One of the things that I most enjoy doing is taking photographs. Long before
digital cameras I had a succession of other cameras - my first was when I was still in junior school. In those days, of course,
film came in rolls, and a 24 or 36 exposure film would set you back a pretty penny - and then there was the developing!
Nowadays, with digital cameras and phones it's very easy to take a load of photos and then select the decent
ones and erase the rest. It's also wonderful to be able to switch between all manner of different effects and black and
white or colour. And even if the photo is taken in colour, it's only a moment's work to turn it into a black and white
photo - the best of both worlds! I took this shot, in colour, in Poland at the beginning of October.
it is wonderful to have the flexibility of digital photography, it can also make a photographer lazy. When film was costly
and you only had a limited number of shots per roll, then it was usually important to think more carefully about the photo
before taking it. Would moving to the right or left help frame the shot better? Would a low angle add drama to the shot? How
much should a zoom lens be used? Nowadays, it's simply to try all these options and then think about which looks the best
later. Yet, this can also mean that the person taking the photo doesn't look and consider the subject of the picture they're
taking as carefully as they might have done.
What's still important to me when I take many of my photos
is to look at things and try and be surprised. To try unusual angles and heights, to find an interesting means of adding perspective
or framing the picture. To do this means looking thoughtfully and, as far as possible, without a pre-conceived idea of what
the picture might look like.
Here are four shots I took over 10 years ago on Lindisfarne.
I like each of them, and they are all quite different even though they have the same boat in the fore-ground and the castle
in the background. They illustrate for me how a slightly shifted perspective gives a very different view and picture of the
I recently bought a book called ‘Spirituality in Photography' by Philip J Richter which
reads much like my own inner thought processes! It talks about how in our spiritual lives we can train ourselves, as can a
photographer, to think about perspective and angles; to consider carefully the unusual things as well as the expected things
we approach in life; how photographs - and our attitudes and lives - can tell the truth or crop certain elements of fact,
or edit them, or misrepresent them. It also talks about how, in our fast and busy lives, there is much to be gained in slowing
down to properly see, rather than just look at things.
In the book there are two lovely quotations which I'd
like to share with you. The first is by the twentieth century Christian monk Thomas Merton.
Stop looking and
begin seeing! Because looking means you already have something in mind for your eye to find; you've set out in search
of your desired object and have closed off everything else presenting itself along the way. But seeing is being open and receptive
to what comes to the eye.
The second is from the Japanese spiritual writer Kosuke Koyama who recommends his
readers to discover ways of slowing down their lives to ‘3 mph', metaphorically, if they want to reconnect with
their true selves. He says:
God walks ‘slowly' because he is love. If he is not love he would have
gone much faster. Love has its speed. It is an inner speed. It is a spiritual speed... It is slow yet it is lord over all
other speeds since it is the speed of love. It goes on in the depth of our life, whether we notice or not, whether we are
currently hit by a storm or not, at three miles an hour. It is the speed we walk and therefore it is the speed the
love of God walks.
This month ends the church's year and in December we begin a new year on Advent Sunday.
We have walked the path of the birth, life and death of Jesus over the past 11 months, and have reflected on what God's
love means as we have journeyed on. As we look back over the year, and ahead to a new one, let us try and walk slowly, with
our hearts and eyes open afresh, to glimpse where God is - and where love is - in places and people and ways which we might
least expect. May God surprise us with new views and changed perspectives.
With my prayers,