Category Archives: Photography

God in a Leaf

One of my favorite scripture verses is Romans 1:20: “For ever since the world was created people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities — his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.”

During my morning walk a few days ago, I found these:

Notice how the leaves look almost like parachutes or kites to carry the seeds away from the parent tree? If I were to label the quality of God in the leaves, I would say he is an engineer. Only an engineer with intimate knowledge of gravity, botany and aerodynamics could create a leaf of just right shape and size to carry one or several seeds into the wind.

I am endlessly fascinated at how one tree reproduces and how the seeds are carried away (either by wind or animals). How can I not be awed by God’s thoughtfulness in a single seed attached to a single leaf of a single tree? And how each tree produces seeds so different from almost every other species.

“Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your Heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you more valuable to him than they are?” (Matthew 6:26)

I love the fall, with the turning trees, cool weather and the birds beginning their migration.

If anyone’s been following US politics, you’ll know it’s been a tough week, regardless of what side you’re on politically. It has for me, which is why I’m so grateful I was mindful enough to study my surroundings and spot those leaves. They reminded me of what’s important. Not politics, that’s for sure, even though I will continue to pray for all those involved.

Tomorrow, as cold as it might be, I will be out by the river with my camera to take many pictures of a hopefully calm day so that my spirit might also be calmed. Perhaps I might hear God’s whisper in the wind reminding me not to worry or fret. No matter what happens here or elsewhere, he is in control. Always has been. Always will be.

Solar Eclipse 2017

This year we were in the 90% zone for the Total Eclipse, and I was quite happy with that. I’ve enjoyed two other partial solar eclipses and four total lunar eclipses within the last 10 years. Since I enjoy photography almost as much as writing, I was excited for the opportunity to take pictures of this one. Especially since it was closer to a total than I have yet experienced.

Until friends of ours who live in Nebraska invited us down to view it from their house. They live in Scottsbluff which was in the totality zone. You can imagine my excitement, I’m sure.

And here’s the result (eleven photos total):

https://500px.com/amarq013/galleries/solar-eclipse-2017

If you’ve never seen a total solar eclipse, I recommend that no matter how far you have to travel to see it, do it. There’s no other experience like it, and you certainly won’t regret it. It’s awesome and eerie at the same time. It’ll make you feel small yet privileged that you could experience such an amazing cosmic event.

If you want to know when and where the next ones will be, check out timeanddate.com. And no, they didn’t pay me to advertise their site.

The ‘No’ Photographer

I can’t say no. Which is why I learned to never let a salesman/woman to even begin their pitch. I have to cut them off after hello, otherwise I get sucked in and end up paying many a dollar for something I didn’t want or need.

About a one and a half years ago, my sister-in-law asked me to take pictures for her at her son’s wedding so she didn’t have to. I accepted and ended up having a lot of fun. The best part since I wasn’t the official photographer (nor was there one at the wedding, so I didn’t feel like an intruder), there was little by way of expectation. If only a few photos turned out perfect, some good and the rest okay, I wasn’t going to disappoint anyone. They got them all for free, after all.

Last night some friends invited us to a bonfire. The weather has been so nice lately, and the fire immense and warm, we didn’t have to wear coats.

The couple recently got engaged, and they’re starting to plan the wedding (although no date set, mostly due to expense). The subject of photographers came up, and she expressed a bit of dismay at the cost. They are not cheap. $3,000 is about the average.

Knowing I photograph and once took pictures of her dog for her, she asked if I would consider doing her wedding.

Hmm. I didn’t say yes, but I didn’t say no, either. I said I would consider it, though.

It’s one thing to take pictures when no one is paying you with no expectations as far as quality, but being hired is a different animal altogether. Brides — and rightly so — want everything to be perfect, and the photography is no exception. Since I know the bride-to-be, Jen, and her being one of the nicest people in the world, I’m not too worried about her going all bridezilla on me.

It’s her and her future husband’s family that worry me a bit. The groom’s family is large, and one even gave the bride a list of dates she’s free for the wedding. Yep, the family member (a cousin) actually expects the couple to work around her schedule when planning the wedding.

And if one is that audacious, what is she and the rest of the family going to be like when the wedding takes place. And I’m going to be taking pictures of them? Ugh.

The one thing I am going to have to do is not be a sucker, and be emphatic with the word ‘no.’ If I accept this wedding gig, I will have to tell the family from the get-go that my word is law when it comes to the photography. I even told Jen last night that she should tell all guests that no cameras or camera phones are allowed during the ceremony, or even during the official wedding photographs. At the reception is different. They can take pictures to their heart’s content.

After all, why pay for a professional photographer if everyone with a camera phone jumps up, blocks people’s view (including the paid photographer) to get their shot, and try be the first to post on Facebook and Instagram?

Not only is it rude, but guests taking pictures are so busy clicking and sharing away, they don’t take the time to enjoy the actual ceremony.

Whether or not I have the wherewithal to be the “no” photographer remains to be seen. I hope so, but I don’t know. I’ll have to keep reminding myself that I am there for the bride and groom first, their parents a distant second, and the bridesmaids, groomsmen, remaining family, and other guests have zero say in the matter. Not unless they want to pay me more than what the bride and groom are paying me — cash up front, no checks or credit cards accepted, no discounts or rebates, no exceptions.

And I do expect to get paid. Just not $3,000. I’m not professional enough for those prices.

In the meantime, I have a lot of studying to do on how best to take pictures of weddings.

Assuming I say yes, that is.

