Friday, October 30, 2015

The Haunting

Tip: If  you want to create an eerie or gloomy scene, toying with the color saturation does wonders. The duller the colors, the better, in these types of settings.

The breeze is blowing, the house is creaking, it's a little dark and you're all alone. Or so you think. Is that breathing? Is someone right behind you, or is that just the usual draft? Oh! And what just went bang down the hall? Who are you gonna call? Ghost busters.

Or maybe it is a friendly spirit- perhaps your father died and you just regularly communicate with him in his new form. Maybe it's the ghost of a small child, whose feet patter down your hallways in the evenings. Sure, it's a little eerie, but perfectly harmless, right? 

Job 7:9 says "As a cloud vanishes and is gone, so one who goes down to the grave does not return." If that is the case, what are those apparitions the ghost hunters catch? What are these figures that curios ghost trackers are stalking?  At best, figments of the imagination, however if there is something there of the supernatural realm, the only options are either demons or angels, for the dead are forbidden from coming back into the world:

He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’
 “Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’
“‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’
“He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’” - Luke 16:27-31
Now, what can we observe of angels? They come here on official business, as shown in Luke 2:9-11, Luke 22:43, Acts 12:7-11, and other places throughout scripture. They are never seen showing up in the form of a deceased person or to mess around and pull pranks on people.
So, we have ruled out deceased people and we have also ruled out angels. This now leaves Satan and his legions of demons, of which we are told in 2 Corinthians 11:14-11, "Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. 15 It is not surprising, then, if his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness." So, demons can change their appearance. We also know that when they have appeared in scripture, they are never up to any good (Luke 11:14, Acts 8:7, Matthew 8:28-33, ect.).
Yes, demons still roam the earth. Creepy? Yes. But we can be comforted when James 2:19 reminds us, "You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!" God will always triumph over the dark forces that plague our world. 

Friday, October 23, 2015

The Search

Tip: When taking a silhouette, consider turning up the color contrast and putting the photo in black and white; this adds more emphasis to your subject, giving the image a greater impact.

As a photographer, I am always looking for a great scene to shoot. When I have my camera in hand, I look at the world with a new intensity. If I really want to take a noteworthy photo, I don't just wander along hoping something will pop out at me- I look and I plan. What angle should I take this scene from? Is there something little along the trail that the average person will not notice? Will this photograph convey an emotion? Generally, to find something, you must first be looking for it.

The same can be said of biblical wisdom; it's possible that we can just happen upon a great lesson, but as a general rule, we must first seek if we are to find. What's more is that we should seek wisdom with an even greater intensity than a photographer seeks a good shot at a scene, because obtaining the type of wisdom that God commands us to search for is a matter of life and death:

"Blessed is the one who listens to me,
watching daily at my gates,
waiting beside my doors.
For whoever finds me finds life
and obtains favor from the Lord,
but he who fails to find me injures himself;
all who hate me love death."
- Proverbs 8:34-36

Searching for wisdom, like searching for the perfect scene to photograph, will take time and diligence. We likely will have to read some of the same Bible passages a few times over, but with prayer, persistence, and a genuine desire to learn, we can gain the type of wisdom God commands us to obtain in order to grow in our walk with Him.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Sometimes The Cornfield Dies

I was incredibly disappointed to be told that there would be no corn maze this year. Every October it is a local activity that I look forward to with great enthusiasm. There is nothing quite like the smell of the hay and a slight breeze blowing through the impenetrable walls of corn as you stumble through dark pathways at night with your friends for a few hours. Though it isn't the best photo, I still look at that shot above with fond memories of last fall.

From what I was told, the city planted a whole field, but what little of it grew ended up dying because the conditions just weren't right for it this season. I had to pause after receiving that information; the story is all too familiar...

