The movement of Autumn

Autumn is my favorite time of year to photograph. Colors, shapes and lines, cooler temperatures, weekend trips up north–all contribute to the experience of capturing the visuals and emotions of Autumn. There is a certain rush to capture these images before the trees lose all their leaves. I really enjoy seeing the grand landscape images that my peers produce. I’m not much of a grand vista image maker, but instead I like to capture the smaller details of nature, especially leaves. I like to make an images that is different, perhaps unexpected.

Going through some of my favorite “captures” from this Autumn I noticed a sort of trend–movement. Many of my images have an impressionistic look about them made by either purposely blurring the subject or moving the camera. Some of my outings occurred during windy days–in which I let the wind have her way. My intent with these images was to allow the color to steal the show–rather than the form of subject itself.

photocrati gallery

On the cutting edge

Chicory

Chicory

Each July and August I delight in seeing the scrappy rows of periwinkle-blue chicory flowers along the country roads between work and home. I am always struck by the fact that you see chicory within the first few feet of the side of the road, but almost nowhere else. It is a pretty harsh environment.

Think about it.

The soil there is more compacted than inland, so I imagine the roots would get less oxygen. There is more sand and the remnants of ice salt from the winter months. There are oil residues from car lubricants and fuels, as well as the chemicals that come from asphalt and the tar used to seal cracks in the pavement. Lots of gravel and grit pepper the sides of roadways.

Debris from vehicles (both pieces of the vehicle and items falling out of them) grind into the road and is blown or washed off to the side. This can include a large number of compounds from plastics, glass, rubber from tires, metal, aluminum from cans, paper and wood products, paint and solvents that were on the wood, along with any pollutants from the emissions of vehicles. Somewhere during the course of the summer months the grass along the edges of the road are cut down for better visibility for traffic.

Yet it is in this environment that chicory seems to thrive.

It is not that this type of road side environment is better for chicory; it is that this environment is intolerable for most other plants. Chicory could probably thrive quite well in better soil, but there are so many other plants that out-compete chicory in those places. Maybe this is why I admire chicory—other than for the beautiful blue color.  Amidst such adverse circumstances, it flourishes. It doesn’t just lie down and quit.

This past week I took my camera to work in order to photograph the chicory on my ride home. However, the flowers were totally gone by late afternoon. It turns out that chicory blooms only in morning sun and closes by late afternoon. It knows how to take a mini Sabbath to be able to get up the next day and do it all over again.

The cup, the crown, and the tree.

I tend to over-analyze Good Friday. All it takes is simple faith to accept the immensity of it all. Yet, it is puzzling to me why all the drama was necessary to begin with.

Cup, crown and a tree

Cup, crown and a tree

Two thousand years ago:  A beating and whipping. Hanging on a tree. A God that died. A killing to pay-in-full for sins the victim didn’t commit. Couldn’t God have forgiven all the sins of man-kind without the cross? I know that a sacrificial killing was customary in Bible times, but killing the Son of God? Really?

I know that sounds like blasphemy, but haven’t you ever wondered why the events of Good Friday and Easter had to happen?

And yet by faith, simple faith, I know deep down that not only was it necessary, but it was necessary that Jesus died for me personally. There is not a human way in which to compensate for a life time of sin. For me, for anyone. Only God can pay off a debt owed to God. 

Two thousand years later: A cup, a crown, and a tree. These items help me remember what a great price was paid on my behalf. They help me remember the events that led up to the cross, and the miracle of Resurrection shortly thereafter. I don’t need to understand it all now. That is where simple faith comes in.

One day in the future I will know fully how incredibly immense Good Friday and Easter really is. I will fully know how necessary it was. And when that “day of knowing” comes to be, I will be free of debt and ready to take my place in God’s eternal Easter.

NOTE: This photo was taken in the sanctuary of Church of the Servant CRC in Grand Rapids, MI. The large pillars with arms reaching upwards is an architectural symbol of a tree. I put that “tree: in the background to symbolize the tree upon which Christ was crucified. On Easter Sunday the black cloth is removed to symbolize the resurrection.

The Wedding Photo

The Wedding Photo

The Wedding Photo

“Okay,” I shout, “everyone line up around the bride and groom!” The formal wedding portrait of the bride, groom, and family is always one of the hardest to pull off. By now the bride and groom know where to stand and what to do, but getting everyone else to cooperate is sometimes a nightmare.