Oblivious

We recently purchased a camper, and for the first time ever, we went camping down at Fort Lincoln State Park with some friends.

All week, we’ve been warned to expect severe thunderstorms on Friday evening. Like most times, I wasn’t too concerned. Thunderstorms are by their nature are difficult to predict.

There have been many a time when no storms are predicted, and one pops up seemingly out of nowhere. Other times, meteorologists proclaim high probability, and either nothing happens, or the storms turn or split off and we get nothing but blue skies.

Still, I kept an eye on the radar all afternoon, because being down in an open campground with nowhere to go was a bit concerning. Especially since we have yet to insure our camper.

Around 7pm, I noticed a massive storm develop west of Dickinson, and for the next two hours watched as it moved at easily 50mph, swirled, grew and headed right for us. I considered moving my car near the western edge of the campground, because it’s full of shorter trees, bushes and a steep hill. I figured there it would have at least some protection from hail, since that was my main concern.

Wind never crossed my mind.

The sky grew darker, and large drops of rain started about 8:30, so we moved all the chairs under the campers along with anything else we didn’t want to see get wet.

At 9:20 pm is when things started to get interesting.

The rain came, and at first it wasn’t all that much, so a few of us decided to sit under our friend, Bill’s awning. We didn’t have the awning down for more than five minutes when the wind hit. An impressive and more than a little scary wind. Bill, managed to stow it quickly enough the wind didn’t tear it off the camper. The rest of us piled into his camper to talk, play games and watch the rain fall, praying every second the rain wouldn’t bring hail with it.

To the west toward the hill, nothing much of interest was going on, as the hill and thick trees held much of the wind back.

Toward the east and the Missouri River, however, I watched the tall cottonwoods bend in the intense wind and not for the first time wondered how any tree could withstand such a beating and not break. After about ten minutes of those trees getting a beating, the power went out, and the camper switched to battery power.

I thought losing power was a bit odd, but we all figured because of the wind and rain, the power cord loosened from the outlet outside.

During the 30 minutes or so as the storm passed, I could feel an occasional gust, and wondered if the pattering of the rain was hail, which there was none. None was needed, because after it was all said and done, I don’t know if hail could have added to the resulting destruction.

When I saw blue skies at about 9:45, I told Tom it was time for bed. Not only was he tired, but I noticed the sky was starting to look quite lovely, and I wanted to take pictures. He went out first, and as I approached our with camper with camera in hand, I saw a man standing at the door. I recognized him as a neighboring camper, who is also a member of the church I go to, Derek. He saw me and asked if we were okay.

A little surprised by the concern I said, “Yes. We’re fine. We waited out the storm in our friend’s camper.”

“Oh, good,” he said. “Have you seen the playground?”

“Um, no,” I said. “Why?”

And then I looked:

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What was even more shocking is the camper next to the playground:

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I told Tom to stay in the camper, because I wanted to make sure everyone was okay, and I also wanted to get pictures. As we approached the devastation, I saw the lights of firetrucks and other first responders. I thought, “Wow, that was fast.”

Either that, or the trees fell close to the initial burst of the storm, and for at least a half an hour, we at the west side of the campground were completely oblivious to the destruction of the storm.

When Derek and I reached the camper that sustained the worst of the damage, Derek asked if anyone was hurt.

“No,” the man said. “God was watching over us, and I can’t tell you how thankful we are.”

“Indeed,” I thought. I can’t imagine what they thought when that tree crashed into their camper and rose one side up at least three feet.

I pulled out my camera and asked if I could take pictures.

“Go ahead,” he said, “It’s not as though I can’t do anything about the damage.”

I came back a few minutes later and noticed Tom standing inside the camper with the door open a few inches. I came in and let him see the photos. While he did that, I went to Bill’s camper, opened the door and said, “You guys have no idea how lucky we are.” I then explained what I saw. It wasn’t long before the entire campground population was outside to check on the damage and take pictures with their cell phones.

Selfishly, I thought, “Dang it. Because of their cellphones, all their pictures are going to be plastered all over Facebook before I even have a chance to download mine!”

On my way back, I talked to a few other people to ask how well they fared, and to take pictures of a fiery sky:

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Tom had finished looking at the pictures and pointed out his favorite was the one with the tipped picnic table.

He sat at the table and said, “All that damage makes me a little sad.”

As large tears fell, I hugged him close and reassured him that everyone was okay. He really didn’t like to see all that destruction, poor little guy. From his perspective, that had to be beyond scary. It was his first glimpse into the power of nature, and how powerless we can be in the face of it.

After Tom calmed down, a bunch of us went out to survey the damage. I decided Tom should come with. He saw everyone was indeed unhurt, and how the first responders and others were helping those who’s campers had either been damaged or had been pushed off their jacks. Not ten minutes later, he was his normal, happy self.

Thus Ends The Torture

Like the new look? You have Jeff Gerke to thank for it.

Recently I asked his opinion on the previous entry, and he suggested I change the theme to something easier on the eyes.

I had been thinking about it for a while, but was too lazy to take the five minutes to do so.

Sometimes it takes someone else to point something out before I actually do something. Hmm. That’s a lot of “some” in a single sentence. I’d reword it, but my laziness is kicking in again.

I got nothing else to add, so I’ll instead include one of my (current) favorite pictures. Hopefully it’s also less torturous on the eyes than my previous blog theme. I took this along the Missouri River during a photo session with fellow North Dakota photographer Marshall Lipp (you should check out his photography. It’s fabulous).

Enjoy!

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