"He [Jesus] told them many things in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears, let him hear.” - Matthew 13:3-9

This parable is about evangelism- telling others about the person and work of Christ. Somehow we tend to get the idea that we do not succeed in our evangelism unless the person says a prayer and is converted. The thing is, causing people to get saved isn't fully on our shoulders- yes, we should tell others about Christ; we are His chosen means of spreading the word (Mark 16:15), however God is the one who saves (1 Corinthians 1:19). We are just in charge of "sowing the seeds", as the parable puts it; the results of our efforts are up to God.

Don't get discouraged if people don't believe in God right away after a conversation with you- pray for them, befriend them, keep good conversation going, and leave the rest to God. He will save His chosen ones in His timing, whether you are around to see the end result or not. Perhaps He will use you and you will never know- it's that element of not knowing that keeps us humble.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Diamonds Out of Dust

Tip: High ISO's, open apertures, and fast shutter speeds are the key for concert photography. I shot this at ISO 1600, f/4, and 1/320 shutter speed, then lightened and color-balanced it just a tad in post-processing.

This week, Hawk Nelson was nice enough to make a side-stop in my little town on their way to Montana (we are literally on the way to nowhere, so any good concerts that we don't have to drive 2 hours for are a huge privilege for us). It was a great evening with an even greater theme; God's place in hard times.

Some of the evening's musicians had to face some pretty tough times in the last few years. The opening musician (Ryan Stevens) had found out his wife miscarried their twins and that he had been dropped from his record label (which means his greatest income was lost)- both within days of each other. The lead singer of Hawk Nelson (pictured above) had to watch as his little sister suffered from cancer, wondering if she could possibly survive. There were times when all they could do was shout at God, "WHY!?"

A lot of us hit points in our lives like that (or if we haven't, we probably will eventually). Some will get angry and say God doesn't care, or denounce their faith altogether. Some will say through their tears, "God had no part in this. He takes care of the good times, but stuff like this? He could never do that." Those who are familiar with scripture, however, will sooner or later realize that God does indeed have everything to do with our hard times.

Proverbs 16:33 says "The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord." We also read in the book of Job that all hardship- even that which comes from Satan- is ordained by God:
"And the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.” So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord." (Job 1:12). 
Through it all though, God's will is accomplished; "And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestine to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren." (Romans 8:28-29). 

As the title track on Hawk Nelson's latest album says, "He is making diamonds out of dust, He is refining and in His timing, He's making diamonds out of us." - in other words, God is conforming us to His image; He is taking us in our worthless state and forming us into something of value to Him. This is what happens to those whom He has saved. Like making diamonds, it's a tough process, but it will be worth it in the end when we are able to be worshiping in His presence. Trust Him. 

Friday, October 2, 2015

Leaving Hand Prints on Life.

Tip: Put your subject in it's surroundings. Close cropped images can make nice portraits, but if you really want to capture a moment, zoom it out a little and back up to give the image a sense of depth.

I once overheard an elderly man saying, "I was at a baseball game back a while ago and was having a rough time navigating the stairs on the bleachers. Then a young man took me by the arm and helped me make my way out of the stadium. I thanked him and handed him a $20. He's probably forgotten by now, but it meant the world to me." 

You never know what you might do that will leave a life long impression upon someone. For me, it has been as simple as a camp counselor being my pen pal when I was 7, or a certain blog post a friend of mine wrote when I was 16. So many little things you don't even think about can really stick with a person, whether for good or for ill. 

Whatever it is that you do, it affects those around you in some way, whether it be through your example or through something you do to or for someone. The question to ask yourself is, "Am I causing a good affect on those around me?"

In my case, the letters and time spent with that camp counselor made me realize how happy it made me to have someone older paying attention to me and treating me like a friend. Years down the road, I did the same for a little girl I met at church. As for the blog post, it created an amazing mental image that not only made for an enjoyable read, but I think ultimately gave me the slight nudge that lead to me gaining a sense of adventure (which helps this blog out immensely, seeing as I get my best photographs when I am out exploring). 

Matthew 25:40 states, "And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me." ... So, what are you doing to people?