{Guest Post: Photography Friday} The Photographer’s Temptation

Join me in welcoming back Melissa Aldrich of Quiet Graces Photography for another Photography Friday. She has some wonderful tips for us today — helping us capture those precious moments, while still fully engaging.

Photography, like any creative pursuit, has an inherent temptation. The temptation to hide behind the lens, create that perfect picture, and never engage.

I can spend so much time recording moments that I never engage in living those moments. I’m pretty sure I’m not the only artist to struggle with this temptation. I can be so busy about capturing my children playing that I fail to play with them. I can be so busy recording memories with my clients that I forget to reassure them that what I see behind my lens are beautiful people created by a good God. Worst of all, I can be so busy capturing glory that I forget my purpose is to glorify God.

Let me say that again: I can be so busy capturing glory with my camera that I forget my purpose is to glorify God. You know what that is called? Idol worship.

Capturing that perfect image can become idol worship.

So here’s my challenge to you over the next week: Put down the camera and live intentionally.

I did this for my girls messy birthday party this year. I captured a few images (and not even perfect ones) of their messy joy and then I just enjoyed our guests. I’m so glad I did. Hearing Joni laugh, watching baby Ivey enjoy her first ice cream, and hearing delighted and terrified squeals over all the messy substances, brought me so much joy. I really engaged with the people around me, and I really worshiped the Giver of those two precious girls. I challenge you to do the same.

First, let me say that I’m not always good at this. Last year I ran around like a crazy woman at my girls’ 3 year old party. {See photos below.} I ran pin the tail on the donkey, I nursed my baby when he woke up, and I think I ate a plate of food. Yet all my memories of that party are images that I took, not relationships enjoyed. Two of the most influential women in my life sat at the same table together for only the second time in their lives, and I missed soaking in all those conversations. I didn’t jump on the trampoline at my friend’s house who graciously hosted the party. I recorded the party, but I missed enjoying it.

Detail Images

Detail Images Detail Images

This year I sat and enjoyed and even played with a couple of the messy substances we concocted for the guests to enjoy. {Scroll down to see the only images I snapped.}

5 Tips to Help You Put Down the Camera

    1. Set limits for what events you’ll carry your camera to. I don’t often carry my “big-girl” camera into the zoo or fairs or other kid’s birthday parties (unless I’m asked… see point 5). It’s too much for me to juggle with keeping up with all three and my phone camera does just fine for those spontaneous moments I must have. I do sometimes carry my camera when we go to the park or when we’re attending a holiday-themed event that I think will be just magical in their eyes.I also stalk my kids around the house and on hiking trips with my camera. Sometimes I have them freeze while I grab it to capture the spaghetti/brownie-covered face. The point is, I know where bringing a camera will be a distraction for me from parenting well/truly engaging with friends — and I don’t bring it. I also know where having a camera (the park and at home) will help me to engage better with my children. Taking pictures of the “Watch me, Mama!” moments makes that repeated phrase enjoyable 😉
    2. Set limits on how long you will use your camera at a specific event. You can capture the same images I captured for my girls’ 3-year-old party and only pick up the camera 4-5 times for 5 minutes each set of images/activities. Develop a plan for when you want to take images at events and stick to it. On the flip side: create some personal projects where the whole point of the event is to take photographs. My girls and I are planning a princess photo shoot for spring where I’ll let them each wear my wedding dress and take images to share for their weddings. This creative project will be a great opportunity for me to talk to my girls about marriage and about what qualities they want in a husband that I wouldn’t be able to create so easily without my camera.
    3. Ask a close friend who is with you for an event or day where you have decided to bring the camera to hold you accountable to engage. There’s nothing like a sweet friend saying, “Okay, I think it’s time for you to hand me the camera,” to keep you on track.
    4. Decide beforehand your must-have images. For me, I knew the girls’ insane request to have a pool-full of pasta noodles at their party was my must-have image. After I took a few images of that, I knew I had captured the part they would want to remember most. I took one more of the majority of the guests sitting in the yard when I brought Sedryn’s sippy cup outside. I could have taken more if I had wanted to and still been an active part of the celebration, but for this event I didn’t need want to 🙂 If you go in with a short list of must-haves, you’ll know the points you want to pick up the camera and the point where you’ve succeeded in capturing that image so that you can join back into the festivities.Triptych Template 2 portrait 1 hor web
    5. At events where you want to engage, but also really want images: hire someone to take some images. There are photographers who love to capture your events at all price points. If it’s both important for you to have images and important for you to enjoy, find someone who fits your budget. Skimp on food and have your guests bring a pot luck dish if you don’t think there’s anyway you can hire even a beginning photographer for an event. Sometimes other amateur photographer friends are willing to swap capturing events with you; Don’t be shy about asking. In fact, my friend Joni took this great image of the pasta pool. She emailed it to me afterward and it made me smile.

