  I wish the large window had not gotten blown out so much, but overall I’m still pleased with the shot.

I’m trying to build a collection of black and white photos to have mounted and hung in my home office, and I think this one will make the cut.  Very Zen.

If you like my work, please subscribe to this blog and feel free to offer comments. You can also find me on:
Facebook at ZannWalker Photography
Twitter @suzanne_hight
My Official Website at

Forest Zen

I love scenes like this–lots of natural texture and color, contrast of light and dark, a little water and a little stone…

This is another photo that I took in Tishomingo State Park yesterday.  It’s a single exposure that I processed in PaintShop Photo Pro X3, although I didn’t do anything really radical to it beyond tweaking the color balance slightly and applying some sharpening.  The shot was taken with the Nikon D700 and the 28-300mm Nikkor lens.

Tishomingo State Park 028

Such a calming, stress-relieving place…someday I’ll have to go back and just sit there for awhile without the camera.