Many Wondrous Kinds of Light

We looked through doorways, we ambled along beautiful, mysterious paths.  Now, I’d like to talk about atmosphere.  What makes any place feel more magical is just the right quality of light.

I think I brought up sunrise and sunset in my post on doorways – the time between times.  Photographers love it because the quality of light is both soft and rich, quiet and striking.  

Different kinds of light take you different places.  Those warm, perfect sunsets (I’ll be honest, I can’t really tell you much about sunrises as I am rarely awake enough of in the early mornings to appreciate them) are breathtaking.  It’s hard to look away from the sky when the sun, normally too bright to see, is swathed in a hundred layers of brilliant color as it falls into seas or mountains.  Half the world goes dark as shadows creep up from underneath, but the top layer holds onto that glorious golden color until the last lights fade.

But the time between times isn’t the only beautiful kind of light.  A noonday sun that casts rays directly down can burn and blind, but on a good day, when the light is filtered through the right amount of cloud, the world is bright and dim at once.  The sky has texture.

Or takes on a new color entirely.

And then there is the bright light that we find coming through a layer of multi-colored greens in a forest.  This is one of my favorites.  Gaps in the wood allow arrows of brightness to find the forest floor.  Thin, pale green leaves are like stained glass aglow as the sun hits them from above.  The forest floor is dappled, like the stones of a cathedral across from a green-themed window.

The thing about the sun is, we don’t love it for itself, exactly, but for what its light and warmth do to our world, especially after long, gray days of sunlessness.  I think of Puddleglum under the earth as the witch tries to drive all memory and belief of the Overworld and its sun from their minds.  But Puddleglum, one of the saddest but truest of all heroes, says,

“Suppose we have only dreamed, or made up, all those things – trees and grass and sun and moon and stars and Aslan himself. Suppose we have. Then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones. Suppose this black pit of a kingdom of yours is the only world. Well, it strikes me as a pretty poor one. And that’s a funny thing, when you come to think of it. We’re just babies making up a game, if you’re right. But four babies playing a game can make a play-world which licks your real world hollow. That’s why I’m going to stand by the play-world. I’m on Aslan’s side even if there isn’t any Aslan to lead it. I’m going to live as like a Narnian as I can even if there isn’t any Narnia.” (Silver Chair, CS Lewis)

Days without the sun certainly drove me to doubt whether I’d ever see it again, but when the light finally did touch grass and tree and stone, it was as though the whole world had been born again.

We are such light-loving creatures that we seek it long into the night.  The soft, silent kind of light that we find in the moon provides an eery imitation of the sun.

Whenever I think about moonlight, I always hear the sound of Loreena McKennitt singing “The Highwayman” where “the moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas” and “the road was a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moors.”  That is what I feel when I see a moon like the one I saw behind St Giles in this photo.

Firelight, starlight, moonlight – we are certainly drawn to light after the sun disappears.

When the natural world is too dark, we capture our own light – torches and candles, silmarils and lamp posts, we bring small flames with us into the darkness and make our own suns and stars.

I always notice the lamp posts that I pass in a street or a park.  They seem so lonely, secretive, and (of course) a little magical as well.  We know whose fault that is.

Photography is light-writing, and how light touches and transforms the world is an endless study.  Take a moment to notice how light touches, colors, and translates what you see into something better than it otherwise might be.

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About Melissa

generally in love with things Celtic, mythological, fantastic, sharp and pointy, cute and fuzzy, intellectual, snarky, cheerful, or some combination thereof. Such things as sarcastic bunnies wielding claymores might come to mind...

Posted on September 19, 2012, in Art, C. S. Lewis, Ireland, Lantern Hollow Press Authors, Meditations, Melissa Rogers, Photography, Scotland, Travel and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. beautiful beautiful beautiful– I am entranced

  2. “The light lit on the light leaves, lost
    All its momentum there, to fade
    Into the softer light of shade . . .”

    Yes. Well done.

  3. Beautiful pictures. I’ve been looking at some beautiful skies as of late. Nice coincidence. 🙂

  4. I always like your pictures, Melissa, but I LOVE that first one with the fountain in Segovia, and that last one with the lonely tree. Totally grabbing those for my computer background. Actually, I’ll probably just grab all of them.

    On another note, while sunrises and sunsets are popular images in literature, what’s struck me as I’ve been recently taking a class on film as literature is how common the image is used in some of these older movies. It’s especially effective in film because in most cases, just seeing a sunrise or sunset, you can’t actually tell which it is, inviting the question “is this an image of birth or an image of death, or both?”

    It can be a bit cliche to have your character ride off into the sunset or begin the story gazing at a sunrise, but each of these can be truly powerful in literature, playing with idea of the birth and death of the day and the light that comes with them.

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