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!
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.
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.
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.”