I have never taken a photo that reflected my mood more than this one.

This was taken about one week after a tornado went through my hometown of West Liberty, KY.  I was looking out my bathroom window at what previously was two very large sycamore trees.  It was a gray day with little sun.  As I looked at the remains of the trees with the low, soft, afternoon sun in the sky, I thought of those apocalyptic movies I had seen.  This reminded me of  a scene in all of them.  It matched my mood of doom, gloom, and despair.  I processed it in sepia to give it a feeling of more despair.

While I am through that part of the grieving process, I am  occasionally reminded of how I felt during that time whenever I see some of the sights that still exist in my town.  Now I can’t help but think of all of those people in the northeast that will be dealing with the after effects of the storm they have survived.  I am sure they will experience the same feelings of gloom whenever the adrenaline wears off and they start to look around and see what all needs to be done.  One positive that comes from going through a devastating tornado–you sympathize with other folks who experience going through storms.

As I sit here in my office and see the October snow that is coming down, which is our effects of Hurricane Sandy here in eastern Kentucky, I know that the people in the northeastern states will make it through the rough times ahead.   My prayers are for them to experience the Spirit of God and that that Spirit would comfort them and allow them to persevere.   After they have come through the other side, I pray they would thank God for His mercy and protection during a very trying and difficult time.   I especially hope that the rest of the country would come to their aid, just as they did for us.

I know there are hardly any readers of this blog in the affected area of the northeast, however I want them to know that I am praying for them and I want nothing but the best for them.

If you like this photo, there are more here.

Lead Me to Calvary

Lately I have been thinking about the grace of Jesus.  It is a very difficult thing for me to grasp at times.  I know it isn’t supposed to be that hard to understand.  Sometimes I make things harder by thinking too much.

I took this photo last year around Easter.  These crosses are on a hill beside the Assembly of Faith church in Morgan County, KY.  I wanted to get a sunset shot with the crosses in the foreground.  As usual,  I arrived a little too late for the setting sun, but managed to get a late sunset shot.  I think it worked OK with the silhouette of the crosses.   I just hope no one was watching me climb up the steep hill carrying my tripod and camera bag.   Believe me, there was no grace shown by me.

It is hard for me to understand at times that the eternal creator, Lord, and Master of all things would die on a cross because He loves me.   I know the president would not, nor would the governor, or any elected official.   Maybe some of my family would, but I could never ask them to make such a sacrifice.   I guess that is part of the difficulty for us to grasp, for we never asked Jesus to do what He did.  He did it out of love for mankind, that we could be brought back into harmony with our Creator just as it was meant to be in the beginning.

Most days I feel so unworthy to accept this love.  So if you are struggling with accepting the grace of God at times, just know you aren’t alone.

Whenever I see pictures or paintings of the cross, it evokes both sadness and hope.  Sadness that God’s creation became so selfish and ungrateful that Jesus had to come, but full of hope because of the promises that God gave us because he has saved us through that cross.

I am glad He took into consideration that I was never going to be good enough to enter into His presence, but He wants me there anyway.

If you like this photo, there are more here.

Natural Bridge in Autumn

Natural Bridge State Park has always been a special place for me.  By the throngs of people walking the trails on this beautiful late autumn day, it looks like it is special for a lot of other folks, too.

Natural Bridge State Park is in Slade, KY, amidst the Red River Gorge in the Daniel Boone National Forest in Powell County.  In the fall of the year it is almost awe-inspiring sitting on the bridge and looking out over the cliffs rising up from the fiery colored forest.

My wife and I had to sit on the bridge because we were exhausted from the half mile hike up the trail and I mean UP the trail.   The trail seemed so much steeper since the last time I climbed up to the bridge ten years ago.   The trail climbs up through a forest of pine, spruce, rhododendrons, and some hardwood trees.   No matter how high you climb, you seem to have a sub-species view from the forest floor.  I have been to this beautiful park all of my life and in each of the seasons.  It never gets old for me.

I remember going up to the bridge as a small boy with my family.  I remember one summer when my mom played the organ every Saturday night in the lodge dining room.  My friends’ dad was the park manager at that time and we spent every Saturday running the trails.  It was a great summer for a twelve or thirteen year old boy.

Later when my wife had all  the mothering and wife-ing she could take for the time being and needed a break, she would gently urge the children and me to seek refuge elsewhere for the day,  I would take the kids on the forty-five minute drive to Natural Bridge.  They used up much of their stored energy hiking the trails to the bridge and afterward we would eat in the lodge dining room.

