January 18, 2013
Nikon D7000, 35mm f1.8 G DX, (1/250 sec, f8, ISO 400) Processed in Instagram.
It was Sunday morning. As usual I was in a hurry to get myself ready and get out of the door, into the car and on my way to church to make it in time for the 9.00am service. To make matters worse when I did get to the car it was coated in ice! I quickly dashed back inside and filled a large jug with warm water to defrost the windows. I was really running late now (or so I thought). I drove reasonably quickly whilst taking care to be on the lookout for patches of ice on the road. The sun was just coming over the low hills on the Eastern horizon, it was spectacular. I had the camera in my bag and I started to think about how I would find the time to take a photo.
Much to my surprise I arrived in Timoleague in good time, I was early. At the entrance to the village I pulled over and got out with my camera to try to get a picture of the Abbey ruins with the sun rising behind it, but there was a problem – I only had a 35mm lens, which meant that the Abbey was too far away and there would have been too much junk in the foreground of the picture – I really needed 150mm or more to get the right shot. A voice in my head said ‘drive on, keep going’. I got back in the car and drove to just beside the Abbey, facing the estuary, the tide was high. I got out of the car and walked over to the water’s edge. As I was lifting the camera to my eye I heard a flapping noise to my left; my presence had alerted a duck and he was now flying low across the water. He came into the viewfinder and I waited until he was in just the right spot and then I pressed the shutter release. I had my photo, but much more importantly I was now relaxed and ready for worship, my stress had gone. Somehow in that moment by the water’s edge I connected with God, with His Creation as a means, a platform for holy enchantment.
November 8, 2012
He stood there for a long time, lost in thought and completely oblivious to my taking his photo. What is it about the painting that has so caught the man’s attention? I would imagine that the artist would be delighted, the painting was achieving the desired affect; the viewer was being drawn in, captivated, connected with. Art is many things, but as a means of communication it is a very powerful medium.
Last night I read this:
The first thing we learn about [God] in the Scriptures is that He was an artist. … God moved across the chaos and began to imagine. Colours – blue and green and red and yellow. All the colours somehow mixed together. What would green look like alongside blue, with a little thin band of gold to join the two? Mountains. Oceans. Beaches. Rivers. Trees. Canyons. Valleys. Shapes and textures and smells and taste. All these things existed in God’s imagination, even before he decided to make them into a reality and create His artistic masterpiece – the world…
(Steve Stockman, “Walk On”, the Spiritual Journey of U2. Relevant Books, 2005, p.88)
God is the great Artist, He has communicated to us through His great canvas. Are we drawn in, captivated, connected?
Or do we just walk on by?
September 25, 2012
Some recent pictures from the garden…
God saw all that he had made, and it was very good…
September 13, 2010
I suppose we don’t need any reminder that Summer has now reluctantly begun to make way for Autumn. All around, the leaves are beginning to change colour, many flowers parade their final encore and the sounds are those of finality (for this year at least); the swan song is in the air.
I came across this butterfly whilst recovering a rugby ball from a flower bed. Like the autumn leaves, its wings are fading; once glorious colours are now only shades of brown. Yet it is still beautiful.
Having helped with a couple of funerals recently, the words of the old funeral service (which is seldom used now) came to mind:
Man that is born of woman hath but a short time to live … He cometh up, and is cut down, like a flower; he fleeth as it were a shadow, and never continueth in one stay.
A little bleak perhaps, but a stark reminder of not only the fragility of life but its transience also. Not only we but all of Creation are in an inevitable Autumn, waiting patiently for that eternal Spring to come…
June 21, 2010
Woody Nightshade Solanum dulcamara
My better half saw this plant growing in a couple of different places in the garden. We thought that it might be Deadly Nightshade, and a quick search on Google showed us this plant exactly, referred to in a number of different articles as Deadly Nightshade. So that is what I thought I was dealing with. I put on a thick pair of gloves and dug it out, put it in black bag and into the bin. Foolishly I had some skin showing on my arms and just touching the plant brought my skin out in an itchy rash. I mentioned all this to a couple of wise farmers on Sunday morning and they looked at me a bit quizzically. So I went to the bookshelf afterwards and found “The Oxford Book of Wild Flowers”. It turns out that this plant is in fact “Woody Nightshade”; it is poisonous (though not as poisonous as the “Deadly” version) and is a particular danger for children, pets and farm animals who might like to eat the egg-shaped berries. I’m fascinated at how such a pretty flower can be poisonous, though that poison (from the berries) has been used for centuries to treat various skin ailments (didn’t do my skin much good) and even (in a dilution) to treat Rheumatism!
