This is a photograph of waves looking almost straight down from a high bluff overlooking Drakes Beach. The surf was moderate in the shelter of Drakes Bay. There was a strong wind, perhaps 20-30 miles per hour, blowing out to sea. You can see the wind as a blurring effect in the upper part of the photo and as small, dark waves rippling back out towards the ocean in the lower left.
I was struck by the pattern made by the waves, almost like a big upper case N. My camera was tripod mounted, and I was shooting at 200mm (300mm in 35mm equivalence terms). I realized that to capture the pattern of the waves I would need as fast a shutter speed as possible (despite my recent glee in long exposures). So I set my camera to shutter-preferred mode at 1/500 of a second, with an f-stop at ISO 100 of f/5.6 for this exposure.
I was on the bluff above the Pacific with Mike Trimble, also known as Pastor Mike. As Mike notes in his blog, we have a great deal in common including deep love for our wives, three kids (his are girls and mine are boys), a love for nature, and a passion for photography. As Mike also observed, our attitudes towards religion are pretty different.
Mike and I had met at the Point Reyes lighthouse parking lot. We went down the 300 plus steps to the lighthouse itself, and chatted with park Ranger Craig Morgan. It was too windy out on the point for any serious photography.
Next, we explored the area near the Chimney Rock trail, and then (hoping for a bit of shelter from the wind) heading for the Drakes Beach area. Later on we’d photograph South Beach and the raging ocean by the dying light, and then head to Inverness and the wreck of the tugboat Point Reyes for a picnic under the stars.
Altogether, this was a grand late afternoon and evening despite the wind. Mike is a very nice guy, and seriously interested in photography. He was pretty tactful in bringing up religion. Our most strenuous disagreement went something like this:
Mike: When my daughters got to evolution, I told them it did seem pretty far fetched.
Harold: Well, I see what you mean, but then again it would be pretty hard to take some of the statements in the bible literally.
So far, not so bad. And I think Mike scored some serious points when he said that it was hard to stand out here in a sublimely beautiful spot in nature and not believe in an intelligent pattern of design that must have been planned by a powerful diety.
It’s true for me that I can’t be in the grandeur of nature without feelings of awe, spirituality, and gratitude. However, if you credit God for this pattern of design, then you’d better credit Her for the design aspects of life that don’t make much sense as well. You know, war, poverty, sickness, global warming and so on. This particular point, that it is intellectually inconsistent to credit a diety for the wonderful things in our lives without also blaming the same diety for the things that aren’t so good, was brought home to me as a young teenager when I read Mark Twain’s fantastic, lucid, and angry The Mysterious Stranger.
Still, I was amused to read in Mike’s blog, The Journey: A Pastor’s Thoughts, that he partly regarded our day together as missionary work on his part. What am I, a heathen dancing around a pot in a native costume that I need a missionary? A funny picture, until you think that in a way I was a missionary in relation to Mike.
In fact, for me spending time with Mike, who in person is a decent thoughtful guy, is all about tolerance. I can tolerate Mike and his religious beliefs, and I hope he can tolerate me and mine, whatever they are. To express this differently, I believe that whenever there is true tolerance in the face of different structures of belief, then God is truly present.
Related stories: Waves on the Shore.