Perhaps more than they realize, this moment will be looked back upon for generations to come. A moment in time captured at the click of the shutter. Everyone’s age locked into pixels for just a moment. But for now it is pure chaos.

“I need a family on the left and one on the right, and parents right by the bride and groom. I need the flower girl and ring bearer (twin brother and sister) in the very front. Engaged couple? To the right of the twins, please. No, move in closer please.” The mother of these little ones hides behind her father-in-law, self-conscious that she has not yet lost that extra weight from the twins. Coaxing her out to the front will prove to be a futile task.

Meanwhile, the mother of the bride is trying to direct traffic and ends up in front of the groom. She tries to bribe the twins to move to the correct spot, and is oblivious that she is the one that needs to move. I sigh, and ask the family on the left to move in closer to the bride and groom. They move as one unit, straight-jacketed as if they are duct-taped together. I notice their teen age son hiding behind his father, ignoring me completely and talking to his friends who will be part of this wedding photo if they move in any closer from the left! The last family is the hardest to pose. The ones with the most kids always are. I check my focus one last time and take the picture.

It is spring. A time for new growth. And though all the focus is on just two, the truth is that today is a day of growth for all of them. A new family is formed. And this new family grows out of the same soil that nourishes them all.

Pastor Mary’s mailbox


Pastor Mary's mailbox
Pastor Mary’s mailbox

 

Pastor Mary is the chaplain at the college where I work. Recently a little bird told me that I should check out Pastor Mary’s mailbox—and make sure to bring my camera. As I drove down her street looking for the correct address, I spotted her flowered covered mailbox from half a block away. There were morning glories growing up, over and around her mailbox to the point that I could only see the mailbox door.

One may suspect that Pastor Mary has quite the green thumb—but I have another theory. You see, as a chaplain, she provides pastoral care for the students, faculty and staff at the college. This is no small thing. Tending to and nurturing the faith of 3900 students is a huge task. She is a comforter when a student’s parent unexpectedly dies, a preacher and teacher to an age group that is struggling to “own” their faith, and a mentor to staff that works to meet the spiritual needs of a whole campus community.

How does one draw strength for such a responsibility? I am certain that it comes from daily communication with God. I imagine she must pray frequently and fervently. I am sure she gives thanks when she is given the right words at the right time. Chapel attendees can attest to the fact that she sings to God. No doubt she knocks at God’s door, ponders and pleads, pesters and questions…..shoot, maybe she even gets on the phone or emails Him too.

The point is that when communication with God is constant and continuous, the richness of relationship with God results in an abundance of life. Life that grows up, over and around us. Kind of like morning glories on a mailbox.

So you see, I am pretty sure that Pastor Mary’s mailbox is a metaphor for her correspondence with God. I think I’m going to take a walk down my driveway and check on what’s growing around my mailbox.

 

Noticing…

Grapevine

Grapevine

 

Noticing…

Some of the most rewarding photography comes from the ability to notice something special among the ordinary. It is a kind of “reading between the lines” way of visualizing the world around you. If you train your eye to look for interesting shapes, colors, lines, textures, etc…, these elements begin to pop out at you in unexpected, yet very common places.

This grapevine and white railing were just outside the room of a bed and breakfast my wife and I visited for our 30th anniversary this past June. (Okay, maybe this doesn’t sound so ordinary, but this particular scene could be just outside any of our houses). Our breakfast was delivered just outside our door each morning in a picnic basket, and there was a nice little patio with table and chairs with which we were able to enjoy our breakfast on. My eyes were drawn to the way these grapevine leaves fell across the railing, and especially the little red tentacles that curled around the vines. I composed the image so that the railing ran diagonal through the scene, and the large two leaves to the bottom left counter-balanced the smaller two leaves at the upper right.

As I think about it, an anniversary celebration is a way we notice something special among the ordinary as well. It is a way to “read between the lines” of the everyday and ordinary stuff of a marriage relationship and celebrate the shape, color, lines and textures that have formed over the years. It is a beautiful and rewarding picture.

