Saturday, December 13, 2008

Mike Anderson Landscape Photography

I ran across Michael Anderson's website this evening, and want to recommend it as a fantastic web presentation of a talented photographer's work. Check it out!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Happy Birthday Me!

Having avoided the threatened birthday whoopings thus far, I feel blessed to be 19.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Currently Listening To...

Generations with Kevin Swanson, "The Shack: The Naivete of Christians"

The Albert Mohler Radio Program, "A Look At 'The Shack'"

Destroying All Speculations by Greg Bahnsen, "Inconsistent Arguments", "Presuppositional Tension"

Yo-Yo Ma Plays Ennio Morricone, by Yo-Yo Ma and the Roma Sinfonietta

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Happy in Texas

Self-portrait in the backyard

They're the "Real Deal" ya'll. I wear these everywhere now, and love every minute of it.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Glacier Point

The Glacier Point overlook is a popular "high-elevation" spot in Yosemite, both for its scenic beauty, expansive views, and the fact that several trails originate nearby. We trekked from the Point to the valley below following an 8 mile trail which skirted the cliff face and led us past Illilouette Fall, and over both Nevada and Vernal Falls. We circled around Half Dome and got a really good feel for its unique formation; we also stood at the base of its massive neighbor the "Liberty Bell." Here are a few shots--more soon to follow.

Yes, I did bring my tripod on this one. :) Much to the resentment of my shoulders.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Animals of Yosemite

Time doesn't permit me to write an extensive post on my Yosemite trip yet, but I had to post some of my favorite animal shots (some are significantly cropped, but worth posting anyway) Don't worry, landscapes-a-comin!

Sooty Grouse (juvenile)

Yellow-billed Magpie (rare)

Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel

Nashville Warbler

Sooty Grouse

American Dipper

The rest is self-explanatory, at least for those that don't care about the different species of butterflies, chipmunks or deer--I would guess the chipmunk is a Lodgepole, and the deer a Mule Deer...

Questions and Answers

For my studies, I am currently working on answering important historical, theological and philosophical questions in essay form, such as the following. It's an excellent exercise in learning how to articulate precisely what I believe and why I believe it.

Describe the moral and presuppositional shift that occurred in the 20th century

Before the World Wars, most people assented to the idea of transcendent truth, derived from God’s Word alone, and believed in the continuing relevancy of Scripture as the foundation for law and society—thus the codes and principles of Christendom, which were themselves founded in the moral Law of God, were upheld and assumed to be binding. On the heels of the wars, however, the monumental worldview shift that had been seething beneath the crust for years, reared its ugly head. No longer was truth considered to be transcendent or objective; with a rejection of God, man rejected His authority and placed his own autonomous reason in the place of God, adopting positive law, and subjective morality, determined by consensus and pragmatic motivations. Modernity completely rejected the Biblical family, and devoted itself to the deconstruction of Christian chivalry and morality. The state supplanted God as the arbiter of justice and the savior of mankind, and being left with no moral compass or source of absolute truth man cut himself adrift on the sea of relativism, bloodshed and despair.

Discuss how Christianity faded into cultural inconsequence in the 20th century.

The early church was not ashamed of the faith. (Acts 2) Peter, when he stood in the midst of the assembly, did not retreat into a shell of personal opinions regarding the power and deity of Christ, but stood up and boldly confronted the crowds with their guilt. “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.” (Acts 2:36) The reformers did not flinch in the day of battle, but firmly defended their doctrines from Scripture against all opposition. Sadly, however, the modern church has nearly lost all confidence in the power of God’s Word. The preaching of solid doctrine has been replaced by sentimentalism and emotional, man-centered worship. Christians, for the most part, have retreated into a mindset of cultural relevancy which demands that they conform to the humanistic standards of society, morality, and ethics—the church has acquiesced to the pressures of our godless culture, and thus has ceased to be “the church,” set apart and distinct from the world. No longer do Christians find sole satisfaction in the Word of Christ. No longer do they seek to take every thought captive to His will. There is no desire to stand steadfast on the Law of God, or assert the sufficiency of Scripture for all of life. The church has stepped off the Rock of Ages into the shifting sands of a relativistic, pragmatic, worldly philosophy of life, and thus Christians have been guilty of “holding to a form of Godliness but denying its power.” (2Tim. 3:5)

Humanism has been taking over steadily ever since the church abandoned its “first love.” The world is not a vacuum. When the church surrenders, something else must take its place. Evolutionary science has become the SS of the tyrannical, intellectual elite, leaving no room for rival philosophies—especially anything derived from the Bible. Marxist totalitarianism is the new vehicle for the salvation of mankind. Pragmatic ethics and arbitrary law have run rampant in our courts. Darwinian, statist, age-segregated indoctrination programs dominate education. Aberrant sexual behaviors are commended and endorsed in the name of “liberation” and “freedom.” The nuclear family comprises only half of America’s families today.