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tiffanyannephotography-27Melissa Aldrich rarely has it all together, but she knows the One who does. Wife, Mother, photographer, writer. She encourages others (but mostly herself) to see the mess of their daily life as real beautiful grace. You can read more about her mess and the stories of others who trust her to capture them with her lens at http://www.quietgraces.com.

Capturing Grace, An Image At A Time

Capturing Grace, An Image At A Time

I’m welcoming back my friend, Melissa Aldrich of Quiet Graces Photography — creative mama of three littles, writer, photographer, blogger, grace-clinger. We share a love of photography, and while I’m not a professional like Melissa, we also have something else in common: We love to capture gratitude in pixels and gather grace in shutter-clicks. We praise our God through both beauty and beautiful messes. Melissa is going to be guest posting a “Photography Friday” series here, where she’ll share all kinds of goodness — from  picture-taking tips to resources and more.

I was 9 years old when my mother gave me and my sister cameras. I had broken my arm, and we were headed to a local theme park. I took two rolls of film — of giant tissue paper flowers, bugs in the grass, and of my sister taking pictures of me. I waited anxiously at Wal-Mart’s 1-hour photo for my images to come back.

I was in awe that moments could be captured. With my camera, I could make time stand still.

At 16, two very big things happened to me:

  1. Jesus captured my heart. Ever the perfectionist all too aware of falling short everywhere, I first heard the good news that Jesus lived perfectly for me and then died for me because He loved. He loved me even in my mess. Sanctification was slow for me, and I created a lot more mess before another Christ-follower came alongside me to help. But the message that I was loved perfectly in spite of my mess changed me. I will never be the same.
  2. I watched as my image appeared in the dim red light of the darkroom while I swished the developer. I literally lived in that darkroom for the next two years of high school. In fact, I crawled out of that darkroom and wondered why everyone in the whole school was glued to the televisions on 9/11; I had no idea what had occurred. I shot roll after roll of Illford Delta 400. I chased around the children I babysat for. I dragged my sister on photo shoots. I stalked bugs and flowers and learned how to hand color my black-and-white images with photo oils. I couldn’t stop recording life and beauty.

Elizabeth Collage

 

And at the beginning of college, these two things collided. I began to see through my lens the other imperfect people with messy lives that Jesus loved. I began to see their pain and their joy and I wanted to tell their stories in a way that glorified God. I wanted to collect testimonies in images and words.

The road to realize that dream has been a long one with many twists and crazy turns. I have three children who were all born within 25 months of each other (there’s a set of twins in there). My mess has been exposed exponentially; my Savior has grown larger. The days are long and exhausting. I didn’t feel like I could fit one more thing among the relentless demands of the little people for whom I was responsible.

Easter 2009

I almost forgot the dream until I used my camera to tell the story of the “Misfits Easter” at my friend and mentor’s farm. She invited upwards of 50 people to come to her house and celebrate, but she was so busy she was only able to walk just the short distance from one counter to the another. Outside children were climbing hay bales, men played horseshoes, teens sat around a guitar singing praise, farm kittens were carried by toddlers, and women were greeting each other with hugs. My friend couldn’t see or participate in any part of that ministry that she was actively creating.

So I pulled out the camera to show her. I made her a Coffee Table book. Her tears rolled down joy-filled cheeks. My own eyes welled up. This is what I was created to do: collect testimonies of grace in images and words.

I’m going to be partnering with Elizabeth on Fridays to challenge you to do the same: Capture God’s goodness (even in the messy seasons) through pixels and words. We’ll be covering a range of topics like why to pick up a camera, composition, handy resources across the web, and bits and pieces of our camera stories. Our goal is to help you bend low in worship through the lens of a camera. I’m looking forward to getting to know you and growing together.

