Saturday, October 25, 2014

My journey continues: What would Jesus do?

I just read a post on Facebook, shared by a Lutheran pastor friend of mine.  It was titled "What Would Jesus Do?".  The post was actually a very tongue-in-cheek rebuke of those who CLAIM to follow Christ, and yet do not.  Without spoiling the post, I won't give the details.  For those of you who wish to read it, click here.

Jesus clearing the Temple - booksellers, coffee mugs, etc.
Even before I read the short article, I really made the conscious decision NOT to be a Christian anymore.  I have shared in other posts that I no longer like to be called a "Christian", because I find so many that use that name as a label for themselves, but like the mother in the humorous story, live lives that are sanctimonious, hypocritical, and judgemental.  Yes, that last sentence fits into that very definition as well.  I am being judgemental about others, and I should not be.  

Let's face it, to follow Jesus, to REALLY follow him, requires a lot.  I remember 20 or so years ago writing a letter to my pastor, saying that I questioned my faith, and was concerned that I was "lukewarm", in reference to Revelation 3:15-16, when Christ is telling members of a specific church that they were neither hot nor cold, but lukewarm, and he's going to "spit them out of" his mouth. Granted, I also believe, along with many Biblical scholars, that Revelation is to be taken with a HUGE grain of salt, and there have been some suggestions that John (the book is attributed to the Apostle John as he was in exile on some Mediterranean island) was drunk, or crazy.  Revelation almost did NOT make the Bible as it was being "assembled" hundreds of years ago.  But beside all that, the idea of being a "lukewarm" Christian has always bothered me.  And today, as I just LOOKED at the title of the post, I felt that I no longer wanted to follow Christ. 

Jesus and the prostitute "He who is without sin..."
That does not mean I'm going to toss away decades of church going, the relationships that I've had with teachers, youth leaders, pastors and friends - all of which have helped form my faith.  In fact, I still believe in God as stated in the Apostles Creed.  I still believe in Jesus Christ as revealed in the Gospels.  It's just that to actually DO what Jesus would do means taking me so far out of my comfort zone, that I don't think I can do it.  Maybe if I was single, with no family responsibilities, I could step out more.  There are so many easy reasons to say why I cannot do it, that I would rather make the statement that I CANNOT do what Jesus did, and so I'd rather be a cold Christian, still living in the Gift of Grace, still loving God, still being a dad and trying to raise a family, still wishing to search for the Truth.  

Conversely, I know that there are things I CAN do, things that Jesus WOULD do, or at least I can help others do things Jesus would do.  And in a small way, I am doing some things that Jesus would do.  I will not share those, since those are between me and God - which is as it should be, in my opinion.  But today, I just decided that I cannot "do what Jesus would do", because it's just so damned hard!  I will be cold, but believe.  Can you do that?
Jesus healing the leper

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Well, I did it....

No sooner had I posted that I was scared of digital photography than I put my 4x5" camera up for sale on Craigslist, and sold it.  

So, now I'm committed.  

I'm actually going to borrow Lorrie's Canon 7D and start "learning" photography again.  I am seriously tempted to take a long weekend and go up the 395, photographing in the Eastern Sierra, maybe as far up as Bridgeport and Walker, where Lorrie's grandparents used to live.

Part of me is sad to see an "old friend" gone.  That camera became an extension of my art.  I had gotten to know its idiosyncrasies, how to make the adjustments to achieve the images I pre-visualized.  Yet I also felt that my "old friend" held me back.  Film was getting harder to find and was more expensive.  I no longer had the darkroom access that allowed me to do the black & white work that I loved.  We no longer had the software for the scanner, which would have allowed me to scan my transparencies and negatives. Even with that, the scanner wasn't really that good.  
I also have shifted the reason for why I was wishing to do photography with the 4x5" camera.  When I first bought that camera in 1997, my goal was to create large wall images - 24 x 30" or larger.  I knew I could accomplish that with a 4x5" camera.  Digital photography was not really around then, and certainly not of the quality that it is today.  One of the greatest landscape photographers, known for his large format images, now shoots Nikon digital.  And as I've seen Lorrie's photographic work mature, seen the tonal quality of her black & white work, and the saturation of her color work, I find that I am more open to digital capture.  

Plus, I had to do a self evaluation of WHAT my reasons were to do photography now.  What was my goal.  I've seen images shared on websites that are stunning.  With the relative ease of working on post-capture manipulation, and with do-it-yourself websites, sharing and possibly selling my images is a great possibility.  Plus, where I work has large format imaging devices that I could use to create and sell my images.  

So, now is a time of renewed self-discovery, capturing images such as this one below (credit unknown), and finding a voice again.

Saturday, October 04, 2014

Digital photography scares me!

There.  I've said it. 

It's ironic for me to say that, considering that the kind of photography I love to do, using the camera I do, can be for many photographers just as scary. After all, my camera shoots a single sheet of 4x5" film at a time.  The exposure has to be calculated using a spot meter.  And if I'm shooting in black & white, I have to read both the shadows and the highlights, determine which "zones" they fall in, calculate both my exposure AND my development time, even before I put my film holder in the back of the camera!  And as you can see by this image here, there are knobs and levers, which allow the photographer to adjust the distance between his or her film plane (in the back) and the lens plane in the front, allowing for razor sharp focus throughout the entire image.  And, in the back, is not a viewfinder like film or digital SLR cameras have, but a sheet of glass that has a ground surface, allowing you to focus the image.  However, that image is upside-down and backwards.  Now, to me, all of this is simple, but that's because I've studied it, read about it, and almost mastered it.  Post production is done in a darkroom, developing the sheets of film, making prints using techniques that are decades old.  And in reading this, you may ask "then, why the hell does digital photography scare you?"

Digital photography can be as easy as simply buying a camera that captures images, and from there you can learn the basics.  Maybe you move on to a simple DSLR, and then eventually into a more complex and even professional level DSLR.  I think what daunts me is that I am trying to apply the ideas of film photography - maybe translate is a better term - into digital.  I understand metering, exposure, depth of field, etc.  But things like white balance, or ramping up your ISO still confound me.  The irony is that as simple as digital photography can be, I want to use it at a level similar to what I currently do with film photography: I want to know how to control the image IN the camera and at the time of exposure, so I don't have to do too much manipulation in post-production.  And yet, in film photography, darkroom work is really doing photo manipulation in analog format.  Ansel Adams heavily manipulated his work in the darkroom.  He would burn or dodge the prints, and then use selective bleaching to further whiten his "whites".  So, to take an image from a DSLR and do some work on it in PhotoShop or Lightroom is no different.

I think that there is one other element of film photography that I enjoy over the idea of having a DSLR, and that is the requirement to work slowly.  Yes, you can spend time pre-visualizing your images with a DSLR, and determine optimum exposure and camera settings.  But it's also "easy" with a DSLR to point 'n' shoot.  A 4x5" camera requires more time and more discipline, and that might be why I hesitate to jump to digital.  I like that time.  I like that discipline. It's part of the entire creative process.  It's part of the entire emotional experience of being someplace and trying to distill into a single image that very same emotion.  

So, maybe it's not that I'm afraid of digital photography.  Maybe it's that I'm trying to keep something in my life that requires slowness and discipline, and that makes me be part of where I am as I shoot.