Capturing creation on camera
An interview with talented photographer Carol Drew.
More than a few of the very special photographs that have helped make Creation magazine such a delight to readers worldwide have been taken by award-winning Australian photographer Carol Drew.
Although she sells some of her work, Carol does not use her photography to make a living, but to glorify God (she has donated all photos of hers that we have used in Creation). However, the term ‘amateur photographer’ hardly fits the quality of her work, which has won numerous gold medals and awards.
Taking snaps of her children when they were young started Carol’s interest in photography. Dissatisfied with the results, she joined a camera club in about 1980. She says, ‘I then began photographing nature for designs for my embroidery, and it all went from there.’ Photography began to appeal to her, says Carol, ‘because it’s so instantaneous. I used to do embroidery, but it was so slow—many months for just one little piece of work.’
But even though her photos may not take months, they often take many dedicated hours of patient planning—and more. For instance, her favorite shot is of water lilies from Queensland’s Lake Nuga Nuga. ‘For that one,’ she says, ‘I had to wade waist deep into muddy water, through scratchy water lily leaves, tripping over slimy logs, with yabbies1 nipping at me.’ That may help to explain why her self-employed husband and three children, while very supportive of Carol’s photography, have never shared her passion for it!
When we asked her for advice for budding photographers, she said that photography was difficult to get into, but the main ingredients were ‘working hard, looking keenly all the time, being constantly aware and appreciative of what is around you.’
Really top photography requires creative flair, and Carol Drew has always had a creative streak. She did a lot of drawing as a child, went to various art schools, and worked as a draftsman before having her children. She says:
‘That background was helpful in previsualizing how to transform something in three dimensions into two dimensions, which is really what you do in photography.’
Deliberate planning in setting up the design of photos is essential, but some factors Carol cannot control, like the weather and natural lighting:
‘Sometimes I will wait for hours for the light to be just right, or get up at four in the morning to go to a spot, hoping for a great sunrise. I am convinced that God really does look after me, because I have been especially blessed so many times with some extraordinary, wonderful weather and lighting conditions.’
For example, she mentioned her picture, featured in an earlier magazine,2 of the rainbows over central Australia’s Kata Tjuta (the Olgas).
‘It’s only supposed to rain there about three times a year. I had two cameras set up on tripods, waiting for the right light, and not only did it rain, these rainbows came along.’
A similar thing happened recently while she was visiting Western Australia’s ‘Pinnacles’. Carol says:
‘Rainbows can sometimes last only for seconds, and can fade before you reach into the camera bag for the right lens. So here I had already worked out a good composition, I happened to have the right lens, and was facing in exactly the right direction when the rainbow appeared.’
Her most special photos in one sense may be the ones she took of Bryce Canyon, in the USA, which was where she dedicated her life back to God. As a child, Carol had gone to Sunday School and been baptized when she was 12. However, after some ‘bad experiences,’ she left the church at 21. From there, her life drifted. She says:
‘I wasn’t close to God, but I was thirsty. I was trying to find the God I knew as a child, and I was looking into all this New Age stuff, getting lost along the way.’
Then, some 20 years later, on vacation in America, she was absolutely overwhelmed by the natural formations she experienced, especially when she witnessed the first snowfall of the year at Bryce Canyon. Carol says:
‘It was so beautiful; that was the spot I really felt the reality of God. He had been tapping me on the shoulder for a while before that, to get me to wake up, but that was where I felt Him giving me a good shake.’
Carol is now a committed Christian who teaches Scripture classes in the local school.
An interesting experience for Carol came while photographing an Air Force display over the famous Sydney Opera House. She says:
‘There were lots of people clapping at each aerobatic performance. After the last one, as people were just leaving, this big flock of birds flew over. People stopped, noticed the birds doing the same sort of thing they had just been applauding, so they gave the birds an ovation, too, which was kind of a nice thing.’
Carol Drew is convinced that God, a master artist, reveals Himself in part through His handiwork in the natural world. She says:
‘Being an artist, I study color and form, and I teach it now. I tell the students that you only have to look at nature for perfect color combinations and design that is perfect in every little way, no matter how closely you look. There are some flowers, so small that you have to get a magnifying glass to see the details, to see all these amazing colors that no one normally sees, yet God has put them there. And then when you see acres and acres of those same flowers, that really humbles me, as does all the amazing design that I see in animals, flowers, shells and so on. Even though the creation, blighted with death and suffering, is fallen from its original perfection,3 there is still incredible beauty remaining out there.’
Thanks, Carol, for helping us share this beauty with people in over 120 countries.