Saturday, June 5, 2010

It's the light, not the camera

The first thing people usually ask me when they see a nice image of mine is, "What kind of camera do you have?" That's usually not the right question. The camera and lens can make a difference, to be sure. But when it comes to outdoor shots, the quality of light is so much more important.

You can correct a lot of problems in a digital image with photoshop. But you can't transform an image captured in bad light into a good photograph. Unless, of course, you are looking for some funky, stylized look.

For these images of Julie the light on the beach was darn near perfect. Typically at 10:15 in the morning the light would have been too bright and harsh for good portrait shots. But the storm clouds brought some ideal conditions, at least for about 15 minutes. I almost missed it. I was taking some shots of the storm on the beach, when Julie and Becky walked by me toward the waterfront. I was heading back inside when I looked back at them and realized how ideal the light was.

The storm was moving in from the Southwest. The Sun was pretty high in the East, but its light was diffused because of light cloud cover. So you had diffused light in the sky, and that light was also hitting the white sand and reflecting upwards. All of that meant no shadows. Add to that the dark blue/purple clouds in the background and you got magical possibilities (and the iPad didn't have anything to do with it).

If you want to capture good to great images, learn about the light. Ignore the camera companies. It's not about how many megapixels your camera can swallow. I should also say that these images of Julie were captured with my so-so Nikon 18-200mm lens. It's not a very good portrait lens. But I didn't have access to my Nikon 105mm or even my 55mm or 35mm prime lenses. You use what you have. The quality of light is more important than the camera or lens (assuming, of course, you do have something better than a cell phone camera).

You can see more of these beach images here.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

The Sabbath for Today?

Interpreting and apply the fourth commandment takes a great deal of skill and wisdom. Of course, this is true for all of the ten commandments, but the sabbath requires special care. It is enormously significant to note that once one moved out of the land of Palestine, one encountered a different cultural situation. In Israel the Sabbath was culturally, even politically enforced. It was part of the accepted social structure. This was not the case in Ephesus or Corinth or Rome.

What many Christians forget is that the very possibility of a Sabbath rest for most people in any given culture depends upon those in authority. Or to put it another way: it is the particular duty of those in authority to grant and enforce the Sabbath. Note the language of the Sabbath law. It is not merely given to each individual within the culture, but God says “in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner within your gates” (Exodus 20:10). It is directed primarily toward those who have the authority to release others from the burdens of their normal six-day work—heads of households, masters, and the elders within the gates. Notice the phrase “within your gates.” Remember the gate of the city was the seat of the government. It was the place where the judges sat to pass laws and adjudicate cases. God expected legislative implementation of this commandment by Israelite authorities.

The Sabbath commandment demands social enactment and enforcement. This helps explain why it is given at this particular time (Mt. Sinai) in redemptive history and not earlier. God’s people had never before been organized into a nation until Mt. Sinai. In fact, without legislative implementation, the Sabbath law is impotent. It simply cannot accomplish what God intends. Among other things the Sabbath law is designed to protect sons and daughters, servants, slaves, and workers against abuse.   They are weak and vulnerable at the hands of those in authority over them.  The Sabbath is a gift given to provide them weekly refreshment. If the heads of households, masters, and elders do not submit to the Sabbath law, then servants are in trouble. You see, if the law only has force for individuals as they see fit, then sons and servants are left to the mercy of their superiors.  Even if they wanted to keep the Sabbath, the could never do so without the blessing of their superiors.  That's why the language of the law zeros in on those who have the power to release their subordinates from working one day a week.

The Sabbath, then, is the gift of God to the entire culture or nation.  But it is mediated to everyone through those with cultural power.  That means without a godly society and laws to enforce the Sabbath, it cannot be kept. The very people it is designed to protect cannot benefit from the law unless their masters either voluntarily comply or are compelled by law. Most of the people in any culture are indentured to a master (employer) and are therefore at their master’s mercy. In some sense, too, everyone is under a superior, who has the power to bind or loose with regard to the day of rest.

Therefore, a culture must become Christian before most people receive the gift of one day in seven off. If you were a slave in first century Ephesus and under a pagan master, did you get one day in seven off? No. Did you get the first day off? No. If you were a Christian indentured to a Roman master, did you get the Lord’s Day off? No. You had to worship early in the morning or late at night. Whose fault was this? The Christian slave’s? No. It was master’s and magistrate’s!

Now maybe you can see why the New Testament epistles, written as they are mostly to Christians living in cultures dominated by Roman or Greek pagan legal systems, do not bind Christian slaves with keeping the Sabbath. If they refused to work for their masters, they would be killed! What good would it do for Paul to insist that the Christian slave not work on the Lord’s Day? It would surely mean the execution or torture of Christian slaves.  (Just for the record: I'm not assuming a easy, unqualified connection between the old Sabbath and the new Lord's Day.  I have more to say on this in my next post.)

A weekly day of rest, then, is God’s gift to individuals mediated through familial and cultural authorities. Without a godly society and laws to enforce it, this commandment cannot be kept. Without those in authority acknowledging their duty towards God and towards those under them, this commandment cannot be effective.

What does this mean for us? As our culture abandons more and more of it's Christian heritage, we should expect that many of our parishioners will be put back into situations similar to those experienced in the early church. They cannot be asked to fall on their proverbial swords if their masters (employers and legislatures) turn their back on Christian wisdom and legal precedent, refusing to give them Sunday off. This is simply to recognize what ought to be obvious—that we no longer live in the same sort of Christianized cultures as did our Puritan forefathers in 17th-century England, Scotland, and America.