Macro Wonder By inSpire with Delwin Finch

Photo: Delwin Finch
inSpire - Delwin, you are a creative guy with a penchant for taking great photos. Tell us about your background and how you came into the realm of photography.

Finch - I've been fascinated with pictures and photography since I was a little kid. My maternal grandfather was an amateur photographer who had several cameras, including a movie camera. He would set up all these lights at family events and film the proceedings and then edit (real "cut and paste") the results into these home movies that we all had to watch. I think the seed must have been planted there because several of us from that side of my family have gravitated towards photography later in life as well.

I bought my first camera while I was in high school (a Pentax K1000). I ordered it from a Sears catalog. Because film and developing cost a lot of money, especially for a high school kid, I wasn't able to take a lot of pictures, but I found myself enjoying the solitary pleasure of just wandering around the countryside by my home in Oregon taking pictures of every fascinating little thing. When I look back on those pictures now I see that back then I already had an interest in macro photography and unusual composition.

When digital photography first came along I jumped right on that. As someone with an interest in computers, I loved being able to bring my pictures into the digital realm. And so for many years I no longer thought about aperture and f-stops when taking pictures because the camera did all that. So it's only been the past few years that I have gotten much more serious about my photography after I bought my first DSLR. Even though my current camera takes decent pictures in auto mode, I quickly moved the setting to M (manual) and then had to re-discover all those old rules about photography that I had learned back in the days of film photography.

I like shooting events and portraits, but what I enjoy the most in photography is being able to wander about a place taking macro shots. I'm the happiest with my camera when I can look for the little details, the colors and the lighting. The way that a flower curves and twists, the sequence and symmetry of plants and leaves, and the patterns that we create or have been created for us. Creation is an amazing thing and I doubt that I will ever be able to capture it all. 

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inSpire - It is interesting that you love artistic photography, yet you have a strong interest in computers which tends to be more left brained. It appears that you have your feet firmly planted in both worlds. I know that you are a pastor, but your job description is quite different from that of most pastors. What do you do?

Finch - I have a rather unique job description, that's for sure. I am the Pastor for Web Ministries at the Forest Lake Church in Apopka (Orlando), Florida. What that means is that I am the pastor for those people who attend our church online, via the Internet. The Forest Lake Church streams all of it's church services (we currently have 4) live over the Internet every Sabbath. A large number of people attend those services online and so I am the pastor for that congregation. I also do all of the tech support for the church which includes computer purchase and repair, website development, server configuration, support and so on.

The reason that I live in both worlds is that while I first started out as a pastor out of college. I later left the ministry and eventually went back to school and became a network administrator. I did that for a number of years but after moving to the Orlando area I got involved at the Forest Lake Church, first as a volunteer and then was hired to be a local-hire, full-time pastor. So what I am doing now is combining my two previous careers into one.

inSpire - Interesting. So in your work you use cameras (video and still) to capture images that convey messages of hope and healing. As you craft your "product" each week (the service that gets posted online), how much thought (if any) do you put into the artistic design of the set, the background colors and composition of what people ultimately see online (how you frame your shots, etc.)? Does that kind of stuff matter?

Finch - The service that gets posted online is typically a recording of one of the sermons preached in the first three services as well as the sermon from the 4th service, which is posted separately as well. I don't have any oversight on that. All of the camera work is done by our team of AV (audio-visual) volunteers, under the direction of Patty Hofer, Pastor for Media, and ultimately it is the director who makes the call in terms of camera shots, framing, timing, etc. I am one of those directors, but not the only one, and I only direct, on average, about once a month for all four services. For each one on the AV team, however, our primary purpose is to convey as clearly as possible the worship experience at Forest Lake as it happens. We include a number of elements that only appear to the online audience and the team takes very seriously that there are those watching online throughout all four services.

Now I have been involved in a number of other video projects for the church where I do have more input about how the video is shot and/or edited. These projects have typically been more promotional in nature or intended to document something such as a baptismal candidate's testimony. In those situations I often do the filming myself (or with one of my co-pastors) and often do the post-production work as well. My still photography has been used on occasion for the online audience, but primarily if it appears online it is on our church website rather than on the live stream.

inSpire - Wow. You guys have a busy schedule. Sounds like a fun place to do ministry. Back to your photography interests, what kind of camera do you have, and do you have any "secrets" for getting great photos that you are willing to share with us?  

Finch - I currently use a Nikon D90. It was my first DSLR and I hope to upgrade to a more advanced Nikon model here soon. My primary lens is a Tokina 16-50 f2.8 zoom which is a nice wide lens that is great for shooting events. It's nearly a wide-angle lens, which I find helpful when I'm trying to get a whole group of people into a shot. For shooting macros I use a Nikkor 60mm f2.8 which some day I hope to upgrade to the Nikkor 105mm. I also have some other gear such as a 50mm and a good flash unit, but that is my primary equipment right now. My dream someday is to own the Nikkor 70-200 f2.8, but for now I have to settle for renting one whenever I have a special project to shoot. I shoot entirely in RAW format and I do all my post-production in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom.

I don't know if I have any great "secrets" or not, but I have learned the hard way not to just take one shot of whatever I am shooting. Perhaps because of my background in film photography I still tend to not take enough shots or stop at just one or two when I think I have what I want. The beauty of shooting digital is that it doesn't cost anything to take multiple shots and try different things. The shots that don't work can always be deleted. Also, when it comes to shooting macros I've learned that it's important to learn how to control your breathing. I shoot all my macros handheld so moving even a small amount can change the focal point dramatically. I also get down on my knees a lot, so I've learned to not wear nice pants while I'm out shooting macros, too.

Besides having good equipment, the other "secret" that I have is to encourage people to go take some photography classes. I've gained a lot by signing up for classes at my local camera store. Classes are usually small and there is time for questions and even one-on-one assistance. Chances are there is one or more photography club in your area that you can join as well. Learning from other photographers has been very valuable to me. I would even encourage you to start a photography club at your local church. You might be surprised what kind of talent and expertise already exist in your church and in your local community.

inSpire - Thank you for sharing some of your thoughts and photography insights with us. We wish you well and look forward to seeing more of your work.

This interview was conducted by Rich DuBose, Director of Pacific Union Conference Church Support Services and the inSpire project. All rights reserved © 2012 Click here for content usage information.