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tiffanyannephotography-27Melissa Aldrich rarely has it all together, but she knows the One who does. Wife, Mother, photographer, writer. She encourages others (but mostly herself) to see the mess of their daily life as real beautiful grace. You can read more about her mess and the stories of others who trust her to capture them with her lens at http://www.quietgraces.com.

Getting Over The Funk

Getting Over The Funk

They’ll be gone soon, these deck beauties. Red salvia, white alyssum, purple angelonia, coleus with extravagant leaves …. and the lone tropical hibiscus, overwintered four years now.

Now’s the time potting mix usually soils my deck, as I dump the dried-out shells that were once vibrant plants into a black plastic sack to throw in the compost. But, an unusually rainy and cool summer has kept them fresh, my summer annuals. And, I’ve been blessed with a constant visual feast.

Yet, I’d be insincere if I did not admit I’ve been plagued by the decidedly non-beautiful lately, despite the late-summer riot outside my French doors. Doubt, lethargy, insecurity, tears. It’s been an emotional smorgasbord around here, and I’m stuffed.

white flowers

coleus close

purple flower closeup

red salvia

purple flower

coleus

hibiscus

In a way, I wish I could say my state of mind corresponds to a concrete reason, but it does not. It’s The Funk.

I’m sure you know The Funk.

It turns up when you least expect it and doesn’t mind if you haven’t a care in the world, because it can turn noonday sun into darkest night before you can blink twice.

It comes when you’re busy and productive, but have no time to spare, and then drops you right on the floor, fetal-style, sobbing, leaving you incapable of accomplishing anything.

It gloats over its very inexplicability and hopes you’ll keep quiet because you’re embarrassed to admit you feel low when everything in your life looks fine.

It descends relentlessly and inks over the beauty in your life. It throw lies about your worth and your God-given purpose and questions your work.

And, you stop.

The funny thing is, when you stop doing the work, The Funk gets quieter. When you stop pushing out the boundaries of your life, it dissipates. But, as soon as you go back to the work, it arrives full force, like a nasty green algae, scumming over the crystal-clear edges of your dreams.

So many of my dear friends have fallen into The Funk about now, and I had no idea, until I confessed my ugly tonight. And so, prayer by prayer, heart comment by heart comment, we encourage each other back into beauty. We become the beauty, the community of Christ, lifting each other high.

And these flowers, these sun-drenched colors on the screen that contrast my words? They remind me of the lovely I still have around me, despite The Funk’s lies.

They’re God’s get-well card for my heart. They tell me of His good green world that offers so much beauty for so little cost. And, most importantly, they remind me of my vibrant sisters and the shining colors of their individual hearts.

Life, Unfiltered

Life, Unfiltered

I bend low to gather them to me. These late summer bloomers.

I could cut them, certainly, heap them about luxurious. But today, I collect their pixels.

It’s not long before I realize something’s wrong. It’s not just my faulty focusing; the lens filter is blurry. I rub at it impatiently with the hem of my t-shirt. No luck.

I unscrew it, leaving my lens wide open and exposed — there’s no protective glass covering it. If I stumble and fall, knock my camera to the ground, it will surely shatter.

Yet, I click the shutter and check the viewfinder, satisfied. The color shines through, saturated, rather than muted and smudged.

sedum

black eyed susans

rose of sharon

caryopteris

And I think, sometimes we have to choose life, filter-free.

Some days, we have to choose the richness of beauty. We have to reach past the dirty dishes, crying toddlers, physical aches and pains, ugly words, and choose to pull up lovely strong.

We choose to lift faces to our Lord, and let the veil fall aside.

Lately, I’ve been thinking of you, my tens of readers {as my friend and fellow blogger Crystal Stine says}, and asking myself what I want for you. It’s hard to narrow down, because I wish to encourage you in so many ways. But here’s one, totally unedited, that I dashed off late last night to my in-real-life friend and reader, Beth. She liked it, and I hope you will too.

I want women to see God’s beauty everywhere around them and share it. I want them to recognize and revel in beauty daily — in the mundane and messy, but also in the places beauty lives extravagantly, but we so often forget to even look up… in white fringed hosta blossoms that smell like tropical gardenias, in double rainbows after two weeks of rain, in the clarion voice of a friend sharing words of sweet encouragement, in the tear-sting heart twinge of meeting Jesus smack in the middle of your kitchen.

Reader, I wish you beauty today. The beauty that means so much because you choose it when you lift your heart high.

 

This post was shared with Life through the Lens and Hello Mornings.