"Capturing Life"

When Is It More Important to Just Get the Shot?

Life is filled with photographic moments.  You know, those milliseconds that grab your attention and make you think “wish I had that camera in my hand”, or if you have your camera in hand, you find yourself pressing the shutter button trying to capture the essence of the moment.   Trying to do this with quality on a consistent basis is something I struggle with.  Are there times it’s more important to just get the shot than to try and do it perfectly?

Yesterday I found myself in such a circumstance.  The conditions were not perfect: low lighting,  flash attached and on, directed to bounce where I thought I needed the light to come from, and  ISO set to grab the most light I thought I could safely get without having so much noise in the photo that it would detract from the picture.  Add a large crowd of people made up mostly of very excited kids, one special little boy being the center of all this attention and the subject above all the others which I was trying to get those “perfect” shots of.   Allow me to share this experience with you.

Cyle is an 11 year old boy.  He’s had a pretty hard life for his 11 years.  He has battled Leukemia for the past few years and he was in the foster care system.  When it became necessary for him to seek medical treatment, his foster family decided to adopt him so that it would be less complicated to get the needed treatments.

This past summer, Cyle attended our Junior Camp, sponsored by our church.  While he lives a distance from our island, his family is connected to our community via another foster family who attends our church.  They invited him to attend camp.  He was assigned to a group of boys whose counselor is a friend of ours.  Jon, the counselor, and Matt, our youth director,  became attached to Cyle.  During that week at camp, Cyle learned about Jesus and by the end of the week had decided that he wanted to give his heart to Jesus and to live for Him.

When they returned from camp, Jon and Matt stayed in contact with Cyle and his family, visiting him frequently and following Cyle’s progress in his battle with cancer.  Sadly, in the past few weeks, it has become evident that the battle is drawing to an end, with cancer being the winner.  It was determined that Cyle has only a short time left to live.

One of Cyle’s desires was to live long enough to have Christmas.  It’s appearing that this might not happen so it was decided that Christmas should come early for Cyle.  Many people donated gifts and baked goods.  A small tree, lights, decorations, a snow making machine, and “instant snow” were all gathered to help set the atmosphere.   When the call went out to our church and homeschool group, I offered to take pictures of the day, hoping it would bless this family with lasting memories of the special time.  Adam, my 14 year old, came with me to help by being a 2nd shooter.

The “snow” created a nice, wintry feeling.  Santa arrived via a fire truck. 

Cyle was very quiet at first, I’m sure taking it all in and maybe a little overwhelmed by the surprise.  However, once things got rolling he gained more energy and showed enthusiasm while opening gifts and enjoying the celebration.  Several times I heard him call out “Mom! This is EXACTLY what I dreamed it would be!!”  Let’s just say that it’s not easy to take pictures when you have tears in your eyes.


  One of the special gifts Cyle received was a Wii.  He opened it and the first words out of his mouth were “Wow!  WE got a Wii!”  It wasn’t about himself; it was about “we”, his brothers and sisters, the family, anyone who was there.  The gifts were for everyone! 










Once the excitement of gift opening was past, things settled down just a little and it was clear that Cyle had experienced just about all the excitement his little body could handle for one morning.  He sat down to eat something and was too tired to really enjoy any of the baked treats that filled the table.

We decided to try and get some family pictures before I left so we assembled the family in a couple of locations and took some very quick pictures.   I was more concerned about just getting a couple of nice photo’s for the family before Cyle was too tired to be able to do it.  I wasn’t as concerned about perfection.











Everyone realized it was time to wrap things up and leave the family with a quieter home where Cyle could find rest.  We all gathered our belongings and headed out.   As I drove home, I found myself reflecting on the morning and what I learned from it.  Here are a few of my reflections:

1) I always care about how well I do when I’m taking pictures, regardless of the occasion.  I want to do my best, but I know that what my “best” is will vary given the different situations I encounter.

2)  I have a new camera, one I’m not completely familiar with.  I again realized how important it is to be comfortable with how to use your camera and other equipment so that when you are in situations where you want to capture those once-in-a-lifetime moments, you’re ready to do so.

3)  Once in a given situation, things begin to roll along quickly and it’s not always easy to make adjustments along the way.  Learning as much as I can before I get there helps it to become second nature.  The more I can learn about how to get the right angle on a shot, how to pose individuals and crowds, how to work with varied light, and the myriad of other elements I’ll encounter, the better the results will be.

4)  I would rather jump in feeling less than prepared than to miss the opportunity altogether because I felt I couldn’t achieve perfection.

In the end, it’s really most important to just be in the moment, to capture the essence of what is happening around me, to try and tell the story of the day through photo’s.  It’s not perfection, as we think of it, where there’s noiseless photo’s, perfect light, excellent white balance, spot-on focus.  It’s perfection if I am able to visually return to this event 5 years from now, look at the photo’s of that moment in time and relive it through uncluttered pictures that tell me a story about a little boy named Cyle, who knows his time here on earth is fleeting and his time in eternity with Jesus is about to begin.



3 responses

  1. Wayne

    Forget about the lighting conditions, ISO, white balance, and camera settings, the conditions were PERFECT for photography. There was a special day, for a special boy, hosted by special people…and you did a wonderful job capturing the special moments. This blog is about photography, but I think this story transcends photography. It’s about ordinary people doing extraordinary things. It’s about introducing a young person to Christ. It’s about Christmas in October…and creating a magical day for Cyle. This story is heart-wrenching, but thank you for sharing it. I’m proud to see you use your God-given talents to capture such a loving and special moment in both words and photos.

    October 25, 2011 at 8:54 pm

  2. Sandy, thank you for sharing this. These are the moments that make photography really mean something special. The emotion and the mixture of joy at knowing he is going to feel all the love and the sadness of knowing that he is going to leave so young and how the people who love him will miss him.
    Very beautifully done.

    October 26, 2011 at 7:09 am

  3. Whoa!! I am all teared up! Superb job Sandy! What a blessing you are to those around you and to me. Thanks for the insights. xoxoxo

    October 30, 2011 at 6:33 pm

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