September 2015: Chapel in the Valley
Yosemite Valley Chapel, Yosemite National Park, California
What is creativity? Is it the ability to come up with new ideas? Is it finding different perspectives? Is it discovering solutions to problems? Or is it something deeper?
I’ve heard it said that “Creativity is cultivating wisdom, prudent words, and skillful actions needed for meeting the needs around you.” I think creativity is more than just random ideas popping into our head at just the right time. I think it is a character quality that can learned and developed.
And how do we learn this quality? Do you know who said “With my soul have I desired thee in the night; yea, with my spirit within me will I see thee early: for when thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness”? This was Isaiah, speaking of Jehovah God in Isaiah 26:9. And how do we develop this creativity? “I have more understanding than all my teachers: for thy testimonies are my mediation.” An aptitude for seeing and meeting the needs around us comes from observing the character of God and meditating on his word. Creativity is “learning to see”. Is this not what we do in photography? I’ve had many people ask me to teach them to “learn to see”. Skilled photographers see the world around them differently because they have “learned to see”. By analogy, we can learn to train our spiritual eyes in the same way we learn to see with our physical eyes. From a midday stop at Yosemite Valley Chapel under typical, nothing-special light, I’ve pulled together 5 different things that we can do to help us start training our eyes to see more creatively.
First off, here’s what the chapel looked like from the road; a tourists perspective:
1. Incorporate the surroundings. Incorporate is the key word here. Snapshooters usually aren’t thinking about the concept of dead space. In the above image, shot from the road, there is some dead space on the left that doesn’t really contribute to the rest of the composition. But when you you start purposely thinking about what is surrounding your subject, you can start incorporating them into your picture. It’s like a puzzle; look at each element in the scene and position them deliberately and in pleasing spatial relationship to each other. The following picture isn’t that much different than the one above. But I repositioned myself in a way that allowed me to incorporate the bench into the frame, keeping it from being a random element that detracts from the scene:
In seeing the needs around me, it is important to consider all the factors involved before taking action. Those who do are considered creative.
2. Consider all the angles. Of all the pictures I took here, the following is one of my favorites. It was practically shot from the back of the church, and was only one of few windows of opportunity to shoot through the close-surrounding trees. But I wouldn’t have seen it if I hadn’t walked all the way around the building. To me, this angle suddenly transforms one of the most photographed chapels in the world into a quaint little church building tucked away in some remote wilderness, far from the hustle and bustle of a major tourist attraction. Walking completely around a building, or considering all the angles on one subject, may produce some surprising results.
Creativity considers all the angles too. Creativity is the result of concentrating on one need and asking many questions to find a solution.
3. Step out from what feels natural. Most people see the chapel from the road. Those who have the time, stop at the little parking lot on the left, get out, walk up to the front door and snap a picture. While I was there, there were some people who came back to the road or walked around a bit more to get a good shot. But what I decided to do was cross the road, and hope that the grass in the foreground would cover the road and the well-trodden and distraction-littered lawn in front of the church. At first I thought it was going to be a long shot, but I soon realized it was the best angle of the day. So good, in fact, that I decided it was good enough for the 2015 calendar! Perhaps hundreds of people have already done the same thing, but it certainly wasn’t the natural thing to do and I am positive that the vast majority of tourists would not do it. Contemplate what you naturally do so that you can give it a second try from a less natural approach.
Creativity never gives up. Clarence Jones said: “The more obstacles you have, the more opportunities there are for God to do something.”
4. Get down low. One of the most common mistake I see among photographers is that they shoot exclusively at eye level. That’s what’s natural, right? And even myself; I have often thought that surely it doesn’t make that much difference, especially when I’m in public. But it does! When appropriate, get down low . . . like, REALLY low, belly-flat low . . . and you’ll see a whole new world of interesting possibilities.
George Washington Carver said: “When you do the common things of life in an uncommon way, you will command the attention of the world.”
5. Visualize both wide and telephoto. This last idea for training our eyes to see more creatively comes through experimenting with your lens. I like to force myself to shoot a subject with only a wide angle lens for a while, and then switch to using only a telephoto lens for a while. It’s a lot of fun. And you’ll be surprised just how much a scene will change by simply stepping forward or backward to accommodate for your choice of lens. If you become familiar with the capabilities of the lenses in your camera bag, before too long you’ll be able to visualize what a particular subject would look like shot wide or shot telephoto and start with the one that you think will best suite the subject or situation.
The more we meet the needs around us, the more quickly we’ll be able to respond with an appropriate solution. We can be preparing, learning, and developing creativity even before needs arise by studying, memorizing, and meditating on the Scriptures, the ultimate source of wisdom and creativity.
Well, I hope those thoughts are helpful for the next time you find yourself looking for a more interesting perspective! You can buy one, two or just a few of the calendars in which this picture of the chapel was used for $10 each by going to the Staddonfamily Store. For 9 or more calendars, you can get free shipping plus quantity discounts as low as $5 each on the Lenspiration Store. Thank you for promoting a Christ-centered, creationist worldview in the world of photography!