The Confessions of a Landscape Photographer

by | Nov 30, 2018 | Perspective | 6 comments

Oh the allure of landscape photography….

To travel to the most beautiful places on earth!

To get lost in the wonder and awesomeness of God’s creation!

To experience the adventure of the unknown and encounter the realities of the wilderness!

140818-JAS-0236_South Fork Eagle River, Alaska, USA_Canon EOS 5D Mark II 26 mm 1-250 sec at f - 5.0 ISO 400

I’ve longed for it. I’ll never forget, when I was about 14 years old, the incredible desire to travel to Denali National Park after reading an article in an old Outdoor Photographer magazine. I’ve looked at far too many REI advertisements, with their displays of cheerful campers and confident hikers enjoying the most idyllic of scenic locations. I’ve read enough sobering adventures like “Endurance” and “The Long Walk” that one would think I should be more inclined to stay at home than to waste my time longing to experience the uncertainties of the wilderness myself. Surrounded by the hubbub of Chicagoland, I would pause to listen to the call of migratory sandhill cranes.

100827-JAS-5494_, Illinois, USA_Canon EOS 40D 17 mm 1-10 sec at f - 22 ISO 100

And I’ve pursued it. God has made possible many incredible opportunities. Denali is indeed an amazing place. I’ve camped in the shadow of Mt. Shasta. I’ve gotten myself lost in the John Muir Wilderness. I’ve hiked countless miles in countless places, in rain, in snow, in heat, to experience countless sunsets and countless hikes back to the car after dark. I’ve biked through the countryside in South Korea, walked the crowded streets of Mexico City and photographed from a military helicopter in Peru. God has allowed me to do more than my fair share of exploring.

But in the end, it is all so empty. Landscape photography, in and of itself, is unfulfilling. Repulsively unfulfilling.

130925-JAS-6410_Glacier Point, California, USA_Canon EOS 5D Mark II 47 mm 1-50 sec at f - 11 ISO 200

I’ve worn myself out, yet the longing is not satiated. I’ve feasted my eyes on the best nature has to offer, yet they remain discontent. I’ve invested in what my heart desired, and yet, why by a lake in Michigan do I feel my work to be so pointless that I would care less if I tossed my photography gear into the water?

Of all the things I’ve learned in all my photography pursuits, I’m convinced of this one single fact more than I am of anything else: that fulfillment is found only in relationship with God.

When I am surrendered to God and his will, my heart is at rest and I am fulfilled. Anywhere. At an overlook photographing a sunrise or at home living the daily routine. My surroundings don’t matter any more. And when God grants the gift of a picturesque surrounding, this state of complete surrender allows me to truly appreciate and enjoy the gift of seeing it….and photographing it, if that gift is given as well.

My desire is not to be a landscape photographer. It’s to be a follower of Christ. And, amazingly, this is when I find true fulfillment in life, including the area of photography.

What it means to “follow Christ” is something I’m still discovering. I wish I knew what it meant to “abide in Christ”, “walk in the Spirit”, or “submit to God”. But I have a longing to find out. And I’m trusting the promise,“Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you.”

150429-JAS-6556_near Backcountry Campsite #4, New Mexico, USA_Canon EOS 5D Mark II 17 mm 30.0 sec at f - 4.0 ISO 1600

6 Comments

  1. ANA

    HUMMM JAMES ¿SERA QUE HA OLVIDADO AL SEÑOR? ¿SERA QUE LE DEDICA POCO TIEMPO? USTED VA DE UN LADO A OTRO, CORRE DE AQUI PARA HAYA, SE DETIENE ALGUN MOMENTO PARA ENTRAR EN LA COMUNION CON DIOS? ¿SUS DIAS TIENEN MAS DE 24 HORAS? ¿CUANDO TIEMPO HAY PARA EL SEÑOR? CORREMOS Y CORREMOS EN ESTA VIDA Y UN DIA NOS DAMOS CUENTA DE QUE ESTAMOS VACIOS, O QUE ALGO NOS FALTA, CREO QUE HAY QUE CAMBIAR EL RUMBO, VIVIMOS A PASOS AGIGANTADOS, CASI NO HAY TIEMPO PARA OTRA COSA, ¿ESTA SU VIDA ESPIRITUAL SECA? A VECES ME SIENTO ASI, HAY DIAS EN QUE NO HAGO TIEMPO PARA LEER MI BIBLIA, VIVO APURADA, ALTO, ES HORA DE PARA Y ENFOCARNOS EN LA META: EN CRISTO JESUS. A VECES ME SIENTO COMO USTED, DEDIQUELE MAS TIEMPO AL SASEÑOR Y SABRA LO QUE ES ANDAR EN EL ESPIRITU, ESTAR EN CRISTO. BENDICIONES.

    Reply
    • James Staddon

      Sadly, ANA, I cannot say that I have always loved to spend time with God. Making time for personal devotions has always been high priority for me no matter how busy my schedule has been, but to run through the motions of devotions and actually fellowshipping with God are completely different. I’m slowly learning what that means.

      Reply
  2. Jamie Parfitt

    Your comments really grab me and keep me reading! The happiness…and then the despair…and then the calm answer! Yes, the views are empty without knowing who designed them all!

    The other day, I was at a little dollar store in Pennsylvania. The lady who ran the register kept calling everybody, “Honey.” I thought, “I could never do that. I don’t feel that way about all those people.” Then it hit me: maybe she DID feel that way! Maybe she really cares about people! I was humbled to realize that I had a lesson to learn from her, who might not even be a Christian. I left, pondering how I could see people as persons, not just faces in a crowd. Your blurred photo in the post reminded me of that meditation.

    Reply
  3. ANA

    ME GUSTA SU SINCERIDAD JAMES, NADA QUE OCULTAR, Y A VECES YO ME SIENTO IGUAL, ES BUENO RECONOCER NUESTRO LADO NEGATIVO Y RECONOCER QUE NECESITAMOS QUE DIOS VAYA TRABAJANDO EN CADA UNO DE NOSOTROS, SOMOS VASO DE BARRO Y EL ES EL ALFARERO. BENDICIONES.

    Reply

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