When gear gets to be a concern…

Thinking about it, I’ve come to realize that, in a world so oversaturated by materialism & oversexed imagery, we’re getting a bit too enamored with this kind of crap. I’m just as guilty of this as the next person and it brings me to the realization that we’re at the point where we are beginning to worship the created instead of the Creator. I mean, think about it: we’re so focused on the tangible & physical that we let secular society twist our lives for us, telling us what we’re to believe and what we’re supposed to believe without any critical thought, al so we just let it slide. For example, the children’s education program in a populous Canadian province (I’m not going to mention which one) was so graphic that there’s a lot of outcry about it; the provincial government okayed it, pushing for it in schools without much thought and young minds are at an extreme risk because of it (any who oppose the sickening curriculum are lambasted by the corrupt governing party as well).
It all gets to be way too much and we wonder what this world’s coming to when things like this happen; this kind of stuff is making its way westward and I’m thinking that it’s going to really mess us up. We focus on gear and the physical so much that we forget to really think about what we’re saying to others when we let this happen; what kind of legacy do we want to leave to the next generation? One of the places where this gets to be quite visible is in the field of marketing photography gear; each lens is sold as the best at portraiture, landscape, macro, etc., to the point that it’s implied that we NEED it to SHOOT LIKE A PRO…We get so inundated with these kind of ads that we forget that it’s all about who’s making the shot, not what’s making the shot; we should be reminding ourselves that while gear is good, if not expensive, what we do with it, and what we say with it, is much more important. I know this comparison is a really big stretch, but the two situations have one thing in common: they focus only on the physical and have the potential to distort the mental.
Life is more than just the physical and it definitely means so much more than what we can see right in front of us with our own eyes; it’s so much bigger than just us. So, now that this post is nearly over, I’ve got one last thing to get off my chest and it’s about this whole thing regarding gear: it’s about time we focus more on meaning & inspiration so that we can truly, or at least try to, make this world a little better. Labels put on us by society can’t, or at least shouldn’t be able to, define us, so we should try to get past them and inspire others to do the same.


When the media lies to us…

This one was a hard one for me to write, hard because I couldn’t seem to get it done without getting really angry, especially because we’ve seen some really bad reporting here, north of the border, in Canada, especially when it comes to politics, most of it being outright lies; everyone’s in it for the five seconds of fame or the race to be the first with news, even if it’s completely wrong. When the politicians lie through their teeth and the media, who says they’re just stating the facts, are so off-base that it’s just plain crap, what are we to do? We’re all just as messed up as they are, but we’ve got a choice to fall for it and buy in to the lies, or really try to make a go of it by seeking to inspire others, spreading the truth and walking alongside others when they need it.
In my opinion, I think that photography & the arts hold a decent chance of breaking the media’s lock on reporting, whether the media’s mainstream or not. Why? Because we can show life in ways that can really speak to others through use of meaning & emotion; we can do more to inspire others than just let things come and slap us across the face. I mean, think about it for a second, if we just stop and turn off the crap that the news spews at us, we have a chance to get away from it and really get out there to create something in this fallen world that might change people’s minds about how crappy things are and they might just give up taking the crap at face value to realize that there’s something, someone, greater out there. When we fail to at least try, it’s almost as if we’re giving up and quitting on trying to make things at least a little more bearable for others; I mean, in simpler terms, if we give up, we’re letting the things that we don’t want to win do just what they want to.

- By the Waterfall -
– By the Waterfall –

There’s something to be said for doing something that’s meant to inspire instead of just going with the downward flow of society nowadays. The above shot was one that I didn’t think I could ever get, but getting it inspired me to try more often to do better with photography; sure, the bird’s a bit small, but it shows up in such a way that it makes the viewer look closer at the scene and it serves as more of a landscape type of scene (as opposed to a portrait or close-up). What I’m getting at, with this rant, is that we need to watch the negative crap society is throwing our way and, while not quietly standing by, seek to make this world a better place, shrugging off the labels, and the crap news, that the mainstream is trying to throw our way. So, let’s sit atop the waterfall and not let it drag us down.

