Why Photography? Part V

Basho’s Temple Bell © 2010 Bo Mackison

The temple bell stops but I still hear the sound coming out of the flowers. ~Basho

(Fifth in a series on why I chose photography as my creative medium and the basis of a new career.)

#5. Photography allows me to set aside time each day to play.

Yes, Play.

I take photos nearly every day. I usually process most of them that same evening. Occasionally the weather keeps me inside, so then I pull out my collection of photographs I’ve taken, and I look for a photo I marked as having promise, but one that I never spent time playing with.

When I first started shooting photos, I thought post processing would have no place in my photography. Then I realized I needed a program to manage the thousands of photos I had, or I would never be able to keep track of what I had. I finally settled on Adobe Lightroom and use it not only to organize my photos, but to do some post processing.

I like to challenge myself to take the photo in the camera, but honestly, there are many times when a bit of a crop, or a little more exposure or clarity improves the photograph. I even been known to take some of the color out of a few botanicals, though I’m not too fond of super saturated photographs.

In the case of the above photo, I started out with 42 shots of this flower, most of them nearly the same. Just a few variations in the composition.  I was shooting with a little wind at my back, and though Sherpa was assisting by holding a wind block, occasionally the breeze would sway the flower. And I was shooting with a borrowed camera, and wasn’t totally familiar with all the controls, so I took a few trial and error shots. By the time I culled out the slightly out of focus photos, and the ones that didn’t make the cut, I had seven photos I liked.

Then came the fun part. Which one did I want to work with? I chose this particular shot because I like the suggestion of the stems coming from the deep interior of the flower. Then I started playing. A bit of light. A bit of black. A very slight increase in vibrancy and then a decrease in clarity to give a dreamy feel to this luscious white bloom.

I played with the composition until I had the feeling I wanted. The feeling. That’s important to me.

That’s pretty much how I do many of my photos — by the feeling I get. Hard to explain. That’s why I call it play. Because I spend a lot of time playing with minor adjustments until the photo is just so.

And once in awhile, I end up with a photo I really love. Basho’s Temple Bell is one of these special photos.

About Bo Mackison

I'm a photographer, book-artist, traveler, naturalist, and creator of the Contemplative Creatives Journey, An Online Workshop and Community and Desert Wisdom Cards and Workshops. Though often not well known, I find the desert a welcoming place - a healing space. Its mysteries and gifts transformed me several years ago. Since that first encounter, I return again and again to fill my well in what most people think of as a desolate region. I'd love to share my desert discoveries and wisdom with you. Please subscribe to receive my five part mini email course The Gifts of the Desert. It's my gift to you.


  1. Beautiful, Bo. Wouldn’t this make a great gift for a wedding, or as a bridesmaid gift, or even better yet, as the image on a wedding invitation? Just so perfect.

    • Bo Mackison says:

      Ooooh – a wedding invitation or print. Yes, I can see it in my mind’s eye, hanging in a place of honor in a home filled with love..

  2. That is really a beautiful image, Bo. I think the “play” you described is what art is all about.

  3. I just went thru and caught up on all of your ‘why photography’ posts. So thoughtful and inspiring…carefully thought-thru and articulated. So much of what you have said resonates deeply with me. What an excellent exercise!!!

    • Bo Mackison says:

      I’m about to run out of things to say. I’m excited to see what all the guest writers will come up with! The guest posts begin in a week!

  4. I’ve been out of town for a while, and I’m just catching up on your series. Very interesting.

    The Basho’s Temple Bell is wonderfully soft and serene. I love the image.

  5. BTW – Who’s Basho?

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