Comments on Individual Photo Prayers by the Author and Others from 2010-2012
"Your photo prayers are such a gift to me every week. It usually makes my day and is such a creative visual experience,
combined with 'beauty' and a spiritual meditation. You are teaching us that beauty is all around us, all the time. Thank you." —Anneliese Strube
The Rev. Doug Gerdts included my Photo Prayer in his weekly email to members and friends of First & Central Presbyterian Church, Wilmington, Delaware. Doug said, "I occasionally include one of Danny Schweer's 'photo prayers' in my weekly emails as I find them personally thought-provoking and inspiring. This one was not only eye-catching but soul-catching as well. Take a moment and read Danny's brief blog entry about the 'busy, busy, busy' word selection. As a corollary, I'm offering this link to a great article in Sojourner's Magazine entitled, Ten Ways to Live 'Almost Amish'!"
Also, I was pleased to see that Westminster Presbyterian Church in Wilmington, Delaware included this Photo Prayer in its Weekly Word newsletter emailed to 600+ members.
I wrote an essay to go with this prayer, the first essay on my new blog. Click here to see how the few lines of this prayer get expanded into a dozen paragraphs, including links to two videos that play Saxie Dowell's "Three Little Fishes" song, a song I remembered from the early 1950s.
A friend writes: "My son, Joe, who lived not two months past his seventh birthday, would look at the clouds and say, "Mom, I just love the clouds. If I were not here, I would miss the clouds." I never see clouds that I do not think of the love that I feel for that child, who would now be 43."
In 2007, this building was being renovated in the heart of Paris, so they wrapped it in some kind of cloth or plastic to contain the dust and debris. Instead of leaving the cloth blank, they printed a distorted photograph on it, I assume of the old building. Imagine a photo four stories tall! This is a photo of that photo wrapped around the building. Surrealism is alive and healthy in the city of its birth. Click here to learn more about the covering of this building.
Pastor Doug Gerdts of First & Central Presbyterian Church, Wilmington, Delaware, featured this prayer pic in the email he sends each week to his congregation. He said, "I love the comment: 'We'll do our best even if this day is not our best.' Although it's oversimplified [to say so], we get to determine what kind of day we're having since we control how we respond to the circumstances our lives encounter. When we relinquish our emotions and attitudes to others, is it any surprise that we may not be having our best day? Walk with friends ... and go with God!"
David C. Fox, a photographer, said: "Wow Danny: very cool image! it's not a straight photo, is it?" Danny replied, "Absolutely a straight photo! The falling water splashed, throwing droplets onto the overhanging rock, forming icicles. I like it that the icicles are not parallel but hang like crooked teeth. I suppose they were formed at different times, blown by different breezes. My shutter speed was 1/10 second to let the moving water go hazy, the camera braced on a rock to keep it steady and the icicles sharp."
Helen Ohlson, a writer, said: "When I lived in Montana, it used to creep me to see the family graveyards on the ranches or at the edge of small towns. I thought, how do you grow up looking at that? I wouldn't want to be reminded every day that my grave was waiting for me at the end of the street. Since moving to Arden, I pass my future gravesite every day. I have lived here long enough (over 20 years) to have known and cared about many of the people who now lie below the ground. My attitude has changed, and I now find peace when I walk along the stone wall and among the tombstones and grave makers. It gives me comfort to know I will be among friends and neighbors when it is my time to explore the other side of Arden."
Kerry Harrison, a photographer in Delaware, said: "What a amazing image Danny! Did you set yourself up and just wait for the perfect moment? Also was this taken with a iPhone or your regular camera?"
The photographer said, "I had nearly three hours between flights at the airport in Houston, Texas recently. I spent most of an hour sitting on the floor photographing the people flowed past me on the moving sidewalks. There were six of these abstract glassworks by Gordon Huether behind the sidewalks, an installation titled "Over Houston." I kept moving around, using them as backgrounds. You're right, Kerry, I just waited for people to pass by. I love the reflection from the floor. This image was taken with my digital SLR, a Fuji S5 -- better optics, more pixels than an iPhone."
Marita Short, in Namibia, Africa, said: "This is beautiful and so very true! I loved it also because for me it was a reflexion of myself this morning... the rush to get everyone to school and yet walk into work as if all is calm and collected! That's the fun part of being a parent... Sometimes it's like total chaos: this one can't find his book, that one is looking for clothes, you must still manage to get everyone fed and in the car to be on time at the school, ohh and remember to dress yourself ... then you drive to work and by the time you arrive there, nothing on your face shows that you were very close to 'strangling' a kid! Ha ha!"