Winter weather…

Now that I’ve got the last post off my chest, I figured that I would get back to really focusing on photography, and watching a few Dude Perfect videos online; those guys are hilarious…and talented. With winter still hanging around for a little while longer, I was aching a bit to get out there yet again and work on my photography; I usually get some photography done every two weeks, with short excursions (<1 hour) in between then. Snow doesn’t come often enough to the northwest, but when it does, the roads aren’t exactly the easiest to get along because of the slick roads, but they’re simple enough for most of us to get around in. Sometimes you just have to marvel at how much people get caught off-guard by snow and with photography it’s the same because we don’t always remember exactly the right settings for snow exposure (+1-2 stops to keep the snow white)…Something I’ve done too many times to keep track of.

- Snow &amp; Green -
– Snow & Green –

Snow is never really the easiest thing to remember what to do with when it comes to exposure and, sometimes, that’s what exposure bracketing is good for because it can show us, especially in this digital age, what the settings will do while translating the scene into the image. The above photograph, while it’s nothing special, shows what is possible when the snow is exposed for at +1 or 2 stops and used to focus on; with the snow being sugar-like in appearance, the focus needs to be in the right spot so that when it brings edges into focus, it doesn’t fade or blur at the wrong point, leaving the edges too fuzzy with any lack of contrast to their surroundings. In this shot, the snow itself, while having its sugar-like composition, makes focusing a little harder because the depth of field is much more important, especially because this is a close-up shot. What worried me the most about this shot was indeed the focus because I wasn’t shooting with a high depth of field in order to get a good background blur, so I think it actually turned out quite decent.
Now, what matters is not that it turned out quite decent, but that it turned out the way the photographer (in this case it was myself) had envisioned it; it would’ve most likely needed tweaks, being a RAW file, but it came out the way I had roughly envisioned it. Brightness & exposure were barely touched in the refining stage (+0.2 for Exposure in Lightroom), so it came out pretty darn close to the way I had hoped it would; this seldom really happens with most of what I photograph, but it worked. I, personally, think that we stress a little too much on technical perfection and not enough on vision & what the image says. What else can we do when society is so focused on the material side of things? We can start by listening a little less to the noise of material perfection and more on message & meaning.


Personally, the idea that we’re identifying with what we do for a living as our main source of identity get me thinking about just how much we’ve messed up; for the longest time, I used to identify myself by the ethnic group I was a part of as my main source of ID. It’s something I’m not too proud of because it wasn’t the sole part of who I am and it puts me into a set box & stereotype(s), even if most of those are mostly true about me. What I getting at is that we so easily accept labels put on us by ourselves or society at large that we place ourselves in positions that only serve to do us harm. In simple terms, we end up serving the created instead of the Creator and we get our heads full of self-praise, or loathing (pick your poison type of thing), that we can’t see the forest for the trees.
When it comes to art, we define ourselves with tiny, miniscule labels that confine us to not believing we were meant for so much more; personally, I believe constraints are something completely because they are meant to push us to do better. We get so caught up in being defined by what gear we have & use that we buy into the lie that it’s all there is to us & we can’t change; it’s as if we’re fighting a battle and we don’t even know we are. I know I hammer on how much society likes to define us, putting labels on us, but what makes us think that we should let society, dominated by the likes of Hollywood & corrupt politicians (and the media), define who we are, let alone what we are? It’s like we’ve given up on really being ourselves in who we’re meant to be & that we were meant to live for so much more. Here’s an example: we let magazines put out the trashiest covers, claiming to be all about stopping harassment, and we wonder why society is all messed up. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m for free speech, but there’s got to be some logic & reason behind it.

