Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Meditative Photography -- 3-D (part 5)

Eye Contact

Eye contact is the most powerful and intimate way to draw your viewer into your photo. 

In the photo below, the little girl's eyes immediately draw us in. Her smile and relaxed but somewhat shy posture suggest an invitation for us to come closer. This photo is also interesting in that while the little girl silently reached out to me with her friendly curiosity, her mother was totally disengaged. It's against this neutral background that the little girl's curious expression shines through even more brightly. As I walked closer to her, this little girl stepped off her porch and slowly approached me. Her mother turned her head and calmly watched our encounter. Although we couldn't communicate and our interaction was brief, I was glad I connected with this little girl whose life was completely foreign to me, as mine was to her. It was one of those moments where you realize that although you appear to be different from the person in front of you, you really aren't. We just look, act, and speak differently, but deep down we are really not that different. I think this is what meditation masters try to help us realize through mindful living. (More on mindful living in later posts.)

Hmong Young Girl in Traditional Dress, Son La Province, Viet Nam

As with the photo of the Hmong young girl above, the baby's blue eyes in the photo below immediately draw us in. Next, we notice his slight frown, then his flushed cheeks, and finally his determined pouty lips. Is this an expression of petulant annoyance? Or did he have such a fabulously active day that now all he wants to do is to nap? Given those glazed eyes, I suspect he is fighting the urge to nap.

Ryan on Long Beach Island, NJ

Before long, the baby is sound asleep in his father's warm embrace. In the photo below, the golden rays of the late afternoon sun draw our attention to the baby's beautifully lighted face. But what draws us further into the photo are his father's happy eyes, which reach out to us to communicate the joy in his heart. It's obvious from those smiling eyes that father and son had a fun-filled day at the beach. You can tell from those eyes that the father is rapturous and blissful by the unconditional love and trust that he shares with his son, a unique feeling that only a parent is blessed to experience.

Ryan and Jeff on Long Beach Island, NJ

It's little joyful moments like these that will last with both of them for a lifetime. Had the father not been completely present when he played with his son earlier during the day, or had the father allowed his past regrets or future worries to interfere with his time with his son earlier, he would have lost a precious day. But from the father/son body language, I suspect the father was completely present and treasured every single moment that he spent with his son. Treasure the little joys in your lives and be present in the moment, for it is fleeting. 

Be present in the moment, for it is fleeting is a sentiment that you will read frequently in my Meditative Photography series. It's this mindful approach to your daily activities that not only will help you strengthen lasting and meaningful relationships, but it will also help you create beautiful and memorable images with your camera.

Be Present in the Moment,
for it is Fleeting.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Meditative Photography -- 3-D (part 4)


Framing within your image can add depth. 

The window inside an old temple in Siem Reap, Cambodia, in the photograph below, provides a strong frame for the scene outside, helping the eye to compute depth.

An Ancient Temple in Siem Reap, Cambodia

In the photograph below, the two pine trees frame the pristine water and majestic mountains of Alaska, creating a sense of depth.

Now, if I took away the two pine trees, this same image as depicted below looks rather flat (sorry, I don't have a photo without the pine trees, so I just cropped the above photo to show you what it would look like without the pine trees).


Including a visual point of interest in the foreground can also create a sense of depth. In the photo below, the eye is fascinated by the round baskets, it studies the details wondering what they are for, it then goes further into the photo to search for an answer. As the eye looks further into the middle of the photo, it sees more round baskets. And as the eye goes further into the water, it sees something small floating near two big boats. Can that be one of these brown or blue baskets? Nah, it can't be! How does a person float in one of these baskets?

Fish Market in Mui Ne, Viet Nam

INDEED! Some of these round baskets are actually boats!

Fish Market in Mui Ne, Viet Nam

Fish Market in Mui Ne, Viet Nam

A fun tidbit: this is how people transport their basket boats!

