I’ve never thought my part of capturing photographs was hard. My job, as I’ve always said, is to press the shutter. That’s all. The Lord paints the picture. He brings in the weather. He is the maker of the sun, the moon and the stars and all of nature. He alone can bring in clouds and angles of light. He alone can bring rain or sun. He really does all the work. My job, again, is only to press the shutter.
Over the years I’ve had hundreds of requests for people to use my photography—for their homes, for their offices, for special gifts, for youth programs, for the Church History Museum and even for the Church’s official publication of the scriptures. I am happy, now, to offer a limited number of special photographs to the general public. I’ve partnered with Foundation Arts to do this and I’m excited to have my fine art photography hang in your homes and be in your lives.
What is so special about these photographs I am offering?
I’ve gone out of my way to try to capture stunning, even spectacular photographs—images that stand alone as beautiful and worthy to hang in your home. But there’s more to each image than meets the eye. My goal is to capture the beauty of the location but then tell the story behind that location and reveal a surprise. I want you to have stories to tell in your homes and to your families and associates. I want your children and grandchildren to grow up knowing these significant and moving stories and when they see those images, those ideas jump immediately to their minds.
Browse through these first 40 images. See which ones speak to your soul.
It was a day I shall never forget. We arrived on the hill overlooking Bethlehem while it was yet dark. What would it have been like the day Jesus was born? Snowy, wintry paradigms would soon melt away with the rising of the sun.The beautiful hillside was covered with new red poppies. The greens were vibrant and fresh. In the distance a donkey started braying and here and there a dog was barking. The rooster started crowing and the land began to awaken. Nearby a flock of bleating, spring lambs could be heard. The ancient wall before us seemed to frame old Bethlehem. The date was April 6th, the true birthday of Jesus.Years later this would become the photograph of Bethlehem used in the Church's publication of the scriptures.
The golden-yellow leaves of the sugar maple begin their downward glide to the ground. Each tree forms a cover quilted by nature to capture the moisture of the oncoming winter. The constant chattering of the gray squirrels indicates the gathering—a time to prepare for the change of the seasons.In this obscure spot in Vermont, in 1805, came a similar change of seasons. Golden maple leaves, yes, but much more. The breezes were blowing in a new awakening. The earth itself and all her inhabitants were about to enter a new season. It was not marked on the calendar or announced in the newspaper, but after centuries of silence from the heavens, when humanity claimed that the Lord had grown quiet, something was about to happen.Thirty-year old Lucy Mack Smith was nearing her delivery of a baby boy just a few hundred yards from this line of sugar maples here on Dairy Hill. That baby was Joseph Smith, Jr. and he would be born the day after the longest night of darkness, the day when the light begins to return to the earth.This photograph is available as a horizontal landscape (as shown) or as a vertical.
Agricultural methods in many areas of the Guatemalan highlands have not changed for hundreds of years. The indigenous tribes still hand-cut their wheat and tie and stack them in beautiful shocks.Grain is mentioned more than 20 times in the Book of Mormon. One sign of blessings from heaven was when it was raised in abundance. It was used in weights and measures and as a from of payment. It was shared freely when the people were righteous."And now, because of the steadiness of the church they began to be exceedingly rich, having abundance of all things whatsoever they stood in need--an abundance of flocks and herds, and fatlings of every kind, and also abundance of grain..."And thus, in their prosperous circumstances, they did not send away any who were naked, or that were hungry, or that were athirst, or that were sick, or that had not been nourished...therefore they were liberal to all, both old and young, both bond and free, both male and female, whether out of the church or in the church, having no respect to persons as to those who stood in need."This beautiful shock of wheat is a reminder of the blessings of the Lord in your life.
I’m always exploring Nauvoo for emotional scenes—pictures that capture the pathos of those trying and wonderful years that were the glory of Nauvoo.I was there in winter, shooting those kinds of pictures. I’d read scores of pioneer journals and was especially moved by the writing of Bathsheba Smith, who recounted her feelings about leaving Nauvoo:“My last act in that precious spot was to tidy the rooms, sweep up the floor, and set the broom in its accustomed place behind the door. Then with emotions in my heart which I could not now pen and which I then strove with success to conceal, I gently closed the door and faced an unknown future, faced a new life, a greater destiny as I well knew, but I faced it with faith in God…”How do you capture that emotion? I could feel a lump welling up in my throat as I thought about Bathsheba’s words.It was cold and a bit windy as the sun began to set. I saw some tall grasses that began to be filled with the backlight of the setting sun (you can see those same grasses in Plate 2, Bootshop Sunset Winter). I took the Bootshop image then ran for the grasses before I lost the light. It was my last shot of the day.I set the camera up on its accustomed spot on the tripod, carefully composed the grasses with that last remaining light and I took the shot. I walked away with Bathsheba Smith on my mind.I think she would have been pleased.
