Sometimes I hear that cameras “get in the way” of real experience. Some say that photographers should “put the camera down” more often and remove the barrier between ourselves and the world around us. After several years of keeping the camera close at hand, however, I’ve never found it a hindrance. Rather, the camera has enhanced my vision and brought me closer, sometimes literally, to my environment. A camera in hand reminds me to notice the world and to explore it.

In her book Eyes of the Heart: Photography as Christian Contemplative Practice, Christine Paintner talks about “receiving” photos as opposed to “taking” or “making” them. She offers several exercises throughout the book. At the end of her second chapter, she suggests a contemplative walk with an emphasis on reception. She writes, “Photography is simply a tool to cultivate our ability to be present to the world” (p. 40). My “Creation Theology, Spirituality, and the Arts” class is reading through Paintner’s book as we explore biblical themes related to our environment. In preparation for this class, I took a contemplative photo walk around our campus. In these walks, I’m challenging myself to explore areas of the campus that I rarely visit, and I discover some beauty along the way. On my last walkabout, I encountered these colorful daylilies.


The theme of “reception” was on my mind as I approached the lilies. I immediately thought they resembled little satellite dishes receiving life-giving solar transmissions.


In the first chapter of her book, Paintner suggests an exercise of taking images from 50 various angles or perspectives. While I didn’t quite make it to 50, I did explore various angles of the lilies. This is another example of the “satellite” pose. (Print Available)


Of course, I always want to get closer …


… and closer. (Print Available)


As I was walking back to my office, I was still in a receptive spirit and happened upon this crack in the sidewalk. Dr. Ian Malcolm’s chaos theory from Jurassic Park came to mind, as I heard him saying, “life … um … will find a way.” I’m interested in capturing more of these tiny urban landscapes in the future. (Print Available)



Last week, I invited my “Creation Theology, Spirituality, and the Arts” class to participate in a mindfulness exercise. After reading Psalm 8 and discussing the tension between human significance and insignificance in the natural order, I asked them to go on a silent meditative walk for twelve minutes, taking special note of nature’s persistence even in the midst of an urban setting. I asked them to find an object, animal, sound, or smell that grabbed their attention as they also took note of how their own body felt during the exercise. For many in the class it was a much needed pause at the end of the first week back at school.

During the reflection time, one student noticed the ants on blades of grass while another compared the movement of cars beyond the large green space on campus to ants, busily running across the tree branch of a road. One student collected acorns while another marveled at the vastness of the sky.

As for me, I took the time to walk behind a building on campus where I rarely tread and discovered a large tree with four strong trunks extending towards the sky in a circle. I embraced my wacky professor persona and climbed in between the trunks, leaning on one while propping my feet up on another. I took the time to observe the textures in the bark and the structure of the branches. As I was exploring various knots in one of the trunks, I discovered this nail and immediately wanted to know its story. Why was it there? Did it serve a purpose? Was it there to tie of a string? To hold up a notice? Did someone just feel the need to hammer a nail in the knot of the tree? I took a few snaps of it with my iPhone, but sometimes an iPhone is not enough. So, on my way into work this morning, I brought my macro lens and handheld led light and explored the story of the nail further, resulting in the image above. I still have many questions for that nail, but our conversations leave me wondering again about the significance and insignificance of humankind, our impact on the natural world, and nature’s persistence in spite of us.

I “Hate” Tomatoes: A Meatless Monday Pizza Story


Today’s harvest of Lucky Tiger and Black Krim tomatoes.

I have always hated tomatoes unless, of course, we are talking about ketchup, pasta sauce, or salsa (or derivatives thereof). When Michelle and I planted our first garden this spring, I wanted to concentrate on peppers and tomatillos, the main ingredients for my favorite salsa recipe. I did plant one tomato, a San Marzano, that I could use in said salsa recipe. And then something happened. We got a little obsessed and started watching YouTube videos on heirloom tomatoes (this series by the Late Bloomer is great). Even if we didn’t eat them that often, we wanted to grow the crazy colored, weird, funny looking monstrosities.

DSC06422The next week, we had three more tomato plants, a Black Cherry, a Lucky Tiger, and a Black Krim. Those plain old red tomatoes would not do for us! We went away for our yearly road-trip, and when we came back, we discovered several wonderful tomatoes on all three of these plants. A week later, we had three more heirloom tomato plants— Pineapple, Big Rainbow, and Radiator Charlie’s Mortgage Lifter (did I mention that we also like their funky names).  Still, I never figured I would eat them. I would just admire their quirky beauty and use them to practice my food and macro photography. But not eat them. No. Never.


