The Lyrics of Jethro Tull and religion - Aqualung album

 For many years I have been a fan of Ian Anderson and his band, Jethro Tull. The mix of heavy guitars and raucous flute playing has fascinated me. Songs like Locomotive Breath are big hits. A deeper look at some of the things that the group has recorded makes me really think about religion, and what mankind has done to pervert it.

I have grown up in a Christian household. I have also walked away from being active in my faith several times. I did not see the connection to the feelings of guilt that so many churches apply to their members. Other churches today are picking and choosing what to follow from the Bible.  One church I was attending had a pastor state publicly that there was no hell. Good people will all go to heaven, and you do not have to follow the Bible if you feel that those parts don't apply to you. Seriously? That person in essence called Jesus a liar. Jesus spoke about hell multiple times. He also said that "no man comes to the Father but through Me." (John 14:6).

One of the songs that Anderson recorded in the 1970s continues to run through my head the last couple of days. Titled "Wind Up" he speaks about questioning the church.  Some people say that Anderson's lyrics are anti-God and anti-Christian. In reality, I think he is trying to be a reformist. He is no Martin Luther, but he is pointing out his disagreement with the church. 

So I left there in the morning
With their God tucked underneath my arm
Their half-assed smiles and the book of rules
And I asked this God a question
And by way of firm reply
He said "I'm not the kind you have to wind up on Sundays"
So to my old headmaster and to anyone who cares
Before I'm through I'd like to say my prayers
I don't believe you
You had the whole damn thing all wrong
He's not the kind you have to wind up on Sundays

 So many people think they are doing the right thing by going to church on Sunday, living the rest of the week however they want, and then the next Sunday going back to church and asking for forgiveness. That is not what being a Christian is supposed to be.  God created us to have an ongoing relationship with him.   The Apostle Paul tells us to pray without ceasing. (Certainly not to spend every moment on our knees and not doing the things we need to do, but to be in constant conversation with him, about all of our lives). 

Although I am not  certain of Ian Anderson's actual beliefs about Jesus, he certainly brings up questions about what people are doing in the name of Jesus and the church,

In their song Hymn 43 he sings:

Our father high in heaven, smile down upon your son
Who's busy with his money games, his women and his gun
Oh Jesus save me

Opening lines tell us what men are doing  - their greed, their sexual sins, their violence an hatred towards others. These people are living life as they choose and pretending that it is what God wants for them, they then say they are saved. The line "oh Jesus save me" has a double meaning. These people in the song think they are saved because they say the right words. It also is the voice of the singer saying that we need to be saved from this false idea about Christianity. 

The ending of the song is not any more favorable:

If Jesus saves, well He'd better save Himself
From the gory glory seekers who use His name in death
Oh Jesus save me

Well, I saw Him in the city and on the mountains of the moon
His cross was rather bloody
He could hardly roll His stone
Oh Jesus save me

"He better save himself" - perhaps Ian is singing that he does not believe in Jesus because of what people are doing. Mor to the point though, I think he is condemning the people who misuse the church and the name of the Messiah. 

The final lines point out that Jesus is everywhere, and his cross is so bloody and he must be very tired of the sins we continue to pile up and expect him to forgive. The very bloody cross means that when he shed his blood to forgive us, he must have shed a lot of blood to cover the enormous amount of sin there is. Being hardly able to roll the stone is from his resurrection - not saying he couldn't do it - he did. Rather that the crushing weight of the selfish and evil things mankind does is unimaginable.

Our Lord wants to be there with us, to comfort and guide us. He did not simply want us to show up one day, say that I like Jesus, then go on our way. He wants us to have a relationship and for us to go the way of his teaching, where he will be there for us.

The 23rd Psalm says in verse 4:
 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

 God is WITH us. He is not sitting in the church waiting for us to come back. He is right there with us every moment.  Talk to him. He is not the kind you wind up on Sunday.  


Macro Views

 Using cameras has limitations. They have a minimum distance at which they can focus. That's where things like extension tubes and macro lenses come into play.  I recently picked up a set of Sandmarc add-on lenses for my iPhone 11 Pro Max.  I previously had a set of iPro lenses for my iPhone 6s, but with the new crop of cameras, Schneider stopped making cases and adapters to fit those lenses.  

 One of the lenses is a Macro which allows focusing less than an inch from the front element. The Sandmarc unit can be put on the 26mm wide-angle or the 52mm telephoto lens of the phone to give different amounts of magnification.

  This set of laptop RAM chips was a simple set-up, and then I added the small highlight using the Lens Light app on the iPhone to give a bit of lens flare.

One of the main issues with macro imaging is keeping everything sharp. On top of the limited depth of field from focusing so close, there is the issue of camera shake. The ideal setup is to use a tripod to lock the lens down and then a remote trigger. For an iPhone that could be a self-timer, using the volume buttons of the headphones, or a Bluetooth remote trigger. (The remote triggers are very cheap - a four-pack of them can be less than $10). Anything helps. Touching the phone itself to take the picture can cause the camera to wiggle, and make the picture blurry.


