Gear envy…

Great, yet another post about gear, or at least that’s the kind of response I think will be common when people read this title. But hear me out…If we think about just how much we spend on stuff to make us feel more comfortable & more supposedly accomplished as people, we tend to focus on the immediate future in front of us, instead of thinking ahead, or at least that’s what I’ve found happens. Do we need the latest gadgets to produce photographs that really say something? Not if we’re really honest with ourselves. It’s something that I really struggle with. What can really hurt is someone coming up to you and saying oh, it’s a fake DSLR or oh, it doesn’t have all that many megapixels. What does that kind of thinking do to us mentally and what does that really do to society at large? Personally, I think it demeans the person and degrades what the person is trying to say with their photographs. It can cause something called gear envy in that same person because they feel as if they need to get the latest & greatest to even be remotely relevant.

- Purple in Shade -
– Purple in Shade –

I don’t know about you, but I’m beginning to think that being up-to-date in this current cultural climate is starting to get overrated. Look at the photo above: all I did was slight contrast, clarity, very mild colour & noise adjustments (as well as tweaking the exposure by 0.1 to make the purple pop). I did do a medium tone curve adjustment as well, but the shot was take with a stock lens that someone else wouldn’t look twice at…And it’s become my workhorse lens. The long & short of it is that it’s not about how much the lens/camera cost, but how much effort you put into the shot; and life’s like that too…It’s not always about the money. I’m not going to rant against the ones selling cameras for the price of a sports car here, but I am going to say this one thing: does it really matter what the price is when the images don’t say or mean a thing?
There’s something to be said for making something that inspires over something that just is a simple snapshot; to be fair, I’ve seen what some would call snapshots that are amazing snapshots that are more like works of art…The kind of stuff that makes me stop in my tracks and realize that there’s more to life than what’s immediately around me. If there’s a chance we can inspire someone, then we might as well try to do just that so that we can make life just that much more bearable for someone. The thing about all this is, if we don’t get up and work at it, it won’t get done and I’m just as lazy as the next person. Time to get out there…


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.

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.


Now I’m not one to really be out there when it comes to talking about everyday life, but I’ve come to think that we forget, all to easily, how our daily life is more than just a routine we follow. Every decision we make affects us, obviously, but we tend to get so serious that we go about it like steps on some kind of ladder; to a certain extent, it’s like the Good Charlotte song, Cars Full Of People, where there’s all these cars full of people going somewhere but they end up going nowhere fast by just following the clock. Life’s more than just steps to nowhere and I’ve come to believe that we’re called to a higher purpose than just to live to better ourselves; I often struggle just thinking about how to live to make something better for others…In the end, inspiration is really what matters because we’re saved for a reason and it’s not anything we’ve done on our own.

- Rocks & Green -
– Rocks & Green –

Personally, I think that life sometimes gives us little hints about what it’s all about; as I am looking at the above scene, I think about there being a chance for life to come out among the rocks. Now my original intent for this image wasn’t about this, but to show nature in an among the rocks of this miniature scene and the fact of it stands that it also has this message to it; life just has a way of coming out of the rocky parts if we let it. Personally, I think we’re so consumed by on-demand media that gets easily twisted around by political aims, that we don’t take any real time to really weigh out the views that are thrown at us by the media. Here in Canada, our last elections were so taken over by foreign media groups, that I’m seeing foreign intervention by foreign interest groups, including American groups, just like there was south of the border, in the US; political parties of every stripe nowadays just let themselves be hijacked by interest groups to the point that it’s not funny at all.
We get stuck in ruts we let get created out of either arrogance, ignorance or laziness to the point that we believe whatever the media tells us; for me, photography is a way for me to disconnect myself from all that and my personal beliefs & faith are the others. I think that we all have ways of disconnecting ourselves from the ruts, being those that are created by the same thing being repeatedly thrown at us (like on CNN or FOX); for some people, it may be family. Whatever it may be, we can’t let politics decide our lives like this much longer or we’ll end up like it is in Orwell’s book 1984, or like it almost ends up being in C.S. Lewis’ That Hideous Strength (losing the ability to really think critically for ourselves), because then we just end up really loosing ourselves and what we were created & meant for. These are just my thoughts…Take them as you may.