Local photographer Theresa Knox said: Very, very nice... but, brings back an unpleasant memory! When I was a little girl, my dear grandmother used to swish my legs with a mimosa tree leaf when I was naughty. With a swipe she would pull off the little leaves which resulted in a weapon that felt like you were being attacked by a hundred wasps! "Thanks for the memories!" :0)))))
Pastor Doug Gerdts of First & Central Presbyterian, Wilmington, Delaware, said, "I especially liked this photograph and the prayer that accompanied it. My favorite line? 'hoping to find welcome in the land just right.' May it be so!"
Kathy Livingstone, a teacher in southern New Jersey, said, "As a special education teacher who is finding this year's class especially challenging, I say to you, 'I needed this Photo Prayer today!' Thanks!"
The Rev. Elizabeth Masterson, rector of St. Nicholas Episcopal Church in Delaware, said, "Since I am a fabric 'addict,' this particular photo prayer pulled me into the prayer. When I make vestments (chasubles and stoles) and wear them, the colors represent a joyful passion about worshiping God. I hope that my spirit is true and transparent so all can share in the worship!!"
Marina Lutz said: "Thank you for this one. I like the light patterns reflected on the water. Here's a poem I'd like to share; I wrote this around the time that my father died."
The dark places
Those dark and lonely places
I visit them and revisit them
They threaten to destroy
My past, present, and future
The dark places
These overwhelmingly dark places
If I let them, they will overtake me
If I let them, they will be my
Past, present, and future
These dark places
Let there be light; and there was light.
O please dear God
Help me to behold the light
So that I may not have to live
And revisit those dark places
Poem copyright 2011 © Marina Lutz
Walter, an attorney in Austin, Texas, said, "Do you ever tire of photographic magnificence? Rhetorical question. Don't answer it." The author answers anyway: "No matter how good the photo, eventually I tire of looking at it, as though I can chew it only so long before it loses its flavor. Some photos, though, are like Juicy Fruit gum: the flavor goes on and on. Something similar happens with seeing. If I have seen the same thing again and again (my office, for example), it becomes harder and harder to really see its magnificence. My eyes grow stale. That's why traveling is so rewarding. Suddenly our eyes are fresh. Photography is similarly rewarding. It refreshes my eyes. It keeps me looking for the magnificent, wondering where it will appear next."
The author said: "Forty years ago, Libby Tracey introduced me to the playful poetry of E. E. Cummings. His poem — "Space being (don't forget to remember) Curved" — derides the worst aspects of scientific imperialism." See what Shelley Powers said about Cummings (who always spelled his name with initial caps).
Judi, an AFRECS board member, said: "I love the picture. However, I am not sure what the prayer is intended to mean." The author replies: "Once again I have failed, probably because I didn't spend the usual three hours working on this prayer. Often I want to do something exceptional, or want to do something no one's done before. Then, on reflection, such grandiose desires seem to be actually quite small, that a much better desire is to see God's kingdom here on earth."
Bill Meacham, a philosopher, said: "Hmm. What if we are convinced that God wants us to do what no one has done before? Or at least to give it our best shot to be exceptional?" The author replies: "Yes, seeking God's will does not exclude being exceptional, but often wanting to be exceptional is simply egotistical in the smallest, grubbiest meaning of the term. Then again, as you may be saying, even the ego is part of God's creation, a good part of it, part of what's best."
David G. Smith, amateur botanist of Delaware Wildflowers, said: "Of the plants on the Delaware flora checklist, I think this one has to be either Allium vineale or Allium canadense. I'm not sure you can tell which from that picture. I would guess A. vineale, as I think that one is more common. Take a look at these pages and see what you think. Your photo shows the plants with the paper covering of the flowers or bulblets still intact. See:
Seems to me there's a big difference between wanting to achieve something exceptional, and wanting recognition for it. We ought to all try our best at whatever we do, and there's nothing wrong with hoping the results are exceptional."
The author reconsiders: What if exceptional was replaced with unlike others so that the 3rd and 4th lines become:
Or we will give up our tiny desire to be
unlike others and look instead to the best:
Two huge motivations in my life have been (1) to be exceptional and (2) to be like everyone else. The result is that, like everyone else, I am exceptional.
I went to sit in my favorite easy chair but, since it was occupied, I took a photo instead. Sharing your life with others foils many expectations, and opens endless possibilities.
Fluorescent lights produce ethereal images if you dance in front of them with your camera. One reason I like this series of images is that they are photographs, showing us the world as it really looks. Sure, the camera is moving: this is how the world really looks if you look at it while dancing. Because fluorescent lights flicker on and off, patterns appear. Wide-angle lenses and slow (10 second) shutter speeds work best. For another of these images, see Photo Prayer 2007_02.