On the Way Home from the Fish Market in Mui Ne, Viet Nam

Below is another example of using items in the foreground to create depth. In the photo below, the pink ice flowers grab your attention and then the shore line pulls you further into the photo (click here to read previous post for explanation on the use of lines in creating depth).

Summer at Cedarmere in the Blue Ridge, Free Union, VA

This photo also provides a good example of another "rule of thirds," a design rule based on the concept of the Chinese philosophical system of Feng Shui. Feng Shui aims to encourage the flow of spiritual energy while creating a harmonious environment. Feng Shui favors a grouping of three because in such a grouping, there is a "center." With a center, there is a sense of balance. To me, the photo above is brimming with harmonious energy. I love the fact that the ice plant, the yellow Adirondack chairs, and the boys in the photo appear (from where I was crouching) to be positioned roughly at equal distance along the rocky edge of the pond as it curves. I also love that the photo's "center" is the two bright yellow Adirondack chairs: a perfect image of a relaxing summer day. Through the composition of this photo, the viewer can feel a part of the boys' joyful playtime. 

One detail of this playtime photo provides yet another interesting compositional element to think about as you choose your subjects. When you contrast the textures of your subjects, they both stand out and create a pleasing image. In the image below (the ice plant taken from a slightly different vantage point) the delicate and smooth texture of the plant jumps out at you because it's juxtaposed against the rough, hard stones and boulders.

Ice Plant, Cedarmere in the Blue Ridge, Free Union, VA

In the photo below, Katy, one of my daughters, graciously posed for me in a wood carving village outside of Ha Noi, Viet Nam. (Thank you, Katy!). Here, I used another type of contrast to highlight both my human subject and the architecture around her. Because they are completely different in every aspects, they don't compete, allowing the eye to see both clearly.

Katy in Dong Ky Wood Carving Village, Bac Ninh Province, Viet Nam

I hope this has been a fun post for you to read and interesting images for you to see. Have a wonderful day, Christa.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Meditative Photography -- 3-D (part 3)

Our eyes see three dimensions, but our camera can only capture two-dimensional images. A three dimensional image is more pleasing to the eye. Thankfully, there are many ways to create depth in an image. In my last two posts (part 1 & part 2), I wrote about various ways to create 3-D images. This post is a continuation of my discussion on creating 3-D images.


Although I generally use the landscape orientation (horizontal orientation) when I photograph a scene, I sometimes also use the portrait orientation (vertical orientation). In the photo below, I used the portrait orientation for two reasons. First, I wanted to highlight both the house and its reflection on the calm water. Because my subject took up a lot of vertical space, a landscape orientation would not have worked. Second, to create depth, I needed room to include a foreground, a middle ground, and a background. Look carefully and you will see that I've actually divided my photo into six horizontal plains, three for the actual landscape and three for its reflection on the water.

Cedarmere in the Blue Ridge, Free Union, VA


If you focus only on your subject and blur the background, your brain will compute depth. In the photo below, the sunlight shining on the little garden ornament sitting in the cavity of the tree trunk caught my attention. By focusing on the little creature and blurring the distant run-in shed and mountains behind it, I helped the eye compute depth.

Cedarmere in the Blue Ridge, Free Union, VA


Another way to create depth is by crouching closer to the ground and zooming your lens. This elongates and exaggerates the perspective as objects in the photo get smaller as they move away into the distance. Do you see what I mean through the photo below? 

View of the Horse Barn from Across the Pond
Cedarmere in the Blue Ridge, Free Union, VA

Another reason why the photo above exhibits a great sense of depth is the use of a linear aid as discussed in my last post. The mountain and its reflection on the the water on the left of the photo help take the eye deep into the photo.

If you don't have zooming capability in your camera, crouch down even further and take your photo through something (anything) that is closest to you. In the photo below, the cattails beside the pond create a three-dimensional image as the eye looks through their fringe to the pond water, then across the pond water to the garden shed on the right of the pond edge, then further up the field to the black run-in shed with a tin roof, and finally up the mountains beyond.

