In photography, light (or lack thereof) is everything. Humans and all animals recognize, on some level, the effect of light on their lives and behavior. It must have been horrifying for our early ancestors when the daylight disappeared. Did they wonder whether it would return, and if so, when? It was probably a relatively short period of time before they realized the appearance of light as day and night was a trend. But when the number of daylight or nighttime hours changed with the seasons, that was huge. Nature offered ways of tracking the light in the form of shadows on rocks, and through tree branches, but a good many people throughout the world were thinking about the light's track during the year. Stone circles can be found almost everywhere in the world, and many are in northern or far southern latitudes where there are significantly fewer hours of light in their respective winter seasons. We learned that in Scotland years ago while visiting in February, when the sun would come up around 9 a.m. and set around 3 p.m. Not knowing where the heck we were going in some cases, our mission was to find the next bed and breakfast between those hours. You can definitely see the darkness from the scanned slide below. As I recall, this photograph was taken around 10:30 a.m.
Standing stones in the shadow of Ben Lawers on the outskirts of Killeen, Perthshire, Scotland.
All of this leads to the fact that Thursday 21 December, is the Winter Solstice in the northern hemisphere. It occurs quite late in the day at 10:27 p.m., according to the Farmers' Almanac. "The winter solstice marks the official beginning of astronomical winter (as opposed to meteorological winter, which starts about three weeks before the solstice). The winter solstice occurs once a year in each hemisphere: once in the Northern Hemisphere (in December) and once in the Southern Hemisphere (in June). It marks the start of each hemisphere’s winter season. When one hemisphere is experiencing its winter solstice, the other is simultaneously experiencing its summer solstice!" Northern or southern, artificial or natural, it is all about the light. We consider ourselves lucky to have electric lights, especially having lived with only kerosene lamps at one point.
After the sun rises, there are usually bright blue skies to greet us in New Mexico. Occasionally, like this weekend, the sky was dotted with high cirrus clouds, and contrails (condensation trails), courtesy of the thousands of airplanes literally criss-crossing the sky.
When the sun does set, sometimes I am lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time to catch and photograph it.
Then there are occasions when photographers simply have to look around their immediate environment to see the play of light and shadow against a wall to know where the sun is in the sky. Very subtle gradations of white and gray fill the image below.
I will be celebrating the return of light, be it only a matter of seconds per day. But we can still revel in and relish the return of those seconds to our days!
Happy Solstice and thanks to Suz, Minna, Christina, Barbara F. R., Paule, Tim A., Karla P., Catherine, Steve, Geula, Lisa, Robert, Marilyn G., Jean & Sam, and Rebecca for touching base this week about the blog.
until next Monday,
a passion for the image©