MIAMI COUNTY — When Don Angle zooms in on an expanse of picturesque scenery, his lens is not merely an extension of his camera; it’s an extension of his eye.
“Photography helps me to see,” the Covington resident said. “It’s my way to see the world.”
A nature lover since childhood, Angle said that being outdoors moves him in a way unlike most people.
“From playing in the creek when I was a kid to now, it’s a very emotional experience. That kind of emotion has intensified over the years. For me, spiritually, my faith is a huge part of that.”
Born in Piqua and raised in a Christian home in Pleasant Hill, Angle strayed from the path of faith as many do in younger years, but, as often is the case, his life journey led him back to the fold.
“I use photography as a tool to open the eyes of the blind to what I’ve seen and learned,” said Angle, calling himself an “amateur explorer” who has visited 49 of the 50 states, with Hawaii being the exception.
In his 71 years — 49 of them spent with his wife, who gave him his first camera — Angle has seen much. He and his wife moved a dozen times during their first decade of marriage, including living in California for two years. During the summer, the couple lives in Ronan, Montana, for three months.
Some of what Angle has seen can be viewed in his recently published photo essay book, “Finding Light in the Shadows,” a rich compilation of 30 rolling landscapes, serene seascapes and nature shots accompanied by narratives rooted in faith and philosophy.
“I am more comfortable writing. I wouldn’t say I’m a public speaker,” said Angle, who despite this self-description is engaging and talkative in person.
He conceded with a laugh that he does talk a lot, but explained that he’s more comfortable one-on-one or in small groups.
“Sometimes, I’m a bit of a cowboy: I shoot from the hip, miss the mark and wound innocent bystanders, so I prefer to express how I feel with pictures, with photo essays. The book seemed to be a good way for me to put words and visuals together,” he said, noting that Jesus Christ drew pictures in people’s minds through parables.
The book, available on Amazon, began as a collection of Facebook postings intended to share Angle’s thoughts and travel photos with friends and family. But it developed into something deeper.
“I began to see the internet as the ‘new street corner’ of the global community, where anyone could set up their soapbox and have their say,” Angle wrote in his notes for this interview. “I always liked street corner preachers. God had spoken to me through such means. I decided now was my time to be one!”
Eventually, Facebook readers encouraged Angle to collect his posts into a book, and thus “Finding Light in the Shadows” was born.
“(The photo essays) are not heavy theology or denominational doctrine,” said Angle, who described the book more like the Psalms than the Gospels.
“They are meant to bring the heart to worship. Worship takes our mind off ourselves and our troubles. We look at the solution instead of the problem. We find meaning and purpose — even in our suffering. Worship incites us to rejoice.”
Angle’s work is inextricably intertwined with his religious leanings, though this was not always the case.
“Early in my life, I started going down some wrong alleys,” he admitted. “In my late 20s, in a desperate attempt to save my marriage, I began to search for meaning in my life. It’s been a long journey, so now it’s the all-encompassing purpose of my being alive.
“I think there’s a purpose we all were erected for, to be all we were intended to be. I don’t have a real complex theology; it’s just, ‘God is love, God is light.’
“I don’t think I’m unique,” Angle said. “I think it’s every man’s journey to find light in the darkness.”
With the technology boom, he has watched photography morph into an altogether different animal than it was when he began snapping pictures nearly five decades ago.
“Photography is gaining momentum as we speak. Digital photography is the most amazing thing; it just opened up the world,” said Angle, who modestly said he doesn’t see himself as “intuitively talented,” but as someone who has to work at it.
“Digital photography saves time and opens up the world in a whole new way. Developing film was stifling and costly. Digital has opened it up for everyone; anyone can go out with a cell phone and get an amazing photo,” he said.
As the world of photography transforms, Angle rolls with the changes.
“It can be overwhelming to sit at my computer at my age and sort through all the photos,” he said, referring to his current project of processing and organizing more than 100 photos and videos in preparation for his next book. “But I find, if anything, I can use technology to put out the messages in my heart.”
In addition to wearing the hats of author and photographer, Angle is a jack-of-many-trades who’s worked more than 20 jobs in his lifetime, including being a cytotechnologist — one who studies cells to detect cancer — from which he retired in 2013. He also holds a bachelor’s degree in biology from Wright State University, taught at Franklin-Monroe, and was a medical technologist at Piqua Memorial Hospital.
Retirement has brought the greatest satisfaction of the septuagenarian’s life, giving him time to travel, as well as enjoy his four grown children and 18 grandchildren. Looking back on seven decades, Angle sees a man who has lived by the credo, “Variety is the spice of life.”
“It’s not been an easy trip,” he said. “But it’s been an adventure.”