Cedarmere in the Blue Ridge, Free Union, VA

Similarly, in the photo below, I took the photo through a simple and unobtrusive object in the foreground to help the eye compute depth. The moment one looks at the photo below, one's eyes are captivated by the striking magenta bougainvillea. Even though the eye might not have registered immediately that a little white lamp post is in the foreground of the picture, its placement helps the brain compute depth.

My Parents' Garden in Mui Ne, Viet Nam


In the two photos below, what technique do you think I used to give my images a sense of depth? (I will tell you the answer in my next post.)

An Ancient Temple in Siem Reap, Cambodia

Seward, Alaska

I am looking forward to your answers. 

Thank you for engaging with me, Christa

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Meditative Photography -- 3-D (part 2)


In my last post, you saw that one way to create depth is to divide your photo into three horizontal sections: foreground, middle ground, and background. In this post, I am going to show you three other ways to create depth: layering, lighting, and linear aid (haha, all "l's" in this post!). 


Layering is a fun way to create depth. When our eyes look at layers, our brain perceives depth. In the bucolic scene below, the eye travels from one layer to the next, taking in the roof-line overhang, down to the metal bell, then the Adirondack chairs, next the rolling field and wood's edge, and finally resting on the mountains in the distance.

Early Autumn at Cedarmere in the Blue Ridge, Free Union, VA

In the photo below, the eye travels from the street scene in the foreground slowly up the various waves of colorful leaves as they undulate up the Blue Ridge Mountains near our farm. (The Blue Ridge Mountains are absolutely spectacular, especially in the fall, and are famous for their bluish color when seen from a distance. This bluish haze is a complex combination of physics, chemistry, and biology. It's very interesting, but far too complex for me to cover in this post!)

The Blue Ridge Mountains, VA

Our farm is about 12-15 miles from the spot in the photo above. (BTW, the Blue Ridge Mountains are also famous for their fall foliage. If you can, plan to take a drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway during peak foliage season. While you are there, go to Loft Mountain overlook, milepost 74.5, you will be able to see our farm from there.)

The photo below was taken from our farm's back porch. You can see the Blue Ridge Mountains in the background. Here again, the eye travels from the green grass, to the run-in shed, and then up the various mountains covered with beautiful fall foliage. 

Cedarmere in the Blue Ridge, Free Union, VA


Lighting can do wonders to create depth. Look at the way the sun has casted its beautiful rays on the tree tops in the background. Your eyes are immediately drawn into the photo to look at that beautiful glow. (BTW, does this photo look familiar? Well, it was taken from the same spot as the one above (on a different day) but without using the zoom lens. As you can see the zoom lens on my simple Canon PowerShot SX50 HS is quite powerful.)

A Spectacular Autumn Day at Cedarmere in the Blue Ridge, Free Union, VA


Lines create a sense of movement, especially if they get smaller as they go further into the photo, as you can see in the two photos below.  They help draw your eyes into the photo. 

An Ancient Temple in Siem Reap, Cambodia

The  Bishop's Garden at the Washington National Cathedral, Washington, D.C.

Lines don't have to be straight.  As you will see in the three photos below, the wooden walkway at Punta del Este beach (Uruguay), the water way at Hoover Dam (Nevada), and the marsh at Potter Marsh (Alaska) curve and turn as they pull your eyes into the photos.

Punta del Este, Uruguay

Hoover Dam, Nevada

Potter Marsh, Anchorage, Alaska

That's it for now, my friends! I will share with you a few more ways to create depth in my next posts.

I hope the information in this post was useful.

But most of all, 
I hope the photos brought you joy and relaxation.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Meditative Photography - 3-D Images

In my last post, I asked you, my reader, to tell me which of the three photos I took below in Free Union, Virginia (the Free Union Countryside Series), you liked the best and why. Many thanks to you all for participating. I really enjoyed reading your comments.

