Pat Mingarelli uses photography to draw people closer to nature & God

For many years, Pasquale “Pat” Mingarelli worked as a photographer for a Christian magazine. That’s where he fine-tuned his technical skills.

However, it was while taking backpacking trips with friends where Pat developed a passion for capturing images from nature.

“Half of the trips involved backpacking and the other half involved sightseeing to different places – both of which gave me a lot of time outdoors,” he explained. “The experiences took me back to the time I first picked up a camera to start photographing nature.

“I loved doing journalism with my photography, but I was drawing closer to God through those moments of taking pictures,” Pat said.

Over time, Pat felt called to help other people connect with God through nature photography. He started a website, Visual Bible Verse of the Day, to showcase his images, but in a way that connected them to specific Bible passages.

The posts feature a Bible passage with a short daily devotional thought as well as an image he took in nature. Pat expanded on some of his favorite devotions by adding greater context and depth, and assembled them into a book titled “Drawing Near: Meeting God in His Creation.” His book helps people get away from the distractions of life to meet with God.

Now in his 50s, Pat works with people to teach them how to have better experiences outdoors with a camera and with God.

A love for journalism

Pat was originally from upstate New York, but now lives in eastern Nebraska.

“I like to say I’m an hour away from nothing and a day away from everything,” he explained. “I live in a pretty hilly part of Nebraska, but the mountains of Colorado and Wyoming aren’t too far away.”

As a young man, Pat was rather inquisitive about things around him, even with things he wouldn’t describe as being passionate about.

“Being a photojournalist gave me the opportunity to explore things out of my curiosity,” he explained. “Working for the Christian magazine allowed me to capture God’s work with my camera by photographing people who were working for the Lord.

“It was a real blessing for me because I traveled to more than half the country and also overseas,” he added. “I have been to Africa, Asia, Europe and Central America. It was an opportunity to meet people of different cultures and share their different way of life with others through photography.”

Photography equipment

As a professional photographer, Pat owns a lot of specialized equipment he purchased over the years. However, he said technology has improved so much that anyone can learn to take really good photos even with their cell phone.

“I do have a more traditional digital SLR (single lens reflex) camera that still uses moveable mirrors to capture images,” he explained. “I think my next camera will enter the mirrorless realm of photography; however, my workhorse remains the DSLR camera I used for years. But, I am not ashamed to use my phone to take pictures.”

Pat currently owns an iPhone Pro, and the “pro” refers to the quality of the device’s camera.

“Apple has this thing called ‘Apple Pro raw,’ which uses more pixels to capture a photograph with much more depth,” said Pat. “That setting gives me a lot more flexibility to be able to play with photos to bring out more details.”

In the summer of 2023, Pat and his son traveled to the Canadian boundary waters in Minnesota with a Christian boys group called Trail Life USA.

“I thought about bringing my high-end camera on the trip, but opted to travel light and just bring my phone,” he explained. “Some of the pictures I took really captured the experience. But, as good as the Apple Pro raw feature is, the images were not as good as I can get out of my SLR camera.”

Special photo equipment allows Pat to zoom in on animals unnoticed. Photo by Pat Mingarelli.

Equipment evolution

Pat is a fan of Canon camera equipment, which he used professionally throughout his career.

“When I was in college, Nikon was the way to go. But, technology kept moving forward into the autofocus realm,” he explained. “But, Nikon was reluctant to move in that direction. The company made autofocus lenses to work on their manual camera bodies, and manual lenses to work on autofocus bodies.

“Canon, on the other hand, opted to make everything autofocus, and their cameras just seemed to work better,” he added. “When I went to work for the magazine, there had been a big switch in the industry from Nikon to Canon, and the company used Canon equipment.

“When I left the magazine to do more digital photography, I looked at what Nikon offered, but Canon’s equipment was more suitable for what I was going to do,” he said.

In recent years, Sony entered the market with what it called a mirrorless camera, which no longer uses a shutter to capture light. It is similar to the types of cameras people have on cell phones.

“Sony really got ahead of the game while Canon and Nikon were still selling digital SLR equipment,” said Pat. “People started buying Sony cameras because they were lighter and captured better images. Today, Canon and Nikon are back in the game. It all comes down to brand preference.”

Pat uses a variety of interchangeable lenses, including a zoom, telephoto, wide-angle and prime lens, which doesn’t have any zooming capability at all; it has a fixed focal length.

“I have a variety of Canon L-series lenses in my camera bag. The L-series is Canon’s top-of-the-line equipment,” he explained. “An L-series 70-200 mm lens sells for about $2,000, compared to an amateur lens, which sells for $300 to $400.

“The better lens is made with glass and is much heavier,” he added. “Less-expensive lenses are made with plastic. There is a difference in the optics with something made of glass compared to something made of plastic.

