I’ve been trying something new with my photography lately. You know on digital cameras how right after you take a picture it shows you a preview of what you just shot? Well, I went into my camera settings and turned off that feature. I don’t want to see a preview anymore. You might think that’s not such a big deal, but I have a suspicion it’ll make a profound impact on how I go about taking photos, and help me be the kind of photographer I want to be. Let me explain.

Back in the film photography days each picture you took cost money. Those that have never used a film camera before can’t really appreciate this, but each click of the frame, each shutter press used up film, which had an inherent value to it.  A roll of film cost $4 and if you had 24 exposures per roll thats about $0.16 a shot! It might not be much, but even just $0.16 makes a difference to your technique. It forced you to stop and think, to use your brain a little. Imagine that!

“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.”
-Henry David Thoreau

All too often with digital cameras these days the tendency is to shoot first, see later. It’s so easy to pull out your camera, take a picture, look (or don’t), try again, put camera away. Or even worse- hold the shutter button down machine gun style as you take 20 pictures in rapid fire. The thought (if there is one) is that surely ONE of the twenty will be good. But really let’s be honest- all you get out of that is 20 bad pictures. Digital cameras and smart phones make it so easy to remove all thought from the process. But this isn’t the kind of photographer I want to be! I want to be creative. And with high end equipment you’re really doing yourself a disservice by not thinking a picture through. Photos are capable of being so much more!

Reversing the order will train myself to see the picture in my head before I see it on a screen and inject value again into each and every picture I take.

That’s why I’m trying to change the way I take pictures. Instead of shoot first, see later I want to SEE first, shoot later. Reversing the order will train myself to see the picture in my head before I see it on a screen and inject value again into each and every picture I take. This is how you used to have to do it in the film days. You didn’t have a choice. And maybe we took fewer photos back then. No doubt! (look at Flickr- 60 billion new photos every month) But the photos we took back then were better- more thoughtful. And it can be that way today too if we try. I want to recapture the creative aspect of photography. And I’m hoping that by making some slight changes to the settings on my DSLR I can get more value out of my pictures.

Kim and I were meditating and reflecting on Jesus’s parable of the House Upon the Rock from Matt 7:24-27. I’ll quote it here just so we’re on the same page:

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

This story reminds me of one of the best and greatest things about being a Christian. Namely, that we have something solid to put our feet on. Sure, it’s comforting to know that I won’t go to hell for my sins. It’s comforting to know that I get to spend eternity with my Lord and Savior. But it’s also nice to have something on which to base my life, here and now. Some people call Christianity a crutch. I call it a FOUNDATION. And, really, don’t we all need a foundation? The fact of the matter is that we all have storms in life. We get faced with things at work, temptations, difficult decisions. Crisis’s at home. Sickness. Loss of a loved one or friend. These things have a way of rocking our world, and if we’re not careful we can get irrevocably capsized by them.

Some people call Christianity a crutch. I call it a FOUNDATION.

For me having Christ in my life is my grounding. He is my ‘foundation’. When faced with difficult decisions, or unsure of the path ahead, or how to respond to such and such I see in the news. . . I know I can always go back to the Word of God, the Bible, and get a bearing on what is right. Proverbs 3:5-6 says “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.”

We live in a confusing world. It offers us so many choices, and so many conflicting belief systems. I for one choose to believe the God of the Bible. He has never let me down, and I know that His word will never change and always be true and right for me in whatever situation I’m in. Planting my two feet firmly on Him I know I’ll be able to weather any storm this life has to throw at me. Amen!

I really appreciate this blog post and reminder from Pastor John Piper about how smartphones and the internet can threaten our focus on God. I think this is a message that needs to be repeated again and again as it is an increasingly relevant struggle in our high tech, busy society. This is one of the reasons why I’m starting to prefer what I call ‘dumb devices’ laying around instead of smart ones. I find that the less complicated a device is, the less connected, the more I’ll be able to enjoy it. See my blog post: The KISS principle. Why dumb devices are the smart choice.

I’ll try to take Piper’s advice. I don’t want to be distracted by technology. Instead of firing up some app on my iPod I’ll resolve today to fire up my Bible app, or better yet, grab my good ole fashioned Bible. The Bible is still the best.

I love it how kids in the village follow us whenever we visit and wherever we go. In this particular picture we dropped in on their village just to park our cars on our way up to the waterfall. I’m sure these kids have been up to that waterfall hundreds of times since they were born and it was no big deal for them. But the fact that there was a large group of us, especially a large group of Westerners, made it seem extra special. So they followed us all the way up. . . swam in the natural pool with us, ate rice on the rocks, and accompanied us all the way down. Such a charming little delegation. It reminds me that everything done in Indonesia is group based. In their minds it’s always more fun to do something as a group. Decisions are made as a group, you travel together as a group, and of course, you vacation together as a group.

This reminds me of one time this ‘group mentality’ almost worked against me. . . almost. My mom was visiting and we had planned a trip to a remote town in the mountains. We like to go to this particular spot because it’s isolated, quiet, and really quite beautiful. We thought it’d be a great spot to unwind a bit and get away from culture shock (for my mom’s sake). We also wanted some quality time with her before she went back to the States. So before she arrived I happened to mention our plans to a friend who was over one day. Big mistake! Never mention a plan or idea you intend to do privately to an Indonesian. As soon as I mentioned we were going up the mountains with my mom he got the idea in his head that, of course, it’d be more fun if he came too. Before I could say a word he immediately got on the phone with his boss to arrange a few days off of work. With dread I could hear the conversation unfolding over the phone. When he was finished he ended his call with a triumphant look on his face and told me that it was all arranged for him AND his boss to accompany us up the mountains. So what do you do in a situation like that?? Well, many times we concede to the culture and ‘go with the flow’. But this was special time with my mom, time that we’d probably never be able to get again. But to outright reject or say no to someone is really rude too. So instead of rejecting him I affirmed his idea and stressed that we could go up the mountains with his boss SOME OTHER TIME. It wasn’t a complete cancellation, only a postponement. After a few repeated uses of ‘some other time’ he got the message and dropped the subject.

So sometimes the group mentality works for you, sometimes it works against you. Overall, I really admire the way people band together here and do things as a community. Group and togetherness is always the first consideration. It’s a little shocking to go back to the States and experience the individualistic society we have there. It feels stark and lonely and incredibly confusing. But here in Indonesia it’s amazing how fast they form bonds and invite you to become part of the family. It’s helped us adjust to living here. It’s helped us feel a part of this community even though we’ll always be so foreign and stick out like sore thumbs. It’s helped us in many ways.

I think this aspect of Indonesian culture will always stick with me. I think group mentality has seeped into my blood. I have a bend toward group now that I didn’t use to have and I see that as a good thing. I suspect I’ll be slower to voice my own opinion and happier to follow the decision of the group. Call me a team player!