Anyone who would dare to question, who would have the audacity to proclaim the absolute authority and almighty power of God, is immediately subjected to a host of hateful censures. So much for “freedom.”

Sadly, the church has not yet been rekindled from the ashes of defeat, but continues in vain to imagine that God will bless their double-standard. They have sought to avoid the antithesis between the children of God and the children of men, and because they refuse to acknowledge this ever-present conflict these people are impotent. Christ’s kingdom on earth will only be advanced by men and women who have surrendered their lives to His service alone, who are willing to stand strong on the Word of God against the hypocrisy and evil of our day, who recognize the antithesis, and dedicate their most fervent efforts to knowing Christ and defending his Name. May God make it so.

What are the three basic philosophies? Who were their proponents?

There are three major schools of philosophy, especially in relation to apologetics. First there is presuppositionalism, which asserts that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,” and we must presuppose God’s existence in our apologetic method. This view, as propounded by such as Cornelius Van Till, Greg Bahnsen and others, recognizes that man’s mind is cursed by sin and plagued with impediments to right thinking, that he is entirely unable to “reason his way to God.” It is only by the work of the Holy Spirit that anyone comes to faith. Man’s rational faculties are finite, whereas God’s are infinite—He is the predicate for intelligibility—therefore Christianity is inescapable true because belief in God is the prerequisite before a man can claim to rationally deny His existence.

The very opposite of presuppositionalism is rationalism, which claims that man possesses an autonomous mind, and therefore he is a law unto himself. Men such as Plato, Aristotle, and Socrates believed that “God” (if indeed there is a God) is natural, and subject to the laws of nature. Therefore they, and all that have followed in their footsteps, feel that anything which cannot be proven to their mind is not believable. If God would have them believe in Him, they reason, He must subject Himself to their infallible judgment. Fundamentally, this view denies the Fall, and usurps God with human reason.

In between these two philosophies, there are those who try to espouse Christianity but make concessions to humanism. Aquinas was a great student of Aristotle, and he reasoned that in the Fall, man’s mind had escaped the curse and was thus untainted by sin. Therefore, man may—without the divine aid of the Holy Spirit—reason his way to saving faith, if he is simply convinced in his own mind that Christianity is reasonable. Classical Apologetics, or “Thomism” is the direct outcome of Aquinas’ thinking. This method appeals to the mind of man through a variety of evidences and arguments, instead of striking at the root of unbelieving thought—presuppositions. It claims that anyone, regardless of their a priori assumptions, may be swayed to change their views if the evidence is convincing enough.

Truth be told, there is only one distinctively “Christian” apologetical method. One that starts with the Scriptures—God’s revelation—as the sole foundation for right reasoning and belief. As Paul says in 2 Corinthians 10:5, “Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.”

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Departure from Yosemite, Mariposa Grove

I wrote this as a continuation of other posts which I intend to write but have not yet completed. The context, as you may already know, was my birding/naturalism trip in Yosemite National Park last week--there are many things I'd like to say concerning the trip but those things will have to wait a bit.

Since I was to leave early the following day, I bid everyone farewell on Friday evening after we returned to the campground from a late-night mountain “star trek” (as Victor one of the tour leaders called it) with a volunteer park ranger. Though the Crane Flat campground contradicted it’s name in almost every respect—it is neither flat nor were there any cranes to speak of—I was fortunate to have secured a nice level spot for my tent and I slept so well I can’t even remember how well I slept. Good thing too because we had a long day ahead of us on Saturday. I was equipped with lightweight backpacking gear so my tent was easy to dismantle, my sleeping bag stuffed comfortably back into its sack (they rarely do you know) and everything was packed away in the Honda by around 6:30 a.m. the next morning.