Finally, the black cherry tomatoes were ripe, and I had the first few tomatoes that I could dissect and put under the microscope. Then, strangely, I decided to pop one in my mouth. No one was looking. No one was pressuring me. So I ate one. And now, I eat tomatoes.

For the past week, I’ve been eyeing the first ripening fruit of our Black Krim and Lucky Tiger varieties, wondering how I would use them. Then Michelle found this odd recipe for a veggie tomato pizza with a white bean and caramelized onion puree as the sauce and tomatoes as the toppings. My 13-year-old self would call me a traitor for considering this abomination, but I’m into experimenting these days.


A cross-section of the Black Cherry tomato that made us think of the Tree of Gondor for some reason. Hmmmm.


The Lucky Tiger and Black Krim all sliced up and ready to go.


The built pizza. I apparently also eat pepitas (roasted pumpkin seeds). Who knew?

I had a lot of fun with this recipe and was pre-visioning which tomatoes I would use and how I would arrange them most of the day. Our favorite, funny looking heart-shaped Black Krim was ready, and the Lucky Tigers had just ripened. I couldn’t wait to harvest and slice them. This is the end result and another addition to our meatless Monday rotation.


Time for dinner!

By the way, I still hate tomatoes, and this hilarious video from Vanity Fair defining heirloom tomatoes explains why. I almost gag when I see the cotton-y tomatoes in line at Subway. I’ve gone from tomato abstinent to a tomato snob in the course of one month.  I guess I’m a tomato hipster. We won’t talk about blueberries.

All images ©2016 by David Garber

Stages of a Marigold

We planted a container garden last week, partly to grow some delicious herbs and peppers, and partly to get us outside a bit more when we are at home. We are also learning a lot about how to grow and the care that gardens need. One of the things we learned is about companion planting, and that having flowers in your herb/veggie garden helps keep pests at bay. So we planted some marigolds in various containers, and I had a bit of fun with our macro lens this evening. Here are some shots of Marigold flowers in various stages. Prints are available if you click the images.



What’s in Her Bag: Michelle’s New Camera Purse

It’s been a while since I’ve done any serious leatherwork, but with Michelle picking up her photography and wanting a daily solution for carrying a good camera, I decided to create a custom camera purse for her. We designed the purse to be small enough for everyday use, but large enough to hold the Tenba BYOB 7 (Bring Your Own Bag) with a little room for her phone, wallet, keys, etc. The Tenba bag insert is just big enough to carry the Sony a6000 with two smallish lenses. Currently she is carrying a small 35mm and Sony’s 55-210mm tiny telephoto lens, but we have a few other lenses that could work, depending on her mood.

We went for a vintage-y look, so we were able to get some good leather with a few flaws for a good price at Tandy Leather. We looked for some hardware that fit the bill at Tandy, as well. Of course, we both love the steampunk look, so I used some Tandy steampunk conchos for the strap. They did not have any antique brass D-rings or Trigger Snaps, so I bought the regular brass and distressed them by soaking them in apple cider vinegar and then baking them. It was kind of a fun process! I also had a good time experimenting with dip-dyeing the leather and using some new stitching and burnishing techniques.


The finished product.



A fun little propeller for some character on the strap. Our macro lens really brought out the texture in this, which is about twice the size of a U.S. quarter.




What’s in your bag?

Questing for Beauty


High Key Light. The tiny heart-shaped hole, intricate veins, and beautiful color captured my eye on a drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Print available.

“The moment one gives close attention to anything, even a blade of grass, it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribably magnificent world in itself.”

My photography mentor, Shari Miller, shared this quote by Henry Miller yesterday.

In case you are wondering why I have a photography mentor, I have spent the last few months giving careful attention to the incredible and mysterious world of photography through The Arcanum: The Magical Academy of Artistic Mastery. The best way to describe the Arcanum is a fun cross between Hogwarts, a MMORPG, and an online course—all geared towards improving your own photography through peer and mentor feedback, access to tutorials and videos, and the discipline of committing to quests … I mean challenges. I have just completed Sphere 0 and after 10 levels, I have a few thoughts on the whole Arcanum experience.

