Thursday, July 30, 2015

Life Through the Lens of a Camera

Principles of good photography mirror principles for good living.

“Life is like a camera: Just focus on what’s important, capture the good times, develop from the negatives, and if things don’t work out, just take another shot.”

Reading this post on Facebook, I resonated with it because that’s been my experience, both behind the camera and in life. It’s no secret I love to write. (Actually, like many professional writers, I hate to write – but I love to have written!) But my other passion, an avocation that at times has been central to my vocation, is photography.

I’ve enjoyed taking pictures most of my life, but didn’t seriously engage in photography before becoming a graduate teaching assistant in photojournalism in college. I learned about film developing and photo processing, but most of all had my first chance to take photos with a quality SLR camera, which at the time was a Nikkormat FTN.

When I became the editor of two suburban community newspapers, and then a business magazine, being able to photograph people I interviewed, as well as the settings where I traveled, proved invaluable.

Today, for the most part the days of film and the laborious task of printing photos have faded into artistic history with the advent of digital photography. It used to be when people asked, “Did you get any good pictures?” I’d reply that I would know as soon as the film had been processed and the photos printed. Now we can tell immediately. The camera’s digital viewer – whether on a true digital camera or a smart phone – shows whether we’ve captured the desired image. If not, we can easily discard unsatisfactory photos to free up space on the memory card.

So in a sense, life is indeed similar to the quote above. If we succeed in focusing on what’s truly important, rather than getting entangled by life’s minutiae and things of lesser importance, we can get a lot more accomplished – and enjoy it more as we do it. As my favorite devotional writer, Oswald Chambers, often stated in his book, My Utmost for His Highest, “good is the enemy of the best.” In other words, strive to discern what’s really important and concentrate on that, even when many other urgent needs are beckoning.

One reason I usually have a camera in hand as I travel is that I can capture interesting images that help me to recall enjoyable moments. Thankfully, we also have memories (at least most of us do) that help in storing away experiences we’ll long cherish.

An interesting thing about printing pictures from negatives is that the photo (the “positive”) is the opposite of the negative. Similarly in life, as we’re struggling through pain and hardship, we can learn to turn those bad experiences into positive, growing opportunities to enhance our lives moving forward. In Philippians 3:13-14, the apostle Paul wrote, “I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal of the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

As Paul showed in other passages, he didn’t develop amnesia about his past, but didn’t dwell on his failings and wrong decisions. Instead, he used them as preparation for faithful, fruitful service to his Lord and the people God sent his way.

I love the last phrase in the original quote, "and if things don’t work out, just take another shot." This is so true in photography today – take a photo, check it out on the digital display, and if it’s not good enough, take another. We don’t have to worry any longer about wasting film. In life, of course, we can’t simply “delete” events and experiences we don’t like. At the same time, we do have the choice of either wallowing in the past and letting it swallow us up, or we can “take another shot” at whatever we were aiming at.

So much of life consists of the mundane, drudgery that seems devoid of purpose. Going nowhere fast describes a lot of everyday living. But if we’re willing to persevere, to remain focused on our goals, not letting ourselves become distracted by matters of lesser importance, we can eventually arrive at our intended destination.

As Paul exhorted followers of Christ in the ancient city of Corinth, Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:58). Elsewhere he wrote, “Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary” (Galatians 6:9).

So there we have it, a simple recipe for good photography – and successful living:
·       Focus on what’s important
·       Capture the good times
·       Develop from the negatives·        
·       If things don’t work out, take another shot.

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