- Moss -
– Moss –

Most of the time, it’s a struggle when it comes to figuring out who or what we are going to do because, for some of us at least, we’re fighting to not be defined by the labels that society puts on us while staying true to ourselves. Thinking about just that idea while refining some of my photographs from a nearby botanical garden, the above photograph stuck out to me because it looked like two patches of moss encroaching on each other, readying for some kind of fight; like two armies rushing towards each other, these two patches were going towards each other, or at least that was how my mind saw it at the time. When it comes to identity, we tend to think of it in material/physical means in how we create or define it, but what if it’s so much more than that? What will it mean for us then??

Jumping at the opportunity…

I’m not exactly the best at taking advantage of opportunities, being a bit on the laidback, lazy side, but there’s something to be said for looking for opportunities when they come, especially when it comes to landscape nature & wildlife photography. The weather on the Northwest Coast (make that Wet Coast) of North America, isn’t exactly the best for outdoor photography, but there’s plenty to explore, even in the rain, just that safety should be of at least some concern. Just north of the US-Canada border lies Bloedel Conservatory, a great place to see a domed, indoor conservatory with tropical plants & birds (as well as one very LOUD white bird), and many great parks & trails; the mountains are amazing no matter the time of year (not always safe to hike if you’re a beginner, or not as fit, like I am). There are many gardens just north of the border and quite a bit to see; sometimes I think that there’s so much that we get lost in all of it and just ignore it all because it’s all local and not something fancy or exotic enough to us.
In this day & age, we tend to want to see the new stuff and forget about what we think is already been done before. We’re so used to throwing off everything we’ve learnt over the years that we sometimes forget that there was a reason & meaning behind why we learnt some of what we did. There’s just so much out there that we’re missing as people because we pass it by and don’t stop to really think & take it in with our cameras. Sometimes, we end up moaning & groaning because the weather is not really all that great, sticking ourselves inside and not really going outside or even out of the house at all; we forget that we all need rain to grow (figuratively of course) and end up forgetting the opportunities await us.

- Greens &amp; Water -
– Greens & Water –

The photograph above was taken after the rains had subsided and I was, like usual, getting a little bit impatient with the weather; it was still overcast and there was a slight drizzle, but I figured I might as well try to photograph a bush that I had been thinking of photographing for at least over a year. I had been putting it off because of laziness, and the fact it was something not out of the ordinary, but this time, on my second go-round, I figured I would stop moping about and try to at least catch the effect of rain on the leaves of the bush. While I was working with some gear that was still relatively new to me, I tried to catch the so-called ‘ordinary’ in a way that would show off just how it wasn’t as plain as I first thought it was. It wasn’t that photographing the bush was done before, it was about me trying not to just push it off as something to be ignored, but something that just might deserve a second look. In this world where we’re told that the new is better than the old, I’m beginning to think we’ve really got to start looking up and think, really think, about what society’s shoving at us; it starts, I think, but not dismissing the ordinary all too easily.