Craig, with Camera Works in Arizona, said: "This reminds me of some of the images I saw last night in "Tree of Life". U should check it out, if you haven't already. Simply spectacular cinematography. The movie itself has its problems, but it's really worth seeing." The author replies: The opening sequences in the movie "Tree of Life" are of light sculptures created by Thomas Wilfred, who started building them in the 1920s if you can believe Wikipedia. Here are some YouTube movies of Thomas Wilfred's light sculptures.
I cut down this walnut tree because it grew where it was not wanted, in the middle of a hedge. If I cut down what is out of place, what does God do? What's our place? See Photo Prayer 2011_25. When making my photo, I was thinking of Joe Rosenthal's 1945 photo of the flag raising on Iwo Jima, which some consider the best photo of World War II. In later years, when asked about his photo, Rosenthal would say, "I took the picture, the Marines took Iwo Jima."
Photographer Theresa Knox asks, "How many attempts?" The author replies: As I remember, about eight to ten attempts. Digital cameras make shots like these much easier than film. Set the camera on a tripod, set the timer, run in front, boom! Then look at the result and adjust stance, hands, tree, etc... In half an hour or so, I was able to create the image I had imagined.
Gild Hall here in Arden, Delaware, is getting a new roof and ceiling, so everything had to come out of storage. A relic from a Gilbert and Sullivan production, this paper-mache giraffe was no longer wanted until my wife adopted it. I knew nothing about it until I stepped out the door. The following names have been suggested for the giraffe: Uncle Sam, Twiggy, Daniel, Willie Nelson, Spots & Stripes, Zoe, Esmeralda, Yow!, Ediff Piaff Giraffe, Dude, Gerri, and Stretch.
Bill Meacham, a philosopher, said: "Hey, have you heard Paul Simon's latest album, So Beautiful or So What? Many of the songs remind me of your prayer-poems."
At first I thought this catbird was fussing at me, but then, because it hangs out with me whenever I am in the yard, I decided it is my buddy. It talks to me and I talk back. My telephoto lens was fully extended to 200mm (effectively, 300mm). Settings: 1/230 second at f5.6, ISO 400. My feathered friend was six to eight feet from me.
Craig, with Camera Works in Arizona, said: "Good bird picts are deceptively difficult to get in my experience. Just getting close enough can be a major obstacle. On our recent backpack thru southern Arizona (trying to outrun the wildfires!) we saw many new, cool birds, but damn if I got any good images of any of them. The wild birds of course are the hardest; then the jailbirds, of course, are pretty hard too....."
Tom, in Delaware, who often photographs birds, said: "These little guys don't mind when you get close. Wish cardinals were the same!"
Boff Whalley, writer and guitarist for Chumbawamba, has been visiting our utopian village of Arden, Delaware. His inspiration for "Tubthumping" -- the song I quote from in this prayer -- was his next door neighbor who, years ago, arrived home drunk singing "Danny Boy." The neighbor would fall down but get up again. Boff admired his neighbor's persistence, defiance, and resilience.
Terri said, "Thank you for reminding me that God will always remind us of the good things and give us an opportunity to revisit them, even if we've traveled far beyond the original experience." The author replies: "An interesting take on my prayer. I was thinking of more mundane things, like driving to the grocery store and realizing, just about the time we arrive, that we've forgotten the shopping list. I did that yesterday, and did not turn around and go back to get the list. Instead, I relied on my memory, which meant I got about half of what was on the list and five things that were not! But also, in writing this prayer, I was thinking about how we forget God and, when we do, we should turn around, no matter how far down the wrong path we've gone."
Tom, in Delaware, asks: "How did you come upon this opportunity? Are you riding for the fire company?"
The author replies: "I live at the corner of an intersection with a deceptive curve that challenges many drivers, especially when they are drunk or over-confident or both. My neighbors and I rush out when we hear a crash; afterwards I document the event. This shot was maybe 2:00 a.m." See also: 2010_32, 2009_32, 2008_36, and 2008_30.
Craig, with Camera Works in Arizona, said: "I love love love the composition in this, almost Rembrant-ian. It looks posed???"
The author replies: "This is an unposed, candid shot. I'm really not very good at posing people, or at posed portraits. I admire you for making a living at it!"
Loss is symbolized here, perhaps too obviously, by a shattered Christmas ornament. Photographing broken things is one way of mourning their loss and commemorating their death. Just last week I photographed two broken wine glasses our cat had knocked to the kitchen floor.
- "and in turn, we claim you, baby Jesus, Emmanuel!" —Teri, New Jersey
- U never seem to let a photo op go to waste! Very nice... so original! —Theresa, Delaware
Milton, in Austin, Texas, said this reminds him of two of Rilke's poems translated by Robert Bly:
- Whoever you are: some evening take a step
- I find you in all these things of the world