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FIRST-PERSON: Seeing like a camera

JACKSON, Tenn. (BP) — “OK, I know it’s here somewhere. I know I took it! I pulled the car over, rolled down the window, and CLICK! The beautiful field, mountains in the background and that fabulous elk standing right there in front of me!”

Undaunted, you begin going through your pictures again, and then on the third time through, you find it. But somehow, the elk seems so much smaller. In fact, he’s a tiny little thing, hardly even noticeable in the picture. It’s just not how you remember it.

God made us in so many amazing ways, and just one of those is how we see. Have you ever thought something like, “Wow, I think the preacher was talking directly to me this morning!” You may have even felt like he was looking you right in the eye. Well, maybe he was.

Now, I don’t mean to make an assignment that will cause you to be distracted this coming Sunday, but I want you to try something. As you look into the choir, or if you’re in the choir looking at the congregation, notice your ability to completely focus on one very specific individual. It’s actually pretty amazing, but we all can do this. Our mind and our eyes work together in such an incredible way that we can basically zone out everyone else and “see” only one person. When you pulled the car over to make a photograph of the elk, that’s what happened.

When it comes to photography, our ability to see is crucial. Or, maybe I should say, our ability to “see like a camera” sets the stage for successful photographs. While we can look across the congregation into the eyes of one person, or across the field into the face of an elk, our cameras are completely objective. They photograph what we place into the frame. Our challenge is to create a frame that contains our idea as closely as possible.

For some, this may mean putting a different lens on the camera to adapt the camera to the scene. But for most of us, it means placing the camera into the optimum spot to get the photograph we already have in our mind’s eye.

Although we may not be able to sneak up on that elk, in most situations God has made us in such a way that we may not need special lenses. We just need to move, to walk a few steps closer. As you look through your camera, or at the screen on the back of your phone, take an extra moment to consider what’s happening. Sometimes taking an extra bit of time to move closer may cause you to miss the moment completely, but in most instances you’ll have just enough time to make your move.

As you head out on your next great adventure, whether that means visiting a distant location around the world or helping out at your church’s VBS, slow down just long enough to consider where you should be to make the photograph you “see.” At summer’s end you may not have to look quite as long for that elk.
Jim Veneman is a freelance photographer in Jackson, Tenn., and president of the Baptist Communicators Association who has served as director of visual communication and assistant professor at Union University in Jackson, Tenn. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).

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  • Jim Veneman