August 18, 2019

David Cornwell: Come and See

First camera...Come and See
Pictures and Text by David Cornwell

From the time I can remember I’ve been interested in photography one way or another. It started out, I think, by seeing my mom and dad use a camera to take family snapshots. In fact I now have an old print, taken around 1940 or so, of me sitting in the grass holding my mom’s Kodak Bantam camera to my eye and looking through the viewfinder. When I was about twelve they gave me an Ansco Panda camera for Christmas. I was in heaven. From that time to this I have been involved in photography to one degree or another. It wasn’t until retirement that I had time to devote to my hobby in a serious way.

However it has always been more than a hobby. It’s a way to get me out into God’s creation. Here I’ve learned to see in new ways. But not only see, but also to listen. To listen seems to me, to be an important part of being with God.

Photography is an interpretation of the beauty we behold. It’s a rendition of reality, or a viewing of what is “out there” literally through a different lens.

It also means that I must slow down, wait for what will happen. The light will change in a subtle way. Something will move. Contrast will grow deeper. The sun will play some trick. A shadow will grow longer, or simply fade away. Landscape photography is the genre I’ve enjoyed most, although I venture some other directions also.

• • •

[click on a photo below, then click on it again on the page that opens for a full size image]

• • •

I don’t mistake myself for a great photographer. I’m just someone who has taken it seriously for some time, learned lessons, practiced, and at the margins keep improving. Photography in the digital age gives one the opportunity to learn at a quicker pace.

I’ve always found myself photographing scenes consisting of a pathway of some sort. In some ways they resemble persistent dreams. Often they start where I am and lead out to infinity— a place which in theory has no end.

For me a pathway has always involved walking. I learned to love walking from an early age because my dad and I would take long walks through the woods. These are some of my earliest and fondest memories. With him I learned to observe nature, and to just enjoy the walk. To be with him, to have a conversation, to love being with each other was what it was all about. I miss him, sometimes so very much.

There are two places I visit most often for photography. One of them, and the easiest, is the farm I live on. I’m surrounded by fields, woods, crops, cattle, woods, birds, deer, coyotes, foxes, and several other members of the animal kingdom. This is an eighty acre detached portion of my son-in-law’s dairy farm.

The other is a large nature sanctuary about fifteen minutes from home. It is Merry Lea Environmental Learning Center of Goshen College (Mennonite), consisting of 1,200 acres. This consists of “Unique geological features such as peat bogs, a marl pit, and glacial gravel formations are present. Observable management practices include wetland, prairie, and savanna restorations, as well as sustainable agriculture.”

The website states “Those associated with the care, management, and ownership of Merry Lea recognize that we are accountable to God for our stewardship of resources in the same way we are accountable for other aspects of our lives.” I’ve been free to come and go, and to roam this place as I wish.

Photography, to me, is about walking a certain path, and seeing something. Sometimes it’s about seeing something not ordinarily visible to the naked eye. When God created this earth and all that is in it, again and again God “saw” something. And what He saw was “good.” He worked from an image when He created us— “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion….”

My best photography is a result of a “vision”— an image that forms in my mind— one that I hope to convey. Photographers often use the words “luminosity” and “luminous.” Their understanding of these terms is rather nebulous in connection with photography, but it has to do with the word “presence.” One well known photographer said that for a photograph to be good it must have “presence.” And that it is luminosity that produces presence. And to be luminous means to be radiating or reflecting light, to be shining or bright. This all sounds a bit circular. But it is something we know when we see, and when we see we understand.

Was it something like this in the beginning? From “The Message:”

First this: God created the Heavens and Earth—all you see, all you don’t see. Earth was a soup of nothingness, a bottomless emptiness, an inky blackness. God’s Spirit brooded like a bird above the watery abyss.

God spoke: ‘Light!’
And light appeared.
God saw that light was good
and separated light from dark.
God named the light Day,
he named the dark Night.


  1. Off topic. The Holy Spirit has spoken strongly to me about prayed and intercession for Jeff Dunn. Can we get any updates about his condition so I will know how to specifically know how to pray for him?

  2. Thanks David for sharing these! So beautiful. I do photography at work (products etc), and am just learning the finer details of the craft. We don’t have a good camera at home, but someday I hope to have one and do the artsy stuff my soul hankers to do…I think I’ll find it to be inspiring and spiritually edifying as you have. Thanks again.

  3. Beautiful, David! Thank you for posting these. I love all the pictures, but perhaps Rugged Against the Wind is my favorite.

