Into the Unknown

I’ve been scanning images forever it seems. Not literally, but this “scanning my negatives” project has dragged on forever…or almost four years. I used to scan in the prints of images I took, but once I saw the detail of the scans from the negatives or slides I made a commitment to never scan a print again.

So look at this one. The place: Scotland. The land of lush green mountains and valleys, hairy cows, and overcast, overcast, overcast. Overcast looks dreary to me. So often times when the forecast was dreary I put in a roll of slide film (back in the day) with the intent of cross-processing it. What this means is when the roll goes through the processing they run it as print film. What it does is tweak the color spectrum and infuse some extra color into the image. Depending on the film, you could get some really cool effects.

Peterhead Planks_Print_Edit_2000px

This image was so blah to me that I never even put it into a photo album to show friends. It was kind of dreary. Muddy. Non-descript. But there is also something descriptive of a place I now find myself. The background is so blown out that it feels like a path into the unknown.

But in my four-year quest to scan, I keep coming across these images that somehow gain new life.

But the toughest images to scan in are the cross-processed ones. Why? Because the scanner has no idea what to do with them. Are the slides? Well technically it is slide film. But it hasn’t been processed like slide film. Are they negatives? Well, yes, they are in a strip of negs. But the color doesn’t match anything like usual negatives. Machine confusion ensues. I have to manually tell the scanner what to see.

And the result is often different from what the print looks like. And that is both bad and wonderful.

So take a look at the scan from the “negative” and see how wonderfully different.


At first you notice a huge boost in color intensity. It is not as bland. You see some more detail in the plank bridge. And most wonderfully, you get to see a little more from the background. You see some of the field, and some of the mysterious hairy cows way in the distance. Oh, I can’t exactly match the coloration from the print, but I get a huge vibrancy jump. I’ll take it.

The beautiful thing about creating art is there are two frames of reference for interpreting it. The first is: how was I feeling when I took the image and what about this scene struck a chord with me. I took this image in 2002, so I can’t entirely remember that detail. But the second frame is, when I see this image now, how does it speak to me. And that is how this image has second life. It feels like a path into the unknown.

I find myself standing at the edge of these planks. Wondering about what the future holds. My wife is perhaps on the edge of a life-changing medical diagnosis. There are things I want to happen in the near future, but they are now in jeopardy. I have these deep feelings of uncertainty, mingled with fear. How do I move forward when the future is unclear?

That is why I love this image with the ability to see ever so slightly into the unknown fog. I’m reminded of a sentence in the Psalms that reads, “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.” This truth strikes me so acutely at times. The entire path is never fully lit before me…even when I want it to be. I have to take each subsequent step and then something further is illuminated. 

This image speaks to me that God, my heavenly daddy, is here with me, leading me with kindness and faithfulness. He knows the path. He gives me just enough light to see and not stumble. It is not an unknown future for Him. He has led me ever so faithfully in the past, and will continue to do so.

A few verses earlier it says, “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” There is a sweet goodness to following the masterful leading of my heavenly Daddy. I don’t always know it at the time, but I can always look back and remember. 

In a recent Switchfoot song, Let It Happen, they reference this same assurance when they write, “I don’t hold what the future holds / But I know you hold my future.” I still feel like I’m walking toward the unknown, but I have this assurance that God holds my future. And because of this assurance, I can have hope regardless of the circumstances. There is nothing muddy or non-descript about that kind of hope.

Wandering on Purpose.

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