The Photograph That Was Never Taken

As photographers, we’ve all likely said it at one time in our life, “I wish I had my camera right now!” It may have been while we were just walking the dog, driving to the grocery store or work. Our lives are so busy with things to do, it just isn’t possible to capture every moment in time, as much as we may want to. Even as recent as this past Saturday I had one of these moments.

The weather is very spontaneous here in New Brunswick. I woke up to rain on Saturday but by 8:30am it had cleared enough for me to head to a local nature park for a hike. I was able to spend an hour or so taking photographs before it started to rain again; and when the sky opened up, it poured. Later, after the rain stopped, my wife and I went for a drive so I could get some framing done. As we left our neighbourhood I saw the fog and steam rolling off the street. It was certainly an “I wish I had my camera moment.”  I looked around and saw many opportunities to create dreamy images. With my wife in the car and my oldest still at home babysitting his younger sisters, I thought it was best to get where we needed to go and get back home before sibling rivalry took over. Opportunity missed.

There have been several other occasions that I have wished I had my camera in my hands. Sometimes the moments are a spontaneous display of affection between all three of my children (rare!!) on a family outing or a once in a life time moment like taking a first step. Of course there are many photos that my wife and I have taken for family celebrations, our kid’s musicals, dramas and sporting events. These are the most important images that I have taken.

As a husband and father as well as a photographer there has to be a balance. Sometimes I have to make a choice when and where I take photographs that are just for me. Some of the photographs I haven’t taken have been by choice because there are some moments with my family that I won’t get to experience again. I’ll admit, sometimes I wish I had more time for my personal photography, but my kids are only young for a short period and the important moments in their lives only happen once. Redoes for these events aren’t an option.

Is there a photograph that you haven’t taken?

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Give and Take (Nothing)

For many photographers the concept is fairly simple. Give me money and I’ll take your photograph or sell you one that I’ve taken. The idea of getting paid to take a photograph is not a new concept and quite often becomes the desire of many aspiring photographers, myself included. For some of you who follow my blog on a regular basis, you might recall some of my recent posts when I have talked about wanting to do more with my photography and use it for a greater purpose. Over the last few weeks I’ve been doing some research on organizations and individuals who are using their talents to take a photograph and get nothing in return. I thought I would pass along a list of organizations that have really impressed me. If you know of another concept or organization that I haven’t mentioned here please feel free to share back with me.

The Maple Leaf Mission is an organization based out of Edmonton Alberta whose mission is to provide portrait photography to families of individuals who are: facing a terminal illness, living with a debilitating illness yet demonstrates a life lived to the fullest, military families celebrating homecomings or deployment, soldiers returning injured from a tour. For more information on The Maple Leaf Mission visit http://themapleleafmission.ca/.

Help Portrait was started by celebrity photographer Jeremy Cowart. The concept is simple. Find families or groups who would like a portrait but can’t afford to have one taken. Single parents, underprivileged families, families affected by illness, army veterans, or just a neighbor. Go to http://help-portrait.com/ to learn more.

According to their website “Outside the Lens™ (OTL) is a San Diego-based youth media literacy program dedicated to celebrating the vision and voices of children around the world and across cultures. Students (K-12) tell their unique personal stories using photography, writing and other digital media forms while under the guidance of writers, poets, journalists, photographers, filmmakers, artists, and teachers.” I like this concept a lot. The idea of giving a young person a camera should help us see the world in a new perspective. Right now they are participating in a global photography project called Water in Focus which documents the use, waste, conservation and pollution of the world’s water supply. If you are interested in learning more about Outside the Lens visit them at http://www.outsidethelens.org/.

Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep is an organization that has really captured my attention for personal reasons. The mandate of NILMDTS is to help parents recover from the loss of a baby. This might seem like a morbid type of charity but for parents going through a very difficult situation it might be an important part of the healing process. For parents of stillborn babies, and babies that die shortly after birth a photograph might be the only thing they bring home from the hospital. Right now they have over 12000 volunteers in 40 different countries.

Photo Philanthropy is an organization that is all about social change. They connect photographers with non-profit organizations around the world. Projects may include environmental causes, social and economic situations in places like third world countries, or education on a variety of topics. If you are thinking about donating your talents to a cause this might be a good place to start.  You can connect with them at http://photophilanthropy.org/.

