Going Coastal!

Here are just a few of the photos I’ve gathered along the beautiful North Cali. coast over the past two years.

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Father of the Bride – A Magic Moment

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As a human, I often ruminate on the effect my choices, decisions and blunders have upon others. As a parent all of this is magnified, and even knowing that my kids have become wonderful adults, there are always questions, concerns, doubts and fears.

At Heather’s wedding Saturday, I was struck with a sense of panic and fear as I was asked to join my daughter for a traditional father-daughter dance. I feared partly because I have not danced for many, many years (I was never an avid dancer), partly because I am crippled with knee and back pain (due largely to a car accident in 1991) and I walk with a cane, but mostly because a wave of unworthiness swept over me as I had been watching this beautiful young woman become Mrs. McColloch: I felt that I had little to do with the goodness I was observing, and that she was succeeding in life and had blossomed into a beautiful woman of God in spite of me.

Trying to put on a happy face as I walked towards my daughter to accept this honor, I fought hard to hold back burgeoning tears. Then Ben made a comment about me feeling free to cry (like you could have stopped me!) as he began the song: Steven Curtis Chapman’s “Cinderella,” which has always made me cry since its release in late 2007 when my youngest daughter, Megan, was preparing for her wedding. Struggling to lift a left arm that suddenly felt like it weighed 1,000 pounds I fumblingly put my arm around my radiant daughter as she simply smiled, looked up at me and put her left hand on my cane-hand (knowing that this third leg was an inseparable element to my dance efforts), and her right arm around me.

The music continued and I struggled to dance as well as I could, thinking hard on what to do with the cane, how to move it and use it and trying to keep from looking like a complete idiot who hadn’t danced for decades. Then a few seconds in, Heather looked up at me with all of that radiance and beauty I had been observing from afar. As her eyes met mine I instantly melted into a puddle. I returned her gaze and my defenses dropped, and I felt an amazing love that let me know everything was OK. The music tugged at my heart but also made my spirit soar as I danced with my Cinderella; people around us faded away; my cane became merely an appendage that I nearly forgot was there; I stopped thinking about HOW to dance and simply moved in the moment; and in an instant the weight dropped off my arm. For those few short minutes to the song’s end only the two of us existed. And we danced. The fears fell away; my self-doubts, questions and unreasonable concerns all disappeared. And I felt loved. Nothing else mattered but the two of us. She looked at me with unspeakable joy, and an aura of loving gratitude. I looked at her in awe: this beautiful woman is my daughter! God allowed me the privilege of having a hand in making this gem, and she is truly priceless. We talked and we cried. I wiped a tear from her face, and got to tell Heather how proud I am of her, and of who she has become. And as we communed there in front of dozens of family and friends, we were all alone. No one, and nothing else, mattered.

When all was said and done the song faded away, the dance ended, other people came back into focus, and the party continued. But this snippet of time – these special, indescribable few minutes – will live on in my heart and will linger in my mind for the rest of my life. Am I now perfect? Far from it! Are all of my fears, doubts and needless concerns behind me? No way! But I can tell you with all sincerity that I have been forever changed. This dance – this magical moment – and the beautiful, loving, entrancing look on Heather’s face, will be with me always. And I am a better man for having been her father. What a perfect way to end this epoch in my life, with our last child moving out of the house and moving on with her new life, as my wife and I also begin our new life together.

This father of the bride is one happy, sappy, teddy bear mush pot! And proud of it.

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Image of AwesomenessThe other day I missed several great photo opportunities, as I made some rare travels out of the house:

  • Driving to a hospital to get some lab work done at 7:15 AM – as the sun was struggling to bathe the earth with its golden glow  through a dense fog, I passed a cemetery that was adorned with some wonderfully expressive (and slightly ominous-looking) oak trees.  It was a truly breathtaking sight that I would have HAD to stop for if my camera had been in the car.
  • When I drove eastward again around 4:oo PM, snowy mountains spread before me under gorgeous blue skies that were adorned with delicate wispy clouds.  Again, the camera was safely back at home, helping to ensure that I got to my appointment on time.
  •  Leaving the doctor’s office shortly before 5:00, I was presented with a magical view of a foggy-haloed moon in front of a rich blue background.
  • Lastly, as I got in the car and turned onto the road that would lead me home, rich, beautifully muted colors of the waning sun splayed across the horizon.  Above the mountains a delicately painted sky was spotted with delicate, almost opalescent clouds, and furthermore marked nearly straight ahead with a mesmerizing crosshatch pattern left by several recent jet trails.

Any of these could have made for some wonderful pictures if only I had my camera.  My family can tell you that I have many times bemoaned such irrecoverable occasions, and I was tempted to fall into a funk at the losses on this day as well.  But suddenly it struck me that this was entirely useless and disrespectful waste of a precious gift.

Several realities pierced my consciousness as I struggled to get past my selfish desire to memorialize these moments.  For one thing, it is an ultimate impossibility for us to in any way be prepared to immortalize all of the beautiful, unique once in a lifetime moments in life.  Whether your method of capture is photography, video, music, painting, poetry, prose or whatever … you will never be able to truly seize all of the moments of wonder that God brings forth in your life.  His gifts are immeasurable and uncountable – to think we can somehow abduct each of these bequests and do them justice is an insult to the Creator, whose will, ways and creative power are far beyond anything we could imagine.