Foxglove Digitalis purpurea
In another part of the garden there is a much better known plant, the Foxglove. I have always loved the flowers, I remember watching with delight as a child as bees scampered into the bell-shaped purple domes to emerge only to disappear once more (it didn’t take much to keep me amused)! Also known as “Dead Man’s Bells” (because this is a poisonous plant too), the leaves produce a drug used to treat heart conditions.
I am ever amazed at the sheer variety and staggering depth of complexity found in Creation. Similar to my reaction to the wonderful Gannets and Razorbills (see below), understanding more of nature brings me closer to the One who spoke all this into being ex nihilo (out of nothing):
11 Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” And it was so. 12 The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.
June 18, 2010
Gannet (in front) & Razorbill (behind)
Have you ever experienced something in Creation that took your breath away? It hasn’t happened to me too often; I remember a volcanic pool in Yugoslavia (I think) that was two hundred metres deep and you could see the bottom so clearly through the depths of crystal-clear water. Another time I remember snorkelling and chancing across a magnificent Octopus that kept changing colour. I had the privilege once of seeing Mount Kenya emerge from the clouds, impossibly large on the horizon… (I realise that I am now sounding like Basil Fawlty giving his “herds of Wildebeest” speech!)
These small band of memories was joined by another on Tuesday as I was invited to join a couple of photographers as they headed out to the Saltee Islands off Kilmore Quay, Co. Wexford. It was a beautiful day and I was simply awestruck at it all, from the boat trip to the sheer number of birds and the beauty of the Island. It was stunning. At one point, as I rounded a corner of rock and saw ahead of me thousands of Gannets nesting and swooping and squawking I just wanted to fall on my knees and worship – not what I was looking at, but the One who created such incredible beauty.
Admittedly the little chap above wouldn’t win any beauty contests but it was just incredible to be able to get so close, a real privilege. I felt like a special guest, invited to a place where yes I was an intruder but momentarily at least a cautiously welcomed one.
Great Saltee Island
One of the photographers I was with told me how, when he had brought his daughter to the Island on a previous visit, she had remarked that “it felt like heaven”.
I got a little bit of that feeling too; I only know as much as what heaven will be like as the Bible tells us, but something tells me that there was at least a trace of that eternal magic ingredient here…
January 7, 2010
Nikon F100, Nikkor 18-35 D, Fujifilm Superia 200
On our way to Dingle, my better half and navigator saw something interesting on the map so we decided to take a small detour and investigate. Despite driving on narrow, icy roads (with a severe drop down a cliff awaiting any slippery mistakes) it was definitely worth the diversion. The lake was flat-calm, the air still and cold and the scene very beautiful.
When we rounded the corner to see this scene in front of us it was a special moment. Being naturally a booky indoors type, I’ve gradually over recent years began to see the importance of appreciating God’s creation in worship. Trying to find a good place to take the above photo from was done with a mixture of prayer, excitement and carefully placed footfalls. Looking at the picture now makes me excited, excited about God.
July 26, 2008
Panasonic FZ50, f4.0, 100 ISO, 88 mm Jpeg
We all have ephemeral glimpses of heaven but I suppose that sometimes we are too busy to notice. How many times have I missed a moment of divine beauty because I was fretting about a parish meeting or wondering how I was going to pay the tax return?! Often such glimpses are unexpected, as in driving around the corner to see little more than the shadow of a deer just vanishing into the forest or the glimpse into the soul of a newborn baby when they open their eyes for the first time. Sometimes they are more planned such as in reaching the summit of a mountain on a clear day and then trying to absorb the sheer scale of the magnificently crafted landscape beneath you. Perhaps the most surprising thing of all is that God’s beauty is everywhere, to be found in every person, each of whom He has made in His own image and to be found in all that the Creator’s hand has touched…
One morning I was standing out the front of our house to have a better look at the misty yet colourful sunrise that was taking place – it was a special moment. Out of the mist came a single bird flying towards me. Without thinking I lifted up my camera and took the picture you see above. A lucky shot? Yes, and one that reminds me of the beauty of God’s creation that I take too often for granted…