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.

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