I also struggled to grasp the concept that each vision was indeed a marvelous sight, whether or not the image was captured on virtual film.  Is there really anything wrong with being given such an endowment, and having it be a momentary experience?  Even a fleeting gift is, nonetheless, a gift.  And why should I turn up my nose at these presents?  Are they any less special because I’m not able to share them with others?  No, in fact it seems that these are even more personal, special gifts than those I’m able to photograph and share.  For these gifts were truly for me.  And me alone.

Let me interject here that I realize others had opportunity to see the same things I witnessed, but did they?  I imagine they did to some degree, but I’ll never know for sure.  I also  know that I tend to have a unique perspective on such things, and that most people don’t see a naked tree tree and wig out like I have been known to do.  So what I saw, and my perspective on it, is truly unique.

One last thing I’d like to note here is that I am grateful to be able to see the things I do.  Being alert to the voice of God, even as it appears in a sky painting, is a true Gift, and one I shall try to not forget or belittle.  As long as I am able to see and appreciate these awe-inspiring gifts from God I can rejoice in them, and in these tiny glimpses of His unfathomable grace, love and creative magnificence.  If I only see the wonder of God when I’m in Joe Photo mode, I am to be pitied as one missing out on many of life’s greatest gifts, and <gulp> I should have my camera confiscated until I straighten up!

He who forms the mountains,
creates the wind,
and reveals his thoughts to man,
he who turns dawn to darkness,
and treads the high places of the earth—
the Lord God Almighty is his name.
~ Amos 4:13, NIV

Missed Opportunities? I Don’t Think So!

Dissecting a Spill

I was taking some photos of a vase tonight using colored water, a handheld flash and some . . . nonstandard equipment.  I inadvertently bumped the vase, nearly knocking it over.  In the next split-second as I watched the water slosh and spill over the mouth of the vase, the following thoughts ran through my head:

  • Rats!  That paper (backdrop) is ruined.
  • Ooh!  Sloshing water!  There might be a picture in this!
  • I will NOT let that paper die in vain!  (Seriously – I’m a bit twisted – that is word-for-word what I thought.)

I then reached for my camera and captured the spill shot seen here, which just begged for a bit of dissection.

** Click on the picture to see a larger version

Cloud Shots

Here’s another favorite subject of mine: clouds.  Then again, what is a cloud but a cluster of water drops?

View from Lava Butte, Oregon – 07/09/2012

Bush’s Pasture Park, Salem, OR – 09/23/2012

Morning Sky, Aumsville, OR – 09/27/2012

Clouds Over N. California Coast – 09/21/2012

Capturing God in a . . . Water Balloon?

I have long been fascinated by water, and I believe it is one of the truly great witnesses to the power, creativity and beauty of God and the wonders He creates.  Since I’ve gotten back into photography recently with a passion, water has been one of my favorite subjects.  I love catching water drops in action, capturing a glimpse of the wonder that is normally hidden from the naked eye; stopping a big splash to see the beauty of a graceful form as the water in a pool responds to an intrusion; or freezing waterfalls to display the complexity of billions of tiny, fragile drops coming together to form an enormous, mighty force.

A related allure for me has been water balloons.  I know what you may be thinking . . . my family had that same reaction when I told them I wanted to do this.  But trust me, it’s pretty cool to capture these things as they are bursting.  With the right timing, you can capture the full balloon shape made of only water:

or something like this – water beautifully bursting free from the confines of its unnatural imprisonment:

What has struck me this week as I’ve started editing some shots I took the other night, is how this demonstrates the power of God, and the foolishness of trying to keep Him “bottled up.”  How often do we as humans seek to limit the power and scope of God, creating a box (or balloon?) to put him in, and not allowing Him to be GOD in our lives?  I know I did this for the first 19+ years of my life, and I’ve tried to shove Him hack into a bottle several times since then, when His reality got in the way of my selfish will.  But when God is set free from that prison (not that He is not capable of escaping on his own, but in His Godliness and great gift of free will He allows us to limit His influence in our lives), we can witness the beauty, wonder and awesomeness of Who He is.

There’s one more picture I’d like to share – errant timing caused my hand to be captured here in the process of breaking a balloon.

This is not my best picture, but it struck me how this represents God reaching down to an obstinate 19 year old know-it-all, who knew that he needed nothing from God and wanted nothing to do with Him.  This young man fought against religion, against the Bible, against Christians, against God Himself, and wound himself into a knot of turmoil, angst and aimless agony.  Finally the man allowed God to come near, and as His hand reached out to burst the cage that had bound his spirit, the reality of Life and of who he could be finally began to show forth.  So now, here we are – 31 years later, and the young man is a little less obstinate, a little less ignorant, a little less . . . young, and hopefully a bit wiser and a lot more loving.  He now knows and gladly acknowledges his Lord and Savior, having been washed in the knowledge and wonder of God as he snaps silly pictures of water balloons.  And he stands in awestruck wonder of how great the Creator truly is.