Anyone who has been inside the Peter and Mary Whitmer home in Fayette Township, Seneca County, New York knows that it doesn't look like this. Or does it?I don't use flash or auxiliary lighting for my photos. I want everything to be as natural as possible. I saw there was some nice light spilling in from the east and west windows so I set up the camera on the tripod, set the aperture at F22 then shot this two-minute exposure. It's as if there was a fine brush of light that painted every detail in the room, revealing colors and textures that could not be perceived by the natural eye.There is a powerful feeling in this main floor but it usually comes when you know the significance of where you are standing. In this very room The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was formally organized on Tuesday, April 6, 1830. Here the sacrament was first administered in this dispensation. At least 15 revelations were received in this home. The voice of God was heard in the adjoining room. About one third of The Book of Mormon was translated in this home. The Three Witnesses received their vision here on the Whitmer Farm. The commission was given here to find the Twelve Apostles. Surely "out of small things proceedeth that which is great."
To get the sense of this series of photographs called Fishers of Men, please start by reading the description of Series 1.We were just finishing the shoot. I signaled to the fisherman that we were done and I was so grateful. He gathered all his nets into one large bag and he just stood up and held the nets over his shoulder with a smile. He was perfectly silhouetted and there was another fishing boat in the far distance.I love this scene. He was full of joy at this moment. It reminded me of the Lord’s words: “Remember, the worth of souls is great in the sight of God…And if it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father!”This morning, shooting this fisherman on the Sea of Galilee, had been absolutely magical and I felt extremely blessed by the Lord for giving me all these wonderful and timeless photographs.
I've always struggled to photograph the Garden of Gethsemane at the base of the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem. No photo can do it justice. How can I capture even a small part, in an image, of what happened here?I decided to try only to capture my own impression of Gethsemane, the place of the olive press, the place where Jesus suffered so much for you and for me.I shot looking up towards the sky. I shot looking down towards the ground. I shot through the ancient, gnarled olive trees. I tried different angles and focal lengths through the branches. Nothing was working.How can you do justice to the One who drank the bitter cup?I then got down at kneeling level and did a very tight focus with a low depth of field on the edge of one of the ancient trees. It just felt right and I love the result.
In our desire to capture authentic people and scenes in Israel, we hired this man, Simon by name, to be our shepherd. He was born and raised in Nazareth and has spent his later adult life, testifying of the divinity of the Savior right here in Jesus’ home town.It’s amazing that news of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem was first heralded by the angels to the lowliest of people—the shepherds. In class-conscious Israel, the shepherds would be called upon to spread the word that He of whom the Prophets had testified—the Messiah—was now come.I wanted to capture the humility of a shepherd. I kept following Simon around, but then one of the other actors could see that in that hot summer weather, he had become very thirsty. She came and offered Simon some cold water from her own vessels. He started drinking and I could see this was the shot I was looking for.I thought of those first angels saying to those shepherds: “For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”I’m so grateful that the lowly shepherds of old would be first to testify of the coming of the Good Shepherd.
I'm fascinated by mountains in the scriptures. Jesus often goes to a mountain apart to pray. The transfiguration takes place on a mountain. Nephi's vision was on "an exceedingly high mountain." Jacob saw God on a mountain. The list goes on and on. A mountain is a temple in the wilderness.One mountain seems to dominate the ancient scriptural text: Sinai. Everything about this mountain feels holy. It is extremely remote. The red granite is massive and ominous. It takes great effort to get here.We hiked Mount Sinai beginning at 1:00 AM, guided only by starlight, to make it to the summit by sunrise. We made it, got our sunrise pictures and thought we were done--then I turned and looked to the north. This is what I captured.Somewhere, perhaps in the confines of this photograph, the Great Jehovah said: "And...the Lord called unto [Moses] out of the mountain, saying...tell the children of Israel; Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles’ wings, and brought you unto myself. Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation."
