Saturday, February 26, 2011

A Day in the Life of a Temple Chaser Photographer

(Author’s Note:  I have been a Temple Chaser from the first moment Cheryl said its name and that she was starting a blog.  I would have never thought I would be taking photographs of its development.  It is an easy fit.  I live about 7 minutes away. )

I think about photographing the temple every single day.  

Several times a day.

Since I have been working with Cheryl to help the blog keep updated with the construction pictures of the temple site since her move west, it is almost like I feel a special draw to not only the building, but the ground and sky themselves.

I thought I would share a typical day in my life regarding whether I will be shooting the temple that day or not. 

It all boils down to the fact that I love clouds.  Yep, I am even in the Cloud Appreciation Society.  No, really.

That, and I am a fairly light sleeper. 

I have never been one to sleep when the daylight has started to arrive.  Almost every single morning when I wake up the first thing I think is “What is the sky doing today?”  I hop (it is more like a frantic stumble) out of the bed and throw back the curtains in my room which face west (which of course doesn’t really do me any good).  If I see pink sky or clouds (the pinker the better), then I usually gasp out loud and begin running around crazily to find and throw on my housecoat (an ugly sort of robe) to run down the stairs (trying to avoid anything left on them—including my cats) and look out the east facing living room windows to look at the sun, sky, and clouds.  

Basically, I am looking to see how they are all performing together that morning.  How could they make the temple look beautiful that day?

My poor husband….I cannot even guess how many mornings I have woke him up early with my racing antics.  You know, I was thinking maybe I should sleep in the living room until the temple is finished…that way I cut out the west bedroom “middle man” window and let my husband actually sleep in.  Quietly.  I bet he would like that. 

The east facing windows usually provide the deciding vote:  dash to the temple or go back to bed.  If the sky has clouds—that carries a heavy “yes” vote.  The redder or pinker the clouds are, the more likely I am to go out.  I keep the camera in the living room on a shelf, ready to be grabbed and used at a moment’s notice. 

You might think I would be like a fireman and have my housecoat, socks, and coat all waiting with the car door open so I could just jump in my stuff and drive away (let’s be honest, I have sped to the temple more than once…rehearsing my explanation to the future police officer who will someday pull me over).

The last morning I shot (Wednesday), the sky was cloudy.  Really cloudy.

There were no pink clouds.  As a matter of fact, there was no light at all. 

But I felt something.  I call it “the urge.”

I often have this internal dialog with myself at 6:45 am.  Do I go?  Do I not go?  How will the sky compliment the temple today?   So Wednesday for example I went out into the driveway and stood there, staring up at the sky.  In my housecoat.   Like I was waiting for it to speak to me.  “Val, this is the Sky…you are going to see something neat….you should go over there.”  Some days it would be much easier for me to decide if the sky did speak to me. 

Once in a while, a woman needs easy.

Sometimes, it is easy.  When it is really wonderful out there, I have a friend who calls us on his way to work.  If it is 7:10 am and the phone rings, I know it is the “Sunrise Patrol” letting me know I should be racing to the temple.  He has never been wrong.

The bottom line is that I honestly feel like it is the Holy Ghost or God’s inspiration in my heart.  And I try to listen to it.

When I went to the temple yesterday, I felt like I was supposed to stay and see what happens.  Looking at the sky with no light.

It was 36* and I wasn’t dressed appropriately for the weather at all.  Long undies, no gloves, and the coat I was wearing is the one with the broken zipper my husband still insists on wearing around.  You know the one…the one that doesn’t zip up.


Driving there I had my prayer with Heavenly Father.  “Heavenly Father,” says me, “since I am making the effort to go today, could you show me something that Cheryl’s temple chasers will like?” The way I see it, these interesting temple sky pictures are gifts to you from Heavenly Father.  I am just a helper.

Because I am not employed out of my home, I have the flexibility of time.  I was at the grounds two hours that morning and I saw quite a show.  A cool cloudy show I can share with you.  With the Kansas City Temple the shining star of it all. 

All this just for the sunrises.

Sunsets bring the same kind of conversation with the sky and my heart, but with the sky off the back porch.

Sunsets in the west afford me a little more ease in my decision making.  First, I am already up and dressed. Secondly, I don’t have to  wake up my husband or trip over my cats.  I can see the sunsets unfolding right in front of me.  It saves me from talking to myself in the driveway in front of the neighbors as well.  The non-Mormon (what is the Holy Ghost?) neighbors. 

If the sunset and I think it will be beautiful there that evening, I race over there.  Again.  No worries though because I have already practiced my speeding explanation earlier that morning.

A photographer who I respect a lot recently told me I am the “luckiest photographer in the whole world.”  Like the day they put the second spire on the west part of the temple.  I don’t know any construction folks.  I don’t have connections.  But by chance, my friend and I happened by and only had to wait 3-4 minutes for the event to unfold.  This photo man told me he had been there for several hours waiting in the cold to capture it. 

He says I have this uncanny knack to show up when things are just getting good.  Construction.  Sunlight (he forgot to mention the clouds, which I am sure was just an easy oversight on his part…J).

I don’t believe it is luck.  If I did, it would almost be like I thought I had some gift of timing or ability to be dialed into the construction schedule.  But I don’t. 

What I do have is heart.  Feelings.  Thoughts.   Holy Ghost.

I want to share my feelings about the temple coming to Kansas City. 

I am a transplant to this area.  I have not waited my whole life for it to be built here because I don’t have a long history here. 

I am a transplant to this religion.  I haven’t waited my whole life to see a temple built because I converted in my adulthood.

But I know the feelings of the Holy Ghost and I know that this is holy ground.  Not only is the building holy and special, but all that surrounds it.  I have spent many hours there, and I know that it is a place of peace. 

I have seen countless people driving by, taking their pictures with their cell phones or walking around its grounds with their families.    They look so happy.  Excited.  Joyful.  It seems that there is something about being able to see it, visually.  Seeing it makes it real.  I love that little flitter in my heart I get when driving around the interstate corner and see the temple rise right before my eyes.  It is like coming to see an old friend.  I get it every time, even if I had seen it earlier that same day.

I am a busy LDS mother.  I have “weightier matters” in my personal life that I deal with daily.  Is it always convenient for me to take time out of my schedule to go and shoot photographs?  No.  Why do I do it?  Because it feels right.  I know it is right.

Many of you reading this may never see the Kansas City Temple in person so I hope that these visual representations I take for you help you to feel its peace and joy.

It is real and true.  Just like our God in Heaven. 

Valerie Anderson



Michelle said...

Valerie, thanks so much for posting all these feelings and the happenings of your day! What a blessing to be building your testimony of what will happen in this temple before it is even complete.

All of my non-member family members are within driving distance of this temple and I cannot wait for the open house so I can fly back and walk through with them. You are helping me to get ready for that experience by giving me the opportunity to ponder on it's beauty and holiness.

Living in Utah I am mere minutes from more than one temple and have never thought to get up and rush out to see them in the light and clouds of a new day or to end my day admiring and pondering what goes on there. What an opportunity I have been missing!

Julie said...

I appreciate your efforts to get such beautiful photos for us!

Jenny said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Topher said...

I LOVE this post. I've enjoyed your photos so much, and hearing about your daily routine/service was inspiring. Please don't stop. We live in Overland Park, and make it up to the site about once a month, but look forward to each new post and phot update you provide. Thank you, thank you.
Bishop Staggs
Overland Park First
Lenexa Kansas Stake


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