Category: Photography & Conceptualizing Beauty

What beauty is and why we’re drawn to it.

Christmas Lights – Around Town (attempt #1)

Christmas lights were the subject of last night’s foray into picture taking around town. A friend’s home had good oblique angles and provided dark architectural landscape that her Christmas lights outlined and accentuated.  And, in most instances Christmas lights highlighted architectural shape against night’s darkness, making homes look like Gingerbread houses. Beyond this, Christmas lights add atmosphere and mood with their reds, greens, blues, purple and clear white colours, all of which have a gradient of reflection upon surrounding snow. So, I began the endeavour of capturing Christmas and the Christmas spirit around town.

Tonight, I’ve just read an article on the Strobist blog, ‘Photographing Christmas Lights,’ http://strobist.blogspot.com/2006/12/how-to-photograph-christmas-lights.html  and it contains six recommendations for capturing the outdoor beauty of Christmas. One key concept is that Christmas lights reveal themselves best in fading ambient light following sunset and that the trick is to balance the Christmas lights against the ambient light. Here, framing shots would make intentional use of the sky as background to composition; I would need to shoot across the subject (lights) into the ambient light. And, where I began shooting Christmas lights at 8:30 p.m. I would need to move the photography three hours ahead to 4:30-5:30 p.m. to find the sweet spot of the ambient light fading into background glow. In terms of camera settings, where I had my white balance set to custom at K 10000, the Strobist article recommends using the tungsten setting to bring out a royal blue in the sky. I did use my tripod and took shots from low level, eye level and from the deck of my pick-up truck box as a means to find best angle of view.  Strobist recommends a low level shot so as to use much more of the sky as background in the composition. In terms of foreground in most shots I did utilize the light, reflective surface of the snow to create foreground interest; here, there may be better ways to explore foreground use.  In the shots I took last night snow tends to add the feel of a large blanket insulating the earth below it.

So, I’ll be out and about in the next few nights, right after work.

Winter Sunset

In my first steps exiting school the following sunset confronted me. Using my camera free-hand and with tripod I captured thirty-three images, one of which I present here. For most images a wide aperture of f-4.5 allowed for freezing of the image. A smaller aperture of f-22 tended to increase the blur of moving clouds as well as producing a star effect from the lens’ shutter leaves through 30 seconds of exposure. This image is the corner of our elementary school with swings in the foreground. A colourful night.

Sunset through Playground Swings

The Art of Bringing Your Mind Home

In his Greenbelt lecture – Divine Beauty: The Invisible Embrace – John O’Donohue hinted at the fragmentation of Life and Lives and that work is involved in making sense of one’s Life; he also hinted at the incredible beauty to be found in those who engage in Life-work, understanding and maintaining the integrity of their Life toward identity.

The mind is an old crow
Who knows only to gather dead twigs,
Then take them back to the vacancy
Between the branches of the parent tree
And entwine them around the emptiness
With silence and unfailing patience
Until what was fallen, withered and lost
Is now set to fill with dreams a nest.

(Excerpt  from  ‘Thought Work,’ a poem by John O’Donohue from his book Conamara Blues)

“This is the art of bringing your mind home, that if your mind was able to retrieve and re-weave all that is withered and forlorn and lost in your life then the integrity of your memory and identity of your life would be incredible [if not beautiful] (Divine Beauty – The Invisible Embrace, John O’Donohue, Greenbelt).

Cathedral Grove - Vancouver Island, British Columbia

Sophisticated, Subtle, Substantial

“The presence of beauty is one of the most neglected presences in our contemporary world. Beauty was the word without which the ancient world refused to know itself; beauty was at the heart of everything they considered. In our times, beauty is reduced to glamour. It caters to the surface and the external image. Once you’ve got the up-front hit from it, there’s nothing behind it. Whereas beauty is a far more sophisticated, subtle and really substantial kind of presence (Divine Beauty: The Invisible Embrace, John O’Donohue, Greenbelt).”

A photograph during a break in a photography workshop – an older homestead outside Vulcan, Alberta (11 November 2011).

Homestead - Vulcan, Alberta

The Beholding Eye

“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder has another meaning. If the beholding eye is gracious and has beautified itself then it will pick up the beautiful. When we can’t notice the beautiful, it is not that it is absent. It is just that our vision and gaze has become coarsened (Divine Beauty: The Invisible Embrace, John O’Donohue, Greenbelt).”

A White Ford half-ton awaits restoration and transformation – Vavenby, British Columbia (Summer 2011).

White Ford - Ready for a Rebuild & Owner

Meticulous, Careful & Slow

“Rodin did not concern himself with the beautiful. His art was meticulous, careful and slow. The beautiful comes only in its own terms. ‘Like in the forest when the forest is free of strangers in the evening the shy animals turn up at the river to drink.’  And, that’s the way the beautiful actually comes (Divine Beauty: The Invisible Embrace, John O’Donohue, Greenbelt).”

At Vavenby, British Columbia – the older Chevrolet, Cab & Chassis look on as vehicles pass by (Summer 2011).

A Miniscule Moment in a Dark Landscape

“Without beauty life would be unbearable. We need the beautiful as much as we need love. Beauty and the beautiful are not the preserve of luxus or the elite privileged; everyone needs it. There are people in the world now who are holding out on the rawest edges of what’s humane – in refugee camps, in prisons, in hospitals, in places of starvation – who are only able to hold out because they’ve got some glimpse of the beautiful. Sometimes beauty is like that; it turns up as a miniscule moment in a dark landscape and recalls us to possibility and inspiration and encouragement. We can hold out in very bleak places if we are in touch with the presence of beauty. “(John O’Donohue – Divine Beauty: The Invisible Embrace, Greenbelt)

On the way out to Qualicum Beach, British Columbia with the burden of bringing Dad home, this vehicle was encountered in Vavenby, British Columbia – its owner rich with intention and skill, able to restore and beautify it in the near future (Summer 2011)

Early 50s Chevrolet Cab and Chassis

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