 

Finding hope

finding hope

finding hope

These petunias are an impressive bunch. Growing out of a crack with concrete and asphalt surrounding them one has to wonder how they survive. Where do they get nourishment? And this in the middle of a heat wave right now!

I have some wonderful friends that remind me of these flowers. Right now the garden they are in is not one they chose. They have an adult daughter who recently became paralyzed from the waist down and has been having radiation treatments to treat a tumor on her spine. Their days are filled with waiting, meeting with doctors, and traveling between work and home and hospital. They spend as much time as possible with their daughter, taking care of her and emotional needs, trying to cheer her up and looking together with her for hope.

As the odds stack up, it seems like they are drawing all the hope they can through a crack in the concrete. But their faith runs deep, not just wide. Along with their pain right now they still smile and laugh–often through tears. And we hope and cry with them, because we are in this garden together.

Grasping and growing

cucumber vine tendril

cucumber vine tendril

In order to grow, you first need to grasp tightly to what you know. Then by hard work, faith, and determination, pull your self up beyond that safe point of knowing. There is risk in growing, but only through growth can you yield fruit.

The old red shed

There is something about old barns and sheds that repeatedly draw my eye. It may be how they root us to our past, or maybe the attraction of living in simpler times. I’ve always loved the look of faded barn red paint. On our country road is a old red farmhouse with a small red shed nearby.

Old red shed

Old red shed

The farmhouse and shed were already abandoned when we built our home on this road over 25 years ago. A farmer up the road rented the adjacent land for planting corn. He always planted a few rows of sweet corn along the road on this property for all the neighbors. We got to know this farmer well– Don and Mary Shores. They taught us a lot about growing vegetables, raising and butchering chickens, and about the neighborhood. But we never did learn anything about this old farmhouse.

About 7 years ago I took my oldest son’s High School senior portrait with the faded red wood as a background. Two years ago I noticed how the shed was losing it’s battle with gravity and so I took some close up abstract shot of various parts of the shed.

Weary hinge

Weary hinge

Weathered wood

Weathered wood

Two roofing nails

Two roofing nails

While photographing this shed I could not help but wonder about its story. When was it built? Who built it? Did they have any power tools at that time? What was its purpose–animals, machines, garden tools? Was it owned by a young family or old couple? Did they farm the land themselves? What was life like back then? How many owners did it have over the years? When was the house and shed abandoned?

This past March we had some pretty nasty wind storms, and the shed could no longer fight the pull of gravity. It’s just an old shed and abandoned farm house… but it feels a bit like an old friend is gone. The pile of rubble remains, but the spirit of the place is gone.

Collapsed shed

Collapsed shed

Looking back I am glad I took images along the way. These images help tell the story and  give color, shape and context that words simply cannot. When words fail me–and more and more they do–the camera lens helps me articulate what it is I want to share.

Last Supper reflections

Maundy Thursday. Holy Thursday. Covenant Thursday. Thursday of Mysteries. It is the Thursday before Easter that Christians remember the Last Supper.

Jesus prepared a sparse room for a plain meal with His disciples. He broke bread and shared it with them saying “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.”

Can you imagine your host saying something like this to you after giving you food to eat? This teacher you have been following so faithfully? He has said many strange things the past three years, but certainly this tops them all! How unsettling. How….. sad.

Then He passes around a wine goblet and said “Take and drink. This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” It must hit them by now. In “remembrance” of Him? Is he going somewhere? Body and blood? No doubt the mood was somber. Surely the disciples were somewhat shaken and confused. I would have been.

But then imagine what Jesus knew at that time. What emotions were going through Him as he broke the bread and as he poured the wine?

I took the photo above of a crown of thorns plant reflected in a communion chalice. I wanted to imagine what Jesus saw when he looked into the cup. Suffering. Pain. Sharp needles from the crown of thorns. Under the surface, blood and sacrifice. A price to pay. A price I will not have to pay.

After this photo hung in on our church wall for a couple weeks, someone pointed out that it was neat how I placed a cross in the center of the reflection. I never saw it until then. It is a reflection from the translucent ceiling in our church sanctuary. Amazing.

This Easter holiday, look into the cup of blessing. What do you see?

“My blood shed for you”

Grand Rapids, Michigan

Church of the Servant scenes series

Chalice by Mary Doezema & paten by Don Doezema