Tag Archives: landscape photography

Chronicles of a Chronic Complainer

 

Evening sun highlights ridges and clouds at the Grand Canyon

Evening sun highlights ridges and clouds at the Grand Canyon

 

Yes, I’m a card-carying member of The Chronic Complainers Club.

Oh sure, I have had stretches of success in recent years at being mostly thankful, seeing my world for the blessings contained in it, growing in daily gratitude. And I’ve written much about these good things.

But I cannot deny that lately my inner curmudgeon has found me again. My focus has turned toward a few unpleasant circumstances that have been bringing me down. As I’ve fallen into the old trap of dwelling on these negative thoughts, I’ve lost a positive perspective and have become miserable and cranky.

Today I’ve been reminded that being a critic of daily circumstances profits nothing. It initiates a downward spiral of mood and energy, dragging with it not only my own soul but also the heart of anyone within reach of the poisonous negativity.

My dear wife has tried to warn me that Chronic Complainer had moved back in, but of course the Curmudgeon was in no mood to concede.

It took a few texts with a dear friend over the topic of local weather to fully open my eyes to the reality of the attitude I have been cultivating. My friend lives in a region of bountiful lush green forests and rivers…that exist because of bountiful fall, winter, and spring rains. While my friend craves sunshine, she maintains a patient and hopeful vigil for it, and when the clouds break for even a few minutes to reveal temporary rays of sun, or a delicious orange-creamsicle sunrise before a return to plodding rain, she celebrates those brief moments – tasting, savoring, joyfully thanking God for his goodness in creation.

 

Sunrise and sunset can be equally glorious in Everglades National Park

Sunrise and sunset can be equally glorious in Everglades National Park

 

What a stark contrast to the texts I had been writing her lately. I’d been focusing narrowly on my discomfort with humidity and heat, and my world had shrunk to consist of nothing but my own misery and an obsessive desperation to fix the problem.

But her refusal to play victim during her long dark rainy season suddenly shone like a beacon of light into my own discouragement. I felt hope awaken as I realized that complaining is a choice. I don’t have to be a slave to discouragement. I’ve been granted the power to choose what I focus on. My mindset is up to me.

Hmm, mindset.
Mind. Set.
To set the mind.

Suddenly I’m reminded of the wisdom of an ancient man, a follower of Jesus named Paul, who wanted to encourage a group of new Jesus followers in their attitudes and actions, and so he said,

“Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” (Colossians 3:2)

Paul wanted these young Christians to overflow with joy at the excellence and beauty that is their savior Jesus, and to be filled with thankfulness at all the incredible spiritual blessings that were now theirs because of the powerful grace and love of Christ. And he understood that it came about by setting their minds.

Set your mind. Be intentional. Take control of what’s coming into your brain, and focus it on the good.

 

The simple goodness of a flowering cherry tree branch against blue sky backdrop

The simple goodness of a flowering cherry tree branch against blue sky backdrop

 

In my next blog I’ll delve into a practical everyday way that I hope can effectively set my mind – a tool for enabling the hope-filled, joyful, positive life outlook that pushes the curmudgeon out the door.

In the meantime, I’m keeping my Chronic Complainers Club membership card tucked away in my wallet as a reminder, because I know full well that I’ll be needing to have this talk with myself again…

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Considering Christ in Creation

 

Another year of traveling America searching for photographic art in creation has begun.

First stop on this road trip is the southernmost section of Everglades National Park, a place made visually famous by the work of a few gifted photographers who have spent an entire lifetime working the area to capture a handful of spectacular moments. But the problem for me is their portfolio images set a high bar of expectation for my eyeballs, so when I drove through the park for my first time last week and saw very ordinary views of flat grasslands and scrubby stunted trees, with precious little wildlife to be found, it was quite a letdown.

The first temptation was to ditch the place early, well before my week of campground reservations was up. Especially since the ‘greeting’ I received the first night at camp was twenty mosquito bites in five minutes and thirty of the bloodsuckers following me inside my trailer. But the strong inner drive to find and create compelling imagery thankfully surfaced as it usually does, and I determined to stick it out and see what work could be done here in this vast river of grass.

