My understanding of Religious Art

      Over the last few years I found myself learning more and more of my faith…yet with each lesson I realized my understanding of faith is barely out of its infancy.  I can grasp a concept, but to know the precise details will escape me for many years to come.  I am not worried though, it just means each day I can explore a little more.  I also take heed of St Thomas Aquinas vision…what we understand and can percieve here can do no justice to what the reality of what the Divine Law really is.

    So if we can only see a glimpse of heaven in anything we think or create, I think religious art should reflect that.  Eastern Rite Catholic churches have incredible icons which follow this very basic premise.  What we see is not to be hyper realistic, but rather a starting point to enter the mystery presented.  From this entry point in meditation, you can explore the rest of the story and its application in your life and its journey towards heaven.

    Take this photo for example.  A hyper realistic photo here would draw no interest.  It was washed out, a simple statue in front of a church.  There was however much more to its story if you cared to look for it.  In the editing I found the amazing light and shadow contrast.  I vignetted the photo to draw the eyes into my message, I knew the subject matter was an angel or a messenger of God and it just fit.  I removed some color to make it timeless, since angels are timeless creatures.  The contrast of the man made wall and green plants made me think of the leading Rosary mystery of that Friday…Mary why do you look here in a tomb for the living?

    The scene before me became the pathway to a deeper meditation on something far bigger than I will ever be able to comprehend on earth through the creation of and review of Catholic religious art.  One added bonus in all of this was I needed to quiet my mind to the world’s distractions to see this.  In the silence, is where God can speak to our souls, and where we need to spend some of our time each day.  So I got my silence, my thought and my created art.

    This is what making and viewing Catholic religious art should do for you…at least from my little spot on this earth.


Helen’s Best

    Still working on some of my images from Helen, Georgia.  We had a fantastic time there, and I would recommend it as a great place for a family trip.   After living in Germany, and traveling through Bavaria, the facade was fun to experience.  I often wondered what America would look like with some German architecture, well now I know the effect of mixing the two building codes. The most important three things about the town though were: the people were very nice, the recreation readily available, and the ladies loved our John Paul (and he loved them).

    With this final point made…I can say it was fun and could be visited yet again!




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.

Six Months and Going Strong

John Paul Tracking along at six 12 months duds.

John Paul Tracking along at six months…in 12 months duds.

    Amidst the winter illnesses and stresses of life comes one great story…John Paul celebrated six months Friday!  He continues to excel in the growth department, weighing in around 19 pounds and long enough to DEMAND twelve month duds.  As the bib says, he is heaven sent and on a mission to be 100% cuteness (so others besides the Dad says).

    I cannot believe we are so lucky to have John Paul.  I cannot believe the love the other children show him, and the care they give him every day.  I am so blessed to watch the creation of new hearts open to life and the work required to bring it to fruition.  It is a series of observations which through pretenses of materialism into the shredder, because their work for John Paul demonstrates the power of agape love.  John Paul detracts nothing from the older kids, and in the big kids work for John Paul they glorify God.

    We still need prayers for Mom to get fully healthy, but for just a minute I want to bask in a moment of God’s Glory captured in a digital form.  I hope it gives you as much hope and joy as I get when I see it.  For if our lives are to be full of toil (or so says Proverbs) seeing a moment of God’s makes the work worth it to survive to see another day.