“When you enlarge a photograph, you’ll definitely see the difference,” said Pat. “But, if you’re not going to enlarge the image and just post it to Facebook or Instagram, you probably won’t see much of a difference.

“However, in my photography classes, I tell students if they are going to be selling photographs, then they need to use higher-end lenses,” he explained. “When you enlarge those images, you can see the difference in detail, and it shows in the final print quality.”

Special training

Pat has a degree in photojournalism that taught him how to take exceptional photographs as well as how to tell a story with pictures.

“Today, people who just want to know how to take good pictures, can learn a lot about photography by taking a few online courses or a continuing education class at a local community college,” said Pat.

“The benefit of taking a class for a semester or two is that you get many opportunities to take pictures and have someone review the images,” he added. “You learn what’s right and wrong, and have lessons to learn how to take specific kids of images.

“It often takes people years to refine their photography skills, but if you took a class or two, you can greatly improve in less than a year,” he explained.

Being intentional

Pat said the biggest reward in nature photography is being able to connect with God and spending time alone with him.

“Life today is so stressful. There is so much noise, and our phones are a big source of noise, as is the computer and television,” he explained. “So, when I step outside to do nature photography, I step away from the man-made noise and step into the world God made.

“Anyone can experience that kind of peace by being intentional about meeting with God,” he added.

As a magazine photographer, being able to serve God by using his natural talent and learned skills was also a big reward for Pat.

“It was a huge reward to get the cultural experiences that came from traveling around the country and the world to meet new people,” he said.

People can’t help but relax and be in awe of God’s creation when spending time outdoors. Taking photos is a great way to remember special places and connections with God. Photo by Pat Mingarelli.

Finding God in nature

The Bible is full of passages about nature and spending time in it, Pat explained.

“The best way to understand how important it is to spend time alone in nature with God is to study the life of Jesus,” he added. “There are frequent references to him getting away to a quiet place, as well as the 40 days he spent in the wilderness.

“Near the end of his life, Jesus spent time in the Garden of Gethsemane,” said Pat. “Jesus often opted to spend time with his father in the quiet of creation. It helped prepare Jesus for trials to come, or to recenter him after a trying time.”

There are more than a dozen references to Jesus getting away to a quiet, secluded place, such as:

  • Mark 1:35 – “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.”
  • Mark 6:31 – “Jesus said to them, `Come away with me. Let us go alone to a quiet place and rest for a while.’”
  • Luke 5:16 – “But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.”
  • Matthew 14:23 – “After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone….”

“Why was Jesus doing that, and why did the great gospel writers mention it?” Pat asked. “A lot of times the passages are packaged between big stories, like sending out the 70, feeding the 5,000, hearing news of John the Baptist’s beheading, and Jesus walking on water.

“Even in the Old Testament, we see Moses encountering God in the wilderness, and so did David, Jacob and Elijah,” he added. “The wilderness is a place where we can be still, especially today. It’s where we can hear God’s still, small voice.”

Photographic memorial

One reason why Pat likes to have a camera when he hears a special message from God is to help him remember the encounter.

“The camera becomes a visual journal of what happened,” he explained. “There are many times I look at pictures I have taken and remember the moment I connected with God, a message he sent me or unique insight he gave to me.”

There are several Bible stories where people created memorials out of rocks so that each time they passed that place, the Israelites would remember what God had done or told them. Pat’s photos work the same way.

“I look at pictures I took at the time, and it helps me recall a moment with God or the feeling of deep connection I enjoyed,” he said. “When we look at an aspect of God’s creation, whether it is a flower, sunrise or general landscape, we can ponder God.”

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.”

“When I photograph a mountain landscape, I’m learning about God’s strength and him being mighty and omnipotent,” said Pat.

Pathways represent peace, wonder, mystery and choices. Photo by Pat Mingarelli.

Picture-perfect pathways

Pat frequently photographs pathways for the special significance they represent.

“Many times, I photograph them from the side or when they are backlit by a light. It shows the light toward where the path is leading,” said Pat. “I also like to show lights at the end of the tunnel.

“Pathways not only represent peace, wonder and mystery, but they also represent choices, especially when a path separates into two directions,” he added. “People are captivated by pathways, which is why they display them on walls.”

Matthew 7:13-14 describes the difference between a wide path that leads to destruction and a narrow path that leads to life. Jesus said only a few people find the narrow path.

“There is a great big wilderness and a narrow path. What happens when we go off that path? We get lost,” Pat explained. “There is safety and comfort in that narrow path.”

Wonder as you wander

When taking pictures in nature, people can’t help but be drawn to the tiny details of God’s creation as well as its overall majesty.

“The word ‘wonder’ is referenced more than 100 times in the Bible, regardless of the translation,” said Pat. “God is telling us what to wonder about him, his Word and his creation.

“Kids wonder all the time, and they learn by wondering. But, adults don’t wonder enough,” he explained. “When we wonder, we pursue.

