Monday, January 08, 2018

Winter and My Discontent

I have been taking a course in Mindfulness (the one by Kain Ramsey) through Udemy. In the past I have read several books on mindfulness and Buddhism, all of which recommend the practice of sitting in a certain position for a period each day and "following your breath", that is focusing your attention on each breath in and each exhalation as a way to develop mindfulness. None of the books I read really explained how that leads to mindfulness or even what mindfulness is. Kain's approach is much more pragmatic.

As a bit of background, I have several times had it suggested to me that my belief system was primarily Buddhist in nature. A couple of online quizzes placed me at 95+% Buddhist but I have always had a couple of major objections to what I read of Buddhist belief, the major one being the notion that "all of life is suffering."

Now I'm not exactly a happy go lucky bubbling with joy type of guy but "life is suffering"? Come on now. There is a lot about life, the majority by a long shot, that I really dig, and if that is suffering I say "bring it on!" As Kain explained though, 'suffering' is probably not the best translation of dukkah, the word that the Buddha used. A better translation would be dissatisfaction or discontent. Okay, I can see that.  Nothing in life is perfect and we are always looking to make things better. I'm reminded of the cooking shows Diane likes to watch where the judge says how delicious the pastry is but... the crust should be a bit crispier. I see it in the photos I make after I get home and look at them on the computer I often think "I should have framed that better." We humans are never quite content or happy no matter what, but I don't feel like I am "suffering" because of it." It's just life, just the way it is.

Longtime followers of this blog have probably noted that I do relatively less winter photography than other seasons. Winter is, for the most part, something I endure. We have had a rough week here in the far North of New York, frozen plumbing, vehicles that won't start, heavy snow to remove, etc. Lots of dukkah, things to make me think about warmer climates. But then I think about hurricanes, alligators, bugs, and sinkholes down South and decide I'll continue to put up with this. The frost patterns, like the one above on our garage door window are interesting and a diversion from the dukkah. I would never see them in a warmer clime.

To close I will throw in a winter photo processing tip for Lightroom users. Lightroom has had a "Dehaze" slider in the "Effects" section for a while now. It acts sort of like a polarizing filter on skies, separating close tones into more discreet ones by stretching lower end of the brightest tones downward. Because that also compresses the middle tones below them and that may be undesirable, the same slider is available in selection tools like the graduated filter, the radial filter, and the adjustment brush. That allows you to apply the Dehaze to only the portion that you choose.

Here's the 'winter' photo tip. Dehaze works on snow too. Too often, snow renders nearly monotone on the linear curve that is characteristic of RAW digital images, especially if you are of the "shoot to the right" school and you lose the subtle ripples and undulations of snow drifts. I tend to deliberately expose in the center of the histogram with snow scenes so that I have room on the right to pull the whites up and the highlight tones down but you can also do it with the Dehaze slider as I did in the shot below.

Happy new year by the way.