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.

So Others May Live

    During World War II resistance families in Nazi Occupied Europe provided shelter to downed airmen from the Allied air forces.  To do so risked the life of the individual and their families.  Punishment for aiding Allied airmen could be instant execution, or brutal torture followed my sentencing to a concentration camp.  Despite the risks, several thousand people participated in underground networks to smuggle airmen to the coast or Spain for evacuation to England.

    This photo comes from the Mighty Eighth Air Force Museum, I caught it before going to work this week.  It crucifix rests inside an exhibit dedicated to the resistance wiling to give their lives so others may live.  The stories are heart wrenching, and joyous at the same time.  This exhibit resembled a typical French country cottage.

    With all the negative stories on the news, tragedies in several families we associate with, potential tough times ahead for all I found myself in a writing and creative funk.  The stories of the airmen and world of the Mighty Eighth Air Force in World War II gave me hope.  These men believed in their mission, and their brothers around them.  They suffered casualty rates of 11 to 20 percent on various missions but soldiered on for over three years to obtain final victory. Defeats suffered by the Air Force early on resulted in innovation and doctrine propelling them to victory in the skies of Europe with their Allied brothers in arms.

    The core of their success came from recognizing the reality of the environment of the situation they faced.  They did not create excuses.  They did not falsify combat reports and intelligence to make someone’s “good idea” carry weight in a debate.  They dealt with cold hard facts to work towards effective solutions to complex problems.  These men knew failure to acknowledge reality resulted in death and mission failure.

    As the world moves forward to face its current dilemmas, we again must look towards the truth of a situation to find a solution.  I pray the world is willing to recognize a lack of being Biblically God centered is a core component to the problem.   This recognition may help bring the formerly Christian Western World back from the brink of catastrophe.  Christ did give all so others may live forever.  Time to take him up on his offer.


The Roar of the Lion

The roar of the lion in Chippewa Square, Savannah, Georgia

The roar of the lion in Chippewa Square, Savannah, Georgia

    The lion is ready to finally roar!  After months of pretty serious thinking I thought I would remind folks out there I am a photographer, who is serious about learning his craft!  

   My attempt here was to create some emotion in the viewer with this photo.  Let me know if it worked!


Directions, Corrections and Instruction

     I once was afraid to ask for help. To ask for help was then a sign of weakness.  Then one day a revelation hit me when I realized someone always is over me.  It does not matter if I am the subject matter expert, the boss, the Dad or husband. There is always a boss, a customer and of course God watching over me.  Since I must ultimately answer to a boss, knowing their needs was not weakness but a strength. So why was I still afraid to ask for directions, corrections and instruction? 

     The solution seemed pretty self evident after further reflection.  Try to get it right the first time, corrected in the first edit for follow on publishing, and to keep learning so my problem solving capabilities improved before a new problem arose.  To accomplish those goals I needed directions, corrections and instruction to improve my imperfect self.  Technical manuals, practice, improved listening skills, and learning more about the Lord began to aid my growth as a person in many ways.     

     So get over the pride of self, and fear of perceived weakness.  Get direction, correction and instruction.  You’ll be a better person for it, and a whole lot easier to live with!


P.S. Fujifilm X-T1 in Savannah, GA.  Raw file processed in Captue One Pro with a few minor edits.  I highly recommend trying this RAW developer and processor out.  It is a superior product to both Aperture and Lightroom for most Raw conversions…digital asset management no so much so far.