Slowing Down

I look forward to my weekends. And for me, this photo summarizes one of the reasons why. On Saturdays and Sundays mornings, I try to make time to walk and take photos. Like everyone, all week I’m rushing and working. But for an hour or so on the weekends, I slow down, look around, and try to see things I normally wouldn’t notice.

This photo is an example. As I walked through a local park I saw a discarded softball in an empty field, a leftover abandoned after a team practice. I don’t know how long it lay there or who else noticed it. But there was something tranquil and poignant about this scene. So I kneeled down on the red dirt and snapped a couple of images.

The next morning, a softball team was practicing on the field. The ball was gone, probably thrown into a trashcan, forever forgotten. But life moved onward.

I get it. It’s just a softball. But this photo reminds me that I had the privilege of seeing a small part of God’s creation in a way that maybe no one else on this planet did. And I just didn’t see it. I got to get my knees dirty and enter and engage that special moment in order to capture it, to memorialize it.

I think part of our role as God’s image-bearers is to notice. We have to first notice in order to care, love and bless.

Dallas Willard once said, “You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life, for hurry is the great enemy of spiritual life in our world today.” It’s almost impossible to be God’s image-bearers without noticing. And it’s almost impossible to notice without removing hurry from our lives.

Photography reminds me to slow down and look. It reminds me that there is far more to life than my worries, my struggles, my dreams, my agenda. There are moments and lives into which I can enter if only I slow down and notice.

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Present In The Moment Through Photography

I have quoted Zeb Andrews on this blog several times before. There are many photographers that inspire me to become a more skilled photographer. But there are a select few who actually inspire me to become a better person through photography. Zeb Andrews is one of those unique photographers.

One of the original reasons I fell in love with photography was because it helped me see normal, everyday things from a different perspective; to see details that I would have ordinarily overlooked. Photography has helped me to become more aware. And in the process of becoming aware, it helped me to become more thankful.

Yesterday on his Flickr account, Zeb posted the following image and reflection that shares my original passion for photography:

roundabouts-zeb_andrews_2016“Roundabouts” by Zeb Andrews

“I have said this before, but I have no problem talking about it again because good things have a tendency to come back around… and around… and around.

“I try not to be a photographer to do things. I mean, my goal isn’t to take photos. It isn’t even to make photos. It just so happens that in my normal course of photography that I make lots of pictures, but I see this as a side benefit. I am a photographer to be things, not do them. I want to be creative. I want to be inquisitive. I want to be attentive. I want to be in the moment and I want to be hopeful of the future. I want to be fascinated and awe struck at the myriad subtleties to life and the world. I want to be aware of the fact that no matter where I go or when I am that there are so many things that are different than where I came from… and there are also so many things that are the same. I want to enjoy the pattern that a leaf makes skittering across the road in a gust of wind. I want to look back in uncertain curiosity at that cat crouched in the windowsill watching me. I want to spend some portion of my life wondering about the coincidence of that red car parked in front of that red house with the bush full of red flowers right between them. Who thinks these things up, after all?

“Because then, regardless of whether photos come of the moment or not, I get something vastly more rewarding.

“Take revolving doors for a moment. This is a revolving door I have walked past countless times. It is a door I have barely noticed. I have never felt a shred of curiosity about it. I have never walked through… never been tempted to walk through it… never had a reason to be tempted to walk through it. But this is what photography helps me to be… curious, with reason and cause.

“I am well aware that there is a vast gulf of things we are blind to in our daily lives, things we take for granted or fail to notice. I know I never can, but I want to notice it all. I want a revolving door to be as fascinating as an ancient church in France.

“Anyway, that is what this image is really all about.”

Fulfillment

Friend-sRGBI read somewhere that there are two groups of photographers.

One group are professional photographers. They are spending only 10% of the their time shooting and the other 90% hustling, marketing, selling and servicing their clients.

The other group of photographers want to go pro because they imagined they would be spending 100% of their time doing what they love — shooting photos.

Both groups talk about how their current lives don’t allow them to do what they really want to do. An amateur thinks becoming a professional would allow you to practice photography full-time. And a professional realizes that it doesn’t.

Fulfillment doesn’t occur when one crosses the line into professional status. Rather, it’s develop a life that takes risks and makes room for that which fulfills.

I want to once again thank Mark for starting my love for photography and Debbie for helping me to make room for it in our lives.

