Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas Eve- Through the Lens

As a photographer, my ultimate goal is to produce images that move people. It sounds like a simple enough goal, but even though I am competent enough with the technical aspects of photography I often feel as though the story I am trying to tell with the photographs falls short artistically. Of course, on the technical side of things there are some "rules of thumb" that I try to adhere to that are "supposed" to generate more appealing compositions, but here again a textbook composition far from guarantees that the resulting image will pull any emotion whatsoever from someone viewing the image. So, how do you make that jump...from snapshot, to technically correct, to something that is artistically deeper?

The congregation singing at Blackwater United Methodist Church on Christmas eve.

In my experience, finding "that image" within any particular scene first requires that I am looking for it. Yes, I know that sounds silly, but over the years I have trained myself easily enough to look for God in the simplest of things and so I simply apply that same technique to photography. That is, I look for a beautiful approach to the simplest of subjects. It isn't a foolproof method, as often I see things in the composition, and read things from the scene that other folks simply do not "get"(or maybe it's just me?)....but...that's okay. It's okay because now and then...often enough for me....folks DO.... "get it".

"The Trinity" at Christmas Eve Communion.

The Christmas Eve "Candle Light Service" has become something of a tradition for my family. It has always been a spiritually enlightening experience for me, and I have always relished in the beauty of it. This year, on Christmas eve, I was determined to at least try to preserve some of that mood in photographs. I have taken enough wedding photos to know that the lighting in churches is most definately not designed by photographers, and on this night I knew from past experience that even that lighting that is difficult under the best of circumstances would be dimmed....if not completely doused. But...that is exactly what I wanted to capture. Surprisingly, there was ample light from the candles to portray this story in photographs. I was even able to get quite a few shots of faces aglow with candlelight. Simply beautiful. However, I found in the midst of my shooting that there was another way entirely to capture the event. That is, looking at the service from views that most, if not all, of my fellow church goers never see this service from. From those angles and vantage points, I found entirely new layers of beauty through which to view the night through...and found that if I threw the focus of the lens on those the foreground...and let the scene beyond go soft, blurry, and impressionistic the scene changed dramatically. Add to that some slight tilting and short focal lengths in a journalistic style and evrything seemed to click. The scene that is even normally beautiful took on an entirely different and surreal quality. Looking at the photos myself, I must admit, that if I saw them in print without a caption I would most certainly not immediately guess that they were taken within the walls of my own sanctuary. Despite that, I am hugely satisfied with the resulting images from that evening. Everything I had hoped to convey in the images is present, and I will always cherish these photographs.
"Silent Night"- As sung on Christmas eve by candle light.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

...And So It.....Isn't?

This isn't the first time this particular set of photographs have graced the pages of my blog. These were captured on January 18, 2008, nearly a year ago, and a lifetime away it seems.

Last week I had what my doctor described as a simple surgery....and maybe it was. For me, other than having my wisdom teeth removed, this was my very first surgery. I guess I have been extremely lucky, as I really haven't gone out of my way to increase my chances of being a healthy person. Though I suppose there are a lot of good reasons that I chanced this particular malady, I am convinced that the primary reason is simply my age. Let's face it, it ain't exactly 1985 anymore is it?

...And so, things change, places change, we all change...which really brings me to my point.

I remember this old coupe parked just off a nearby highway in nearly every era of my life. I had seen it before, but became extremely aware of it as a teenager. Dreams of hotrodding the old thing ran like fire through my adolescent brain. Vroom-Vroom!!!

...and yet at some point and time it was also someone else's dream. I now imagine the person who bought it new. Scraping his money together, kicking the tires, maybe a test drive, and then the pride he wore as he drove it home from the dealer. Perhaps he loaded his family into it and drove around town to show it off to friends and family. I'm sure it made many a trip to the grocery, and to church where these people worshipped God, and where they prayed in earnest that their own needs be met, and for their own health. I imagine the kids, of this family, eagerly waiting their turn to come of age, and learn to drive in this coupe. Maybe a few first dates as well. What a life this car had!!! This good and faithful servant!!!

I was so excited when I captured these images. I was sure the old thing was looking at me as I studied it from this angle, and that, but it cannot do it anymore. Unfortunately, the property where it sat all those years went up for sale shortly after my "camera-in-hand" expedition. Undoubtedly, the new owners have no use for a sculpture such as this on the premises, and it has been moved. Long gone. No retakes!

Things change, places change, we all change...and isn't...anymore.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

"And So It Is".....thoughts on 2008

2009 is nearly upon us, approaching at the speed of light. I am ready, eager to step forward even though much of 2008 will be carried with me. Sweet, and bittersweet memories etched upon my heart. I recieved all the sweetness that life has to offer a man this year, and experienced my share of sorrows as well.

I feel like my photography has grown in leaps this year. I've lost count of the epiphany moments where some technique or other has finally found its way to my own understanding of it. Creating, bending, and shaping light has become a pre-occupation whenever a camera is in my hand. To that end, I have reached my goals for this year by beginning to use flash off of the camera, and in purchasing a fast telephoto zoom. It's been a wonderful ride for me this year as far as photogrphy is concerned. If variety is the spice of life, I might be a cayenne pepper. I had the opportunity to photograph everything from infants to a 90 year old...a New Mexico desert to a Louisiana snow....a birthday party and a funeral...from wine rooms to sandy beaches....from high school seniors to weddings. You might say I have just about seen it all in 2008 through the lens.

On a personal side much has happened as well. Highs and lows. Happiness and sorrows. We watched Kristina graduate from high school, and then a few months later drove out of town, moved her into her first dorm, then drove away. It was a very quiet trip home. We had a major hurricane named Gustov that turned Baton Rouge upside down....then last week the worst snow I have ever seen here...ever! Breanna, our youngest, got her drivers license. That'll make you feel old. My saddest moment was with my grandmother. We listened to her call out for my long dead grandfather in agony. I watched an uncle drip water into her thirsty mouth with a straw. The following week, along with her other grandsons, I carried her to a place beneath an ancient magnolia tree in the National Cemetary in Baton Rouge to rest, peacefully with my grandfather. Losing someone whose mere presence on this earth brings comfort is a tough pill to swallow.

My happiest moment, though, found me as happy as I have ever been in life. So high that the weight of all the rest that is wrong in this world could never tether me to the ground. Joy, so pure, at the sight of my son walking out of the assembly center at Southeastern Louisiana University with that diploma in his hand. I have never been so proud of anything in all my life. Man that felt good!

My hopes are that 2009 will be every bit as meaningful to me as 2008. My prayers are that my friends and loved ones experience that same kind of sweetness in their lives. That regardless of the joys and sorrows that we experience, God has orchestrated our paths as part of His perfect plan. He has given us this miraculous gift of life and promises us infinite life beyond.

..and so it is!