At the intersection of faith & art (Part 2)…

Going over the last post on this subject, I’ve come to notice, and realize, that there’s something to bringing art to the point that are beliefs are evident in art; just think of how the medieval murals in cathedrals displayed immense talent in how their subject in their art. The sheer talent in those works of art are so immense that they make me want to curl up & shiver at just how gifted the artists were and, unless there was something behind that talent, each of those murals would be meaningless. This doesn’t just apply to the murals, but music as well; Beethoven, Bach, Mozart & others were amazingly gifted and, in my opinion, blessed. And literature has even more examples to offer us as well, we sometimes just have to open our eyes & ears a little wider.
Think about how many John Newton’s Amazing Grace hymn has inspired over the years: it’s known to change the course of some in the slave trade, not just the author himself, and it’s been used at funerals for people that have made a difference in the world at large. Be Thou My Vision, the Irish hymn, has had an impact that I would have to say is immense because of how widely known it is and how deep & inspirational it is, and not just in the English language. John McCrae’s In Flanders Fields has a great impact when it comes to how we think of the effects of war; Winston Churchill’s rousing speeches about not surrendering to Nazi Germany bring out the sacrifices that those men & women much more than we ever could in our overwhelmingly ‘me-centered’ society. The point I’m trying to get at here is that sometimes a song, or even just a little lyric, saying, speech or artwork, can have a massive impact that we don’t necessarily see; I’m not saying we all have to be like the examples listed above, but I’m trying to say that if there was no meaning behind them, those examples wouldn’t have any impact or at least not anywhere near as much as they did.
We get so self-involved because of how media around us tells us that we’re important and that the superficial is the only thing that really counts, that we think that if our team doesn’t win the championship, we’re completely & utterly messed up. Look at how the awards ceremonies are; they are all about the achievement, not necessarily the why of the performance itself & what it means. It’s become so trivial nowadays that real movies that really say something usually don’t make the headlines anymore; just think of the last book that really inspired you to do something of worth that wasn’t all about yourself and ask if it would make the headlines today…The answer to that question is what gets me every time and it’s one of the reasons why I try to read something of meaning (outside of direct religious writings) at least once a year, like War & Peace or some other great classic.

At the intersection of faith & art…

…There lies something of real worth. Let me put it this way: if we make art devoid of anything that really means something to us or contradicts what we believe in, it has a greater tendency to fail when it comes to inspiration. Art, at its core, should say something, even if it’s just to point out the beauty in a scene; personally, I believe that we’re called to make a difference, even if we have the habit of failing miserably (I do this more than I care to admit). How many times do we see things that are just meaningless? It’s like the repetitive shallow news we see in the mainstream media outlets like CNN or FOX with their heavy bias; getting the same line repeatedly given to us, coming across as senseless, can really dull the senses.
There’s more out there than just shallow noise and, I think, that we’ve got to start shoving the noise aside to really get art out there that doesn’t go by mainstream labels and cuts to the heart of really matters to us. This is one of the reasons why I have a hard time watching the SAGs, Oscars, & others; they just repeat the same old noise every time and focus on the shallow crap coming out of Hollywood (or as one artist has put the sign, Hollyweed). Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not bashing the artists themselves, but I think it’s time we get away from acting & onto really doing something that really means something, devoid of labels from the mainstream media (Facebook included) and not going extremist either; some do this, but some just don’t. I don’t know about anyone else, but I think it’s time that we make art that gets to the heart of what we believe and inspires others.

- Toothpick for a Bird -
– Toothpick for a Bird –

We’re at the point that we’ve got to get past the labels and, in photography, getting all nerdy on tech; we’ve got to find something to pick our teeth, metaphorically of course, so we can get that frustrating crumb out of our teeth and speak clearly. There is more than one way to stand up & speak out and it’s not just verbal like the celebrities in Hollywood with their speeches (some of which we need to hear, but most of them being just noise); it can come just as clearly through our art when it aligns with our beliefs. I’m not anywhere near perfect at this, or even close to being consistent in this, but I’ve begun thinking that there’s more than going with the mainstream crowd; let’s not be actors who cheer when a cohort joins in and then take the cheer back when it comes back at a disadvantage…Let’s be measured in our approach and seek to inspire others first.

Icy roads & packed malls…

Okay, so this one’s going to need some explaining; I figured that with all the icy roads out here in Canada, as well as all the last-minute shoppers, I’d have some fun with this one. Sometimes watching people freak out over something they should have done a month ago is actually quite fun. Yes, the prices are cheaper the closer you get to Christmas Eve, but then you have to brave icy roads, packed malls, and the chance that your item might not be in stock. Watching someone else panic can actually be entertaining, especially when you’re already done; maybe that’s at least a little mean, but you have to admit that it’s a little funny too.