If you are interested in learning about more organizations to partner with you may want to look at the website http://shuttermission.org/ or do your own search on philanthropy and photography.

“From what we get, we can make a living;
what we give, however, makes a life.” –
Arthur Ashe

Compassionate Photography

1 Peter 3:8 – Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble.

I have struggled with this week’s blog. My first dose of writers block has set in. This was originally planned for Palm Sunday but I have been unable to focus and to get my mind away from the environmental issues I wrote about two weeks ago.  Since I posted my Running Water blog, I have read a few other stories on the topic of water and the environmental and I’ve struggled to concentrate on much else.

Palm Sunday - It was a great time for some internal reflection

For several years I have wanted to use my photography for a greater purpose than just my own fame. There is part of me that still has the desire to be a full time photographer traveling the world creating captivating pieces of art; but there is also the part of me that understands the greatest satisfaction will come from making a difference in the world with my images.

Don’t get me wrong, going out early on a morning or late evening continues to motivate me and I still get excited every time I plug my camera into my laptop. Just being outside enjoying nature, recording images and editing on my computer sustains me from week to week, but long term I would like to accomplish more.  I was planning a trip later this year to Kenya with some friends from my church but unfortunately that was postponed due to an election in Kenya. I had visions of capturing the next image of “The Afgan Girl” like Steve McCurry or a wild creature like Frans Lanting’s “Cheetah and Cub” but that will have to wait.

Synchronized Swimming - A lot of my inspiration comes from sharing the uncommon and the common; sometimes at the same time.

Palm Sunday and Easter is a time of celebration of an Individual who was an example for us all. On several occasions Jesus demonstrated his compassion for the less fortunate and those who were sick. I think most of us now realize the issues that we are now dealing with in regards to the environment will have the greatest effect on the poor. Those who are least able to help themselves are the ones who face the biggest obstacles. The challenge for me now is to demonstrate compassion like Jesus did and is there a way for me to use my photography to share this message.

I have had several discussions over the years with different people and family about my ideas and desire to use my images for something else besides art on a wall. I have discovered new organizations like Help Portrait, Outside the Lens and Broken Light Collective and many others which are all amazing projects. I just haven’t found the one that feels like the right fit for me yet.  So now I’m turning to you my friends, new and old, for ideas.  If you are involved in some kind of an organization or doing something on your own and using your photography to give back to others, I would love to know what you are doing.

It’s the Little Things that Matter

I once saw a “life lesson” posted on someone’s desk that said something to the effect of “If it won’t matter in 10 minutes or 10 years then don’t worry about it”.  It stuck with me and as I get older I try not to let the small stuff get to me.  Sometimes I’m successful and sometimes I’m not.  I find that getting older and being married with children the things that were important in my youth aren’t any longer.

Sometimes l do have to admit that I find the little things interesting when it comes to my photography.  I really enjoy looking for the obscure and small when I’m outside exploring and looking for a subject to create an image with.  There is something inside of me that is in awe and wonder of the small parts of creation just as much as the enormous.   For some people photographic appreciation comes from a scene of mountain peaks or vast oceans, but there is something about the macro I find compelling.  Why did God put so much detail in such a small creature or flower?  It makes me wonder how many images I have missed because I was thinking big instead of small.

Being child-like can help us discover the little things that matter

Maybe it is my children who have given me this appreciation.  They love to explore digging under rocks or looking in the ponds and lakes around our neighborhood looking for unusual wildlife or insects.  They have a natural curiosity that some of us have lost as we mature.  We get older and have a tendency to lose appreciation for the small stuff and become obsessed with the bigger things in life; bank accounts, bigger cars, homes and TV’s.  Why do we, myself included, have an obsession with big? Do we feel more important, more confident, more satisfied?

Goslings - Quispamsis, New Brunswick

A few years ago I was introduced to the story of “The Starfish” and the tale of how the small actions of one small person can make a big difference.  No, we can individually solve world hunger or climate change but we can all do something small to make a difference.  The lesson has stuck with me and helps me to remember that sometimes it is the little things that matter.

Starfish - Huntsman Aquarium - St. Andrews, New Brunswick