Oh. And in case you missed the point. Making room for that which fulfills applies to pretty much everything important in life and not limited only to photography.

My Photography

I am a fortunate guy. I realize that and thank God daily. Besides a great wife and kids, good friends, a nice job, and many, many other blessings that I don’t deserve, I also get to take pictures.

IMG_0801 Green at the Beach.JPG

I started exploring photography back in 2006. That’s when I purchased a Canon Powershot A620. It was a point-and-shoot camera. But I didn’t know what I was doing and shot in Auto. Occasionally I would get a decent image. I especially liked the macro feature on the camera.

Blue Glass-sRGB House In The Snow

Then in 2009, my best friend and lifelong photographer gave me a Nikon D40X. I purchased a used 18-200mm lens and jumped feet first into the DSLR world. While I still shot mostly in Auto, I started looking at “ordinary” things from a different perspective.

 

CFD Bulb Links

Also in 2009 came my first iPhone. I later heard a statement that summed up my experience with my iPhone, “The best camera is the one you have with you.” I became enthralled with the ease of taking and editing photos on my iPhone. While not having the quality of a DSLR, it allowed me to focus on capturing the “ordinary” in a more artistic way.

 

Yarn Cabrillo Shoreline

In 2015, my photography experience expanded when I purchased the Sony a6000. I started using prime lenses and learned to shoot in Manual. I’m learning posing and portraiture. I’m learning lighting techniques. What began ten years ago as a simple hobby as slowly turned into a something very rich and fulfilling.

I post my photos in different venues — Facebook, Instagram, Flickr & 500px. This weekend, I decided to launch a simple website (jasonzahariades.com). Frankly, I’m not sure where I want to go with all of this. My initial intention was to launch a small business that I could grow as I slowly approach retirement.

However, the thought of starting a photography business scares me. I love photography. I love freezing special moments to enjoy over and over. I also love seeing things from a different perspective. I love the creative process. And I especially love that there’s no stress associated with my photography. It’s just fun, plain and simple.

So, I’m afraid of what will happen if I turn something I love into a business. As with most things in my life right now, we’ll have to wait and see.

A Good Lesson For Photography… And Life

I’m an amateur photographer, so I don’t have much by which to judge someone as a great photographer. But I’ve noticed that while most photographers make beautiful photos, there are those exceptional ones that transcend making beautiful photos and actually capture life’s beauty. In my opinion, Zeb Andrews is one of those kind of photographers.

I’ve posted before about how inspiring Zeb is to me. He makes photography (and I cringe at how cheesy this sounds) magical. His images aren’t “perfect.” Nor do they look like something you’d find on a magazine cover. He doesn’t use fancy processing techniques. From what I gather from his comments on his Flickr Photostream and website, he carries a variety of cameras and film wherever he goes and intentionally looks. He has honed the art of observation. And he’s honed the art of photography to capture the beauty in what he sees. He states, “I enjoy the process of photography much more than the results.” And it shows. I think the results are pretty phenomenal. But what I love most about Zeb are the insights he shares about the process. Sometimes, I wonder if he’s sharing more about the “process” of living than photography.

Here’s some advice he gave recently that captured my attention:

“And another helpful piece of advice, don’t forget that there are many more ways than one to photograph anything. Or put another way, don’t settle with photographing anything one way. There is really an infinite number of ways to photograph everything. And this seems obvious, but trust me, it is easy to forget. Just look at Multnomah Falls. How many photographers avoid that waterfall because they think it has all been done? The same with the Eiffel Tower. Sure, there are lots of photos out there of both of these and many of these photos tend to look really similar. It is easy to make the first photo one finds and then move on to other things.

“Don’t do this. Stop. Look around. Keep looking. Move. Look some more. Wait. Then find a second and a third and a fourth different way to photograph your subject. Trust me, the perspectives are out there, it is just a matter of finding them, if you can. And sometimes you cannot. Sometimes you don’t have the equipment, or the experience or technical prowess. Sometimes you just don’t have the vision. But just because you cannot find those additional ways does not mean they don’t exist, which also means that you shouldn’t not look for them. Give it a try.”