I’m posting this one after the fact, just so it doesn’t sting so much for anyone reading this who hasn’t got all the shopping done. Save a few bucks just to possibly lose your cool in a packed mall…I don’t know, but it doesn’t sound worth it to me, but that’s just me. Three words: CREDIT CARD DEBT…The more we think we’re saving can sometimes lead us to spend more than we want by getting other things, thinking that the savings will cover the cost. Having gone to the mall just to take a stroll in the hallways just to watch the shoppers here in BC’s greater Vancouver, I can honestly say that I think most of the shopping most likely happens in the afternoon because there sure weren’t all that many around Noon actually carrying purchases with them; the mall in question wasn’t too packed either…Apart from the Starbucks.

Having a merry Christmas & a happy New Year isn’t about how fast or slow we are at shopping, or how bad we are at driving on icy roads, but how much we remember the real reason for the holidays and how much time we spend with friends & family. Sometimes, when we’re in search of the best deal, or barely managing it on icy roads to get those presents, we lose sight of friends & family, not just the real reason for the season.


I’m going to get flak on how I go about this, but I figure I’ll try it anyhow…When it comes to the holidays, we think that we’ll make peace on earth possible, but as long as we hold on to racial pride as the be-all-end-all, we’re going to be screwed. How so? It’s peace on earth for all, not just a select few races; we need to put aside racial hatred and come together for a Christmas that, for once, isn’t plagued by arguments over race. Think about it: if we forget about the colour of our skin for just one night or two, we might get past this stupidity that’s plagued us. I’m not saying that we should forget the racial injustices, but I’m saying that we stop fighting over it for once and learn to listen to what the holiday truly means. True peace on earth came through the boy child in the manger, and it wasn’t race-dependent…It was for all men & women.

Now to stop being so insistent for once, I’ve come to think of winter & Christmas as a time of warmth, even in colder climates. Why? Because we have friends to be with and many different people that make up our circle of friends & family that make it a warm time of year…Or at least we should have. For those in broken places, don’t forget to hold on to the fact that there’s people out there that care about us; we have groups like UGM, Salvation Army & others that feed the homeless and, I’ve got to say, they come in where & when others won’t. Nowadays, we like to define everything, labeling nearly just about every little thing, but once, just once, this Christmas, let’s stop labeling every little thing and focus on what’s really important.

There’s times when we want to just forget about the holidays and I’m personally thinking it’s because of all the rampant commercialism out there that’s being thrown at us; it’s tiring and a little too much. What really warms the heart at Christmas is being with friends & family, not fighting it out for the last item in stock at the stores. When it comes to how we celebrate Christmas, the best stories aren’t dependent on one culture or one really specific way of doing something, but the ways in which different cultures (European, North American, African, Asian, etc.) go about celebrating it together as well as in their own groups. So, have yourselves a Merry Christmas!

Storm the stronghold…

Now this one’s going to sound a little off, thanks to the title, but let me put it this way: the stronghold I’m referring to are the rampant ads & the push/desire for various things that we supposedly need to have. Christmas sales are there for one real, and sometimes disturbing purpose…make us buy more stuff. I’m not saying we should rush to the stores and buy everything that we can get our hands on, but rather storm the stronghold by refusing to let it get to us and drive credit card debt ever upwards.

I haven’t been exactly active photographically, or otherwise, in November and I really aim to change that this Christmas & winter season by getting out there and doing something that just might inspire someone. There’s plenty to do & see out there and I’d rather be one to really contribute to something, than just do nothing or add to the noise. Christmas is right around the corner and there’s just something about giving compared to receiving something; there’s a bit of a challenge when it comes to avoiding the stores because we’re so tempted to dive right on in to the sales. I’ve done this time & again to the point that I’m thinking that just the fact that the word sale might just hook me right in.

This Christmas, it’s a great time to get out once we’re all bundled up for the cold weather, or out in summer weather for warmer climates. We might as well storm the stronghold of the daily consumerism that seems to permeate everything around us; we can really do this much better if we get outside of the shopping malls and spend time with friends & family. After all, isn’t that what the holidays are truly about for most of us? I’m going to at least try to get outside and I hope that I can do something that might just inspire someone in the process.