Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Captivated by the Light

"A truly great structure, one that is meant to stand the tests of time never disregards its environment. A serious architect takes that into account. He knows that if he wants presence, he must consult with nature. He must be captivated by the light. Always the light. Always." - Christopher Plummer as Simon Wyler in "The Lake House".

Love, love, love this line!  Another one of my many creative loves is architecture.  I have considered on several occasions going back to school to study and become an architect (and then I get into calculus class.  Ha, ha!)  One of these days, I may actually do it.  In the meantime, I walk through engaging houses and buildings of my design in my head and enjoy walking through those that are the the realization of others.  Part of choosing a home from my perspective has always been about the light, as much as the location and layout.  Black Rock Center for the Arts' gallery has beautiful light on a winter's afternoon.  The way the sunlight plays about the room is just lovely.  I am not sure if it was planned or serendipity, but either way, lucky is the artist who has a show there.  I love museums and galleries that are filled with natural light to the point they don't even really need the artificial lights.

The quote above expresses exactly what I love with architecture ... when a building is not forced into its environment, but actually works with it.   And when the light falls just right ... oh my, its stunning.  It is what makes a building great and it is why I love photography so much ... its about the light.

Have you ever noticed that the quality of light changes from place to place?  It really hits me when I fly to southern California ... I exit the airport and the light is so completely different from the Mid-Atlantic coast or the Midwest.  I don't know that I can even describe why ... maybe its clarity or saturation ... but it is distinct.  Yes, the quality of light changes throughout the day and year wherever you are, but because its more subtle with its gradual evolution, I think it does not always make the same kind of immediate impression.

Part of splendid composition, no matter what our art form, is consideration of the quality of light.  It has a major effect in our work.  Is it hard or soft?  Is it warm or cool? How does it play? What does it do? From where is it coming?  What happens when it changes?  As artists, we want to provide the greatest visual impact and light is a huge part of doing that.

For photographers (or actually any 2-D representational artist), an interesting exercise is to create a series of images of exactly the same location, with only the light changing.  Either capturing different times of day or different seasons (or both).  It helps to create the visual reference of how the quality of light can impact a composition.  There was a really interesting exhibit at The Museum of Photographic Arts in San Diego last time I was there several years ago.  If I am remembering correctly, the photographer took a photo every morning from his window overlooking the ocean for a year ... it was an wonderful study in changing light. 

I am most definitely captivated by light ... I love to watch it evolve.  When it is bewitching, if I have presence of mind, I am running for my camera.  I think I tend to like when the light is soft, warm and low, but it all depends on the subject.  It all has its place.  While I have been writing, I have been watching the sunlight move across my back garden ... it is beautiful.

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