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A Stroll for the Soul

Take a garden stroll for the senses and the soul.

June 2, 2020 Gardens

Gardens are places of solace as we step into the world again. The reawakening of a garden is a reflection of our own reemergence after keeping safe and sheltered for so long.

Now we can linger in green and glowing refuges with a new appreciation for the gifts they are. With care and caution, we will let the Nature there heal our bodies and souls.

Shiojiri Niwa Japanese Garden near our home in Mishawaka, Indiana is one of those healing gifts our community has given to everyone. Maybe you're fortunate to have a wild or tended place like this near you. It doesn't take long to feel its calming influence when you're there.

Azaleas in a Japanese garden.

A bed of azaleas in a Japanese garden looks to stretch to a foot bridge and tea house.

Our separation from the natural green places we know has been just as much a strain as staying sequestered from our family and friends. So our daily walks in the riverside park near our home have been a anchoring force for our spirits. Just an hour or two there gives us the nature connection we crave.

The wild parks and preserves here are open again. It didn't take long for me to get back to them with a full complement of photographic gear and a boatload of desire. But I have to thank the neighborhood garden for grounding my cabin fever during these strange "stay-at-home" days. It was a balm that healed a green-starved soul.


The photograph above was taken with my smart phone. It's a 12 megapixel image -- about one-quarter the size my digital SLR camera would make. Still, it served its purposes. I wanted something to send my wife and family right away. And I wanted a quick sketchpad view of a possible composition before I set up my camera and tripod.

I like using the phone's camera as a sketch book. When I'm not carrying my camera, the camera phone lets me make character studies and reference images of subjects, places and compositions.

When I do have my camera, the camera phone gives me hints about worthy subjects, good digital-camera placements and a rough idea of lens selection. That's what I got with this image. It was especially critical to find a position where the foreground of flowers was pleasing, but where I wouldn't crop off the roof of the tea house and wouldn't hide the bridge. The phone camera position got me close enough to where needed to be, so I could save my knees and back for when I set up the tripod and digital camera in the same spot.

The best photos of the azaleas, the bridge and the tea house will be those I took with my digital SLR camera on a tripod. But the composition is identical to the one I tested on my hand-held camera phone. The advantage of the digital SLR camera will be most striking with the depth of field.

I used the focus stacking method that gains sharpness near to far by combining multiple images that have progressively farther-away focus points into one composite image. Nikon calls it focus shift. The resulting depth of field far exceeds that of any camera phone or digital SLR camera that tries to capture everything sharply in focus in one frame. The final photograph that I'll process later will be more pleasing to the eye. It was certainly easier on the the back and knees to set up. And heaven knows the back and knees rule.

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