Photography means different things to different people — historical records of events, places, family; artistic explorations of line, form, texture, colour, composition; something you do when you’re on a vacation trip — but for anyone who becomes sufficiently smitten by photography, it means one thing above all else: light.
The word photography itself is built from the Greek root words photo (light) + graphien (write), i.e., “painting with light”. Everything photographic is a recording of light and its absence. Strong light, weak light, dim light, harsh light, soft light, warm light, cold light, moon light. From light comes colour, shade, texture, form, and contrast — everything we see. Cameras see and record light differently to the human eye. Every photograph is an adventure in light.
Photographers, like other artists, appreciate the qualities of light, which is why the seasons and times of day are key to our interests We learn which kinds of light are worth chasing, and which are not worth getting out of bed for. We explore natural light and artificial light, or purposely cast light on our subjects.
All of which explains why I got up in time for the sunrise yesterday, dashing to the harbour for the break of dawn. It’s special light — sometimes soft, sometimes harsh, usually warm, but always different, every time you see it.
As I reached the harbour yesterday I felt I had the world to myself. The fresh snow discouraged most of the runners and dog owners I see early in the day. When I reached the pier, just at sunrise, I spotted another photographer set up with a tripod, concentrating on the light. The sight warmed me.
I don’t know who the photographer was, and I certainly didn’t walk over to disturb him. There are moments you should have to yourself. Instead I circled behind him, completing my preliminary walk, then heading to Starbucks for a hot cup of coffee.
Two photographers up with the dawn, each celebrating the morning light, enjoying that special moment when the sun suddenly rises from the horizon.
The love of light.