Side issues…

We’re often told that going with the flow is more important, but I don’t get it? Why go with the flow when we’re born to stand out? If we’re really individuals, then I don’t think that we’ve got to necessarily go along with every little thing that society dictates we should do, especially when things are getting increasingly out of hand with both the far-right & the left, politically. Here in Canada, we’ve got a leader who says that we must say people-kind instead of mankind, but then he says that he was just joking to cover his back (yeah…right); most of the time, politics is so full of crap that it’s nowhere near funny anymore. But then, that’s just a side issue because we look at our politicians and think that’s okay because they’re just being politicians; since when did we let them think it was okay to do that to begin with?
I think the same goes for photography & the rest of the arts: when did we become so enamored with the latest gear that photographs became increasingly two-dimensional & shallow? Sure, we can’t always be on-the-ball with every shot we take, but we, myself included, can sure try our best not to let ourselves get lost in all the gear and focus on meaning instead. In a way, when we focus on getting it right in camera, forgetting about how new our gear is and instead on what our gear does, it makes it easier to get meaning & impact in our photographs. Personally, it sucks when I worry about my gear because it distracts my mind and keeps me from getting in my best photography and it can really derail what could be a good time of photography. When I’m letting go of just thinking about myself & my stuff/gear, then maybe, just maybe, I stand a good chance of getting something of meaning in my photography; after all, if I hold to the belief that the Creator made this world beautiful to begin with (even though we’ve screwed that up), I might as well try my best to focus on that instead of my own selfish needs for once.

- Perch -
– Perch –

Sometimes, we all need a little inspiration to get us going & lift our spirits; I’m far from perfect on this one, so I’ll keep trying, even though I’ll fall down, Ill eventually get back up. Personally, I think it’s about time that we get past all the crap around us and live like we’re the kind not just to say so what? but the kind to at least try to do something about it. Let’s get past the side issues and really start to work at something more instead of dwelling on them.

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Needing a drink…

There’s quite a few country songs about needing a beer, some of them are among my favourites. What I’m trying to get at is that sometimes things happen that leave us needing a beer or just a simple coffee. Easter is right around the corner and it’s not about some bunny that lays some chocolate ears, but about the Saviour’s ultimate sacrifice for our sins and rising again for our redemption/salvation, should we choose to get down on our knees and accept it…Although it’s more of the Creator choosing us, but I’ll leave that for theology masters to duke it out. I’m just as guilty as the next person and I’ll readily admit that if I can, but I just want to get that out there. Sometimes, all the worries of this world make me want to sit down and grab a cold root beer or a coffee to just let the worries drift right off of me.
It takes a mind that’s open to even think about this kind of stuff and, being a stubborn person myself, it can also take some time…It’s not light decision. Over the years, I’ve come to realize that live is more of a battle, thanks to pride & all the crap that mainstream society & the radical fringes throw at us, but, in the end, we’ve all got to really struggle against it, but thankfully the power isn’t something that we have to do on our own. With Easter, it’s about seeing that there’s more to it than all the chocolate that we’re bombarded with and realizing life isn’t always about us, something I’m so guilty of doing every now & then. With that said, there’s something to be said for not buying into the hype over all the chocolates on sale and maybe, just maybe, we might avoid a massive sugar crash.

- Sunrise Over Trout Lake -
– Sunrise Over Trout Lake –

Easter is also a great time to get together with family and, if you’re far out from them for most of the year (unlike I am), it’s kind of a catch-up time after Christmas. Family’s more than just biological family because it’s the kind of people that you can get along with & trust and/or lean on in times of struggle…And ask their honest opinions of when it comes to certain decisions. Getting back to the title of this post, I just have to say that we need more than a drink, something that really gets to the heart of the matter and I believe that’s where Easter comes in.

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.

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.

Christmas…

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.

Without the tree?

There’s something to be said by celebrating the holidays without the tree decorated in the living room, or even outside. What gets me about having a tree is the advertising from all the stores; if the tree we have means something to us, why do we need to go all out for some tree that we might just throw away at the end of the holidays. Having a tree in the living room, at least for me, is about having something for the family, or friends, to gather around, not to show off. I’d rather having something that means something than something that’s superficial. I get just as guilty as others do when it comes to being materialistic, especially when the latest sales are one or the holidays are approaching, so I’m not trying to blame anyone, just trying to point something out.

- Snow & Branches -
– Snow & Branches –

It says something when the weather outside isn’t too great and there’s snow on the trees, but it says something more when the tree inside is all shiny, but never really used or gathered around at all. Things like that tend to suck the meaning out of the holidays & out of Christmas altogether if we’re not careful. Sometimes, it helps to not have a tree because having one becomes a distraction from what Christmas is all about, making us think about the latest things we can get instead of the boy child in the manger. Christmas for me has become more so about the manger and recovering from any soreness from work (he last three months of the year are the busiest for me). The music playing around this time of year is just a welcome bonus, especially when it points me upwards instead of downwards.

It’s great having the days off, but for those that don’t, try not to make things difficult for them, because they’re working so that you don’t have to, or they’re there so that you can shop. We could all use a little more peace in the world, especially right now with all the crap that’s happening all around us. So, let’s just slow down, stop what we’re rushing to get before it sells out, and think about what’s really important this Christmas; let’s get past the abuses in Hollywood (by not letting them ruin Christmas for us) and try to salvage the holidays before we ruin their start.