 

The pastel colors of dusk wash over a dwarf cypress forest

The pastel colors of dusk wash over a dwarf cypress forest

 

As I pushed through creative challenges of seeing beyond the seemingly ordinary surface of the place, and found some level of endurance for the accumulating mosquito bites now covering my entire body after several long days of scouting, some visual rewards were granted and I’m thankful to have a few pleasing compositions of flora & fauna to share in this blog space today.

 

A beautiful barred owl sitting quietly in a cypress tree was a great reward at day's end

A beautiful barred owl sitting quietly in a cypress tree was a great reward at day’s end

 

The flower of a lily pad opens up to the afternoon sun along the Anhinga Trail

The flower of a lily pad opens up to the afternoon sun along the Anhinga Trail

 

When my photographic work feels difficult like it has here in the ‘Glades, it can be easy for me to forget that my foundational purpose for being out in creation is to see & savor the glory of God, to effortlessly worship him as I take delight in the works of his hands. I realized today that amid the mosquitos and the mundane I needed to rely on not just the inspiration of the moment to lead my heart to a worshipful state, but I also needed to cultivate that heart of worship. To be intentional about making much of God no matter the conditions.

And so today as I sit down at my campsite in the Everglades to share photos and writing, I want to take a moment to intentionally exalt God’s work in creation, to point to his glory, but from a perspective that has not always been obvious to me – that is, the work of Christ in creation.

Most of us who are Christian refer to God the Father as creator, a fact that we easily understand and acknowledge in our faith. But there is a deeper level to this basic truth that drops the jaw of my heart in awe, and it is this: the Jesus I know as God’s Son, the gentle Lamb of God born as a baby in the Middle East, who walked this earth and laid down his life so that rebels like me could be forgiven and granted new spiritual life, this Savior who is my King and my Comforter and my Friend –  is also the Creator of all the beauty I behold in the natural world.

Christ is the Maker of it all!

The first chapter of John reveals this glory for us:

In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
He was in the beginning with God.
All things were made through him,
and without him was not any thing made that was made. 
In him was life, and the life was the light of men.

So much spectacular mystery and majesty here! The God who became man so he could rescue fallen creatures, this Jesus who has granted me freedom by his astounding grace and love, the one I worship as Savior and who gently shepherds my life, is the powerful and creative force behind these sublime landscapes and occasional wildlife I chase across the country.

Another layer of the onion is peeled as I peer more deeply into the person of Christ. And my worship is deepened.

 

Cypress trees silhouetted against a rich sunset sky in Everglades NP

Cypress trees silhouetted against a rich sunset sky in Everglades NP


The Significance of Feeling Insignificant

 

Canyon Layers After Storm

 

As far back as I can remember, I have longed to feel that I mattered. To believe that I am somebody. To somehow find, in this crowded world of billions, even a small significance to my existence on planet earth.

To put it more accurately, I’ve been driven by the fear of being insignificant.

This fear propelled my performance in school, in work, and in relationships. And the motivation to matter did not always end well. It took more than four decades of life to begin understanding the complexities behind the drive to be accepted and acknowledged, and thankfully recent years have seen an end to this fear dominating the deep places of my being. Oh, don’t get me wrong – I still desire to live a useful life, to have some value – but it’s not the debilitating desperate pursuit it once was.

Last night as I walked up to the edge of the south rim of the Grand Canyon, I was immediately overwhelmed by the sheer vastness of this spectacular natural wonder of our world. The dimensions of this canyon opening up before my eyes my brain could not calculate. Big beyond belief. Swallowed up in these overwhelming visuals, I felt an emotion recognizable, yet also different:

I felt insignificant.

