The Ten Virgins Photo
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    Photo by Gavin Finley

Thank you all for your emails and the kind words of encouragement re the Ten Virgins Photo. A lot of people have been taken by the photo of the wise virgin filling her lamp at the midnight hour. It seems I am getting an increasing number of requests by Christian ministries and owners of Christian websites to use the photo. Please feel free to do so. This photo has been dedicated to the service of the God of Israel, our Lord Jesus Christ. He is the One who is calling us into the divine romance.

That moment at midnight when the bridesmaids awaken is an awsome and inspiring moment. I wanted to capture part of that very dramatic scene and focus in on one of the ten virgins as she awakens out of her slumbers. Five of them have the oil. The other five do not.

It is the midnight hour and the telling moment in the story has just unfolded. Each of the five wise virgins realize what they must do. They refill their lamps in preparation to go out into the night to meet the Bridegroom.

I tried to find a picture or a painting of this moment. I wanted a close up picture of one of the five wise virgins in the parable Jesus shared. I was unable to find one. No artist had done it yet. Finally I decided to create an image of the event myself. I decided to do it photographically. I could see the picture quite clearly in my mind's eye. I knew I would have to set it up with a subject, background, and special lighting and then proceed to photograph it.

How was the ten virgins photo created? It was all very simple really. The photo was posed by my daughter, Rosemary, an R.N. She happened to be visiting us that evening. I put a green sheet on the wall for a background. The photo equipment I used was nothing special. Nor was it expensive these days. It was a simple 2 mega pixel Canon digital camera, an umbrella mounted on a tripod, some household light on a cord and a dimmer. For camera settings I think I used the candle-light or ambient low light setting. The flash was turned off. Simple overhead house lighting supplemented the umbrella lighting which was mounted on a tripod. Two tungsten filament lighbulbs had been put up into the umbrella and the light intensity controlled with a dimmer. This varied the lighting and sought the best effect. Then I just shot a series of exposures and poses before checking the results. Then I adjusted and shot a few more. Finally I finished up by choosing the best image. That is the beauty of digital photography. It is not costing you much at all to take lots of photos. Delete the ones you don't want and keep shooting. This allows you to experiment with the lighting, positioning, composition etc.

The result is still not as professional as I would like it to be. I hope others can take up where I have left off and do better. This spiritual photography or sacred photography seems to be a new art form. Do we call it Christian Photographic Art? Has anyone ever heard of it before?

Here is how it happens. You don't just 'snap' photos of what you see in front of you. The famous photo of the soldiers raising the flag at Iwo Jima was not just 'snapped'. The photographer saw the event happening but saw another image in his mind's eye as the soldiers were raising the flag. He stopped them and rearranged the four soldiers to raise the flag again setting up his camera position for the shot. After he posed them in the now famous composition he caught them in the key moment as the flag was being raised. The result was absolutely brilliant. That photo has been seen by millions and gone around the world.

So here is how to go about creating images of these even more famous spiritual themes. Pick a theme from the scriptures that is inspiring to you. If it is inspiring to you it probaly is for others as well. Quite often it is a poignant or telling moment in the story. Perhaps it is the climax of the story. That moment is what you want to capture. One picture is worth a thousand words. This is Christian Photographic Art. It crystallizes an entire spiritual lesson into one picture frame.

So let's go over this again. You are trying to illustrate a message from God's Word. You have the image in your mind's eye. You also have the means to create the photo and to present the essence of the story in dramatic fashion. Can you imagine and visualize the scene? This is step one.

The next step is where you start to get a bit creative. God may lead you to use some technique you have never heard about. But you know what you are trying to achieve. You can see the moment of truth frozen in time. It is like you have captured the essence of the sermon in one frame of a video as it were. Now you sit down and think of how you might accomplish this.

If it is a painting and you are an artist you paint the picture you see in your mind's eye. With spiritual photography of sacred themes it is quite similar to this. You find the people, dress them up and make the "set". You gather together the various elements of the picture you wish to create and put them together in the "scene".

