Tuesday, April 6, 2010


I’ve taken lots of “people pictures” here lately. Some have been documentary— the kind that shows the subject in a particular setting and could be used to accompany a newspaper or magazine article that further explains the “who, what, when, where, why, and/or how.”

Other photos I’ve taken have been less documentary and more “expressive.” For example, while attending a kite flying activity at the University of Georgia’s Research and Education Garden in Griffin, GA, I took several images of a mom, her two sons, and their grandparents. After taking one particular close-up image of the younger son, I checked the LCD screen to make sure the image wasn’t blurred, as can often happen when hand holding a camera.

“Oh, look!” I said to the grandmother as I held the LCD screen so she could see.

“How sweet!” she said.

As I showed the image to the boy’s mother, she asked, “Is there any way we can have copies of these?”

“I’ll be glad to share them with you,” I told her. “Just send me an e-mail at the address that’s on this card.”

When she contacted me several days later, I sent her an invitation to view the photos I’d uploaded to a private album on an on-line site and gave her instructions for downloading the ones she wanted.

She wrote back saying, “I LOVE the pics!!! Thank you SO much….This was an unexpected treat for me and my family…we appreciate it so much! ”

I replied, “So glad you liked the photos! I really love taking pictures, especially of people in “unposed” situations. Their heart/essence really shows during such times—for example, the sweetness/innocence on the faces of your handsome boys. I photographed at my grandsons’ baseball games last Saturday and captured some of the most precious expressions on their faces, too!”

That set me to thinking about other “people pictures” I’ve taken that have become favorites of mine. So, I decided to post a few of them in an on-line album here: http://picasaweb.google.com/johnniegaskill

As I selected the photos, I realized I liked them because they conveyed each subject’s essence—that is, his or her uniqueness or what I like to call “specialness.” The photos I selected also portrayed an emotion each of the subjects was feeling at the time I took the photo. Thus, each photo is a once-in-a-lifetime image since it cannot be recreated. Even if I were to photograph the same subject again in the same setting, the facial expressions and the lighting and even the angle would be different.

So, I love capturing those one-of-a-kind images that convey a subject’s uniqueness. And I do believe that each person has a God-given “specialness” that is to be acknowledged—and celebrated! If I, as a photographer, can capture even a glimpse of that awesome “specialness” then I am, indeed, happy!

I pray that all of the photos I take, not only of people but also of landscapes and flowers and animals and… will convey what the psalmist said to God many centuries ago: “Your workmanship is marvelous—and how well I know it” (Psalm 139:14, New Living Translation).

©2010 by Johnnie Ann Burgess Gaskill

Spring Will Come!

If I were to describe today, I could echo what Charles Dickens said years ago: “It [is] one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold; when the summer is in the light, and winter in the shade.”

The sun is shinning warmly enough (63 degrees, according to the thermometer), yet the brisk wind is bone-chilling. If I stand in a sheltered area, I don’t need a jacket; but if I walk out in an open space (such as my driveway), I need a coat, scarf, and gloves.

But soon it will be spring, for sure. The daffodils are finally blooming, albeit later this year than usual, and are dancing in the breeze. The ready-to-burst-open buds on the forsythia and other shrubs and trees will soon show off their colors.

Since spring has been delayed a bit this year, folks are saying this will be one of the most beautiful springs we’ve had in a long while. Rather than spring coming “here a little, there a little,” it will arrive all at once. Won’t that be delightful?

This winter has seemed to drag on and on, hasn’t it? Even folks here in the south have grown tired of it and are longing for spring. We are so ready to go outside and dig in the dirt. We long for sunshine’s warmth on our backs as we play and work outside. We’re eager to feel warm breezes blowing through our hair as we walk through neighborhoods ablaze with color.

Perhaps we love spring so much because, as Virgil A. Kraft said, “Spring shows what God can do with a drab and dirty world.”

