C.S. Lewis & The Why Of My Photography

In the movie, “The Matrix,” the character known as the Merovingian argues that the only real source of power is knowing the why of things. It is when we understand why we make a choice, or why things happen as they do, that we are best able to embrace the life we live. I’m not sure if knowing the why brings power or not, but I agree it is an important question to ask ourselves about many things in life, and that includes something as basic as photography. Growing as a photographer means more than learning new techniques or buying new equipment. An important part of being a photographer is understanding what drives you to create images in the first place.

Mt Iwaki towering over autumn colors in Aomori Prefecture, Japan

For me, the answer to that question leads to a quote from C.S. Lewis. In his book, “Reflections on the Psalms,” while discussing the nature of beauty and man’s experience of it, Lewis says the following:

“Just as men spontaneously praise whatever they value, so they spontaneously urge us to join them in praising it […] I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation. […] The delight is incomplete till it is expressed.

C.S. Lewis, Reflections on the Psalms Loc. 992-1001 (Kindle)

As I was thinking about why I enjoy photography, that statement came to mind. For me at least, it answers the question. Of course, my motivation isn’t monolithic, but I think this is what initially gave birth to my passion for photography and is largely what continues to drive that passion now. Photography is a way of sharing those things around us which inspire delight, awe, and praise. Whether it’s a grand landscape or a simple scene in one’s backyard, photography provides a way to share the experience with others. A photograph says, “I find pleasure in this, and I would like to share that pleasure with you.”

Sun beams illuminate morning fog over mountians near Mt. Fuji in Yamanashi Prefecture, Japan

Why do I find pleasure in these things? That is a deeper question, but my faith plays an important role here. The Psalmist (upon whose writings Lewis was reflecting) speaking of God says, “Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” (Ps. 139:14) My faith in God is the philosophical lens through which I see everything, whether I’m looking at a natural landscape or the glow of city lights. The one speaks of an intricately designed universe, intended to seed joy in the soul of man and point back to its Creator. The other points to the Divine spark in each human; God’s image in us which drives us to understand the world and create for ourselves, even if we frequently misuse this gift. The world is born of an Artist, and therefore is infused with artistry in all directions. For me, that background knowledge infuses these experiences with even deeper delight and a greater desire to share with others.

People hanging out in the evening at a small pub in Aomori City
The golden colors of dusk illuminate the skies and waters at Lake Teganuma in Chiba Prefecture, Japan

As I said, my motivation is not monolithic. Photography also has a professional element for me in additional to this personal element, so things like doing a good job for the client or helping support my family play a role as well. I especially enjoy when my work can help others, such as the projects I’ve done in Aomori Prefecture. I have also photographed the brokenness of this world at times, and the importance of that is not lost on me. Photography can also be a way of mourning. But the reason I have a camera at all and still use it today – my key motivation in photographic creation – is this sense of sharing the delight of the world around me. I hope that people can experience at least a taste of that joy through my work.

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    Aerial View Of Sunrise Over Lake Kawaguchiko, Japan

    This week my family took a short vacation to the Lake Kawaguchiko area at the base of Mt. Fuji. This is a place we’ve visited many times over the years as a family, and it’s always a joy to go back together. It’s amazing how different it is given that it is less than 3 hours from our house. It definitely has a much more relaxing atmosphere compared to the busyness of the Tokyo metro.

    Of course, I can’t help but do some photography on vacation, and sunrise is always a great time for it. Although, on this particular morning, I honestly wasn’t sure it would be worth it. I knew there were going to be clouds rolling in, and that could easily mean Fuji-san would be blocked from view. I’m glad I got up and went out anyway, because I ended up with some stunning images from this morning. The perfect combination of Mt. Fuji views and clouds made for a spectacular sunrise. I took a lot of images on my main camera (the Nikon Z 7), which I’ll be sharing soon, but this one from my DJI Air2S drone was an instant favorite.

    Drone image of Mt Fuji from Lake Kawaguchiko
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      A Quiet Place

      These images all come from a small lakeside park in New Hampshire not far from where my in-laws live. I love going to this place. There’s rarely anyone around, and yet I’ve taken a number of favorite images here over the years. These autumn images are no exception.

      One of my favorite things about this spot is how quiet it is. Sometimes I just need quiet. Don’t we all? I don’t get much of it where I live now. There’s been construction next door to both my house and my office for several months now, but even aside from that there’s constant traffic. I don’t mean to complain – there are many things I enjoy about city life – but I often miss the quietness of the New England countryside.

      Part of why this place is so quiet is because it’s in the middle of nowhere. It’s off a small highway that doesn’t go anywhere especially important. There aren’t any famous spots nearby. I don’t know if there are any restaurants or even a gas station in the area. There’s a small post office and an old church, and houses scattered about. It’s an easy spot to pass up, and many people do.