Mundane things can be interesting in macro-photography. This image is a close-up of some cherry jello.


Cell Phone Art - is there a special style?

 Several years ago I signed up for a couple of classes with the iPhone Photography School.  I took little bits and pieces from them, but never spent time to treat them as a class.  Now II am not teaching photography anymore, and have not shot any sports photos for the newspaper in a year.  I stopped taking photos almost completely for several months. Then in December I realized how much I missed it.

I am revisiting the iPhone Photography Academy courses - specifically the iPhone Photo Masters class. It has a whole section on identifying and defining your iPhone photography style.  One assignment called for us to assemble some iPhone images into a style album, then select 3-5 and use the Instagram layout app to put them into a bundle.

Here is the collage I created.

For decades my style was straight, clean, informational images. When I got my first iPhone (4s) it took me some time to warm up to the idea of using the camera in it. After all, I had real cameras.  Then Michael Fagans shared the book he was publishing about iPhone photography with me, and the Hipstamatic app changed my ideas. 

I still worked for newspapers and then for the yearbook at the high school, but slowly I found the appeal of filtered and altered images growing.  I have discovered I have a couple of different styles of photography. I have my journalism style, my sports style, and my personal images.

I have abandoned Facebook. The attacks and negativity are absurd. I still make use of Instagram for sharing, curate some images on, and I have resumed posting in the site. I like that site best, but it has drawbacks of only posting a single image a day.

None of these sites really allow me to share the details of what is behind the images.  Then I remembered that I still have a space that I can do as I please. This blog.  Let me know what you think.


Toy effect with Tilt-shift filter

Aerial image of a real neighborhood then filtered with the Tilt-shift blur in Photoshop.

The shelter-in-place orders continue for so many of us. I am greatly limiting my excursions out of the house because here in McKinley County (New Mexico) we are leading the state with more cases of COVID-19 than any other, including Bernalillo (Albuquerque). . I have wanted to do  something outdoors though. I also want to be making pictures. Today I stood in my front yard and flew my DJI Mavic Air drone around the neighborhood a bit.

Being close to the airport I needed to get authorization from the FAA. The LAANC system  is relatively simple - especially when flying under recreational rules.  You can see maps indicating maximum altitudes and total no-fly zones. I was flying just outside of a no-fly zone, meaning I had to keep my drone below 100 feet AGL.

With the DJI flight app you can set your maximum altitude for your flight and as much as you push up on the stick the drone will not go above it. I set my return home altitude to 30 meters, making sure to keep the altitude under the maximum, and then I used the DJI Go 4 app to fly  and the Kitty Hawk Classic App to set my flight plan and get the LAANC clearance.

Once I completed my flight I imported my images into Lightroom and sorted through them.  The light was average, and the image was feeling like it needed a little bit of a boost.  I looked through the photo and applied a variety of Matt Kloskowski's Lightroom preset and brushes, but I still felt it needed more interest.  (Matt K is offering discounts right now on his presets, brushes, and courses).

This simply edit only takes a couple of minutes to complete in Photoshop.

1. Import the image into Photoshop and complete the basic adjustments (I did mine in Lightroom).
2. Duplicate the background into a new layer and make it a Smart Object.
3. Go to the Filter> Blur Gallery (not just the filter>blur option) and select Tilt-shift.
      - you can adjust the range of blur, the placement and the intensity here.
4. To make it look more like a toy set I added a hue adjustment layer to increase the saturation.

That was all there was to it.


Chevy in the Weeds.

Being under Stay Home restrictions has me feeling restless. It also gives me some time to sort through images and to make some studio shots.  This image is a composite of three different photos, and is my first serious attempt to make a realistic looking composite.

The truck is a small die-cast 1:16 scale model that my Dad left for me when he died last spring, and I had been wanting to do something special with it.

I set the truck on the kitchen table with a green screen backdrop. The truth is that the green backdrop was not much help in working with the photo. I would have been better off to use a white  background. To select the truck I tried the selection tools in Photoshop multiple times, and the tonal range was not extreme enough for them to work. In the end I resorted to using the much maligned Pen Tool . 

tabletop image of the truck
 I tried several ideas for the setting, including trying to create a black background and the look of  a shiny floor with the truck reflected on it, but I need to explore better techniques for that. The floor never looked right. 

Next I thought about painting the bottom brown and making it resemble a dirt road. If I was going to a drawing or illustrative look it would have worked.

The foreground came from a grab shot
In the end I started looking through my files and found this throw-away shot of some sunflowers. I really only wanted the weeds and ground. The sunflowers themselves would have been a lot of work to select and make them look like they were positioned properly. 

I created a mask to hide the fence and the rest of the upped background, then dropped in a stock sky photo behind it. Then I used a couple of different soft brushes to feather the weeds and the sky layer together.

The truck color did not much the color of the weeds and sky. That required a bit of playing with color balance and saturation on the layer for the truck to make it look more like it was in the same light.

My last step was to give the picture an overall cohesive feeling. I went to the Nik plugins and added one of the Analog Efex Pro 2 cameras and fine tuned it.