Taking a Closer Look…….


It’s always an honor to stand in for Scott, and I’m already so indebted to him for his many acts of kindness to me, I better do a good job!!!!  Is that fear that I smell?  Something’s burning, must the gears in my mind!  Actually I do have an idea I think might work.  I just finished taping a two part Close-Up class for Kelby Training and spending weeks preparing for that studio shoot, I came up with an idea.  The point to any close-up class is to teach someone how to approach a close-up subject, and what techniques are needed to capture it effectively.  For this blog entry I would like to take the same concept and move it in a different direction,  looking more closely at life.  With your permission, I will sprinkle some close-up images throughout the entry.

The thing that is shocking about making a close-up image, especially one in which you get really close to your subject, is just how much detail you see, that you never realized was there.  The richness of many subjects is almost indescribable!  A very close look and life reveals much of the same textures that we don’t see in a quick glance.

Let me share a story that will help you understand how I came to have this “new” vision of life.  About thirty years ago, when I was 35 years of age, (I know I look much younger than 65!),  I was diagnosed with cancer, and was told I had about a 5% chance of surviving.  It was a devastating blow.  I was madly in love with my wife (still am!), I had three young children, and all my hopes for my life, and my career were only beginning.  I wish I could say that I was very brave, but, if the truth be told, it knocked me to my knees.  I went through the three common stages.  First, because I was a Christian,  I blamed God.  Why me?  With all the evil people in the world, surely he could have picked someone else!  It didn’t take very long to figure out that wasn’t a very good idea to go down that road.  Then I felt sorry for my self, but that too, soon wore thin.  Finally I just admitted that I was scared.  On the third night in the hospital after my surgery to remove the tumor, after my wife had gone home at my insistence, I simply prayed and asked God to give me the courage to face this disease with all the bravery he could supply, I simply didn’t want to make things even harder on my family than it was already going to be.   I further asked God if we could make a deal, I told Him I was sure he didn’t cut deals, and I was pretty sure I wasn’t eligible for one, even if He did.  But this was my offer; If He would allow me to live long enough to see my young children grown and not in daily need of a father, I wouldn’t serve Him every day for the rest of my life, I would serve Him every moment for the rest of my life.

After my prayer I felt a peace that passed all understanding, and slept well for the first time in several nights.

The next morning my doctor, who was also a dear friend, came into discuss the results of the pathology report with me.  He had a big smile on his face which certainly puzzled me.  He said, “Bill, I have some good news and some bad news.”  I asked for the bad news first,  he responded, “Bill the tumor we removed, about the size of man’s fist, was definitely cancer.”  My heart sank, then he said, “the good news is that it is not the kind of cancer we had feared, multi-strained, it was, instead a single strain form that was very curable, in fact he elevated my chances of survival to 95%!

I was, of course, overcome with joy.  Later when I had time to think about what had happened I had a revelation that changed my life forever.  First I wondered if my cancer, had in fact, been the kind my doctor and feared and God had changed it!?  With more thought I came to the understanding that it didn’t matter.  I came to realize that what I had just gone through has a technical term in heaven, a wake up call!

This is the hard part of my story to share, but if the story is to have any value, it must be shared, for I am certainly not proud of it.  I was a Christian and loved my wife and family, and tried to be a “good” man, but I had put myself in first place in my life.  I was obsessed with becoming a quote, “famous photographer”.  Looking back,  I now realize that I was insecure and felt I needed that to make me feel okay about myself.  It became apparent to me that during all my time, after I found out I had cancer, I never once thought about being a famous photographer.  All I could think about was missing growing old with Sherelene, and seeing my children grow up.  God had changed my priorities.  I made a solemn commitment to keep my word and serve Him every moment for the rest of my life.  I started by trying to be the best husband and father that I could be and, though I worked hard at being a good photographer, I no longer concerned myself with how my work, or I, for that matter, stacked up against all the others out there pursuing our shared career.  I had been cured of the desire for fame.

So what has all this led to?  I’m a happy man who experiences real peace and joy.  I love photography and have never enjoyed it more, it just is not how I see myself being defined now.  I now know that I’m defined by how much I love others, after all that’s what my Heavenly Father does, and by what kind of partner I am to my wife, father to my children and grandfather to my six grandchildren!  Did you catch that?  “6”, I’m so blessed! I enjoy life for the sheer joy of being here.  I know that my earthly treasure is family, friends, and many professional associates.  Most of all I delight in a daily walk with Him,  and the changes are not over.  Everyday I get new insight into how I can make life better for others, and in turn it makes my life better as well!

Am I preaching?  Absolutely not!  I’m just like a man that saw and incredible movie and can’t wait to tell everyone they meet, “You’ve got to see this film!”  Every dream I ever had for my life, and career, and many more, have all come true, except the famous photographer part!  I finally realized that they don’t really exist!  Elvis was famous. The best a photographer can ever hope for is recognition, or respect among their peers.  I’ve found something worth a great deal more, a life worth living and sharing with others.

So sometimes, it’s a good thing to look a little closer……….

May your adventures of looking closer, richly bless you,

Bill Fortney

Galatians 2:20

You can see more of Bill’s work over at BillFortney.net, and keep up with him over at his Pilgrim’s Chronicles blog. If you’d like to get in touch with him, just send an email to billfortney@earthlink.net

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