    • +1. That one looks like something out of Middle Earth.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        Especially when so much “photography” on the Web is “Selfie! Selfie! Selfie! Selfie!”

        • Adam Tauno Williams says

          Perhaps Autumn is how trees take selfies? When you are that gorgeous someone is going to photograph you.

    • “Rugged Against the Wind” is my favorite too. I clicked on that one right away. Thanks be to God for your fine gift, David.

  4. Beautiful photos, David! I love taking fall foliage photos here in Maine.

  5. Very good photos; as you noted, producing this quality work entails considerable time and patience. Here in the South, we don’t get such a rich color production unless we have abundant rainfall followed by a pronounced cold snap.

  6. so beautiful, DAVID . . . a visual poem

  7. David Cornwell says

    I appreciate the kind comments. Sometimes, not often, I’ve had this idea about a photograph in my head before I go out to take it, and am able to carry out that vision. And sometimes seeing a scene or object I’ve just known how it should be photographed. The lone tree was like that, and one or two in the woods recently.

  8. Vega Magnus says

    Off-topic thoughts, if you guys don’t mind. It’ll be very disjointed, stream of consciousness type stuff, so sorry for the poor readability in advance. I checked out the website of the church I used to attend very irregularly and they’re doing a series on the end times, inspired by Left Behind of course, and from your standard fundigelical POV. I started listening to the first sermon out of curiosity, but I turned it off after ten minutes because I began to feel very unsettled. I’m usually able to very easily brush of fundie stuff and/or make fun of it, but this particular sermon made me really think about why the hell am I even still bothering with Christianity anyway. I’m functionally agnostic anyhow at this point. I don’t pray because it seems unnecessary to me to tell an all-knowing/powerful deity something He clearly already knows, I haven’t read my Bible in a couple of years because I don’t feel that I have fully extricated myself from my old fundie mindset to read it properly and because I don’t have a theological background to understand the underlying historical nuances. And finally, other than this blog, the Christian Monist, and occasional Slacktivist postings, I have a difficult time identifying with any Christian material I’ve read. I’m absolutely done with fundigelicalism, but the progressive Christian stuff I’ve read on some Patheos blogs seems to be mostly either people who are just barely clinging on to a Chirstian identity at all, or people who are more focused on saying that it’s totally okay to do whatever you’d like sexually. It has little meaning at all IMO. So what is left then? I don’t know. Is it good enough to just throw up my hands and admit that I don’t know anything and am not at all convinced that it is even POSSIBLE to know anything? I used to think (And may still. I haven’t decided.) that even if it isn’t possible to know anything for certain about the purpose of our existences, asking the question and seeking for answers anyway was vitally important, but is that even true, or is it all just a waste of energy? Unknowable. Is stating that God is unknowable a form of unbelief? Now, on a more personal level, how would I change if I gave up on religion? Probably not that much. I’d even still read this blog. I’d just have a bit more peace of mind and potentially have sex before marriage. Whoop-dee-doo. And finally, even now, I think my primary motivations for retaining faith are a hope that there is something better after death and “fire insurance.” I can still have the hope about the afterlife as an agnostic, but the fire insurance, which I think is a terrible motivation for faith anyway, would be gone. It’s all so damned overwhelming.

    • Faulty O-Ring says

      Your remarks suggest that most forms of Protestantism would be a poor fit. (From my perspective, any church that takes Left Behind seriously is run by morons, but your comments on sexual morality seem to be coming from same sort of place.) So, that leaves a number of rather large Christian groups that you might find more congenial: OO, EO, RC, LDS, possibly a conservative Quaker or Mennonite church. Or why not try Buddhism or Judaism for a year? This would give you some distance and perspective. You would probably find that Christian imagery continues to bubble up, and is a part of you in some way.

      • Vega Magnus says

        I can tell you now that I’d come back to Christianity, probably like I am now. What does that make me anyway, as far as labels are concerned? Frustrated borderline non-practicing, yet still believing. Backslidden heathen, I suppose. 😀

        • David Cornwell says

          “What does that make me anyway”

          Well, for one thing it sounds as if it makes you honest. I like what several people have said here, and what Ric says below about the story. Jesus never forced people into a system, but when they were honest he invited them into the story with him. Churches can often disappoint and seem to get trapped into a warped story of their own making.