In addition to beauty and comfort, spring brings hope—hope that God can and will make something beautiful of our lives and of the lives of others, hope that He will make something beautiful out of the ugliness that’s all too often seen and experienced in our world, hope that He will….

We know that no winter, no matter how long it lasts or how bitter it is, will last forever. Spring will follow, even if winter delays its arrival for a longer than usual time. Knowing that spring will come, one of these days, renews our hope that God will make all things beautiful in His time.

Consider, for example, the prophet, Jeremiah. He experienced a terrible winter of the soul, brought on by severe afflictions and frustrations that seemed to never end. After mentioning many of the things that caused his pain, he said, "The thought of my suffering and homelessness is bitter beyond words. I will never forget this awful time, as I grieve over my loss. Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: The unfailing love of the LORD never ends! By his mercies we have been kept from complete destruction. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each day. I say to myself, ‘The LORD is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in him!’” (Lamentations 3:19-24).

Having said that, Jeremiah then added, “The LORD is wonderfully good to those who wait for him and seek him. So, it is good to wait quietly for salvation from the LORD” (v. 25-26).

Waiting during a long winter is so hard. But that waiting is made easier when we have hope that God will change things for the better, which He surely will. The coming of spring reminds us once again of that great truth.

©2010 by Johnnie Ann Burgess Gaskill. Scriptures quoted are from the New Living Translation.

There's Wonder All Around!

Everywhere I look, I see things that fill me with awe. For example, one mid-February afternoon, I went out into the yard to photograph. I had no idea what I’d find that would make a good subject for a photograph, but I felt confident I’d find something, even though the landscape was composed mainly of shades of brown, gray, and black.

With pleasure, I noticed that the tender daffodil shoots had survived the snow that had blanketed them a few days before.

Normally, I could find lots of beautiful camellia blooms to photograph, since we have several bushes, each producing a different kind of bloom, but all the blooms and buds had been “burned” by the bitterly cold temperatures.

“Maybe I can find one that looks good,” I said to myself. Sure enough, I found one in a sheltered spot near the bottom and center of the bush. So, I picked it and then placed it in a spot on the bush where I could photograph it more easily. It looked very natural there, so I set to work.

The 12 mm extension tube I’d added to my 50 mm lens before placing it on my camera greatly magnified what I was seeing through the viewfinder. So, I literally caught my breath as I noticed, as if for the first time, not only the beautiful pale pink color of the petals but their gently curving edges and the way they fit so perfectly together, layer upon layer. Amazing! A true work of art!

Enthralled by its loveliness, I lingered there, capturing thirty or more images of that one bloom, from various angles. Finally, I forced myself to leave and walked around the house to the holly tree that was loaded with red berries. I sprayed some of them with water, watching eagerly for a single drop that would form at the bottom of a berry or leaf. As soon as I spotted one, I set to work, hoping to capture the surrounding colors reflected in that tiny drop.

Once again, I gasped with wonder at the image in the viewfinder. Such perfection. Such beauty in the bright red berries and in the deep green of the leaves themselves and also in the tiny droplet.

I felt a similar sense of awe as I photographed nandina berries in the front yard and a tightly encased bud on the Japanese Magnolia tree.

When the cold compelled me to go inside, I didn’t want to lose the sense of wonder I’d felt. So, I moved a 6-inch pot of tulips into better light and began to photograph their centers. With window light lighting them from behind and “fill flash” from my camera lighting them from the front, I captured amazing details that I would have missed if I hadn’t slowed down to take a long look.

Experiences such as these remind me that wonder is, indeed, all around. Whenever I see it, it leads me to worship the One who created such wondrous details. I’m thankful I can do that. According to Romans 1:25, some folks worship the things God has made but stop short of worshipping Him. How sad to miss the joy and blessing of worship! But far more importantly, how unfair to deprive Him of the praise rightfully due Him!!

(c) 2010 by Johnnie Ann Gaskill. These photos as well as others on this blog are for sale. To purchase, please contact Johnnie.