Sep 6 2017

Bearing Witness

DNP Nugget PondI have been an avid nature photographer for twenty-five years. I got into nature photography to help me deal with stress in ministry. I was desperately needing a hobby and after flirting briefly with the idea of getting into pottery I decided I would pursue nature photography. I am so thankful I chose that path. It has opened a lot of doors for me, enabled me to see some of the most beautiful parts of this country, introduced me to some awesome people, and brought me a great deal of joy and fulfillment. Along the way I have been able to publish three books and see my photographs appear in numerous magazines, calendars, advertisements, post cards, and other books. I’ve also been able to teach a number of workshops and mentor other photographers. Best of all, my nature photography has enabled me to bear witness to the glory of God.

19990417_878534568968429_1700340611320172729_n[1]Recently my wife purchased me a t-shirt that I love. On the front it says “God creates the Beauty. My camera and I are a witness.” That pretty much sums up my approach to photography. I seek to capture the beauty of God’s Creation and share it with others. When other people comment on how beautiful my pictures are I often remind them that God is the one responsible for the beauty. My job is simply recording it with my camera. So it is true that when I take a photograph my camera and I are simply witnesses to the beauty God creates. That is not to deny that some skill is required to take good photographs but in the end I cannot take credit for the beauty that is captured in my images–that is God’s handiwork.

My goal in doing nature photography is not just to be a witness of God’s beauty when I photograph but also to be a witness for God’s beauty afterwards. That’s why I enjoy doing digital “slide shows” for groups and posting pictures on Facebook.   It is my desire to share with others the same beauty I witnessed in the field so that they too can see the work of God’s hands and give God glory for it. For twenty-five years I have seen this as part of my “calling.” I truly do view photography as an extension of my ministry. The apostle Paul once said “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 3:17) I believe this should and does include my photography.

BSF East Rim Overlook fallIn addition to bearing witness to the beauty of God’s Creation I seek to bear witness to the goodness of that Creation with the hope that people will want to preserve and protect it. That type witness is sorely needed right now. Since its inception, photography has been used to bring awareness to others. I want my work to be used to promote Creation Care and environmental stewardship. I hope other photographers will join me in this endeavor.

I encourage each of you, whether you are a photographer or not, to find ways to bear witness to the beauty of God’s Creation and to urge others to do all they can to honor and protect that beauty. Through art, song, poems, or just a personal testimony be a witness for the God of Creation and a witness for Creation.

–Chuck


Jul 6 2014

Fresh Encounters With Beauty

_DSC1130“For you make me glad by your deeds, O Lord; I sing for joy at the work of your hands.” (Psalm 92:4)

_DSC1834Today my heart is filled with gratitude for the beauty of God’s Creation.  Over the past week I had a chance to make numerous visits to Henderson Sloughs Wildlife Management Area.  During these seven days I discovered a couple of new places that turned out to be truly special.  One was a vast area, mostly dry this week, covered with tens of thousands of lotus plants in bloom.  It was a spectacular sight, to say the least.  I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anything quite like it before.  It was so beautiful I went back three days in a row so I could photograph it in different types of light.

_DSC1622_DSC1622_DSC2181_DSC2181_DSC2176Later in the week I came upon yet another new spot in the Sloughs.  This place was a wetland that also contained numerous lotus flowers.  The difference between this location and the previous one is that the lotus flowers here were surrounded by a sea of purple pickerelweed.  The panoramic view here was stunningly beautiful.  It, too, called for multiple visits to do photography.

_DSC1622_DSC1622_DSC1622_DSC2181Because I have visited so many national parks and other popular scenic areas it is hard to find scenes now that blow me away.  I have seen so much beauty it’s hard for me to be impressed at times.  The two spots I visited this week were definitely exceptions.  Being at both spots filled me with joy, awe and wonder.  I felt blessed just to witness such beauty.  I felt doubly blessed knowing that both places were only about twenty minutes away from where I live.

_DSC1834_DSC2181_DSC2181Before long both places will lose the beauty I beheld this past week.  The lotus flowers and pickerelweed blossoms will fade away and not be seen for another year.  Many of nature’s best shows are short-lived.   How grateful I am that I got to witness the show this year!  Knowing that the show will be repeated next year gives me something to look forward to.  I certainly don’t want to miss it.

One of the sad and ironic things about the two places I’ve described for you is that very few people even know about them.  Neither place is all that difficult to get to but they do require a bit of effort to view.    It doesn’t help that neither can be seen from the road.  I lament that so few people got to view this manifestation of God’s glory but I know that the handful of people who did witness the view were blessed by what they saw.

