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)

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?

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.