I feel most alive when outdoors with my camera. I love the pursuit of the picture: the travel, exploring, hiking, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, climbing, paddling my canoe – being outdoors and basking in/absorbing the beauty of all that God has created. And I love the final product – the photos that I bring home.
Sometimes I will go to extreme lengths to get the shots I am looking for, but my favorite photos are not the ones I worked hardest to get – they are the ones that came in a moment of inspiration, where God, in His quiet voice tells me to go to a certain place and shoot what I find there.
I’ve long pondered the question of why I’m so drawn to beautiful photographs. When I see the beauty of wildlife, a flower, mountain, waterfall, or rainbow, my heart soars, but why?
I love the answer John Eldredge provides: “Nature is not primarily functional. It is primarily beautiful. …Beauty is the essence of God. The whole world is full of his glory (Isaiah 6:3), in the form of beauty. This means that beauty is essential to life. It is essential to the Christian life. Our souls feed on beauty like bees feed on the nectar of a flower. Your life must have beauty in it, lots of it. Drink it in … soak it in, let it heal you, comfort you, draw you to God.”
That’s it – the beauty of God’s creation points me to Him, giving me a glimpse of what He is really like. The Lord is the most extravagantly beautiful being in the universe – is it any wonder that His creation would be beautiful?
“When you painted on earth … it was because you caught a glimpse of Heaven in the earthly landscape. The success of your painting was that it enabled others to see the glimpses too.” C.S. Lewis
This is the essence of my quest: to capture and share the beauty of the Lord that I see in His creation. And my prayer is that the Lord will reveal Himself to you in these photos.
I was born and raised in Houston, Texas, and graduated from Texas A&M University in 1975. Upon graduation I was commissioned as an officer in the U.S. Air Force, where I flew H-1 (Huey) helicopters as a flight instructor and flight examiner. I was also a civilian flight instructor and charter pilot in helicopters and single and multi-engine airplanes.
I continued to fly for about two years after exiting the Air Force, then because of an economic downturn (and hard times for those in the flying business), had to begin working for a living and held various management/supervisor positions for approximately 10 years. In 1993 I earned my air conditioning contractor’s license and began my own service business, which still pays the bills.
My wife and I have been married since 1976 and have four grown children and now six grandchildren. Photographing them has become one of the delights of my life, earning me the title “grand-paparazzi.”
Confessions of a Photographer
I’ve received a lot of feedback lately, like, “Wow, the colors!” Or, “Awesome, seems surreal.” The question seldom asked, yet in the back of nearly everyone’s mind is, “Did it really look like that?” The honest answer is always “No.”
Photographic image making has limitations, and if you will indulge me for a few minutes, I will attempt to shed some light on the craft: the art and science that is part of every image that you see. There is no such thing as a “straight” documentary photograph, an image that is a 100% true representation of a scene. It is not possible.
To start with, a “stop” of light is a doubling of light values. The human eye is capable of registering approximately 21 stops of light. The best photographic technology is capable of recording somewhere between 7 and 10 stops of light. You can see details in the brightest highlights of a scene as well as in the shadows. No camera can do that.
Your eye and your mind can take in the whole scene, focusing on the near as well as the distant objects. Included are the sounds, smells, the qualities of the air (“crisp,” cool, refreshing, muggy, windy, biting cold, etc.) and the movements: the flowing of the water or the swaying of trees. Then there is the spirit of the place: even non-Christian photographers acknowledge territorial spirits, and recommend making the effort to sense the essence of that spirit (the “feel” of the place) and communicate its character through the way the scene is selected, the image composed etc, etc. (Spirit of Place for example, by Bob Krist, a National Geographic photographer. I don’t know if he’s a Christian, but he writes from a secular perspective.) The scene is multi-dimensional, while the photographic representation of it is two dimensional.
But, I don’t follow that advice (from Bob Krist and others). I do sense the “feel” of a place, but rather than acknowledge that spirit or attempt to “communicate its character,” I rather seek to acknowledge the Creator God, the Lord over that location and any spirits that reside there. He has a presence and purpose there that trumps all others.
We like to think of photography as a documentary process: just snap a picture of what was there. But that is not possible, for there are far too many limitations. But each physical, technical limitation presents the opportunity, no, the requirement to creatively use the tools at our disposal. This is why the photographer is called an “artist.” I don’t create the scene, but I have to decide how it will be “captured” and presented in an image.
When you look at a photo that you took yourself, your impression of that photo is heavily influenced by your memories of having been there, even factors that you may not recall or were conscious of at the time. And when you view a photograph made by another person, you instinctively, if not subconsciously, attempt to imagine being there. This is obviously a totally subjective process. After all, even for those of us that were on the scene, the impact was unique for each individual, depending on what parts of the larger scene were noticed, how the other elements of the location (listed above) were perceived, and what was being touched inside the heart and mind of the viewer at that time.
I make every effort to present the scene as accurately and realistically as possible. But I also take the liberty to brighten the image and sometimes (not always) enhance the colors to increase impact. This is called “optimizing” the photo. Every photographer has to do this to some extent, and must choose what aspects of an image to downplay and what to emphasize in the effort to communicate what he saw and felt while on location. And every photographer has his code of ethics: what he considers an acceptable level of manipulation. I lean towards the very minimal, and refuse to add elements or make composite images (adding a full moon where there was none, for example.) This is legitimate art, in my opinion, as long as it is honestly represented.
So, to answer my opening question: No, it did not look exactly like that. The colors are true, though sometimes richer than real life. This embellishment is not intended to misrepresent, but is an attempt to (at least partially) compensate for the impact of the scene that was lost in the photographic process. They say a picture is worth 1,000 words, but all too often even a picture is a woefully inadequate representation of reality.