Sunday, March 6, 2011

Let's be honest, the light helps.

I have been mulling over the shape and direction of this post for a few months. Since the deep, dark, depths of winter, when I thought it would be a nice divergence from the gloom to revisit photos from sunnier times, to now, on the brink of the return of light. Either way, I would like to write about light, to honour it's return, and revel in the multitudinous qualities it can take, and how, when it's fleeting qualities are captured it can add a physical dimension to a photo.

We have so many colloquial phrases to describe in varying ways how light is inviting, and draws us forward. Light fuels us, it energizes us, it sustains us. I stumbled upon this quirky blog about a lonely, lost gnome in NYC. Strangely sage and poetic, this quote struck a chord with me: "Light is like purpose. On mornings when the room becomes brightness, it is consuming and exhaustive, and I am propelled awake by the untarnished future. But other days are dark; I wander until I find a sliver lying in the air, and cupping my hands in the light, I am holding purpose, determined on capturing it forever."

Peach-coloured street in Briancon, France, and pink-shell beach in the Dominican Republic.

Though the days are getting progressively lighter, it is still cold and a solid layer of snow remains. But recently I've noticed, in those sunlight patches sheltered from the bitter wind, the sun feels warm again, and there's a faint scent on the air, and the light is suddenly imbued with purpose more than just function, and you know, spring is almost here. Long before the traditional harbinger of spring, the robin, pokes his lovely red belly out, this scent, this unnamed, delicate, easy-to-miss, melting-snow, promise-of-green smell starts wafting through the air, and gets stronger every day. I think that's what brings the robin out. It's what he's singing about.

I have always loved this quote from a favourite song by Paul Simon: "I've been following the light across my room." Which I used to do when I was a kid. I would place two objects on the floor, one just at the edge of the inside of the shadow, and another a few inches away, in shadow, and would keep track of how long it would take before the next object was at the edge of the light. By watching it intently, with a child's impatience, it was difficult to see the progression, but somehow, without seeing the movement, the second object would always end up in the sun.

Early morning light on an olive grove in Andalucia. Soft, cream-coloured light in Granada's lofty cathedral, Spain.

It's amazing how the light changes from season to season, and how you can tell one season is blending into the next as the quality of the light changes. In the peak of summer, the quality of the light is white, harsh, and contrasty, which blends into the warm, radiant, amber glow of autumn light, and into the cold, blue, light of winter, and again into the young, green, hopeful spring light.

One of the many things I love about photography is the ability to capture a scene, to freeze a moment in time, so that I can (escape to the thereness and) look upon it again and again; but it's even better when a photo captures an aspect of the physical sensation of being there. For me it's something in the quality of the light. Some hard-to-describe elusive feature, manifested in a lens flare, or an all-over gauziness that makes the hazy air itself seem physical, so that you can almost feel what it was like to be there. Photos where the light itself seems to be the subject matter, and collectively become a study of the many adjectives for light: diffuse, glowing, dappled, luminous, radiant, uplifting, shining...

Sunlight making halos around trees in Algonquin Park, Canada. Soft velour fields in the Alpstein, Switzerland.

It's amazing to capture something beyond temporal, something that barely even exists in a moment. A flare, glinting off an object, is a tiny, happenstance moment of perfect alignment between you, the object, and the sun, allowing the flare to be visible. One little shift in any direction, of any of those three objects, and the light alters, the flare disappears. It doesn't exist now as it did a moment ago. You capture the moment, or you don't. And when you do, when you still that moment, it extends magically.

1 comment:

  1. oh how I love this time of year! The return of the light and warmth!!

    Katelin xo