Before exiting the park Christopher wanted to see the Mariposa Grove of giant sequoias located near the southern exit to the park, so we made a short trek around the grove to see some of the most notable trees including the massive “Grizzly Giant” and the “California Tree” (which had a tunnel carved through the base of the trunk back in 1895, and now serves more or less as the ‘replacement’ for the “Wawona Tunnel Tree” which fell back in the 1980’s). I found a very cooperative White-headed Woodpecker for Christopher to see, and we also got to watch a Mule Deer nibbling on some bushes while a fawn sought shelter in the dense green grass below. The grove was extremely peaceful and hushed at that early hour.

As a side note, I had an interesting encounter with some tourists, which proved to be both a cause of consternation and amusement all at once. It went something like this.

Setting: We were standing at the trailhead reading about the grove when a muscular man in a navy t-shirt with a backpack approached us, followed by his wife and two young daughters.

Tourist guy: “Hey, what’s worth seeing here?”

Me: “Well, the whole grove is really beautiful but I would definitely recommend visiting the Grizzly Giant. It’s pretty spectacular.”

Tourist guy: “Hmm, the sign says 0.9 miles. *mumbling to himself* We need to be back in time to catch our plane… Alright honey, this guy says we should see the Grizzly Giant, but let’s make it fast. Come on.”

They walked about 200 yards down the trail, but I knew we would see them again…a prospect which did not excite me—they were friendly but that guy had a very recognizable “This-had-better-be-as-good-as-you-say-it-is” tone of voice which caused me to wonder what my fate would be if he was unimpressed with ‘my trees.’ We passed them as they were admiring a huge uprooted sequoia along the path, commenting on how old it must be, and taking photos. A few minutes later I located a White-headed Woodpecker foraging in a small pine by the trail, and as Christopher was viewing it through my binoculars and I was trying to get pictures, the family caught up with us. Their curiosity was immediately piqued.

Tourist guy’s wife: *in hushed tones* “What is it?”

Me: “We’ve got a White-headed Woodpecker—see, there he is, flying to that larger pine!”

Tourist guy’s wife: “Wow. We get a lot of woodpeckers at home, you know, the ones with the red on the head…”

NOTE: Nearly every species of woodpecker in the U.S. has some red markings, usually on it’s head. Clearly I’m not dealing with an avid birder, but that’s fine because non-birders usually get excited about almost any bird—either that or they give you a quizzical grin or a polite, “Ahh, I see…” and keep walking.

They moved on. We left the woodpecker to continue it’s systematic insect persecution, and continued towards our destination, passing the family again. This time the man noted that there weren’t actually that many clusters of sequoias in the grove, to which I responded, “Yeah, this is completely different type of forest than the Coastal Redwoods inhabit, it’s much more dry and sparse.”

We skedaddled onward. I hoped that my response had proven satisfactory. Despite the hard-to-impress nature of this particular tourist I had one tree up my sleeve which I was sure would knock his socks off. Grizzly Giant is probably the largest sequoia in the park, measuring about 20 feet in diameter and stands around 200 feet tall. Would he be impressed? Did it compare to all the sequoias he had seen up in Tuolumne Meadows? What would be my fate if his response was something like, “You told us to walk a whole mile just to see that?!”

He was, of course, very impressed. They all were. Big relief.

We all gazed in awe at the gargantuan tree towering above us, with gnarled branches as thick as trees protruding from its weathered trunk. All of the sudden.

Tourist guy: “Hey it looks like the top is broken off! I wonder where it went…”

He eyed me suspiciously…ok he didn’t, I made that up.

In my mind I was saying, “It wasn’t me! I didn’t take it!” But coolness and reason prevailed and I offered the natural explanation, “When you’re the tallest thing around and you’ve stood there for thousands of years storm damage will naturally take its toll.”

The tour group of which I was now the involuntary leader walked a short way down the trail to the next attraction, the California Tree.

NOTE: When you find yourself in this position (ie. answering everyone’s questions and offering reasonable explanations for natural phenomena) there is one thing you must do. Stay ahead of the group and frantically read every plaque and piece of information you can find about anything and everything so that you can stop the group and explain everything before they get the chance to read those same signs. It’s necessary to maintain the illusion that you really know what you’re talking about.

We admired the blackened heartwood of the CA Tree, which was covered with carvings and initials—so many that the letters were indecipherable. Just as we were about to head back to the parking lot…

Tourist guy’s wife: “Hey look! A bird! Just like you’ve been looking for. You should look at it through your binoculars!”

