I hear so many photographers lamenting about winter and the complete lack of inspiration they are faced with in the barrenness of the earth at rest; and I have to confess that for many years I was one of the lead lamenters. But in the last couple of years I have come to appreciate winter for the many opportunities of growth that it provides me as both a pastor and as an artist. With Mother Earth stripped down to her essential self, we are left with an amazing mixture of raw texture, light, shadow and contrast. Winter forces me to dig deep and move past the 9 gigahertz of wow that is inherent in spring and fall photography; and it forces me to seek on a much deeper level God’s active presence in the world. Some will look around and see only death and despair, but upon closer inspection, it is possible to see a vital and throbbing world that is full of promise and hope. Creation is busy working hard at staying alive and warm. Many animals must go more slowly to conserve precious reserves of energy, and in so doing there is time for reflection and contemplation. It is a gift from a creator who advises us to rest and renew ourselves on a regular basis – something that we tend to ignore when left to our own devices.
As a photographer, I must look harder and more thoughtfully at what is in front of me – at the interplay between land, water, sky and wildlife – things I tend to miss when I am busy drinking in the heady beauty of the warmer seasons. Through the starkness of winter I have learned how important it is to interpret the light as it is courted by shadow, and I come to appreciate how either one without its counterpart is meaningless. I have learned to really SEE what is going on right before my eyes – the seedpods that appear to be dead, but are in fact the incubators of life and promise; the dirty frozen snow on the ground that is in fact the critical moisture that is needed to sustain new life in the spring, and the tiny buds of future green that are deeply encased in the barren and bleak branches on the trees. Life continues during the winter; it is just going on at a much deeper level than usual. Through winter I have come to discover the beauty of a monochrome world, and I am beginning to think that I might be hard pressed to go back to the bells and whistles that come with warmer weather and color. I hope I don’t turn around and start lamenting spring!