Saturday, December 22, 2007

Return of the Light

During the darkest quarter of the year, if you're going to be a photographer, you have to learn how to capture images at night. It's hard, at least for me. There aren't a lot of photons floating around, except in proximity to the Christmas lights adorning the front yards, and of course the obnoxious halogen orangey-pink from the street lights.

We urban folks take light for granted, but nighttime light is a fairly recent event. It used to be dark at midwinter, really really dark. Try as I might, I can't really imagine what life must have been like.

I love to think about Isaac Newton working with his prisms (in daylight only of course. Can moonlight be refracted through prisms? I have no idea.) Isaac lived way before electric light, so no wonder he was so fascinated with the stuff. He had two solid years to pull together his ideas about the nature of light, years he spent tucked away in a house in the country, avoiding the plague. Can you imagine? That was the mid 1600's in Britain, a rather unfathomable time not just because of the dark nights.

The good thing about Newton's enforced seclusion was that he had in his possession a book with hundreds of blank pages in which he wrote his observations and insights. Blank books were a very rare thing. He, and subsequently, we, were very lucky he had this book because during those two years, he did his most profound work with the physics of light. Can you imagine how he must have felt when he figured out that the prism actually divides light into different wavelengths? It must have been a hell of a moment. No wonder he turned to alchemy later in life. Light is amazing stuff. The darkest days of winter, even now in 2007, are a little bit scary. No wonder we gather in groups, make a lot of noise, light many lights, drink and eat too much. I mean, really.

The moon has turned, and as of today, solstice has passed. The light will return again. I've continued my frenzy, and am feeling cheerful. After tomorrow I will rest. Happy return of the light, ya'all!


lettuce said...

lovely pictures reya, you seem to be getting the hang of it! i've been having fun with photographing winter light too...

i often wonder about those early scientists too - did they see how amazing their discoveries were?

that table lamp is fab.

Reya Mellicker said...

THank you, Lettuce! The lamp is in the window at "Jimmy T's", a regrettably horrible Capitol Hill greasy spoon. The only thing you can say about the food at Jimmy T's is that it's cheap. And you do get what you pay for!

Lynne said...

Hey, that's the same tacky lamp that the father wins in "The Christmas Story." I'd recognize it anywhere! Great photo, Reya! I see a reflection but can't tell whether or not it's you ...

Happy return of the light to you too dear Reya!

Are you getting rain like us?

kimy said...

I chuckled mightily when I saw the lamp it is an iconic image here in cleveland (ref lynn's remark re 'the christmas story' - which was filmed here and there's even a museum in tremont (a neighborhood that would strike your photographic eye should you ever find yourself on the north coast!) - I haven't yet been to the museum and for the life of me don't think I even ever saw the movie although because I live here I know all about ralphie and the basic story)

I am always challenged by nighttime picture taking. I need to use my tripod more, but am generally too lazy to set it up or as is more often the case I don't have it when the moment of capture presents.

happy to hear you are still cheerful and frenzy is fun! happy winter and to the promise of spring.

bises. to the light!

Panthera said...

We urban folks take light for granted, but nighttime light is a fairly recent event. It used to be dark at midwinter, really really dark. Try as I might, I can't really imagine what life must have been like.

Hello Reya!

Interesting you say that ... on Friday I took everyone back in time during the meditation to pre-historic times to feel and see what it would be like without light. And how fire was so important for heat and light. Blessed we are to have homes to return to and with a flick of a switch ... Voila! light or turn a dial and heat.

Hugs and Happy Holidays, Panthera

Gary said...

Fantastic musings my dear. Everything has a place tis true but how wonderful to celebrate the light in the darkness.

Reya Mellicker said...

You are so right, Gary.

Panthera, happy holidays to you. I found my way to your livejournal but wasn't allowed to leave a comment. So sorry, that you lost your beloved cat.Hope you're doing very well otherwise.

d. chedwick bryant said...

It is great to celebrate the solstice, the light, and Yalda! Yippie!

Ladron de Basura (a.k.a. Junk Thief) said...

Great night images. I've not done many since going digital, but used to love doing them with film...back in the day. Gorgeous shots you have here as always.