Saturday, October 18, 2008


I have nothing against choirs. I have sung in my share of them, attended concerts by many excellent choirs, and enjoyed recording or providing sound reinforcement for still others. But as much as I love music, I have this thing about liking to hear the lyrics. And often the lyrics are just a little hard for me to sort out in choir music, especially when the choir is singing Schubert's Mass in G, or some Bach classic in German. No, I must confess to appreciating solos. I love to hear that soprano or baritone voice lifted above the choir, boldly standing out from the crowd, yet fitting in all the same.

There's a very simple principle good photographers tend to practice—one that would seem so obvious it shouldn't need to be mentioned. But it is amazing how frequently photos are taken without recognizing it. The principle is simply this.

Decide what it is you are taking a picture of.

Is it a flower, a small group of flowers, a pattern, a door, a smile? What is it. Here's what happens. We find ourselves in a beautiful place, or looking at a breathtaking scene, and so we feel compelled to take a picture, not
realizing that the whole of the experience is too grand, encompasses too many senses, and covers too great an area to be confined to a snapshot.
Before taking that picture, take a moment to answer the question, in a word if possible, "What is it I am taking a picture of?"

Then it is up to you to use your relationship to the subject, the light you have available or can manipulate, the settings on your camera, and even the position of the subject in the frame to ensure that the person who views your photo has no doubt what it was that you were photographing.

If what you are photographing is a choir or, let's say, a field of flowers, fine. But consider the impact of photographing the soloist, with the choir there for backup. There's no doubt where your eyes are going to go: directly to the subject.

Aah... I think I'm hearing the music and the lyrics.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Just One Spike

Just one spike, but part of a team. 
One small hunk of rusting steel,
Hugging the rail, as if it knows.
No glory for the solitary spike,
But without it there is no team.
And all who pass this way
Owe their lives to one small spike.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

A Leaf Falls in the Woods

I love to hike the trails of the great Pacific Northwest, to marvel at each new unveiled vista as I round a bend or crest a hill.

Sometimes as I walk, I'm reminded of a beautiful summer day in Venice. I walked her narrow, winding streets, and floated along her ancient canals, my mind consumed by the realization that Venice was not only created by artists, but that the city implored all who would visit her to become artists, as there are no words to otherwise express her beauty.
Recently, while hiking in the Oregon coastal range, I stopped to inhale the majesty of the surrounding forrest—to be still and experience the awesome handiwork of the Artist. There, in the stillness of the forest, all around me seemed suspended in time, as if all creation were holding its breath. Until a leaf... a single, simple leaf... floated down from some unseen place on high... lazily, silently descending to the forrest floor. Even as I stood there, motionless, taking in the scope of the masterpiece, the Master Artist was still lovingly applying paint to the canvas. But it was not all of nature, it was I who was holding my breath. And as the breath escaped my lips I felt that old, familiar feeling. The world around me was not only created by the Artist, but He was imploring all of us to be the artist that He had created us to be—to live the reality that we are created in the image of the Creator.

I gave thanks to the Creator, and promised anew to use my portion of the creativity He breathed into each of us to offer up humble offerings of thanksgiving and praise.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

An Autumn Stroll

When the days grow crisp
And the air is clean,
And the leaves begin to fall;
When reds and golds
Replace the green,
And the southbound geese do call,
I dream about a special place,
A pathway for the soul,
Where you and I could dream as one
And take an autumn stroll.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Rusty Leaves and Rusty Rails

In my youth I carried boxcars,
Flatcars, coal and pig iron...
Cattle for the stockyard,
Powerful tycoons of big business.
I was the path of the Empire Builder.
Straight, fast, dependable... true.
But the sun is setting on the empire now
And the rust of Autumn is upon me.
Like the green leaves of Spring,
Rusty rails are soon forgotten.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

The Secret of a Masterpiece

Quietly, reverently, expectantly his students follow the old master up the twisting path, nearly stumbling in the muted half-light of the pre-dawn. Now atop the precipice, the distant pounding of surf below them the only sound, young would-be painters sit motionless before blank canvass, waiting at the feet of the great artist.

A hint of pink, pale as a maiden's first blush. A student raises his brush and the old artist looks into his eyes and seems to say, "Not yet."

Silver and gold crawl around one cloud, then two then three. The master slowly shakes his head in silence and a student relaxes, while another fidgets nervously.

The first streak of red grows slowly from the curtain of pink. His students stiffen; surely we have come here for this. But the ancient one is still, seemingly unmoved by colors slowly stretching across the eastern sky.

Then, to the collective gasp of nature, rich shades of orange meet and mingle with vibrant flames of red. Adorned in purple, regal... crowned in pure gold, proud clouds ride chariots of finest silver across a blazing sky, and perfect shafts of saffron reveal the glory, the topaz-studded majesty of dawn... splashing their brilliant hues across the crystal sea.

"Now!" shouts the master artist. "Now!" With tear-filled eyes lifted in awe to the masterpiece before him, he implores those who would be artists, "Capture the color now!"