I took this shot from across the chasm on Battleship Rock.  It was probably the last warm Sunday afternoon of fall.  I was thinking of all the changes that I have been through in my life as I sat there with my wife looking back across the gorge at the bridge, and I noticed the bridge hasn’t aged a bit.

If you like this photo, there are more here.

Sometimes Haiti is a Blurrrrrrrrrrrrr

What happens when you combine chaos and potholes and put them in a centrifuge along with yourself, oh, and add chickens, roosters, goats, and an occasional pig… then hit spin?  Oh, not just spin…hyperspin.  You have a typical street scene in Port au Prince.

I loved being a part of it.  Of course I wasn’t driving the bus.  That bus was a renovated Morgan County school bus that was shipped to Haiti to serve a pastor and his churches.  You can see it as the background blur in the above picture.  It was sitting on the side of the street because a rather large rock was wedged  between the back two tires on the driver’s side.  It took a while for my friends to hammer it out.  I, of course, went across the street to take some shots of the moving traffic.  This particular shot I really liked because it shows the movement of the street and it was so typical of Haiti, yet so atypical of America.

This was my first trip to Haiti.  I tried to learn some Haitian creole before my trip.

During one particular conversation on the above bus, I was trying to communicate with some locals we were transporting to a church service.  We were in the back of the bus being tossed about like the crew of the S.S. Minnow due to the less than immaculate road conditions.  I was trying to convey to them in my fluent creole that the ride was not smooth, as if they were not aware of the situation.  I kept saying the same phrase over and over hoping to get some sort of acknowledgement.  All I received was blank stares.

Later, as I was sitting in the church service, wondering why my exquisite creole did not register with my bus companions, it suddenly hit me.  I was telling them, “My name is bumpy”…over and over and over again.

If you like this picture, you can see more here.

Bottom of the Falls

This picture appeals to what little artistic appreciation is within me.  Incidentally, the part of the brain that appreciates art is the anterior insula, a deep fold in the cerebral cortex.  My anterior insula must be buried very deep in my cerebral cortex.  Come for the photos, stay for the anatomy.

I took this shot of the bottom of a small waterfall on Route 519 in Morgan County, KY.  It  is usually hidden from the sight of traffic when the leaves are on the trees.  It is not a very pretty waterfall and I was disappointed with all of the shots I was getting, especially after I slid down the hillside through the briars to get there  (I am sure that graceful tumble was not out of sight of traffic, but to my knowledge it hasn’t shown up on YouTube).

After trying to get some waterfall shots and being disappointed with the results, I started looking at different compositions and shooting in black and white.  Sometimes shots in color don’t do it for me.  Always keep in mind that black and white gives a different perspective to the shot and it may work.  That was the case with this photo.  I did not like it in color so I processed it in black and white.  Immediately it took on  contrast, not only of the black and white, but also the softness of the water with the hardness of the rocks.

I wish I had something else to say about this shot, to espouse some wisdom on race relations or world peace…but I got nothin’.

If you like this photo, you can see more here.

Michelangelo’s Jesus Bearing the Cross

I could not take my eyes off it.

“It” is a sculpture of Jesus bearing the cross by Michelangelo.  This piece stands in Santa Maria Sopra Minerva, the only Gothic church building in Rome.

This church was the scene of Galileo’s trial before the church in 1633.  This is a magnificent church  located about one block from the Pantheon.

Now I am not an art connoisseur by nature.  I do not profess to know anything about art, however like most people, I like to look at beautiful things.  Let me tell you this thing was beautiful.

There are not too many works that  mesmerize me in the art world, except maybe those hidden picture art pieces that were popular until everyone got eye strain looking at them.  Hopefully they were banned by the FDA or whatever government agency  controls fatigue-art.

I was able to sit on a pew in front of this statue with my wife and we just stared in amazement.

There was a reflection on the large marble column behind Jesus and the longer I gazed at him, I noticed the reflection was moving down toward him.  I waited until the reflection was behind his head.  At the right time, as it looked like a haloed crown,    I took some photos and got the result I wanted.  I had to shoot the picture at a fast ISO since it was dark inside the building, so it is a little grainy.  I did not want to use a flash,  most flashes are not allowed inside the historical churches of Rome.

No matter what has happened in the history of God’s church throughout the past two thousand years, this sculpture reminded me that Jesus is Lord of all and his sacrifice still covers the sins of man.  I don’t pretend to know the heart of Michelangelo, but I do know this, God was glorified that day in Rome.

I think my wife and I experienced the love of Christ and felt a little closer to God that day.  Because of the talent of one artist living in Italy over five hundred years ago, a couple from eastern Kentucky were blessed…that is truly amazing.

If you like this photo, you can see more here.