 

I've visited the Grand Canyon many times but the views still make me gasp in awe

I’ve visited the Grand Canyon many times but still gasp in awe at the views

 

But this was not the old familiar fear. It was not an emotion of tortuous longing to be somebody. It was instead a wonderfully peaceful feeling overtaking all of me. It was gratitude for being a lowly insignificant human creature, in the face of significant grandeur created by a significant God. It was the freedom and joy of knowing I no longer have to be significant in the measure of the old way, because I have found a significant rest in the One who loves me without condition.

You see, there is another canyon. Its vastness is infinite. Its depth is immeasurable. To walk up to its edge and peer over makes the heart stop in sheer awe. The Grand Canyon is a dried-up creek bed in comparison.

It is the breathtaking canyon of God’s love.

Its mind-boggling swath was carved through the rocky rebellious soil of the human heart by the unstoppable onrushing waters of the grace of Christ. The One who lived and bled and died and conquered and ascended for me, and for all weary earth travelers who simply trust in his kindness.

 

For I am convinced that neither death nor life,
neither angels nor demons,
neither the present nor the future,
nor any powers, 
neither height nor depth,
nor anything else in all creation,
will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

(Romans 8:38-39)

An autumn thunderstorm passes over the grandiosity of the Grand Canyon

An autumn thunderstorm passes over the grandiosity of the Grand Canyon


First Things First

 

How to begin?

The idea for this blog has been percolating for some years now. Finally sitting down to attempt writing the first post, I am overwhelmed by a hundred questions banging around in my head, the nagging noise of fear, confusion, doubt, and much resistance. Then the words of a dear friend in email bring me back to what the focus is all about, and I know now how to begin…

It’s all about the glory of God.

 

Mesa Arch glows from reflected light at sunrise in Canyonlands National Park, UT

On the short hike in the dark of early morning to Mesa Arch in Canyonlands National Park, Utah, it’s difficult to imagine the glory that awaits.  Arriving at the expansive span before sunrise, with the view of the Washer Woman formation,  the pulse quickens.  But it’s about 15 minutes after the sun has risen, when bright sunlight hitting the red rock below bounces up to set Mesa Arch’s belly glowing in fiery reflected light, that your jaw drops in awe of the spectacle you are witnessing.

 

To place myself in the path of God’s glory, have my eyes opened to it, and drink deeply of it, has become my passion and life pursuit as a Christian and photographer of the landscape. But it was not always so. Most of my years have been spent desperate to find some small glory for myself, clinging to the approval of people, striving for performance-based acceptance, and distracted by far lesser passions. In recent years my sovereign Father has been gracious to lead me into brokenness, exposing pride and idolatry within, and tearing down the facade. And then in love he has begun rebuilding the foundations of identity based on who he is and what he has done to rescue inept rebels like me through his Son Jesus Christ, and through that is stirring up an appetite for his amazing glory.

By God’s grace I hope to use the medium of this blog to share glimpses of the Creator’s handiwork that he has allowed me to capture through the art and craft of landscape photography. As the prophet Isaiah declares, “the whole earth is filled with his glory!” (Isaiah 6:3b, ESV), and my cameras can testify to this. Scriptures, writing, and other resources may be used with the photography to help magnify the greatness of our God.

Clearly a Christian audience is in mind here, with the hope of bringing encouragement to people who trust in the triune God of the Bible, but all are welcome.

 

Yellow and pink monkeyflowers decorate the Paradise River in Mount Rainier National Park, WA

High up on the flank of towering Mount Rainier in Washington state, the Paradise glacier is the source of a river bearing its name.  For a few summer days one particular August, which is more akin to springtime in this high country, the conditions combined to create a rare spectacular yellow and pink monkey flower bloom decorating the Paradise River and falls just below the glacier.

 

Each week I will endeavor to prepare a table with delicacies of the Creator’s magnificence and invite you to pull up a chair and eat and be satisfied. But any fruitfulness from these efforts will be solely up to God’s moving and working. My foundational role is simply to glorify the Lord by seeing and savoring the awesomeness of his works, then responding with gratitude and worship through the creative process of image making and writing. This is his call for me, by his enablement.

If you choose to journey along, may our souls resonate with the psalmist:

“Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!”  (Psalm 34:8a, ESV)


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