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!
This is a photograph I’ve been trying to take for many years.I have the blessing of going to the Sacred Grove almost every year. My first visit was in 1969. I have walked the 10 acres that has been preserved as “The Sacred Grove” in about every direction, in every season, in every kind of weather.I am always looking for the perfect shot. One day, many years ago, the light, humidity and moisture all collided in such a way as to give me a series of pictures that I was able to put into a children’s book we published called, “A Day Like No Other.” Those photos were all a gift.But with all that in mind, and having published numerous other photos from the Sacred Grove over the years, I never quite captured the moment between when Joseph was nearly destroyed by the adversary and when the pillar of light descended gradually until it fell upon him.During a recent visit with my camera, I saw this very large tree that had toppled since my last visit. I was mourning the loss of such a monolith and I knelt down by the former base of the tree. I looked to the east along the path of the tree and the sun began to burst. filling the scene with light from the darkness of the death of this tree to the sunbeams gleaming above my head. It was that moment I had always been looking for: Suddenly a light descended!I knew that this, too, was a gift.
My wife and I hired a cast of natives in Israel to depict some scenes from the life of the Savior. We so wanted to capture the feeling from Luke Chapter 15: "What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it?"We were very familiar with this verse but as we were shooting I noticed two things from the story: 1) The Lord refers to a sheep, not a lamb, and 2) He doesn't hold it to His bosom, as we might imagine, he lays it on His shoulders. "And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing."I loved how the Shepherd in the scriptural account could not contain His rejoicing: "And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost."This was a very difficult shot. Adult sheep are very heavy and want to get away from a stranger at all costs. It took four strong men to get the sheep up onto the man playing the part of Jesus. Our direction was simply, "Show us how you think the Lord would have felt bringing one back who was lost."Our amazing actor here is 28 years old and he was born and raised in Nazareth.
Just about every direction one looks on the flats in Nauvoo there are scenes that bring peace to the soul. This particular one caught my eye.I grew up with one of these garden cultivators in Missouri and learned to use it well. It's a wonderful tool to keep the soil loose between the rows and to loosen the young weeds that tenaciously grow at the drop of a hat. It's also a great tool for teaching a boy how to work.The vintage cultivator shown is leaning against the fence of Brigham and Mary Ann Angell Young's property. Mary Ann is my 3rd great aunt and I always love to come to their home in Nauvoo. I feel welcome there.At the time of the Martyrdom of the Prophet Joseph, Brigham was on a mission in the east. Mary Ann was with the Saints in Nauvoo. She wrote this tender letter to her husband, three days after Joseph and Hyrum were killed:"My Dear Companion. I set down to communicate a few lines to you at this time. My heart is full. I know not what to write to comfort you at this time. We have had great aftlictions in this place since you left home. . . ."You have now been gone allmost six weeks. I have not had a line from you since you left home. I have not time to write much now. We are in great affliction at this time."Our Dear Br. Joseph Smith and Hiram has fell victiams to a vero-cious mob. The great God of the creation only knows whithe[r] the rest shall be preserved in safety or not. We are in tolable good health at presant. I have been Blessed to keep my feelings quite calm through all the storm."I hope you will be careful on your way hom and not expose yourself to those that will endanger your Life. Yours in hast[e]. If we meet no more in this world may we meet where parting is no more. Farewell.”Seeing that cultivator on Mary Ann and Brigham’s fence reminded me that during those horrific days, all work ceased and there was only mourning.
It was a perfect, golden-light morning on the Sea of Galilee that day. Our dear friend (who knows practically everyone in Israel) had arranged for a local fisherman to arrive at the shore by our hotel before sunrise. These things never seem to go quite as planned—but—it was 5:45 AM and around the corner came our fisherman.
I wanted to take a lot of shots of him just fishing, but I wanted to capture him and his boat and nets looking into the rising sun over the Galilee. I needed to be out with him, but I could not be in the boat. There was the rub: I had not arranged for another boat to follow the fisherman from a distance.
A man who was staying in our hotel gestured (no English) that he would be glad to row me around out there. Where was his boat? The eastern sky was pregnant with that pre-delivery glow of light. He pointed to a small, no, a very small item that was more like a large apple crate or a small bathtub, than a boat. I didn’t have any choice. We both climbed in and with our combined weight the sides of “the boat” were nearly to the water’s level.
Notwithstanding, my oarsman rowed me out towards the fisherman, but on the wrong side. He thought I wanted the light to be shining on him with my back to the rising sun. I signaled in fast and swirling hand motions to turn around and I made the international symbol for shooting into the sun to create a silhouette—whatever that is. He got it.
Within 30 minutes I had taken more than 600 shots. The scene was stunning. The images were magical.