Gesture & meaning…

I’ve been thinking about what it really means to have meaning & gesture in my photography. How do I relate to the scene? What does the scene say to me? What does the entire scene mean? Gesture, I think, is more than just how a living subject looks at the camera because it’s about expression in the end; it’s about how the gesture of the subject looks in the scene. Meaning comes out of how we compose using colour  (or not) and what the scene ‘says’ to me and what it possibly ‘says’ to others; like when I was out photographing birds at a local conservatory, it’s how the animals stare into the camera AND what they are doing as they look into the camera & scene. It doesn’t take a professional to do this…It takes a love for photography & the scene in front of us to get this done, and we don’t always get it right the first time.

- Questioning Bird -
– Questioning Bird –

The scene above obviously includes gesture because of how the bird is looking at the camera with some food in its mouth; it’s as if the bird is asking me why on earth would I want to bother it while it’s eating just to get a shot. The background behind the shot is pretty simple: I was trying out a different way of approaching something with different gear and I wanted to see how I could handle the small, fist-sized birds on the first go. I wanted to see what I learned over the years to see if indeed I had really improved at all; for me, it was about analyzing my approach and seeing if I could really get something decent in it. While it was gently refined in Lightroom (which I hope gets a post-Christmas update soon), it was about the story of a bird feeding and a photographer disturbing it; that’s the meaning behind it.
To an extent, photography really isn’t about what level we’re at (professional, amateur, or hobbyist), but it’s about how we pursue it; it’s about how much we care for what we’re photographing. Inspiration comes with caring, or at least that’s how I understand it; we’re called to take care of the world around us and we’ve all mucked it up badly, but through photography we can give a shot of a specific moment in time to someone else and inspire them. A photographer, by a decent definition, is someone who takes photographs for the love of it & to inspire, not just someone who does it as a paying job or career with expensive gear & possibly massive debt.
Gesture & meaning come through in a photograph when we put them there, choosing to include what makes the shot, when we make the photograph. How do we put them there? We put them there by watching the scene and being ready to capture what we believe the scene is saying to us. The photograph above may seem like nothing more than chance to me, but it was a result of waiting for it to unfold, moving around & watching the birds in the conservatory go about their lives (and me ducking when they left droppings while flying around). In the end, gesture & meaning help to inspire, and that’s what I’m at least trying to strive for.

Another break…

Thinking about how many times I’ve missed what seemed at times to be the right shot, I’ve begun to wonder if what I’m thinking is the right shot was completely wrong to begin with; what I mean by this is that we’re often told the perfect shot is completely sharp from front to back, has little to no noise, and has perfect colour. I don’t know about anyone else, but this list can be pretty difficult to achieve within a single shot. Nothing’s perfect when you chase complete perfection in photography, in my opinion, because it comes close to being either technically perfect or creatively perfect; in the end, photography that’s perfect is either a pipe dream or something that’s out of reach for the majority of people.
Sometimes, we chase perfection believing that we can easily achieve it; not that the chase is wrong, but when we chase it, we forget all the good opportunities around us and miss good shots that surround us. Sometimes, it takes a break from editing & refining our photos to recognize a good shot after the fact; I get guilty of this nearly every time I go out to take photographs and it makes me laugh nearly every time it happens now. Sometimes we think something is so out of focus when it’s just that we’ve stretched it when we’ve either printed it, or magnified it too much. Frost photography gets really difficult for me because I can easily miss the right focus point for me; using manual focus (to slow me down) or single-shot autofocus (to make it simpler) are the two focus modes I resort to because continual focus can easily miss the spot we think is just right for the shot…Personally I’m more for single-shot autofocus and manual focus refinement when needed because it means at least a shot of getting something right, or decent.