_DSC2181_DSC1834_DSC1834_DSC1834_DSC1834_DSC1834_DSC1834_DSC1834_DSC0969_DSC1834_DSC1857_DSC1857_DSC1857All of this got me to thinking that there are no doubt countless such places across the globe.  Places of immense beauty that few people, if any, ever get to witness.  Does that mean that all this beauty goes to waste?  I think not.  I believe that the beauty we behold in the world around us is not just for our pleasure but for the Creator’s as well.  It is obvious that God delights in beauty.  God finds joy in the beauty of His handiwork whether we or anyone else notices.  I find that thought comforting but am quite certain that God’s desire is to share this beauty with us.  This beauty rejuvenates us, inspires us, and enriches our lives.  This beauty offers us a glimpse into the heart of God and reveals a love that knows no limits.  This beauty, as I said at the beginning, is enough to fill one’s heart with gratitude.  Oh yes, after this past week my heart is full!

–Chuck


Jan 5 2014

Give Beauty a Chance

_CES2968eSomeone recently paid me a compliment that meant a lot to me.  After posting some pictures from an area I had not been to before this person said, “You find beauty wherever you go.”  I’m not sure this is totally true but I do confess that it is something I strive for.  I choose to look for beauty.  Now I realize that what one views as beautiful is highly subjective.  Rob Sheppard and I were photographing in the eastern Sierras a few years ago and we both had a chance to take close up images of a rattlesnake.  Using a telephoto lens I focused tightly on the snakes scales and was amazed at just how beautiful they were.  When I showed the image to others later on some were repulsed; they saw no beauty at all because all they could see was a poisonous reptile that they happened to detest and be afraid of.   Interestingly, I’ve had similar responses when I have shown or posted images taken in winter.  If there is ice or snow in the picture some automatically dismiss the beauty that might be found there simply because they strongly dislike the cold that is associated with snow and ice.

_DSC5241Once again I understand that not everyone will agree on what is beautiful but I do feel that most people can and should strive to expand their perimeters of beauty.  Years ago John Lennon famously sang “Give Peace a Chance.”  Today I feel like uttering the cry “Give Beauty a Chance.”  We all need beauty; it is one of the things that makes life worth living.  Beauty makes us feel better.  It  is also good for the soul since in most cases beauty promotes a sense of gratitude or thanksgiving.

Another reason I think beauty is important is we tend to not only admire but be willing to work for the protection or preservation of that which we find beautiful.  This is true in numerous areas but I am most familiar with the realm of nature.  If people had not found certain species of birds, animals, trees or flowers beautiful many of these would have become extinct by now. Whole areas have been set aside as state or national parks primarily because large groups of people considered them beautiful.  Perhaps other species or places will be preserved and protected in the future if more people will only expand their vision and give beauty a chance.

_CES2599In the end I find beauty to be something spiritual and closely connected to God.  God is the Creator of beauty and is beautiful in and of Himself.  A number of contemporary praise songs have recognized this and include words like “You are beautiful beyond description.”  Long ago the Psalmist prayed, “One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.” (Ps. 27:4)  The Psalmist found God to be beautiful, especially when he visited the temple.  I, too, find God to be beautiful, especially when I visit the larger temple of Creation.

Ecclesiastes 3:11 says God “has made everything beautiful in its time.”  I believe this to be true and that is one of the main reasons why I look for beauty wherever I go.  I believe that I can experience God in beauty.  I believe you can as well.  For that reason I ask everyone, “give beauty a chance.”

–Chuck

(I took the top image on Friday at Henderson Sloughs WMA, the middle image at the Buttermilk Mountains in California, and the bottom image yesterday evening during my first visit to Bluegrass FWA in southern Indiana.)


Jun 12 2013

Learning From Bonita

Bo's picToday is a special day for me. It is my 32nd anniversary. I truly have been incredibly blessed to be married to Bonita all these years. She is both a wonderful wife and person. I honestly do not know what I would do without her. She enriches my life in so many ways.

BonitaOne of the things that I appreciate about Bonita is how excited she gets when confronted by the beauty of God’s Creation.   She will see something and say “Isn’t that just beautiful?”  The interesting thing is I often will not respond in the same way.  I think this has something to do with my being a nature photographer for so long.  I have been out and seen some of the most beautiful and awe-inspiring sights there are on the face of the earth. For that reason I tend to be hard to impress. It takes a very spectacular sunset to blow me away. That is not true for Bonita. When I don’t respond to her enthusiasm in the same way she does she sometimes chides me. She even kids me at times by saying something along the lines of “God is going to be so upset with me for not appreciating His beauty more.” It wouldn’t surprise me if she was right about that.

red barn 267Why is it that some of us are so hard to impress? Why can’t we appreciate what we see for what it is? I have no doubt that Bonita’s approach is far more appropriate than mine. Things should not have to blow us away to have us express our gratitude, wonder and praise. It is crazy that people like me have to compare what we’re seeing with what we’ve seen before or experienced elsewhere. There is so much wisdom in living in the moment. I’ve read that in a lot of books but it’s nice to have a living reminder with me each and every day. Thanks, Bonita! In appreciation for what she’s taught me I chose a picture she took recently to lead this blog entry. The same night she took this picture I didn’t even get my camera out.  Maybe someday I’ll learn…

–Chuck

(As noted above, Bonita took the top picture showing a sunset on the Ohio River.  I took the picture of her and the field of corn earlier today.)