Setting up your lighting is the next thing for you to do. This is not difficult or expensive at all. And it is easily done. Umbrella lighting 45 degrees above and 45 degrees from the side of the subject always makes for a more beautiful photo! It is a secret photographers know and use. We as amateurs rarely take the time to do this. For your spiritual photography of the Divine Romance involving people close up just plan on using at least one umbrella. You will not be disappointed I promise you.

Then if you are photographing people at reasonably close distance in a portrait mode always use your moderate telephoto or portrait length lens option. This is more flattering and it avoids any form distortion in the face or distorted body proportions. Leave the close-up wide angle shots of people to "Ernest and Vern" and the comedians.

Not only can we get arty with the photography we can also modify the image afterwards as well. With Photoshop and Paintshop we have image altering tools to change the image further using computer software. I must confess that this is something I have not even entered into. I did not do this with the ten virgins photo. Too many opportunities are opening up for me to keep up with them all. But the potential for us nowadays is just incredible. Never before has God handed us such a wonderful opportunity. Digitized media allows us to write articles, add graphics, mix music, modify photos, and on and on it goes. Then there is the internet sitting right there in front of you. You can publish your work for others to be blessed. What a world!

The photo of the wise virgin at the moment of truth is just an amateur attempt by someone with limited experience in photography. But the reason the picture is so powerful is because of the divine elements contained in the storyline. These spiritual elements came through as the picture is viewed by the open and seeking soul.

People have emailed me to say that the whole story of the ten virgins haunts them. In the parable of the five wise and five foolish virgins Jesus was telling us a story with a message. But as a Hebrew teacher He was doing more than giving us words and concepts. Hebrews think in pictures. Greeks think in terms of concepts and ideas.

Let us pase and consider this for a moment. As westerners we were "Hellenized" in our passage through the Greek culture two millennia ago. We are still predominantly Greek in our mindset. We are logical, analytical, and conceptual. We are like Mr. Spock, or perhaps we like to think we are. But that is not the end of the story.

As Christians something else is happening. We are increasingly re-discovering our Hebrew roots. (Gal.3:29, Eph.2:12-13, Rom. 11 etc) The Bible, particularly in the Old Testament is absolutely stacked full of Hebrew poetic imagery. So are the parables of Jesus and the symbolism inside the Book of Revelation. Increasigly we as Christians are going to find ourselves using pictures or word pictures in the way we communicate. Imagery and word pictures are prized thoughout our literature.

Think about this for a moment. Why should the dark side be the only ones to use pictures? Words that convey concepts and ideas are wonderful. But their effectiveness is enhanced and complemented by the power of the pictures. Pictures are the language of dreams. Spirits, both good and evil come to us in pictures. We in the Church are in the spiritual flows of Joseph, the "prince of dreams". Pictures and imagery, especially Biblical imagery should be as familiar to Christians as are words. Pictures are the stuff of dreams. We as Christians should expect to know and recognize dream fragments, where they came from, and what they mean in the context in which they are presented. We should even understand how the mosaic of a fairy tale is put together and the messages behind it. We should all be able to interpret dreams just as our patriarch Joseph did. In fact the Gate of Joseph is one of the 12 gates of the Holy City. It is one of the gates of our future home! (Rev. 7 & 21)

Let us return now to the ten virgins photo. I discovered that when I dimmed the lights and lit the lamp the exposure of the lamplight at the center of the picture was overblown. And yet this seemed to be a good effect. The light seemed to diffuse out the heart area of the bridesmaid in a pleasing sort of a way. Rather than correct this "mistake" I realized that this was a serendipity. This overexposure in the center of the photo was producing the very effect that I wanted. It looks even better when viewed from a distance.

I am delighted to receive your email requesting this photo. It is uncopyrighted and belongs to the Kingdom Of God. Accordingly it is already in the Kingdom economy for the free use of the saints. This photo is available without cost or obligation for individuals and Christian ministies to use and to reproduce for illustrative purposes in their ministries. It is my desire to use anything God gives me for the calling of many into the devotion of our returning Messiah.

If you would like to make a link to the article on the ten virgins or this article then that would be appreciated but this is not necessary. I am just glad to see this photo used for God's glory. Hopefully it will inspire many other amateur (and professional) Christian photographers to set up and photograph those grand moments in Biblical literature and future holy history.

Grace and peace to all who love His appearing,
Gavin Finley