- Trout Lake Frost -
– Trout Lake Frost –

The above shot was one of those scenes that I missed on the first rounds of refining…I think I passed over it at least TWICE. I had taken a break from looking at the photographs from that New Year’s Day shoot in the morning fog and, having already done more than one round of editing & refining, I was looking through the new sales of gear available at the local BestBuy in the city (a bad habit, I know); it was three days after I had originally taken the shot. Thinking that I couldn’t have missed getting at least on close-up frost shot of the bushes, or believing that I hadn’t really messed one up, I decided to look through the photographs again and this one popped up and it was IN FOCUS (left side), something that I had completely lost in my first round because I thought that while it worked out the beauty of the scene right, the colours were off and it wasn’t focused right. With a little tweaking, it came out just the way I saw it that day in my mind and how it felt…Darn it, I really feel like smacking myself multiple times (metaphorically, of course) for missing this one on the first-time round. Taking those breaks helped me really find this one better than I could have before…Sometimes, time can heal wounds, and sometimes it makes you realize what a dummy you were for missing something (it sure has for me).
We all miss things and we wonder what we were thinking in order to miss whatever it is, forgetting that maybe, just maybe, we really didn’t miss it all along and we were looking in the wrong place. Photography’s like that and so is life…We’ve got to give ourselves a leg up by really looking up for help, not on ourselves. Inspiration is more than just you or me, it’s us working together to really give each other a helping hand.

Another year started…

Now that another year has started, it’s something to behold the things that we’ve gone through over the last year and trying something new, or different. I’m not one to cope with change all that well thanks to having a personality that doesn’t quite accept it always. With photography, we’ve seen technology take off in a completely different direction with mirrorless cameras becoming more popular & affordable. With life, we’ve seen the first year of a rather unpredictable US presidency and change that isn’t always welcome by many. I’m not saying that all this change is good, but what I am saying is that we need to try to see it for what it really is.

- Ice & Rocks -
– Ice & Rocks –

I figured that I would start off the new year by getting back to the kind of post that was akin to the very first one that I’ve done…A kind of analysis of a photograph I’ve taken. Knowing that it’s difficult at times to be subjective, I’m going to at least try to explain this photograph the best I can. First off, it’s no award-winning shot, but a detail shot of ice over some smooth, rounded rocks, or at least that’s what it looks like. It’s actually a part of a short study on the first snow of December 2017 in the Pacific Northwest where it was taken; the ice isn’t actually ice at all, but thin snow that’s transparent. It wasn’t shot on a mirrorless camera, but an old, and trusty, DSLR, that was exposed to bring the snow out as white, exposing to the right as the terminology goes; gear isn’t the be-all-end-all, but vision, impact & inspiration are. The contrast, clarity, saturation & noise levels were tweaked to bring out the colour, tones & light in the scene. The refining was part of some kind of process that I’ve been working on over the past year at least, trying to hone it down to the point that it becomes second nature in how I work the photograph to bring out something deeper within it…Has it worked? I don’t know enough to say that is has worked 100%, but I hope it has at least come close.
It’s been a while since I last posted something, taking just over a week to write this post, but I wanted to let the holidays soak in and not get all too distracted, making this post a kind of renewal of the blog, back to its roots a little. There’s been so much that’s happened in 2017 that I’m not even going to begin to try to sum it all up…I just want to start off 2018 by getting this blog back to its roots and by trying to inspire at least one person to get out there and explore the natural world without the mainstream bias that’s dragged us down over the past year or so.

So here are my inspirations for 2018:
-Lee Strobel’s Case For… series of books
-C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia and Space Trilogy
-David duChemin’s videos on the Craft & Vision channel (specifically Vision Is Better)
-Photography books by Chris Orwig & David duChemin to name a few
-For music, it’s Darius Rucker, High Valley, Petra, Red, Thrice, TFK, & Twenty-One Pilots

Have a happy New Year!

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.