Glimpsing Daily Practice

by Barbara Martin

in Uncategorized

The phrase “beginner mind” ran through my head this morning while I considered how to approach my photography challenge today — and what to post here on the blog in terms of relating the challenge to creativity.  Here’s the rub: Although I have taken thousands of photographs over the years, and sold hundreds of them, they were primarily centered in just one specialty area.  I knew what I was doing and was able to shoot in an autotelic manner — uttertly absorbed, not paying attention to the how or the why, but simply snapping away.  And the results were satisfying.  Now, I am trying to expand my subject area and improve my skills. And the results are not satisfying! I am jonesing for the feeling of flow!

For example, I am not accustomed to shooting pictures indoors. I am having terrible trouble with the lighting.  This is hard! I get frustrated! The pictures are awful! When we are not sure how to do something, it becomes a “challenging” learning experience.  Eventually, once we gain the required skill, the activity can  possibly reach that flow state. In the meantime, right now I am a beginner at this and I need to keep that in mind. If I expect to be able to take picture perfect shots from the very first attempt, that would not be realistic. As much as I would like to rely on the magical, it doesn’t work that way and so I keep on deleting the evil, bad pix.

I know that the secret here is to accept that there will be a lot of “learning opportunities” along the learning curve. How far I progress will depend on how much effort I am willing to put in, how committed I am to improving.  But the hardest part of the learning, for me, is to be patient. 

Patience is the double-forked root, for me, of a daily creativity practice. There is the literal practicing of the craft, and there is the repeated doing over time — the showing up to do the work.

Some days are easier than others. How do you make yourself show up for daily practice — or do you? Do you practice the learner or beginner mindset? Does curiosity grab you and pull you into your creative work?

How do you interpret practice? Does patience ring a bell for you?

Speaking of bells, here is the vintage peep hole in my front door. Apparently part of my learning today should include: why did the background in one shot turn out creamy, and the other starker white?

vintage door peephole

Glimpse through the peep hole

Looking out through vintage peep hole.

I did not repaint! Why the difference?


jane (faerian) April 15, 2011 at 10:02 am

ha ha jonesing for the flow! turning up is where i am at at the moment too – but practise is for me all about that – it is also about abandoning shoulds and just seeing what will happen (a bit like life really) love to you

Walter Hawn April 15, 2011 at 2:50 pm

Did you use auto-white-balance rather than a preset (indoor, fluorescent, incandescent, etc.)?

The auto-balancing thing reads the overall camera sensor and averages it to arrive at the ‘appropriate’ color temperature, which is seldom the actual color temperature and almost never the one you want or expect. In the two examples, we have a brightly lit (sunlight? — at 6500 degrees) window set in a wall lit incandescently (?) at about 3200 degrees. In the first picture, the sunlight component is smaller so, on average, the wall is made ‘warmer’ (it is a paradox of language that ‘cooler’ colors result from hotter light), while in the second, the window predominates, thus tricking the auto-balance into thinking the light is hotter (bluer) turning the wall a grey-blue.

You can correct the discrepancy by using your photo-developing program. All of them that I’m aware of have means of correcting the ‘white balance.’ Some call it ‘color correction.’ Use the little eye dropper to chose one spot on one photo in a sequence as reference. It’s best to pick an area you know is about the grey of a sidewalk (co-incidentally, most sidewalk concrete is very nearly 18% grey, which is the calibration standard), or a fine white wall. It’s good to keep in mind that white paint is seldom white. Most interior whites are reddish while most exterior whites are bluish. This means an interior white will yield a somewhat cooler looking result than you might like. Click around until you find a combination that pleases you. The colors will shift with each click.

At any rate, once you’ve found your spot on one photograph, you should see a readout of color temperature somewhere near the color-picker tool. Apply that number to any other photographs taken under the same light conditions. Some programs allow you to select a group of photographs to which you can simultaneously apply the change. All the photos will then carry similar colors.

Another benefit of digital! Now we can mix lighting and still have decent looking photographs — but the camera can’t and won’t do it as well as you can in ‘development.’

You can get some consternating color shifts outdoors, too, even though it’s the same sun. Shadows tend to be bluish (because of light scatter from the sky), so a photograph dominated by shadow will auto-balance differently than one with fewer shadows.

Barbara Martin April 15, 2011 at 9:04 pm

Jane! Wonderful to hear from you all the way in tomorrowland — and you know what: Turning up is totally enough! Especially on the days when it is hard. Because sometimes it’s easy and magical and that makes all the rest worth it. :)

Barbara Martin April 15, 2011 at 9:07 pm

Ummm must be the auto-balance. I just switched cameras with my daughter and this one is ostensibly better but …. change makes me grouchy. I will try to recreate the conditions and see what I did. Maybe all I did was absent mindedly flick the light switch. haha. I was pre-occupied trying to stand on my tiptoes to get parallel with the grate… my #nolongercinderblockthatisafoot is still learning to stand on tiptoe again so that is a double-challenge. Walt, thank you, I appreciate the details you so kindly offer!!!!

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