Jun 29 2011

What Can We See Of The World?

Photography encourages me to slow down and really see the natural world around me. It is tempting to hike quickly down the trail, hoping to find that image that jumps out at you, when all along, there have been great shots all around you.

One frustration that photographers often have when doing this is that you may see a wonderful scene in front of you, but you cannot easily capture it with the camera. Cameras have severe limitations in seeing the world compared to what our eyes can see. When conditions include bright light and dark shadows, we often see much more than the limited range of the camera. This was definitely true when Chuck and I went to the redwoods a couple of weeks ago. It was all sunshine, which in dense woods like these, that means bright spots of light and lots of dark shadows. I was on the trail waiting for Chuck to shoot some rhododendrons in bloom and as I paused, I noticed the beautiful light on the ferns under the big trees in front of me. No digital or film camera can capture what our eyes can see in such conditions, however, the photo at the top of this blog does show something close.

How is that possible? With something called HDR or high dynamic range photography. By taking more than one exposure that would cover the range of brightness, I could bring those exposures into an HDR software program to combine the images, revealing what was really there rather than a restricted image based on what the camera could capture. Here is an example of what the unaided camera is restricted to.

Chuck and I were talking about that and how that seems similar to what we see of the world compared to what God sees. We are like the restricted camera, incapable at times of seeing the wonder of an ecosystem (we just don’t have the capability God has of seeing all of its connections and beauty in that), incapable at times of seeing the full possibilities of others (God’s love means He sees beyond their limitations and lets their possibilities bathe in his grace), and so on. HDR and regular photography may give us a metaphor for what is possible to be seen vs. what we usually see.

In Numbers 22:21-35, Balaam beats his donkey and discovers his vision is more limited than the donkey’s. He thinks the donkey is being obstinate, yet the donkey is actually seeing a messenger from the Lord that Balaam is incapable of seeing. Balaam has a restricted vision, while the donkey’s is enhanced HDR!

In 1 Kings 19- 9-18, Elijah hides out because he is afraid. He is convinced he is the only faithful one left and that he will be killed if he returns home. He has restricted vision. God lets Elijah know that a bigger vision would show that thousands of others are faithful. Elijah is not aware because of his limited capability of seeing, while God lets him know more is available.

Of course, we can never see everything that God can see. There is a level of perception and vision that we cannot even imagine. However, we can ask God at times to open our eyes, to give us HDR vision to better see the world He has created. If we think what we see is all there is to see, we will be like the limited view of the camera, and miss a lot of possibilities in the world around us.

That takes us back to the first thought — that sometimes the most beautiful things are around us, we just need to slow down and truly open our eyes. Sometimes we need to ask God for HDR possibilities of seeing!

— Rob