Perspective changes through the lens of a camera.
Intensely fixed on a subject, a photographer using both mechanical and mental focus has unique opportunities to see the intangible and magnificent. By obscuring all but one point of interest, a camera provides a certain disconnect from the world’s hurries and records life one frame at a time.
As Kumari’s eyes came into focus, a chill ran down my spine.
Kumari is a Bengal tiger of the ultra rare “golden tabby” variety. I hoped to get quality shots of she and the other residents of Tiger Creek Refuge but something far more profound happened.
I saw God.
I do not mean the Lord himself stepped into the frame but in the stunning beauty, powerful life force and design evident in this great cat, His glory was manifested.
No longer was I just photographing a tiger but instead recording one of God’s finest creative triumphs in a way that truly touched my spirit.
I was in awe.
Romans 1:20 says, “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.”
In other words the Apostle Paul says although we think of God’s powers as invisible they are apparent in His creation. It is even said to be evident to such an extent that people are“without excuse” for not recognizing it.
I felt that way as I snapped more photos of Kumari and other tigers at the refuge. And looking back at 17 years of photographing big cats from Texas to China, tigers in particular have always inspired me to reflect on God’s artistic genius.
Tigers typically have a rusty-reddish coat, a white ventral and medial area with a white fringe around the face highlighted by stripes varying from brown to pure black. They have more than 100 stripes in fact with each animal sporting its own unique pattern. Their stripes are so unique that scientists us them to identify wild tigers captured on trail cameras and have developed a computer program that sorts through an image database to pinpoint individuals.
While looking through my lens it is as if each of God’s carefully placed brush strokes are evident and that without blemish they meld together to create a stunning image on a living, breathing canvas. Earlier I referenced a life force or energy inherent in these animals and without fail that is most apparent through the eyes.
Scientists conclude a tiger’s eyes are the brightest of any animal and in fact they are so bright the reflection of even distant light can illuminate them. This characteristic is noted in William Blake’s classic poem, “The Tiger”.
“Tiger, tiger burning bright in the forests of the night. What immortal hand or eye could frame they fearful symmetry?”
The poem itself ponders the creative genius behind the great cat and the “burning bright” is a reference to the tiger’s bright, piercing eyes that denote the demeanor of the individual.
Kumari’s eyes have a regal, playful quality while her sister Arula’s indicate a mischievous nature that is inherit in her behavior. Other tigers I have known and photographed over the years also spoke through the eyes as effectively as any human.
Back in the mid 1990s, I worked around Shiloh, a Siberian and Shasta, a Bengal that shared space together but could not have been more different in terms of behavior. Looking back at photos, someone who never spent time with them could easily tell Shasta had a gentle nature while Shilo was full on intense.
It was all in the eyes.
Genesis 1:24-25 records that God said, “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: livestock, creatures that move along the ground, and wild animals, each according to its kind.” And it was so. God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.
That He certainly did in grand fashion with the tiger.
Voted the world’s most popular animal by viewers of Animal Planet, even over domestic cats, dogs and dolphins, these sometimes fierce, always beautiful felines are prime example of the genius of our magnificent Creator. Humans are His crowning achievement but tigers may be aesthetically umatchable.
They were put on the planet in their striking form for a reason and I cannot help to think that is to remind us that our God is a truly creative, awesome God.
By Chester Moore, Jr