Clear and Close or the Big Picture?

Oak Leaves and Ridge. Trabuco Canyon, California.
Where’s my Focus?
Every picture has its focal point. In this image, the oak tree in the foreground is crisp: I can see the dusky green of its leaves, the gray twigs thickening into branches, three parchment eucalyptus leaves, hang gliders visiting from a neighboring tree.
But if I try to study the details of the hilltop in the background, I’ll be challenged. I can make out patches of bare earth, swaths of native gray-green foliage, a craggy ridge gouging into a Tiffany sky–but that’s all I can see. The photo doesn’t yield enough detail to identify the plants on the hillside, or to determine if a footpath might lead me to its summit.

I could spend an afternoon studying the leaves in this photo, cataloging the endless greens, charting the angles where twig joins branch, scouting for a nest barricaded deep within the crown. And that exercise might lead me to some truth about the nature of oak trees.

I’d be studying those leaves because they’re the focal point the photographer chose for me.

But….what if the most important element in this picture is relegated to the blurry background?

I live amid a ceaseless onslaught of stuff clamoring for my focus.

My neighbor wants to chat about another neighbor’s failing marriage.
The television announcer reminds me that without a new car, my future is bleak.
Ads remind me that I could have a new life if I weighed less, looked younger, colored my graying hair.

Today I’m reclaiming the lens.

The photographer chose to show me the leaves.

But my heart reminds me to explore that ridge.

 1 I will lift up my eyes to the mountains;
From where shall my help come?
2 My help comes from the LORD,
Who made heaven and earth.
3 He will not allow your foot to slip;
He who keeps you will not slumber.
Psalm 121:1-3 (NASB)


  1. Very interesting, Sheila. I'd never thought of the lessons in photos before. You know, I will think of you every time I see a photo that focuses on one thing while leaving another part out of focus. Thanks for your insights.

    Come to think of it, there's a whole sermon there! Maybe even a theme for an entire memoir!


  2. Sandra Heska King

    I love photos like this where the near frames the far. I think it's a reminder, too, that we don't yet see clearly. But one day…

  3. Thank you for reminding us to re-focus and to notice the BIG picture as well as the small trivial things close to us.

    Taking my eyes off my self and keeping them focused on Jesus is what I want to do.

  4. Thanks for your comments…I learn so much from your responses. 🙂

  5. Oh, I love your writing voice. Happy to have visited your blog and to share "the view" with you for a little while 🙂 Be blessed,

  6. Debbie, thank you for your kind words.