By Robin Smith
Every photograph we make has a story to tell, hopefully they connect with the viewer’s story and their experience at Kanuga. The images shared here are our behind the camera stories of the making of a photograph at Kanuga. Please note that all photographs under the title of Robin Smith are the 58 year team effort of Robin and Marnie Smith. I may “take” the photograph but after that the Robin and Marnie team work together to provide the best image, composition and design possible.
One of my rewarding assignments each year was to photograph Camp Kanuga’s Trailblazers. It was exciting to watch the transformation of these campers arrive as children and see them grow into young adults when I met them on the Appalachian Trail while they hiked 10 plus days.
Chapel of the Transfiguration
A very special program at Kanuga is “Christmas at Kanuga”. This is a Holy time in the life of this thin place called Kanuga. To be treated with a snowy white Christmas in 2010 was an added blessing.
Every year the Smith’s have a private photography contest of the best image of the year. The winning photograph is used as the Smith Christmas Card. The 2018 Christmas Card was made from the third floor balcony at dawn.
This is perhaps the most famous photograph we have ever made. There is not another image that describes the spirit of Kanuga better. Interestingly, I walked by that image for twenty five years before I saw it. Then WOW! This was before digital photography and Photoshop. I was using my 4×5 wood camera. I was so excited about the image until I returned home and processed the film, when we noticed someone had spilled ice cream under the chair. We came back the next week and remade the photograph.
I had the honor of being the “official” photographer the year Kanuga and Trinity Wall Street held a conference featuring Archbishop Desmond Tutu. I have never been in the presence of a more humble and Holy person. A lighting crew had transformed the Kanuga gym into a glorious cathedral using color lighting and canvass at a very low light level. My challenge was to get an image that was sharp with a very slow shutter speed without using a flash attachment. This is when the Holy Spirit took over. Every time Archbishop Tutu would make an important statement is his sermon he would freeze in place for a few seconds, click.” No one ever knew I was in the room.
As I wandered the Kanuga property looking for photography opportunities, I would occasionally come upon a classic. Is this a photograph of the cloud reflections or a canoe tied to the dock? The choice is yours the viewer.
I have a rule as a photographer, when you set up on a photograph turn around and see what is going on behind you. Our assignment was the chapel altar which is a very good image, however the chapel pews behind me is a classic as I stood STILL in the beauty of this place called Kanuga.