Photos I’ve Received: Opening Retreat – Bethany Straus

During the opening retreat for Colorado ESC back in August, Rev. Rebecca led us all in an exercise of using photography as a form of prayer and connection to the Earth. This exercise came in two parts: focusing on a single object in different angles and manners in order to see an object in many different ways, then going out into nature to find what places or things that called to us; Rev. Reb instructed us to not capture photos, but to receive photos – to aim the lens toward whatever caught your eye and attention.


I only recently took the time to look through all of the photographs that I received during the retreat, so I wanted to share the photos from this exercise and explain what I was feeling while receiving and/or when viewing the photos.


For the first activity, I focused on a light fixture that hung over the dining table of the house in which we were staying for the retreat (at Cathedral Ridge, a conference center in Woodland Park, CO). In order to get as many unique views as possible, I stood or sat in just about every corner at a variety of heights and angles.


Here are some of my favorite photos from the first activity:


In this photo, I was captured by the different variations of swirls that led my eyes throughout the frame; the large swirls of the light bulb, the fine swirled threading of the bulb, and the light swirls in glass shading of the fixture.



In case you couldn’t tell: the swirls of this light fixture really caught my eye.



I remember standing on my tippy-toes across the room for this photo and seeing the fixture at an angle from which I never looked at the fixture; instead of sitting below the light and looking up to see the entire bulb encased by the glass shade, I was barely seeing the bulb as it poked out from under the glass shade.


For the second part of the activity, I walked from the house to an open field, then headed toward one of the larger buildings on the property, as this area was slightly elevated.


Here are some of my favorite photos from the second activity:


Immediately after stepping outside of the house, I was drawn to the patch of flowers besides the walkway between the house and the driveway. While most of the places or things that I received photos of are found in multiple photos from different angles or shutter settings, this is the only photo of this bed of wild flowers; this honestly surprised me while I was viewing the photos, as I tend to be rather heavy on my shutter finger.


Content warning: If you don’t like/are creeped out by bugs, you might want to skip the next two photos.


Every time I photograph nature, I make an effort to capture images of the bugs and creatures crawling on plants, particularly on flowers. This time was no exception.



This photo made me laugh while I was viewing the photos because the bug looks like he’s jumping for joy!



This particular tree was catching my eye all week whenever I passed it because of the white bark that appeared to be covered in eyes. It struck me as such an eerily intriguing sight.



Each eye on the tree is so unique and striking, especially when seen while driving past.



When I saw this set of wild daisies (or whatever type of lookalike flower it is), I was immediately reminded of a friend from college, Sam, who loves daisies. I received quite a few photos of this type of flower, as they made me think of some very fond memories I have with Sam and other members of the my school’s Episcopal Campus Ministry.



Looking at this photo makes me feel as though I’m a squirrel crawling through a tree. I remember that while receiving this photo, I spent quite a few minutes fiddling with the manual focus in order to get just the right focus and depth-of-field that I was hoping for and I’m quite pleased with the results.



I couldn’t get over the irony of this sight: fresh stumps from former tree limbs framing a brand new birdhouse. Wood was removed from the tree, resulting in an attempted replacement.


Warning: one more bug pic


I love the way that the flowers essentially form an arrow that points to these bugs.


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Something about the flowers lining the ditch along the side of the road called to me. The contrast of the brown dirt road against the green, white, and yellow of the flowers and plants was incredibly pleasing to the eye.



Sitting on the side of the road, looking up through the tall grass, with some beautiful mountains off in the distance, I felt so content and at peace. I remember feeling like a bug looking up through blades of grass while I was in this spot.



I remember being absolutely captivated by the clouds during the retreat: there were so many full, intense-looking clouds that sailed through the sky. Therefore, it only makes sense that I received some photos of the clouds while finishing up with this activity.


I absolutely love the products of this exercise and I am so grateful that Rev. Reb lead us in this activity. Looking through these photos made me so excited for the next photos that I will receive as a reminder that God is all around through His beautiful creations, whenever and wherever that reception may be.

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