Me: *without raising my binoculars* “Oh, yeah. A Robin.”

Christopher and I took the 1.1 mile return trail, since the tourist family had opted for the slightly shorter 0.9 mile trail. We had some good laughs over that whole incident.

P.S. I will post pictures later

Saturday, July 26, 2008

I'm Going to Miss These Kiddos

My niece Kaylee, and my brother Joshua (only a few weeks apart :). Aren't they adorable together? Ya'll better be crawling when I see you next, y'hear?

I depart for Yosemite early tomorrow morning, and after enjoying a week of camping, hiking and birding in the park, will be headed down to San Antonio to participate in the 2008 Vision Forum internship. I appreciate your prayers very much, as this step marks some significant changes in my life and will surely take some adjusting to.

Stay tuned for updates!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Why My Car Now Has Two Wheels...

Yes, I went shopping on my bicycle the other day. 42 miles and 3 1/2 hours later I had saved about $15 on fuel. In fact I've been riding a lot more regularly of late, including several 20 mile rides, and two 40+ mile rides.

Perhaps it's because of painfully high fuel prices, or maybe because the Tour de France (the world's premier bike race) is currently in session...or both. Either way, I'm loving it.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Birding With the Kids

From left to right: Aimee, Me (Benjamin), Zachary, Matthew, Jeremy (in front), Katrina. We were birding at Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge, a 15,000 acre reserve on the Columbia River floodplains near Vancouver WA.


Wilson's Snipe

Barn Swallow idea what kind

Great Blue Heron

Red-winged Blackbird

Independence Day 2008

We started the day out on the lake fishing with Dad. It was about a 45 minute drive to lake Merwin, and we were there early enough that we didn't have to deal with the huge influx of people who were sure to come later in the day. The water was calm, the clouds somewhat ominous, but the lake was as beautiful as ever, with its densely wooded shores, sheer cliffs (with houses perched on top, I might add...) and morning fog scooting across the hills. Everyone piled in to the boat and we cruised out to our favorite spot, a few hundred feet off shore. Unfortunately the fish weren't biting readily, and after Katrina caught a nice one, there wasn't much more action, so we cruised around the lake for a while before heading home (I got to drive the boat!).

We discovered this little cove with a waterfall tumbling down into the lake. There was even a rope swing! Now if we could have just taken the whole thing home with us...

Later that evening, of course, there were fireworks. A friend from church invited us to his house where one of his neighbors was going to put on a show--it was fantastic, especially since their house has a clear view of the surrounding sky, we were watching mortars burst into showers of multi-colored sparks all around us.

This is my favorite shot from the show. (SCROLL DOWN for more images) I meant to post some tips on firework photography (not entirely my own, from another person's article) before the 4th, but, characteristic of the absentminded photographer, I forgot. Here are a few things I learned.

-Adjust your ISO setting to 100 or less since allowing the extra sensitivity of high ISO speeds will make it difficult to keep the sky black.

-At ISO 100, an aperture setting between f8 and f11 is optimal (I chose f8).

-If possible set your camera to Manual mode, leave the aperture at the desired setting and decrease shutter speed until you reach BULB mode--this gives you complete control over the length of the exposure for each individual shot--the camera exposes for as long as you depress the shutter.

-USE A TRIPOD! You need the stability in order to achieve sharp photos at slow shutter speeds. I used a ballhead on mine for easy adjustments, and sat under it so I could still use the viewfinder when the camera was pointing straight up.

-Get a sense of the general direction and altitude of the fireworks before you start shooting, especially the mortars, but be prepared the unpredictable (is that possible?). I just kept my eye on the pyros with gas torches to see when they lit a group of mortars, then followed the tracers through my viewfinder, depressing the shutter just before they exploded. If you try to take a shot after the mortar has exploded you may capture some sparks, but you won't get that central burst of white which occurs the moment the mortars blows.

-Don't use really long exposures if you want to capture much color. I suppose it depends on how dark it is, but I found that I could achieve the best color by focusing on one or two mortars at a time, and leaving the shutter open only a few seconds.

-Your LCD display will give you valuable feedback so don't neglect to check your images during a lull in the show.

-When you get that stunning image, try not to get carried away and dance right into a giant mortar tube... :)

Here is a great article on the subject.