“Photography helps us wonder because the act of capturing an image draws us in,” he added. “As we wander through the forest, we can wonder about creation, the creator and why he created something the way he did. The distractions of life prevents us from not only wandering, but also wondering.”

For example, Pat encourages people to look at a flower. They can admire the colors or shape, watch insects inside the bloom and wonder what attracts them to that plant.

“Who told bees that a specific flower is good for nectar and pollen?,” he asked. “Why is it attractive to us? We don’t need pollen and nectar, but we see beauty in a flower. What does that beauty tell us about ourselves?

“Photography draws us in deeply and forces us to focus on what’s in front of us by leaving distractions of the world behind,” said Pat.

Keeping track of photos

Back in the day when people had to use film to take pictures, they would only get 36 photos in a canister. As a result, they were very particular about which pictures to take. With digital cameras and virtually unlimited storage space, it’s easy for people to take a dozen photos of the same thing.

Unfortunately, if the images are stored in a computer and never seen, they lose their ability to inspire.

“I try to not let too much time pass between the time I take a photo and review it,” said Pat. “I will also label each photo and either rank it or delete the image.

“The ones I liked the best are renamed to reflect when and where the photo was taken, but I also add a file number and wording to make it easier to find again,” he added.

For example, if someone photographed deer while visiting a certain place, the image should be named in a way that triggers their brain to remember where the photo was taken and what it is about.

“Develop a filing system that makes sense to you,” he encouraged. “In journalism, I learned to create a filing system that could search for an image based on where it was taken, when it was taken, and details about what the picture was about,” said Pat. “The photo might be titled ‘Bucks fighting in Colorado in fall of 2010.’ Now you have multiple keywords to look for that image.”

Developing a good filing system for images ensures photographers can usually find them easily again. Photo by Pat Mingarelli.

Displaying images

To display his best images, Pat is contemplating buying a large digital frame for his living room. Technology today makes it easy for people to display framed images about 16 inches wide for less than $200.

Apple’s software makes it very easy for televisions to display digital images pulled from cloud storage folders. That enables people to display big images up to the dimension of their TV screen.

Some of Pat’s best photos grace the walls of a Christian school his children attended. He also displays images used in his daily devotionals on his website at

“Most people who connect to God through nature do so with their hearts, not necessarily the science behind creation,” said Pat. “As an artist and photographer, I love the science stuff, but I am really connected to nature through my heart.

“I know people like devotionals. So, in the book, I expand on my favorite devotionals in ways that lead readers to a quiet place where they can contemplate Bible verses,” he added.

“The beautiful photography in the book helps readers make an emotional connection to God and his creation,” said Pat. “Hopefully, by seeing images I capture in nature, they encourage people to get outdoors and experience nature themselves. It just brings theology back to the heart.”

Teaching photography

Pat wants people to fall in love with photography, so he has been teaching classes for many years at local colleges and even a zoo.

“I have been teaching the nuts-and-bolts of photography for quite some time, but now I am adding a spiritual aspect to it and offering classes online,” said Pat. “I am working on a little mini-course people can take on their own, and I am looking to develop some retreats where people can connect with me and offer suggestions to each other.”

Pat also provides one-on-one coaching packages that includes instruction as well as portfolio review, all of which is conducted via Zoom. People who live in eastern Nebraska and Western Iowa can pay for a two-hour in-person coaching session at a park, zoo, sporting event or when clients are interacting with their children and grandchildren.

At, people can access some free videos to get tips for taking better photographs that discuss things like composition, exposure and proper framing.

Finding purpose through photography

Many people see turning 50 as a time to explore new passions or to return to activities they enjoyed in the past. Photography may be the key to unlocking that passion, Pat explained.

“Time away unlocks our creativity and loosens up the thought process so we can get some great ideas as well as stamina to pursue them,” he said. “Going for a nature walk to take photos helps us to relax so we can return to whatever we want to pursue with more enthusiasm.”

If he could start over again, Pat would have begun teaching others how to connect with God much earlier.

“I would have been more intentional about focusing on the faith aspect of photography instead of being spontaneous in talking about it if the opportunity came up,” he explained.

“It has been such a tremendous blessing to me, I know it can bless others, too. I should have presented this message to more people sooner so they could experience drawing near to God and connecting with him through photography,” he added.

“God created you as a unique individual and gave you special gifts and talents as well as a special message or purpose for you to share with others,” said Pat. “Maybe it is something you will never do full-time, but see what God has placed on your heart and pursue it.

“Even if it’s not economically viable to the point of becoming a full-time job, if it blesses you or blesses others, then you don’t need to wait for permission from anyone else to get started,” he added.

Connect with Pat

There are several ways to connect with Pat, including:

His book, “Drawing Near: Meeting God in His Creation,” is available on Amazon and in other bookstores. 

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