I've shot many hundreds of pictures with numerous angles of the ancient city of Jerusalem. I've published a few of them over the years but I was never quite satisfied. On this particular day, things were different.We were on a 24-day shoot in the Holy Land in spring. Our storyboard called for a "dramatic shot of Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives with beautiful light." Photographers spend a lot of early morning and late afternoon time shooting in golden light, but the Middle East is more difficult because there are days when the light is so flat, you only have about 30 minutes of perfect light in the morning and only another hour in the evening. During the day the light is harsh, bright and uninteresting.We had arrived at the Mount of Olives overlook just a few minutes before sunrise. I set up the camera and then began to watch an unparalleled light show. The dawn first touched the far western part of the holy city then moved towards us building by building, holy site by holy site. This shot was taken about at the half-way point of the golden sunrise.The foreground is covered with thousands of graves. Just beyond the wall you can see the Temple Mount with the golden Dome of the Rock which marks the site where Abraham came to offer Isaac as a sacrifice on ancient Mount Moriah.We knew this photograph was a gift. We reflected upon the Savior's words: "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!"Because of the combination of intense clouds and dramatic sky, together with the immense golden city, this photograph is offered both in a beautiful horizontal panorama (as you see here) and a stunning vertical.
I've shot many hundreds of pictures with numerous angles of the ancient city of Jerusalem. I've published a few of them over the years but I was never quite satisfied. On this particular day, things were different.We were on a 24-day shoot in the Holy Land in spring. Our storyboard called for a "dramatic shot of Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives with beautiful light." Photographers spend a lot of early morning and late afternoon time shooting in golden light, but the Middle East is more difficult because there are days when the light is so flat, you only have about 30 minutes of perfect light in the morning and only another hour in the evening. During the day the light is harsh, bright and uninteresting.We had arrived at the Mount of Olives overlook just a few minutes before sunrise. I set up the camera and then began to watch an unparalleled light show. The dawn first touched the far western part of the holy city then moved towards us building by building, holy site by holy site. This shot was taken about at the half-way point of the golden sunrise.The foreground is covered with thousands of graves. Just beyond the wall you can see the Temple Mount with the golden Dome of the Rock which marks the site where Abraham came to offer Isaac as a sacrifice on ancient Mount Moriah.We knew this photograph was a gift. We reflected upon the Savior's words: "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!"Because of the combination of intense clouds and dramatic sky, together with the immense golden city, this photograph is offered both in a stunning vertical (as you see here) and a beautiful horizontal panorama.
I had been carefully studying Thomas Kane’s account of his visit to the abandoned city of Nauvoo in September 1846. His account is unlike any other. About 15,000 Latter-day Saints had left their homes and shops behind and headed west just months earlier. Kane recorded:"No one met me there. I looked, and saw no one. I could hear no one move; though the quiet everywhere was such that I heard the flies buzz, and the water-ripples break against the shallow of the beach. I walked through the solitary streets. The town lay as in a dream, under some deadening spell of loneliness, from which I almost feared to wake it. For plainly it had not slept long."There was no grass growing up in the paved ways. Rains had not entirely washed away the prints of dusty footsteps. Yet I went about unchecked. I went into empty work-shops, rope walks and smithies. The spinner's wheel was idle; the carpenter had gone from his work-bench and shavings, his unfinished sash and casing. Fresh bark was in the tanners's vat, and the fresh-chopped light wood stood piled against the baker's oven."The blacksmith's shop was cold; but his coal heap and ladling pool and crooked water horn were all there, as if he had just gone off for a holiday. No work people anywhere looked to know my errand."If I went into the gardens, clinking the wicket-latch loudly after me, to pull the marigolds, heart's-ease and lady-slippers, and draw a drink with the water sodden well-bucket and its noisy chain; or, knocking off with my stick the tall heavyheaded dahlias and sunflowers, hunted over the beds for cucumbers and love-apples,--no one called out to me from any opened window, or dog sprang forward to bark."I thought the only way to capture that description was to shoot a scene in winter, at sunset, with silhouetted trees and a building or two. I chose the humble little Ryser Boot Shop. It may have been one of the businesses Thomas Kane visited—with no reply from anyone. All had left. All were on the trail to the west. All could now only see these places, their beautiful Nauvoo in their memories.