    • Vega Magnus,
      No magic answer here, just some hopeful thoughts. Rowan Williams writes (in “Tokens of Trust”, a book I am
      currently reading), “Basic to everything here is the idea that Christian belief is really about knowing who and what to trust. I shall be suggesting that Christianity asks you to trust the God it talks about before it asks you to sign up to a complete system.”

      It is easy to get bogged down in details and forget the over-arching story when reading the Bible. May I suggest a story-type read-through of the Gospel of Mark (short) or Gospel of John to review the life of Jesus. Ask God to speak to you as you read (yes, that is prayer). Prayer is simply talking with God (even though He already knows our needs). He likes to hear from us (I often know my son’s needs but I like to talk with him).

      May God’s Love and Peace be yours in Jesus through the Holy Spirit.

    • Vega Magnus, Maybe it would be possible for you to look at your life, the choices you make, the motivations that drive you, the things in which you find value, the way you already live, and see if in all of this there are intimations of, or hints at, potentially ultimate or transcendent values that you could recognize and affirm as meaningful to you. If you are able to identify these, maybe it would also be possible to see if any of them correlate in some way to any of the central affirmations of Christian faith, and then gradually and inductively build a bridge from what you have discovered to be central in your own life to some foothold in the Christian traditions as they have come down to us. It would be something of a patchwork job, that probably would need a good deal of maintenance, and it would take time for you to feel your way through the thicket of uncertainties and contingencies, but that would not necessarily make it any the less meaningful or true.

    • Vega, thanks for your honesty. As has been pointed out, I believe everyone who frequents iMonk has at one time struggled with “Churchianity” and fundigicalism, so know you aren’t alone.

      In addition to whatever everyone else has shared, I’m going to suggest you actually turn back to a little Bible reading because you’ll find it does NOT support some of the things you’ve been getting in the fundie world. I’ve been leading an adult class through 1, 2, 3 John and Jude and there are clear warnings against teachers and leaders who don’t focus on the Good News of Jesus Christ. I think if you dive back into the Bible and read with an open mind, you’ll find Jesus and God speaking AGAINST just the sort of thing that’s driving you nuts. You might find it refreshing to read a bit out of the four gospels and examine the things Jesus is FOR and the things he’s AGAINST. Read Matthew 23, especially. Then read the book of Hebrews, which is a great reminder that “It’s all about Jesus.”

  9. Big Vega~ Here on this day when David provides a break from religion, you choose to bring it up again in all its unpleasant reality. Good for you! If nothing else I would hope that here in this little country church on the internet, we can give it our best shot at dealing with reality.

    You mention listening to a sermon and “I turned it off after ten minutes because I began to feel very unsettled.” First off I would say this was the Holy Spirit at work, but because the sermon was bogus or because you were avoiding its message would be the question. Given the subject matter, seventy-five years experience says you were being protected from harm, the harm that lower spiritual evolutionary mindsets can inflict on those who are escaping its clutches of guilt and condemnation and law and damnation.

    These things are real at a certain level. Jesus provided the Way out and above, the way to learn and grow and rise into Kingdom living where God awaits us in Oneness of Spirit. The Way involves trust in Jesus and the Words which the Church of the Living God has preserved for us at least enough for the Holy Spirit to affirm or deny their essence. If you are a frequent follower here at this little church, you know this is not a simple matter.

    Your objections to this mess we have made of the teachings of Jesus strike me as quite valid. When push comes to shove, I can’t think of a better starting place in figuring this out than “to just throw up my hands and admit that I don’t know anything and am not at all convinced that it is even POSSIBLE to know anything?” Indeed.

    There is no way humanly possible to figure this out, especially on a logical, rationalistic level as bequeathed to us in the Reformation and the so called Enlightenment, which we are still struggling to overcome. The Way out appears in small matters such as you becoming uncomfortable listening to a sermon that beats you down in condemnation and fear. The Holy Spirit mostly whispers, not always, and we must gradually learn to trust.

    The spirit of darkness also whispers, when it isn’t shouting, and how do you distinguish? How do you discern? Ultimately I think the only solution to that is to throw all trust on Jesus, to call upon that Name for protection and guidance and ultimately, salvation, or rescue from a dire situation. Are you in a dire situation? It sort of sounds like it to me.

    These are all matters of choice. I do not see how we can approach these matters without realizing our God-given freedom of choice and its ensuing consequences. There are those here who will strongly deny that. I am telling you that you have free will to accept the Lordship of Jesus or not, as do we all. I can’t tell you what to do, only state that my acceptance of the Lordship of Jesus has saved my life here on Earth and forever more. Churches are another matter.