In this particular shot I wanted to capture the gentle motion of the oar as it slid into the water and splashed the warm water into the glowing sunlight. The fisherman was rowing in a circle and dropping his nets as he did so. This angle and moment perfectly captured what I had desired.From these same waters, Jesus not only called James and John, Peter and Andrew, but here He would also walk.
I had prayed about this shot for days. The weather had been too good.Perfect skies don't communicate what I wanted to capture in this sacred scene, for this is the half-way point on the road to Carthage, Illinois--the Martyrdom Trail.I only had one day left in my schedule. Then, some residual moisture blew in from the east on this morning and I drove out to my pre-scouted spot to set up.I pulled the tripod legs out wide so the camera was only six inches off the very dirt by where Joseph and Hyrum rode their horses. Everything started coming together. The sunlight came beaming through the soybean field to the east and the weeds on the trail began to have that perfect morning glow.Joseph said on that fateful day, "I'm going like a lamb to the slaughter but I'm as calm as a summer's morning."As I was laying in the dirt pressing the shutter and pulling focus over and over again, I knew this scene was a gift. It was the answer to my many prayers. I could not stop crying.
To get the sense of this series of photographs called Fishers of Men, please start by reading the description of Series 1.This shot gave me the sense of the Savior coming that day to the shores of this very Sea of Galilee and calling out to the fisherman:“And he saith unto them, I am he of whom it is written by the prophets; follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” I find that call so thrilling and I love the response: “They straightway left their nets and followed him.” There was no hesitation, no questions, no pause or wondering. The call of a Rabbi in that time and culture meant a lifetime of devotion and loyalty. With all this in mind, the fishers of fish would choose to follow Him and become fishers of men.I love this shot because there is another boat with other fishermen in the far distance. The work began here on the shores of the Sea of Galilee from such humble beginnings.
Although this shot was taken in the same location as the “Calm Before the Storm” a shot that is horizontal, this one has a very different feel to it.One of my artist friends, Brian Kershisnik, teaches that in your art you don’t try to force symbols; you let them emerge from what you have done. There is so much that emerges from this shot for me.This photograph was taken at the half-way-point between Nauvoo and Carthage. This is the Martyrdom Trail. Joseph and Hyrum rode on this very dirt path.The skies were so spectacular on this morning and the rich colors of the weeds and the soil seemed to bring heaven and earth together. I set the aperture on this shot to F22 and set the focus to bring the foreground and most of the extended photograph to be in sharp focus. But the infinity become just a little soft with that setting—not able to be seen perfectly clear.Joseph and Hyrum were on their way to what their enemies said was the only safe place in Hancock County: The Carthage Jail. The days to follow would be filled with correspondence and preparation for the coming trial on Saturday, June 29, 1844. They would never make it to that trial. They both would be shot and killed by a ruthless mob at 5:16 PM on Thursday, June 27.As John Taylor wrote of Joseph and his brother Hyrum: “[Joseph] lived great, and he died great in the eyes of God and his people; and like most of the Lord’s anointed in ancient times, has sealed his mission and his works with his own blood; and so has his brother Hyrum. In life they were not divided, and in death they were not separated!These moments on the trail together, even this very spot, were some of the last these brothers would see outside the jail together.
To get the sense of this series of photographs called Fishers of Men, please start by reading the description of Series 1.I learned a lot about fishing on the Sea of Galilee that golden morning.Here we see our fisherman precisely throwing a steel rod into the water with perfect aim. He had already dropped his nets in the water and this rod would penetrate quickly and dive to the bottom hitting the rocks below and frighten the surrounding fish into the nets. He would do this over and over until he felt to pull in the nets.I love the water dripping off the rod onto the sea as he flung it out beyond his boat. There is something so tactile and organic about fishing, but especially fishing here on this sacred Sea of Galilee.
To get the sense of this series of photographs called Fishers of Men, please start by reading the description of Series 1.I think this is my favorite shot of the series that morning. The sun had been playing a little behind some morning clouds and had just come out again. The light touched the fisherman’s nets and also gave a gentle glow to his face. Our fisherman worked so hard while I was working. He was using all the methods he used every day, and yet he did not catch one fish.I thought of the seven who, after the resurrection, had not yet caught a full vision of what their work was going to be. They said, “We go a fishing.” And they left for the Galilee, back to their old trade. That morning they saw a stranger on the shore who cried to them, “Children, have ye any meat?” They had toiled all night and had caught nothing. “We have none.” “Cast your nets on the other side, and ye shall find.”Not yet realizing it was the Lord, they did as the stranger bid and this time their nets filled to near breaking. Peter and John both recognized immediately that it was the Lord. He is the abundant giver.
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.