Aug 27, 2011

Playing with light

Photo by Erik Danielson

The sun is sunnier and the dark darker in the northern wilds, the contrasts more vivid, the quiet more loud.

The photo above was taken by Erik, who I work with at the lodge, using a tripod and long-duration exposure. He's got a nice camera and he knows what he's doing with all the settings and whatnot. Everyone in the shot had two marks and we shifted on a cue so that our light was in sync. This was one of the better shots from a number of different attempts and variations in technique by cameraman and subjectry.

I knew this form of photography existed, playing with light and time for effect, but this has been my first experience being involved with - witnessing is a better word maybe - the use of a camera as a reflective device for an extended moment. I always think of a photograph as a frozen slice of time, but there is something hypnotic about leaving the shutter open to drink in the light, the night, us.

Of course I had to try and play with light, too. But I don't have a nice camera. I have a $90 Fuji, and while I can apparently take it 10 feet underwater, put it in the freezer or cover it in sawdust without ruining it, I cannot leave the shutter open to drink drink drink... The best I can do for now is use the 'nighttime tripod' mode, which begrudgingly allows me a few seconds of exposure along with one or two randomly-time flashes that follow no pattern whatsoever. While this limits my ability to play Junior Photographer around the campfire, I've had a lot of fun absorbing the scenery on my last few Nights In Hammock [NIH].*

These are a few interesting results I've gotten so far. If the Fuji will give me two good flashes and about three seconds of exposure, I can usually highlight a near-target (face/person) and then wiggle or pan the camera to blend or accelerate the background and/or target. I really hope someone who knows about photography reads that last sentence and laughs/cries, because I'm sure it sounds ridiculous.

I am certainly not sharing these moments or my inept descriptions of my Fuji's capabilities as examples of artistic photography... Please don't think I'm taking myself seriously. These are doodles, nothing more.

I only raise this obscure side-bar to my summer in the north as a bridge to a broader discussion on light and our perceptions of that energy in this human dimension.

How often do you think about how the light is playing with you? Do you play back?

By getting away from the city and out of the office I have been noticing the wild variations in light that exist every day, how it is always playing with us and everything around us. The sun is sunnier and the dark darker and all that... The contrasts more vivid, quiet much louder, and so forth...

The other morning I woke up and it was still dark, and there was a crack in the curtains and I could see these specks of bright white light bouncing through the window... I rubbed my eyes, pulled myself further from sleep and looked again. Stars? Way too many stars? I reached for my glasses, and finally realized it was the sunrise needle-holing it's way through the birch trees outside. But it was still dark in my cabin and the sunrise was over an hour away. I've been in fog so thick I couldn't see the lake 20 feet away. I saw distinct rays of the sun on Alpine Lake a few weeks ago that looked like Aurora Borealis, and I've seen Aurora so intense they reached the southern horizon, and everyday I try harder to really absorb this beautiful, wild energy. And my eyes drink drink drink.

* - NIH is a measure of camping frequency... as in: "After my trip to Caribou Lake this week my NIH is up to .388!" See previous post on the Art of Hammockry.