    The details beyond that are as varied as the number of human beings involved at any one time here on Earth. I would suggest that those folks who are caught up in the scenario of the Left Behind series are seriously in danger of being left behind for real as these events on Earth play out over our lifetime. Doesn’t mean they can’t wake up and smell the coffee further along on the other side.

    I would suggest that your best shot in this mess might be to throw your hat in the ring on the side of Jesus and take it like it comes, sort of like getting married, which is not a bad analogy. As to your fundegelical upbringing, about all I can offer is prayer. May you be healed and freed by the Power of God as demonstrated by Messiah Jesus and on offer to you today free of charge. May God’s Holy Spirit guide you and protect you and bring you the confidence to trust in that which you already know in your spirit. May you find peace and joy in knowing that you are accepted, adopted as a child of God with all privileges. And if you screw up, may you know that God doesn’t screw up and is patiently waiting for you to figure this out at your own pace. Let this be so.

    • Vega Magnus says

      Unsettled was the only word to come to mind at the time, but frustrated is a bit more descriptive. I haven’t listened to a great many of said church’s sermons, but I’ve heard enough to understand the way they think and act. They’re SBC, but the pastor isn’t usually all that bad. There’s been a few Kulture War sermons, (And he contradicts himself in regards to the Kulture Wars in other sermons not focusing on them IMO.) but mostly, the worst things I can normally say about him are that his sermons are shallow and his jokes are woefully unfunny. I guess I was expecting better from him for some reason, although it wasn’t at all surprising really. I’m just sick of people falling for this obviously ludicrous crap. Like I said, I’m usually not affected by such things, but it really hit me today

      Honestly, I find it fully logical and rational to admit to being unable to know anything. It’s quite frankly the truth. Claiming anything else is adding opinion into the mix, and while that obviously has its place, its a different discussion entirely. Still, like you said, the best thing is to just trust that God has everything handled. That’s the only rational thing to do, and it is the only thing that won’t make one either go insane or suffer from extreme cognitive dissonance.

      Oh, and as far as my upbringing, it wasn’t nearly as fundie as what I’ve heard some other people talk about here. I read some fundie books/magazines stuff when I was ten/eleven years old or so, but that was about it, and my parents are not very fundie either, although they probably are more Baptist than any other denom. My primary exposure to fundigelical stuff came in the form of my homeschool education which used A Beka curriculum. I thought a lot of it was bogus back then, but I never really realized the extent that it was bogus until I finished high school in 2012. I was near-suicidal that summer, but I think I’ve gone over that before in detail. I’m far better now though, mostly because of this place and Christian Monist.

      Thank you very much for your response. I very much appreciate it.

  10. David, thank you for posting your thoughts and photos. Very insightful and lovely, as usual.

    Vega, we’ve all been there; that’s why we hang out in this place for people who have been or still are in the Evangelical wilderness, and who mostly still have some sort of connection to Jesus. Whatever you do, stay honest. Hugs to you.


  11. David,

    Thank you for the beauty.

  12. Lovely pictures David,

    You should come take some pictures up in my neck of the woods. You can see my house from this spot (if the camera was rotated 90 degrees)

    Dundas Peak

    Here is a poem/song I wrote a LONG time ago to celebrate the season.

    The Leaves are Slowly Changing

    Walking down a pathway in September
    Seeing leaves starting to turn
    Efflorescent colors in a forest of jade
    Nestled in a field of fern.

    Then the North wind starts to blow
    Winter’s coming I know
    And with it comes the snow
    As the leaves are slowly changing

    The canopy of colors is changing
    Brilliance overcome by brown
    Another cold breath that brings on death
    And the leaves will come tumbling down.

    For the North wind starts to blow
    Winter’s coming I know
    And with it comes the snow
    As the leaves are slowly changing

    The leaves have to die for renewal
    So the tree might live until spring
    And Jesus had to die upon a tree
    So that new life to us he might bring.

    And the North wind continues to blow
    Winter’s coming I know
    And with it comes the snow
    As the leaves are slowly changing.

    • David Cornwell says

      What a wonderful photograph of Fall color! And your poem fits the picture. The only thing I am not really totally happy about is thinking about “Winter’s coming I know.” After last winter’s eternal cold and deep snow, thinking about another one isn’t all good.

      Your part of the world must be very beautiful. Keep it that way. I’d love to see it.

    • Nice, Michael. I like the repetition. Does that “form” have a name, or is it one you made up?