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

Nov 19 2010

What Do We See of Nature?

Seeing Creation 11-19-2This looks like a normal photograph of a small arch in the Santa Monica Mountains west of Los Angeles. In the distance, you can see the Pacific Ocean.

But this is not a normal photo. It is a special type of image that uses a technology called HDR (high dynamic range). The problem with cameras is that they cannot see the range of detail that our eyes can see in bright light. HDR helps the photographer compensate for that lack of vision. You take several photos that capture the full range of tones and colors that are really in the world, then combine them in the computer to create a photo closer to what we actually see. Here are two photos showing what the camera originally saw in its limited way.

Seeing Creation 11-19-3

Seeing Creation 11-19-4

I got to thinking about this technology and what we see. Sometimes we are like the camera and don’t alway see what is really in front of us. I believe that God has created a wonderful, stunning world all around us. We can’t be constantly on high alert seeing all of His creation, but often we miss seeing the world completely and so take that creation for granted.

Or we see the world in very limited ways, such as only seeing profit in nature or feeling that we actually own God’s world. When I was younger, I often wondered about the Bible verse, Matthew 19:24 – “Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” That worried me because if Jesus’ message is one of grace and forgiveness, how could it be that rich people cannot enter the kingdom of God? I think this might be a bit about how being rich can affect the way we see the world. If we only see the world as a means for us to profit, then it will be very difficult to connect with God.

It is also interesting that seeing is a big part of the creation story in Genesis. Genesis 1:12 – “And God saw that it was good.” That certainly implies that if we are not seeing the good of the world that God has created, then we have limitations to our seeing. We are then like the camera that cannot fully see what is around us. God sees that all is good, and through God’s vision, perhaps we are helped to see more just as HDR helps cameras see better. Proverbs 3:7 even provides an appropriate admonishment – “Do not be wise in your own eyes, fear the Lord.” Which in Old Testament terms, usually meant pay attention to God rather than only our own vision.

– Rob