Beauty in the Rough


 Do you edit your photos?  Well of course I do!  The reality is, every photo coming out of a camera is already edited to the exposure and composition tastes (or mistakes) of the photographer, the film or sensor have an effect on what you can actually capture, and the software or physical development of the photo before it even hits the viewfinder.  Very little coming out of a camera will be absolutely perfect to my eye, so I will tweak the photo until it fulfills my vision of the art coming out…and it is art because it is my interpretation of the photo. 

    I know some people will shrill at this, but it is really a reflection on the reality of the fallen world we live in.  God made a perfect Garden of Paradise at the beginning, and then the whole Adam and Eve thing occurred where humanity fell to fear and pride and separating our actions and will from God’s.

    The good news for us is God’s laws permeate into our world naturally.  We can discover right and wrong just as we can discover beauty inside our man influenced environment.  The better news for us is if we look for and listen to God’s Wisdom from the Church’s Catechism, with its rich source material, the beauty becomes self evident.  The best news for us is good materials to learn from are closer than ever to our fingertips, if we but look for them.

    So the story of the lead photograph is no different than what our spiritual journeys should be.  I walked out of my hotel, the pretty new lobby shinny and sparkly, into a smelly alleyway facing the back of an abandoned business.  The brick and paint needs attention, the inside of the business really needs some TLC.  To my my naked eye the natural light blows out the color , the situation gritty, and the remaining beauty hidden in a low contrast area with no eye grabbing potential.  It is easy to see the despair of the building and have no hope for a photograph “straight out of the camera.”

    I had other tools though in my head. Tools and lessons in photography which gave me faith I could find the beauty in the smelly alleyway.  I looked and saw a classic shape inside a shape…good…I thought.  Then saw the flowers and knew they could be drawn out and made a centerpiece brought to prominence by the eye focusing shapes.  I knew my camera and lens.  My trusty 23mm would not distort or give in to great lens refraction at F/16. My camera sensor with a high ISO would be sharp and still have good color detail with a larger aperture giving me depth of field to be sharp from front to back.  I knew the distracting wires would not pull eyes away, but highlight the fallen nature of the setting.  Still in camera I knew the result would be flat, and without great interest.

    So I knew I’d dive into my favorite adjustment set on my Capture One 9 software, and get a quick taste of improvement.  See in the rough photo I knew there was beauty to be brought out, and I was just warming up.  Then I looked at my film simulations on hand, and saw one I like and applied it.  I added some texture and dodged some light in…in a matter of minutes I realized the image in my head which reflected a whole lot of learning and applied photography lessons.  I paused, reflected, worked on other images and returned to adjust a few more items before it was where I wanted it to be for a final product.

   I ask you though, is this any different than how we should approach the world in all our endeavors?  In each person we meet, or situation we encounter, will we ever experience perfection as God intended?  No!  Can we make things perfect ourselves?  No!  We need to know God’s plan to become better.   We need to know how to work with each other as we together try to rise ourselves up to deserving entry to heaven.  We need to not reject every sad situation, and look for the opportunity to glorify God in it.

   So yes I edit every photo I share.  I also work at editing myself and the world around me by bringing a bit of God’s plan into it one snap at a time.  I think if you look at your day in the same way, you’ll realize you do it as well.  I hope and pray we can do all we can to grow into the Glory of God’s light by doing this as a community.  I am really thinking it would be a great work of art…I could even title it “Capturing His Glory.”

And just to demonstrate…here is what the camera generated as a RAW image and the camera generated “correct” JPEG….and my edited image at the end.