Sorry Photographers, You’re not Original

Sunrise, Palestina de los Altos

Getting out of your sleeping bag isn’t ever very attractive when you can see your breath in the air.

I was in Palestina de los Altos, Guatemala in a house that, by American standards, was bare minimum. I was just grateful for the four walls and a roof. On a mission trip last April I was getting my first dose of sleeping in the mountains; even with the shelter of the house, it got pretty cold at around 8,000 feet. After a very long day’s travel and very short night’s sleep, the prospect of getting up early to shoot the sunrise had lost its appeal for me. I could tell it had done the same for my friend and fellow photographer Nick, who was going to join me.

But my excitement returned as soon as we got up to the roof of the house, as the glow of daybreak started to illuminate the surrounding mountains above and sleeping city below us. We had taken quite the gamble with this plan – mountain sunrises are not usually the best, and it was far too cold to just lounge on the roof. Our gamble paid off, though, as light streaks of pink began to illuminate the wispy cirrus clouds above the ridgeline. I snapped my first photo, completely guessing on the exposure time and how much light I would allow into the camera. I greatly underexposed the photo, making it much darker – and far more beautiful – than in real life. As I looked at the preview on my LCD screen, I wondered to myself, “This is better than the real thing. Am I cheating?”

Then in a moment of revelation, I realized the answer was “no.” With my camera I could manipulate light, but it was still light that was already there. Just because our human eyes only see certain wavelengths doesn’t mean there isn’t more to that beautiful sunrise; just because we can change what we see through a camera doesn’t mean that we’re creating something new. I realized all this later, when I had time to process that morning, but in the moment my thought was, “That picture is how God sees this sunrise.”

That morning ended up being the single most glorious sunrise I’ve ever seen, even if I hadn’t had my camera. Never have I seen a sunrise light a sky on fire like this one. In addition, that morning changed how I view photography as an art. As with that sunrise, there are infinitely more ways to see the rest of creation than just how we see it with our own two eyes. Imagine a landscape, any landscape: the way you imagine it is different than how it looks in reality, guaranteed. There are details we cannot see, natural processes happening that we are unaware of, and laws of physics occurring that will make your head explode if you try to understand them (if you’re like me, that is). Photography can capture these aspects of creation better than us sometimes: a macro lens can expose more detail than our eyes, a time-lapse can capture the movements of the heavens, and different focal lengths on convex glass prisms can change the amount of light coming in contact with a photo-sensor. The point is, even if a camera exposes things our eyes can’t see, those things are still there.

My take on photography since that morning has been this: I cannot create beauty, only capture it. Photography only captures different aspects of the beauty of creation. That’s why I love this art – it doesn’t let me suppose I am a creator. Instead it humbles me, forcing me to realize that I am part of this beautiful creation. Who am I to think I can create something more beautiful than what is already out there?

So I’m sorry photographers, but you’re not original. And there’s so much beauty in that.


Matt Bye

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Matt Bye is obviously a talented photographer, and we feel blessed to have his involvement in The NET5.12.  His recent focus on photography has been displaying the beauty of creation through the lens depicted in this post. Matt will now be SELLING some of his works!  The main pieces for sale are the ones displayed above, but to view more, you can visit his Flicker account (  Inquiry about prints and prices can go through the contact page of our website!  Just let us know you’re interested, and we’ll put you in touch with the artist.  For anyone who purchases his work from our site, he will be donating a percentage of the profit to our organization.  Thanks for reading folks, and happy photo shopping!