      Yet almost every time I come here, I find something of value either for my mind or my camera, and often both. I’ve visited this location dozens of times over the years. I don’t think I’ll ever tire of it. I’ve photographed it in sub-zero temperatures and in the summer heat. I’ve photographed it in the spring, summer, autumn and winter. I’ve shot wide angles, macro images, and even flown my drone here. I’ve taken countless images, and Lord willing, I’ll take many more. It’s not a famous place. It’s a quiet place. And that’s exactly why I love it.

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        The Time-Traveling Photographer

        One thing I love about photography is the ability to, in a sense, travel back in time. Yes, actual time travel is impossible – not just technologically, but logically; but I digress. Photographs allow us to be transported mentally to a moment that is of value to us. As a photographer that is especially true, because I can not only go back and look at my images at any time, but I also have a large quantity of unedited images sitting on storage devices that I can go back an edit when the urge strikes me.

        When I edit these photographs I’m focusing on details. I’m not only looking at the colors, but at fine points in the clouds or trees or rocks that comprise the image. I have the opportunity to explore the scene in a way that I may not have even done in person. As I do this, it reminds me of little things from the day – an earthy smell, the sound of geese flying in the distance, or perhaps the feeling of the breeze brushing against my skin. Sometimes it’s a specific memory. Other times, it’s a mental recreation based on a myriad of similar experiences. It doesn’t really matter; it’s true to the moment, and it’s valuable to me.

        It may seem banal at this point to talk about photography bringing one back in time. It’s cliché. I get it. But perhaps we let the mundane joys of art get lost sometimes, in an effort to be novel. It may not be novel, but I find the fact that we can capture the light of a given moment and hold on to it indefinitely to be extraordinary. These moments cannot be reproduced. You can never go back, it’s utterly impossible. Time marches on relentlessly. And yet, here is this moment standing in front of me, a testimony to the fact that yes, that memory is real. It hasn’t confused itself with some long forgotten dream, or been created by some quirk in the wiring of my brain. It really happened, I was really there, and I can embrace that moment as reality.

        These images all come from a spectacular day in the White Mountains in 2017. I got up very early and drove up to the mountains so I could hike for about an hour to this spot. I was hoping for a glorious sunrise over the mountains, but when I arrived it was drizzly and cloudy. I hoped things would clear up, but when I reached the top, I could see even less than I could at the bottom. I was disappointed, but given the effort it had taken to get here, I thought it best to wait a bit. I’m glad I did. After an hour or so of waiting in the clouds, things started to clear. As it lifted, this almost heavenly light began to break over the increasingly visible autumn colors below. I was all alone, my only company the occasional gaggle of Canada geese flying across the valley. I stayed at this spot for a couple of more hours, and took hundreds of images. What a morning!

        I’ve been a little homesick recently. I love Japan and I believe in the work my family does here, but I still miss home. I suppose it happens every year around this time especially. The closing months of the year are especially nostalgic. I’m glad I have so many unedited images from that day. It gives me a chance to travel back and experience it all again, almost as fresh as the first moment the clouds began to break.

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          Free Japan HD Wallpapers From Cherry Blossom Season

          Since travel to Japan is still impossible for most people due to the pandemic, I imagine there will be a lot of people wishing they could be here for cherry blossom season, daydreaming about hanami and the beautiful sights of this unique event. While I can’t open the borders for you, I can at least provide some beautiful images to enjoy while you daydream. Below are some of my favorite images from cherry blossom season here in Japan, prepared as backgrounds for your devices. A few are made as HD desktop wallpapers, and a few others are made for mobile devices.

          **Please note, these images are available only for personal use as a desktop or mobile device background.**

          I hope you enjoy! Please make sure to follow me on Instagram and Youtube to see more from the season and the rest of the year here in Japan!

          Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/lestaylorphoto/
          Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/c/LeslieTaylor

          Download Instructions:

          To download, simply click on the image which will take you to my galleries to download.
          See full gallery and download all images here: Japan Cherry Blossom HD Wallpapers

          Boats and Blossoms at Hirosaki Castle Park
          Crowds Of The Cherry Blossom Festival
          Sakura Blizzard at Hirosaki Castle Moat
          Hirosaki Castle Between Two Pink Cherry Blossom Trees
          Cherry Blossom Branch at Ashinokoen
          Boats and Cherry Blossoms At Hirosaki Castle, Japan Hirosaki Castle Behind Pink Cherry Blossoms_Portrait Blossoms On Blue And Clouds Hirosaki Tree and Boats_Mobile HD Hirosaki Weeping Cherry Blossoms_Portrait
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