I know firsthand how easy it is to get locked into only one perspective — in photography and especially in life. In the zealousness of my youth, it was so easy to accept what I was taught as “The Truth” and appoint myself as a spokesperson for “The Truth.” That meant I was right and everyone else who disagreed with me was wrong. I had to learn over time that what I believed to be “The Truth” was usually an opinion, a perspective. It took me years to learn that one of the beautiful aspects of life is that there is a wide variety of perspective.

I’m not saying that there isn’t absolute Truth. Nor am I saying that Truth is subjective. I’m saying that what most people proclaim as “The Truth” is usually just an opinion and all of us would benefit if we would put away our prophet’s mantle and learn to listen and appreciate the variety of perspectives that exist. To paraphrase Zeb a bit:

“It is easy to make the first opinion one forms to be the only opinion and then call it “The Truth” and then move on to other things. Don’t do this. Stop. Look around. Keep looking. Move. Look some more. Wait. Then find a second and a third and a fourth different way to understand your subject.”

Here’s something that always gives me pause. Jesus called himself “The Truth.” Truth is a person, not an abstract idea. Jesus embodied Truth in loving, gracious, life-producing relationships. That’s Truth in human form. Therefore, Truth is both known and expressed primarily in relationship, not proclamation.

What shames me is that my life is in such stark contrast to Jesus. Sometimes, my first reaction to a person with a perspective different than mine is to feel angry or threatened. That last thing on my mind is relationship. Why? I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Any negative reaction I experience is caused by something within me. So I need to ask, “What is inside of me that is angered or threatened by a different perspective?” What causes this “fight or flight” mechanism in me?

I don’t have an answer for that yet. But I do know this: If Truth is embodied in loving, gracious relationship and if my reaction to a different perspective is anger or defense, then I probably don’t really know the Truth.

There is a popular saying in the Orthodox Church credited to the fourth-century monk, Evagrius the Solitary, “The one who prays is a theologian; the one who is a theologian, prays.” To me, an implication of this saying is that a person is only capable of knowing the Truth if he or she is in deep fellowship with the One who is The Truth. And a corollary to this saying is that a person can only embody the Truth to others through deep fellowship.

Change of Opinion

Recently, I’ve changed my opinion about my iPhone. Oh, don’t misunderstand me. I love my iPhone and think it’s a wonderful item of techno-wizardry. Yet, there is one part of the iPhone of which I’ve been ambivalent — its camera. The iPhone has a 2 megapixel camera. Not bad, but not great. So I’ve viewed it kind of like a toy. Sure, I would take occasional pictures of the kids, but I wouldn’t have thought of using it for any kind of creative digital photography or documenting important family moments.

That is until I saw what a great photographer could do with the iPhone’s camera. Enter Chase Jarvis. This guy is a particularly skilled professional creative. And while he uses some very high-end photo equipment, he also has a gallery of images taken with his iPhone camera and edited simply with iPhone apps.

When I saw his iPhone images, I suddenly became aware of an entire vista of opportunity. Many great photographers recommend constantly carrying a camera. In fact, Chase states, “The best camera is the one that’s with you.” I own two cameras — a Nikon D40x and a Canon PowerShot A620. Constantly carrying either of these cameras throughout my daily activities is out of the question. But my iPhone is always on my hip.

Viewing my iPhone as a viable creative tool is developing a couple of important photography skills. First, I find myself more alert to my surroundings. I’m becoming more aware of the colors and lines and textures around me. Some capture well on the iPhone and some don’t. But I get to enjoy the beauty in the moment nonetheless. Second, because my iPhone’s camera is pretty simple, I’m forced to find simple compositions. This discipline translates well to my other cameras.

So, I not only love my iPhone, but also its simple camera. And I’m using its camera more and more. I’m also using two iPhone image-editing apps — CameraBag and Photogene. The results are far from high quality images. But there is still beauty and splendor. For me, that’s what it’s all about.

If you’re interested, I’m going to be posting my iPhone Photos in two ways. First, I will be posting the images on Twitter along with my other Tweets. You can follow me on Twitter by clicking HERE. I have also created a simple iPhone Photos page on my photoblog that I will update occasionally. You can view the iPhone Photos page by clicking HERE. I’m not sure if I will upload these images to my Flickr account yet, but you can always view my Flickr Photostream HERE.

UPDATE (6/12/09): I have decided to post my iPhone Photos on my Flickr account. I’ve created a new set called creatively enough, “iPhone Photos.” You can view that set by clicking HERE.