Free Union Countryside Series

In your comments, you hit a number of important elements that need to be taken into account in composing an image: depth, balance, simplicity, subject matter, texture, and color. I will cover all of these elements and a few more these next several weeks. I hope you will find this engagement fun and useful. Please know that I am not an expert in taking photos. My goal in this Meditative Photography engagement is to share with you what I do when I take pictures of the beautiful nature that surrounds me and how meditation helps me accomplish my objective. (Don't worry, the way I meditate is even simpler than the way I take photographs, I promise!)

Below are a series of photos I took of two Skippers performing a mating dance in my garden. These photos illustrate the fact that meditation plays an important role in taking photographs of wildlife. These Skippers were wary at first, but eventually ignored me and allowed me to settle down right next to them to watch them (haha, be patient, I will share with you my meditation practice later). Because of my proximity to them, my Canon PowerShot SX500 IS was more than sufficient to create clear images of these little butterflies (yes, they are classified as butterflies!). My iPhone camera would have worked as well. These butterflies are tiny; their wing span is only 2.5-2.9 cm. They are named Skippers for their quick, darting flight habits. 

Skippers - mating dance on yellow Zinnia
Cedarmere in the Blue Ridge

Skippers - mating dance on yellow Zinnia
Cedarmere in the Blue Ridge

Skippers - mating dance on yellow Zinnia
Cedarmere in the Blue Ridge

Skippers - mating dance on yellow Zinnia
Cedarmere in the Blue Ridge 

3-D Images

Our eyes see three dimensions, but our camera can only capture two-dimensional images. A three dimensional image is more interesting and engaging to the eye. 

Free Union Countryside
using Canon PowerShot SX500 IS 

As Lorrie pointed out in her comment in my last post, she liked the third photo because it "has great depth to it, from the water in the foreground to the distant hills and clouds." In his comment, Yogi expressed the same concept differently: "The blue cloudy sky above, the stream below, and the fields and shed, and house in between provides a very satisfying photo." Many of you also found this photo pleasing, although some of you didn't know why.

So, here you go:
How to capture the 3-D image that your eyes see with your camera lens.

Once you've identified the image you want to memorialize, think how you should capture it the way your eyes see it, i.e., in 3-D. I am going to show you several ways to achieve this. But before we begin, let me share with you a very useful rule to keep in mind: the Rule of Thirds. This rule is the foundation for many elements involved in creating an engaging image.

The Rule of Thirds

The Rule of Thirds in photography is used to help create visual balance. I prefer to follow this rule loosely. Unless your subjects are staged or are stationary, it's extremely difficult to follow this concept precisely.

Here is what I recommend: on your camera lens, imagine a grid with three horizontal sections and three vertical sections. In this post, we will focus on the horizontal sections.

To help explain my point visually, I have added another image to the Free Union Countryside Series. This new image is the first photo in the collage to the left.

Now, visually place the grid on each of the photos (I am sorry I am not technologically savvy enough to superimpose a grid on the photos themselves.) Conceptually, these three horizontal plains are your water, earth, and sky. You can also think of them as foreground, middle ground, and background. In these photos, you have water in the foreground, the earth in the middle ground, and the sky in the background.
Let's look at each of them individually.

The photo to the right is somewhat flat because we can only see two plains: foreground (water) and middle ground (earth). This is not how our eyes see a scenery in real life; our eyes also see the sky. So, by omitting the sky, this photo doesn't represent what we actually saw.

The photo to the left is a slight improvement over the one above because we can see a little bit of the third plain, the sky. This photo looks three dimensional. The problem with this photo, however, is that it's not balanced; the foreground and middle ground overpower the background. (Remember our Rule of Thirds grid.)

Now, look at the photo below. With the three plains (water, earth, and sky) occupying roughly the same amount of horizontal space, the photo looks very pleasing because it's balanced.


I was standing in one of our gardens when I took the photo below. 

Cedarmere in the Blue Ridge

The technique I used here to create depth is different from what I used in the Free Union Countryside photo. Here I didn't use foreground, middle ground and background like I did in that photo. What do you think I did here to create depth? 

I can't wait to read what you think. 
Thanks for participating. Christa