Henry Miller’s quote would be a perfect motto for our cohort in the Arcanum. Shari has named us “The Cohort of Seers–seeing more of the beauty in the world, in others, and within ourselves.” And with her guidance, my peers and I are embracing a joyful experience of exploration and encouragement. We’ve been having a great time discussing intention, experimentation, color, texture, and having fun with photography. I have taken the opportunity and the space to push myself to try new things, think about my goals and the story I am trying to tell, and learn to find my voice and style. Our cohort is not afraid to experiment or discuss the philosophy behind and in our art. Shari has been a great leader in helping us to ask questions and think about emotion, mood–and borders.


Through the Looking Glass. While on the driftwood beach at Jekyll Island, Shari’s words about borders and experimenting with mood and texture guided me to compose this other-worldly image. Print available.

While my experiences have certainly helped me improve my technique, both in composition and in processing, the most important areas of growth have been in the discipline of photography and the reflection on the images. For me, taking the time and patience to commit to improving and reflecting on my art has been enormous. I am somewhat competitive, and I love games and puzzles, so the structure of “challenges” is perfect for me! In meeting each challenge, I allow myself the time and focus to give care, attention, and space for growing my artistic voice. In a world filled with busy-ness and need, it has been helpful to allow myself this time and place for focusing on something that brings me joy and allows me to exercise my creativity.


Grounded in Solitude. I’m not usually drawn to landscape shots, but mindful of my tendency towards busy-ness, I found peace in focusing on this quiet scene. Print Available.

The discipline of photography has provided the foundation, but much of my growth has also come through the reflective piece that Shari and my cohort provide. While we do talk about gear, and theory, and software, and technique, we also talk about emotion, mood, memory, story, beauty, inspiration, gratitude, perspective, and philosophy. My cohort is composed of people from around the world with different ideas, interests, and styles. Hearing their viewpoints and seeing their images and the stories behind their images, provides both inspiration and instruction.

As I begin Sphere 1, the next level in the Arcanum journey, I journey with a sense of gratitude for the space, people, and time to focus on seeing and creating beauty. This journey brings balance and light and reminds me of who I want to be.


Starry Nights. The swirls and patterns in the driftwood reminded me of van Gogh’s painting.  This was such a joy to process and I experimented with several new techniques, layers, and colors before finally settling on this version. Print available.



Time to Put the Wheel back on the Wagon

We know. It’s been a while since a good, content-heavy post. Between our work and travels in 2015, we got a little bogged down like this farm equipment. But it’s time to put the wheel back on this wagon and start sharing more from our 2015 adventures as we look forward to even more exciting photography in 2016. This first batch is from our October trip to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We stayed in the Cade’s Cove campground so we could be close to the action and the light. I think I had just finished some binge sessions playing Witcher III. The virtual explorations looking for herbs in farmhouses might have influenced my perspective and tone. At one point, we even saw a bulletin board and went looking for quests. 🙂


I loved the mix of textures in the wood, the puddles after the rain, and the bits of metal on the hub. Print Available.


Michelle loves texture, too, but she likes to get in closer than I do. 🙂


Another mystical fantasy image. This was from our first night in Cade’s cove. I liked the cool gray clouds, but I went for a more other-worldly approach, adding some texture and purply-ness to the scene. Print Available.


Michelle had everyone fooled. The whole park was full of people searching for bears. The people in the line of cars saw Michelle with a longish 90mm macro stalking this caterpillar. Everyone stopped and asked where the bear was. Print Available.


Towards the end of the trip we decided to go chasing waterfalls. We decided to hike up to Laurel Falls in the rain (thank goodness for panchos). When we got there, we watched a couple climb the falls followed by a proposal. We ended up taking a couple of shots for the family who was watching from below (no pressure!). When they left we decided to play with some long exposures.

Need Inspiration for Halloween? Check out these Costumes from the DragonCon 2015 Parade

We’re finally getting around to doing some processing of these! Whew, it’s been a crazy semester. Why don’t you try throwing these together for Saturday night. Don’t worry, you have plenty of time.


Sometimes the best shots aren’t of the parade, but of people walking to the parade. Go Joe!


Stephen Amell’s Green Arrow might meet his match if he gets in the ring with Wrestler Deadpool!


For some reason, the church background just fits for this photo. I believe these are horses and actors from Medieval Times.


Live long and prosper!


Go speed racer!


Maybe it’s too late to throw this one together for Saturday night …


Nice clown car.


“You are a sad, strange little man, and you have my pity.”