Seasons

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I like mornings. I like getting up early before everyone else, even if it is just by 20 minutes or so.

Lately, our mornings have been unusually pleasant so I turn on the coffee pot and go out back to see if Rob and I will be able to enjoy our first cup on the patio. The other morning it was so nice I weeded in the flower bed for a bit. There was something very peaceful in feeling the fresh sun rays on my head with my hands in the dirt.

Some mornings when I turn on the coffee pot, if I have been industrious in the kitchen, I have two loaves of sourdough bread that had their second rise overnight and I can pop them in the oven. There is not a much better smell than baking bread in the mornings. Actually, there isn’t a much better smell no matter the time of day!

Even if I didn’t have a calendar, I can feel the summer coming to a close. Perpetual rest becomes sloth and there is an internal clock that lets us know when enough is enough and we begin to feel a restlessness. We have gotten pretty good at shushing this inside clock but it’s there.

It never fails that as much as I love summer with it’s slower pace I begin to feel a need to settle into a different routine. It’s almost like when you have been enjoying a really good meal and everything is delicious but you know it’s time to stop eating before it’s just too much and nothing really tastes good anymore. Instead of the memory of how good everything was if you don’t push away form the table you just feel overstuffed and too full.

We’re made this way, I think. To need seasons and change. It’s kind of funny because for most of us change doesn’t come easily, even when we want it, even when it’s good change. In The Screwtape Letters, CS Lewis makes the case that because we live in time we must experience change in order to experience life. But God, in His great wisdom, does not wish for us to make make change itself an end so He has also given us a love for permanence. We’re able to enjoy the sameness of life, simply put, because it gives way to something else. It’s a newness anchored in sameness.

“He gives them the seasons, each season different yet every year the same, so that spring is always a novelty yet always as the recurrence of an immemorial theme.”

Practice Practice Practice

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I joke a lot about all the random things I will photograph like the corn from last week or the number of flower pictures I have on my computer. I literally have thousands of images on my computer. As a matter of fact, the last time I emptied the trash bin on the computer there were over two thousand items deleted!

One of the reasons I take so many pictures is the idea, I believe, that beauty is and can be found in the most random of places and if we train ourselves to look for it we are better off humanly speaking. Cultivating an eye for the things that are pleasing to see can help ward off a lot of ingratitude. It’s hard for me to be fussy about dusting, one of my least favorite chores, when I take the time to notice the way the light looks falling through plant leaves and across nick knacks.

Taking pictures, for me, is another way for me to practice and train myself in the tenets of my faith. Being grateful, being mindful, viewing little as much and the simple as valuable, life coming out of death…these are things that anchor my life to something more than the here and now and is what enables me to withstand the chaos that we experience in daily, especially in these crazy times. It reminds me that there is much more to this world, to my life, than just what I feel or think.

So I practice seeing when I get behind my camera. I practice looking at things from different angles so I can get a bigger picture of what is going on. I practice looking at the insignificant so that I can recognize what is significant.

“Our failure is not that we chose earth over heaven: it is that we fail to see the divine in the earth, already active and working, pouring forth grace and spilling glory into our lives. Artists, whether they are professed believers or not, tap into this grace and glory. There is a ‘terrible beauty’ operating throughout creation. If Christ announced his postresurrection reality into the darkness, even into hell, as the Bible and Christian catechism suggests, then, as theologian Abraham Kuyper put it, there is not one inch of earth that Christ does not call “Mine!”
― Makoto Fujimura

Award Winning Thank You

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Several months ago at the beginning of quarantine I came across a Facebook photography group that was hosting a huge online worldwide contest. And it was free. Sign me up, please. Not because I thought I would do that well but because I love seeing good photography and images would be voted on by photographers and it was something to do during our safer at home time. Did I mention it was free too? Most art/photo contests charge an average of $40 an entry and I am not that interested in being able to add the tag line “award winning” to my social media platform.

Honestly, it really isn’t a big deal and other than this blog post and a certain amount of bragging rights it doesn’t actually mean anything. But it was fun and it was encouraging to have fellow photographers vote on my images. And I saw some incredibly amazing photography from all over the world.

Well over 100,00 images were entered into the contest. Originally, it was geared just for wedding photographers but now has categories including birth, cell phonetography, creative, various portrait categories, etc. There were twelve rounds for each category with each round lasting for a couple of days to accommodate people participating from everywhere. There were so many images that as they released the top twenty winners in each category I saw pictures that I had never seen before.

I went all in and submitted fifty of my favorite images (the most you could enter) and didn’t expect to get very far but I was proud of the work I was putting out there. I was pleasantly surprised to have images make it into the top 30% and 20% and I actually had one reach the finals. A cell phone picture that I took at the fair if you can believe it.

Three submissions I entered into the creative category, which had 20,770 images, made it all the way to the top 20%.

The other two that made it into the top 20% placed in the families category (40,202 images) and the seniors/teens category (43,275) and oddly enough they are both silhouettes.

One of the images that placed in the 30% of it’s category I’m not going to share here but I will say it is one of my favorite birth pictures I have ever taken and one that I am pretty proud of. One of the other thirty percenters was also in the creative category and the other two were in the babies/toddlers group that had over 38,000 entries. Both are pictures of my great niece’s watermelon first birthday session. And she really is stinking adorable.

So there you have them…my award winning photographs. It was a lot of fun to participate and I am pleased that some of them did well but can I be honest and tell you that it doesn’t even come close to seeing an image I took hanging in a client’s home? That thrills me no end! Or having a friend ask to buy some of my floral prints as a gift for his wife? Or having a client cry because they love their pictures so much? Just being asked and given the privilege of photographing someone’s family or anniversary or birth or whatever. So, the contest was fun and the little trophy icon they put on the images that placed was neat but thank you for allowing me to be part of your lives and letting me take your picture. I mean it in all sincerity when I say that is the real award to a photographer.

I love what I do and the feeling of wonder I get each and every time I click the shutter on that just right image is magical. A photographer is quoted as saying that photography is like sneaking into the kitchen at night and eating oreos and I totally understand what she means.

Pictures aren’t static two dimensional objects to me. I look at an image and feel life. Ansel Adams said “Photography is an austere and blazing poetry of the real” and I hope to create that every time I lift the camera to my eye.