Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | May 25, 2012

The Chiaroscuro of Life

Leadville, Colorado en route to Pecos, Texas

The first camera I used when I ventured away from home was my Dad’s Zeiss Ikon Contessa camera that he had purchased in Germany before I was born. He taught me how to set f-stops, adjust the aperture, select film speed, focus the lens with the range-finder, and all sorts of technical things I needed to know in those days before point-and-shoot cameras. I took hundreds of photos (mostly slides) with that camera before I purchased my own camera years later. Dad also taught me the basics about composition and how to look for and set up interesting shots. All of those memories have surfaced as I have watched and listened to Dad as he takes photos on our road trip. It’s been fun listening to him talk excitedly about how he wants to set up a shot — things like what he wants to include and the best angle and the impact the light will have on the shot and all of those things he talked to me about when I was so much younger.

When we walked out of our hotel room in Leadville, Colorado yesterday morning, we were pleasantly surprised to learn that it had snowed the night before. As we made our way south toward Salida, the same vistas we had seen the day before were even more interesting and beautiful because of the snow. Dad took a whole new set of photos. As he did, we got into a brief discussion about chiaroscuro — how gradations of light and shade create drama and definition and how these contrasts can also give depth and distinction to a particular scene. Photos would be rather bland without elements of contrast to make them interesting. The snow also promoted Dad to tell me the story of the first time he saw snow as a young man in Oberammergau, Germany in 1951. That story filled in one more little detail about my Dad’s life. It was like a slender ray of light that illuminated and gave just a little more definition to his life.

As we drove farther south and out of the snow, I had lots of time to think about contrasts and about the things that make our lives interesting — the chiaroscuro created by good days and bad, our ups and our downs, and those bits of information about us that are like rays of light that help others to see or understand or appreciate us in a new way. These are the things that give depth and definition to our lives and make them interesting. Our lives would be rather bland if all of our days were sunny and good. God uses dark days and so many other things like the snowfalls and storms and droughts that come our way to add interesting contrast and to accentuate the beauty of our lives. So, no matter what comes your way, remember that God uses the light and the shadows to give depth and definition to your life so that when others see you they will better understand and appreciate who you are.


  1. Omar, thanks again for your blog. I have enjoyed following everyday. I am so glad you are having such a great time with your dad.


    • Thanks, Doyle. I have enjoyed every minute and every mile with Dad. I feel a little sad that today is our final day on the road. Dad has been a real trooper on this trip. Now it’s time to move from traveling on the highways with Dad to paddling on the rivers with Jonathan. Thanks for following our journey.

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