Oct 3 2012

Grace in Creation

“See to it that no one misses the grace of God.” Hebrews 12:15

Last night I started reading Max Lucado’s newest book, Grace.  On the very first page Lucado writes: “Grace is God’s best idea.  His decision to ravage a people by love, to rescue passionately, and to restore justly—what rivals it?  Of all his wondrous works, grace, in my estimation, is the magnum opus.  Friendship is next.  Friends become couriers of grace, conduits of heaven’s grace.”   I concur with what Max says; grace truly is “God’s best idea.”  God’s grace is amazing!   I would also have to agree that friendship is another one of God’s best ideas.  I cannot imagine living my life without the friends God has blessed me with.

As I read the first few chapters of the book last evening I found myself thinking about how God’s grace is revealed in Creation.  In fact, I pondered how the creation of the world was an act of grace.  Grace is often defined as “God’s unmerited favor” and surely we can see God’s favor written all over Creation.  The fact that we did not merit or deserve what God has provided goes without saying.

I believe that beauty itself is an act of divine grace.  Everything that God created has a purpose; it is there for a reason.  But why did God throw in so much beauty into the mix?  Grace.  As a God of grace and love God chose to make many things not just useful but beautiful.   While the various aspects of nature fulfill their purpose we get to find pleasure and enjoyment from them.  Trees and flowers are good examples.  So are clouds and rivers and birds.    You could go on and on.  Everywhere we look we find God’s grace made manifest.

The air we breathe is a gift of God.  The sun that gives us light and warmth is a gift of God.  The rain that falls to the earth is a gift of God.  The moon and stars that brighten the night are a gift from God.  Every plant (even those some call “weeds”) and every animal (large or small) is a gift from God.  God did not have to create any of these.  So why did He?  Grace.

Yes, I know that the clearest revelation of God’s love and grace is found in the gift of His Son, Jesus Christ, but we will miss so many examples of God’s amazing grace if we fail to see and recognize that same grace revealed in the world His Son created.  Feeling the need for a little more grace today?  Just look around you.

–Chuck

(Having been inspired by my friend Stan Burman’s pictures from Colorado this past week I decided to illustrate today’s blog with some images I took with him in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado a few years ago.  I took the top image at Kebler Pass and the bottom two at Owl Creek Pass.)

 


Aug 8 2012

The Smile of God

Over the years I’ve heard people say to others about a deceased loved one, “Don’t you know he (or she) is smiling down upon you now?”  These words are usually spoken after someone has accomplished something and are meant to be comforting to the person who receives them.  Theologically, I’m not even sure such a thing is possible.  Can those in heaven really see what we’re up to?  I find that unlikely.  Still, I understand the sentiment.  There are times I’d like to think that my father or grandmothers were looking at me and had a smile on their face.  I’d like to think they were pleased with who I am and what I have done with my life.

Although I have serious doubts about my deceased loved ones being able to “smile down upon me” I do believe God does that all the time.  When we see loved ones we cannot help but smile and since we have it on good biblical authority that God loves each and every one of us immensely, then how can we not picture God smiling when He looks at us?  O, I know some think God is more likely to have a frown on His face when He looks at them but they simply don’t understand God’s love and grace.  By sending Jesus Christ God made it clear once and for all that we are loved. (John 3:16)  For me that is proof enough that God smiles when He looks at me.

But there is more proof waiting.  Robert Underwood Johnson, a close friend of John Muir, once wrote “To some, beauty seems but an accident of creation: to Muir it was the very smile of God.”  I’ve read enough of Muir’s writings to know that this is true.  Muir saw God’s love in all of His Creation and marveled that others did not see it there as well.

If we accept the concept of beauty being “the very smile of God” then we must conclude that God is not only “smiling down upon us” but smiling all around us too.  In beautiful trees and flowers, rivers and lakes, mountains and valleys, birds and butterflies, in all beauty, we experience the smile of God.  In these same things we experience the love of God.

I mentioned earlier that it would be nice to think my father or grandmothers were smiling down upon me, but even better is the thought that my heavenly Father smiles upon me.  And if Muir is right, and I believe that he is, then we have countless reminders all around us every day that we are loved.  Those reminders should bring us much comfort and joy.  I would even dare say that those reminders should bring a smile to our own face for in the presence of so much love and beauty how could it not?

–Chuck

(I took the magnolia blossom image at my home in Kentucky; the redwood trees in California, and the chukar in Hawaii.)