The golden-yellow leaves of the sugar maple begin their downward glide to the ground. Each tree forms a cover quilted by nature to capture the moisture of the oncoming winter. The constant chattering of the gray squirrels indicates the gathering—a time to prepare for the change of the seasons.In this obscure spot in Vermont, in 1805, came a similar change of seasons. Golden maple leaves, yes, but much more. The breezes were blowing in a new awakening. The earth itself and all her inhabitants were about to enter a new season. It was not marked on the calendar or announced in the newspaper, but after centuries of silence from the heavens, when humanity claimed that the Lord had grown quiet, something was about to happen.Thirty-year old Lucy Mack Smith was nearing her delivery of a baby boy just a few hundred yards from this line of sugar maples here on Dairy Hill. That baby was Joseph Smith, Jr. and he would be born the day after the longest night of darkness, the day when the light begins to return to the earth.This photograph is available as a vertical landscape (as shown) or as a horizontal.
Jesus's mortal life was relatively short; his ministry was but forty-two months. During that significant period He spent a good portion of His time in the Galilee, a region of Israel that is mostly below sea level.These bright red poppies were photographed in the Galilee in the heart of the places Jesus knew so well. Their vibrant color always reminds me of the blood of Christ and Him crucified.They bring to mind one of my favorite passages from Isaiah: "For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not."Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed."
I love this scene and I'll tell you why.Joseph and Emma and Oliver moved into this small 20x30 foot cabin the early part of June 1829. The Whitmer's home was already full, but they made room for the great work of finishing the translation of The Book of Mormon.Joseph was a new curiosity in this area of Seneca County, New York and therefore attracted numerous visitors. You can well imagine upon whom the most stress would fall in this very busy household: Mary Musselman Whitmer, the mother. She worked tirelessly trying to keep up with the added responsibilities but she was getting tired.On one occasion she came out the back door of the home, heading for the barn to milk the cows. On her way there the Angel Moroni met her and talked with her, saying: "Blessed art thou Mary for the work which is going in your home has increased your toil. Therefore, the Lord sees fit to give you your own witness." Thereupon Moroni showed Mary the gold plates and let her touch them one by one. He then said, "If you hold out faithful to the end your reward is sure."As far as we know, Mary was the first one to see the plates after Joseph Smith and became a powerful witness and supporter of the work.
This beautiful mix of a variety of flowers would brighten any home, but even more so to know where it was taken.We spent 56 days on a Middle East photo shoot during Israel's wettest year in recorded history: 1992. Everything was different that year. The hillsides were green and covered with flowers even in the otherwise dry, desert locations.This shot was taken in the wilderness of Judaea somewhere near the area where John the Baptist was preaching the gospel of repentance. "What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind? But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? behold, they that wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses."But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet. For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee."We love the Lord because He can make of our dry, barren wilderness a fruitful garden.I always pictured John preaching in an arid, desert place, but what if they had had a very wet year during his ministry?
Daily scripture study has always been critically important to me and I love antique copies of the Bible and the Book of Mormon. I have numbers of photos of the scriptures in various significant sites.Here in the window of the Whitmer home in Fayette, New York I saw this beautiful scene. This framed photo hung in our home for many years and was in the constant view of our children.From this small New York cabin missionary work began through the journey of Joseph's brother, Samuel. His job was to sell copies of the recently-published Book of Mormon (just like the one on the left). He was rejected at a number of places and was thrown out of a public tavern for preaching.He finally found one man, a Methodist circuit preacher, John Greene, who had enough interest in retaining a copy to see if anyone he found might buy it.
Not much success for Samuel!John's wife, Rhoda, read the book and became convinced of its truthfulness.
She shared it with her brother, Phineas, who in turn shared it with his brother, Brigham Young who shared it with his sister, Fanny Murray, who shared it with her daughter Vilate, who in turn shared it with her husband, Heber C. Kimball. From that first mission of Samuel, we know of numerous people who joined the Church including one who would later lead it for 33 years.
No one knows for sure the actual tomb where Jesus Christ was resurrected, but this Garden Tomb, just outside the city walls of Jerusalem, certainly fits the description given in the scriptural accounts.By special arrangements we were able to enter this sacred site long before sunrise one spring morning. It was amazing to carefully watch the early light as it began to change the colors and tones of the bedrock before us. I could not stop taking pictures. But then the morning rays began to filter through the trees as the sun rose from behind the Mount of Olives. It was within the first two minutes of that light this picture was captured.I thought of Mary Magdalene as she was confused and sorrowing by the empty tomb. Perhaps somewhere in the purview of this photograph, she and the resurrected Savior met. "Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away. Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master."Mary was the first witness of the resurrected Lord. He truly lives Who once was dead!